Wednesday, December 23, 2009

This and That Before Christmas

Ahhh... the Season is upon us. So to all: Merry Christmas!!! Happy New Year!!! Happy Holidays!!! Wesołych Świąt!!! Happy Kwanzaa!!! Feliz Navidad!!! Happy Festivus (for the rest of us)!!!

And a few bits of wisdom from various places on the Net:

First, more interesting news on homeopathy, after a slight increase in chatter from the "believers", here are great responses from the real medical doctors:

More Homeopathy Apologetics - by Steve Novella
Mercola sells the delusion of homeopathy - by Orac

Great scientific minds take the woo-woo apart.

If you are looking for some laughs, try this: The Year in Quotes: Science, a collection of quotes from the "great minds" of Texas (some of them are elected officials!!!).

Best wishes to all!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Top 10 Scams of 2009 has the Top 10 Scams of 2009 list on line.

I'm glad to see some of the most annoying woo-woo like:
  • Acai Berry (who still thinks that it slims down anything but your wallet???)
  • Kevin Trudeau - I'm always surprised when I find one of his books in someone's home library, but obviously people still fall for his nonsense.
  • Work-at-home schemes - I see a lot of those, targeted especially at stay-at-home moms. The math is too complicated for a regular person to figure out the scam, and the salespeople are really good at what they are doing. We need to spread the word to make sure people realize you can't make real money this way.
They should also add:
  • Chiropractic.
  • Homeopathy.
  • Acupuncture.
  • ... and all other "alternative" medicine nonsense
to the list. Let's hope it'll happen next year.

Thanks to for the link...

Friday, December 18, 2009

I'm a Pig

I got my H1N1 jab today... oink!!! Now, time to get some good pork chops for dinner.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Climate Change Facts

Great comparison from the always reliable

Climate Change Deniers vs The Consesus (graphics)

You can't make it simpler that that!
That's good and timely info, in light of the current Climate Conference, and some other news from this front.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chiropractic - Calling It What It Is: Woo-Woo

For all, who still think that going to a chiropractor is a good idea for a treatment (ok, maybe short of getting a massage), here is a research paper that came out of the chiropractic community itself:

An epidemiological examination of the subluxation construct using Hill’s criteria of causation

with some excellent comments from the excellent Science-Based Medicine Blog:
As the authors of this paper indicate, the subluxation construct must go. And without the subluxation, the whole rationale for chiropractic collapses, leaving chiropractors no justifiable place in modern medical care except as competitors of physical therapists in providing treatment of certain musculoskeletal conditions.
The End of Chiropractic

A Few Books of Note...

There are two books I've been reading recently that I would like to recommend to anyone with some curiosity and open mind.

First, there is "Trick or Treatment", by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst, MD.
I finished it a few weeks ago, and it was a jackpot!!! This is a very well written, popular research book on a number of alternative medicine therapies. Included are: acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, herbal medicine, and a few others in lesser detail. Since the two authors represent two opposed sides of the equation (Singh being a scientists and a journalist, and Ernst being an alternative medicine practitioner), it gives this piece additional credibility. As the authors proclaim at the beginning, their goal was to objectively evaluate the above therapies, showing their history, scientific background and the state of current research. While I sort of knew what the outcome would be, it was very interesting to learn about the exact historical background of those modalities, and to see what research has been done so far. Not surprisingly, all of the therapies discussed in the book, did not yield any real results in many scientific test, beyond a simple placebo effect. Some interesting outcomes were found for acupuncture and chiropractic, associated with pain management and back problems. Herbal medicine, being what it is: a sloppy, uncontrolled application of real drugs, shows some use, but one must be careful, watching for drug interactions and dosage.

Secondly, I enjoyed "Confessions of an Alien Hunter" by Seth Shostak, which is an incredibly entertaining account of the last 50 years of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), as told by one of the most authoritative individuals of the field. From history of the research, to some politics, and outlooks for the future, it's a pure fun to read. The best part of this book is that it really shows SETI being so much more than most of the people would think: biology, anthropology, physics, and many other fields, make up this broad, scientific approach to finding our neighbors in the Universe.

Some Sad Statistics

If you think A/H1N1 is not that bad, look at these statistics:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

Web Trends for 2010

While I usually keep CNN rather low on my list of sources for tech news, they have a very interesting and easily digestible article on upcoming web trends for 2010.
The biggest takeaway from the article in my opinion: your privacy is GONE. We are using portable devices on the go to share our lives every day. Some of them already have GPS built in, and soon all of them will. As soon as the applications are there to take full advantage of this, we will be "tracked" all the time. And we'll do it all voluntarily, just as we've been doing with Facebook, Twitter, and many other applications.
Another trend that's easily spotted is the full convergence of media. Your TV, Internet, personal music and video libraries, news, and many other sources have been slowly mixing up in a single device (XBox and PS3 come to mind). Add some capable mobile devices, and you have all your entertainment in one (or two, if you count mobile separately) place.
If we could only get wireless providers to bundle unlimited, wireless network access with their home offerings for a single price, we would have an ultimate bliss. Verizon is on a good path, with their Fios service, however, paying for 3G network access on top of the home access is too much from my point of view. Let's hope it'll change in coming years.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Roger Ebert - A Skeptic - Who Knew?

I always turned to Roger Ebert for his movie advice, not political, or skeptical views. I guess I was wrong:
New Age beliefs are the Creationism of the Progressives. I move in circles where most people would find it absurd to believe that humans didn't evolve from prehistoric ancestors, yet many of these same people quite happily believe in astrology, psychics, reincarnation, the Tarot deck, the i Ching, and sooth-saying. Palmistry and phrenology have pretty much blown over.
New Agers and Creationists should not be President

He has a great point: for way too many in our society it is easy to bash ultra-religious views, but somehow we do not notice all those "progressive", new age beliefs that are equally nonsensical and can negatively influence our decisions in the same way. In the 21st century, there should be no place in politics for people without rational approach, as this influences their decisions in too many bad ways.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Choprawoo... Nothing But Laughs

You've probably heard of Deepak Chopra, the woo-master extraordinaire. He's been making millions, selling nonsense and feel-good, self-help, new age crap (to say it nicely). His understanding of physics is at the first grade level, as he attempts to use quantum theory to justify all sorts of claims that make no sense if you have any reasoning powers left. That, however, could be a bit challenging, after reading his latest post at the Huffington Post (yes, that bastion of rigorous, rational thinking). His article on skepticism is another proof that he has no clue what it is to think scientifically. No surprise there: his whole "empire" is based on the notion that people accept anything you tell them, without thinking critically, and without any deep understanding. He must fight anyone, who questions his "beliefs", otherwise, there will be no way for him to sell his books, CDs, or whatever else he uses to promote his woo-woo.
The best quote from his blog post:
Worst of all, skeptics take pride in defending the status quo and condemn the kind of open-minded inquiry that peers into the unknown.
Wrong!!! We love peering into the unknown, as long as the unknown does not exist only in your head.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Solar System: It's Big!!!

