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February 14, 2005

Global Consciousness Project reveals human foolishness

It's hard to know which category to place this one in -- it's a little bit ESP, a little bit fortune telling, and a whole lot of pseudoscience.

The Global Consciousness Project apparently is trying to use random number generators to detect changes in the the "global consciousness" of the population of the planet. They claim that, when a big event happens, such as the funeral of Princess Diana, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or the December 26 tsunami, that they observe changes in the pattern of randomly generated zeros and ones.

In the original Star Wars, Obi Wan Kenobi felt a great disturbance in the Force -- these guys claim to be doing so in real life. Better yet, they claim to be doing so before the event happens. For example, they claim that the pattern of numbers generated changed before the first of the 9/11 attacks, as well as before the tsunami hit.

Anyone else suspect they know what's going on here? Various scientists claim to be baffled, so maybe I can help them out. Here's what's probably happening -- humans are being human. You see a spike in the numbers, you scan the news headlines to look for some big event. If you find something, then you can say that the spike you saw detected it. If you don't see anything, wait a bit and check again. Then when you find something, you can say that the spike you saw predicted it. From the other direction, if something big happens in the news, go back and look at your numbers. If you see a spike, bravo! If you don't, look farther back in time. Found one? It was a prediction! (Oh, and if you don't find a spike in the numbers, but instead find a trough, that's okay -- that counts, too.) Didn't find anything at the time of the event or before the event? Don't give up yet! Try looking after the event -- it probably had some sort of psychic impact on the population of the planet for some time after the fact.

Finally, if you weren't able to find a correlation before, during, or after the event, just chalk it up as "one of those things" -- no need to consider it as evidence against the truth of your theory.

The standard of evidence on this appears to be very low. For example, some of the events that their machine "detected" or "predicted" include Mark McGwire's homerun record, the finale of Survivor, and Oprah Winfrey visiting Africa. World-shaking events? Really? Hmm....

So this is the kind of research they're doing at Princeton these days, huh?

Link: RedNova News - Can This Black Box See Into the Future?.
Link: Global Consciousness Project

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February 14, 2005 in Pseudopsychology, Pseudoscience, Psychics and Fortune Telling | Permalink | Comments (20)

February 13, 2005

Universe Today - What Did Galileo See?

Galileo was born on February 15, 1564 -- 441 years ago this Tuesday. As a quick celebration, pop over to Universe Today and read What Did Galileo See? Here's an excerpt:

There can be no doubt that Galileo's early adoption of the recently invented spyglass for astronomical purposes marked a major departure toward the way we now view the world. For before Galileo's era the heavens and the Earth were not in accord. The bulk of the thinking going on previous to Galileo was scholastic in nature. Truth depended on the words of the ancients - words which carried greater weight of authority than natural law and behavior. It was the era of faith - not science - that Galileo was born into. But his observations built a bridge between Terrum et Coelum. Earth and sky became part of a single natural order. The telescope could demonstrate to anyone with an open mind that there was more to all things than could be conceived of by the great minds of the past. Nature had begun to instruct the hearts and minds of humanity...

But let us speak no more of Earth-shaking events. What did Galileo actually see in the early months of the year 1610?

Perhaps the best way to celebrate his birth would be to grab you telescope, step outside, and take a peek at the sky. (Alas, I have no telescope yet. I keep wanting to get one, but higher priorities keep getting in the way. Oh well, now that I have a son, I'll soon have an excuse to buy one -- "It's for our child's education!")

Link: Universe Today - What Did Galileo See?.

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February 13, 2005 in Science and Technology | Permalink | Comments (1)

ABC News to Air UFO Program

I received an email recently from a company asking me whether I would like to post a banner ad for an upcoming ABC News special, Peter Jennings Reporting: UFOs -- Seeing Is Believing. It will air on Thursday, Feb. 24 from 8-10 p.m. ET on ABC.

On Feb. 24, "Peter Jennings Reporting: UFOs — Seeing Is Believing" takes a fresh look at the UFO phenomenon. "As a journalist," says Jennings, "I began this project with a healthy dose of skepticism and as open a mind as possible. After almost 150 interviews with scientists, investigators and with many of those who claim to have witnessed unidentified flying objects, there are important questions that have not been completely answered — and a great deal not fully explained."

That last line -- "there are important questions that have not been completely answered — and a great deal not fully explained" -- would seem to imply that this is not going to be a 100% skeptical program.

So, should I advertise a program that, it appears, will not cover the topic well? On the other hand, having skeptics watch the program would make it easier to discuss it intelligently with those who are a bit more gullible. And, of course, simply by blogging about it, I am in effect advertising it. Lastly, by participating in Google's AdSense program, I inevitably wind up advertising plenty of things that I don't agree with. (At the moment, most of the ads are about creationist and Intelligent Design web sites.)

I probably won't take them up on their offer to run a banner ad, more out of inertia (I've got a 2 month old baby to deal with) than on principle.

Link: ABC News: The UFO Phenomenon -- Seeing Is Believing.

