Friday 10 December 2010

Trolling For Dummies by Dennis Markuze

Start of with an insane threat. Remembering to ensure that you leave CAPS-LOCK on for a FEW WORDS and finish with an exclamation mark!

Leave a couple of BLANK LINES!

Insert a few underscores,

The remainder of the comment is irrelevant as no one ever actually reads any further down THAN THIS!

Insert a random erroneously claim that a famous EVOLUTIONARY DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGIST at the University of Minnesota Morris does not exist for no other reason than to prove beyond all doubt that you are as crazy a box of retarded frogs…



Follow up threat, this time with 3 EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!

hyper-link to DUBIOUS evidence that claims to support a CRAZY CONSPIRACY THEORY!

A DEATH THREAT to a well known atheists using a rude word with some of the letters replaced with the wrong number of a*****isks……..

Bizarre reference to a DISNEY character for no apparent reason!!!

INSET a whole row of asterisks …


Just for the HELL OF IT!!!


FOR a bit of VARIETY ... leave FOUR blank lines...



ooh look a DEPECHE MODE video...

FINISH off with FINAL FAILED attempt at being MENACING!!!

*copy to clipboard in preparation to paste into as many blogs as possible before the NURSE notices you're OUT OF BED AGAIN!!!...*

Sorry for feeding the trolls, I know I’m not supposed but I can’t help myself. C’mon DM leave me another comment, you know you WANT to….

Thursday 9 December 2010

An Opportunity for Religion to Hoof Science in the Plums?

It seems to me that the scientific method has had a lot more success in getting to grips with the nature of the universe than clasping our hands together and bowing our heads in the hope of experiencing some revealed wisdom from a higher power.

Furthermore, I find the knowledge gained from the scientific method incompatible with much of the revealed wisdom recorded in any religious texts. But some people are able to reconcile the two different approaches and manage to clumsily juggle both methods. For those scientifically minded people who are reluctant to relinquish their comforting faith, the old non overlapping magisteria chestnut is usually the favourite technique.

I'm not a fan of this idea. I don't like the idea of separating subjects based on whether they are best dealt with by either science or religion. As religion has come up with some pretty embarrassing explanations for the origins of the universe and the human species, many religious people are happy to defer these topics to science but reserve other topics such as love and the meaning of life exclusively to their religion.

I think however we should have a free for all. I don't want to oust science from the few remaining topics that many see as the domain of religion. Consequently, I'm also happy for religion to take a shot at some of the scientific subjects where the scientists have so far failed to deliver.

When I sat around my 70's TV at 7pm on a Thursday night, Raymond Baxter, William Woollard and Michael Rodd made a lot of promises to me of what science would deliver that haven't as yet come to pass. If I were a religionist, I think that some of these scientific holes would be a great opportunity to beat science at its own game by applying a bit of faith and a smattering of the supernatural to try and solve these outstanding problems.

I suggest a tactic of divide and conquer. If each of the religions takes on an area of science where those pompous know-it-all scientist have let us down, they might be able to finally reclaim an air of respectability and pull back some of the lost ground.

Here's the plan:

The Catholics could have a go at the jet pack. All the jet packs science has come up with so far are rubbish. They require ridiculous amounts of expensive fuel and they're complete gits to control. A jet pack powered by divine energy and controlled by prayer would be much more accessible and safer. So I propose the Pope stops fannying about with condoms and gets to work on God Pack. Get this bugger working and I'll happily recant my infidel opinions.

The Muslims could have a crack at producing a reliable and accurate weather forecast. If yodelling from the top of a broken lighthouse could give me a 100% accurate prediction of whether or not it will rain in Basingstoke at 3pm next Saturday, I'll gladly give it a go.

The Jews can have a punt at a cure for the common cold because the scientists certainly seem like they can't be arsed. Once again I'll happily grow some cute curls and head-butt a wall if it will reliably cure my sore throat and runny nose.

