Enter the Poop Pills…

Just over three years ago I reported on a very promising scientific result battling C difficile infections. This infection has the debilitating effect of chronic (think years on end) diarrhea. The proposed but experimental way to cure it was doing fecal transplants, basically taking stool from a healthy person and, after treatment, inserting it directly into the intestines of the patient. The results were stunning: people got better really quickly.

A photo of generic capsules, since who wants a more specific image of "poop pills" than that? Courtesy of Gokalp Iscan via Pixbay.

A photo of generic capsules, since who wants a more specific image of “poop pills” than that? Courtesy of Gokalp Iscan via Pixbay.

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2.21.2016

Sad News from the Skeptoid Family

Left to right: Jesse Horn, Ryan Johnson, Brian Dunning, Sarah Johnson

Left to right: Jesse Horn, Ryan Johnson, Brian Dunning, Sarah Johnson

I can’t think of anything I would less rather announce today. We are losing one of Skeptoid’s brightest contributors.

Over 9 years of the show, my favorite episode is #300, The Secret of the Gypsy Queen, an animated, musical fairy tale about a little girl who saves her village when she is the only one who doesn’t fall for the pop pseudoscience of the day. I wrote the text, composer Lee Sanders wrote and recorded the music, Rachel Bloom gave our heroine her singing voice, Ryan Johnson shot the video, Bill Simpkins and Alex DeGrace did the audio post, but the man who brought the story to life was artist Jesse Horn. Jesse did the drawnimation in the video, and he also created the gorgeous full-color children’s book that accompanies it. If you’ve seen it, you know what a beautiful piece of art it is. / read more…

2.17.2016

Bigfoot Is Racking Up Frequent Flier Miles

A statue of bigfoot at roadside attraction along State Highway 504, east of Silver Lake, Washington. Via Wikimedia.

Bigfoot is the mythological ape-like creature of modern pop culture and cryptozoology. It’s popular enough that there’s even a show, Finding Bigfoot, dedicated to finding it. (I’m still waiting after nine seasons for them to find it!) Bigfoot is low-hanging fruit for critical thinkers: if you believe that bigfoot is actually a creature living and hiding in the Pacific Northwest then you have zero critical thinking skills. If you at least question that possibility then we can work with you.

Although bigfoot has long been a pop culture icon, it seems to be becoming a world traveler. The evolution of bigfoot sightings is a study in human psychology, and I’m fascinated by the contagious nature of cryptozoology. There appears to have been been a recent uptick in sasquatch sightings worldwide. While this is not at all evidence of bigfoot’s existence, it does provide an interesting discussion surrounding the limitless reserves of credulity found in many cryptozoologists and bigfoot enthusiasts.

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False Discoveries and True Science

Last month the science sections of various media were ablaze with the “discovery” of a ninth planet in our Solar System. Or at least, that’s the impression one could get when skimming the titles. Some less reputable media I saw in print even had it without a doubt: “New planet discovered in solar system,” trumpeted The Sun.

To be clear, no such planet was discovered. A discovery, especially of a planet in our solar system, would entail photographs or data indicating its existence with a very high degree of certainty. There was no such solid proof. Instead, Professor Mike Brown and Dr. Konstantin Batygin, researchers at Caltech, have published “evidence” that there could be a very large object at the edge of the Solar System (5,000 times larger than Pluto).

Artist impression of Planet Nine (source: Wikimedia)

Artist impression of Planet Nine (source: Wikimedia)

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2.9.2016

A Skeptical, (Mostly) Non-Mocking Look at Amanda Chantal Bacon’s Diet

Internet wags and pseudo-science watchers alike went nuts when an Elle Magazine article about the daily eating regimen of one Amanda Chantal Bacon went viral. Ms. Bacon is a resident of Venice, California and the owner of Moon Juice, which is “a cold pressed, 100% organic, juice and nut milk shop. She also appears to someone whose eating habits Elle felt it would be illuminating to write about. Her food diary is a doozy, as she appears to live entirely off juice, homemade yogurt and chocolate, and the occasional salad. And herbs. A lot of herbs.

