On How I was Fooled on the Internet

People sometimes ask me how I find the stories that I discuss in my blog posts. Sometimes my wife or friends send me stuff that I should discuss, but most of my ideas come from news aggregators. I have, for instance, several “Google Alerts” on various topics around archeology and history, including specific ones on topics that I’ve previously written about (for potential follow ups). Brian has also developed a daily extract of various sources for Skeptoid bloggers to use.

There is, of course, a disadvantage, in that the collected stories are not vetted. You can have stories from reputable sources followed by a completely bogus website in the same automated email. As always, as Brian recommends us bloggers (and indeed all skeptics), we need to verify and research. A linked story is just a trigger for ideas. / read more…

12.20.2014

Flu Vaccine Failure?

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Victoria A. Cruz administers the H1N1 flu vaccine to Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Ronald Dizon at Naval Medical Center San Diego. Via Wikimedia.

Recently the Centers For Disease Control released an advisory about cases of influenza that appear to have genetically drifted—enough to reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine. If true, why is the CDC still recommending unvaccinated people get a flu shot? What good is the vaccine this year and why does this happen? The obvious self-serving question is “Why should I get an annual flu vaccine if it is not going to protect me?”

What does this development mean for public health both this year and long term? What does this complication really say about the benefit of the annual influenza vaccine? / read more…

12.17.2014

UFO Spotted Over Lady Liberty

Liberty UFONot long ago, a UFO was filmed by tourist visiting the Statue of Liberty. This UFO video has been posted to YouTube and is featured in a few articles, like this one on The Huffington Post by Thomas Tamblyn. / read more…

12.10.2014

James Oberg: Astronaut UFO Incidents

Jim ObergSometimes when looking for a topic, I end up going on wild tangents, chasing one thought or another and satisfying my own curiosity. I try to keep my ear to the ground for interesting or unusual UFO reports that might be worth blogging about. In reading an article about an ISS crew member getting questions about UFOs, I found a reference to James Oberg/ read more…

12.8.2014

Should We All Be Drinking Pickle Juice?

001Let’s talk pickle juice. Places like Livestrong, Medical News Daily, and many other sites across the Internet tout drinking pickle juice — yes, that brackish water left over in the jar after you eat all the pickles — as a healthy home remedy for a variety of minor ailments. Even Dr. Oz is on board with it, which tells you two things: (1) a lot of people have probably tried it, and (2) we should probably put the pickle juice question to some scrutiny.

Depending on the website you visit, there are many claims made about the benefits of drinking pickle juice. Supposedly, pickle juice can do any or all of the following:

/ read more…

On the Relativity of Being Remembered as a US President

We humans are a strange bunch. Probably because of a good evolutionary reason and certainly caused by our inherently faulty memory, we tend to pay a lot more attention to current and recently passed events. Events further back tend to get forgotten, or at least the details become blurry.

An interesting study in Science Magazine proved that point once more (found via Futurity). Henry Roediger III and Andrew DeSoto have combined tests of the knowledge of US citizens about their presidents. Interestingly, they published tests done over different years (1972, 1991 and 2009) and across different age groups. I’m quite certain the same results could be reproduced in other countries, using respective presidents, prime ministers, or monarchs. / read more…

12.3.2014

Have You Heard of the Free Energy Generator?

I came across this fellow and his electrical loop free-energy machine recently from an article in The Epoch Times. The videos are posted under the YouTube ID of Deirones and show the amazing sight of electricity being harvested from a power strip plugged into itself, with only a piezoelectric spark to initiate the whole thing.


/ read more…

12.1.2014

Stop Wikipedia Shaming

Wikipedia-logo-v2.svgWikipedia has gotten a bogeyman reputation for inaccuracy. “I read it on Wikipedia” has become a punchline for obviously incorrect information, and any reference to Wikipedia in an article has a tendency to draw derisive comments that essentially dismiss the entire article due to the addition of a link. I’ve come to think of it as “Wikipedia shaming” — deriding and discrediting an article because it happens to reference or link to Wikipedia at some point, regardless of the quality of the information presented both in the Wikipedia link and in the original article. Such views are themselves inaccurate and ill-informed. Wikipedia’s reputation for unreliability is itself an unreliable position to take.

/ read more…

11.30.2014

Cryotherapy: What Works and What Doesn’t

A recent email from a fan asks, “What is your take on the benefits or consequences of cryotherapy?” That’s a very broad question since the word cryotherapy is a non-descript term, like “oxygen therapy.” Cryotherapy is a type of proven medical treatment, but it’s limited to a very narrow set of applications and there are uses of that term that have a much shakier foundation. The term describes a myriad of questionable practices; some are built upon plausible mechanisms that lack a clear scientific foundation, and some are out-and-out chicanery. As such, the word derives its practical meaning from the methods and the purpose of the treatment. So let’s take a look at some of the common uses of the term and try to tease out the science vs the sham. / read more…

11.29.2014

Tell GMO Producers To Stop Being So Organic!

farmer_pouring_roundupOne of the common arguments against the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO), specifically plant GMOs, is that it allows farmers to spray “toxic” chemicals to kill various pests from bugs to weeds to help maximize crop yields. Anti-science websites often post scary pictures showing farmers in full protective gear while handling these chemicals, making the claim that the protective gear is proof these chemicals are harmful, and thus shouldn’t be used on crops. These websites also encourage people to eat organic foods, because they are “safe” in comparison to these GMO crops. / read more…