3 Stories That WERE Too Good To Be True

3 articles in 3 days have exposed hoaxes and scams.

A bizarre story claiming that users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser are a lot dumber than users of Firefox, Chrome, and Opera, was unmasked in a day or 2. Wired's Epicenter reveals the hoax and sparks its perpetrator to claim it was a joke.

Bay Area Skeptics and Religion

From time to time, Bay Area Skeptics board members are asked about BAS's position on religion. We have a brief mission statement that explains our policy of religious neutrality, but like all such statements, from time to time one must consider whether it is communicating fully the organization's perspective. You can read it at http://www.baskeptics.org/about/policies

In recent correspondence with a friend about the topic of skepticism and atheism, I wrote the following, which, although not an official BAS statement, reflects what most (though not all) of the BAS officers have thought over the years. For what it's worth -- here are some additional thoughts on the matter:

Dear _____,

Karen Stollznow Hits Wikipedia's Front Page

On July 24th, Wikipedia's "Did You Know" section (front page, lower left) included "... that Karen Stollznow writes for two skeptical magazines Karen Stollznow(Skeptic and Skeptical Inquirer) and hosts two skeptical podcasts (Point of Inquiry and Monster Talk)?". Stollznow has been an active member of the Bay Area Skeptics board for several years, helping the organization use online media more effectively, among other things. Wikipedia's front-page notice helped her new article jump from 20-ish hits a day to 1,100!

To read more about her, check out her Wikipedia page.

Thunderf00t Strides Into Berkeley

Sometimes we know in advance that someone of interest to skeptics will be coming to the Bay Area, and sometimes we have to take advantage of a last-minute opportunity. One such opportunity came up on Saturday, July 23, 2011, when YouTube video producer-extraordinaire Thunderf00t was our guest at Skeptics in the Pub. About 25 people were able to attend on short notice at Jupiter, in downtown Berkeley, for conversation, food, and drink. Thunderf00t has produced a series of YouTube videos which have been viewed by hundreds of thousands.

The Textbook League Closes its Books, Remains Online

The Textbook League fought pseudoscience and other idiocy in pre-college textbooks for the last few decades. The human part of the League is disbanding, but stalwart ichthyologist Bill Bennetta is personally keeping their website online: http://www.textbookleague.org . Their reference material remains available even though they no longer send experts galloping to assorted rescues.

Do cell phones cause brain cancer?

Although we try at the BAS website to blog about Bay Area issues, sometimes national issues are so important they swamp our local focus. Dr. Robert ParkDr. Robert ParkThe issue of cell phone radiation and cancer is one of them. Of course, as members of society, Bay Area residents are tuned into this controversy as well, so perhaps it is not inappropriate to comment on it.

Do cell phones cause brain cancer? There is no epidemiological evidence to suggest the link, only anecdote (and two anecdotes, despite the common practice in the press, do not constitute "data"). Is there a reason to suspect that cell phone radiation -- close to the brain, and in the case of many heavy cell phone users, as much as several hours/day -- might be dangerous?

Water and Placebos DO Have Effects

by Norman Sperling, May 15, 2011

Some substances that are usually regarded as having no effect actually do have effects.

* Water, as in homeopathic treatments.
* Placebos, as in medical tests and treatments.

I have seen homeopathic treatments strongly criticized as being useless and having no effect, because they’re "only" water. Yet water itself has many effects.

Skeptics in the Pub Egg Balancing on (almost) the Equinox

Skeptics in the Pub Egg Balancing on (almost) the EquinoxDid you know you can balance an egg on the Equinox?! Wow!! And this year, with the gravitational pull of the "super Moon", or something, the powers should be even stronger, or something, and eggs should be balanceable even more easily!

Series on Wakefield Immunization Scandal

Adam Wakefield
Anyone interested in the scandalous story of Andrew Wakefield, whose paper in the British journal Nature and further activities have spurred the antivaccination movement, would be interested in Adam Rutherford's report on BBC Radio 4. The second part of the series airs tonight, March 24. Here's the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00zm328

John Carroll Column Tells It Like It Is Re: Science

Friends, you will enjoy an excellent column by John Carroll on March 2, 2011. Link is here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/02/28/DDTE1I0BVH.DTL

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