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Monthly Archives: November 2010

Good Morning America Touts Homeopathy as Flu Cure

This morning on Good Morning America, they brought a guest on to talk about flu prevention and cures for children. The guest was Dr Lawrence Rosen of the Whole Child Center in Oradell, New Jersey. Generally not a big deal right? They have stuff like this on all the time right? Unfortunately this is a big deal.

What makes this a big deal was that this doctor was recommending herbal and homeopathic remedies.

Dr. Rosen specifically states that: “Oscillococcinum has been found to be a good homeopathic treatment for children and adults with flu-like symptoms.”

Oscillococcinum, which besides being a word that makes me happy for copy-and-paste, is a homeopathic remedy made from the heart and liver of a duck. “The preparation is derived from duck liver and heart, diluted to 200C—a ratio of one part duck offal to 100200 parts water. This is such a high dilution that the final product likely contains not a single molecule of the original liver. Homeopaths claim that the molecules leave an “imprint” in the dilution that causes a healing effect on the body, although available evidence does not support efficacy beyond placebo.” [Wikipedia]

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The Dunning Brian Effect: Episode 4 of the Drunken Skeptics Podcast

Brian Dunning from Crispin Jago's Skeptic Trumps series.
Brian Dunning from Crispin Jago's Skeptic Trumps series.

Here is the next episode of The Drunken Skeptics Podcast!

In this episode, we talk with Brian Dunning of Skeptoid. An outrageously popular weekly audio podcast dedicated to furthering knowledge by blasting away the widespread pseudosciences that infect popular culture, and replacing them with evidence-based scientific reality. He is also the author of the book of the same title.

We also have our Whiskey and Shenanigans where we bring attention to the good things that happened (the Whiskey) and call out the bad things (the Shenanigans).

You can find our show notes here.

A Skeptical Chat With…Peter Sinclair of ‘Climate Denial Crock of the Week’

This is a blog series where I interview writers, bloggers, podcasters, etc. about topics relevant to science, skepticism, and critical thinking.

Today I speak with Peter Sinclair about his website at Climate Crocks, and he answers my questions regarding his interest in Global Warming. 

Peter Sinclair will be attending the Michigan Skeptics Association's meet-up on Saturday, December 11th - and will provide a formal presentation on global warming with Q & A afterwards

Hello and thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about the website. Can you start off by introducing yourself to the readers of the Michigan Skeptics Association website, please, about who you are, what got you interested in the issue of climate change, and what led you to inform the public about it?

I grew up in a family that was very active in issues of environment, particularly around the siting of a nuclear plant very close to downtown Midland, where I live.  I learned a lot about the economic and political forces shaping energy decisions, and how important energy was going to be to whether we survive as a civilization. I’ve been reading, thinking, and writing about environment and climate change for some 30 years, but only in the last 3 or so have I actually been interacting intensely with top level climate scientists to understand the big picture in some detail.

I believe climate change is the most critical issue facing humanity, and I have kids.  There’s simply no way I could remain silent about it.

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Henry Pollack, Ann Arbor Science & Skeptics Meet Up

Dr. Henry Pollack
Dr. Henry Pollack

Henry Pollack

Professor, Emeritus

Ph.D. Geophysics, University of Michigan, 1963-present

Global Climate Change

Ann Arbor Science & Skeptics Meet Up

Scientists have discovered ways to study the earth’s climate, going back millions of years and those who specialize in studying ancient climates are known as Paleoclimatologists. Paleoclimatologists use natural elements in the environment to find “proxy climate data” related to the past. Studies of these types use several different methods of collecting data, so they are assured of forming the most accurate analysis possible.

These principle data points come from:


Mountain Glaciers and the polar ice caps and ice sheets are a widely employed source of data in paleoclimatology. Recent ice coring projects in the ice caps of Greenland and Antarctica have yielded data going back several hundred thousand years—over 800,000 years in the case of the EPICA project.


Climatic information can be obtained through an understanding of changes in tree growth. Generally, trees respond to changes in climatic variables by speeding up or slowing down growth, which in turn is generally, reflected a greater or lesser thickness in growth rings.

Sedimentary content

Sediments, sometimes lithified to form rock, may contain remnants of preserved vegetation, animals, plankton or pollen, which may be characteristic of certain climatic zones.

Biomarker molecules such as the alkenones may yield information about their temperature of formation.

Chemical signatures, particularly Mg/Ca ratio of calcite in Foraminifera tests, can be used to reconstruct past temperature.

