Monthly Archives: June 2012

Radio silence

I will be off the air for a couple of weeks during the school holidays. Please do not call the police in a panic.

Next term we will be looking into outer space and contemplating the existence of aliens. Plus, our homeopathic visitor will be joining us very soon so expect a full of report of that!

Don’t forget to book your tickets to the Australian Skeptics National Convention. They have an amazing list of speakers including international guests James Randi, DJ Grothe and Rebecca Watson, plus little old me.

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When children create pseudo-science

I never stop feeling bewildered over how many ridiculous things people are willing to believe in. Energy patterns absorbed from flowers and transferred into unhealthy people, a race of Lizard-people ruling the planet and psychics who talk to pets. I made the point to my kids today that there doesn’t seem to be anything so over-the-top that you couldn’t find at least one person to believe in.

To that end I let the kids have some creative time and had them create their own pseudo-sciences. The only conditions I enforced where that they use sciencey words which are misunderstood by most people and that there was some potential for them to make money.

Here were the results:

Nuclear magnetic resonance quantum vision goggles!

These goggles combine the technologies of nuclear magnetic resonance imaging to detect unwanted intrusions in your body (tumours, swallowed pieces of Lego…) and quantum mechanics which can convert these into harmless dark energy which will simply pass through your body. Ten out of ten dentists recommend it!

Old gold!

While it may look like regular gold, it actually has twice the atomic weight! That means it’s twice as valuable! For being such a good customer though we’ll only charge you an extra 50%!

Cake particles!

Trouble sleeping? Well there is a fine line between being asleep and being awake. These particles have a very specific atomic structure which are designed to cross you over the line. For your convenience they have been baked into cake form.

Strength watches!

These may look like ordinary watches, but when their faces are rubbed together they create super electromagnetic atomic energy pulses that nucleate your arm and increase your bone density by up to 20%! Not only does this decrease your risk of osteoporosis it also makes you more resistant to accident and injury. Sold individually only.

So what do you think? Do any of these pass muster? Could people actually fall for them? Which one is the best?

Comment and let me know!

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Homophobic logical fallacies mash-up

Another short one today due to rainy weather but we still managed to get a good discussion in.

Given that our last few sessions were about logical fallacies and gay rights, one of my kids wanted to look at some typical anti-gay arguments and take them apart. We only got through one(!) due to the massive discussion it created.

“Being gay is unnatural.”

So what’s the issue there? The fallacy being committed is the ‘appeal to nature‘, albeit slightly in reverse. The appeal to nature is the claim that something is ‘natural’ therefore it is good. In this instance the claim is that being gay is unnatural therefore it is bad.

This fallacy can easily be counted with examples of bad natural things (poison ivy, earthquakes, uranium) and good “man-made” things (aspirin, the internet, trains). The fallacy itself is usually used to promote herbal remedies and the like. I like to use it to promote cyclones.

It was also suggested that what’s natural for one person might not be for another. To a gay person, being gay is presumably very natural for them. To one person a standard banana might be ok whereas another would only touch an “organic” fruit. It seems that we can’t use the word natural to mean ‘good’, but we can’t even use the word natural to mean ‘natural’!

There is a fuzzy line between natural and artificial. Willow bark is a natural pain remedy and aspirin is an artificial one. However aspirin was originally derived from willow bark so where do we stand? I guess being totally natural means living nude in caves and eating raw animals whereas totally artificial involves being a brain in a jar.

On a side note I will be speaking for the Mordi Skeptics in the Pub tomorrow evening at 7:30pm. I am really looking forward to facing a room full of drunken sceptics, plus my wife is coming along so I’ll have to watch my language.

See you there!

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