Over the years I’ve made a huge number of blog posts here (well over 730 by now), and I’ve also participated in a number of public lectures and/or discussions. Many of these events were recorded on video, and I’m happy to share with you a collection of those public events through my Lanyard page…
Posts Tagged ‘skepticism’
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 1, 2014
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 17, 2014
One year ago, I wrote a post about a kickstarter project to help fund a film on the life of that skeptical giant, James Randi. The film is titled “An Honest Liar: The Amazing Randi”, and I’m happy to report that it is nearing completion! But in order to bring it across the finish line, the film’s producers need a little more financial help. Read on for details, and please consider donating if you are able…
The finish line is approaching and we wanted to let you, our supporters, know about our progress. We’ve now completed a fine-cut of the documentary and will be locking it in shortly.
We have now scheduled our post-production (conform, color correct, audio mix, final output etc.) for mid-March and are officially going to complete the film by the end of March, with the aim to premiere An Honest Liar at film festivals beginning in April.
Between now and then, we’ll be refining the edit, working with our composer on the score, sourcing the archival footage we use (there’s a TON…) transferring it and re-inserting it into the cut, completing graphics, animations, and titles, and when it’s all done, popping open a bottle of champagne.
(BTW – if you have any videotapes of old Randi shows, let us know!)
EXCEPT for people getting the digital download/DVD/Blu-ray and movie posters, everyone should have gotten their Kickstarter rewards. We have gotten a number of returned packages for people who may have moved, so if you haven’t gotten your reward please message us.
We still need additional support. The licensing of some of the archival footage is incredibly expensive, but it’s rare and great material that we can’t pass up. If you missed out on donating or know someone who wanted to, we can still use help. Plus, you can still get many of the Kickstarter rewards we offered – while they still last. Just go to our website to donate and choose rewards.
Finally, below is a bonus clip that isn’t going to be in the final film, but we just couldn’t leave on the edit room floor.
Thanks again to all our supporters!
- The Honest Liar team
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: An Honest Liar, biography, campaign, contribute, debunking, documentary, donation, film, fraud, fundraising, investigation, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, Kickstarter, lies, life, magic, magicians, money, movie, paranormal, Randi, science, skepticism, story, The Amazing One, The Amazing Randi Story, trickery | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 7, 2014
If you live in North America, then no doubt you’re aware of the so-called polar vortex which has come down from the Arctic to freeze the hell out of the continent. And, just as surely as the temperatures started to drop, global warming deniers began to shout about how this supposedly proves that global warming isn’t real.
Okay, so you see here’s the thing… it’s called *global* warming because the whole globe, on average, is getting warmer. Saying that a cold snap disproves global warming is like saying that the IRS no longer exists because you got a tax refund once.
See all that red? Yeah, that’s where the climate is getting warmer. And notice how there’s more red than blue? [image source]
I’ve blogged about this very topic before, namely that “climate” isn’t the same thing as “weather”, but seeing as how the deniers are once again spouting their nonsense, it bears repeating…
… The primary flaw in this argument is good ol’ fashioned cherry-picking of data: the “coolers” are choosing to focus only upon data which supports their claims, while ignoring the vast amount of data which points in exactly the opposite direction. By focusing on just the weather reports over the last couple of weeks, or for only a certain part of the planet, they leave out the fact that climate is a phenomenon which is global in nature and that climate science is concerned with long term trends. Essentially, they are confusing weather with climate. Climate experts recently made this point in an Associated Press article which has been widely circulated.
Bottom line: when taking all of the data into account, both concerning the timeline as well as the Earth as a whole, there is a clear warming trend. …
There are some other really good articles about this latest confusion regarding how the polar vortex fits into the broader picture of global warming. For your reference, I’ll suggest two of them:
This article is really good because it goes through some of the basics about global warming and climate change in general, and then it emphasizes the importance of temperature trends and statistical analysis of the data. My favorite part is as follows:
… Global warming isn’t expected to abolish winters in the U.S. anytime soon. Right now, climate experts are worried about a 2°C to 4°C rise in global average temperatures by the end of the century. That would create all sorts of disruptive changes. But those few degrees aren’t enough to completely undo the larger swings in temperature we see each year between summer and winter in many parts of the world.
