Featured Posts

SitP: Heina Dadabhoy from Islam to Atheism. [caption id="attachment_2139" align="alignright" width="239"] A ninja warrior welcomes guests to Convergence/Skepchickcon[/caption]Boston Skeptics welcomes our January guest speaker, atheist feminist secular...

Read more

Book Club: The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha... [caption id="attachment_2131" align="alignright" width="197"] The Emperor of All Maladies[/caption]This month's book is The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee, an oncologist...

Read more

SitP: David Ropeik and the Risk Perception Gap Update! Thanks to Andrea and Francois, we now have a video of David Ropeik's talk available on our

Read more

SitP: Larry Gilbertson on GMOs and Biotech [caption id="attachment_2117" align="alignright" width="300"] Feeding the world[/caption]The population of the earth will exceed 9 billion people by 2050. Arable land is decreasing, dietary preferences...

Read more

  • Prev
  • Next

Skeptics in the Pub: Trivia Night – Tomorrow!

Posted on : 24-01-2010 | By : Jared | In : Event, Skeptics in the Pub

Tags: , , ,

0

Hey gang!

If you don’t follow us on Twitter or belong to our Facebook Group, you might not already know that we’ve got another Skeptics in the Pub night going on tomorrow!

We’ve all been shagged out since the Richard Wiseman event earlier this month, so we have to apologize for the late notice! But just because we don’t have another guest speaker doesn’t mean we can’t still get together for some fun times, right?

SO: Tomorrow night (Monday, Jan. 25th), join your Boston Skeptics friends for an exciting night of trivia! Stop by Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square at the usual time (7:00 PM) and join forces with your friends and fellow skeptics for some geeky trivia fun! We’re even trying to coordinate a surprise for you, though WE PROMISE NOTHING.

RSVP here on the Facebook Event page to let us know you’re coming, and we’ll see you all there tomorrow!

Book Club Tomorrow!

Posted on : 22-01-2010 | By : Jared | In : Event

Tags: , , ,

0

Just another quick post to remind you all that tomorrow is the next meeting of the Boston Skeptics Book Club! Join Mary and the rest of the Book Club at 2:00PM at the Clear Conscience Cafe in Central Square. I’m sure there will be plenty to talk about regarding this month’s book, Spook by Mary Roach, so stop by and check it out!

And don’t forget to RSVP here if you’re going to see “Creation” with the Boston Atheists and the Atheists of Greater Lowell tonight!

UPDATE: Just a reminder. We will be meeting up at Tommy Doyle’s this Monday at 7pm for BS Trivia-thon. Bring your thinkin’ brain!

Another Chance to Witness “Creation”

Posted on : 20-01-2010 | By : Jared | In : Event

Tags: , , ,

1

Did you miss the previously-mentioned preview screening of the new film Creation here in Greater Boston? Well, Zachary from the Boston Atheists let us know about another interesting screening happening this Friday!

The Boston Atheists and the Atheists of Greater Lowell will be attending the 7:00 PM screening of the film, at the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge. Zachary suggested that there may be a Q & A with the film’s director following this showing, so be sure to go and check it out!

Please RSVP here on MeetUp.com to let them know you’re coming! If our three groups combined can get 25 or more people to attend, you can take advantage of discounted group-rate tickets!

Last Minute: Go see Creation!

Posted on : 14-01-2010 | By : Jared | In : Event, skepticism

Tags: , , ,

0

(NB: Dont forget to RSVP here or on Facebook for this Saturday’s BS Brunch!)

Hey gang,

Late update, but we’ve just heard about an event you might find interesting. Creation, a new movie about Charles Darwin and his personal struggle with faith in the light of reason, is playing in an advanced screening TONIGHT! The film is based on a book by Randal Keynes, Darwin’s great-great-grandson, and stars Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly as Charles and Emma Darwin. Over at the JREF Swift Blog, Jeff Wagg has some information:

For those in the Boston area, there’s an **advance** screening on January 14, 7pm, at the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge. The Q&A panel includes author Randal Keynes, and professors Thomas Glick and Jon Roberts of Boston University. RSVP at CreationBoston@43kix.com

RSVP to that email address if you’re planning to go, and be sure to RSVP on Facebook or leave a comment here in case any other Boston Skeptics want to meet you there! And if you miss the film tonight, the official release will be happening on January 22nd, so you can always catch it then.

Hat tip to SkepticScott for giving us the heads-up!

Quick Updates / BS Brunch this Saturday!