And finally the good old Protestants. I think they should see if they can beat NASA to Mars. If the Church of England can get a vicar on Mars before NASA gets an astronaut there, I'll happily fill one the empty pews on a Sunday morning.

The religious characters used above are of course stolen from the New Humanists Magazine's God Trumps

Saturday 27 November 2010

Cardinal Tucker: Papal Advisor

Many people are under the delusion that Armando Iannucci based the character of Malcolm Tucker on Tony Blair’s spin doctor, Alistair Campbell. This is of course a vicious and unfounded falsehood. Minimal and shoddy investigations by the Science, Reason & Critical Thinking research department has uncovered that the character in question is in fact wholly based on Cardinal Tucker, a Papal Adviser based in the Vatican during the previous Papacy.

Despite the above being completely plucked from my arse. The following references may be of interest:
The Times

Thursday 18 November 2010

Karma Kanics: The New Age Vehicle Well-Running Centre

Middle Class, Middle Aged, Rationally Minded, Educated, White Gentlemen in the Pub (MCMARMEWGitP)

Middle Class, Middle Aged, Rationally Minded, Educated, White Gentlemen in the Pub (MCMARMEWGitP) is a popular movement that seems to be picking up a head of steam. Branches are popping up all over the country. I myself even started one in Winchester with my sceptical comrade from the Hampshire Skeptics Society, Dave Hughes, and it’s going from strength to strength.

Each month we invite a fellow MCMARMEWG to the pub to tell us how clever we all are for not believing in silly superstitions.

We have made a couple of exceptions, we did once invite a female speaker, and we’ve even had a speaker of Asian descent called Simon Singh, who gave a very good talk, but he’s obviously not like the rest of them.

So we are quite clearly not an elitist or racist organisation, anyone is welcome to attend. The fact that we have an almost exclusively white audience is sadly just a simple manifestation of the fact that black and Asian people tend to be more superstitious than, and not quite as clever as us.


In the light of last week’s ruling on Paul Chambers' appeal at Doncaster Crown Court, I feel obliged to point out that the above text is of course ironic. Hopefully though you will have found the rhetoric suitably uncomfortable.

It’s a topic that I have brought up on twitter before, shortly after attending this years Amazing Honkyfest where I couldn’t help noticing that our audience was far from an accurate representation of the population at large.

Alom Shaha raised the issue again yesterday in the Guardian, and I believe he is right to do so.

By attending Skeptics in the Pub my friends and family do not see me rejecting my culture, my heritage and my values. Most of the people I know are fairly indifferent to the fact that I get together with a bunch of friends for a drink and a rational discussion on religion, the paranormal or pseudoscience. There are therefore no real consequences for me in attending these meetings and events. This may well not be the case for many Black and Asian people.

Even though the doors of our pubs may be open, we cannot just expect everyone to turn up unencumbered by the beliefs of their family and friends. If Skeptics in the Pub is not the medium for reaching everyone, we need to think what other mediums we should also be promoting in addition to SitP.

Saying that we have a non exclusive open door policy, sadly is not enough.

Saturday 13 November 2010

#TwitterJokeTrial #IAmSpartacus

I was most upset and shocked at the decision in Doncaster Crown Court on Thursday following the conviction of Paul Chambers.

I shan't attempt to rewrite the details of the case. Please see here and here for background, if by some chance you are not familiar with the case.

I was however rather heartened by the show of solidarity on twitter on Friday (and I hope Paul was too), with the #IAmSpartactus hash tag being used to accompany a mass re-tweet of Paul's original tweet.

Well done twitter, what a fine bunch of people you are.

Friday 12 November 2010

Oprah Winfrey: Bullshit Flow Diagram

A few weeks ago I posted an Alternative Medicine Flow Chart. Although I am a software engineer by trade, I very rarely actually use flow charts. I have however spent an awful lot of time attempting to model systems using more structured systems design techniques, and am therefore far more likely to use an Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD) or a Data Flow Diagram (DFD).

