Sunday, May 31, 2009

If Your Kid Sucks at Math, Come to Minnesota

2 Plus 2

"Previously on Mully410 Critical Blog: Is Your Misunderstanding, Apathy or Ignorance of Math Costing You?; More Proof That People are Math Stupid..." Here is a snippet from one of many short news stories on this topic:

MINNEAPOLIS -- A Minnesota math test that many educators think is too difficult will not be required for graduating high school students. The Class of 2010 was expected to be the first required to pass a series of state graduation tests before students received their diplomas in the spring.

But the Legislature decided to abandon the 11th-grade math test because of its potential to keep a large number of students from graduating next year.

The unique solution passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty says that students either have to pass the test once -- or fail it three times -- to graduate.

Read the rest of the article here: kare11.com | Twin Cities, MN | Minnesota students don't need math test for diploma

So it appears the bottom line is: If you don't "get" math, fail 3 times and you can graduate high school in Minnesota. I suppose this works out well for government. If the people don't understand math, it should be easier to spend trillions and trillions of dollars without reproach.

Everything You Need to Know About Chiropractic (sort of...)

Me at Whistler BC

I have had some experience with chiropractors. I've seen 3 different chiropractors. The first one was about 20 years ago, for neck pain. I think I saw him 3 or 4 times. He first put a heating pad on my upper back and neck for a while, then wrenched and jumped on my spine. Each time, I left his office feeling like I just fell off the back of a pickup truck going 50 mph. The neck pain eventually went away long after I stopped the chiropractor visits.

About 15 years ago, I awoke one day with a nasty cramp in my neck. I could barely turn my head. I tried a different guy who put a heating pad on my upper back and neck, used some sort of electronic stimulating device and then wrenched and jumped on my spine. It produced the same falling out of a moving vehicle effect on me. After 2 more "treatments", the original pain went away. It took about 3 weeks.

Eight or nine years ago, I developed some strange hip pain. This guy was a piece of work. Same old heat and electrical crap, wrenching and jumping, and falling out of a moving vehicle results but what really turned me off wasn't the ineffectual "treatment", it was the subluxation and myterious energy talk he gave. I got a 50% off coupon for attending this talk. In that session, he stated that he "manipulated" his infant mere minutes after it was born. Holy crap. Don't infants have enough trouble just living, without having their spine wrenched around just after birth? He stated he could "treat" allergies and all sorts of things I no longer remember. Anyway, he could never tell me how many "treatments" I would need and persistently recommended a longer course of "treatments." As far as I could tell, he didn't cure anything so I gave up after about 4 sessions (6 weeks). The hip pain didn't go away until I spent a week skiing in Whistler, BC. I came home from that vacation with no hip pain.

Since these experiences, I've occasionally experienced some lower back pain, some neck pain and that strange hip pain. I eventually got some training on some exercises from a real MD. Now, whenever that pain comes around, I fire up the heating pad, take some ibuprofen and do exercises for a couple weeks. In fact, I do these neck stretches every day and rarely wake up with that "kink" in my neck. I plan to never go back to chiropractor because what I'm doing now is effective and doesn't include the falling out of a moving vehicle side effects.

Of course, my personal anecdotal examples (as are your's) aren't evidence of anything other than my experience so do some research on your own you lazy bum. If you are relying on a chiropractor for treatment for some sort of ailment, please read the article below. It will likely preserve some of your money.

Here is a snippet from New Scientist:

FOR many people, chiropractic appears almost mainstream. Some chiropractors even call themselves "doctor". In the UK, chiropractors are regulated by statute, and in the US they like to be seen as primary care physicians. It is therefore understandable if people hardly ever question the evidential basis on which this profession rests.

Go here for the full article: What you should know about chiropractic - opinion - 29 May 2009 - New Scientist

Here is another good article with lots of reference links from the Skeptic's Dictionary. You might also want to learn about placebo effect too.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Think We Should Use NASA Budget to Solve Earthly Problems?

The Universe Today has a great article: 8 Ridiculous Things Bigger Than NASA's Budget. Here is a snippet:

The most often-used argument against space exploration is that we should use that money to alleviate problems here on Earth. But that argument fails to realize that NASA doesn’t just pack millions of dollar bills into a rocket and blast them into space. The money NASA uses creates jobs, providing an opportunity for some of the world’s brightest minds to use their talents to, yes, actually benefit humanity.