If you ever wondered how big our home planetary system is, take a look at this site:

This is a scale model, and it really makes you think:
[...] the planets here are also shown at their true-to-scale average distances from the Sun. That makes this page rather large - on an ordinary 72 dpi monitor it's just over half a mile wide [...]
Thanks to the Bad Astronomer for digging out that great link!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Anti-vaccine Propaganda Comes In Many Shapes

There is a very interesting article, originally from Chicago Tribune, making its rounds in the blogosphere:

Autism treatment: Science hijacked to support alternative therapies

The stories in the article are just additional examples that the antivaccine and autism "movement" is not really looking for answers. They are just ideologically inspired to get their point of view across, even if it means subjecting children to dangerous and unproven therapies:
[..] doctors have treated children with a blood product typically reserved for people with severe immune system disorders like the one known as "bubble boy" disease. They have used it to justify sealing children with autism in pressurized bags and submarine-like metal chambers. Other children have been given a drug used to treat extremely rare genetic disorders.
I'm sure there is money to be made there too, but that's the case with most of the SCAMs (So-called Complementary and Alternative Medicine).

Monday, November 23, 2009


I hear the movie "2012" is pretty bad (well, there is no "cliffhanger" there, we all know how this one ends), and for all the believers out there, here is an excellent site to compare the Internet nonsense to the real stuff:

2012: End of the World?

There are some other great visualizations there worth checking to change your perspective.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Genetic Profiling

No, not the type you'd seen in "Gattaca"... this time it is a SCAM from the present, not the future.
A company, called My Gene Profile ( seems to be offering genetic profiling for children to discover their "hidden" talents. I can't stop thinking that this is like the company that used to sell Moon property... oh, wait, they still do it:!!! One must wonder, who would ever fall for obvious scams like the ones above?

I guess, like P.T. Barnum once allegedly said: "There's a sucker born every minute".

Thanks to Pharyngula for the amusing link.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Greatest Show on Earth

I finished reading Richard Dawkins' "The Greatest Show on Earth" and I have nothing but praises for the author. As a layman, who got drawn into the world of biology, and especially evolutionary biology, late in my informal education (after enjoying formal education in Computer Science, and informal interests in modern physics and astronomy), I enjoyed this book immensely.

Richard Dawkins has an incredible gift of holding your interest in the topic, presenting some of the most incredible facts about biology and the current state of evolutionary science to the reader. He presents a step-by-step case for evolution, producing evidence based on the newest research in multiple fields. I especially liked his intuitive explanations of the geological "clocks" and how scientists can date the past events and artifacts. But what really blew my mind (so to speak) was the chapter on embryological development. It's simply amazing to see "our inner fish" during that short period of nine months, when we can trace our evolutionary development condensed in time.

If you are looking for a good popular science introduction to the current state of cutting edge biology, this book is for you.

In addition to the great scientific content, this book also presents a terrible state of education in the U.S. (and Great Britain too). Having around 40% of Americans still believe that the Earth is 6000 years old, in the age of the Internet, space exploration, and many other technological advances, shows you that we are consistently failing to educate our children. Scary, but unfortunately, true.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Suzanne Somers - The Doctor is in Again - Part 2

Read the next installment of Orac's excellent analysis of the latest book by Suzanne Sommers: "Knockout":

That last story revealed just how deep Somers' pool of medical ignorance is, given that she denied being on steroids, even though right after that she pontificated about how the doctors were obviously "so out of touch with new medicine," have "no clue," and don't "understand cortisol replacement as part of the menopausal experience." I hadn't been aware that cortisol (hydrocortisone when given as an evil "allopathic' drug that is also, by the way, "bioidentical") was in Somers' witches' brew of "bioidentical hormones" designed to give her body levels of estrogenic hormones equivalent to that of a 25-year-old. Never mind that estrogens are steroid hormones, and cortisol is a corticosteroid that can suppress the immune system, the latter simple fact meaning that it it is quite possible that it was Somers' own fault that she got disseminated coccidioidomycosis (commonly known as Valley Fever) rather than a mild or asymptomatic version. I say that because, if Somers was taking large amounts of hydrocortisone--excuse me, cortisol--then she very well may have had steroid-induced immunosuppression that left her open to a disseminated infection when she happened to breathe in the fungus that causes the disease.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Anti-vaccination Propaganda in the Age of Internet

Los Angeles Times has a good follow up on the recent Wired article on vaccines and autism:

Childhood vaccines, autism and the dangers of group think
The rise of computer literacy, high-speed Internet connections, blogging and social networks has emboldened the common man to tell his own story and, sometimes, to disdain trappings like a university degree, professional training or corporate affiliation. The citizen activists often frame themselves as truth tellers fighting against an establishment that is hopelessly venal. No matter that the corruption, routinely claimed, is seldom supported by more than innuendo.
I guess the above sums it up... we are in for a bumpy ride in the future, as more and more will challenge authority. What's even worse, the media (at least what we call the mainstream media) is not helping, since it prefers catchy stories with controversy, rather than solid, scientific reporting.

Thanks to Orac for the link...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Sprinkle of Reason in HuffPo

It's hard to believe, given their stand on alternative medicine, vaccines, and a whole bunch of other nonsense, but Huffington Post has a rational blogger: Cara L. Santa Maria

Her short post is a nice introduction to science and rationality, especially for "reason-challenged" audience of the HuffPo:
Science is riddled with doubt, and religion is completely founded on faith. Rely on faith, and the scientific method falls apart. Insert doubt, and religious certainty quickly dwindles.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Suzanne Somers - The Doctor is in Again

In case you run into Suzanne Somers, promoting her newest book on the airvawes, Orac started disecting her woo-woo claims on his blog:
I can only say that, after having perused the next couple of chapters after Chapter 1, I can already feel my brain melting and oozing out through my ears, screaming as the neuron-necrosing stupidity liquifies it. I've also noticed that, by and large, this book is written in grade school level language with short chapters.
It'll be a fun read for sure.
I'm sure, it's just a matter of time (short time) when she's on Oprah, selling this nonsense to the public.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Scientology Trouble

Scientology is getting some bad press recently, which is not surprising, given that it must be one of the worst cults out there.
First, they lost a case against them in France, and were found guilty of fraud (also here). Too bad their practices were not banned, like in Germany.
Now, our local paper, St. Petersburg Times, is running another series of revealing articles, following their original series a few months ago.
One only hopes, this will save a few poor "souls" from joining their ranks. There is no hope for Tom Cruise anymore I guess.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Watching the Local News

Bad idea if you concerned about your sanity and intelligence levels!
So, I'm watching the local news last night (I think it was WFLA - local NBC affiliate), and I see this report on some scientists out of Netherlands, who say that getting a regular, seasonal flu shot for kids, prevents them from developing immunity to the swine flu (H1N1).
Of course, in the best tradition of crappy reporting, this piece only mentions that it is "still a controversial research", not saying that it was published as an opinion piece, and that other scientists completely dismissed it, as unfounded and without any research basis.

Now, what would 99% of people who watch the nightly news and trust them do? Skip the shots, I bet.

Here is the news:
Do seasonal flu shots impede little kids' ability to fight off pandemic flu?
Flu jab 'may prevent children developing swine flu immunity'
and the original article in the Lancet: Yearly influenza vaccinations: a double-edged sword?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Back to Wired: An Epidemic of Fear

The response to the great "Wired" article, published this month seems to be overwhelming.
I can't praise them enough for publishing this piece and I hope it'll make a dent in the culture of nonsense and plain stupidity that we've been immersed in. It's amusing and scary at the same time to read the comments and responses to the original article, and to the follow-up articles:

Readers Respond to “An Epidemic of Fear,” part 1

Readers Respond to “An Epidemic of Fear,” part 2

Readers Respond to “An Epidemic of Fear,” part 3

A Short History of Vaccine Panic

Squalene: Not to Worry

Make sure to follow Amy Wallace on Twitter @msamywallace, to see some of her responses, and read about her appearance on the National Public Radio: Journalist's Vaccine Article Draws Hate Mail.

