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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...

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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

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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...

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Upcoming Events

Posted on : 26-03-2012 | By : John | In : Book Club, Event, local

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Announcing two free local skeptical events!

Mary Roach will be receiving the “Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism” from the Harvard Secular Society and the American Humanist Association on Wednesday, April 25 at the Harvard Science Center.

Mary is the reigning record-holder as 3-time Boston Skeptics Book Club author (Spook, Packing for Mars and Stiff.) Maybe I can get her to autograph my Kindle?

Tickets (free) and details are available from the Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy.

On Saturday, May 12, the Cape Ann Skeptics will be sponsoring Skepticamp Cape Ann in Gloucester. This one day, free event will be from 9:30 until 4:00 in LaTrattoria, a downtown Gloucester restaurant. See their web site for full details.

A few of us ventured into the wilds of New Hampshire for the Granite State Skepticamp last October, and had a great time. Gloucester is closer and has many fewer bears, so I highly recommend it.

4th Annual Boston Skeptics Pi Day

Posted on : 06-03-2012 | By : John | In : Event, local

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Wednesday, March 14 is Pi Approximation Day.

Mathematics is a dirty business, but somebody has to do, preferably while covered with a sticky mass of Pie Filling! (The volume of a pie is 4⁄3×π×((Rt+Rb)⁄2)²×h, where Rt is the radius of the top of the pie, and Rb is the radius of the bottom of the pie and h is the thickness of the pie.)

Lots of pies, preparing for the onslaught

Armed and dangerous

Join us for our annual pie fight on Cambridge Common (one block north of Harvard Square) on Wednesday, March 14 at 7 PM. Bring a pie and scuzzy clothes.

A map, maybe.

The weather forecast is for clear with a high of 56, so be prepared for freezing drizzle or heat and humidity.


Update: Bad Geometry! I forgot to multiply by the depth of the pie. Also, the Greek letter lowercase pi looks really awful in the default font. Sort of like a poorly drawn lowercase “n”. I said math is a dirty business; there’s your proof.

Skeptics in the Pub with Maggie Koerth-Baker

Posted on : 01-03-2012 | By : John | In : Skeptics in the Pub

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Maggie Koerth-Baker recently wrote “The trouble with making these kind of decisions, though, is that there’s lots of room for reasonable people to disagree.” She sounds like a reasonable person, so let’s all gang up on her!

Her talk will tell the story of our electric infrastructure–where it came from, how it works today, and how it will have to change to meet the needs of a new generation.

Cover of Maggie Koerth-Baker's new book Ms Koerth-Baker has written a new book called “Before the Lights Go Out” about

“some of the big-picture nuance that gets left out of the day-to-day chatter about energy. What are the big trends that will shape what we can and can’t do over the next 40 years? How does our electricity infrastructure work, and why is that infrastructure a lot more interesting (and a lot more complicated) than most laypeople realize? There’s a lot of storytelling, and some fun and funny history of how our current infrastructure came to be. There’s critical analysis explaining both why we have to solve our energy problem, and why solving it is going to be harder than many climate hawks want to believe. In general, the book is meant to make a confusing subject accessible and offer a more nuanced perspective on a topic that tends to be very ideology driven.”

The book will be published April 10. (Update: Some advanced copies will be available.)

Several of the back-cover reviews are by people who should be very familiar to members of the Boston Skeptics Book Club. Mary Roach (Stiff, Spook and Packing for Mars) called it, “a fine, cracking read.” Carl Zimmer (Parasite Rex) says, “Maggie Koerth-Baker is one of the most innovative science writers at work today. Rather than settling for cheap flash, she burrows deep into many of the biggest mysteries in science and technology and comes out with wonderfully clear explanations”.

Many of the subjects that skeptics deal with, like ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot and ESP, are amusing examples of fallacious reasoning and illuminate interesting flaws in perception and the human brain, but, except in the cases of rare individuals, have no important effect on most people’s lives. But a few subjects, such as energy generation, storage and distribution, are areas where science and technology meet society in profound and important ways. I would class it with alternative medicine and religious fundamentalism and their interference with science (particularly in their denial of biology and evolution) and AGW denialism as important topics for applying critical thinking.

When discussing these topics, it is essential to start with a firm factual basis, which is what Ms Koerth-Baker’s book promises to provide.

Please come hear this important talk.

Maggie Koerth-Baker is both a freelancer and the science editor at BoingBoing.net, one of the most widely read blogs in the U.S. Her work has appeared in print publications like Discover, Popular Science, and New Scientist, and online at websites like Scientific American and National Geographic News.

We will be meeting a week later than usual, on April 2, at 7 PM at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square. RSVP on our Facebook event page.

Tiny chameleons from Madagascar
Meanwhile, if this subject is too depressing (it shouldn’t be, since we can and will eventually solve it, the only questions being at what cost and who pays), look at the lizards!