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I used to think that veracity played no part in an idea's propagation. A false idea can spread as far as a true idea; if they conflict, whichever one is stickier will gain the most ground.

Except, a truth can be independently discovered many times, whereas a lie must be either repeated, or reinvented. So the truth has an advantage, after all.
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Hey, did you know there's a balm that will remove your tattoos, so you don't have to get expensive laser treatment?

Funny how I heard about this remarkable product on Internet radio, and not in some visual medium where its use could be demonstrated visually. But before-after pics are so easily faked, aren't they?

But the most remarkable thing about this product is that they're offering a free 60-day supply! I guess they only make money off the people who have more than 60 days worth of tattoos to remove.
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So, everyone knows I'm a total buzzkill skeptic, right?

Well, this Thanksgiving, while my brother's new mother-in-law was out in the backyard giving tarot readings, I was upstairs figuring out how to play World of Warcraft on my iBook.

I have Big Problems with people who claim to talk to the dead, but I don't really have a problem with goofy fortune-telling games. But, that doesn't mean I'm going to keep my mouth shut during such a game. So I just stayed out.

I worry that doing so was still seen as passive-aggressive, but ultimately everyone left with a pile of leftovers, and nobody thought Thanksgiving was ruined, and that's what's important.
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Sunday morning, after breakfast, there was one table full of people who stayed a little longer than everyone else. And they were discussing the problems people with albinism are having in Tanzania, a country of 39 million people.

Not only are they having the usual trouble African countries have with availability of sunscreen, and the usual developing-countries problem of not enough hospitals for treating skin cancer, but every albino living in the country is living under the unique threat that some witch doctor may attempt to harvest their body for medicinal purposes.

I listened for as long as I could, but as the description of the problem became clearer to me, I became more aware that the problem is cultural, and therefore difficult to solve effectively. We can attempt to build a support network, like we have in the United States, which they certainly need, and I'd like to help with that. But as long as the people of that country are susceptible to both the belief in that kind of medicine, and the willingness to take lives to obtain it... well, that's a grim situation.

And I got Standard Skeptic's Frustration, much like every skeptic gets when they see how long faith healers and psychic surgeons can operate prosperously here in the United States. Except it's not just the patients that are dying.

The other science-minded person at the table, a doctor that studies genetics, is familiar with the problem, and his proposed solution is a memetic one: write a folk song that turns a martyred albino into a sympathetic character, or at least a human one, and hope it spreads. I don't know if an American can write the Tanzanian equivalent of Chocolate Rain, but I wish that cause luck.

This probably contributed to my post-conference bum-out.
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So woot.com was selling those cheesy miniature RC helicopters for $10. I bought two, thinking I'd give one away as a gift, and play with the other one until the end of time.

Having played with the other one, I'm thinking of throwing the second one away without even bothering to try to fly the other one.

It was originally flying around the room and spinning wildly. The trim and throttle did nothing. Now it can't generate enough lift to take off anymore.

Now, if the ordinary retail price for these things had been $10, I'd have known it wouldn't work. But somehow, I remembered them selling for $20 in holiday seasons past, and I figured that might have been enough. I knew how real helicopters worked, and figured if it flied at all, I'd have hours of fun. But, I forgot the primary principle of cheap-ass electronics: under-$20 gadgets are $20 because that's the amount you'll pay without bothering to seek your money back. Which explains why, at $10, I bought two.

It also explains a lot of other things I bought and threw away. I mean, how could you possibly screw up a $12 white noise generator?

My skepticism needs a serious tune-up. At least I generally remember to take the batteries out before throwing things away.
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Art Bell's Prediction Show for 2007.

Copied from this blog.

Pasted in my journal )
unbibium: (r-pentomino)
DOUGLAS ADAMS!  Now that I have your attention:

First of all, the Royal Institute Christmas Lecture for Children, in 1991, was delivered by Richard Dawkins, at the point where people were over the controversy of "The Selfish Gene", and he hadn't become cranky enough to write "The God Delusion" yet.
Oxford professor Richard Dawkins presents a series of lectures on life, the universe, and our place in it. With brilliance and clarity, Dawkins unravels an educational gem that will mesmerize young and old alike.  Illuminating demonstrations, wildlife, virtual reality, and special guests (including Douglas Adams) all combine to make this collection atimeless classic.
  You can watch it here, and Episode 4 fis where Adams appears, in case you don't notice his giant face dominating the thumbnail for that episode.  I find the title of that segment even more tempting: "The Ultraviolet Garden".

BTW, I also just sent "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" back to Netflix today.  When I saw it in theaters, I called it a three-star movie.  The commentaries make it clear that I just didn't catch enough of the Douglas Adams spirit that was infused throughout the film.  I still think the love story was stapled on.

Also, I had no idea the "radio theme" was an Eagles song.
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If you're watching James Van Praagh and John Edward on their upcoming Larry King Live appearance, be sure to print out this Cold Reading Bingo card beforehand.
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You know that phony TV psychic Sylvia Browne, who makes all kinds of consistently wrong psychic predictions and projections on TV?

She sells private telephone readings for $700 each.  And now you have the distinct honor to be among the first to read a transcript of a real live Browne reading.

If you're willing to throw your morality out the window, then you too could sell wild guesses for $700 an hour to vulnerable people.  It's easy money, and if the skeptic movement's efforts have taught me anything, nobody can ever stop you.
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I watched that video, and on the right side of the screen one of the "Related Videos" was the VW GTI ad with the wrecking ball.

There are two more ads describing how a nihilist can un-pimp an auto: "Catapult" and "Crate!".  VEE DUB!  Representin' Deutschland!

Also, discovering Penn Jillette's radio show led me to the trailer for Penn & Teller's video game, "Smoke and Mirrors", complete with the desert bus simulator. You can download the game via BitTorrent, but you'll need a Sega CD or emulator thereof.
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I just fell for a shoddy digg article that claimed second-hand electronics would become illegal in Japan, i.e. you're not allowed to buy an old computer because corporations only make money if you buy new ones.

Thankfully, someone did some research and debunked it. Mostly. There will be a bit of red tape involved, but you'll still be able to buy a Famicom, and it'll have a sticker on it that says it won't blow up when plugged in.

Still strikes me as shady, and has the effect of bullying smaller businesses. The only places I liked in Akihabara were the little stores that sold old 8-bit crap and weird paraphenalia.
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I was thinking about James Randi's feud against Sylvia Browne.

James Randi is a well-known skeptic, who offers a million-dollar prize to anyone who can demonstrate any paranormal ability or activity under controlled conditions. Sylvia Browne is a cunt who claims such paranormal abilities, including talking to the dead and predicting the future, who appears on Larry King Live regularly, and once accepted that offer on his show, and has spent the last four years dodging him and slandering him in the media.

A frightening thought occurred to me: one day, James Randi will die. The next evening, Sylvia Browne will appear on Larry King Live. I predict, through reasoning rather than magic, that she'll vector a deathbed recantation from him, or some horrible punishment in the afterlife for doubting her immense powers of cuntage.

And the day after that, the Earth will be hit by an asteroid the size of Uzbekistan.
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Almost all domestic cats carry a parasite that lodges in your brain and alters your behavior. Worst Stargate SG-1 episode EVAR.

(yes, I'm skeptical too -- the "alley cat" and "sex kitten" behavior patterns in the article are just too perfect.)


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