Travis Roy of Granite State Skeptics talked a bit about skeptical activism and also demonstrated how the Power Balance bracelet, and other trinkets like it, is far better at relieving you of your money than anything else. Turnout was lovely and we had several new faces in the audience. Welcome!
BSitP July 26th, 2010 – Travis Roy “Skeptical Activism” from Maggie McFee on Vimeo.
Posted on : 27-07-2010 | By : Mary | In : Blog Post, Book Club
If I only had a brain...
This past Saturday, the Boston Skeptics’ Book Club met in the park (on a very lovely day) to discuss An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks. There were seven different stories about individuals with interesting neurological conditions:
- A painter who went totally colorblind after a car accident and had to relearn his new “leaden” world
- A man who lost the ability to form memories past 1968 due to a benign brain tumor (which also made him blind and completely unaware of the fact that anything was wrong with him)
- A blind man who regained his sight after 50 years, only to be unsettled by what he was seeing
- A surgeon with Tourette’s whose tics disappear when he is operating
- An artist so obsessed with his childhood town that he was able to paint it from memory 30 years later from a 3-D model he had constructed in his head
- A young autistic artist (and other autistic prodigies)
- Temple Grandin, who talks about her “squeeze machine” and her own theories about how people with Asperger’s actually function and see the world
The book was only about 300 pages, and while some book clubbers enjoyed the stories about the individuals as described by Sacks, the overall consensus was that Sacks could have delved deeper into some of the mechanisms behind the neurological conditions. He went on in great deal about the ways that the brain can interpret color (as in the case of the colorblind painter), but he only touched on what may have been going on in the case of the artist who had a photographic memory of his childhood town (he alluded to epilepsy but that was about it). We were also curious about the surgeon with Tourette’s:
What exactly caused his tics to disappear during surgery? Was it because he was in the mindset of a surgeon or did his tics disappear only if he was in a routine (i.e. not a surgical technique that he just learned).
This book is a fun read, even if it raises more questions about the science of neurology than it answers, but it still provides an interesting perspective on how others see the world and deal with their particular conditions.
Our next book is Them: Adventures with Extremists by the utterly awesome Jon Ronson. Until now I’ve only heard his segments on This American Life, but if his books are anything like those then they should be very compelling. We’re planning on meeting at the Boston Commons Harvard Yard (ed–slight change of venue) this time, weather permitting, on August 28th at 3 pm. Also, this time we’re making it a picnic! Because nothing goes better with a good book than some strawberries and cheese (or John’s coffee). Please let us know what you’re bringing in the comments. And of course, bring yourself, no matter what stage of the book you’re at.
For those of you who want a head start on the book after this one, we will be reading a book suggested by our own skeptic Kerry: Who Goes First: The Story of Self-
Experimentation in Medicine by Lawrence K. Altman.
Posted on : 23-07-2010 | By : Mary | In : Blog Post
So far, the forecast is calling for a partly cloudy/sunny day with a high in the 80’s, so it should be a beautiful day to get together in our normal meeting spot at Christopher Columbus Park and discuss An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks. Meeting time is 3 pm, as usual. I’ll bring the SPF 70 sunscreen! (That is not an exaggeration.)
If you want a little extra, you should check out Temple Grandin by HBO Films (I saw it the other day and it was a pretty good biopic). It covers her early life and how she became such an accomplished scientist and how she learned how to deal with Asperger’s (and a good dose of sexism). If you don’t have HBO but you want to hear more about Temple, Terry Gross did an interview with her earlier this year that is definitely worth a listen.
Come one, come all! Even if you haven’t read/finished the book, you know you want an excuse to hang out in the sun and discuss science. See you there!
Posted on : 06-07-2010 | By : maggie | In : video
Since I shot all this and it’s been OK’d for distribution online… I figured we ought to have it on our site, too. :) – Maggie
NECSS 2010 – 1 – Keynote – D. J. Grothe from Maggie McFee on Vimeo.