Consider NASA FY2009 budget is $17.2B:

Annually, Americans spend about $88.8 billion on tobacco products and another $97 billion on alcohol.

Likewise, people in the US spend about $64 billion on illegal drugs, and $114.2 billion for health-related care of drug use.

Americans also spend $586.5 billion a year on gambling.

View the complete article here.

Then go here to learn of many wonderful and great advances we use everyday, thanks to NASA.

Friday, May 29, 2009

WTF(H) is a Skeptic - Part 2

Jeffrey Ellis at The Thinker, made an interesting comment and shameless plug of his blog on my previous post. He directed me to one of his posts: Some Thoughts on Critical Thinking and Skepticism. I highly recommend reading it to better understand the debate around critical thinking versus skepticism. Here are some snippets:

Some Thoughts on Critical Thinking and Skepticism Posted by Jeffrey Ellis Nov 18 Skepticism is not exactly the same thing as critical thinking, and a skeptic isn't exactly the same thing as a critical thinker. Bear with me and Ill explain...

So skepticism is more than just critical thinking, and critical thinking is more than just skepticism. Although there is certainly a large overlap between them, I see two fundamental differences:

  1. Skepticism is an organized movement; critical thinking is not.
  2. Skepticism is focused on debunking unlikely claims such as conspiracy theories and the paranormal, whereas critical thinking is and should be more broadly applied to just about anything and everything.

It is safe to say that the overwhelming majority of skeptics are, by necessity, critical thinkers. And it’s also safe to say that a good critical thinker is, by nature, skeptical of unsubstantiated claims, just as a “skeptic” is. But the two points above illustrate the subtle but important differences.

In this context, I'm a skeptic. I apply my (rudimentary) critical thinking skills primarily to "debunk" unlikely claims and I'm an activist. However, I also try to apply critical thinking to everything in my daily life.

Go here for the full post: Some Thoughts on Critical Thinking and Skepticism: The Thinker

WTF is a Skeptic? (or for those with an aversion to profanity: WTH is a Skeptic?)

A skeptic or being skeptical or having skepticism holds different meanings for different people. I most often hear those words used as a negative. "Oh, you are just being skeptical." or "Don't be such a skeptic." I'd find that amusing if I didn't find it ignorant and insulting especially coming from people who know me. I think part of this reaction comes from the sometimes poor way in which I express myself but another part of that might be that some people just don't want their illusions dispelled.

I'm not sure if skepticism is technically or philosophically different or the same as critical thinking. Perhaps another post is in order on that topic. Feel free to go here and discuss it (you may have to become a fan of Mully410 to get into the discussion board). I think the general perception is that being a skeptic is negative and critical thinking either is not negative or isn't as negative...but I digress.

Dictionary.com defines Skeptic:

–noun

1. a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual.

2. a person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans, statements, or the character of others.

Merriam-Webster provides an etymology: "Latin or Greek; Latin scepticus, from Greek skeptikos, from skeptikos thoughtful, from skeptesthai to look, consider"

And a definition of Skepticism from M-W:

1: an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object

2 a: the doctrine that true knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is uncertain b: the method of suspended judgment, systematic doubt, or criticism characteristic of skeptics

Dr. Novella's definition is more technical and complete. This one might not fly well at every dinner party because of it's length:

"A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion." -Steven Novella - MD

I fail to see how anyone can have a valid logical reason for the belief that being a skeptic, being skeptical or having skepticism is negative. In fact, I'm very confident that EVERYONE is a skeptic. Don't believe the tooth fairy left you 50 cents for your lost tooth...skeptic. Don't believe the herbal supplement on the TV commercial will cure your baldness...skeptic. Don't believe the skeptic who says your god/God/gods probably aren't real...skeptic.

I think the best definition of skeptic comes from Michael Shermer at Skeptic Magazine:

Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideas — no sacred cows allowed. In other words, skepticism is a method, not a position. Ideally, skeptics do not go into an investigation closed to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real or that a claim might be true. When we say we are “skeptical,” we mean that we must see compelling evidence before we believe.

That is how I view the world. I take a provisional/tentative approach to claims. I'm ok with saying "I don't know." You make a claim, let's talk about the facts and the evidence. I may not even have a position on the story your heard from some guy who you met who knows some guy who saw such and such. I want you to think.

