The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘food’

SHARE Relief Effort for Victims of Typhoon Haiyan

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 12, 2013

In an effort to continue lighting candles in the darkness, I wanted to pass along the following announcement from SHARE, the Skeptics and Humanist Aid and Relief Effort – please consider helping out…

Please Donate Now for Philippines Typhoon Relief

SHARE Phillipine Typhoon ReliefTyphoon Haiyan has killed thousands of people in the Philippines, and the toll is rising. Of those who have thus far survived, 4 million people are estimated to be directly affected, right now. They need clean water, food, and shelter, right now.

We at the Center for Inquiry are asking you to help by donating to the S.H.A.R.E. (Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Efforts) program to assist secular aid organizations to provide immediate and desperately needed relief and services. 100% of money raised goes directly to the relief efforts of Oxfam.

Click here to donate.

At CFI, all of our work is grounded in the values of secular humanism, values that consider every human life equal in dignity and respect. In the aftermath of this typhoon, there are millions of human beings in danger, millions in need. We’re asking you to please put your values into action, and help those affected by one of the most devastating storms in recent history, right now.

Thank you.

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“God’s 10%” and the Applebee’s Fiasco

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 2, 2013

I don’t feel like making a serious post, so this one’s just for fun. In case you haven’t heard, restaurant chain Applebee’s is creating for itself a media nightmare due to the fact that they fired a waitress for posting a photo of a receipt online from Alois Bell a.k.a. the “no tip pastor”…

A waitress at a St. Louis Applebee’s lost her job for posting online the receipt upon which a pastor had declined to leave a tip, with a snarky note saying she gave God 10 percent.

After her dinner on Jan. 25, Pastor Alois Bell crossed out the automatic 18 percent tip charged for parties of more than eight. “I give God 10% why do you get 18,” she wrote above her signature.

Employee Chelsea Welch — a colleague of the stiffed server — took a picture of the receipt and uploaded it to the online site Reddit. She subsequently lost her job, an Applebee’s spokesman confirmed to TheSmokingGun.com, for violating a customer’s privacy.

I went to dinner last night with some friends and got to talking about the situation and the snarky note from the pastor.  As a way of making a statement, this was what we wrote on our receipt to our waitress :)

IMG_0116What the hell does God need with money anyway?  Isn’t God supposed to be all-powerful?  Omnipotence – that’s like the best ATM ever!!!

Posted in humor, internet, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

SHARE Relief Effort for Victims of the Joplin Tornado

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 1, 2011

In an effort to continue lighting candles in the darkness, I wanted to pass along the following announcement from SHARE, the Skeptics and Humanist Aid and Relief Effort – please consider helping out…

SHARE Joplin, Missouri Tornado Relief

We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and suffering caused by the tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri on Sunday with at least 117 known dead.

We are launching a drive through SHARE (Skeptics and Humanist Aid and Relief Effort) to raise charitable funds to assist displaced families in this devastated city.  Donations will be sent to the American Red Cross.  The Red Cross has already opened shelters in the distressed area to assist families who have lost their homes.

The needs of those who’ve lost their family members, their homes, and their livelihoods will be very great. Your assistance is very important and together as skeptics and humanists we can make a difference for the victims of this tragic disaster.  Please join with us to help out in this crisis.  Your support is greatly appreciated!  Thank you.

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

SHARE Relief Effort for Japanese Earthquake/Tsunami Disaster

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 18, 2011

Folks, over the last few days I’ve spent much time and energy in trying to correct many misconceptions (and yes, some outright lies) concerning the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. Of course, while the Fukushima situation is serious, the level of severity due to the broader earthquake & tsunami damage is orders of magnitude worse; so, in the spirit of lighting candles in the darkness, I want to pass along this appeal from the Center For Inquiry’s SHARE (Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort)…

As the grim news unfolds in Japan, the Center for Inquiry’s SHARE (Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort) is stepping up to provide assistance to victims of the earthquake/tsunami disaster.  Every dollar you give to SHARE will be sent directly to Doctors Without Borders, a wholly secular international organization.

SHARE Japan

Doctors Without Borders has sent medical teams to support the government-led earthquake and tsunami response in Japan.  Their teams are operating mobile clinics and conducting needs assessments.