Posted on : 12-01-2010 | By : Jared | In : Event

Tags: , ,

1

First, we’d like to thank everyone who came out to see Richard Wiseman at the Brattle! You guys made this event a huge success for us, and we hope to plan many more things like that in the future. If you have any ideas, leave us a comment!

Second, don’t forget that the Boston Skeptics Book Club will be meeting on Saturday, Jan 23rd at 2:00 PM at the Clear Conscience Cafe in Central Square. This month’s book is Spook by Mary Roach, and it’s a quick read, so you’ve still got time to pick it up and join the group next weekend! And even if you can’t read this one, feel free to drop in, listen to the discussion, and help pick next month’s book.

Finally, if you were at the Richard Wiseman show you’ll already know this, but we’ve scheduled another Boston Skeptics Brunch for this Saturday, Jan. 16th at 11:00 AM. Our brunches are low-key, informal events where we eat pancakes and socialize. Yes, SOCIALIZING IS MANDATORY! Plus, it’s a great excuse to drink booze in the morning without being mistaken for an alcoholic!

So join us this weekend at The Asgard in Central Square, but be sure to RSVP in the comments or at the Facebook event page so we can give the restaurant a head count!

We look forward to seeing you all there!

Sylvia Browne’s Psychic Failures for 2009… and beyond!

Posted on : 09-01-2010 | By : maggie | In : Blog Post

Tags: , , , ,

2

I must confess that I’ve had a yearning to get on this bandwagon and do one of these year-end wrap-ups of failure from prominent self-described psychics. And, well, the other night I just couldn’t contain my enthusiasm any longer. I happened by Robert Lancaster’s Stop Sylvia Browne site by, as happens often, following a link from someone’s Twitter (probably yours, @krelnik), ending up at YouTube, then following another link… et voila. It was then and there that I decided I’d try my hand at researching the outcomes for the predictions Sylvia Browne made for 2009.

As it turns out, there are actually two sets of predictions and both cover more than just 2009. In deference to the immutable (as yet, anyway) linearity of time, I will concentrate only on those predictions which are for 2009 (or worded to mean before/by/prior to 2010).

From her combined 2008/2009/2010 predictions

Original (SpiritNow).
(Again, only those which pertain to 2009 are included here as the clock has not run out on the other, longer-range predictions.)

1. “I predict a great rise in skin cancer in children until 2010.”

Skin cancer rates have risen steadily with the population, as expected (and witnessed no such spikes in childhood skin cancer). I created a chart. Have a look for yourself.


2. “I predict we can truly say “goodbye” to the common cold in 2009 or 2010. The solution to the common cold involves heat.”
… [rambling bit on fever cut out] …
“I predict that a small cubicle will become available in doctor’s offices sometime in 2009 and it will be heated to a very precise temperature. There may be a special vapor placed into the cubicle. Patients will stand in the cubicle for approximately five minutes and the rhinitis germ will be destroyed.”

Nothing of the sort occurred. And, by the way, rhinitis is runny nose. You mean Rhinovirus. But, sadly it’s our loss. Not only would a common cold cure be great, but the comic potential for late-night comedy skit shows about people locked in cubicles is pure gold (Rhinoceros instead of Rhinovirus? Flooding the cubicle with homeopathic cure [water!], etc.). Oh well, next time, right Sylvia?

3. “I predict hypnotic past-life regression will become available through a group of trained psychologists on both the east and west coasts of the U.S.A. in 2009. It will prove to be quite a success and will be widely practiced by 2011.”

Didn’t happen. Well, not any more than it already does. Good thing she wasn’t talking about this happening in Israel. They banned the practice in 2009 because of the potential harm it presented.

From her Dec 17 predictions video

Part 1 (YouTube) Part 2 (YouTube) or Original (SpiritNow)

She talks about Obama, recovery and interest rate predictions from earlier and I can’t tell if she means to add these back into the pool or not, so I’m skipping them.

1. “We will find more resources in gas and oil not only in Alaska but in Texas and in Arkansas as well.”

Domestic production continues more or less steadily and, in fact, Alaska’s overall oil output is trending down See for yourself (Source: U.S. D.O.E.)

1a. Oil prices begin to fall (she also refers to this as an earlier September prediction – “well, you see they already did. And nobody believed that in September.” “And then even more drastically by the spring.”

Prices did indeed begin to fall from their all-time high in Spring of 2008… only to being to rise again in winter and, you guessed it, the spring of 2009. (Source: U.S. D.O.E.)

2. More Wall Street regulation in loan and stock companies.

Nope. They’re still dilly-dallying on it in Congress and the few bits that have made it out don’t take effect until 2010. We gave the financiers money. They took it, saved their asses, then paid it back so they could go right back to business as usual. Example news story at NY Times.