Health Care Debate - No Coverage for Woo-Woo

No matter where you stand in the current health care debate, I think all of us agree that wasting money is a big "no, no" in any future, universal health plan. However, there are attempts to inject a language into the proposed legislation, protecting supposed "discrimination" against alternative methods. Why would we pay for something like acupuncture, homeotherapy, or even worse, Christian Scientists' "prayer therapy" from the federal budget. Now, that's a waste in my book! To make sure that woo-woo like that does not make it into any future health care bills, sign and send the petition below:


Monday, October 19, 2009

Wired Gets It

I got my latest copy of "Wired" magazine (Nov. 2009), and to my surprise, the front page article is: "Fear" by Amy Wallace. I am surprised, because it is a rather well written article debunking all of the myths associated with childhood vaccines, and their alleged connection to autism. It is rather rare to find an article like that in the mainstream media, which prefers to present "controversy" and misinformation, rather that facts, and scientific point of view.
The article not only presents this rational view (with the help of no other that Paul Offit, the author of "Autism's False Prophets"), but also makes a few well placed, general, skeptical arguments, which help to drive the point, so often missed when dealing with myths and irrational ideas, yet so important in showing why people tend to believe in pseudo-science:

"In 1905, French mathematician and scientist Henri Poincare said that the willingness to embrace pseudo-science flourished because people 'know how cruel the truth often is, and we wonder whether illusion is no more consoling.'"
"Science loses ground to pseudo-science because the latter seems to offer more comfort"
Going back to vaccines, the article drives a few good points:
  • Because of vaccines, the childhood diseases are mostly out of our minds, but they are making a comeback, mainly due to the fact that some parents refuse to vaccinate their children.
  • Very well known fact among the scientists is that "correlation does not imply causation", but this is one of the main drivers of the anti-vaccine movement, which claims that the increased rate of autism is caused by the expanded vaccine schedule in the developed countries. This "fact", is not true of course: it has been shown that the main cause of climbing autism rates is increased monitoring and expanded definition of the term "autism". As a matter of fact, a very recent study in U.K. has shown that autism rates are uniform across all age groups, which proves that there is no "epidemic".
  • While the anti-vaccine movement claims that the doctors and the "big pharma" support vaccines only for their financial gain (not true at all - there is much more money to be made off sick people), there is even bigger business of the alternative therapies growing all over the world. That's were the real profits are, and guess who makes real gains?
  • The public really does not appreciate the amount of pain and suffering (and lives) saved by the vaccines in the U.S. and worldwide.
Let's hope this article will make a small dent in the anti-vax propaganda, and maybe a few lives will be saved.

As soon as the current version of the magazine (and this article) is available on line, I'll link to it.

As promised, here is the link to the article: An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All

Also, a short post on the indispensable Science-Based Medicine Blog: An epidemic of fear: The anti-vaccine movement’s war on science

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bad Flu Stats

If you still have any doubts, read this short piece of news: CDC: 86 Children Dead From H1N1

The swine flu is causing an unprecedented amount of illness for this early in the fall, with the deaths of 11 more children reported in the past week. And less vaccine than expected will be ready by month's end, federal health officials said Friday.
The dumb and completely irresponsible tone from some, who claim that this is "just another flu" makes me MAD!!!

Friday Rants: Swine Flu Again

There seems to be more talk about swine flu and H1N1 vaccine in the news that anyone can digest. Unfortunately, a big chunk of all this "chatter" is misinformation, spread by usual sources: TV shows (Oprah), web sites (Natural News), and just simple, unconnected, unrelated anegdotes (remember, anegtotal evidence is NOT data).

A lot of the misinformation comes from a simple fact that most of the people just simply do not understand how viruses, our immune system, and vaccines work. There is a lot of great sources out there, one of them here: How do vaccines work?

As always, Science-Based Medicine Blog comes to the rescue with very relevant and timely information:
Some of our more astute readers may have noticed that we are paying influenza slightly more attention than other topics of late. That’s because this situation is new, rapidly changing, and covers more areas of science and medicine than one can easily count. It’s also a subject about which the general public and media are keenly interested. This is an outstanding learning and teaching opportunity for us as a professional community. Unfortunately, it is also fertile ground for confusion, fear, and misinformation, and a playground for those who would exploit such things.
9 Reasons to Completely Ignore Joseph Mercola and Natural News
More Nonsense from Dr. Jay Gordon
Flu Vaccine Efficacy

All the above are excellent reads, with multitude of great information.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cyber Security - Get to Your Bank Safely

Washington Post's Security Fix blog has a very interesting post today, with an excellent idea for better and more secure access to your on-line bank accounts:
The simplest, most cost-effective answer I know of? Don't use Microsoft Windows when accessing your bank account online.
Follow the recommendations!!! I would say, Live CD is the best choice, since there is almost no way to write anything to the local hard drives. It would have to be a very sophisticated virus/malware application to infect live Linux distro on the fly, and go low-level hardware access to write data to some other partition. The most usable solution is probably a memory stick with a hardware "read-only" switch. This way, it can go on your keychain, and be ready for a clean reboot at any time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Flu Vaccine Facts

If you fear this year's flu season, get some facts on the new H1N1 vaccine from a very good source:

PUBLIC health officials are now battling not only a fast-spreading influenza virus but also unfounded fears about the vaccine that can prevent it.
This short, but well written article from:
Paul A. Offit, the chief of the infectious diseases division of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is the author of “Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine and the Search for a Cure.”
should be a great introduction for all those, who get medical advice from talk shows and other "credible" media sources.

Return of the Blog Post

After writing my previous post, I also posted a story A Battle is Brewing in Pasco County, on the St. Petersburg Times portal It's Your Times. It generated a nice buzz, and I hope it'll bring this issue to light, so the voters can make the right and informed decission.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ahh... Politics in the South?

We seem to have an interesting share of candidates for various offices in the Tampa Bay area. First, there is St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Bill Foster, who believes we once walked the Earth with dinosaurs:

He said he believes dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time, though most scientists say there is a gap of at least 60 million years between dinosaurs and mankind.

Then, there is John Tracy, president of the Faith and Family Values Republican Club of Pasco County, who wants to run for Pasco County School board, with views like that:

He supports offering alternatives to teaching evolution in science, for instance, and he contends that the role of religion in U.S. history must be presented accurately.
We need to monitor them closely, and hope they don't go too far.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wisconsin Parents Face 25 Years in Prison When They're Sentenced in Daughter's Prayer Death

This case in Wisconsin is going to generate a lot of buzz, as it crosses the line between family and state control of our kids. Normally, I would be on the parents' side, however, seeing something so horrific and just plainly irresponsible, I can't stop myself from saying: this is what you get when your religion dominates your life to the extreme. We like to point out extremism abroad, especially in "other" religions, thinking we know it all, but we fail to see the same issues right in our own backyard.
Usually, I do not like religion bashing, and I do think that as long as you keep it to yourself, it should be your own decission, but cases like this one make me think twice.
I hope we don't see any more of them.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Battle is Brewing in Pasco County

Florida Citizens for Science blog is reporting that a soon-to-be-vacant seat on our local Pasco county school board might be artacting some "undesired" individuals:

Pasco school board candidate wants alternatives
The same news came via the St. Petersburg Times web portal: Republican Club president and pastor posts desire for Pasco school board seat in 2012

We need to start looking at this soon, to make sure we keep our educational standards as high as we can. Do we really need someone who says:
"I'm definitely not interested in a theocracy," Tracy said. "But I do think religion — particularly Judeo-Christian beliefs — is a huge part of what we are today. I think it's wrong for us to sweep that under the rug."
Ouch... in addition to that:
He supports offering alternatives to teaching evolution in science, for instance, and he contends that the role of religion in U.S. history must be presented accurately.
Nice. So, let's sweep rational thinking and science under the rug and be done with it.
I know too many children in our public schools (not to mention my son going there soon), not to care. I really have nothing against any religion, but let's keep it away from school, especially science classes.
I am sure, there is more to come on this topic.

