12.9.2016

Does Drinking White Wine Give You Melanoma?

Brown University put out a press release this month about some of its soon-to-be-published research. The study named, Alcohol Intake and Risk of Incident Melanoma: A Pooled Analysis of Three Prospective Studies in the United States, appears this month in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. It looks at the drinking habits of more than 210,000 participants, and found bad news for those who enjoy a glass of white wine. The findings suggests that drinking white wine will significantly raise your risk for melanoma! Or so the media reports would have you think. Regular Skeptoid readers will be familiar with the paucity of such science reporting: sensational headlines with unsupported conclusions often dominate such news. Let’s take a close look at this research and determine if this pop-science flavor-of-the-week is in fact science, or just science fiction.

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11.18.2016

Still No Reason to Suspect ‘Earthquake Lights’ Are a Thing

Since the November 13, 2016 earthquake in New Zealand, my inbox has been bursting with reports of EQLs (earthquake lights). A number of YouTube videos have surfaced from locals who were quick on the draw with their phones in the middle of the night, and predictably, it re-ignited the popular belief in a phenomenon called earthquake lights. / read more…

11.17.2016

3 Things for AGW Deniers to Stop Saying

I suppose it’s good for shipping traffic, but not for much else. Sea ice reflects a lot of solar radiation back out to space. When there’s a lot of it, it’s easier for the Earth to get cooler (the “Snowball Earth” effect); and when there’s less sea ice, it’s easier for the Earth to warm even more. / read more…

11.14.2016

God Help Me, I’ve Joined a Co-Op

A loaf of sprouted bread. Via Wikimedia.

A loaf of sprouted bread. Via Wikimedia.

I capitulated to friends and followed them into joining a food co-op. It’s a members-only collaborative grocery store that is governed, operated, and patronized by the people who join it, with everyone participating in some way, typically volunteering a few hours of labor each month—stocking groceries, working the checkout registers, cleaning, doing clerical jobs, etc. It has a mission to operate on behalf of its members, with extremely low mark-ups on almost all the products sold there, and with the aim of essentially breaking even, income-wise, as its members are basically just collectively buying in bulk. (This is not to say that the foods it sells are striking a blow against corporate greed: the products there, like all stores, come from capitalist businesses that have a profit motive.) The fruits and veggies and things are all top notch, it carries national brands and health food offerings with some more gourmet products; everything is really affordable. I enjoy it, but the place is rife with woo.

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11.9.2016

What Skeptoid is doing about the election…

I just sent this email to everyone on Skeptoid Media’s opt-in mailing list (join in the Members Portal):

For many, yesterday’s election was a stunner; for others, a victory. Whatever your thoughts on its social or economic implications, my wheelhouse is its ramifications for the public understanding of science. The unfortunate reality is that the US will spend the next four years with a presidential administration that has openly expressed contempt for these scientific facts: / read more…

11.1.2016

No, that’s not Amelia Earhart’s skeleton.

amelia_earhart_1935I can hardly believe it — Ric Gillespie and TIGHAR are once again hoaxing news outlets with yet another absurd claim that he knows where Amelia Earhart is, in blatant defiance of known history. And, once again, the news outlets are parroting his press release without the slightest fact checking or skepticism.

No, there is no chance that the old skeleton from Nikumaroro is Earhart, and no serious scientists think so.

For decades, TIGHAR (a nonprofit formed by Gillespie to fund his Earhart obsession) has been successfully persuading National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and others into funding its various wild goose chases around the South Pacific. This time he is asking for $1.75 million. I guess it’s not bad work if you can get it. Gillespie’s claimed alternate histories for Earhart have never been persuasive to any serious historians, but since he’s the only one making noise, he’s the one whose press releases get trumpeted by the media. / read more…

QED 2016 in Manchester: A Complete Success

Last weekend I attended the QED (Question Explore Discover) conference in Manchester, UK. It was the sixth installment of this very successful skeptical conference. It was the first I’ve attended, and I regret only one thing: that I didn’t go to the previous ones. It was an absolute blast, a weekend full of skepticism and science together with 650 like-minded colleagues.

opengraph

Describing the program in a detailed fashion wouldn’t do it justice, especially since there were sometimes as many as five events being held simultaneously. It was difficult to choose at times. Luckily, I’ve been informed by one of the organizers that the talks in the main hall will be put online soon, and a few podcasts who recorded live shows at the conference—including Cognitive Dissonance, God Awful Movies, InKredulous, and Skeptics with a K—are already beginning to post their live shows online, too. / read more…

10.20.2016

If You Know Anyone Afraid of the Flu Shot, Show Them This!

Internet memes are constant reminders of how unstructured information sharing is. I see memes through the prism of scientific skepticism and critical thinking and the most frustrating aspect is how they can be used to disseminate dangerous ideology and disinformation. There is no end to the structured disinfo out there—from creationism to anti-vaccine doggerel—everywhere on the Internet. Fear mongering has become an art form in promoting the agendas of ideologues, often using reasonable-sounding but myopic anti-science propaganda. This is especially dangerous during flu season.

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Do Not Try This Paleo Diet

Cannibalism is of one those topics that automatically gets a lot of eyeballs and clicks on the Internet. I’m sure there are a lot of psychological and sociological hypotheses to explain this but that’s not why I’m bringing up the subject. I want to talk about cannibalism and archaeology, because the latter (not the former!) is one of my favourite subjects.

A Neanderthal, our friendly cousin helping us out with a couple of DNA strands .... photo by Flickr user Erich Ferdinand, Creative Commons License 2.0

A Neanderthal, our “friendly” cousin … photo by Flickr user Erich Ferdinand, Creative Commons License 2.0

The topic of eating one’s own kind came up in the published results of studies of the Goyet caves, not too far from me here in Belgium. These results were published in Scientific Reports (part of Nature Publishing Group) by an international and multidisciplinary team. They analyzed Neanderthal bones dating from 40,000 years ago, and found that there is very strong evidence for “butchery activities” and “bones having been used for retouching stone tools.” In short, Neanderthals ate other Neanderthals, and even used the remaining bones to fix up their tools. / read more…

10.5.2016

Does Turmeric Need a Warning Label?

Many of the more popular pseudoscience websites have a standard article about the powerful benefits of turmeric. Claims about its benefits range anywhere from treating cancer to diabetes, and they abound in these articles, usually followed by a tiny warning at the end of the article that what they said isn’t really medical advice, though the tone of the article might say otherwise.

Turmeric root and powder via Wikimedia

Turmeric root and powder via Wikimedia

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