Skepticon 8, for the novelty


It has just been announced that you can now register for Skepticon 8. You may do so. Only…the announcement includes an ominous warning:

We know that Skepticon 8 is 6 months away, but we can hardly stand it! We want to see you all again! In the coming weeks we’re going to start announcing speakers and this year, for the first time EVER, there will be NO REPEATS!


Get excited! I know we are!

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Hither and yon


Here’s an interview I did with Arturo Elosegi in Durango, Spain a few weeks ago — it’s in English with Basque subtitles, so we’ll all be able to understand it.

I’m still not entirely recovered from travel-induced chrono-sickness, but I’ve got a few more journeys to make in June. I’m going to Michigan!

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I get email

This one is rather pedestrian, sorry to say — just another bible-thumper. I looked at some of his links, and he seems to be a bible-code-thumper, so even sillier. But his claim to have a scientific map of hell caught my attention.

“The Old Testament is a false history of the world. It should not be trusted” – Charles Darwin

Archaeology proves the man Jesus quoted on hell is 18 for 18 –

“I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity” – Charles Darwin

“He who does not believe in the Son of God is condemned already” – John 3:18

“Hell from beneath. Everlasting burnings” – Isaiah

A Scientific Map of Hell:

“Go! and warn people so they do not come here. I am tormented in this flame!
Please! give me just one drop of water to cool my tongue” – Luke 16

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Republicans and Creationists are simply wrong


Alex Berezow is annoyed. Slate is picking on poor Republicans and Christians for their anti-science views! How dare they! Don’t they know Democrats and atheists are just as bad?

It’s a complaint that ignores reality. We can look at the voting record of congress: it’s eerie how polarized it is, and how the Republicans line up in lockstep to vote against any policies that might combat climate change, for instance. We can look at the current slate of Republican presidential candidates, and it’s terrifying — Huckabee, Santorum, Carson, etc.? Are you really going to argue that it’s one-sided to point out that the anti-science agenda of the Republican party is blatantly in contrast to that of the Democratic party (not that I’m a big fan of Democrats or Obama or Clinton: they are lukewarm swill against the toxic, corrosive sludge of the Republicans)? Of course he thinks it is.

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The chocolate diet, or how to lie with science


I have to say that I was positively thrilled by this article on how you can lose weight by eating chocolate. It encapsulates so many things I try to drill into my students — I’ll probably use it in my genetics class as an example of bad statistics, and my writing class as an example of using science writing skills for evil.

Here’s the deal: chocolate doesn’t help you lose weight. But if you confuse the data with a large number of variables that you ignore, and do a little unscrupulous p-hacking, you can get an effect with statistical significance. So these authors set out to produce a bad study in nutritional science, and see if they can get it to be publicized.

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Junk DNA: A Journey Through the Dark Matter of the Genome


I made a dreadful mistake. Before embarking on my trip to Germany, with those long transatlantic flights, I stocked up my Kindle with a couple of books to keep me entertained. One of them was Nessa Carey’s Junk DNA: A Journey Through the Dark Matter of the Genome. It was a poor investment. I could not finish it. I got maybe a half hour worth of reading out of it before I was too exasperated to continue, and instead watched a ghastly Night at the Museum sequel being shown on the plane’s entertainment system. It was a terrible movie, but better than this book.

Actually, it didn’t take me a half hour to become peevish. The very first page after the acknowledgments, in a section called “Notes on Nomenclature,” contained this abomination.

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