Friday, October 2, 2009

October - National Cyber Security Awareness Month

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

In today's world, where we tend to expose most of our lives on the Internet, it is vital to be aware of the dangers and challenges we face in the cyberworld.

There are some really good resources on the site above, to make sure all of us (especially our kids) are safe on line, and our identities are not compromised.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Here Comes Ardi

CNN is reporting on an incredible find: Ardi, a common ancestor to humans and chimpanzees.

More to come on this tomorrow, in Science: Ardipithecus ramidus.

Looks like it'll be a big deal, that will shed some additional details on our ancestry.

Science for our Children

The indispensable Bad Astronomy blog, points to this great site:

Science: [ So What? So everything ]

This site, run by the British government, is a great way to promote science. I wish our government, here in the U.S. took similar approach, and started promoting real science, instead of woo and nonsense, like the NCCAM, for example.

The site has a great section for parents, with ideas on how to answer some of your children's questions and how to communicate science to them effectively.

As I am on the topic of educating children, another great site has a multitude of resources for parents, who want to expose their kids to some quality science education:

100 Tools to Make Your Kids Math and Science Stars

It's good to start early (not too early... let them have their childhood!!!), and keep pushing science and reason in their lives, since most of the public schools in the U.S., society in general, and peer pressure, look down on scientific education.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kindle: Paper Goes Bye, Bye...

I got my Kindle DX yesterday, and it is a beauty! The screen is crisp and very readable, the books download fast, and the ability to read your own PDFs and other documents is great. I also tried it in my car today, with the Text-To-Voice feature, and while the "voice" is a bit artificial, it's not Stephen Hawking for sure, and you get used to it very fast.

Guess, what was the first book I purchased? Richard Dawkins' "The Greatest Show on Earth". I did not get far yet, but as his previous books, it appears to be a great read, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it immensely.

Sorry, Mr. Gutenberg, your time has come to an end...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Skeptics in the Park

This is something I have been waiting for: Skeptics in the Park

Great idea!!! I created a group called Tampa Bay Skeptics ITP and I hope we can have some people signing up and maybe meeting in the future. Family fun and bringing our kids into the scientific world.

I hope it works!!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Grassroots Skeptics

I found this great web site/organization recently, and saw it popping up on a few blogs, and I think it is a fabulous idea:

Grassroots Skeptics

I think we need a central place to enable us, small town skeptics, to communicate and organize in a more efficient fashion. I know, there is a local CFI chapter in Tampa, but it would be nice to find some local skeptics (and by local, I mean local to the community I live in), and maybe form a grassroots organization as well. There is so much woo and nonsense out there, that we need all the people we can get.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Sane Voice on Vaccines

It is nice to see a sane voice in the mainstream media from time to time:

Her concern about the safety of vaccines is not unique, at least not in the
liberal, wealthy part of L.A. where we live. Several friends have not vaccinated
their children, and we know pediatricians who recommend avoiding some or all
shots. And I know almost no one who is willing to get the swine-flu shot, and
not because everyone here is Jewish. It's because while the far right gets a lot
of crap about not believing in science, the left isn't crazy about it either.
Only instead of rejecting facts that conflict with the Bible, it ignores
anything that conflicts with hippie myths about the perfection of nature. That's
why my neighborhood is full of places you can go to detoxify with colonics, get healed with
crystals and magnets and buy non--genetically engineered food. We complain less
about the liberal side of antiscience because the women who believe in this
stuff are generally hot.

To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate

Not only the article addresses some of the nonsense associated with childhood vaccines, but it's a nice encouragement for all of us, fighting a hard war in our communities and (sometimes) our families. There is so much misinformation floating around, small talk between moms and dads, crazy "data" from the Internet, and personal anecdotes, that every time I have to face someone, who almost implies that I must be a bad person to even consider believing doctors and science on this hot issue, I feel like throwing the towel.
Articles like this help me realize that it's important to keep the pressure on, and try to eradicate the woo from our lives, if not for ourselves, then for our children and their well being.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Doctor is in the House

Guess who thinks she's a doctor: Suzanne Somers... yes, the same one, who was spilling her nonsense on Oprah's program not long ago, and caused a decent uproar in the sane side of media.

Suzanne Somers thinks Patrick Swayze could have been alive today if he
would have used alternative methods to treat his pancreatic cancer instead of
"They took this beautiful man and they basically put poison in him," she
reportedly said. "Why couldn't they have built him up nutritionally and gotten
rid of the toxins in his body? I hate to be this controversial. I'm a
singer-dancer-comedienne. But we have an epidemic going on, and I have to say

Here is the clue: "I'm a singer-dancer-comedienne." What makes someone like that think she can go against centuries of experience, knowledge and scientific inquiry, and just declare that SHE KNOWS IT ALL!!! What's worst, is the fact that she is a celebrity and some people actually believe whatever celebrities say. As we have the "Jenny McCarthy Body Count", this should prompt someone to start a "Suzanne Sommers Body Count". She might be on the way to the top fast, since she's dealing with cancer.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Still Smoking (My Brain, That Is)

I found this great video, thanks to the excellent Science-Based Parenting Blog:

If homeopathy works ... I'll drink my own piss

Gotta love it!!! And it's entertainment value goes well with my previous post about homeopathy.

Cheers to all of you, who still use "Airborne" and think that you are getting anything but a few vitamins, and a bit of the good, old placebo effect.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Homeopathy: It Fries Your Brains

In the recent months, I have been somehow exposed to the "art" of homeopathy via various channels. It was astounding to see a person, who in all other ways seems to be very rational, being pulled into the world of this woo without a shred of critical thinking. I guess, one thing I saw being confirmed is the fact that in desperate moments of our lives, we can abandon reason and venture into some really weird territories.

One bonus of me being exposed to this situation was the fact that I received a copy of the instructions on how to take the "prescribed" homeopathic "medicine". In this particular case, the treatment was applied as part of the traumatic brain injury recovery.

The whole treatment was comprised of a few steps:
1. Interview, which seemed to me more like a cold reading, because it asked about various aspects of life, not related to the illness itself.
2. Purchase (for a rather steep price, given that you only get water) of a "medication", specifically formulated to help with the condition, as determined by the interview.

Now, take a look at the instructions and all the BS found in them:

Click to enlarge...

