Reimagined and Revamped. Fighting the spread of nonsense often feels like a Sisyphean task. However, the joy is in making the information available, not the hope of conversion.

Holy Crap




I'm speechless


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TechBit: New Emotions

Need some help from you folks out there. Wife and I were talking last night about horrible man who recently killed his family. We started talking about how emotions affect our perception and logic. I thought of something weird.

It seems clear that some people, at some times, lack some emotions like compassion or guilt (for example I can't even imagine the emotional abyss required to allow yourself to kill your kids, particularly toddlers). But given our normal range of emotions that we identify, why couldn't there be emotions that we do not have.

When I mentioned this, my wife looked at me strangely, laughed and then asked "Like what?". Of course I couldn't answer. I didn't mean to imply that I knew, just that perhaps they could exist. As an example, presume life evolves on another planet, why would we expect that they have the same emotions (never mind values) that we do.

How would we identify a new emotion that we as humans don't have? If in 30,000 years we evolve a new emotion, how would we recognize it?


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Tech Bit: Asking for evidence

Dear Republicans,

Present evidence that lowering taxes for wealthy businesses provides any economic stimulus whatsoever or shut the hell up.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program.


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Homeopathy equivocation


This is not going to be a unique post about homeopathy or natural rememdies, or equivocation. In keeping with my mission, I'm writing this post as simply one more place to find on the internet as an article that extracts good and points our nonsense of a body of so-called knowledge that pervades our society. I am not the first to point out that homeopathy is bunk, I certainly won't be the last.

Homeopathy, despite the horrible pervasiveness, is utter nonsense. Let's clear one thing up immediately so that we can see why I say that. Homeopathy cures the exact same things that water and sugar cure. Nothing more and nothing less. It is also fatal in the cases where homeopathy is used where evidence based medicine should have been, for example kidney failure, malaria, pneumonia, and so forth. These are the same things that could kill you if you treat them with water or sugar pills.

The reason for this is that homeopathy is water or sugar pills. How do I know this? Because this is what the practitioners of homeopathy tell you it is. There are no lies out there as to what it is. There are three fundamental flaws in the reasoning behind homeopathy that make it absolutely bizarre that anyone anywhere takes it seriously.

1. Law of similars
This is the idea that "like cures like". An example described at the National Center for Homeopathy discusses ipecac, a substance derived from the root of Ipecacuanha. It causes vomiting, and we use it for this feature. The idea is that since it causes vomiting, then if you are vomiting for another reason, then taking ipecac should cure it.

2. dilution
But why would taking something to make you throw up fix you when you are already throwing up? Ahhhhh that doesnt really make sense, that just sounds like you will throw up even more. Well, to counter the 'toxic effects' of the extract, it is diluted. The more diluted the stronger. So when you buy a homeopathic remedy it has a reference in its ingredients it might say something like 10x or 10c, or 30c. The higher the better.

What does that mean? Let's let the Society of Homeopaths answer this:

How are the remedies made?
...The raw extracts (from plants or animals) or triturations (from minerals and salts) are made into a ‘tincture’ with alcohol which forms the basis of the dilution procedure. Dilutions are made up to either 1 part tincture to 10 parts water (1x) or 1 part tincture to 100 parts water (1c). Repeated dilution results in the familiar 6x, 6c or 30c potencies that can be bought over the counter: the 30c represents an infinitessimal part of the original substance.
What happens at 12c? (My bold)
Are homeopathic remedies safe?
Homeopathic remedies are a unique, potentised energy medicine, drawn from the plant, mineral and animal worlds. They are diluted to such a degree that not one molecule of the original substance can be detected (after the 12c potency).
To be clear, a 30c solution (the strongest by homeopathic standards) is more dilute than putting a drop of the tincture into the Atlantic ocean. So, if there is nothing in there. Why does it work? Its the shaking that embues the substance with its magic healing power
...the critical component of shaking ('succussion') between serial dilutions without which they would, indeed, be merely water rather than potentised substances.
3. No evidence, No Provenance

Evidence

The reason evidence based medicine works so well is that it is checked for its efficacy. The single most powerful tool in the arsenal for doing this is the double blind controlled study. With this tool we can determine if a procedure, method or substance is not only superior to other methods, procedures, and substances in treating an ailment, but we can check if its better than something known to not treat the ailment, like water, saline or sugar, otherwise known as a placebo.