So here's a quick Bullshit Flow Diagram (BFD) using Gane-Sarson-Notation crudely modelling the flow of bullshit around the most successful bullshit processing system I could think of.

So first off, a context diagram, showing the overall system and its data interactions with external entities:

Next, a level 1 diagram showing the flow of data within the main processes of the system.

Then a would draw a level 2 diagram, but I suspect the joke has already worn too thin, and anyway David Attenborough is on the telly in a minute, so bugger it.

Monday 8 November 2010

Guess Who? … Is Britain’s Most Credulous MP

The phrase “Evidence Based Policy” sounds to me like a rather trite statement of the bleeding obvious. Alas many of Britain’s MP’s seem to guilelessly value anecdotes, faith and misinformed public opinion over empirical evidence as a method for determining sound government policy.

After reviewing the voting records of all currently elected MP’s I had no problems in populating my children’s “Guess Who” game with 24 political numpties for whom critical thinking and evidence-based policy appear to be merely a slight hindrance to the promotion of their frequently irrational agendas.

So who is Britain’s most credulous MP? Click on the “Guess Who” board below and hover the mouse over each MP to display a “Guess Who” style question to identify the MP in question.

I have restricted the entry criteria to only those British MPs currently in office and have reviewed the voting records of all 650 MP’s paying particular attention to support of Early Day Motions promoting un-evidenced medical or pseudoscientific agendas, anti-human rights voting grounded in a non progressive faith position and simple denial or dismissal of scientific evidence that does not align with a predetermined position.

I have selected individuals on their personal voting record and publically available comments, articles and speeches regardless of their affiliation with any particular political party. However it is interesting to see a pattern of predominately Conservative cards, but with the DUP as far the highest ratio of credulous beliefs pro rata.

Skeptical Voter
Hinckley Times
The Telegraph
BBC News
The Church of Ireland Gazette
The Guardian
They Work For You

Narnia gag courtesy of Martin Robbins

Sunday 24 October 2010

The New and Improved Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense

I thought I'd try and continue the great work started by Wowbagger The Infinitely prolonged and have a go at insulting everyone. To this end, I have reworked my Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense by adding some fancy Java scripts and a short vitriolic dictionary description of each little piece of nonsense.

Just click on the image below and then hover the mouse over each element.

Thanks to the Skeptics Dictionary for much of the research.

Monday 18 October 2010

TAM London 2010: A Critical Review

There were some absolutely fabulous talks at TAM London this year.

I’m not going to write a detailed run through of all the speakers as I did last year, but I did especially enjoy Susan Blackmore, Paula Kirby and Marcus Chown. Tim Minchin’s new material was obviously brilliant. The “Amateur Transplants” were an unexpected delight and of course I thoroughly enjoyed the interviews with Graham Linehan, Andy Nyman and Alan Moore (even though I was rather knackered by the time we got around to Alan).

However, if you will forgive me, I thought I’d focus on the far fewer number of less positive aspects.

The premiere of the animated movie of Tim Minchin Skeptical masterpiece “Storm” was wonderful. Having seen the trailer, I knew it would be. DC Turner has done an absolutely brilliant job. However, as much as I enjoyed the film and as happy as I was to applaud Dan and Tracy for their great work, there was only so much self congratulatory back-slapping and audience Q&A’s about a short film I could sit through. Incidentally I love Pulp Fiction too, but I could be arsed with the director’s commentary and all the other extras on the DVD.

I got the feeling I may not have been alone. As the Q&A’s dragged on there was a noticeable murmur amongst the polite audience that was clearly picked up on on stage, resulting in the audience being asked if they would like to continue the session or get Tim to sing a few more songs instead. A suggestion that despite being preferable by the majority was wholly unfair on an artist who had clearly not been forewarned of the possible need to prepare any additional material. This seemed like a good time to make sure I wouldn’t have to take the late train home.