I hope you get tons of laughs from this, as I did.
The only think that makes me furious is the fact that someone is paying a lot of money for this nonsense. As ff this is not enough, people very often stop using regular doctors and medications prescribed by them, and switch to those "alternative" methods, and that could lead to real problems. I wonder, why a complete BS like this is even allowed?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Failure of Psychics

Interesting (not surprising for those who know the subject) article that highlights the nonsense associated with psychics, who claim they can help solving crimes. We all know about Sylvia Browne, who'd failed miserably a few years ago, predicting that a missing boy was dead, and he was later found alive. Recent news about Jaycee Dugard shows that police should NEVER, EVER rely, or even use pseudo-scientific methods in their investigations.

Jaycee Dugard Abduction Case Highlights Failure of Psychics

Florida Gets an A!

Whoa... I saw a report from Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009 being passed around the blogosphere today, and I'm shocked! My home state of Florida gets an "A". It's hard to believe, given the amount of crazy, anti-scientific chatter we get in the media and from our politicians around here.
Nevertheless, I am very happy to see that despite all the bad about the local public schools, there is some light at the end of this tunnel.

Over the past decade, Florida has improved its standards more dramatically than
perhaps any other state. The 1999 standards received an F from Lerner (2000)
for their (lack of) treatment of biological and geological evolution and scored
zero in the Fordham Foundation’s 2005 report, “The State of State Science
Standards.” As both reports observed, evolution was not even mentioned by name
at the time. However, after several months of public discussion and debate, the
Florida Department of Education’s writing committee developed a vastly superior
set of standards in 2007. Biological evolution became prominent, human evolution
was explicitly discussed, and geological and cosmological evolution were covered
as well. In February 2008, after fierce creationist opposition, the Board of
Education approved a revised version in which evolution was persistently
referred to as “the scientific theory of evolution.”

More: Why Science Standards are Important to a Strong Science Curriculum and How States Measure Up

Monday, August 31, 2009

Religion is about Love???

You must stop and think:
"What is religion really about?"
Not love for sure... Phoenix Pastor Draws Protests After Telling Church He Prays for Obama's Death
I don't care if you like politics, or not, if you are on the left, or right side of the political spectrum, whether you like this president, or not, or prefer the last, or not. If you wish death on anyone, you are not practicing religion, it's just another hateful nonsense and stupidity!!! Too bad, more and more "religions" drift that way.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

STS-128: Midnight Launch

Discovery just went up in a beautiful midnight launch, as seen from my backyard.

More images: STS-128 - Discovery Goes Up

Friday, August 28, 2009

2012... It's Coming

2012 is surely coming, like any other date out there. It is amusing to watch the doomsday chatter increase as we near the date, especially in light of the movie that will be out in a few months.
Internet made it easy for any crank to promote any idea, no matter how crazy it is, but what strikes me in this case is the fact that so many people actually believe that the world will come to an end in 2012 with so little facts. Why 2012 you ask? Because the Mayans said so... Great! They knew when the world would end, but did not see their own coming demise in the 16th century? But their calendar ends in 2012? If that's not enough to convince you, I don't know what would??? Oh, but our calendar ends every year too, and that does not seem to end our world?
As I see more and more people around me actually worried about this, I wonder what drives people who exploit scenarios like this one, and manufacture the facts. I guess it's always the greed, because I can't imagine someone being that stupid to be able to write a book (or make a movie) and really believe this crap.
However, in case of the new movie, due in a few months, this greedy scenario has been taken way too far. The producers actually created a web site for so called Institute for Human Continuity, that looks very slick and real. I hope there is nobody out there, who really freaks out and does something stupid, being influenced by this site, because I know way too many people who are easily influenced by nonsense like this.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Intelligent Design, Online Edition

This is a nice piece from Barret Brown on William Dembski, whose name I got thrown in my face in the past in some intelligent design vs. evolution debate... it's a bit funny, so I recommend it highly:

Intelligent Design, Online Edition

Science on Trial... Again

When I heard it on Fox's Hannity last night, I figured it must be one of the stupid things he says from time to time (more, and more often recently), however this does seem to be a real news:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, trying to ward off potentially sweeping federal
emissions regulations, is pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to hold a
rare public hearing on the scientific evidence for man-made climate
change.Chamber officials say it would be "the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st
century" -- complete with witnesses, cross-examinations and a judge who would
rule, essentially, on whether humans are warming the planet to dangerous effect.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce seeks trial on global warming

I'm not surprised Hannity jumped on this news, as he's been promoting nonsense like this forever, but the idea that a respected (or so I assumed) organization like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is attempting to put itself into this crazy position, is troubling to say the least.
No matter how much trust we have have in the justice system in this country, it is not fit to evaluate scientific matters, which are decided by scientists and hard facts, not judges and juries.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Book From Richard Dawkins: The Greatest Show on Earth

Richard Dawkins' new book "The Greatest Show on Earth" is coming out very soon, and I think it'll be a treat, given the author's track record.
Here is a short teaser: Creationists, now they’re coming for your children

For me the idea of evolution being right or wrong (not that I dispute it in any way) is a secondary discussion, being just the most glaring example of the anti-science approach taken by a huge chunk of our society. This approach will cost the US its lead role in the science and technology community soon, if we don't do something radical about it. Our society has this weird "negative" view of science, almost to the point of hate. At the same time, we all have no problems using the fruits of scientific and technological research in our everyday lives.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Great Job Mr. Crist

It's great to know that we have competent politicians running our great state of Florida:

Crist told a group of real estate agents Friday that he's had prayer notes
placed in the Western Wall in Jerusalem each year and no major storms have hit

Crist's wall against hurricanes is in Jerusalem

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Herbs and Vitamins Can Hurt You

If you one of the millions, who take herbal medicines without even thinking about side effects and dosage, read this story on CNN: Herbs, vitamins that can hurt you

Carole Grant doesn't really trust medical doctors. She never has. Whenever
she has had a health issue, she has headed straight for an herbalist,
acupuncturist or other "natural" healer.


A few weeks later, Grant, a geriatric care manager, was closing up an
apartment for an elderly client who'd died when she started feeling strange
sensations in her toes.

It always amazes me that people take those herbal medicines, mix them up with each other, add some supplements, and they never think about any consequences. It's not a secret that most of our real drugs (I'm not sure about exact numbers) either come from natural sources, or are results of researching a natural process and repeating it in a lab. The catch is: drug companies do their research, analyze active ingredients, extract them, and study their effects and dosage. Herbal remedies don't follow this standard, so when you take something like that, you have no control over dosage, side effects and interactions. Do you really want to take that risk?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Creation Museum Science Fair

I saw news about this: Creation Museum Science Fair going around the blogosphere... but you really have to read the Guidelines to appreciate the stupidity of the whole thing...

The Stupid, It Burns!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Vaccines and Autism - Reference and Index of Resources

If you are looking for information about research and its outcomes on vaccines/autism, then here is your first place to check out:

Vaccines and Autism

This indispensable resource comes as a courtesy of the great Science-Based Medicine Blog

It should make it easier for us to confront all the rumours and lies spread by the anti-vaccination movement.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Political Dilemma

Oh... you read my mind: Why scientists are seldom Republicans
Republicans have been so successful in driving out of their party anyone who
endeavors in scientific inquiry that pretty soon there won't be anyone left who
can distinguish a periodic table from a kitchen table.