Indeed, many climate models suggest that we’ll still see record cold snaps in the United States as the planet heats up. They’ll just become much less frequent over time — while record heat waves will become increasingly common. See this paper in Geophysical Research Letters from 2009: Over the past decade, it notes, the U.S. has experienced about two daily record high temperatures for every record low. If the planet keeps heating up, that ratio will shift to 20:1 by mid-century. There will still be record lows in many areas. They’ll just be rarer. …
This is a humorous and informative post from my skeptical colleague Greg Laden wherein he lays out just how it’s possible for global warming to actually account for the polar vortex phenomenon:
… The apparent contrast between extreme cold and global warming is actually an illusion. If we look at the local weather in many parts of the US we see a giant blob of cold “Arctic air” moving south to engulf our humble hamlets and cities, as though the Arctic Coldness that we know is sitting on the top of our planet, like a giant frosty hat, is growing in size. How can such a thing happen with global warming?
Actually, if you think about it, how can such a thing happen at all? Imagine a somewhat different scenario. Imagine the giant global hulu-hoop of warmth we know of as the tropics suddenly expanding in size to engulf the United States, Europe, Asia, and in the south, southern South America, southern Africa, Australia, etc. for a week or so, then contract back to where it came from. How could that happen? Where would all the heat necessary for that to happen come from? That seems to be a violation of some basic laws of physics. Now, cold is not a thing — it is the absence of heat — but the same problem emerges when we imagine the giant frosty hat of arctic air simply getting many hundreds of percent larger, enough to engulf the temperate regions of the planet. As easy as it might be to imagine such a thing given the images we see on regional weather maps, it is in fact not possible. The physics simply does not work that way.
What is happening instead is the cold air mass that usually sits up on the Arctic during the northern Winter has moved, drooped, shifted, gone off center, to engulf part of the temperate region. Here in the Twin Cities, it is about 8 below zero F as I write this. If I go north towards the famous locality of International Falls (famous for its cold temperature readings often mentioned on the national news) it will in fact be colder. If I go even farther north, at some point it will start to get warm again, as we leave the giant blob of cold air that has engulfed us. In fact, it is relatively warm up on the North Pole right now. Alaska and Europe are relatively warm as well.
The graphic above from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts shows what is happening. The Polar Vortex, a huge system of swirling air that normally contains the polar cold air has shifted so it is not sitting right on the pole as it usually does. We are not seeing an expansion of cold, an ice age, or an anti-global warming phenomenon. We are seeing the usual cold polar air taking an excursion. …
Of course, I don’t expect any of this to phase the hardcore global warming deniers, because they’re off in a fantasy world of their own. No doubt that next time winter strikes the northern hemisphere, they’ll be back spouting this nonsense once again; it’s just plain sad and predictable. I almost feel sorry for them. I mean, how can you not feel sorry for them when this moron is one of their primary spokesmen?
Posted in global warming denial | Tagged: AGW, Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth, anthropogenic global warming, arctic, carbon emissions, cherry picking, climate change, conservative, coolers, denial, deniers, Donald Trump, global cooling, global warming, GW, hoax, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, liberal, myth, polar, politics, pseudoscience, skeptic, skepticism, Trump, vortex, winter | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 6, 2014
The fine folks at Chicago Skeptics are currently in the early stages of organizing the Chicago Skepticamp 2014 conference, which is scheduled for Saturday April 5th at the Irish American Heritage Center, and one of the things they need most right now are speakers. Please read their latest press release for more information on this, and consider getting involved or at least passing along the news:
Saturday, April 5th
Irish American Heritage Center
Registration will be open through March 1.
This year’s schedule:
10:00 am: Hello!
Here is the part of the schedule where there will be a whole bunch of awesome speakers, just like you!
So much like you, in fact, that one of them could BE you.
Speaker registration is now open! Get those brains a-stormin’. You don’t have to have your whole talk ready, but tell us what you’d like to speak about and we’ll get you signed up.
Speaker sign-up ends on February 1st.
(All final speaker materials must be submitted by March 1)
What is a Skepticamp?
Skepticamp is an opportunity for us to get together to learn about different ares of skepticism from our fellow group members. These talks give an opportunity for individuals to delve into particular areas of skepticism…both the tried and true topics and those that may not get as much attention in the regular blogs and articles. Skepticamps encourage as many people as possible to give a talk…and certainly encourages first-time speakers to try their hand at presenting in a friendly, supportive atmosphere.