But even with controlled studies, there still has to be verification and improvement of the study. This is because its expensive to do this studies properly. So pilot studies are done with few (as low as 5 or 10) participants. These are good as a screening mechanism to answer the question "should we check further?".

So what happens, homeopaths do a pilot study, usually poorly, and then claim success. Then when the test is repeated under more controlled conditions with more participants, lo and behold, the homeopathic remedy works as well as water does. With good reason, it is water. There is even a challenge out there, for free money that challenges any homeopath to do a proper study on homeopathy and show statistically (as opposed to interpreted) significant results. Their money is safe. Why? Because homeopathy is water.

Provenance
This is a great post on provenance and why it is important. Let me sum up by quoting:
If the claim is based on earlier sound science – backed by quality evidence – it is more likely to be true. Not certain to be true, of course. But it will at least have scientific plausibility. But if the claim is based on something that was just made up, then it seems much less likely it would be true.
Where did homeopathy come from? Well it turns out that homeopathy is based on the personal experience of one man, Samuel Hahnemann. He was born in Germany in 1775 and published his homeopathy work in 1810.

So how did he come to his conclusion?
...he read the claim that the drug, cinchona (Peruvian Bark), was effective in treating the symptoms of malaria because it was a bitter astringent and had a tonic effect on the stomach.

Hahnemann rejected this claim outright as it suggests that other drugs which had these characteristics should have a beneficial effect on malarial states, which they don’t. In order to establish exactly what effects cinchona did have on the human organism he decided to take the drug himself. He began to administer doses of cinchona to himself over a short period of time and discovered that this bark actually created malaria-like symptoms in a healthy individual. Hahnemann reasoned that it was the similarity of symptoms that somehow produced the healing effect. This prompted the postulation of the first principle of homoeopathy: “like cures like.”
There is no provenance for homeopathy. It popped out of the blue from the personal experience of one man. It is not the result of an improvement of prior work, it is subject to all the biases that comes with research in a box. Was it his own opinion that he had malaria like symptoms? Or was he just feeling sick from poisoning himself? He got better when he stopped poisoning himself, and somehow made the jump that poisoning himself less would cure a disease that has nothing to do with the poison. Please note...he never caught malaria nor cured it to check his theory.

One more item on homeopathy. Its not ancient and it is not Chinese. Its less than 200 years old and its from Germany. But even if it were, just becuase something is old and from an unfamiliar area doesn't make it good. The average lifespan of chinese people in 1900 was around 25 (it was 47 for us), as late as 1956 is was only 35. To claim that there is anything good about ancient medicine that has not been verified with evidence is beyond ridiculous.

Enough of homeopathy.

Equivocation with natural remedies
The biggest problem right now with homeopathy is that is is often confused with natural remedies. In fact, the pushers of homeopathy enjoy this confusion as it allows them to slip the sales of pure water under the auspices of natural remedies, of which many are real.

Lets define a natural remedy: A medicine prepared from plants or a chemical that occurs naturally. So extracts from various plants are included, but so are vitamins, even hormones. Clearly there are natural remedies that can help us, and they are not watered down to nothing.

So if we have a diet that is low in vitamin C for example, we would choose a natural remedy of eating vitamin C or a diet with more fruits, particularly citrus, in it. So clearly there is a natural remedy for scurvy (which is sadly still not unheard of today). There are a number of natural remedies that have gone through double blind testing and shown to have efficacy:

  • Aloe has some evidence that it is good for constipation and skin irritations.
  • Devil's Claw has some evidence that it can reduce pain
  • Ginko Biloba has some evidence that it can help with pain due to clogged arteries and dementia
  • Psyllium can help with high cholesterol
  • Saw Palmetto can help with urination issues
  • St Johns Wort can be used to reduce depression
(That's a pretty cool site in those links, however I have not looked into the standards applied to that chart, but you can look more into it here. However, they are clear that these things do not work for everything and many of the herbs, like echinacaea, are shown to have no evidence of doing anything, so I am inclined to go along with this, but the only grade I would accept to indicate a useful herb is an A. If the grade is B it indicates that pilot studies show a positive result, while a better controlled study found no such result)

The point is that there is no controversy that there are, in fact, remedies that grow naturally. Evidence based medicine recognizes it. Each claim must be assessed individually. Then, if efficacy is found, the active ingredient, ingredients or mechanism can be weaned out, understood and used. This doesn't mean that all things that grow in nature are good for you (poison ivy, arsenic) or can be used for something (I encourage you to peruse the list for your favorite herb).