After years and years of trying to balance myself between the two parties, I still don't know which way to hop. I voted both ways in the past, but it is getting harder and harder to justify one side of the equation. Granted, with only two parties in the picture, both of them have to include a rather wide range of views, but for someone like me, who at least attempts to live by reason, following Republican claims, increasingly means going against it! Does being Republican really have to mean being stubborn, close-minded and plain stupid? Because, I can't imagine using your brains and sticking to their ideology.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Do We Want To Indoctrinate Out Children In Public Schools

This news item comes from my neck of the woods (well, a bit north of me, but still in Florida), and as a parent of a soon-to-be student, I find it very interesting and extremely important.

His school of more than 1,800 students was known by some as "the Baptist
Academy." His teachers and staff delivered prayers, or invited students or
outside leaders to lead prayers, during sporting events and other activities.
Teachers offered Bible readings or biblical interpretations and talked about the
churches they attend. They assigned religion- oriented work to students and
encouraged them to attend religious clubs.

Read the whole article: A principal's principles

Now, don't get me wrong... I applaud people for standing up for what they believe, however, I do have a big problem with someone pushing their beliefs (even when they might be compatible with mine) on my kids in a place like a public school. Our public schools should be giving our children NEUTRAL point of view. Teach them values, respect towards each other, history (facts, not interpretations), science (again, FACTS), and they will be able to do well in life.
I always find it funny, when people try to justify their ideology just because they think it is the correct one. Yet, I wonder, what do other people think, who have the same notion: my religion is the correct one? Who wins? Who gets to teach indoctrinate our children.
Just keep it out of our school system and if I want my son to become a religious person, I'll send him to a Sunday school.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Creation "Museum" Trip Report

For any one who follows PZ Myers blog "Pharyngula", this was a treat long coming. While I might not always agree with his views, his recent trip to the Creation Museum in Kentucky was a hoot... just because (as expected) loads of nonsense presented there.

Have a peek and read his account of the excursion:

The Creation “Museum”

Friday, August 7, 2009

Vaccinate Your Children - Info From Down Under

This information needs to be popularized as broadly as possible:

Not enough parents are vaccinating their children. And groups like the AVN
spread misinformation about vaccines, spread it like a foul odor on the wind.

Article here: The AVN is reaping what they sowed

More information:

Today, a Dick Smith funded advertisement appeared in The Australian warning
parents that the Australian Vaccination Network is wrong in its claims of
various toxins in vaccines. A formal complaint regarding the behaviour of
the AVN has also been lodged with the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission.

... with the article: Vaccinations – no, they don't cause autism

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How Homeopathy Works... or Doesn't

Watch this short, but very to-the-point video on how homeopathy works and is it any different than placebo (by Ben Goldacre):

Ben Goldacre on Homeopathy from science TV on Vimeo.

Books And Such...

I have been reading heavily in the recent months, with a few books that I would highly recommend:

  1. "The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution" by Richard Dawkins - this one should be on every one's list, especially during the Year of Darwin. It's a bit heavy on science, and you get a lot of facts in a short time, but the way it presents the topic is just amazing. When you see the timeline flowing backwards, it all makes so much more sense!
  2. "Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End . . ." by Philip Plait (a.k.a. The Bad Astronomer) - you have to love this one... especially when you are bombarded all the time with all kinds of doomsday scenarios: from TV, to movies, books, and people that claim the world would end soon (and in 2012 for sure). It gives you a nice perspective on what could really happen, what did happen in the past, and what are the chances we see any of that on our lifetime. Very entertaining too!!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More From St. Pete Times - Editorial

It's nice to see that St. Pete Times is following on their investigative Scientology report with an editorial (in print on Tue, 08/04/2009):

Scientology calls itself a religion and claims to offer purpose and meaning to
its members. Yet for some who worked in the church's militaristic Sea
Organization, Scientology provided something different: physical punishment,
humiliation, beatings, sleep deprivation, and long and ruinous separation from
loved ones.

Follow the link below to read the whole piece:

Scientology's ugly truths revealed

Monday, August 3, 2009

Another Article On Scientology

Another good article from St. Petersburg Times on Scientology, its abuses and complete nonsense:

They are stepping forward — from Dallas and Denver, Portland, Las Vegas, Montana
— talking about what happened, to them and their friends, during their years in
the Church of Scientology.

Strength in their numbers: More Church of Scientology defectors come forward with accounts of abuse

Keep up the good work St. Pete Times!!!
We need more articles like this one. Scientology is a cult, not a religion, plain and simple. Maybe we should follow the Germans (they banned Scientology a while ago).

Friday, July 31, 2009

Organic Food on B.S.

I saw news yesterday about some study showing that so-called "organic" food is no better that regular food, and, guess what? Showtime airs Penn and Teller B. S. with the same topic. I have not had time to follow the show recently, so I'm not sure if it was a new episode, or a re-run, but it was great. Don't you just love when you can do some blind tests on people and they really can't tell the difference between normal and organic food!!! Better yet, when you use the same food (a banana in this case) and tell them one half is normal and one is organic, they like the "organic" half better. Talk about psychology... I have to put B.S. on my DVR!!!

Vaccinations: Some Hard Data

If you want to see (and digest) some really hard data, go and read the article on the Science-Based Medicine Blog, entitled "Cashing In On Fear: The Danger of Dr. Sears".

Dr. Sears is a genius. No, not in an Albert Einstein or Pablo Picasso kind of
way. He’s more of an Oprah or a Madonna kind of genius. He’s a genius because he
has written a book that capitalizes on the vaccine-fearing, anti-establishment
mood of the zeitgeist. The book tells parents what they desperately want to
hear, and that has made it an overnight success.

The article has some really good analysis, unfortunately, most of the people I know, who are either on the anti-vaxx side, or just "worried", prefer not to spend time analyzing this type of material. They'd rather listen to Jenny or Oprah and follow the fear.
We need more articles like this one, simply because we (and I mean people like myself, who can't do the real analysis on our own) need good and reliable sources with relatively simple explanations to help us stop the tide of nonsense.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Organic Food - Another Way to Get Your Money

Another research that proves what many of us already knew:

Organic food is no healthier or more nutritious than regular food. But it is more expensive.
That’s according to a study commissioned by the British government and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

What does it mean if organic food is no healthier than regular food?

They are after your money... if it looks to good to be true, it probably is.

HuffPost Is Not A News Site: Spread The News

Huffington Post is not a credible news site... but we all know it already.
Recent article on, by Rahul K. Parikh, M.D. only emphasizes the facts about HuffPost and its total lack of credibility:

[...] when it comes to health and wellness, that diverse forum seems defined
mostly by bloggers who are friends of Huffington or those who mirror her own
advocacy of alternative medicine, described in her books and in many magazine
profiles of her. Among others, the site has given a forum to Oprah Winfrey's
women's health guru, Christiane Northrup, who believes women develop thyroid
disease due to an inability to assert themselves; Deepak Chopra, who mashes up
medicine and religion into self-help books and PBS infomercials; and countless
others pitching cures that range from herbs to blood electrification to ozonated
water to energy scans.

The Huffington Post is crazy about your health

And while you there, read his previous article on some of the nonsense sold to us by Oprah Winfrey:

Oprah's bad medicine

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chiropractic - Show Me Some Evidence!

There are some things that should never be attempted, and taking away freedom of speech, or criticism, especially in science is one of them. However, it is always those, who attempt to silence their critics, that perish in such battles in the age of World Wide Web. I saw it many times in the past with software and hardware, when developers (sometimes called hackers) were being silenced in the name of "intellectual property". It never worked, as the backlash from the Internet was always huge, and information was just spreading faster, and faster...

