I just watched the following video by Dr. Eugenie Scott, formerly of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), wherein she goes over a variety of stories in an entertaining and enlightening SkeptiCal talk about urban legends, science frauds (like Piltdown Man), out-and-out silliness (like Australia’s Drop Bear), and more. It is at times funny, serious, and challenging, even for die-hard skeptics. Enjoy! :)
Archive for the ‘internet’ Category
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 26, 2013
Posted in humor, internet, skeptical community | Tagged: 2013, Eugenie Scott, fraud, funny, Genie Scott, hoax, humor, lecture, legend, narratives, National Center for Science Edcuation, NCSE, prank, science, skeptical, stories, story, talk, urban legend, youtube | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 17, 2013
As you well know by now, there was a horrific bombing of the Boston Marathon yesterday on Boston’s Patriot Day. Like many people, I spent much time last night discussing the situation online. And, of course, in the aftermath of such an emotionally charged and upsetting situation, rumors, speculation, and – sadly – conspiracy mongering will run rampant. However, I am of the feeling that knowledge is power, and it is better to say “I don’t know” than to speculate wildly; after all, as I told someone online last night: “rumors =/= knowledge”
So, in the spirit of spreading accurate information and squashing rumors, misinformation, and conspiracy mongering regarding the Boston Marathon Bombing, I would like to refer the reader to this collection of rumors and junk debunked from our friends at Snopes.com:
Please take a few minutes to check that link, and by all means spread it far and wide over the Internet and via social media, because we do ourselves no favors by giving into our fears and allowing them to make us act irrationally.
Posted in conspiracy theories, internet | Tagged: 4-15, 4/15, accuracy, April 15, bomb, bombing, Boston, Boston Marathon, conspiracy, conspiracy theories, conspiracy theory, death, debunk, fearmongering, information, killing, marathon, massacre, misinformation, Patriots Day, rumors, Snopes, Tax Day, terror, terrorism, terrorist | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 31, 2012
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 220,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 4 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 24, 2012
Many times we self-described skeptics and critical thinkers do not live up to our own rhetoric. Case in point: How many skeptics/atheists/freethinkers/etc do you know who have shared the following quote, or perhaps you have shared it yourself?
Well, here’s the rub… this quote attributed to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is…
Ouch. I have to admit that I probably would have fallen for it, too; maybe I did, I cannot remember seeing this on my Facebook wall, but who knows? It’s a good lesson for those of us who call ourselves skeptics to make sure that we’re taking care to walk the skeptical/critical thinking walk and not just talk the talk. Here’s a good YouTube video expanding upon this lesson:
Posted in internet, skeptical community | Tagged: astronomer, astrophysicist, atheism, atheist, critical thinker, fake, freethinkers, Hayden Planetarium, image, imgur, internet, made up, Neil deGrasse Tyson, pic, picture, quotation, quote, Reddit, skeptic, skepticism, spoof | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 11, 2012
While at Convergence/SkepchickCon 2012 this past weekend, I did a lot of things, but one of the most fruitful and important was to attend the “Don’t Feed the Trolls” panel on the second day of the Con. The panel consisted of a number of prominent female skeptics (Rebecca Watson, Christina Rad, Stephanie Zvan, and Heina Dadabhoy) along with a couple of male colleagues (Greg Laden and Jason Thibeault) discussing the issues of gender attitudes, sexism, and misogyny in the skeptical movement. I think having these discussions in an open, public format is important, because there are a number of trolls out there who are not interested in reasoned, calm discussion on these issues; instead they are interested in intimidating those with whom they disagree and are attempting to silence them.
So, in an effort to light candles rather than curse the darkness, I wanted to share with you the discussion I was able to (very roughly – I was not able to get every word down) transcribe. The talk was extremely well-attended (about 300-400 people were present) and the audience Q&A was very useful. If you are at all concerned with these issues, please read my transcription and pass it along…
Don’t Feed the Trolls
with Greg Laden, Rebecca Watson, Jason Thibeault, Christina Rad, Stephanie Zvan, and Heina Dadabhoy
Rebecca: Rebecca is told that she should be raped, that she’s a prude, that she’s a whore, and so on.
Some emails from men have included how they would like to service her regularly. These kinds of comments have come through email, YouTube, Facebook, her Wikipedia page.
In short, the Internet is no longer a safe, fun place for Rebecca. It is where she works.
Greg Laden: one of the things that bothers him about Elevatorgate is that a friend of his was recently sexually assaulted on an elevator. So it happens. His main experience with trolls started in dealing with the evolution-creation debate online. Even more serious troll issues began two years ago in June when he and other bloggers were blogging about “rape month” (in the Congo). There were a lot of guys who were upset with him, because some of these men didn’t like the fact that he was pointing out that a lot of men do bad shit.
