4.23.2014

Blackfish: Documentary or Propaganda?

Official Poster from Sundance Film Festival

There are many examples of crafted activism in psuedo-documentaries. The iconic Super Size Me is a premiere example of this covered in skeptoid episode 88. Recently I came across a “documentary” called Blackfish. It is about the famous killer whale named Tilikum. Tilikum’s fame stems from a deadly attack on a trainer at Orlando Sea World February 24th 2010. This Orca has been implicated in two other deadly incidents as well but is best known for the Sea World death. I watched this film about the history of attacks by this animal as well as the treatment of all captive orca. It provoked a strong emotional response, making it a good film, but not necessarily a good presentation of the facts. I was bothered by the title “Blackfish” deceptive and scientifically wrong. Irrelevant for a work of fiction but a not so subtle alliteration in a documentary. Blackfish is a colloquial name for Orcinus orca. Like the more commonly used term Killer Whale it is incorrect . Orcas are neither fish nor are they all black. Actually killer whale is equally incorrect they are not a whale, killer or otherwise. Orcas are in fact the largest member of the Dolphin family. After watching the movie I had some lasting questions beyond the title and decided to take a close look at the film and see how much was fluff and how much was fact.  / read more…

4.21.2014

You’ll Pry My Guinness From My Cold, Dead Hands

Cautionary listicles of things you should “never do” are popular because they’re easily consumable, have a click-grabbing title, lots of pictures and are ostensibly about helping you change your ways. Unfortunately, they’re also breeding grounds for misinformation, due to their lack of context and depth.

One listicle that’s caused quite a stir in a number of communities is “8 Beers That You Should Stop Drinking Immediately”, from the open-source blog Banoosh, and written by a “Mr. Z.” A list of eight beers that supposedly have various deleterious health effects and should be consumed by nobody, this has a staggering 2.7 MILLION Facebook shares and over 12,000 retweets. It’s clear that people are reading it and taking it as gospel truth about adult beverages. However, they shouldn’t be, as this list is really just an anonymous opinion, posted on a site that will let anyone post anything without the slightest vetting. It’s also really, really wrong. / read more…

4.17.2014

NECSS 2014: Astronauts, Physics and STEM Oh My!

NECSS or the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism recently concluded. I was happily able to attend it this year. This is the first time I have been able to go a skeptical conference of any kind. The conference is quite an experience, admittedly not what I expected. My prior conference experience is mostly with medical conferences. Medical conferences have a predictable pattern, I know in advance what classes I will be attending and what will be taught. Those conferences are not for enjoyment, just focused learning. I almost never participate in the meet and greet social gatherings at medical conferences. For many reasons I was greatly anticipating this conference and its social activities. For the first time I was going to go hang around with a large number of like minded skeptics and have some fun in addition to learning. / read more…

4.15.2014

Baffling Black Ring

I don’t know about you, but I love finding the word “baffling” in a headline. It seems that scientists, doctors, or experts are perpetually baffled by some mysterious object, sighting, miracle, cure, or, in this case, a black ring in the sky. Recently, a schoolgirl in Warwickshire, England videotaped a mysterious black ring in the sky. Experts, apparently, are baffled.  / read more…

The luminescent virgin statue of Jalhay

During the month of March, the small town of Jalhay in the Belgian Ardennes was in the national spotlights. The reason was a small statue of the Virgin Mary, that suddenly lighted up during the night. The statue itself, as the owner explains in the video below, was bought almost 40 years ago in the nearby pilgrim site Banneux, where the Virgin supposedly appeared in 1933.

The actual owner inherited it 15 years ago, and it was placed in a small shrine in the kitchen. As he explained, one night he went to get some wine glasses in the dark, and the statue was brightly illuminating the kitchen. There were no previous reports of such handy nightly illumination. / read more…

Intelligent Light on Mars

The curiosity rover on Mars continues to delight us with photographs of Mars surface. Recently the rover transmitted a photo to Earth from a section known as the Kimberley, named for a section of Australia. One of the images has an anomaly that looks like a light originating from the surface to some human eyes. Enthusiastic UFO blogger Scott Waring has proposed a theory about the anamoly. He theorizes that this photo is proof of intelligent life living under the surface of mars, and that NASA is systematically hiding it from us. Not really what I got out of the picture.

Is Waring’s theory another example of motivated reasoning or perceptive insight? Lets take a look at it and see what a skeptical lay person’s view may offer. / read more…

4.8.2014

Cosmos (2014) Episode 5: Best and Worst

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Sorry to leave you in the dark yesterday; I was moving Sunday and wasn’t able to lighten my load sufficiently to watch the latest episode of Cosmos on time. Luckily, the folks at Fox Broadcasting are bright enough to put the episodes online! So I’m back to chase away the darkness and shine some light onto Episode five, revealing the best and worst of this latest outing.

/ read more…

4.7.2014

Busting Some Rothschild Family Facebook Memes

If you want to dispense racist, historically ignorant nonsense about wealthy Jews, you can hardly do better than Facebook. Quite a few memes have been going around about the Rothschild family (which, full disclosure, I have absolutely no link to other than having the same last name) and I wanted to take a look at three that caught my eye. / read more…

4.5.2014

Essential Oil Claims – The Dangers Keep On Coming

Today I am going to focus specifically on one essential oil blog which came to my attention through a Facebook post about making your own “dry shampoo.” Why did I click on it? Sigh. Well, I did. I ended up at an essential oil seller making not just bogus claims, but downright dangerous claims. Of course, this seller protects herself with the standard FDA fake medicine disclaimer. Let’s look at a few of the more dangerous suggestions on the site. / read more…

4.4.2014

My Skeptical Origin Story

When I first encountered the Internet as a teenager, I became quickly fascinated by the notion that “they” were running the world, and leaving signs of their presence. It wasn’t clear who exactly “they” were but the group certainly included:

  • The Freemasons
  • The Illuminati
  • The Trilateral Commission
  • The Bilderberg Group
  • The Rothschilds
  • The Rockefellers
  • The UN
  • Satan

Their goal: Nothing short of a One World Government ruled, at heart, by either Satan or extraterrestrial aliens, or some combination thereof.

/ read more…