I strongly encourage all of my readers to read the brief introduction and a skeptical manifesto at Skeptic Magazine. This means all of you. If you don't consider yourself a skeptic, you will learn something. If you already consider yourself a skeptic, you may learn better ways to education your friends, colleagues and acquaintances.

Sum Ergo Cogito —
I Am Therefore I Think

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Skepticblog » The Fallacy of Locally Grown Produce

"Previously on Mully410 Critical Blog: Mully410 wrote about how your ignorance or apathy towards math costs you." In this article, Brian Dunning (esteemed skeptic and original Skeptoid), explains how buying locally is actually worse for the environment than buying at big stores. Here is a snippet:

The famous Traveling Salesman math puzzle is much more than just a fun game. It’s a dramatically illustrated way to understand the efficiencies involved in product distribution models. The problem works like this: Take a map and draw dozens of dots on it. The salesman’s task is to define a driving route that visits each dot, with the minimum driving distance connecting them all. He has to visit so many locations, and he wants to burn as little gas as possible. Obviously this is something that people are looking at harder than ever today.

Many years ago I did some consulting for a company that was then called Henry’s Marketplace, a produce retailer built on the founding principles of locally grown food...Part of what I helped them with was the management of product at distribution centers. This sparked a question: I had assumed that their locally grown produce model meant that they used no distribution centers. What followed was a fascinating conversation where I learned part of the economics of locally grown produce. It was an eye-opening experience.

Please go here and read the full article: Skepticblog » The Fallacy of Locally Grown Produce Then, like I always say, do some research on your own. Get out the graph paper and a calculator and do some math.

Monday, May 25, 2009

One Year on Flickr


Yellow Flowers
Originally uploaded by Mully410

I just remembered...on this date in 2008 I uploaded my first photo to Flickr. Here it is. It's kind of a blurry lame macro attempt taken at my favorite spot: The TCAAP Wildlife Viewing Area. I've since learned the features on my camera but this still happens once in a while.

Since that first upload, I've uploaded 1157 more photos and 26 lame videos. People have viewed my art 21,614 times as of this second. Very cool people have "favorited" 47 of my photos and/or videos and I've received 151 gracious comments and invitations to post from various groups. Thank you.

Please keep viewing and commenting. I'll be out and about more this summer so send your suggestions for great nature locations around here. Thanks, again!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day

legion art (2)

I wonder how many people actually understand Memorial Day in the US. Many of us go camping, travel and/or gather with friends primarily to party. I often hear "Happy Memorial Day" or "Have a happy Memorial Day weekend."

Frankly, I don't really see anything "happy" about Memorial Day and I feel a little uncomfortable calling it a holiday. Sure...we get a day off of work to grill meat and drink beer but what the fuck? How do people get off partying and carrying on about the happy holiday weekend of Memorial Day?

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in the service of our country.

As I write this, I can hear the neighbor's fireworks. I suppose it could be ignorant kids being naughty of some of the equally ignorant "lake people" having a party. I think explosions might be the LAST thing a combat vet would want to hear on this day. Give the celebrating and partying a rest, just for one day. It makes me sad when I think about all the people who have lost loved ones.

From now on, when I observe Memorial Day...that's right OBSERVE not celebrate, I am not only going to remember the dead, I am going to remember that what I do on this day is for the living. And I will remember the people who were asked to KILL for this country. And I will think about those who have to re-live their experiences over and over again in their heads. And I will remember to be grateful that I wasn't called up to kill or be killed. And I will remember to be grateful that I can write this blog and not fear imprisonment or death. And I will remember them all, living and dead, again and again.

Learn more about the history this "holiday" at the Department of Veteran's Affairs.



More Sarcasm from Edward Current

Here is the next video in Edward Current's "War on Atheism" series. Very funny:
Have they really found the missing link? Or are Darwinianists just blindly worshipping roadkill again?


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Flickr Stats Update - 20,000 Views!

flickr stats 052009

Click on any of the photos to embiggen.

Time to update you with on the latest stats from my Flickr Photostream. Back on March 29, 2009, I let you know that my photos surpassed 13,000 views. I took about 10 months of painstaking publicity to reach that number. Since I've found the reddit.com community, things have really accelerated. On April 23, 2009, my old daily record was beaten and my total views surpassed 20,000 views (mostly by reddit viewers).

Last Sunday, I took this interesting photo and posted in the "funny" section on reddit.com with the title: "I found your glove."