On day two I completely failed to grasp the connection between Melinda Gebbie’s lovely ladies jazz comics and a Skeptic conference. She was a fine speaker and a great talent, but the only relevance I could see was that perhaps the subject might have just happened to have been a topic of interest to one of the organisers. Still, if I organised a Skeptical conference and was able to get Robert Plant to come along and talk about the recording of the 4th Zeppelin album, I’d probably indulge myself too.

Next in the firing line is Joise Long. Josie is a fine comedian who I always enjoy at Robin Ince’s "9 lessons and Carols for Godless People", so I was a little bemused as to why she didn’t do one of her great comedy turns on the Saturday night rather than throwing her out of her depth into an Alan Moore interview that the perfectly researched and amiable Neil Denny would have handled better without the interruptions.

So I came away wondering if it was the above picky and admittedly trivial points that made a great conference not quite as great as last years, or was it something else.

As much as I am delighted that a sceptical conference can now herd a thousand sceptical minds into one hotel, I just felt there was something missing.

Perhaps I am becoming more blasé, or perhaps the TAM London Mega Church by its very definition cannot recreate the intimacy of your local SitP Chapel.

Perhaps I just wasn’t making enough effort. I accept that I am somewhat socially inept and after a busy week and a long conference I may well have just been too tired and grumpy to make the effort to talk to enough new people. So despite a much appreciated shout-out from David Allen Green and the wonderful and genuine surprise of my very own Skeptic Trump card, I failed to leave on quite the high I had anticipated.

I’m Sorry I didn’t get the chance to chat with as many people as I would have liked to. I’m not sure if I just missed you in the large crowd, or if you just failed to venture too far from the green room, or if you were priced out of the conference entirely.


Oops I almost forgot. Delighted Rhys Morgan won the award for his brilliant work highlightening MMS. I voted for him, and I'm thrilled so many others did too.

Sunday 17 October 2010

Skeptic Trumps: Crispian Jago

I had a rather nice surprise when I settled into my seat for for the second day of the TAM London Skeptics Conference this morning.

I looked up in the packed auditorium to see to words "Would Crispian Jago Please stand up" in large friendly letters on the main screen behind the stage.

As I stood up, this appeared:

I received a full confession from Daniel Pope shortly afterwards.

Many thanks to Neil Davies for secretly drawing my caricature, Simon Perry for putting the image on the screen and of course Dan for planning and creating the card itself. (He even managed to track down the obscure font I used at the top of the cards).

And I'm even wearing my Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense T-Shirt!

Thanks guys.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

A Handy Alternative Therapy Flowchart

Believe it or not, I don't really have a particular interest in alternative therapies, I just can't help picking at the scabs of alt-med credulity.

However, if perchance you are a little disillusioned with allopathy, here's a handy little flowchart to help you find the ideal alternative therapy to meet your needs.

Saturday 2 October 2010

Why I Keep Banging on About Paedophile Priests and Papal Propaganda.

Of course I want justice for the victims of paedophile priests. I want the Vatican to be shamed into releasing its files on sex abuse cases to the proper authorities where they can be investigated in the same way as any other sex offender. I want the perpetrators to be brought to appropriate and fair justice and most of all, I want the marginal but significant institutionalised culture of abuse within the Catholic Church to be smashed.

But as a so-called “aggressive atheist” I clearly have an additional agenda too.

I hold my hands up.

I do have an additional agenda. I want to affect a sea change in the public perception of religious morality.

Let me start with a few Bible quotes all taken from the “Good News Translation”:

If a slave owner takes a stick and beats his slave, whether male or female, and the slave dies on the spot, the owner is to be punished. But if the slave does not die for a day or two, the master is not to be punished. The loss of his property is punishment enough.
Exodus 21 (v20-21)

When you go to attack a city, first give its people a chance to surrender. If they open the gates and surrender, they are all to become your slaves and do forced labour for you. But if the people of that city will not surrender, but choose to fight, surround it with your army. Then, when the Lord your God lets you capture the city, kill every man in it. You may, however, take for yourselves the women, the children, the livestock, and everything else in the city. You may use everything that belongs to your enemies. The Lord has given it to you.
Deuteronomy 20 (v10-14)

