The Amazing Meeting 2014

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James Randi Educational Foundation
What Everyone Knows PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Wagg   

bedEveryone knows.... that you should make your bed

Everyone knows... that you should wash chicken before you cook it

Everyone knows... that mayonnaise goes bad quickly

Everyone knows... that what we used to know is wrong, but what we know now is correct.

People are often wrong. Experts are only as good as their knowledge, observations, and ability to interpret what they see. In the three cases above, studies and new thinking have replaced "what everyone knows" with new knowledge – and they're all false.

While making your bed may seem tidy, it's been known by scientists for years that making your bed increases the growth of mites. During the night, you sweat and that moisture is absorbed by the bed. In turn this moisture provides a hospitable environment for the mites who breed and multiply as they feed on your dead skin cells. If their concentrations get too high, you may experience itchiness or other symptoms from their excrement. For the best results, don't make your bed, which helps it dry out during the day.

The James Randi Educational Foundation Brings Dowsing Workshop To Chicago PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Blanford   

chicago_workshopThanks to Jennifer Newport and the Chicago Skeptics for helping to host the James Randi Educational Foundation’s regional workshop in Chicago this past weekend.  Twelve attended the workshop on divination with dowsing rods and pendulums, which was offered free to JREF members. Participants made their own dowsing rods and pendulums while learning how to set up a scientific study to test their effectiveness. The workshop also included a historical review of divination as well as an in-depth look at the dangers of contemporary dowsing including the ADE 651 “bomb detector”.  

Attendees, presenters, and others were then treated to an evening of fun at the Drinking Skeptically event, again hosted by Chicago Skeptics. The night featured video from the JREF’s Amazing Adventure to the Galapagos, a talk by me on the pseudoscience of cryptozoology, a little magic, and plenty of good conversation.

Watch for information about new JREF regional workshops in additional cities to be announced soon.

Bigpaw Sightings PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Wagg   

Giant Cat?I grew up in Salem, Massachusetts during the 70's. Salem is rather like a "Fisher Price" city, in that it has a little of everything. There's a downtown, some ocean front, a bit of woods, a train station, and on the outskirts, a few farms to round things out. Unlike most cities, Salem also has a history of witchcraft, UFOs and sea monsters.

None of those particularly concerned us, but all the kids knew about the monster that was killing 1000-pound pigs at the farm near Thomson's Meadow, a large forboding swamp.

There were actually two different incidents that I remember. One involved a very large dead pig, and tracks that resembed a "fishing cat." I learned that this was a cat from India, not to be confused with the "fisher cat" of the marten family, and that the theory was that some "Hell's Angels" had released one in the woods.

As a kid, I wondered why and how the Hell's Angel's would posses a large jungle cat. Did it ride in a sidecar? Several years later, another cat was supposedly sighted around the meadow. This time, however, I was heavily involved with the Boy Scouts, and I went on a camping trip a few hundred yards from said meadow. I specifically remember being too scared to answer a night-time call of nature, and resolving to wait until daylight. I had a nightmare about being attacked by a giant cat, and woke to find that dawn had broken.  I unzipped the tent, and slowy crawled out into the campsite. Then I heard the distinctive call of a mountain lion. 

Evidence That Homeopathy Works* PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Wagg   

*for some definitions of "evidence."

Swift reader Jeff (Yes, there is more than one of us) sent this article from the American Journal of Infectious Disease along in response to my Big Homeopathy piece from a few days ago. Take a look at the report, which is downloadable as a PDF.

I am not an epidemioligist, histologist, or a scientist of any type. I'm just a lay person with an interest in science, and at a glance, that article looks like science to me. It's in a professional science journal, on a site that warehouses scientific content, and it's in a format that matches my vague understanding of how scientific papers are presented.

And, in that brief glance, I can see their conclusion: "Ultradiluted belladonna could inhibit JE virus infection." In other words, this study backs up the claim that homeopathy works.

James Randi Meets the Next Generation of Skeptics at Camp Inquiry PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Blanford   

DSC_0083_copyFor the last two years, I have had the great pleasure of being part of Camp Inquiry.  Camp Inquiry is the summer camp put on every July in Holland, New York by the Center For Inquiry.  The camp, for children aged seven to sixteen, offers the kind of activities that are found at most summer camps. You’ll see volleyball, water balloons, campfires, sing-alongs, and nature hikes, but there’s much more, and that’s what makes it so special. CI puts a special emphasis on helping children navigate the big questions that we all face: Who am I? Why am I here? What can I know? What ought I to do? This is done with the help of special guests including artists, writers, scientists, and public intellectuals who give lectures and workshops, but also share s’mores around the campfire and get into deep conversations  . After just five minutes at CI, it is obvious that this place is unique. This year’s guests included Jennifer Michael Hecht, Dale McGowan, Ben Radford, and of course, James Randi.

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