Missing Glove Finger

Within minutes, the above finger photo had a hundred views and within the first day, 500 views. Right now it stands at 669 views. It has blown away the next most popular photo (below) by more than 200 views.

Cigar Shaped UFO not

Yesterday, the "I Found Your Glove" photo and the Osprey with a Fish photo (below) almost single handedly pushed my daily view record to 1120 views.

Osprey with fish (3)

Thanks for all your viewing!

PS: The neat photo gadget I used to have at the top of the blog started pulling random photos from other people's photostreams. I'm not sure why. I'm no html coder and couldn't figure it out. I ended up disabling it until I can find a better gadget to add there. Until, I get it fixed, please click on the pretty butterfly on the sidebar to visit my photostream. Thanks.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Magical Thinking - It's Magic

Last week, I posted a story on Confirmation Bias. Next up on my list is Magical Thinking. This is another popular logical flaw or fallacy in our thinking. I see examples of it almost every day. Sometimes it's fun to think magically: "I know if I work my birth date into my lottery numbers, I'll have a better chance to win." However, magical thinking in the extreme can be very debilitating and even deadly: "I won't go to work because the Moon is in the sign of cancer and I stepped on a sidewalk crack yesterday as a black cat crossed my path." or "If I just pray hard enough, my god will cure my daughter of diabetes."

From The Skeptic's Dictionary:

According to anthropologist Dr. Phillips Stevens Jr., magical thinking involves several elements, including a belief in the interconnectedness of all things through forces and powers that transcend both physical and spiritual connections. Magical thinking invests special powers and forces in many things that are seen as symbols.

According to psychologist James Alcock, "'Magical thinking' is the interpreting of two closely occurring events as though one caused the other, without any concern for the causal link. For example, if you believe that crossing your fingers brought you good fortune, you have associated the act of finger-crossing with the subsequent welcome event and imputed a causal link between the two." In this sense, magical thinking is the source of many superstitions.

I found a very interesting article in Psychology Today: Magical Thinking. Here is a snippet:

Lindeman Marjaana, a psychologist at the University of Helsinki, defines magical thinking as treating the world as if it has mental properties (animism) or expecting the mind to exhibit the properties of the physical world. She found that people who literally endorse phrases such as, "Old furniture knows things about the past," or, "An evil thought is contaminated," also believe in things like feng shui (the idea that the arrangement of furniture can channel life energy) and astrology. They are also more likely to be religious and to believe in paranormal agents.

Essentially magical thinking is seeing causality in coincidence. "I shot a par on the 18th hole while wearing my purple shirt, therefore my shirt is lucky." Or "Grandma's illness got better because we all prayed about it, therefore the prayer worked."

This next part is interesting because I hadn't thought of magical thinking this way:

Magical thinking can be plotted on a spectrum, with skeptics at one end and schizophrenics at the other. People who endorse magical ideation, ranging from the innocuous (occasional fear of stepping on sidewalk cracks) to the outlandish (TV broadcasters know when you're watching), are more likely to have psychosis or develop it later in their lives. People who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder also exhibit elevated levels of paranoia, perceptual disturbances, and magical thinking, particularly "thought-action fusion," the belief that your negative thoughts can cause harm. These people are compelled to carry out repetitive tasks to counteract their intrusive thoughts about unlocked doors or loved ones getting cancer. But more magical thinking does not necessarily mean more emotional problems—what counts is whether such thinking interferes with everyday functioning.

You wouldn't want to be at the skeptic end of the spectrum anyway. "To be totally 'unmagical' is very unhealthy," says Peter Brugger, head of neuropsychology at University Hospital Zurich. He has data, for example, strongly linking lack of magical ideation to anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure. "Students who are 'not magical' don't typically enjoy going to parties and so on," he says. He's also found that there's a key chemical involved in magical thinking. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that the brain uses to tag experiences as meaningful, floods the brains of schizophrenics, who see significance in everything, but merely trickles in many depressives, who struggle to find value in everyday life. In one experiment, paranormal believers (who are high in dopamine) were more prone than nonbelievers to spot nonexistent faces when looking at jumbled images and also were less likely to miss the faces when they really were there. Everyone spotted more faces when given dopamine-boosting drugs. Brugger argues that the ability to see patterns and make loose associations enhances creativity and also serves a practical function: "If you're on the grassland, it's always better to assume that a tiger is there." -from Psychology Today

I like to think (perhaps magically) that I lie somewhere towards the skeptic end of this spectrum without being to "unmagical." I think I'll need someone to measure my dopamine before I can be certain...anyone want to help me with that?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Barbed Wire and Tree at the TCAAP WVA


Barbed Wire and Tree TCAAP
Originally uploaded by Mully410

130 views of this pic in the last 24 hours. Thanks everyone! I thought this was a really cool shot but didn't think it was THAT cool.