There are also trolls regarding the climate change discussion. There were people threatening to sue in England due to the libel laws. Greg points out that much of the stuff that goes to these blog comments is filtered and most of us never see the truly nasty stuff.
Definition of trolling (Stephanie): it started out years ago as goofy silliness, but in many ways it has now morphed into behavior towards trying to silence discussion. It is no surprise that many of the panelists are atheists and feminists, because those are groups a lot of people want to shut down.
Christina: there is a difference between trolls and haters. Eventually, I tried to go about ignoring the haters with their death and rape threats, but it gets very hard to continue. And sometimes you want to quit just to make it stop.
Stephanie: there is an idea that these trolls are just people in the Internet who are not dangerous. However, some of these people actually do try to find you in the real world. I put up a “do not talk to this person” post and this person ended up having restraining orders put on them.
Rebecca: in the past several years, there have been many high profile examples of men murdering women. In many cases, the offending males have a history of online misogynistic ranting. When she sees men doing this online, including very dehumanizing language, it makes her think of the potential danger.
Jason: one potentially probable death threat can be enough to stop you from going to a conference, for example.
Heina: I used to be Muslim, and once people figured out how I was blogging online, I was receiving threats about it. And I ended up taking down my blog due to the threats.
Least helpful advice in dealing with trolls…
Rebecca: “Don’t feed the trolls”
I now refer people who give this advice to a link on which why this is not helpful. It’s kind of like saying that a woman who doesn’t want to get raped shouldn’t wear a mini-skirt. Many people think that the trolls want attention, but what they really want is to silence me and other women like me. And it worked for awhile, because all the emails and comments started to pile up and it was wearing me down. Once I shared this stuff with my friends, it helped lift a weight off me.
Now, with haters on Twitter, I now simply RT and block. And now the haters have to spend their time blocking people who are pushing back against them. And if we can make this an issue for our community, we can increase the social cost of trolling. Now there are going to be consequences, and they will be put on a stage and be made to go on the defense.
Posted in internet, skeptical community | Tagged: 2012, attitudes, Christina Rad, con, Convergence, discussion, Elevatorgate, feminism, feminist, gender, Greg Laden, harassment, Heina Dadabhoy, internet, Jason Thibeault, men, misandry, misogyny, Rebecca Watson, sex, sexism, Skepchick, SkepchickCon, skeptic, skepticism, Stephanie Zvan, troll, women | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 15, 2012
I wanted to take a few moments to update you all about a really worthwhile endeavor regarding how to more effectively spread the skeptical message: editing Wikipedia. As you probably know, Wikipedia – the world’s largest and most extensive encyclopedia – is edited pretty much solely by volunteers. This means that the people who express the most interest in a topic typically end up editing it.
Now, sometimes this is a good thing, as when those who are experts in a particular field take the time to reasonably and thoughtfully edit a Wikipedia entry on a particular topic. However, sometimes this is a bad thing, as when those with an agenda edit various Wikipedia entries in an effort to distort the facts.
Enter the brainchild of my skeptical colleague Susan Gerbic: Guerilla Skepticism on Wikipedia. As Susan once told me, why shouldn’t skeptics start getting more involved in the editing of Wikipedia? After all, it is the largest and most easily and readily accessed source on just about any subject, and when people go search for something related to skepticism or pseudoscience, why wouldn’t we want as much factual information available to them as possible? If skeptics don’t step up and take on the task of getting more involved in this editing process, then are we not simply ceding this fertile ground to the peddlers of woo and nonsense?
The Wikipedia Logo
For more information or to get involved, take a look at Susan’s blog: Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia.
And I have to say, I agree with Susan. Fortunately, a lot of other people have agreed with her as well, and it appears to be having a positive impact. For instance, take a look at techophile and skeptic Tim Farley’s post on how a Google search tool, the Google Knowledge Graph, is benefitting from this form of guerrilla skepticism…
Last week Google introduced a new feature to their flagship search product, which is called Google Knowledge Graph. I believe it has only rolled out for users in the United States so far, so you may not see it if you live elsewhere, yet.
There are several interesting aspects of Knowledge Graph, and I encourage you to read more about it. The technology behind modern search engines is surprisingly complex, and this is the latest advancement.
But one of the main user-visible features of this product is a panel that you will see on the right side of many search results. This panel shows a summary of what Google believes you are looking for. The aim is that many times the answer you seek will be right there on the results page.
Because this new feature draws a great deal of information from Wikipedia, all the great effort by Susan Gerbic and the other skeptics who work on her skeptic Wikipedia project is now paying off in yet another big way. …
Posted in internet, skeptical community | Tagged: edit, editing, encyclopedia, entries, entry, facts, Google, Google Knowledge Graph, guerrilla skepticism, information, internet, knowledge, nonsense, online, psuedoscience, skepticism, skeptics, Susan Gerbic, Wikipedia, woo | 1 Comment »