2a. New loan companies “spring up” regulated by government.

What? Uh. No. (Source: Reality. I obviously can’t find a link for something that didn’t happen.)

3. A ‘Roosevelt-like’ benefit program. Allows people to work on “railroads and new types of cars”.

Like we all talked about in 2008? Sure. Would have been nice, too. But it hasn’t happened yet.

4. “Uh, the war in Iraq will gradually end with troops coming home gradually in December…”
(Hey, people in 2010, check it out! -> “…and another large grow in the spring of the following year. And then in the fall it will be over.”)

She’s about a year to six months off on the “drawdown”. Troops won’t begin to leave until summer of 2010. Guess that also ruins her spring 2010 prediction. And… since we won’t be out by the fall, there goes the last one, too. But, hey, I guess the war could just abruptly end after the first drawdown. Right? No? Yeah… no.

5. “The IRS and banks loosen their financial hold on people and help people more with compromise and loans. And they already have…”

The IRS hasn’t done ANYthing like this. And whether banks have or not is questionable. Some banks have helped troubled lendees, some haven’t. Just look at the foreclosure rates to see evidence of how well that went… They continued to climb even though the banks could have forestalled this (which Sylvia obviously knew – so she hedged a bet). They chose not to for the large part. And bankruptcy filings? Bankruptcy went through the roof in 2009. People getting help from their bank or the IRS don’t file for bankruptcy. (Source: Reality. Again.)

5a. “The majority of banks are safe, so we shouldn’t panic.”

Except for the 140 who failed in 2009 costing the FDIC $36,000,000,000. If you don’t count those, sure… According to the Meridian Group of Companies, 2009 was the worst and most costly year the FDIC has ever seen. (Sources: FDIC, Meridian Group)

5b. Whatever party gets into the White House… pulls us out of this economic slump.”

Sure. OK. Let’s say you finally got one right! Wow. One whole prediction (sort of) right. Oh, wait. This is a 50/50 chance… Never mind. But yes, a start towards recovery was in evidence by year’s end according to some analysts. Technically that makes you right. Once. But I get ahead of myself…

6. Terrible weather all over midwest, Florida and the islands. The coastal regions will be hit by multiple hurricanes. There will be small earthquakes on the CA coast.

California earthquakes? Say it isn’t so! That never happens. Oh, right. It happens all the damned time…

But how about those hurricanes? According to NOAA, the year was below average. Nine, count ’em, nine tropical storms named and only three (THREE!) became hurricanes. And, for the first time since 2006, not one of them visited hurricane force windows on a US coast. Abject failure, Sylvia!

But now we have to talk about that terrible weather in Florida, the midwest and “the islands”. Well… it rained a bit in Florida, I guess… kept the shuttle from taking off and landing… what else… It was a bit nippy in the midwest at times. There was the worst flooding in the midwest… oh, wait, that was in 2008. Wikipedia describes the horrible tornado season thusly, “2009 was a relatively quiet tornado season.” Sure, there was bad weather in the midwest and the earth quaked in California. It happens every year. But this year was actually LESS troublesome than the previous.

FAIL.

6a. Flooding occurs in Kansas and Missouri and a lot of the southern states. The winter will be mild for most of the east except for Boston and Philadelphia.

I live in Boston. I don’t need to consult anyone. FAIL. In fact, last year’s big blizzard hit far south of Boston and Philly. Didn’t see that coming did ya’? No. You didn’t. Because you’re not psychic.

Flooding: A bit in Alaska and North Dakota. Not so much in Kansas or Missouri. And… hey! Flooding in Georgia and some adjacent southern states! But you were still wrong overall. No free lunch.

She also talks about her wacky polar tilt weather theories (“causes the weather to be crazy”) which are complete nonsense. For some reason, every time she says something like this I picture one of those Goombas from Super Mario Brothers. Maybe it’s because they have the same hair and run around ruining things for people.

6b. Blackouts in the eastern US and brownouts in the midwest after January.

Ah. Sylvia must have read NextGen Energy Council’s ‘Lights Out In 2009?’ or NCPA’s ‘Energy Issues’ from late 2008 and thought she had a sure thing (‘after January’ is prime time for winter energy consumption).
Which didn’t come to pass… Sorry, Sylvia. Fail.

6c. “Tornados hit Oklahoma and parts of Illinois, Kansas and Missouri in April and May. Now this is not unusual, but these are pretty devastating. All in all it’s a bad year for hurricanes, tsunamis and tornados. And I’m sorry to give you that information.”