Why do Psychic Readings and Horoscopes Seem to Work?

Here is a definitive explanation from Derren Brown in an interview with Richard Dawkins on why horoscopes and psychic readings seem to work:



Thanks to Richard Saunders for this tip. Go to Darren Brown's YouTube channel for some more great mentalism.

Check out by previous post on How to be a Psychic.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Science, Reason and Critical Thinking: The Skeptics Tarot Cards

My regular readers might remember my experience with Tarot Cards. I actually got some comments from people on that post.

Here is a plug for one of my favorite UK skeptic's blogs: Science, Reason and Critical Thinking by Crispian Jago. I've been following Crispian's blog for some time now. We found each other on Facebook somehow. We share some common interests in skepticism so go ahead and digg, reddit, and NetworkBlog his blog. Here is a snippet from his latest post. It's full of awesome hilarity:

The Skeptics Tarot Cards Tarot cards have been used for centuries as a divination method. Many Skeptics and rational thinker however have claimed that there is no scientific evidence to support the validity of this method. I have therefore drawn up a new pack of Tarot Cards for the more sceptically minded. To practice my new art of Tarot reading, simply find yourself a believer and get them to select a card. To help you out I have posted 12 sample cards below together with my interpretation of each cards meaning.

Go here for the full post: Science, Reason and Critical Thinking: The Skeptics Tarot Cards

Friday, May 8, 2009

Join The Fight Against Confirmation Bias

Cigar Shaped UFO not

Confirmation Bias is probably my most favorite logical fallacy. I'm not sure that "favorite" is the right word but confirmation bias sure seems to be the most common logical fallacy that I see. I witness beliefs based on confirmation bias everyday in the media and in casual conversation. It took me 40 years before I learned about confirmation bias. Why is this not taught in grade school? I thank critical thinkers such as Carl Sagan, Steven Novella and James Randi for enlightening me on this important topic.

The world will be a better place if we could eliminate confirmation bias, so I created a Facebook group to help promote the fight against confirmation bias. (I know it's lame to expect to change the world with a Facebook group...kinda funny though...) My hope is that people will share their experiences and some tactics on how to avoid confirmation bias. Here is a snippet from the group:

The Skeptic's Dictionary defines confirmation bias as: "...a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one's beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one's beliefs."

Common topics where people use confirmation bias to justify their belief (in no particular order):

1. Prayer 2. CAM (complimentary alternative medicine) 3. Lunar effects 4. Politics 5. Love 6. Hate 7. "Paranormal" phenomena 8. Conspiracy theories 9. Gambling 10. Business 11...

More from the Skeptic's Dictionary: "For example, if you believe that during a full moon there is an increase in admissions to the emergency room where you work, you will take notice of admissions during a full moon, but be inattentive to the moon when admissions occur during other nights of the month. A tendency to do this over time unjustifiably strengthens your belief in the relationship between the full moon and accidents and other lunar effects."

Join The Fight Against Confirmation Bias

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Congress hears about antivaxxers | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine

My yard work is piling up and I'm still worn out from this post, so here is a lazy post.

Here is a snippet from another post about BadAstronomer's Anti-Anti-Vax movement:

I recently received this press release from the wonderful organization called Every Child By Two, a national non-profit set up to make sure children get their vaccinations. As you might expect, they are concerned about the recent rise of the antivax mob, who seemed determined to misinform parents and ensure we have a whole generation of kids susceptible to easily preventable potentially fatal infections.

The press release is important, and I reproduce it below in full. If you are so inclined, please show ECBT your love. Spread the word. Kids are dying, all over the world, and its incredibly easy to prevent it. All we need to do is make sure parents get real information.

Please read the whole story here: Congress hears about antivaxxers | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Transcendental Meditation - Scamming for 50 Years - Now at a Neighorhood Near You

Back in November 2008, I wrote: This how our world is going to end: Not by climate change, nor by asteroid calamity, nor by Obama...it will be from stupidity. I am still disturbed by our publicly funded schools pushing woo on the future of our country but when I saw this article in the St. Paul Pioneer press today I decided I'd try to warn you about it. Here is a snippet:

Lower crime rates. Fewer auto accidents. Decreased hospital admissions. Maybe even world peace.

