How psychics and mediums ply their trade

I recently had two separate interesting discussions with some other expatriate Sri Lankan friends who did not know each other. Each independently recounted their experiences with what is called a ‘light reader’ in Sri Lanka or a psychic or a medium in the US. They both talked about the same person named Hendo Hamy who lived in a village. People would go to him with various problems and he would be able to deduce why they had come to see him, what the problem was, and the resolution of the problem. Both were highly impressed by his abilities.
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Spectacular encounter between sperm whales and orcas

The ocean off the southern coast of Sri Lanka sees regular visits of large pods of sperm whales and orcas (killer whales) sometimes numbering as many as 350. This attracts both tourists and marine biologists who study these huge animals. Sperm whales eat a diet that consists mostly of squid while the orcas are meat eaters that will kill and eat sperm whales if they can.
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The napkin ring ‘paradox’

Marcus Ranum sent along this amusing video that describes the napkin ring paradox. Basically it says that if you take any two solid spheres, however much they differ in size, and if you then remove a cylinder of material from each sphere, with the cylinder passing symmetrically through the center of the sphere such that the heights of the remaining solids (which look like napkin rings) are the same, then the volume of the two rings are identical.
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Avoiding politics and religion in polite society

We are all aware of the advice that in gatherings of family and friends, two topics that should be avoided are politics and religion. I was under the impression that this was a fairly recent development but in reading the book The Scientific Revolution by Steven Shapin (1996), I learned that it dates at least as far back as the 17th century and that such prohibitions were even included in the constitutions of scientific societies.
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The algebra conundrum: Why is it seen as so difficult?

Over at Pharyngula, PZ Myers has commented on one of the periodic issues that occurs in mathematics education and that is what mathematics should form part of the general education of everyone. This time the discussion is over whether algebra should be a requirement for a basic general education. Those who argue for its removal say that it is not a skill that most people need in everyday life and that in addition, students seem to find it very hard and fail in large numbers.
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How ExxonMobil Corporation misled the public about climate science

ExxonMobil is under threat of litigation by the attorneys general of several states that they “violated, variously, racketeering, consumer protection, or investor protection statutes through their communications regarding anthropogenic global warming (AGW)”, as stated by Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes in their paper Assessing ExxonMobil’s climate change communications (1977–2014) that appeared in the August 23, 2017 issue of Environmental Research Letters (vol. 12 (2017) 084019). Supran and Oreskes show that the internal ExxonMobil documents and research supported and done by ExxonMobil largely supported the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change while their public stance was largely at odds with it.
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There’s no such thing as ‘clean coal’

As concerns about the adverse effects of burning fossil fuels on our climate became more widespread, the coal industry launched a marketing campaign to try and resurrect the image of coal, the burning of which is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases. So the friendly sounding term ‘clean coal’ was brought in. But the more accurate term is ‘clean coal technology’ because the adjective ‘clean’ really modifies ‘coal technology’ and not just ‘coal. What is being talked about are ways to minimize the release of the greenhouse gases.
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Post-eclipse reflections

As I said, I was not that excited about the total solar eclipse that passed over sections of the US yesterday. Maximum totality occurred some distance south of where I live and was reached at 2:30pm Eastern Time. It turned out that I had to take my car in for some recall work and so I was in the waiting room from 1:00pm onwards. The TV set in the room (you cannot escape the pervasive presence of TV in any public area it seems) was tuned to CNN and I was astounded that they talked about nothing but the eclipse for the entire 75 minutes while I was waiting.
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