For more info on skepticamps in general, visit:
One of the principles of Skepticamp is that everyone participates either by talking or helping in some way. We are already having planning committee meetings, and interested parties can still help. Other ways to help will be announced as we get closer to the date…setup and cleanup crews, distributing publicity, etc. (Nobody is going to be turned away because they don’t have a specific job, though.)
Skepticamp is a participant supported event. If you’d like to help offset some of the financial costs incurred by the organizers, please consider making a donation. We’ll also be accepting donations at the event.
Though Skepticamp is free to attend, there are several significant expenses for making it a reality. If you’d like to help, please click this link.
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 27, 2013
This time of year it seems that just about everyone celebrates some kind of holiday. Some are explicitly religious in nature, such as Christmas or Hanukkah, while some secular holidays are being celebrated at about the same time. It is in the spirit (pardon the pun) of furthering critical thinking & skepticism among the population at large that I share with you the JREF’s annual Season of Reason initiative. Whether you are religious or not, I think we can all agree that reason is something we need more of in our society, so I hope that you consider donating to this worthy cause…
The James Randi Educational Foundation invites you to give during our annual Season of Reason fundraising campaign. Over half of our annual support comes during this critical year-end period and we couldn’t continue fighting charlatans and promoting critical thinking without it.
This year, we’re asking you to help us raise a total of $200,000 to support our unique educational mission in 2014. Such support helps the JREF to continue to extend the important work of James Randi, influential skeptic and social critic who has for decades stood against the prevailing cults of nonsense and supernatural charlatans of every stripe.
Every dollar counts! Your Season of Reason 2013 contribution will help us equip more educators to teach students skepticism, support more grassroots campaigns to fight charlatanry, and take on more public figures and celebrities who promote dangerous nonsense. To make a tax-deductible donation to the JREF right now, please fill out and submit the form below.
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: 2013, 2014, charity, donate, donation, education, giving, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, outreach, Randi, reason, Santa, santa claus, season, Season of Reason, skeptic, skeptical community, skepticism, tax deductible, taxes | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 18, 2013
This recent silliness by “Doctor” Oz came to my attention: apparently, during a recent show he took seriously the notion that women shouldn’t carry cell phones in their bras because it could give them breast cancer. My skeptical colleague Dr. David Gorski at Science-Based Medicine summarizes Oz’s idiocy and fear-mongering here…
… The story aired on December 6 and was entitled Why You Should Keep Your Cell Phone Out of Your Bra. The entire segment, lasting ten minutes or so, is one blatant piece of fear mongering. Even by the usual low standards of a typical Dr. Oz segment, this one was bad. How bad? I’ll give you a taste. Let me start just by asking what you might expect in a segment claiming a link between an environmental exposure of some sort and a specific cancer? You’d expect some actual scientific evidence, wouldn’t you? Some epidemiology, perhaps, showing that women who hold their cell phones in their bras have a higher risk of breast cancer, perhaps with some relative risks that were at least statistically significant. You might expect some scientific evidence suggesting why the proposed mechanism is plausible. You might even expect that there would be convincing (or at least suggestive) evidence that women who put their cell phones in their bras, when they develop breast cancer, develop it more frequently on the side where they stick their cell phone. These would be reasonable things to expect that, even though they wouldn’t be convincing proof, would at least raise concerns.
There was none of that at all. Zero. Nada. Zip. In fact, I was shocked at how evidence-free this whole segment was. Usually Oz at least tries to slather a patina of scientific evidence on his pseudoscience. OK, maybe not usually, but he does at least sometimes try when he’s not doing a story on alternative medicine, “complementary and alternative medicine,” or “integrative medicine,” anyway. Not here. It’s as if Dr. Oz’s producers weren’t even trying for this one. …
If you want a good analysis that thrashes the hell out of Oz’s claims from a medical perspective, definitely read through all of Dr. Gorski’s blog post. Seeing as how I’m not a medical doctor, I won’t rehash his analysis here; but I am a physics professor, so what I can do is go through the basic physics of why it is implausible that cell phones are even physically capable of causing cancer. In fact, I’ve written numerous posts on this topic already…
This first post is probably the most thorough on the fundamental physics of how electromagnetic radiation/waves (also known as light) are generated and propagate; also included is a basic primer on the different kinds of EM waves, the EM spectrum, what role frequency and energy of light play in these issues, and the all important difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Here’s the upshot: cell phones emit non-ionizing (i.e. non-cancer causing) radiation.