If a priest's daughter becomes a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she shall be burned to death
Leviticus 21 (v9)

If a man has sexual relations with another man, they have done a disgusting thing, and both shall be put to death. They are responsible for their own death.
Leviticus 20 (v15)

And finally from the New Testament, Jesus speaking …

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the world. No, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. I came to set sons against their fathers, daughters against their mothers, daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law;
Matthew 10 (v34-35)

The purpose of the above quotes is not to try and convince you that the bible is completely full of hateful, immoral bigotry. Although there are frequent examples of intolerance, narrow-mindedness and chauvinism in all the monotheistic holy texts, there is thankfully a reasonable selection of wholly laudable advice on being nice to each other and loving thy neighbour with which to fill your bible study class.

Atheists, Agnostics, Secularists, Humanists and moderate Christians, Muslims and Jews can no doubt all see that the messages in the above quotations are ones that we don’t really want to push too hard in these more enlightened times.

The average Sunday School teachers will invariably find a far more suitable piece of scripture that will instil a sense of morality into our children that we are all a lot more comfortable with.

But like much of the public, the selective Sunday School teacher above probably sees her faith and her scriptures as the root of an enhanced morality that can help us lead a better life.

She has however quite clearly self-selected a valuable set of worthy morals from a much wider scripture. This selection could only be achieved by deferring to a higher humanistic set of values prevalent in her culture. A set of values that has evolved out of those primitive ideas to become more inclusive and less divisive.

Yet we persist in the public myth that religion is the corner stone of our morality and the media enforce this myth by continuing to defer to religious voices to represent the perceived moral high ground.

But what’s the harm? If moderate religions are selecting relevant, compassionate and virtuous verses of their scripture to promote a world in which we should all be a bit nicer to each other, why not?

A familiar and valid argument against the promotion of this false religious superior morality, is that it harbours the religious extremists and fundamentalists who condone their honour killings, child witch torturing and terrorism, in the honest belief of the superiority of their religious morals over currently fashionable liberal ideas.

However, I would like to consider the far wider spread harm that can be caused by seemingly less extremist religious leaders to which we have erroneously granted the authority of our moral guidance.

In the past, when forward-looking religious minds embraced the culturally evolving liberal morality, greatness was achieved. Slavery was abolished and civil rights advanced by great men and women of faith who perhaps unconsciously valued their humanistic morality over many contradicting biblical texts.

But more recently, as Church attendance declines and liberal morality gallops forward, many devout religious people are unable to keep up with the change and fall back to the comfort of the unquestionable written word of God. A position from which they can piously condemn the rising antisocial behaviour reported in the Daily Mail as a direct result of a loss of the Nations faith.

Consequently we are now seeing the rise of divisive religious policies based on a more literal interpretation of the scriptures. We see the scientifically nonsensical notions of creationism and intelligent design popping up, we see the setup of more and more faith schools free to teach the religious doctrines of their sponsors, we see a desire to restrict the basic human rights of homosexual couples, we see the continued oppression of women within the Church and we see the revamped promotion of deadly contraceptive advice that smacks more of a strategy to outbreed the competition.

And much of the success of this religious backlash has been accomplished under the false pretence of its superior morality.

Hence my reasons for chipping away at the bogus moral foundations that underpins the justification of illiberal religious agendas.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Scientology Re-branding

Following yesterday's BBC Panorama Special on the Church of Scientology, the empathetically struck out complaint against Councillor John Dixon and a twitter hashtag that went viral, The Church of Scientology today reveal their new re-branded west coast headquarters.

Friday 24 September 2010

The Skeptic

So a couple of months ago I got an email from the Editor of the Skeptic magazine asking if I could help with the cover design again.

The main article was a piece by the legal blogger and lawyer David Allen Green on Simon Singh and the now infamous misconceived libel case brought by the British Chiropractic Association.

I immediately had an idea of what the cover should look like.