Green juice. Full of green things.

Green juice. Full of green things.

The piece is actually from May 2015, but it went viral on February 5th, 2016 after feminist blog Jezebel wrote about it with the headline “I Have Never Heard Of, Much Less Eaten, Any of the Foods in This Juice Lady’s Food Diary.” Other outlets picked it up after that, using similarly mocking headlines, and by the end of the day the Internet was replete with thinkpieces and videos mocking Ms. Bacon’s diet, the bizarre things in it, and how laughably out of touch rich white people are. / read more…

1.28.2016

Dawkins, NECSS, and Working Together

The recent news is that Richard Dawkins was un-invited from the NECSS conference because of a tweet he sent that many found offensive. Of course it caused all sorts of uproars and divisions. Sigh… how tiresome; and at a time when there is real work to be done.

I was reminded of this short SkepticBlog post I wrote way back in 2009, another time I found myself frustrated with those supposed friends of science communication who seem to place a higher priority on finding things wrong with their allies.

Diversity has value only when it’s real diversity, and that means diversity of opinion in addition to ethnic or gender diversity. Many self-declared “champions of diversity” would do well to actually practice what they preach. / read more…

1.25.2016

The X-FIles (2016) Ep. 1 Review: Everything You Know is Wrong

This article contains spoilers for the first episode of The X-Files (2016).

xfiles1

Imagine a world where aliens are real, the paranormal is practically normal, and every single conspiracy theory is true. No, I’m not reading Infowars or listening to an episode of Welcome to Night Vale. I’m talking about a newly refurbished The X-Files, which premiered Sunday night to much advertised fanfare and the squeeeee! of Mulder/Scully shippers everywhere. As someone who was a believer when the show first aired (and also a fan) but is now a stout skeptic, I thought it would be fun to take a skeptical look at the new series.  / read more…

1.22.2016

Susan Gerbic: Vampire Slayer

Members of the “Boston Direct Action Project,” dressed as vampires to impersonate public relations associates of the World Bank, Washington DC. Via Wikimedia.

Susan Gerbic at The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry has put out the call for all vampire slayers. Does this mean that we should all stock up on garlic, holy water and get some really high collars for our shirts? No, this type of vampire is not going to directly consume our blood. But, in my opinion, the type of vampire she refers to is more evil and harder to metaphorically kill than the traditional vampire. It is called a grief vampire, a.k.a. a psychic medium. This type of vampire feeds off of the grief of surviving family members and the natural fear of death that we all have. The E! Television Network is premiering and promoting a new show called Hollywood Medium with Tyler Henry. It’s similar to The Long Island Medium Theresa Caputo, whose own show is off the air currently and facing litigation due to claims of fraud. I find those fraud charges ironic, since cold reading itself is merely a sham party trick, even without the cheating methods allegedly used by Caputo. I am personally disgusted by the displays on these shows. Susan Gerbic feels, as do I, that we need to nip these shows “in the bud,” for obvious reasons. / read more…

2015 Technology Predictions: Some Good, Some Bad, None Impressive

For a couple of years now I’ve been following Mark Anderson’s yearly top 10 tech at Strategic News Service. It is claimed that he has a 94% success rate (though it’s unclear if this claim comes directly from Anderson himself). Last year, I calculated his success rate at closer to around 60% (and it had been worse in prior years), so I was eager to see how he did it this year.

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1.13.2016

We’re All Bad at Math; or, Should Skeptics Play the Lottery?

 

Bad Lottery Math

Bad lottery math, attributed to “Philipe Andolini.”

The image above has come across my Facebook feed at least a dozen times. It appears that most people are sharing it without a critical look. And yet I am the one that gets vilified when defending the ideas behind common core math!

Let’s talk briefly about how easy one could see how this doesn’t make sense: if every person had 1 million dollars, then 10 people would have $10 million. So 100 people would have $100 million, and 1,000 people would have $1 billion. It becomes a pretty far stretch to give the other 299,999,000 people in the US the leftover 0.3 billion dollars and expect everyone to end up with $4.33 million each. / read more…