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Skeptoid 5 Epilogue

by Brian Dunning

October 16, 2013

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Donate As you may know, the fifth book in the Skeptoid series Skeptoid 5: Massacres, Monsters, and Miracles is now being proofed for printing as the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign. As soon as it's done, it will be available in paperback and eBook here.

For now, I wanted to share a bit of it with you. Here is the short epilogue:
I was amazed to learn that the water flowing from the springs at the bottom of Death Valley has been underground for thousands (if not tens of thousands) of years (source: USGS). It last landed as rain or snow in an area to the north some 40,000 square kilometers in size, and has been seeping through a vast aquifer over the course of all recorded human history. A raindrop that lands there today will not see the light of day for perhaps ten thousand years.

The typical visitor to Death Valley sees the water flowing from the spring, and probably looks up at the mountainside above and supposes “It must come from up there.” They might spend a moment puzzling over why the water’s flowing when it’s midsummer, dry as a bone, and obviously no rain has landed up there anytime recently. And then, they probably never think of it again.

Would they be intrigued to hear of its marvelous underground journey, streaming through limestone tunnels, percolating through mineral deposits, dripping from stalactites, for uncounted millennia?

Some might. Many might not care.

I argue that taking the extra step to learn what’s really going on, rather than simply accepting the apparently-true pop explanation, is always its own reward. Whether the subject is a basic Earth science like this example, or a classic ghost story in an old inn, or the latest money-making or health craze, what we can learn through study is always more exciting (and usually more true) that what we merely absorb through cultural osmosis.

Be the one with the hunger to know more. Be the one who second-guesses your group of friends. Be the one to question; but don’t merely be contrarian, look instead to go deeper. I find that when I can raise an interesting question, it often piques the interest of others around me, simply because most people aren’t used to wondering about things as much as they could. For many, it’s an exciting new exercise.

All of the 50 short subjects in this book have caused me to raise my eyebrows and wonder. All of them prompted me to go deeper than I ordinarily might have, and all of them gave me a lasting reward that I often cherish.

I hope some of these chapters have done the same for you.

by Brian Dunning

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