Isotopic ratios can provide further information. Specifically, the δ18O record responds to changes in temperature and ice volume, and the δ13C record reflects a range of factors, which are often difficult to disentangle.

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The Limits of Science

Mad Scientist
So should we be skeptical of science itself?

Plenty of today’s scientific theories will one day be discredited. So should we be skeptical of science itself?

Good sense is the most fairly distributed commodity in the world, Descartes once quipped, because nobody thinks he needs any more of it than he already has. A neat illustration of the fact that gullibility seems to be a disease of other people was provided by Martin Gardner, a great American debunker of pseudoscience, who died this year. In the second edition of his “Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science” (1957), Gardner reported that most of the irate letters he received in response to the first edition criticised only one of its 26 chapters and found the rest to be fine. Needless to say, readers disagreed about which chapter was the faulty one. Homeopaths objected to the treatment meted out to themselves, but thought that the exposé of chiropractors was spot on, and vice versa.

No group of believers has more reason to be sure of its own good sense than today’s professional scientists. There is, or should be, no mystery about why it is always more rational to believe in science than in anything else, because this is true merely by definition. What makes a method of enquiry count as scientific is not that it employs microscopes, rats, computers or people in stained white coats, but that it seeks to test itself at every turn. If a method is as rigorous and cautious as it can be, it counts as good science; if it isn’t, it doesn’t. Yet this fact sets a puzzle. If science is careful skepticism writ large, shouldn’t a scientific cast of mind require one to be skeptical of science itself?

There is no full-blown logical paradox here. If a claim is ambitious, people should indeed tread warily around it, even if it comes from scientists; it does not follow that they should be skeptical of the scientific method itself. But there is an awkward public-relations challenge for any champion of hard-nosed science. When scientists confront the deniers of evolution, or the devotees of homeopathic medicine, or people who believe that childhood vaccinations cause autism—all of whom are as demonstrably mistaken as anyone can be—they understandably fight shy of revealing just how riddled with error and misleading information the everyday business of science actually is. When you paint yourself as a defender of the truth, it helps to keep quiet about how often you are wrong.

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Large Hadron Collider (LHC) generates a ‘mini-Big Bang’

The Large Hadron Collider has successfully created a “mini-Big Bang” by smashing together lead ions instead of protons.

The scientists working at the enormous machine on Franco-Swiss border achieved the unique conditions on 7 November.

The experiment created temperatures a million times hotter than the center of the Sun.

The LHC is housed in a 27km-long circular tunnel under the French-Swiss border near Geneva.

Up until now, the world’s highest-energy particle accelerator – which is run by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern) – has been colliding protons, in a bid to uncover mysteries of the Universe’s formation.

Proton collisions could help spot the elusive Higgs boson particle and signs of new physical laws, such as a framework called supersymmetry.

But for the next four weeks, scientists at the LHC will concentrate on analyzing the data obtained from the lead ion collisions.

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Who was Guy Fawkes Anyways?

"Guy Fawkes in Ordsall Cave"
Guy Fawkes in Ordsall Cave

Remember, remember, the 5th of November…

It was a good movie. Don’t get me wrong. Plus it’s one of the few movies that did a good job of translating graphic novels to a movie. I am of course talking of V for Vendetta. The film came out in 2006 and grossed $70 million. It became an instant cult hit and annoyed me in the following ways:

  1. Everyone in America know the lines: “Remember, remember, the 5th of November…” but have no idea what the rest of the lines are or what the poem means.
  2. The “Guy Fawkes Mask” from the movie has become a symbol of anyone wanting to call themselves “anonymous” and cause havoc. Although they did cause problems for Scientology for a while which was amusing.
  3. People (I’m talking Americans here. The English know the history.) seem to think Guy Fawkes was some sort of cult hero. The most detailed explanation I’ve been able to drag from people is: “The guy tried to blow up Parliament.” While true, no one knows why and to add to it, everyone thinks he did it alone.

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The November Michigan Skeptics Get Together

Most of the Get Together
This is most of the people that attended our first Get together. I could not get an angle that would fit everyone.

Our next Get Together will be on Saturday, November 13 at 4:00 PM. We will be in the back room of Ginger Restaurant, located at:

8465 N. Lilley Rd

Canton, MI 48187
Tel: 734-414-1818

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting skeptics. All are welcome to listen and participate.

We also have special guests and speakers that contribute to the conversation and/or debate.

Please be sure to RSVP so I know how many are coming. We seem to be outgrowing the venue rather quickly.

We also set up a Meetup group to help organize the events. Please register and RSVP!

I hope to see you all there!

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