Looking back on the events that eventually led to the BCA's final capitulation, the clear turning point was way back at the support rally meeting held in The Pendrell's Oak Pub on the 18th May 2009.

At that meeting I sat quietly in a privileged position behind the main speakers next to Richard Wiseman. I took a few shaky photographs on my iPhone, and later edited together some video footage took by Nick Pullar, that helped me form a clear image of what the cover should be.

In my minds eye, I could see Simon with the microphone, and David watching from the wings, pin-stripe suited, arms folded and quietly smiling to himself. I could see Brian Cox in the front row, and Chris French, Dave Gorman and Evan Harris behind the speaker. As these were all characters that had recently had the Skeptic Trump treatment I pictured them wearing their skeptic caricature faces.

I thought I could perhaps salvage some of the photo's and video footage and photoshop on Neil Davies' artwork. I rang Neil, to ask for his permission to reuse the images for the cover. Neil pointed out that the lighting would be all wrong, but said he he would be happy to paint the scene from scratch.

I explained the concept to Neil, and over the following weekend he emailed me constant updates of the work in progress as the image in my minds eye gradually emerged on my computer through Neil's talent.

I think the final painting is a complete triumph and a perfect facsimile of what I had originally envisaged. So here is the full unadulterated copy of the picture on the cover of the current issue of The Skeptic magazine.

Check out Neil's blog where you can buy a high resolution, limited edition print signed by the artist.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Modern Science Map 2.0

I'm currently in the process of producing version 2.0 of the Modern Science Map.

The new version will allow you to hover the mouse over each scientist and reveal a summary panel of information on each scientist as well as being able to click to access the full details from Wikipedia.

I have now uploaded a prototype of version 2.0 here. The hover feature is currently only enabled for a limited number of scientists, mainly on the Physics line between Albert Einstein and James Clerk Maxwell.

Check it out, I was quite pleased with it so far.

Keep checking back, I should have them all down in a few weeks. There's not much on TV at the moment anyway.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

A Sign from God?

It appears as though the UK Highways Agency have heeded the warnings of the inherent dangers associated with irrational beliefs highlighted by the recent Protest the Pope rally.

The following new road signs have been designed to be placed on public highways near places of worship or irrational religious gatherings where other road users are at risk of a collision with nonsense.

Friday 17 September 2010

The Pod Delusion Live

The Pod Delusion celebrated its first birthday by recording a live podcast at London Skeptics in the Pub on Monday 13th September 2010. The live performance seemed to be awfully well received, so I suspect there may well be another one at some point.

In the meantine, here's a quick video of me stumbling through an unrehearsed recital of my papal poem from an old blog post.

Or better still, visit the Pod Delusion Web Site and download the special edition extended podcast of the evening presented as usual by James O'Malley and featuring: Jon Treadway, Naomi Philips, Liz Lutgendorff, Sean Ellis, Martin Robbins, Alex Foster, Will Howells, Me, Milton Mermikides, Carmen D'Cruz and John Gregson.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Crispian’s Cryptic Comedy Catholic Crossword

Science, Reason and Critical thinking would like to celebrate the joyous occasion of the state visit of his holiness Pope Benedict XVI.

Despite the excitement of the ocasion, even the most faithful know that some of the prayer vigils and lengthy Latin masses can get just a little tedious. To relieve the monotony and help you while away the long hours, I have created the Cryptic Comedy Catholic Crossword to print out and take with you.

Click the printer friendly image below to embiggen and print:


Science, Reason and Critical Thinking does not condone the abusive and offensive answers that Daniel Pope has curiously managed to squeeze into the crossword grid.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Mr. Credulous

original artwork by India Jago

Mr Credulous has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the marvellous Mr Men series of children's books created by Roger Hargreaves

Wednesday 8 September 2010

On the Origin of the Modern Science Map

The origin of the Map of Modern Science is not as noble as I would wish.