That's what we can expect now that the Maharishi Invincibility Center has opened on St. Paul's East Side.

These are some pretty extraordinary claims: reducing auto accidents, less sick people and holy shit, world peace! I don't even know where to start because the reporter, Richard Chin, seems to swallows every wild, thoroughly debunked claim this organization throws at him. Here is more:

Advocates say transcendental meditation can reduce blood pressure, lower anxiety and stress, increase intelligence and help people quit smoking and achieve "physical and emotional invincibility."

If as little as 1 percent of a community practices the technique, advocates say, transcendental meditation can result in a drop in crime, fewer accidents, less illness, even a World Series win for the Cubs. "They could if they would practice it," said Billie Jean Billman, one of the new center's co-directors.

"Joe Namath was a very big advocate. He said it put him in the zone on the playing field," said Jim Horwath, the other director.

Even world peace could break out if enough people practiced transcendental meditation, according to believers. "When we reach that threshold, the whole world lights up," Billman said.

It's taken three years to construct this new center. It includes these features:

Under construction for the past three years, the building was designed with a tower, arches and columns and an east-facing entrance. "It brings in the most beneficial influences of the sun," Billman said.

The building houses rooms where people can learn and practice transcendental meditation and yoga, a kitchen and an executive conference center. There also are rooms full of mattresses for an advanced meditation technique called TM-Sidhi, or yogic flying, in which practitioners meditate while hopping in the air from a seated position. "We hope eventually the whole building will be filled up with yogic fliers," Billman said. Other rooms in the center are designed for ayurvedic pulse readings, where experts can detect the onset of a cold, heart disease or asthma by feeling your pulse, Billman said. "A really good expert can go very deep," Horwath said. Another room is reserved for Maharishi Vedic Vibration Technology, which uses sound vibrations to help chronic disorders ranging from back pain to arthritis, according to Horwath.

Let's look at the claims:

  1. Lower Crime Rates: Thoroughly debunk by James Randi in the book Flim Flam in chapter 5. Here is a snippet: Randi checked with the Fairfield Police Dept, the Iowa Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Motor Vehicles and found that Rabinoff’s claims were not true (Randi 1982, 99-108). More on that claim here.
  2. Less Hospital Admissions: I suspect this has to do their claim that TM reduces stress. If there are any studies on this, I suspect at best they are confusing correlation with causation. And if TM makes people healthier, why all the supplements and herbs for sale on their website?
  3. World Peace: Nice notion but doesn't work. What they are referring to here is called: Maharishi effect. " According to TM scientists: "collective meditation causes changes in a fundamental, unified physical field, and...those changes radiate into society and affect all aspects of society for the better" I refer you again to Flim Flam Chapter 5 and confusing correlation with causation.
  4. Reduced Blood Pressure: If you blood pressure is considered high, go see your doctor. The National Heart and Lung Institute lists these treatments, none of which include TM.
  5. Lower Anxiety and Stress: See here.
  6. Increased Intelligence: I have yet to find evidence for this. Seems to if you are giving some cult $2000 to learn to fly, that's not very intelligent.
  7. Helps Quit Smoking: Not sure how TM will help that but since it's run like a cult, perhaps they beat the crap out of you for smoking.
  8. Physical and Emotional Invincibility: This would be super cool. Invincible people running around everywhere. This claim is patently ridiculous. Even Superman isn't invincible.
  9. Gets you "in the zone" when you play football (but can't fix your knees): Anecdote used as evidence. Unsubstantiated.
  10. Building design brings the most beneficial influences of the sun: Sure I suppose if you design your building properly, you have more sun light streaming to illuminate the interior therefore a reduction in need for lamps. Plus, you get all the great heat from the sun to warm things up in the winter.
  11. Gives you the ability to "fly": This is another ridiculous claim thoroughly debunked everywhere. The only way this claim can "fly" is if you change the definition of flying to jumping around on a bed with your legs crossed. Funny video here.
  12. Ayurvedic Pulse Reading detects a cold, heart disease and asthma: Now this is another down right dangerous claim. Medicine has better ways to detect these things and may use a real pulse reading as a good place to start but the last thing you want to do is use this garbage to diagnose serious and potentially fatal diseases.
  13. Sound vibrations used to help back pain and arthritis: Not sure about this one other than I know a nice heating pad and a couple of ibuprofen work find for me. I don't need to go spend hundred of dollar at this place form some "sound vibrations."