Friday’s double tragedy has caused unimaginable misery.  In many areas there is no running water or power. As we write millions of people face a fourth night without water, food or heating in near-freezing temperatures throughout the coastal area devastated by Friday’s disasters.  People are suppressing hunger while dealing with the loss of loved ones and homes.  Ensuring that these victims can access the medical care they need is among the highest priorities.

Image-CFI-Share-Donate-Button.jpg

We hope that you can give generously to the SHARE campaign to help the Japanese people who are in such great need. Thank you!

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Myth of the Non-Decomposing McDonald’s Hamburger

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 14, 2010

So a few weeks ago some people I knew were passing around an article on Facebook about an “experiment” some woman had done which showed that a McDonald’s meal wouldn’t decompose. The interpretation by many was that this was proof of how unhealthy McDonald’s food is because it is apparently “too full of preservatives” and it is somehow “unnatural” because natural foods rot.  Some people have even gone so far as to argue that there are artificial materials within McDonald’s food such as plastic!

Of course, all of these arguments are variations on the naturalistic fallacy, and they can be easily disproven with some simple experimentation.  In fact, a number of home-grown experiments have been performed which show that the reason why McDonald’s food, and any kind of food for that matter, doesn’t decompose in these examples is because it is allowed to dry out.  And if you know anything about preserving food (hint: think beef jerky), one way to do it is to simply dehydrate it.  If the food dries out, then there is no moisture to support the growth of mold, bacteria, and other microorganisms which would otherwise decompose it.  Essentially, the food is mummified.

For more details on this subject, I suggest looking at following article which takes a very detailed & scientific look at the question:

The Burger Lab: Revisiting the Myth of The 12-Year Old McDonald’s Burger That Just Won’t Rot (Testing Results!)

20101105-burgerlab.jpg

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

A few weeks back, I started an experiment designed to prove or disprove whether or not the magic, non-decomposing McDonald’s hamburgers that have been making their way around the internet are indeed worthy of disgust or even interest.

By way of introduction, allow myself to quote myself. This is from myprevious article:

Back in 2008, Karen Hanrahan, of the blog Best of Mother Earth posted a picture of a hamburger that she uses as a prop for a class she teaches on how to help parents keep their children away from junk food… The hamburger she’s been using as a prop is the same plain McDonald’s hamburger she’s been using for what’s now going on 14 years. It looks pretty much identical to how it did the day she bought it, and she’s not had to use any means of preservation. The burger travels with her, and sits at room temperature.Now Karen is neither the first nor last to document this very same phenomenon. Artist Sally Davies photographs her 137 day-old hamburger every day for her Happy Meal Art Project. Nonna Joann has chosen to store her happy meal for a year on her blog rather than feed it to her kids. Dozens of other examples exist, and most of them come to the same conclusion: McDonald’s hamburgers don’t rot.

The problem with coming to that conclusion, of course, is that if you are a believer in science (and I certainly hope you are!), in order to make a conclusion, you must first start with a few observable premises as a starting point with which you form a theorem, followed by a reasonably rigorous experiment with controls built in place to verify the validity of that theorem.

Thus far, I haven’t located a single source that treats this McDonald’s hamburger phenomenon in this fashion. Instead, most rely on speculation, specious reasoning, and downright obtuseness to arrive at the conclusion that a McDonald’s burger “is a chemical food[, with] absolutely no nutrition.”

As I said before, that kind of conclusion is both sensationalistic and specious, and has no place in any of the respectable academic circles which A Hamburger Today would like to consider itself an upstanding member of. …

Just to jump to the end of the article, here are the results of the extensive testing performed:

The Results

20101014-aging-burger-3.jpg

Well, well, well. Turns out that not only did the regular McDonald’s burgers not rot, but the home-ground burgers did not rot either. Samples one through five had shrunk a bit (especially the beef patties), but they showed no signs of decomposition. What does this mean?

It means that there’s nothing that strange about a McDonald’s burger not rotting. Any burger of the same shape will act the same way. The real question is, why?

Well, here’s another piece of evidence: Burger number 6, made with no salt, did not rot either, indicating that the salt level has nothing to do with it.