Flushed with the success of my Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense, I started to consider what other iconic image I could bastardise in order to promote my pro-reason agenda. The London Underground Map was the obvious candidate. After a quick Google to check no one had already commandeered this eminent image for the nefarious purposes of rationalist propaganda, I set about the task myself.

My initial concept was not in fact to restrict the map to modern science, but to show the ideas of the enlightenment and how they evolved out of the age of reason. I therefore embarked on the project with the grandiose idea of including politicians, authors, philosophers, scientists and indeed all the great thinkers (maybe even the odd theologian at a push), who have helped shape our modern understanding of the world.

It became clear from very early on that with the limitation of a single page map, (even a very large single page map and a tiny font); I could not delve into the level of detail I wanted and maintain such a wide remit. I therefore initially sketched out just 4 lines for 16th century Philosophy, Natural Philosophy, Astronomy and Natural History.

Philosophy remained on the map for a number of revisions, until it grew so large that I was forced to cull the entire line, and place it in my pending folder as a potential project for another time.

Having now in effect restricted myself to modern science, I thought it wise to define a clear boundary so that I wouldn’t end up discarding another major chunk of nugatory work. Having performed some rudimentary research on the major scientific disciplines I once again came to the conclusion that the topic was still too wide and narrowed my scope again to cover just the natural sciences.

With a more achievable purpose now defined I attempted to complete the one line I felt most comfortable with, Evolutionary Biology. This line seemed to work quite well, it had an obvious scientist at its root; I had a good idea of the major contributors and I had some ideas on where it would intersect with other disciplines such as palaeontology and genetics.

Other lines were more problematical; the London Underground Map is far from a perfect analogy for the history of modern science and as such I was forced to make a number of compromises.

Reality is not as clear-cut as my oversimplified map. In most cases the origins of a discipline cannot be wholly attributed to one scientist, as required by my selected format. Consequently I made a number of uncomfortable decisions on where best to split the lines, which disciplines to merge together for map clarity and which lines to place certain scientists on. These decisions are of course wholly subjective and the price I had to pay for a nice flowing single page map.

At this point I acknowledge the argument that ramming the square peg of scientists into the round hole of the London Underground Map renders the whole exercise fairly pointless. However, even if the result is too crude for serious science historians, I still hope the output retains enough honesty to make it a useful starting point for the exploration of the history of science to the interested layperson or intermediate geek.

Having progressed thus far, I paused to further research the scientists in the other disciplines that I needed to complete the map. I trawled the Internet for the major contributors in each discipline and compiled a large spreadsheet of well over a thousand names. I then worked my way through the list whittling it down to those scientists I felt had made the biggest advancements in their field.

As I have commented before, it seems rather perverse that I should wield the power of decision on who to include. Ruthlessly casting aside numerous great minds that I simply didn’t have the space to accommodate.

Having reviewed the list and assigned the lucky remaining scientists to the most suitable lines, the actual task of drawing the map was relatively straightforward. Although of course I habitually encountered the problem of not having a certain scientists near enough to a converging line, forcing me to continually reroute the lines.

Despite now restricting myself to the natural sciences, I found that many of the early scientists I had listed had crucial intersections with mathematics. Having linked these together I was then compelled to follow the mathematics line through to the present day thus extending my carefully constrained scope into one of the formal sciences.

The Mathematics line was therefore the last to be added. It is also the line for which I have received the most comments and suggestions for improvements; perhaps pointing to an area I should read up on a little more.

A number of key modern mathematicians I found myself including where in fact primarily computer scientists, forcing me to re-label the line to Mathematics and Computing. Although now that I look at the map again, I think that perhaps there is a need to split computing off onto its own line.

Other lines contain similar problems; Palaeontology and Geology would benefit from a split, Microbiology has inadvertently become a messy catch-all for all other biological scientists I wanted to include and my split of chemistry is probably not as logical as it could be. These are all potential improvements for a future version.

Another area of consideration was what to do with the more controversial scientists. Prominent Russian scientist Trofim Lysenko for example undoubtedly had an immense influence on society through his exalted position that enabled him to promote what can now been seen as pseudoscientific policies. After consideration I opted to simply leave him off the map.

