Archive for the ‘General chat’ Category

“Stop Sylvia Browne” hijacked

January 5, 2009

I managed to miss this news when it happened. It seems that Robert Lancasters domain must have expired, and a bunch of shysters managed to get the domain and are now using it to promote psychic crap.

All links previously made to the old domain will just direct people to inane adverts for psychics. The best thing would be to update your links to the new domain which is http://stopsylvia.com. By updating your links, you’ll help reduce the Google rank of the psychic fraudsters, and help people more easily find Robert’s site.

See this blog post for more details: http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2008/10/stop-sylvia-browne-stopped.html

Advertisements

Audiophiles: £1,500 for the a mains power cord?

March 19, 2007

Some people worship a God, others claim to see the future in the stars or banish evil with crystals. Even worse, some audiophiles claim to understand electronics while wasting their money on the audio equivalent of Kabbalah Water.

This is a regular look at some of the crazy audophile products available to people with little sense but a lot of money.

Product: The Russ Andrews Silver Signature PowerKord™.

Price: £1,500 (approximately US$2,889.35) or £2,550.00 for the 2 metre version.

Claims: A mains power cord designed to provide a high level of insulation and low resistance. Presumably your hi-fi is supposed to benefit from having better quality electricity, not the cheap nasty electricity that the rest of us use.

Cold reality: This product is no better than a 5 dollar power lead from Radio Shack and here’s why. The electricity that comes in to your house has already travelled many miles through regular copper cable. Is it likely that having super cable for it to travel the final metre is going to make a difference? Peter Aczel, writing for The Audio Critic, put it best when he asked the question “Does your car care about the hose you filled the tank with?”

Besides, the voltage is going to be converted to DC before it reaches the components that create the sound. If you believe that this power cable will improve your sound quality then you should buy one to use on your PC. The power cable will probably make Windows run faster.

4head – Medical quackery or scientifically proven?

March 5, 2007

I’ve been trying to find out more about a product by the name of 4head that is being sold in the UK.

http://www.4headaches.co.uk/

It’s a stick you rub on your head that is supposed to cure headaches. The main ingredient seems to be levomenthol – a synthetic type of menthol.

So far I’ve found nothing but flawed studies and anecdotal evidence – claims like ‘85% of people tested said that they felt better after using it”. In all the cases where studies have been cited, there are no indications as to who conducted the studies or the methods they used.

Could anyone shed light on this for me? Is it a placebo or does it look like there could actually be a sound scientific basis for this product? I’m really interesting in links to properly conducted studies.

Why should I want my doctor to have studied evolution?

March 5, 2007

Skepchick mention a competition being organised for high-school (US only I presume) students. To win, you will have to write an essay entitled Why should I want my doctor to have studied evolution?

There are some pretty decent prizes on offer and it’s great opportunity for kids to learn more about evolution. Visit Alliance for Science for more details.

A replacement for Sylvia Browne

February 5, 2007

Over at smugbaldy.com, you’ll find an analysis of Sylvia Browne’s predictions for 2006. Silvia didn’t do too well, resulting in an accuracy rate of around 3%.

Since her psychic powers are waning, we need to find a replacement for her. We need a powerful psychic device that can part the veil of time and provide an insight in to what would otherwise be unknown.

I am proud to announce the invention of the Predictor Disc. It’s a simple metal disc that has the power to predict the future with an accuracy rate of around 50% – far higher than Sylvia’s woeful attempts at divination.

The discs are made all the more effective since they are inscribed with numbers, thus harnessing the power of numerology. Here is a list of the numbers chosen and explanations for their significance.

1 (As in Highlander, there can be only 1)
2 (2 is an even number, thus balanced)
5 (As in high 5. A high-powered number)
10 (As in the 10-commandments. A number sacred to God)
20 (Twice as much as 10, therefore twice as sacred to God)
50 (The average age of 50-year-old people)

The discs are also enscribed with symbols. A head equals yes and tails equals no.

Okay, that’s the science out of the way. Let’s see the results.

1) The weather this year will be worse than last year.
correct
Silvia predicted that the weather would be worse and so was wrong. I activated the disc and it showed tails (no). Sylvia failed but I was correct.

Scores: Disc = 1/9 Syvlia = 0/9

2) Hurricanes will hit in the north east US.
wrong
Sylvia was wrong. I flipped the disc and it answered with heads. I was also wrong but this was probably due to sunspots.

Scores: Disc = 1/9 Syvlia = 0/9

3) Floods in the midwest as usual.

Syvlia was wrong, there were no significant flood events. My disc answered with heads (yes) and so it was wrong. This failure was most likely due to bad vibes from a person who was walking past my house.

Scores: Disc = 1/9 Syvlia = 0/9

4) There will be advancements in treatments for plaque in the heart valves.

Syvia was wrong. The disc showed heads and was also wrong. This miss can be explained by the ghost of Julias Caesar interfering with the ecto-probability field.

Scores: Disc = 1/9 Syvlia = 0/9

5) A vaccine that blocks the need for nicotine.

Syvlia was wrong. The magical disc (peace and blessings be upon it) answered with heads. This incorrect answer is explained by something.

Scores: Disc = 1/9 Syvlia = 0/9

6) Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt will marry.

Syvlia was wrong. The disc of divination showed tails (yes). The disc has opened my third eye and given me a glimpse at the past future.

