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Brain Machine Interfaces – Now with Two-Fisted Action PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Steve Novella   
Friday, 08 November 2013 10:26

I am usually very cautious about predicting future technological development, informed by how poorly past predictions match the present. I will, however, occasionally go out on a limb and tentatively predict when I feel certain technologies are likely to have a huge impact in the future. After all – some past predictions were fairly accurate. In the early 1990’s we felt that the Internet was about to change the world, and it did.

One such technology that I have been following is the brain-machine interface (BMI). Researchers in several institutions have been making steady progress in getting computer chips to talk to brains and vice versa. There are occasional milestones worth pointing out in this research, and I believe we have just passed one – the development of a BMI that allows a rhesus monkey to control two robot arms simultaneously.

God Bless America PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Karen Stollznow   
Thursday, 07 November 2013 09:00

Do Satanists really sacrifice babies, skin cats and vandalize graves? Are the Amish allowed to drive carsBook Cover and use computers? Do Quakers wear plain dress, eat oats and address each other as “Thee”?

There are many stereotypes about minority religious groups in America and my latest book confirms some of these but also disproves many others. God Bless America explores a range of religious beliefs and practices that are still found in the United States today and looks at many that are on the increase.

Despite “God’s” appearance in the title this isn’t just a book for atheists; it’s also for humanists, skeptics and those who are just curious about culture. Many themes will be of interest to skeptics, including the Law of Attraction, faith healing, Voodoo folk medicine, Amish alternative medicine, and claims of satanic ritual abuse.

This book answers many burning questions about these people and their ideologies and customs. Is Scientology really a “church”? Can a Quaker also be a Buddhist or even an atheist? How did speaking in tongues really begin? What happens during an Amish date and how is polygamy practiced in fundamentalist Mormon communities?


Loss Aversion: Good Money After Bad PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jamy Ian Swiss   
Wednesday, 06 November 2013 09:00

Last week, NPR ran a story about the psychology of “loss aversion,” and its apparent influence on international policymaking. The reporter interviewed Jeffrey Berejikian, a political scientist, who has pursued innovative studies about this psychological phenomenon as it might affect international negotiations about trade and trade sanctions.

The phenomenon of loss aversion has been studied in many contexts. I tracked down a paper Dr. Berejikian co-authored in 2008, entitled “Loss Aversion as Motivation: The Case of American Trade Policy.” Therein the authors begin by pointing out that (please note that I have removed the scholarly citations for ease of reading):

“In economics and marketing, the importance of loss aversion is well understood. It affects consumer purchasing patterns ranging from athletic event tickets … to gift certificates, to pizza topping. It can reduce the volume of transitions in the market place, and it explains the premium of stock over bond returns. Individual attitudes about the value of clean air, lottery tickets), and even time available for work are contoured by loss aversion.”

Bogus psychic takedown: This week in Doubtful News for November 5, 2013 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sharon Hill   
Tuesday, 05 November 2013 12:00

 It was a bit of a rough week at Doubtful News , we wrangled with our web host provider regarding an absurd copyright complaint by a psychic who was disgruntled that another alleged psychic by the same name had been indicted for fraud. I guess she didn't care much to be in that company. The resulting complaint, which should have gone straight to the trash, resulted in heavy-handed action by our web provider. You can read all about it here. But it does signal that those of us who are critics of the fringe are susceptible to bullying tactics even when we try to do the right thing.

So, we are up on a new host, I'm glad to say, bringing you a few choice cuts of news from the week.

Skeptic History: November Anniversaries PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tim Farley   
Tuesday, 05 November 2013 09:00

 One of my projects is to research the history of skepticism, and relay what I find for the benefit of newer skeptics. The hope is that they can learn from the past to know how we've arrived where we are today.  To this end, I post a daily fact from skeptic history on social media.  

Here are a few notable skeptic-relevant anniversaries for November 2013:

50th Anniversary: On November 1, 1963 LIFE magazine ran a feature titled "Crackdown on Quackery" which exposed several fraudulent quacks. It also spawned the lawsuit Dietemann v. Time Inc. which resulted in limits on the use of subterfuge in undercover journalism.

50th Anniversary: On November 2, 1963 the American Medical Association created a Committee on Quackery, beginning a decades-long battle with chiropractic that ended in a lengthy lawsuit (Wilk v. AMA) which the AMA lost in 1987.

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