And then we get to the burgers that did show some signs of decay.

Take a look at both the homemade and the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder patties:

20101014-aging-burger-13.jpg

Very interesting indeed. Sure, there’s a slight difference in the actual amount of mold grown, and the homemade patty on the right seems to have shrunk more than the actual Quarter Pounder on the left (I blame that mostly on the way the patties were formed), but on the whole, the results are remarkably similar. That a Quarter Pounder grows mold but a regular-sized McDonald’s burger doesn’t is some pretty strong evidence in support of Theory 3 from above. Because of the larger size of a Quarter Pounder, it simply takes longer to dehydrate, giving mold more of a chance to grow.

So folks, the bottom line is that McDonald’s food behaves just like any other kind of food. If you let it dry out, it won’t rot; if you keep it moist so that bacteria & mold can grow on it, it will rot.  If you don’t believe me, just feel free to conduct your own test - more on how to do that in the article I posted above.

And for those of you who want to make a big deal out of this thing, that McDonald’s food is supposedly bad for you because “it won’t rot”, then I think you really need to find something else to get concerned about because this one is just a fool’s errand.

Posted in environmental hysteria | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 45 Comments »

Man Claims to Have Survived 70 Years Without Food or Water

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 13, 2010

There’s a story running all over the Interwebs like wildfire… about a man who is making the seemingly miraculous claim that he has survived for 70 years without food.  Essentially, the man – an Indian mystic named Prahlad Jani, is claiming that he can live on “spiritual energy” in the form of air & meditation.  These claims are equivalent to those made by a form of New Age nonsense called breatharianism.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Mr. Jani and his followers are basically lying, because there is no physical way that a person can live for a month, much less 70 years, without food & water.  Skeptic Ben Radford has a really good take down on this nonsense…

As remarkable as his story is, Jani is not the first, nor the only, person to claim such a supernatural power. The claim that people can live without food or water is called inedia, and is actually somewhat of a common claim among religious fakirs and godmen of India. Unfortunately none of the cases have withstood scientific scrutiny. The human body needs both food and water to function; it’s as simple as that.

It’s easy for anyone to claim that he or she has not had anything to eat or drink for the past few weeks or months (or years). But unless the person has been carefully and continuously watched during that time, it’s impossible to prove the assertion true.

Several people who have claimed to survive without food or water were later caught eating and drinking. It can take only a few seconds to eat something, and other than in specific areas such as prisons, conducting a close around-the-clock surveillance on a person is not easy. Often the person will ask for privacy to sleep or go to the bathroom (which is suspicious in its own right) – and then snack surreptitiously. One well-known breatharian advocate in the 1980s, a man named Wiley Brooks, claimed he did not eat yet was caught consuming junk food.

And here’s a very interesting point that Radford brings up regarding the fact that Mr. Jani apparently lost weight during the time he was being observed…

This is not the first time that Jani has made this claim. He was examined in 2003 for about a week, during which time, he apparently did not eat or exercise – but he did lose weight. If Jani’s abilities are real, it seems odd that he would lose weight during the time that his food intake was being monitored. If he truly gets all the sustenance he needs from air and meditation, there’s no reason he would lose weight when he doesn’t eat.

What’s worse is this: it seems that some people in the Indian Armed Forces are actually spending time & money on researching the “secrets” behind Mr. Jani’s supposed miracle.  I’m not kidding… there are high level Indian military people who want to learn how Jani pulls this off so they can apply it the techniques to soldiers in the field who could supposedly go for long periods of time without food and/or water.  What a colossal waste!  This lunacy reminds me of the, now infamous, debacle by the U.S. military when they wasted millions of taxpayer dollars researching “psychic warfare” – as outlined in the recent movie The Men Who Stare At Goats.

If Mr. Jani wants to convince skeptics of his supposed paranormal powers, I have a simple solution: round-the-clock observation by multiple watchers, including via constant video recording and even live-streaming over the Internet, where he is locked away in an empty room with no access to any food or water at all… for a month or two straight.  If he survives, then maybe we’re onto something.  My guess is, for obvious reasons, he would never submit to such a test – I wonder why not?

Posted in ghosts & paranormal | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

 
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