This time, we have a case of open criticism in science, but due to some really crazy libel laws in the UK, the person voicing his opinion is being sued.

Let's spread the news, or in this case the original article on chiropractic:

Beware the Spinal Trap

Here is a quote from the original article that sums it up well, in my opinion:

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back
problems, but in fact some still possess quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists
argue that they can cure anything, including helping treat children with colic,
sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged
crying – even though there is not a jot of evidence.

Do some research and judge for yourself... chiropractic is a scam (maybe it helps with back problems, but any massage therapy will do that).

Google Ads...

I've seen it around on other blogs, but today I noticed it here: Google Ads from the places I despise showing up on my blog. In this particular case it was a Scientology ad that popped up. I guess it's unavoidable, since they seem to be on the offense after the articles in the St Petersburg Times showed how they operate. I even saw their ad on CNN a few days ago.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sign Your Rights To Scientology

As I said before, I live in the Tampa Bay area and I see effects Scientology has on Clearwater and its surroundings first hand. Downtown looks pretty bleak, and I hear businesses try to stay away from there, to avoid any problems. After St. Petersburg Times published a series of articles exposing Scientology practices, there was a response in the paper from some more, or less prominent politicians from Clearwater and Pinellas County, and most of them seem like the Church of Scientology has pretty deep pockets...

In case you wonder what it takes to join them, here are some documents one must sign to get on board:

Leaked Scientology Documents Reveal Church Values

Scary, if you ask me!!!How desperate (or just plain stupid) you have to be to sign up?

Friday, July 17, 2009

I'd Say: Science!!!

Going back to a post from just a few hours ago, take a look at the very recent pictures from the LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter):

LRO Sees Apollo Landing Sites

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, has returned its first imagery of
the Apollo moon landing sites. The pictures show the Apollo missions' lunar
module descent stages sitting on the moon's surface, as long shadows from a low
sun angle make the modules' locations evident.

This is great... not that the "crazy" ones would stop believing. I guess you can always "photoshop" the photos.

Moon Landings... Science Or Fiction???

Reading CNN news site today, I was floored to see a poll that asks:

Do you believe the Apollo moon landings were faked?

Not only that, but they have an article:

Could moon landings have been faked? Some still think so

I wonder... why give a voice to stupidity and nonsense? And for CNN to do so?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dr. Richard Feynman's Lectures Available On The Web

Here is a link to a set of Feynman's lectures in physics:

Richard Feynman: The Messenger Series

made available by Project Tuva

Dr. Feynman has been one of the most influential scientists of the last century. His lectures are amazing to watch and his books are pleasure to read. He was a type of scientist (along with Carl Sagan) who had a unique approach to science and an ability to bring it to masses in almost magical ways.
Thanks, Bill Gates for making this video available...

Work At Home... Make Millions!!!

Living in a "family" community, with a lot of "stay-at-home" moms around, I can see the offers just pouring in: make millions fast, live your life to the fullest, get all the expensive cars, etc... and you don't even have to work hard for it!!! Most of the time I see the pyramid schemes and "sell-to-your-friends-and-family" scams. It always amazes me to see how many otherwise smart people fall for this type of marketing. I have seen Acai berry (and various proprietary names), Internet video exchange, jewelry, and a whole bunch of other stuff being sold to us and our friends via the "networks", and there is always a pressure to join the CLUB. I always try to show the shortcomings, but most of the time you are going not only against a covert (who already join and is convinced that it works), but someone you know, which makes it harder.
In such situation, it's always good to have a backup in a reputable news source, like CNN:

"If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."
If nothing else, this age-old adage might be the most important piece of advice to remember in your job search, especially in today's market.
Though job scams are prevalent at any point in time, today's tough economic times have increased the amount of scammers looking to take advantage of people desperate to make money and find a job.

Read the whole, and watch out for scams: Six signs it's a job scam

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Let's Go To The Moon!!!

It's hard to believe, but in just a few days, we'll pass the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. What's hard to grasp is not so much the fact that it's been 40 years, but that we are not back yet. Let's hope the new NASA Constellation program brings us back in our lifetimes.

For all of us, who would like to re-live the glorious days of the Apollo program, here is the place to do it, day by day, hour after hour:

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Is Here...

Small bits found on the Web today... for fun and amusement:

100 Essential Skills for Geeks

As Geeks we are expected to have a certain set of skills that the majority of
the population does not possess. This list is by no means complete, but I think
it is a good sample of the skills required to be a true geek. I won’t pretend to
have all the skills listed here. I even had to Google a few of them.

found on Wired site:

Sony Walkman: Reflecting 30 years later on how it set the world on its ear

In the summer of '79, the first Sony Walkman was sold.

I can't believe it's been 30 years! I remember my first "walkman": a model by a company called Broksonic (I could not afford the real Sony, since I was still pre-high school then, with very limited means). It had the orange headphones, sounded great, had pretty terrible battery life, but taking music on the road was beyond anything I could imagine then. Life was good!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Long Time Ago... On The Planet Far, Far Away...

Cool find:

Electromagnetic Leak

It makes you realize, how insignificant we are in the grand scale of the Universe.
We'd like to think of ourselves as technologically advanced, but when you meditate on the fact that our radio transmissions have been leaking out the Earth for barely a century (and TV signals for even less), and how insanely close they have traveled so far, comparing to the size of our galaxy, you really see that we are but a speck of dust...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Teach Your Kids Right!

I feel a bit uneasy when (as a father of a 4-year old) I find myself among some parents, who seem to have their young kids in a race to success, which nowadays starts about one day after birth.
It almost looks like there is a growing competition which child starts crawling, walking, talking, reading, doing advanced calculus, and understands quantum physics first. This crazy idea makes me feel sorry for the children, who have no time to play and just have fun, before they are subjected to the rigors of learning.
The new wave of commercial ads on TV from the company called "Your Baby Can Read", made me very uneasy, as their method seemed to be just memorization. Thankfully, my suspicions were confirmed on the (by Steve Novella, a neurologist from Yale University):

In general studies of neurological development and education show that forcing
kids to learn some task before their brains are naturally ready does not have
any advantage. You cannot force the brain to develop quicker or better. In fact,
it seems that children need only a minimally stimulating environment for their
brain development program to unfold as it is destined to.

Read the whole article: Your Baby Can Read - Not!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

C64 vs. iPhone

I couldn't pass this bit of info by:

The Commodore 64 vs. the iPhone 3G S: The Ultimate Showdown

It's hard for me to judge which one is better, since I only own one of them: C64 (actually a few of them, plus a few C128 and various other Commodore hardware). iPhone is still in my future, as I prefer hardware keyboards and like to stick to my BlackBerry for now.

However, given my infatuation with the good, old C64 line, I fear iPhone has a long way to go :-)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Inside Scientology

Yesterday, St. Petersburg Times started running a three-part series expose of the Church of Scientology. This cult's headquarters are located in Clearwater, FL, and as a local resident, I have been following some local protests against its presence down here.
Knowing that this organization has some rather powerful influence, I'm pleasantly surprised that a major newspaper decided to run a story like this.
Here are some links that are worth reading:

Part one: Scientology: The Truth Rundown, Part 1 of 3 in a special report on the Church of Scientology

Part two: Death in slow motion: Part 2 of 3 in a special report on the Church of Scientology

Part three: Scientology: Ecclesiastical justice, Part 3 of 3 in a special report on the Church of Scientology

One of the best resources exposing Scientology:

Friday, June 19, 2009

What a SCAM!!!