But when you equivocate homeopathy and natural remedies you are not only endowing the homeopathy with undeserved respect, you are lowering the importance of the natural remedies that have been researched with positive evidence made available for its efficacy. In order to keep the eye on the ball, we must be tsting the claims of people who say that one herb or another is good for us.

This goes for equivocating the ancient Chinese secret fallacy with evidentially supported natural remedies. You weaken the standing of the good, verified remedies by relying on an appeal to ancient ways.



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Cue the wackos


Can we presume the same folks who were behind the Obama birth certificate nonsense will now be behind the new theory that since Obama did not deliver the oath as written in the Constitution, then he is not the president.

I'm waiting....

UPDATE: Dang it! They prevented the wackos from clamoring by retaking the oath. Apparently they think there are the same wackos out there. Same "So help me god" in there, no bible this time.


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Hope


"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers."


Thank you Mr. President. Its about time.


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Never ceases to amaze me

It truly never does.

A supremely skilled and well trained pilot lands an aircraft on water. This aircraft is the product of rigorous engineering practices, safety guidelines, intense simulation, and decades of design evolution. The 40 thousand pound aircraft freaking floats because it was designed that way! The engines are specifically designed and tested to not explode from a birdstrikes and have been for years.

But instead of thanking people, what do we hear?

"God was certainly looking out for all of us."

God flings two birds at your plane, and you say he is looking out for you?

Remarkable.


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I just can't get into it.

I am fully on the side that Bush has done more to ruin this country than any other president before him , either by direct action, inaction, or vicariously through the action of members of his cabinet and vice president (in particular his vice president). I doubt I can come out stronger in this regard. I cant find a single metric that shows that some policy or executive order on his part lead to something positive for this country (although I do have a post on that brewing).

That being said, I just can't get on board with this:

I sincerely believe that President-elect Obama's top priority upon taking office should involve appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration for war crimes and other criminal abuses of power.


Yes, I fully understand the sentiment that if he doesn't get punished for what will probably be found to be illegal, treasonous, and so forth, then there are people in positions in this country who are in fact, above the law. I really get that.

I get that some more neo-cons will rightly think, "Well we got away with it last time, why not again?" Yes, I really get that too.

I get that torturing is, and should be illegal. That it should be punished and people should be held accountable. I really get that also.

I get that warrantless wiretapping on American citizens, no matter where they are calling, is a bad thing, shouldn't be done.

I really truly get all that. But I can't seem to get past the fact that Obama is as human as you or me. He is probably as smart as you or me. Anyone you has been in a managerial position like I have knows that mistakes can be made, even with lots of good advice. So I think Obama is already on track to fuck up royally once or twice, and pretty soon at that.

We already know the circus that happens when we start doing these investigations and prosecutions. We know the negative results we get from those activities: polarization, tens of millions of dollars getting spent, likely punishments that don't fit the crime. I mean the Valarie Plame incident is an act of treason, punishable by death. Are we really going to put Bush to death? Of course this same crime can be simply punished by a minimum of 5 years in jail and 10 grand (or so I read), do we expect to see Bush in jail? Good luck with that.

No, there is some serious cleanup work to do. Really serious. Obama is going to screw up some of the cleanup work. Its pretty much guaranteed (of course I hope I am wrong). The ultimate benefit of fixing this disgrace of a presidency will come when democrats and centrists in the future can simply compare a conservatives ideas to that of Bush, the WPE (Worst President Ever).

In 8 years, I want to ask conservative to explain to me how things are worse than when conservatives were given free reign from the year 2001 to 2007. That should be a funny explanation.

Please, someone, inspire me to get on board with the witch hunt. As it stands now, I just can't get into it.

update:
I think I figured out where my apathy on this subject is coming from. as I wrote over at Vjacks,
I can't get past the fact that we, as a country voted for him the second time after most of this crap was done. Its like allowing a company to dump PCBs in a river and then making them clean it up 20 years later. If it was a legal dumping in the first place, boo on the govt agency that allowed it, not the company. If the company dumped in the river despite being told not to, boo on the company and they should pay.
I may have been right in my pre-election contentions about Bush. I may not have liked how people voted, but they did it nonetheless. They essentially told him, "What you are doing is OK". I think that is where my apathy on this subject is coming from.


