The Skeptical Teacher

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

Archive for May, 2009

White House Office of Science & Tech Policy Seeks Feedback

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 7, 2009

The fine folks over at Science Debate have alerted me that the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy is soliciting feedback in the form of a public comment period on its website.

The OSTP is looking for recommendations on the six issues President Obama identified in his memo:

  1. hiring and keeping qualified scientists
  2. defining new policies to ensure integrity
  3. using “well-established scientific processes” like peer review
  4. disclosing scientific findings
  5. ensuring that principles of scientific integrity are being adhered to
  6. adopting additional policies like whistleblower protections

The OSTP is accepting comments via email and through their blog, here.

Their original request for input can be found here (pdf).

Please take a few minutes to visit the OSTP website and leave feedback.  This is the perfect opportunity for the scientific & skeptical community to make its voice heard and have a positive impact!

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

Oprah Winfrey Gives Platform to Anti-Vax Movement

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 7, 2009

Oh boy, this is not good news.  It seems that media mogul and daytime diva Oprah Winfrey has given a platform to the face of the anti-vaccination movement, Jenny McCarthy, by giving McCarthy her own show.  I cannot even begin to express how colossally stupid this is…

mccarthyoprah_l

Jenny McCarthy inks deal with Winfrey’s Harpo

McCarthy has inked a multi-year deal with Winfrey’s Harpo Prods. to develop projects on different platforms, including a syndicated talk show that the actress/author would host.

The first collaboration under the pact is a blog by McCarthy on Oprah.com, which launched Friday. Like other Winfrey proteges-turned-TV moguls, among them Rachael Ray and Dr. Phil, McCarthy has been a frequent guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

McCarthy talked to the chat queen about her struggles with her son’s autism in conjunction with the publication of her best-selling books “Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism” and “Mother Warriors: A Nation of Parents Healing Autism Against All Odds.” McCarthy also has participated twice in Winfrey’s Friday Live panels, most recently this past Friday.

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Posted in medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

More Martian Madness

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 6, 2009

My last entry focused on a supposed “alien” skull found on the surface of Mars, which is really nothing more than a classic case of pareidolia. Well, just today I received a bogus email from a colleague which recycles the old “Mars is going to be closer than EVER!” myth which has propagated over the last few years.

picture11

The email reads, in part…

The Red Planet is about to be spectacular! This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars in an encounter that will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. Due to the way Jupiter’s gravity tugs on Mars and perturbs its orbit, astronomers can only be certain that Mars has not come this close to Earth in the Last 5,000 years, but it may be as long as 60,000 years before it happens again.

The encounter will culminate on August 27th when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth and will be (next to the moon) the brightest object in the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of -2.9 and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide. At a modest 75-power magnification Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. Mars will be easy to spot. At the beginning of August it will rise in the east at 10 p.m. and reach its azimuth at about 3 a.m.

By the end of August when the two planets are closest, Mars will rise at nightfall and reach its highest point in the sky at 12:30 a.m. That’s pretty convenient to see something that no human being has seen in recorded history. So, mark your calendar at the beginning of August to see Mars grow progressively brighter and brighter throughout the month. Share this with your children and grandchildren. NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN

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Posted in internet, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Martian Madness

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 4, 2009

Recently, while I was hanging around on the JREF Forum – an awesome place to go chat about science, skepticism, and critical thinking – someone posted the following image, taken by the NASA Spirit rover, from the surface of Mars…

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What, if anything, do you see?  If you’re like me, you see a rocky surface with a particularly big rock (relatively speaking) right in the middle of the photograph.

Well, it seems that some in the UFO-alien woo crowd has decided that this image constitutes “evidence” of past or present alien intelligence on Mars, because – here it comes – the “rock” in the middle of the picture is actually an alien skull.

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Posted in aliens & UFOs, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Progress in Texas

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 4, 2009

In the ongoing soap opera that is the science vs. nonsense battle on the Texas State Board of Education, it seems that the right-wing creationist ideologues are losing.  The Austin-American Statesman published an article that outlines how these nutjobs are finally running afoul of the Legislature in Texas…

Senate confirmation of Board Chairman Don McLeroy, R-College Station, is dead in the water, the Nominations Committee chairman said Thursday.

The House of Representatives approved a constitutional amendment Monday that would move the investment decisions about the $17.5 billion Permanent School Fund away from the board to an appointed council of financial professionals.

And a bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill to take away the elected board’s authority over curriculum and textbooks.

A convergence of high-profile, bloody curriculum battles and controversial comments from some board members caught the attention of the legislators, both Republicans and Democrats, who could leave the somewhat obscure body headless and toothless after this session.

Folks, this is excellent news! 🙂  What it means is that the Texas BoEd could no longer have the capability to influence public school science standards & textbook selection, which is why creationists have targeted it for so long in an effort to push their religiously-oriented pseudoscience.

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Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Swine Flu Quackery

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 3, 2009

If you read this blog regularly, you recently saw where I predicted in an earlier post – Swine Flu Conspiracy Hogwash – that pretty soon some pseudoscientific woo-monger out there would be prescribing nonsense as a “cure” for the swine (or H1N1)  flu. Well, I was right; maybe I’m psychic? – nah, more likely it’s that the woo-mongers are all too predictable in their parasitic opportunism to push their idiocy when people are scared.

It ends up that a writer over at the increasingly nutty Huffington Post, Matthew Stein, wrote an article titled When a Superbug Strikes Close to Home, How Can You Deal With it? Essentially, this article is a simultaneous attack on science-based medicine, through the all-too-familiar conspiracy theory about Big Pharma & the medical/scientific establishment, while promoting a wide variety of non-scientific quackery which I like to collectively refer to as sCAM.

facepalm

**Aside: if you want to see a more detailed debunking of this HuffPo balderdash, I highly recommend Orac’s post over at Respectful Insolence 🙂

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Posted in medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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