Browsing blogosphere today, I saw this:

Now, that's a scam that just screams, hmmm... "SCAM!!!"
I wonder, who'd be dumb enough to give them any money.
The best part that I find just simply hilarious is the "Prayer Request" page...
The choices are priceless!!!
Just sent them one to cure my brain swelling after browsing their page :-)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More Oprah...

... and other good news.

I was on vacation lately, so I had no time to follow (not to mention blog about it) any interesting news, however, rest assured, there were many. I already mentioned that Oprah's nonsense finally got someone's attention, and the snowball just kept rolling from there. Maybe it was her signing on Jenny McCarthy that triggered some alarms, but the mainstream media is finally noticing that she (Oprah) has been selling woo (read: crap) on her show and in other media for years.
Let's hope the tide will rise and she'll be forced to start paying attention to what she says and what she promotes.

Make sure to read a great article in the Toronto Star by David Gorsky: Is Oprah Winfrey giving us bad medicine?

Phil Plait nicely summarizes all the good news on his blog: What a week for alt-med smackdowns

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Oprah Goes Down In Flames

... I wish... :-)
I hope one day it'll happen, not because I don't like her and some of the good thinks she does, I just hate the ideas she spreads.
Now, it seems a good news source is finally getting on her case:

Live Your Best Life Ever!

Let's hope the public will finally get the picture.

CDC Vaccine Video

CDC has a nice video, explaining the need and the reasons behind childhood vaccines:

Get The Picture: Child Immunizations

If you have any doubts, see it, and decide on your own. Don't get sucked into the anti-vaxer's fake propaganda...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Vacation Time!!!

No time to write, as the summer is here (not that it ever leaves Florida), and we are getting ready for a road trip: The Great Smokey Mountains, and then off to Toronto, Canada. It should be tons of fun, as exploring US roads always is. I got 16G memory card for my camera and it shows 4.4k photos available, so I'm planning on filling it up to capacity with all the great panoramas of the Smokies. I'll be posting them as soon as I get a chance...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday's Dose Of Rationalism...

It's Friday, and the long weekend (in the U. S.) is upon us!!!

Why not spend some time brushing up on your skeptical skills?
Brian Dunning's great intro to critical thinking, called "Here Be Dragons" is entertaining, funny and very, very informative. I keep coming back to it every so often, just to make sure I keep my sanity and to help keep any woo off my brain cells.
Watch it and spread the word to others!!!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Speak Up... Even If It's Not Popular

The amount of woo (a.k.a. So-called Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, or SCAM for short) the we are being bombarded with is astonishing. I have noticed a few patterns in this area myself, but the indispensable Science-Based Medicine Blog comes up with the best summary, as always:

Hostility Towards Scientists And Jenny McCarthy’s Latest Video

It's always nice to have your own observations validated by someone much smarter :-)
As the crazy train keeps rolling, it is important to speak up, defend the reason, even if it means being expelled from some circles.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Anti-Vaccination Propaganda - Who's Guilty

I found a very interesting analysis of the current anti-vaccination propaganda movement, and its implications on the health of our children:

In the 1919 Supreme Court case of Schenck vs. United States, Oliver Wendell
Holmes, Jr. famously wrote "The most stringent protection of free speech would
not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic." By
"falsely," Justice Holmes clearly meant shouting fire while not believing there
to be a fire. It goes without saying, shouting fire in the event of an actual
fire would never be a cause for punishment. It appears that shouting fire while
holding a mistaken belief that there was a fire, a terrible and possibly lethal
error, would likely be no cause for punishment, either. But what if that belief
was based on no good evidence?

Article: Shouting Fire

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

STS 125

We took a trip to the Kennedy Space Center last Sunday, mainly to see the two shuttles standing on the launch pads. The weather was great and we found out that the chance of Atlantis to go up on Monday was over 90%, so we decided to stick around and see the launch.
I don't have to say it was great!!! Watching the space shuttle take off from Jetty Park in Port Canaveral (around 10 miles away) was awesome. The thunder was amazing, considering the distance. Too bad we'll have a few years without any manned flights...

Some of my pictures from the KSC are available on line, as well as the video of the launch itself.

For some fun fact about the Hubble Space Telescome, check out the Bad Astronomy Blog:
Ten Things You Don’t Know About Hubble

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday's Dose of Rationalism...


There are two articles in the blogosphere that grabbed my attention today:

Giving vaccines a shot in the arm (by Phil Plait)


Flu Woo Hodge Podge (by Mark Crislip)

Great, to start your weekend...

Connerton Preserve

Recently, I discovered a nice chunk of wilderness right in my backyard. It's only a few miles from my house, and it's a great day hike destination. It's also brand new (dedicated only a few months ago), so the trails and amenities are not well developed yet. The main entrance is located a few miles east of Rt41, on Rt51 (between Rt41 and Ehren Cutoff). The first mile, or so, of the hike is in the open sun, so bring plenty of water and sunscreen, but once you get into the woods, it is very nice. Judging by the multitude of tracks on the sandy trails, there is plenty of wildlife around, but be careful venturing into the flatwoods, as there seems to be tons of snakes around too.

I took some pictures walking around with my son a few days ago: Connerton Preserve Hike

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Better To Be Quiet Sometimes

Why do people insist to expose their own stupidity?
I can't imagine brain processes that lead to the behavior exhibited by some of the politicians and legislators. Texas has been the best example lately, with the whole Board of Education hearings.

Phil Plait (my favorite Bad Astronomer) is blogging about this issue:

During the Texas State Board of Education hearings on science standards for
Texas schoolchildren, BoE member and staunch creationist Barbara Cargill decided that the age of the Universe was up for vote.

The article: Texas is only 6000 years old!

We have very similar problems in my own backyard, where our local senator Ronda Storms, keeps coming up with completely mind-numbing legislation to promote creationism:

How do those people get into the office??? That's a question that's beyond my understanding.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Homeopathy Kills!!! Really!!!

If you think that "alternative" remedies are harmless, and ignoring stupidity is a good idea, read the article below:

Dead baby's parents ignored advice: QC

Homeopathy (and other Woo) kills!!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

More Info On The Huffington Post

If you want to see an overview of the quackery that's being promoted by the Huffington Post, read the (as always) great post on the Science-Based Medicine Blog:

The Huffington Post’s War on Medical Science: A Brief History

As I mentioned before, a mere two or three weeks after Arianna Huffington’s
little vanity project hit the blogosphere, I noticed a very disturbing trend in
its content. That trend was a strong undercurrent of antivaccination blogging.

This Is Just Heartbreaking

If you are not sure about vaccines, if you've ever considered not vaccinating your kids, read the post below, by Phil Plait, and see for yourself:

If you think Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, and the rest of the ignorant antiscience antivax people are right, then read this story. I dare you. David McCaffery writes about his daughter, Dana, who was four weeks old when she died. Too young to get
vaccinated herself, she contracted whooping cough because vaccination rates in that part of Australia are too low to provide herd immunity. This poor little girl died in her father’s arms, and the blame rests squarely on the antivaccination movement. That’s not an anecdote, that’s data.

Read the whole post: Antivax kills.

It's heartbreaking!!!