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Go poop in your house


How many times have I heard that people who are "green" or want to conserve energy should not be participating in things that consume energy? For example Christmas Tree lighting ceremonies. The logic goes as follows:

  • You want people to save trees
  • You want people to consume less electricity and fuel
  • Therefore you should not be participating in an activity that cuts down trees, uses fuel to move the huge tree, and uses electricity to keep it lit.
The argument has been taken further, to mean that if you are someone who thinks we should act against artificial climate change, then you should live in the woods, in a mud house and raise chickens and lettuce.

This attitude is epitomized in this article at Fox (no surprise there).


But this time, this 72 foot tall, eight-ton weed will be lit with 30,000 energy-efficient LED lights. That makes the tree truly “green,” as opposed to, you know, just green.

Now, this is the equivalent of Kirstie Alley ordering four Big Macs and then washing it down with diet Coke.

I mean, imagine the fuel required to bring a tree the size of a whale from New Jersey, where it grew up. It also needs a custom made telescoping trailer, as well as a huge crew. The damn thing also has a 750-pound star — almost twice the size of Joy Behar.

See, this just shows how the green movement is a stupid joke: An ideology for idiots, where symbolism trumps substance and feeling good is all that matters, even if that feeling has no basis in reality.

I mean, if you really believe in going green, then cancel the tree lighting altogether and replace it with a pagan prayer recited by a naked Ed Begley, Jr.

So, the reasoning goes, you are a hypocrite if you want a society that cares about the environment, unless you do not do any activities that provide any harm to the environment. Its a strawman. The Greens and Cleans, are not asking everyone to stop using electricity, they are not asking people to shop only in Salvation army or to farm their own stuff. There is a place somewhere in that huge middle ground that can work for everyone and the earth. The idea is to have more available energy to use, but that this energy comes ultimately comes from the sun (wind, solar) or the earth (geothermal) and while we are not getting the energy this way, to conserve what we have.

The strawman argument has a good analogy: Poop. I never intended on writing a whole post on poop, but here goes.

At some point, even before Hammurabi, we moved out of our caves where we were just pooping near the entrance when it was cold, or even in the caves! We created some civilization, and as far back as Mesopotamia (six thousand years ago), we were building systems that were designed to deal with our poop. In mesopotamia, we have found evidence that holes in the floor was made where the fecal matter dropped down into a cesspool.

Later, in Greece and in eastern countries, waste was often dealt with in the street. A home may have had a latrine but the waste would leave the latrine, via an open topped clay trough, and taken into the street. The street itself would have gutters for the waste to flow to a final destination. A very complete description of human waste management in ancient Greece can be found here and here. They had both public and private latrines. The Greek even had toilet shaped seats, sewer systems (that could be walked in) and pipe networks. This is all pretty advanced for 2-4 thousand years ago! In many ways human waste management had not progressed from there for another 2-3 thousand years!

That is not to say there weren't improvments. The Romans certainly improved health by providing a better water source by which to wash away human waste. Most people are familiar with the Roman aqueduct system. This system not only provided potable water to the population, but also a reliable method by which to wash waste out of populated areas. It was in these times where it became clear that the government was heavily relied upon to provide a system by which poop could be taken away from the living spaces.

In the late 1500s, the beginnings of the modern toilet started making way. It was Sir John Harrington who created a flushing device for the queen to take her poop away to a cesspool.

It was not until the 1800s, when John Crapper was in business manufacturing flushing toilets, so
that not just the rich could get them. But it was not he who invented the flush down system, nor the idea that having an elbow inteh drain would prevent sewer gases from rising back up into the water closet. That honor went to his contemporary George Jennings.

While the comfort and cleanliness of the personal bowel movement improved, it was the government that was required to take all that poop out to the river. for example, in Victorian times it was the
Metropolitan Board of Works of London who put together the plans and actions to dump the poop from the citizens of London into the Thames river, to put it bluntly.

In the late 1800's and early 1900's wastewater treatment centers started to crop up. The primary purpose of these systems is to prevent concentrated wastewater from large populations from going into the nearest river as raw sewage, which is dangerous for the fish population, but also for humans and animals that use the river for recreation or work.