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck on the other hand, despite being primarily remembered for the now discredited theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics as the mechanism for evolution, was nonetheless an early visionary and influential figure in the development of evolution biology. It is perhaps therefore a little disingenuous to shove him at the terminus of a dead-end line.

Looking at the completed map, it’s probably quite clear that I am a mere consumer of popular science rather than a proper scientist with a lab coat, safety goggles and an impressive flask collection. As a consumer of popular science I am therefore easily swayed by the great science communicators.

This opened me up to a criticism that I fully expected to receive. In anticipation of being derided for the inclusion science celebrities at the possible expense of omitting higher contributing but lesser-known scientists, I added a brief justification to the blurb on the side of the map. However to answer the criticism more fully, I do intend to include the worthy lesser-known scientists that my ignorance may have initially overlooked, that’s why I have invited your comments. However, I refuse to demote the science communicators I have already listed. Without the passion, enthusiasm and precious skill-set of science communicators like Carl Sagan, many of the scientists who will make the next breakthroughs may never have been inspired on that path in the first place.

So finally, as of version 1.1 there are a total of 477 scientists on my map, perhaps and arbitrary cap of 500 scientists in 500 years would be a reasonable limit to keep things readable.

Many thanks to everyone who suggested improvements to the map, I’m still working my way through them with the intention of a further update to the map later, but not before normal service of scathing skepdickery has been resumed.

Monday 30 August 2010

Modern Science Map

500 Years of Science, Reason & Critical Thinking via the medium of gross over simplification, dodgy demarcation, glaring omission and a very tiny font.

The map of modern science was created to celebrate the achievements of the scientific method through the age of reason, the enlightenment and modernity.
Despite many of the scientific disciplines mapped having more ancient origins, I have restricted the map to modern science starting from the 16th century scientific revolution.

The map primarily includes modern scientists who have made significant advances to our understanding of the world, however I have also included many present day scientists who fuel a passion for, and advances in, science through communication and science popularisation.

Click the image below to open Version 2.1 of my html Science Map, you will then be able to pan around the map and click on the scientists for more information.

Postscript (4th Sept 2010):

As I mentioned in the comments field myself, many thanks for all the comments and suggestions for improvements.

I must confess it is a little perverse that a jumped up IT consultant should wield the casting vote on which scientists get on my map. So whilst I have endeavoured to make it the best and most relevant list I can, it is still however my personal, and admittedly rather arbitrary selection.

I have now up issued the map to version 1.0 as I am now reasonably confident I have included most of the key scientists of this period. I do however accept that I could make further improvements. For example I'm considering splitting computing from mathematics and I have had some sensible suggestion for reorganising and splitting the chemistry and micro-biology lines.

In the mean time, thanks for all the comments, tweets and links, and if you could link back to this original post rather than just posting a static snapshot that will go out of date, that would be most appreciated.


Thursday 12 August 2010

The scientific formula for the perfect nonsense scientific formula

We’re all familiar with the pseudo scientific formulas beloved of the media when attempting to add an air of scientific credibility to a crackpot idea or marketing campaign.

These crimes against logic are not peculiar to the Daily Mail either, I’ve seen formulas for the perfect handshake, the perfect penalty kick, the perfect hourglass figure, how to make the perfect cup of tea, the most depressing day of the year and even how to park your car perfectly touted by numerous main stream media sources.

So I thought I’d help them out by writing a scientific formula for creating the perfect nonsense scientific formula.

Here you go:

Ce = Celebrity (Wherever possible ensure your formula is either relevant to or endorsed by a celebrity

l = Celebrity Status (Obviously your formula is more potent with an A-List celebrity, but take whatever you can get)

tp = Topicality (publish your formula to coincide with a relevant time of year, prominent event, associated news item, disaster or holiday season)

cr = Credibility of the scientist you can cajole into knocking up your nonsense formula

bs = associated nonsense