Lots of claims, I know. TM and this "guri" have been exhaustively debunked for about 30 years now. Despite Yogi's claim of 40 million practitioners, we still don't have world peace and we still can't fly.

I got a little lazy towards the end in my research please post links in the comments to help fill in the holes I've left. I'll leave you with some references at the bottom of this post. My point is always: Think critically, don't take my word for it and surely don't take your local media's word for it either.

References:

Falling Down the TM Rabbit Hole - How Transcendental Meditation Really Works - A Critical Opinion.

Transcendental Meditation - Skeptic's Dictionary

Flim Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions by James Randi

trancenet.net

James Randi Educational Foundation

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Crtical Thinking Club of St. Paul - May 10 details

St. Paul Critical Thinking Club

May 10, 2009

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 Noon

Kelly Inn, I-94 at Marion, St. Paul

Breakfast and Presentation $10.00

Presentation only $3.00

We need to plan for the room setup and meal, so if you are going to attend, please RSVP to criticalthinkingclub@gmail.com by the end of the day on Thursday.

Using the Internet as a Research Tool

Robin Veal has ten years of experience as a research librarian and is currently practicing her trade at Capella University. Research librarians use the latest information technology to perform research, classify materials, and help students and library patrons seek information. Robin will demonstrate how to locate journal articles, books, websites, and other resources found on the internet and accessible from your home computer. Not all internet sites are created equally and Robin will discuss how to evaluate validity and reliability of internet resources. As critical thinkers, we have many interests and Robin will show us how to focus our interests into researchable topics. Bring your questions, because “there are no dumb questions” and as critical thinkers, we want to avoid giving “dumb answers.”


Visit the CTC on Facebook here.

Friday, May 1, 2009

World Wide Telescope is Using Me!

Comet Lulin

Comet Lulin

Posted by Mully410

This picture is on the WorldWide Telescope! A while back, I told you about the Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest being held by the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, UK. Part of the sign up process involved allowing astrometry.net access to my Flickr photostream so they could send bots to add "astrotags" to my photos. Sounds all Sci-Fi and scary but it isn't.

A few days after I posted my pics from the 100 Hours of Astronomy event, the astometry.net bot crawled by the above Comet Lulin photo. Here are the results:

Hello, this is the blind astrometry solver. Your results are:
(RA, Dec) center:(100.540544592, 22.3360246962) degrees
(RA, Dec) center (H:M:S, D:M:S):(06:42:9.731, +22:20:9.689)
Orientation:-90.28 deg E of N
Pixel scale:0.83 arcsec/pixel
Parity:Normal ("Right-handed")
Field size :14.10 x 7.95 arcminutes

I won't pretend to know wtf all those numbers mean, but I suspect it has something to do with the location of the comet at the time I took the picture. The supercoolest part of this whole story is the astrometry bot left this link: View in World Wide Telescope which takes you directly to the WWT view of my pic of Comet Lulin. Be patient, it takes about 2 minutes to load the web application. Once the app loads, the view will scan around the night sky then zoom in on my pic.

The WorldWide Telescope (WWT) is a Web 2.0 visualization software environment that enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope—bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world for a seamless exploration of the universe.

This is really cool. From the comfort of you own home, you can scan the skies and view the best pics from telescopes around the world (and off the world). You want to look a nebula, they got it. You want to see the nebula in X-Ray or Infrared, they got it. You want a cool optical image, check. Take and make tours of our great universe.

Microsoft has graciously made this application FREE. You have two options: Download the full client or use the web client. I don't have enough computing power to run the full client on my cheap Dell but the requirements shouldn't be too steep for most people. The web client seems to work fine for me on the big screen TV. For more information go here.

Junkfood Science: Swine Flu update: April 29, 2009

Another very interesting update on the aporkalypse at Junkfood Science Blog...here is a snippet:

By the end of the day, panic over swine flu had reached pandemic proportions, with more than 117,607 news stories appearing on Google News. As media professor, Robert Thompson, at Syracuse University in New York, told Reuters this morning: If as many people had swine flu as those [in media] that are covering swine flu, then it would be a pandemic to reckon with.

Junkfood Science: Swine Flu update: April 29, 2009

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