However, it has never been an act of individuals or small groups of individuals who have put in these methods of moving poop from inside the home to out of town. In every case it has been the large investment of the local or national government that has implemented the way to help the population keep clean. It really isnt just the moving of poop. Its the cleaning of streets, the providing of clean water, removing of garbage, and so forth that in fact have brought a heightened cleanliness, health and longevity to our populations, not to mention a better smell in the streets.

This long, but hardly complete, journey into the history of poopdom was initiated to counter the idea that Greens should be living in a mud hut. By this logic, the people who didn't want poop in the streets should have gone and lived in the woods by themselves. Instead, most people, surely not without vigorous debate, decided to go ahead and spend great sums of money to move the poop out. And the government charges everyone in taxes for this benefit.

This is the same thing the green movement is promoting. Living in a mud hut does nothing to prevent the present and future suffering that is caused not just by pollution, but reliance on fossil fuels also. Greens still want to celebrate, still want to read at night, still want the same resources that are available to them to be available to their children. But it will take large expensive actions to provide these benefits, much like the aqueduct and sewer systems of old. There will still be individuals and companies who make the specific inventions and getting rich (like the toilet makers), but to implement the strategies that will help prevent suffering and improve our economy and reduce conflict, we need to have the government do the big projects (like the aqueducts).

So the next time someone tries this line of argument with you about whether you should buy a TV if you want to conserve energy; just tell them to go poop in their house if that is the way they insist on thinking.

Submit to Skeptical Blog Anthology 2009


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Pascal's Wager, Science style


I have noticed over the last year or two, that versions of Pascals Wager have been used to justify one position over another in the media on what are generally scientific arenas.

This is not a post on Pascal's Wager in its original form. Nor am I going to spend any time countering it. This has been effectively done over the last 340 years. It is effectively countered with an atheists wager.

However, the philosophical exercise that it incurs happens quite often in this information age. Behold: Global Warming.



I have written about global warming before. In that post I listed the specific reasons why we should be trusting the scientists who are predicting harsh outcomes of ignoring it. I don't think its the end of the world, and I don't think humans will be wiped out. I think that if we do not pay attention to it, we will be causing tremendous suffering around the world. Its immoral to not act to reduce it.

Now, we can not ignore the fact that there is no scientist who is 100% certain that all the doom and gloom will happen. We simply look at the evidence and act accordingly. The stronger the evidence, the more firm we should be in our resolve. However, there are a number of sites that are pointing out chinks in the global warming armor. We can't ignore them, we need to add valid data sets to our body of knowledge, and throw out the bad ones. Its the conclusions from these data sets that are the problem, not the data.

As a quick example, when I looked today at WattsUpWithThat they are talking about a volcano exploding, and therefore AGW won't be a problem, even Greg Laden said that (perhaps in jest). This of course doesnt stop the issues associated with continued CO2 release, it just makes a few colder years. It does nothing for the long term trend nor ocean acidification.

Anyway, the AGW denialist do come up with valid data (it happens), it can't be ignored, it must be added. But its the denialism that leads to legislative actions or business decision. Now we can compare to Pascal's wager. Pascal's wager and the atheists wager can be summarized in a table like this:

So, depending on how you define the parameters, you can generate a chart like this for anything. For example, global warming



Now if you already believe that we need to act against global warming, as I do, this makes perfect sense and seems like a good argument. Lets look at what someone else might think. These folks happen to have their own wagering chart, they are truly bizarre on many fronts, but they have their chart.
See? The definitions of good and bad are made so that All the squares are bad or all good or all irrelevant, depending on your point of view.

The point is that, when it comes to science and acting upon the conclusions of science, creating dichotomies and presuming that science doesn't actually know jack, is an exercise in futility. You will simply be making these arguments based on pre-existing assumptions. The reason we use science is to evaluate our observations, verify that our theories work and the check the predictive power and use those results. We shouldn't be fighting global warming because its the safer of the two bets, we should be fighting it because the evidence leads us to the conclusion that we will be causing tremendous suffering if we don't.


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Wait....what?!? Who??

"Jan. 6, 1912: Birth of the Supreme Tech Skeptic"

But but..this guy is almost completely the opposite of me....

"He studied the work of Karl Marx and embraced a good deal of Marxist theory, which he did not consider in conflict with his religious beliefs... He became a Christian at 22, and his strong faith — Ellul defined himself as a Christian universalist — underpinned all his work...