This article about a hysterical politician in Maine points out the implications of allowing basic scientific literacy to be trumped by the kind of psuedoscience and fear-mongering propagated by “Doctor” Oz and his ilk.
Just a more up-to-date article outlining some more research from the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Denmark after it looked at more than 350,000 people with mobile phones over an 18-year period. Conclusion: even while looking for supposed long-term negative effects, none were found.
Posted in environmental hysteria, media woo, physics denial/woo, Uncategorized | Tagged: bra, breast cancer, cancer, cell phones, David Gorski, DNA, doctor, Doctor Oz, Dr. David Gorski, Dr. Oz, electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetic spectrum, electromagnetic waves, EMF, environment, health, ionizing radiation, light, medical, medicine, physics, power lines, public health, radiation, radiation sickness, safety, safety hysteria, science-based medicine, show, skeptic, skepticism, television, TV, wi-fi | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 30, 2013
I’ve posted many times before about so-called ghost hunters and ghost hunting, and much of the time it has been in either good fun (by spoofing them) or a bit more serious in challenging them to be more rigorous in their methodology. However, in this post I want to point out the danger(s) involved in ghost hunting; as is so often illustrated on the What’s The Harm? website, when people buy into pseudoscientific and non-critical thinking, it can have profoundly negative effects.
Case in point: recently some moronic ghost hunters in New Orleans decided that in order to get the spirits supposedly inhabiting an old mansion from the 1850s to “come out and play” that they needed to set fire to the place. The result: it completely burned to the ground…
… The mansion, built in the 1850s, had survived through many incarnations, operating as a boarding house, a hotel and even an illegal gambling house. Though the mansion had been shuttered in recent years, its owner, the Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation, had plans to renovate the building. …
… The fire at LeBeau broke out at about 2 a.m. local time Friday, Nov. 21, and the building was almost completely destroyed by the time firefighters arrived. The ghost hunters had been trying to produce a reaction from the spirits they assumed resided there, by doing what TV ghost hunters call “provocation,” essentially making loud noises, yelling taunts at the ghosts and banging on walls. Frustrated that their efforts failed to yield any spirits, the group decided to light a fire. Whether this was intended to smoke the spirits out or simply burn the place down, the resulting flames soon reduced the mansion to ashes and four brick chimneys.
While many ghost hunters engage in harmless (and fruitless) fun, as this case shows, there can be a dark, dangerous side to the pursuit. In the wake of popular ghost-hunting TV shows, police across the country have seen a surge in people being arrested, injured and even killed while looking for ghosts.
In 2006, a woman was critically wounded looking for ghosts in a private house near a cemetery; she and a friend were trespassing, and the house owner mistook them for vandals and shot them. In 2010, a North Carolina man died while ghost hunting with a group of friends, hoping to see the ghost of a train that crashed years earlier. The ghost train did not appear — but a real train came around a bend and killed one man who couldn’t get out of the way in time. … [emphasis added]
Note the backwards thinking here: the ghost hunters in question were so hell-bent on “proving” the existence of the ghosts supposedly haunting this mansion that, when all else failed, they actually burnt the damn place down! It is revealing that the thought that perhaps there were no ghosts/spirits in the place at all seems to have never occurred to them, so strong was their confirmation bias in favor of all evidence pointing towards the existence of the ghosts/spirits…
Posted in ghosts & paranormal | Tagged: argument from ignorance, arson, burn, burned down, burnt, electromagnetic fields, EMF, equipment, extrasensory perception, fire, flame, ghost busters, ghost hunters, ghost hunting, ghost meter, ghostbusters, ghosts, harm, haunted house, historic, house, infrared, LeBeau Plantation house, library, mansion, New Orleans, old, orb, paranormal, physics, pseudoscience, science, skepticism, spirits, Whats the Harm, woo | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 29, 2013
In light of the upcoming Holiday Season, I wanted to do a quick post regarding an interesting bit of news out of the Vatican recently; apparently, the Vatican is putting the supposed bones of St. Peter on public display for the very first time. However, these may not be the bones true-believers are looking for…
It would be a real boner if the remains turned out to not be those of Saint Peter, wouldn’t it?(image source)
As far as St. Peter’s bones go, many Catholic’s will no doubt be planning a pilgrimage to the Holy See, to view the bones purported to belong to St. Peter. The remains were revealed Sunday at St. Peter’s square, and the revelation was performed at St. Peter’s Square at the conclusion of the Catholic church’s “Year of Faith.”