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February 13, 2005 in UFOs and Aliens | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Intelligent Math

Here's a funny bit of satire from The Rockall Times:

"I tried to answer each problem I was set by adhering to strict Trinitarian principles, but for some reason I kept getting the answers wrong. Eventually I realised: either the concept of the Trinity was flawed; or the entire basis of mathematics was invalid. Naturally I decided that the latter was the case and so I set about developing my new theory."

The new "Intelligent Math" incorporates the belief that 1 and 3 are equivalent, as implied by the concept of the Trinity. Therefore, 1 + 1 is 2... or 6... or 4. And so forth. (Via Evolving Thoughts.)

Link: American school redefines mathematical paradigm.

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February 13, 2005 in Humor | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 09, 2005

Human Being Recall Notice

Greg Porter emailed this Human Being Recall Notice to me and I thought it was great! Here's an excerpt:

In an unprecedented move today, the US Department of Commerce and the European Commission on Product Safety (ECPS) announced a joint recall of the human race. Citing shoddy workmanship, poor design and premature failure of the units, the recall is meant to force the manufacturer, Intelligent Design Inc., to address these complaints.

This action follows a similar, independent lawsuit by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. When asked to comment on the joint US/EU action, he said "It is clear that this problem extends beyond US borders. All models of humanity have been plagued with numerous problems since the start. While early models were quite durable, with one example lasting 969 years, quality rapidly declined, and in many cases, units do not last for even the vaguely implied warranty of 'three score and ten years' listed in the fine print of the badly translated product manual."

Funny! I've sometimes heard claims to the effect that the perfection of the world around us is evidence of God -- and have wondered what planet these people are referring to as home! (Experiment: Ask a woman who is in the middle of delivering an 8 pound baby though a tiny little opening whether she can think of any improvements on the design of the human body.)

Link: Human Being Recall Notice.

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February 9, 2005 in Humor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 07, 2005

Defender's Guide to Science and Creationism

I found this one via The Moderate Liberal. It's the Defender's Guide to Science and Creationism, which looks like it will be a very useful "quick reference" guide. The Talk.Origins Archive is very useful, but I find that it is sometimes difficult to find a quick answer to some specific question. The Defender's Guide, while not as detailed as the Talk.Origins Archive, provides much more concise answers.

Link: Defender's Guide to Science and Creationism.

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February 7, 2005 in Creationism and Evolution | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Will you be attending a Darwin Day event?

Out of curiousity, how many of you will be attending a Darwin Day event this year?

My local skeptics group, the Rational Examination Association of Lincoln Land (REALL), will be hosting an event the local Pasta House Company restaurant. We'll have a buffet of food, a birthday cake, and will be playing "Creation/Evolution Jeopardy", as well as complaining about a recent presentation by a location Intelligent Design advocate. (Speaking of which, I need to finish coming up with all of the questions and answers! Or would that be answers and questions?)

So what will you be doing? Post a comment and let us know!

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February 7, 2005 in Creationism and Evolution | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

USATODAY.com - Shroud of Turin could date to time of Jesus, examiner says

USATODAY ran an Associated Press story which reports that the Shroud of Turin could be much older than earlier testing showed. Raymond N. Rogers, a retired chemist who was involved in testing the Shroud of Turin in 1978. says new fiber analysis indicates the cloth could be up to 3,000 years old. This new analysis was conducted in 2003, he says. He says that earlier testing was inaccurate, because the samples were poorly collected.

CSICOP's Joe Nickell has examined the latest claims of Rogers and found them very unconvincing.

Link: USATODAY.com - Shroud of Turin could date to time of Jesus, examiner says.
Link: CSICOP - Claims of Invalid “Shroud” Radiocarbon Date Cut from Whole Cloth

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February 7, 2005 in Religions, Cults, and Miracles | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Meet My Little Skeptic!

OrlandoSo what the heck have I been doing since the Skeptic News went silent in July 2003? Well, among other things, trying to create this little guy! Everyone, please welcome Orlando Henry Noel Hartshorn!

Wow, given how many babies there are in the world, what are the odds that I would wind up getting the cutest one, eh? :-)

Orlando was born on December 10, 2004 and has been occupying nearly all of our time since then. He'll be 2 months old this Thursday, which means he gets four -- count 'em, 4! -- vaccination shots when we see the pediatrician that day. Ouch!

His skills at the moment include eating, sleeping, and diaper filling, as well as grinning and laughing when his daddy dances for him.

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February 7, 2005 in Personal | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saint Nate's Blog: The First Skeptics' Circle

This is a bit late, but those of you who haven't already found it might want to pop over to Saint Nate's and read the first Skeptic's Circle. "What's that?", I hear you asking. The basic idea is that several blogs each post an article about some skeptic-related topic. One of the participating blogs (in this case, Saint Nate's) then posts an article that links to all of the other articles. In short, it's sort of a distributed ezine.

Topics in this first issue include urban legends, biorythms, False Memory Syndrome, Holocaust denial, alternative medicine, and Intelligent Design, among others.

The archives will be located at Circular Reasoning, as well as the schedule for future issues.

Link: The First Skeptics' Circle.

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February 7, 2005 in Announcements | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack