Episode 182: He’s not a scientist, okay?

On this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Gem, Ashlyn, Lauren, and Laura give a primer on some astronomical pseudosciences, including astrology, the expanding Earth theory, the hollow Earth hypothesis, and the effects of the full moon on human health.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a podcast that explores the intersection of science and society.

Astrology: Is Astrology Real? Here’s What Science Says (Scientific American) | Astrology and Horoscopes Uncloaked (Relatively Interesting) | Astrology is bullsh*t. NASA’s scathing takedown perfectly explains why. (Mic) | Horoscope (Wikipedia) | List of astrological traditions, types, and systems (Wikipedia) | Astrology (Wikipedia) | Zodiac (Wikipedia) | Free Astrology Reports: Natal Chart, Compatibility, Future (Cafe Astrology) | Understanding the Free Natal Chart Report (Cafe Astrology)

Lunacy: Full Moon Effects: What Research Has Discovered (Healthline) | Lunacy and the Full Moon (Scientific American) | Lunar effect (Wikipedia)

Expanding Earth: Alfred Wegener’s Hypothesis on Continental Drift and Its Discussion in Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen (Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research) | Limits to the expansion of Earth, Moon, Mars and Mercury and to changes in the gravitational constant (Nature) | What’s Hitting Earth? (NASA Science Mission Directorate) | It’s a small world, after all: Earth is not expanding, NASA research confirms (ScienceDaily) | Debate with Hollow-Earth Proponent Neal Adams (NeuroLogica Blog) | Expanding Earth (Wikipedia) | Continental drift (Wikipedia) | Plate tectonics (Wikipedia) | J. Marvin Herndon (Wikipedia) | Neal Adams (Wikipedia) | Finally: The Utter Insanity of ‘Batman: Odyssey,’ Part 6 (Comics Alliance)

Hollow Earth: Hollow Earth (Wikipedia) | John Cleves Symmes Jr. (Wikipedia) | John Cleves Symmes: Believer in hollow Earth theory sent this open letter (Slate) | Our Rich History: The Earth’s not flat, it’s… hollow? (Northern Kentucky Tribune) | Canadian Geography (Statistics Canada)

Face Mite Update: Human Follicular Mites: Ectoparasites Becoming Symbionts (Molecular Biology and Evolution) | Face mites are losing genes (Popular Science)

Correction: Meteoroids are not “converted to energy” as they combust. Ram pressure results in atmospheric ablation, vaporizing some of the meteoroid material and reducing a good deal of it to meteoric dust. This dust can remain in the atmosphere for months, and some of this vaporized material may persist in the atmosphere indefinitely, but it does add mass to the Earth system—just not enough to cause any meaningful growth in the diameter of the Earth.

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Bad Advice from Truther.org

The following is a guest post from Brendan Curran-Johnson, who was one of our presenters at last year’s SkeptiCamp. Here, Brendan responds to a few of the claims made in an image that’s currently circulating on Facebook, which originates from the hilarious den of conspiracy nuttery that is Truther.org.

While I certainly support people learning more about vaccines (because science and learning are awesome), avoiding vaccines has very real health consequences that affect more than just the people not taking the vaccines. In the past few years there has been a resurgance of a number of diseases that we had under control (pertussis, mumps, measles, etc.).

Most people cite the MMR/Autism connection when talking about the harms of vaccines, but the truth is that the study that is based on (the Wakefield study originally published by the Lancet) is not a valid study. The Lancet retracted it, and Wakefield was actually accused of deliberate fraud.

There certainly have been cases of drugs turning out to be harmful (thalidomide being the most obvious example), the process which the FDA and Health Canada use to screen drugs is very rigorous. The process is not perfect (no system could be 100% effective), but it is the most reliable system that anyone has come up with.

This is in stark opposition to homeopathy, which this photo advocates (kind of—marijuana and refusing prescription drugs have nothing to do with homeopathy). Alternative medicine (which is what they really are trying to advocate) suffers the problem that it has either not proven to be effective, or has been proven to not be affective (alternative medicine that has been proven to work is called medicine).

Homeopathy in specific is one of the silliest ‘medicines’ that exists. The two basic precepts of homeopathy are that like cures like (e.g., if someone is having trouble breathing, the proper medicine would be something that also restricts breathing), and that the more you dilute something, the stronger it gets. The typical dilution of homeopathic medicine is 30C. The system works as follows: take 99 parts water and 1 part ‘medicine’. That would be 1C. To make 2C, take 99 parts water and 1 part 1C ‘medicine’. The amount of dilution is 1 part per 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. If you were to make a sphere of water that stretched from the earth to the sun, you would add just one molocule of ‘medicine’ (that statistic is taken from Dr. Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science).

The advice being given here isn’t just wrong, its actively dangerous (also counter to point 8: avoid fear, propoganda, disinformation). Medicine is far too important a subject to allow misinformation to be spread unchallenged.

Thanks, Brendan!

Episode 26: “Thrive”

Episode 26: “Thrive”

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Gem Newman, Gary Barbon, and Mark Forkheim discuss the online conspiracy film “Thrive” with Robert Shindler, Richelle McCullough, and Greg Christensen.

This episode was recorded over Google+, so the audio quality is occasionally inconsistent. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, Greg, Richelle, and Robert had to drop out of the show early, but Mark, Gary, and Gem soldiered on!

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

News Items: Bad Science Watch | Students at Quebec School Have Adverse Reaction to Hypnotist Act | Hypnosis (Wikipedia, The Skeptic’s Dictionary) | Obese Father Loses Custody of His Children | Do Atheists Have a Sexual Harassment Problem? | Freethought Blogs Roundtable (Harassment at Conferences, Why Talk About Social Justice?) | SkeptiCamp Winnipeg | Winnipeg Skeptics Anti-Harassment Policy | New NSA Docs Contradict 9/11 Claims (Salon, National Security Archive) | Prometheus: It Sucked

Addressing Some of Thrive’s Claims: Thrive | Entropy and Life | Graphical (Linear) Projection | The Flower of Life | Skeptoid on UFOs | SkeptiCamp Winnipeg: Perpetual Motion and Free Energy | The Hutchison “Effect” | The Death of Eugene Mallove (Suspects Arrested, Schaffer Enters Guilty Plea) | Interviewees Repudiate Thrive (Interviewees Distance Themselves from the Film, John Robbins Speaks Out Against Thrive) | Thrive Debunked (Index, Ancient Astronauts, Crop Circles, “False Flag” Attacks, Global Domination)

What Are You Reading? Hitch-22 | Against Intellectual Monopoly | Hegemony or Survival | Fundamentals of Computational Neuroscience | Going Solo | Singlism | Dying of the Light | John Dies at the End | Redshirts | I Am Legend | Why Are You Atheists So Angry? | Before Watchmen

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