Ellul's ambivalence toward technology was grounded in large part in his religious and social convictions. He believed that "technological tyranny," represented by the increasing encroachment of modern technology into our private lives, posed a threat to both human freedom and faith."


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TechBit: Best Game Ever

I have been reminiscing today. I was talking about computer games with some friends of mine. Then I started looking at some "all time best games" that are around the internet.

I have yet to see a list with my favorite game ever made


Sacrifice: I have yet to play a a game that I have liked more than this one that isn't an MMO (I got totally hooked into World of Warcraft, Anarchy Online and Ultima Online, the last of which extended my PhD an extra 6 months).


This is not to say that there arent other good games out there, there certainly are. But even Warcraft, StarCraft and other RTSs, while certainly good, didnt capture my imagination and attention like Sacrifice did.

While the company that made this game, Shiny, has now been swallowed up, I would love to see a sequel or even just a refresh of this same game out there.

If you can get a copy of it in the discount bins, I highly recommend it.


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Tech Bits: virus and iphone

I just got a virus on my computer. It was very annoying since it slipped through Zone Alarm and apparently slips through Norton also. Not sure of the name of it (I think it's gadcom.exe), but what it does is continually open browser pages to sagipsul.com, which then opens some page for one ad or another.

I ran my antivirus (Zone), it didnt correct it. Ran the Zone anti-spyware, didnt help. So I did some searching for this. This is where I found the damn trojan to be insidious. There are some programs out there that can fix it, but something in the virus knows the download sites for them and doesnt let you download it. One is called malwarebytes (v1.3), the other is called Combofix. The dang virus wouldn't let me download either one.

However, what worked for me, was to open another browser (I normally use firefox, so I tried to open IE) and download it from there. This miraculously worked. I used ComboFix. It cleared it out. If this happens to you, well I hope this works for you as well as it did for me.

iPhone:
OK, maybe I'm just stupid for not reading the instruction. Its an Apple product, you shouldn't have to read the instructions! But it took me months to realize that there is a button inside the microphone (the part in focus) of the headphones.

One day I was trying to talk on the phone when I went to the bathroom (what? like you haven't done that!). As I flushed, I covered the microphone with my hand so the other person could not hear. When I squeezed the microphone it hung up the phone and the music came back on. I pressed it twice more and the song skipped to the next song. Later I pressed it when the person called me back and it answered the call!

Well if you didnt know about that feature, your iPhone life will be much easier now.


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Tech fully supports the Irfans

To me, this is more reason why critical thinking truly needs to be taught far better and be far more embraced by our society.

Behold, AirTran and the Irfans.

You see... the Irfans are Muslim, and you know they don't look like white Christians. So when some people of middle eastern decent get on a plane and start discussing where the safest place to sit might me, of course we should immediately start suspecting them of being suicide bombers, or justr bombers.... or what exactly? I dont get it.

Note to stupid whilte folk and their dumb children: if a suicide bomber is on a plane, why in the world might he be talking about where to sit in order to be the safest? If he was just a bomber and not a suicide bomber, why would he be on the plane at all?

So these folks, Americans by the way, get removed from the plane for doing nothing wrong (really, have you not ever had this same exact discussion?) and interrogated by the FBI. The FBI clears them, specifically asks Airtran to give them seats on another flight so they can get going. They won't do it, and then are surprised that one of them loses their temper?

Atif Irfan is a lawyer. Its rare that I hope someone sues over being mistreated. I hope he sues to have mandatory critical thinking classes for AirTran employees.

Its too bad the Irfans didn't catch the recent episode of Stuff You Should Know on how to survive a plane crash. The answer to their question was in there: a higher percentage of people survive a plane crash when they sit in the back, I believe it was 40% higher than other places in a plane.



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Effort Sisyphus

You may have noticed the new look. The New New Look, since this is a second time I have changed in in a month. You may also have noticed the name change. So here are some questions you may have and answers to them:

What is Effort Sisyphus and why did you choose the new title?
If you unfamiliar with your Greek Mythology, you can read about Sisyphus here or here. Basically Sisyphus was condemned to hell with an eternal task of rolling a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down each and every time. I did not trick Hades into doing anything, I do not feel like I am in Hell.

However, I did lose my naivety about what can only be considered a Sisyphean task. I spent a lot of time thinking highly of myself, that if I put some clear, supported and linked information out there, people would be able to make decisions for themselves, and hopefully change their minds.

