10.10.2014

Another E-Cat Test: Success?

E-Cat

Rossi’s ostensible cold-fusion reactor. Via www.sifferkol.se.

Andrea Rossi’s E-Cat machine has been wowing folks for some time now. This device is claimed to produce considerable amounts of energy via Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR). I’ve written about LENR and Rossi before. Results of additional testing on the E-Cat have been published very recently. Does this, finally, prove that the E-Cat works? / read more…

10.8.2014

Ebola and Enterovirus D68, Pandemic or Panic Part II

 

480px-Ebola_virus_particles

“Ebola virus particles,” by Thomas W. Geisbert, Boston University School of Medicine. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5, via Wikimedia.

Recently, fear of infectious disease has become a constant drumbeat on the Internet and television. This is primarily due to two viral diseases. Disease one is the deadly West African Ebola Virus. Disease two is Enterovirus D68. Mike Rothschild did a nice post about the enterovirus on September 16th titled “EV-D68: The (Not) New Disease to (Not) Panic About.” Events surrounding these diseases this week seems to have piqued the obsessive interest of the news media: the first-ever case of Ebola diagnosed in the US in Dallas Texas (who was reported as deceased today) and the recent news reports linking the death of a healthy child to the enterovirus. This is part two of my informational posts. This one is focused on the Ebola Virus and the Epidemic in West Africa.

/ read more…

10.5.2014

Ebola and Enterovirus D68, Pandemic or Panic Part I

An ICU nurse cares for a ventilated child. Via Wikimedia.

American news media outlets love a good scary story. If a scary story involves deadly diseases and children, you have media gold. Media outlets tap into the primal fear of infectious disease to draw your eyes to their screens. Recently, the fear of infectious disease has become a constant drumbeat on the Internet, in print, and on television. This is primarily due to two viral diseases. Disease one is the deadly West African Ebola Virus. Disease two is Enterovirus D68. Mike Rothschild did a nice post about the enterovirus on September 16th titled “EV-D68: The (Not) New Disease to (Not) Panic About.” Events this week seem to have pique an obsessive interest around both diseases: the first-ever case of Ebola diagnosed in the US in Dallas, Texas, and the recent news reports linking the death of a healthy child with the enterovirus. / read more…

10.4.2014

The Anti-Vaccine Playbook: Freedom of Speech

Writer’s Note: I wanted to write my own collection of nonsense spewed by pseudoscience peddlers. I will be starting with vaccines, but I may expand it into other topics as well at some point. I want to provide short examples of the arguments made by those who don’t understand science, and I will compile the links into a separate post after I get a few done, and then continue to add links to that post as I add more. I hope it is helpful!

Freedom of Speech graffiti (via Creative Commons License)

Freedom of Speech graffiti (via Creative Commons License)

The loudest voices, no matter how few, are often the ones that get heard the most. In the world of vaccines, celebrities who blame vaccines for all sorts of conditions are given an disproportionately large platform from which to speak about their denial of science. Social media also gives a large presence, with people like the Food Babe, Natural News, Mercola, and others watching their message of fear spread like wildfire. Occasionally, the science side does speak up, like in the case of the insurance company State Farm dropping ads featuring anti-vaccine actor Rob Schneider.

/ read more…

10.1.2014

Bigfoot in My Backyard

I have known for awhile that Bigfoot is reportedly stalking the shadows of my home state of Michigan. Our fair state has even been graced with televised visits by both Finding Bigfoot and Bigfoot Bounty. But until recently I never knew that that Bigfoot was in my own backyard!

Well, okay, not literally. But apparently there’s a recent tradition of reported Bigfoot sightings in Isabella County, MI, home to Central Michigan University. I earned my degrees from CMU and then lived for several years after that. And in all that time, I never saw Bigfoot! So disappointing.

I never heard one, either. I was not as fortunate as Squatcher Jim Sherman, who has recently released what he thinks may be a “double howl” vocalization. Check out this video he posted of supposed Sasquatch vocalizations in the woods of Isabella County. / read more…

10.1.2014

Return of the Black-Eyed Kids?

Over a yVia https://www.flickr.com/photos/soulnoire/3202669120/ear ago, I examined the paranormal stories of the Black-Eyed Children. The Skeptoid podcast also did an episode on them not long ago. It appears that these haunting, demonic, alien, and frightening apparitions have returned to trouble us again! Or, maybe not, let’s take a look! / read more…

9.30.2014

A Fun Quiz About Chemicals: The Answers!

Last week’s Skeptoid post took a look at the maxim of “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it” and found it to be silly and simplistic. Judging a chemical (or anything, for that matter) to be “bad” because it has a long and hard-to-say name is chemphobic and displays a lack of basic understanding about what a chemical is. Everything everywhere is made of chemicals, and while some are indeed toxic at the right dose, many others are essential for life. / read more…

Whales’ Pelvic Bones: Evolutionary Science at its Best

This summer I took my kids to the Royal Museum for Natural Sciences here in Brussels. Apart from the usual dinosaur exhibits and a very nice exposition on evolution, there was also a large room (evidently) for the display of whale skeletons. Impressed by the sheer size, I added an educational note to the experience by pointing to the remains of the hip or pelvic bone. Explaining that whales were actually land mammals that returned to the sea, I told my kids this small bone was just what remained of the hip, where the now-lost legs attached. The correct word for it is “vestigial,” and some researchers have even speculated that, given a few million years, this bone will probably disappear altogether.

A sperm whale drawing. The pelvic bone is the small bone right from the middle, that is not attached to the rest of the skeleton. Source: Wikipedia.

But science keeps on evolving and getting better, so I probably need to give my kids a new tour of the museum with updated information. / read more…

9.26.2014

The Tragedy of History’s Smallest Underground War

Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave has been known since the late 1700s, and exploited for its saltpeter wealth through the War of 1812. Thereafter it became a tourist attraction, passing from owner to owner throughout the 1800s, each of whom had a clever marketing plan. First it was promoted with the display of a mummified Native American woman (imported from another location), nicknamed Fawn Hoof. Later, cottages built half-a-kilometer inside the cavern were offered as a cure for consumption and other ailments; and after the Civil War, a counterfeit Fawn Hoof took the place of the original counterfeit. Visitors were encouraged to snap off a stalactite as a souvenir. Mammoth Cave was not the only commercialized cave around, but it was by far the best known; and by the opening years of the 20th century, its proprietors were banking substantial profits.

But to reach Mammoth Cave, tourists had to drive through not only the Mammoth Cave region, but also the Flint Ridge cave region. Both were full of competing caves. In about 1920, this competition turned ugly in what became known as the Kentucky Cave Wars.

Contemporary photos from the era of the Kentucky Cave Wars. Courtesy of the National Cave Museum.

Contemporary photos from the era of the Kentucky Cave Wars. Courtesy of the National Cave Museum.

 

/ read more…

9.25.2014

Rasputin’s Prophetic Death Letter

Rasputin_EyesWriting my first episode of Skeptoid on the death of Rasputin was a great experience. The man lived a fascinating life and I loved uncovering the actual story of his death. One aspect of the writing process that frustrated me, though, was how little space I had to work with. To keep things within a certain word count and reading duration some really interesting aspects of Rasputin’s life had to be left on the cutting room floor.

One such aspect was Rasputin’s prophetic death letter. Before Rasputin died, he purportedly wrote a letter predicting both his own death and the fall of the Romanov dynasty. In some tellings of Rasputin’s life, it is claimed that this letter is a true psychic or spiritual vision. In the kind of casual history pages that commonly come up in Google searches this letter is often mentioned as an authentic prediction written by Rasputin before he died.

/ read more…