Scores: Disc = 2/9 Syvlia = 0/9

7) Jennifer Aniston will also marry.

Syvlia was wrong but the disc correctly answered tails (no).

Scores: Disc = 3/9 Syvlia = 0/9

8 ) Nicole Kidman will marry a producer and she have a baby girl.

Syvlia and the disc were both wrong. However, the disc must have failed because Mars is in retrograde, probably.

Scores: Disc = 3/9 Syvlia = 0/9

9) Gov. Schwarzenegger will lose popularity. He will run again because his ego will make him. He will be defeated if he runs.

Sylvia was wrong, the disc showed tails (no). Disc be praised, it has directed the powers of a ley-line in to my chakras and done exactly what it says on the tin.

Scores: Disc = 4/9 Syvlia = 0/9

Conclusion:

Sylvia failed in all 9 of these questions and the disc was correct just under 50% of the time. This cannot be due to chance. Chance is dishonest, hence the slang term “Chancer”. The disc is honest and scientifically proven in testing by the Harare Institute for Psychic-karmic-numerologist-creationist Research. I have been assured that the person leading the study has a PHd, complete with a diploma wrapped in ribbon.

Although I know these discs work, I won’t be taking the James Randi challenge. He will cheat and besides, he doesn’t have the money anyway. Even if we have a fair test, his bad vibes and beard will interfere with the delicate quantum field of the disc. I have it on reliable authority that Randi is the devil.

What orbits around Earth?

January 10, 2007

Copernicus is spinning in his grave. When I first saw this <a href=”http://randi.org/jr/2007-01/010507phil.html#i11″>story</a&gt; on James Randi’s site, I wasn’t quite sure if I should believe it.

The story describes a clip from the French version of <i>Who Wants To be A Millionaire</a>. Now this kind of show is not exactly high-brow viewing, even so, you’d hope that a room full of adults wouldn’t have been capable of getting this question wrong.

The contestant is asked >i>What orbits around Earth</a>?

He is give four choices. The moon, the sun, Mars and Venus. He didn’t know the answer so he decided to ask the audience – bloody bad idea. A small majority of the audience opted for the sun.

We all these people educated at Pat Robertson’s Liberty University, their slogan being “If it ‘aint writ in the Bible then it ‘aint done happened”.

The Onion reports: Rogue Scientist Has Own Scientific Method

December 25, 2006

Happy Christmas. Here’s something to laugh at while you’re sitting there – struggling to digest the turkey.

Rogue Scientist Has Own Scientific Method

Next time Dembski tell us that the earth is only slightly older than the first knock-knock joke, think back to this and have a giggle.

Incidentally, this morning I managed to prove Isaac Newton wrong on the whole gravity thing. I stood on my head and dropped a ball and it didn’t fall down as he predicted it would, it seemed to ‘drop up’.

Lies, damn lies and poll questions

November 27, 2006

There has been a move to have copyright extended on recorded works (i.e. music) in the UK. Currently it stands at 50 years but they wanted it increased to 95 years.

Thankfully this was rejected but it does give us a wonderful example of how polls can be influenced by the clever wording of a question.

The BPI (British Phonographic Institute) asked whether UK artists “should be protected for the same number of years as their American counterparts”.

As The Register observed, this is a very loaded question. There is a patriotic element and a nonensical argument. Are those rights that US artists enjoy actually fair or even serving the purpose for which copyright was first conceived? Who will actually benefit from this extension – the artists or the recording labels?

Consider these questions and imagine that we are talking about the first Gulf War era.

“Should British soldiers be given the same weapons that the Iraqi army has in order to fight them effectively?”

“Should British soldiers be given chemical and biological weapons?”

Both examples are asking the same thing. I suspect though that many more people will answer yes to the first example than they would the second.

When the BPI used their question, they found a majority supported the notion of allowing people such as Cliff Richard to continue to charge royalties for up to 95 years.

Boots paying me a visit?

October 10, 2006

This is an odd thing. I noticed a strange referrer in the stats for this site so investigated.

A visitor came from http://vroomfondel.co.uk/boots/bc2/login.php. The page is called “Netrank Brand Cleansing” and it presents a login window but I can’t get any further. I googled the domain to see what it was about. I found this article.

Deep Thought Re: Boots.

I can’t confirm or dispproved what he writes there but he comments about companies that are employed to visit blogs on behalf of their clients and try to undo damage done by negative blogs and their visitors. This practice is called info-cleansing.

I doubt it will have any impact on Boots. They are happy to continue selling ‘medical’ products that are as scientific as prayer. People who have commented regards Natwest Bank have also received visits from these people.

A short quiz

May 22, 2006

It’s a short multiple-choice quiz. Some interesting questions I think.

As part of it’s plan to protect it’s nuclear programme that had been widely condemned, the government of this country planted explosives aboard a civilian ship moored in the harbour of a foreign country. The subsequent explosion in which one man died is certainly a terrorist attack but also quite possibly an act of war.

Israel
France
Syria

The state religion of this country is protected by a law that forbids blasphemy. In one case, a man was sent to prison for comparing a particular prophet to a circus clown.

Benin
United Kingdom

Which government recently announced plans to allow fundamentalist religious organisations to take over the running of state schools. At least one of these religious groups has been found to be teaching creationism as a fact in science classes and discouraging evolution.

American Government
British Government
Syrian Government