This also happens to the first time St. Peter’s bones have ever been put on display since being discovered in 1939. But there is no DNA sample with which to make a comparison and no way of proving who the skeletal remains actually belong to. But the Vatican is declaring their “verification” regardless.
Pilgrims 8.5 million strong have journeyed to see the Vatican’s relics collection over the last year, but many are questioning whether or not the bones really belong to St. Peter. Peter was believed to have been martyred in Rome in 64 C.E. by being crucified upside down, and then buried in the city. Pope Paul VI said of St. Peter’s bones:
“[They had been identified] in a manner which we believe convincing.”
… Despite the lack of verification, and the fact that archeologists have disputed that they actually found St. Peter’s bones, the Vatican has found the identification “convincing” and has officially declared the bones to belong to St. Peter.
Pardon me if I’m just a bit skeptical of these claims, especially since there has been no independent verification that the remains are indeed those of St. Peter. Sadly, the history of the Catholic Church is full of examples of pious frauds (such as the much-lauded Shroud of Turin) passed off on the faithful as the real thing when, at best, their authenticity is highly dubious.
Of course, in a time when the Church is struggling to keep asses in pews and money coming into the coffers, I suppose they’ll grab onto anything – no matter how questionable or tenuous – that they can.
Posted in religion | Tagged: archaeology, bones, Catholic Church, crucifixion, faith, fraud, God, holy relic, Holy See, Italy, Jesus Christ, miracle, pious fraud, religion, remains, Saint Peter, Shroud of Turin, Shroudie, skeptic, skepticism, St. Peter, True Cross, Vatican, Year of Faith | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 21, 2013
The title of this blog post may seem harsh, but when it comes to douchebag charlatans who bilk the desperate and grieving out of their money, self-declared psychic Sylvia Browne was the bottom of the proverbial dung-heap. And now she’s dead. Ironically, in 2003 she predicted that she would die at the age of 88, yet she died 11 years earlier than that…
Good riddance to bad rubbish (image source)
Over the course of writing this blog, I have dedicated some posts specifically to the late Ms. Browne in order to point out just how much of a self-aggrandizing and deceitful person she was, claiming to have psychic powers and often failing spectacularly in her “predictions” (none of which she ever apologized for, even given the pain she caused). In honor of her death, I shall reproduce those posts below in the hopes that people do not celebrate her as a “lost light to the world” or similar rubbish. Rather, it is my hope that people take the time to reflect upon Ms. Browne’s life and death and think carefully about just how much damage she did by hoodwinking the most gullible and vulnerable among us. Hopefully, perhaps people will be a bit more skeptical of the next psychic scumbag who comes along.
Posted in psychics | Tagged: abduction, accuracy, Amanda Berry, charlatan, cherry pick, Cleveland, cold reading, dead, death, died, dies, esp, fail, failed, fake, hits, hot reading, kidnapping, medium, mentalism, mind reading, misses, Montel Williams, New Year's Eve, New Years, paranormal, post diction, prediction, predictions, pseudoscience, psychic, psychics, Shawn Hornbeck, skeptical activism, skepticism, Sylvia Browne, talking to the dead | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 31, 2013
One of the things I like to do on Halloween, besides handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, is watch scary and spooky themed movies. I recently re-watched one of the great ones from the 1980s: Ghostbusters. Did you ever notice that the character of Peter Venkman is actually kind of a skeptic? This fact is outlined in the following hilarious scene from the opening of the movie, where Venkman essentially calls out his colleagues for engaging in an argument from ignorance in his typical deadpan way as they search for a ghost…
**Dialogue from 0:19 – 0:38**
Ray Stantz: “Look!”
Egon Spengler: “This is hot, Ray.”
Ray: “Symmetrical book stacking, just like the Philadelphia mass turbulence of 1947.”
Peter Venkman: “You’re right, no human being would stack books like this.”
Posted in ghosts & paranormal, humor | Tagged: argument from ignorance, electromagnetic fields, EMF, equipment, extrasensory perception, ghost busters, ghost hunters, ghost hunting, ghost meter, ghostbusters, ghosts, Halloween, haunted house, humor, infrared, library, orb, paranormal, physics, pseudoscience, science, skepticism, spirits, woo | Leave a Comment »