Simply said: Effort Sisyphus is a blog that presents well supported information on a variety of scientific, technical, ethical and moral topics for use by others to disseminate. I have no (more) illusions that my sole efforts will affect society at all. I just hope that my efforts will help other, more popular websites and blogs to bring our society to one that values critical thinking and respect for scientists.

It is the whole reason I spent days debunking the nonsense a company called Medis [1,2,3] was trying to promote. Its why I wrote some other posts for example:


I have also provided information like my list of atheist charities that is very popular. I have also posted some perspectives on science and critical thinking and morality, such as Building Blocks and Correct Thanking. I have also done a few posts that I thought would help people evaluate science, by helping them assess how good a study is. Finally, I have gone over a few fallacies that concern science and tech.

Well, that's just a summary, but to get back to the question, I have had tens of thousands of hits over the 2.5 years of doing this. I used to set out to do it this try to place information out there to help people change minds. Not to my way of thinking, but to conclusions that good evidence leads to. This doesn't appear to be what happens. People, for the most part, stay on course, sticking to dogma or what their teacher told them, or nonsense their president tells them.

The title change happened recently when I wrote DECT scares. I got a comment that basically said they read the post but were going to keep on being worried about it, completely missing the point that people are not electrosensitive and there are tons of good studies to prove it. Then Skeptico, pointed out to me how bad it really is, whole towns filled with people who are willing to believe in complete nonsense. It was pretty startling to me.

I shouldn't have been surprised. The overwhelming majority of my country and the world believes in a magical sky daddy and will act accordingly to that unsupported belief. They will in fact, demand that others also behave in accordance to that belief.

Anyway, I no longer will be posting to help people think rationally. They won't do it. I will be posting for myself, and the fun that I have in researching things and making information available to other bloggers who are far more popular than I am, and may have actual influence that I don't have.

You said people should change their mind if good evidence points them that way, have you ever changed you mind about a big topic?
Yes, of course, and its why I think people should be extremely willing to cast off their old opinions if new, stronger data, becomes available. I have changed my mind about three pretty big topics: Nuclear Power, the Dangers of DDT, and Woo.

I was adamantly against nuclear power. I now think its one of the safest, cleanest power generation technologies that we have today. I'll do a post on why soon.

I was adamant that DDT was a strong poison. It isn't, its just not as bad as it has been made out to be.

I was under the impression that if people wanted to believe that acupuncture helped them (and in fact it does for many people with many maladies) thenfine, so bit it. I no longer think that administering placebo and telling people that it is a real viable medicine is a good practice. Never mind the fact that it is unregulated and hurts people.

So, I no longer want to debate with people unless they have demonstrated that they have changed their mind about something else. If they are not open to changing their mind, they are not worth debating.

Why did you change the look again?
Well the old template simply didn't have the feel I was looking for. I had changed it the first time because I had received a number of complaints that the white words on black background wasn't working for some people. So I went with the green template. I didn't like some aspects of it, but it was more readable apparently (both looked fine to me). I also wanted to change it because a new perspective on blogging clicked with me.

Are there two authors now, someone doing Effort Sisyphus and someone doing TechSkeptic?
No, its just me, I left both titles so that it wasn't confusing when people arrived here from old links that are out there. Besides, Techskeptic (me) is still the author, Effort Sisyphus is my blog.

How should I refer to this blog?
I dont care.

What can we expect this new year?
No real changes. I will still post on things that I find interesting. I just have no expectations anyone will really care or change their minds. I have a few tweaks to do with this format, but this is pretty much the one I'm sticking with.

Will you ever come out from under your pseudonym?
I doubt it. I have revealed myself to people who have made clear that they are not a loony. And while I have been at the butt end of AdHom attacks ("anonymous advice is worth nothing" type stuff, as if knowing the persons name somehow makes the argument better), for the most part I have not had a problem with the anonymity. I'll just say that I am, perhaps not as ballsy as other more prominent critical thinkers out there. I am unwilling to expose myself or my family to the types of attacks that folks like PZ have experienced.


Well, to my few readers, I hope you stick with me. My style wont change much, I hope to remain as accurate as possible. I hope you comment often. But I didn't change my blog to reflect some new direction, I changed it to fix my brain.

Be well in the new year, be good to the people around you, presume that people you don't know are good people, they usually are.

-Tech


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