Saturday, November 24, 2012

Recent listens; Odds and ends

Just a few odds and ends for the Thanksgiving Weekend with a few offbeat suggestions (at least for this blog.)

My crappy Packard Bell
had this chip in it.  It sucked.
If you have ever wondered how your computer CPU functions, and what is the difference between various chips on the market or what the various jargon means in regard to those bits of silicon in your desktop or cellphone, then listen to Ep. 94 of Hypercritical.  Hypercritical is a podcast produced by the 5by5 network and is hosted by tech pundit and man of detail John Siracusa.  The show's theme is to focus on exactly what is wrong in the world of Apple, but done from the view of love of their products.    Siracusa gives a nice 30 or so minute 'Cliff Notes' discussion of how CPUs function, and the pros and cons of various types of CPUs.  I am sure that those trained in computer sciences likely thought this was a ridiculously simplified discussion of the topic.  For someone who enjoys tech goodies from a seriously layman perspective, this was a nice primer.

Sadly, Siracusa will be retiring this show at the end of this year.  Siracusa's near manic attention to detail and long winded explanations will be sorely missed.

Carl & Immanuel together
Over on Point of Inquiry Chris Mooney interviews Michael Gordin.  Gordin is a Professor of History at Princeton University, and the general topic of discussion was the history of pseudoscience.  As Gordin and Mooney discuss, nobody actually refers to themselves as a pseudoscience, but this is a term to differentiate actual science from those who do "science-y looking" activities.  The focus of the discussion is on Immanuel Velikovsky, who was a immigrant from Russia and had some crazy theories on the formation of the solar system and especially how Venus came to exist.  Velikovsky had dealings with both Albert Einstein and Dr. Carl Sagan at one point in their respective careers.  The overall conversation on the history of pseudoscience and just on Velikovsky himself was a wonderfully entertaining listen.  Gordin has authored a book on Velikovsky "The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe," which sounds to be an interesting read.

On Skeptoid Brian Dunning has a very nice and succinct episode on the "Bermuda Triangle" and the Pacific's version of the same area of doom "The Devil's Triangle." Spoiler Alert: They actually are not areas of shipping doom.  Although when I was a kid, I always imagined that on some days traveling through the Bermuda Triangle was an exercise in dodging UFOs and has bubbles from under the ocean to survive to get to your destination.  Reality is not quite that exciting.

Over on Virtual Skeptics, there was some good news shared by Tim Farley.  Dennis Markuze a/k/a Mabus, the Canadian spammer/troll, has been arrested again by Her Majesty's authorities.  Farley has spent a great deal of time and energy keeping track and archiving the activities of Markuze online, and it looks that his efforts have paid off and could be of some use in his prosecution.  I have always found Markuze's actions somewhat sad in that it appears to my untrained mind he suffers from serious mental issues.  I hope he gets the help he appears to desperately need.

On a more depressing note, Bob Blaskiewicz reported that the Texas licensing board has dropped its case against Stanislaw Burzynski, MD, and his Burzynski Clinic.  Burzynski has an alternative treatment clinic that is well known and held in very low regard by the skeptical community for its highly questionable claims and treatment of those who have cancer.  Blaskiewicz discusses the decision and the apparent reason the case was dropped was that Burzynski did not actually administer the care in question.  Instead, other physicians at the facility administered the care in question, so the matter was dropped.  Burzynski is touting this as vindication, while skeptics chafe in horror.  I am not a physician but Respectful Insolence makes a compelling case why Burzynski and his methods are trouble.  Bob gives a call for skeptics to rally round the science to insure that those who research Burzynski can easily call upon the scientific evidence that is counter to Burzynski's claims.

Also depressing on VS was Eve Siebert's discussion of the low level of discussion of basic science in the political sphere.  This was triggered by Florida Senator Marco Rubio (viewed as a political rising star within Washington, D.C.) and his answer to a question on the age of the Earth.  His answer was:

I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States . . .

Senator Rubio is on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee.  I wonder if anyone asked the Senator his opinions on railway infrastructure if his response would be "I'm not a conductor, man."

Virtual Skeptics overall was a typically laid back, but interesting episode.  Although, I found myself quite down after taking in the entire episode.  Perhaps, it was the turkey and stuffing clouding my brain.

Dr. Steven Novella authored a nice blog post "Is there a treatment for Tinnitus" over at Science Based Medicine and all the alternative medical treatments for tinnitus.  As one who has tinnitus there is basically no way to treat it, and the alt med community has nothing to offer either.

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