I hate April’s Fool Day

When I was younger, I didn’t mind April 1st, and the April 1st jokes it brought with it, but that has changed since then – now I hate April 1st for all the fake news stories, the fake social media posts, and other nonsense it brings with it.

When I was a kid, newspapers and news broadcasts would have a fake story somewhere, which could be fun to figure out. This was before the internet though, so it was fairly limited what sort of harm it could do.

Now, the internet exist, and fake news can spread wide and far before they are debunked. People will share screenshots, headlines etc., which won’t be updated when the fake story is, keeping the fake news alive for months if not years.

Given how much fake stuff that already exists in the form of “satire” websites and outright fraudulent websites, there is absolutely no need for a special day to promote fake stories.

I already have to be critical of every new site I come across, so why would I want to also have to be overly skeptical of news stories from otherwise reliable sources, even if it is only for a day.

Let’s retire April’s Fool Day.

Copenhagen Skeptics in the Pub is starting up again

After having taken a break for a couple of months, Copenhagen Skeptics in the Pub is starting up again, and it already have a few events up. All of the events are in Danish, and it is free to participate, though the bar probably would appreciate it if you bought something to drink.

All links takes you to a facebook event.

Er vegansk kost skadelig for småbørns vækst og udvikling? happens on April 8th 19:30 at Heidis Bier Bar.

Myten om den hvide gud – Erobringen af Mexico happens on May 6th 19:30 at Heidis Bier Bar.

Bæredygtige byggematerialer i en global konkurrence – hvordan? happens on June 3rd 19:30 at Heidis Bier Bar.

More events are being planned.

Due to Facebook’s attempt to getting pages to pay for exposing their events, it seems like the events are seen by a lot less people, so if you are a Danish skeptic, please share the events, so other people might see them.

A piece of skeptic history on sale – the Cottingley Fairies hoax pictures

Hoaxes have been around forever, and most of the historic hoaxes have been forgotten by now – one historic hoax which is still remembered, however, is the Cottingley Fairies. One major reason for this, is probably because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got taken in, and defended the pictures.

Now it is possible to buy the historic hoax pictures. Or it is, if you have enought money.

Cottingley Fairies hoax pictures expected to fetch £2,000 at auction

Photographs of what is considered to be one of the greatest hoaxes of the 20th century are expected to fetch more than £2,000 when they are sold at auction.

The two images of the Cottingley Fairies were taken in July and September 1917 by 16-year-old Elsie Wright and her nine-year-old cousin Frances Griffiths, in the village of Cottingley, near Bingley in Yorkshire.

I would think that £2,000 is on the low end – I could easily see skeptics, Sherlock Holmes/Arthur Conan Doyle fans, and others go into a bidding war.

Do video gamers have an advantage in learning?

Perhaps, at least according to ScienceDaily, who has a write up of a press release on a paper Games people play: How video games improve probabilistic learning. The paper is unfortunately behind a pay-wall, but the ScienceDaily write-up describes it thus:

Neuropsychologists of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum let video gamers compete against non-gamers in a learning competition. During the test, the video gamers performed significantly better and showed an increased brain activity in the brain areas that are relevant for learning. Prof Dr Boris Suchan, Sabrina Schenk and Robert Lech report their findings in the journal Behavioural Brain Research.

This sounds interesting, and would obviously be good ammunition for all the young people wanting to play more computer.

Unfortunately, from the rest of the description of the article, it might be too early to start celebrating.

The research team studied 17 volunteers who — according to their own statement — played action-based games on the computer or a console for more than 15 hours a week. The control group consisted of 17 volunteers who didn’t play video games on a regular basis. Both teams did the so-called weather prediction task, a well-established test to investigate the learning of probabilities. The researchers simultaneously recorded the brain activity of the participants via magnetic resonance imaging.

There are some serious problems with the paper, as it is described.

First of all, the sample is tiny – there is 34 people in it. And since it consists of volunteers, the participants are self-selected.

Also, it appears that there were no blinding. We know that there are many ways to affect how well someone does on a test – even by just reminding people of stereotypes just before the test. This might be the case here.

On top of that, they have used a type of test, which could very likely appeal to the same people, to whom computer games are appealing.

There might be something here, but let’s not start forcing kids to play computer games just yet.

Who will be at QED?

The QED conference is coming up in Manchester, and I will be attending this year.

The program looks frustrating and amazing – frustrating because I want to several things at the same time, amazing because of the sheer quality of the speakers.

I haven’t decided what I am going to see yet, except that I am definitely wants to see the Z List Dead List session.

If you are at the conference, feel free to say hi