Well, I’m sorry to have to give you this information, Sylvia, but… I think I’ve already mentioned that it was lackluster year for all those things, right? By Oklahoma standards, it was an easy year. Missouri and Kansas too. As for Illinois… they didn’t see anything over and EF1. In fact, there was only one tornado that hit EF4 in April or May, and it was in Tennessee.

7. Brad and Angelina could separate before the end of the year. Harrison Ford will have some health problems. Clint Eastwood has leg (vein) problems. Robert Redford is honored for his documentary and for Sundance. Paris Hilton in jail over an accident. Britney Spears will become ill and not be able to perform for 4 months in mid-part of the year. Katie Couric is replaced on CBS Nightly News. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins will start a large organization for fuel/solar/etc. Nicole Richie will break up with Joel Madden. Olsen twins picked up and question regarding drugs.

Not one of these happened. (And Clint’s leg problems were in 1998, Sylvia. Google, mofo. Google.) Funny enough, Robert Redford was honored (not uncommon at his stage in his career – he’s “honored” any time he goes to some event), but this was for his acting and his environmentalism! Not for some documentary (???) or the vague ‘for Sundance’.

8. Accidents/Terrorism/Crime: A large liner goes aground in March sending many people in the water. Many train accidents. Two plane crashes near east coast in August and September. Terrorist attack latter part of January overseas (near Paris). There will be three terrorist attacks in India in February. Many worker strikes in the building, dock and waste management in June and July. Large Brinks truck robbery in Vegas in June. Gangs get out of hand in Los Angeles _AND_ texas and Louisiana. Oakland becomes like Watts during turmoil/uprising over somethign to do with police officer and gang member(s).

No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. Thanks for playing.

She then goes on a rambling little statement which boils down to ‘but don’t worry, despite all that doom and gloom, it will all be OK’ and… frankly… I stopped listening. But, to recap, I found one positive hit and that, I’m afraid, depends wholly on my own opinion that there was an [small] upturn in the economy by the end of 2009. Others might disagree with my opinion on that and thereby take away even her one hit.

In short, Sylvia Browne was no more successful at her 2009 predictions than she was in previous years. Most of her current followers still stick their heads in the sand and try to focus on the ‘hits’ (stuff like “She knew my dead uncle’s name started with an S! And it did! Well, his middle name, anyway. See! Amazing!”). What will open their eyes? I haven’t the foggiest. Usually it’s just the scales beginning to fall away bit by bit until they begin to question things for themselves (We’ve all believed crazy things in our lives… we just have to give them time and patience). But the true believers, those for whom no amount of evidence can open their eyes, will just move on with the same old predictable remark: “OK, yeah So-and-So is faking it. But New-So-and-So is the real deal!”

Perhaps someone with $750 can call Sylvia up and ask her if she predicts her followers will start to see her for the fraud she is in 2010? Or if she’ll get any predictions right for the coming year. If that’s too much money, however, you can call her son. He only charges $500. Perhaps he’ll be the new “real deal” when mom’s fan base finally succumbs to the reality that, as a psychic… she sucks. Badly.

(Source: Fail Blog)

How to Have More Sex with Richard Wiseman TONIGHT (Friday)!

Posted on : 07-01-2010 | By : Joshua | In : Blog Post, Event

6

UPDATE: Booksellers are selling out. We’re not kidding. The Coop, Harvard Books and Porter Square Books are out and I was told it’s been selling very well in recent weeks. So if you don’t have a copy and want to get one signed, try to grab one this evening beforehand at your local shop (you can always grab ‘Quirkology’ or one of his other awesome books if ’59 Seconds’ is sold out). We will have a few copies on-hand to sell, but our supply is very limited.

Yet another reminder that tomorrow today brings our awesome, epic, and epically-awesome Richard Wiseman event at the Brattle Theater! Remember to buy your tickets in advance here, or on the night of the event from their box office at 40 Brattle Street, Harvard Square. The talk begins at 10 pm, so leave the kiddies at home! Also, if you’re on Facebook, RSVP for the event here to give us an idea of the numbers to expect (and join our Facebook group, while you’re at it).

And if you’re aching for something to do before Richard’s talk, drop by the Casablanca restaurant’s bar area, just past the Brattle box office. We’ll be there from 8 pm until the event, so stop by any time for drinks and apps (but save room for some of the Brattle Theater’s delicious Cambridge Brewing Company beer). We have a Facebook event for this, too, so RSVP there as well.

We’ll see y’all tomorrow tonight!