Saturday 30 January 2010

1023 Campaign Video from Southampton

And here's a few stills as well...

Me, giving a quick pre-overdose briefing

The Hampshire Woo-Pill Clan

Friday 29 January 2010

Winchester SitP, Thanks For Coming

On Monday evening, I was starting to get a little nervous that the 30 capacity function room booked for our first Winchester Skeptics in the Pub might not be quite big enough. I thought if we are lucky enough to get 40 people, then we won’t fit in.

I rang Dave Hughes on Monday night and we made an executive decision to find a bigger pub. Dave went out the very next day and located the Roebuck Inn. They just happened to be redoing their kitchens and hence the dinning room was currently available.

We booked the pub and did our best to get the new venue details out to everyone.

I should have realised that we were in for good night when I pulled up in the car park and nearly bumped into Jack of Kent, making a surprise and much welcomed visit to our kick off meeting.

The venue looked pretty good, so whilst we were setting up I asked the Bar Manager about the possibility of using the pub for future events. She explained that once the kitchens are running again the dinning room would be unavailable, so sorry.

And then you started to arrive...
A quick head count revealed attendance just shy of 100. Hence when we chatted to the Bar Manager again at the end of the evening, she decided it prudent to offer to shut the resturaunt early if we would like to come back.

So just a brief summary of the evening itself...

Rebecca Watson gave everyone a great introduction on what “Skeptics in the Pub” is all about.
And then kindly introduced our main speaker for the evening, Simon Singh.Simon gave an inspiring talk, touching on some of his work on “Big Bang” and the genesis of his book with Edzard Ernst, “Trick Or Treatment”. Simon explained the resulting libel case brought by the British Chiropractic Association against him as a result of a related article in the Guardian and clearly emphasised why a reform of the English Libel laws is required.

A truly awesome opening night for Winchester Skeptics in the Pub and we hope to see you there for future events.

Great to meet so many of you including lots of people new to me and also a great many familiar faces as well as the chance to connect some twitter and facebook friends with real people.

Hope to see you all again soon and as you can see, we were all rather pleased with ourselves.[Dave Hughes]

[Crispian Jago]

[Sid Rodrigues]

Wednesday 27 January 2010

If Water Has Memory ...

Why did Sir Clive Sinclair never invent this?
It would have been far less wobbly. Oh and if you're not a 40+ computer nerd and Alt-Med skeptic .... move along ... nothing to see here.

Monday 25 January 2010

Why I Will Not Be Voting Conservative in the General Election

When I signed the libel reform peition last year, I also ensured I wrote to my local MP in the hope that she too would be supportng the campaign.

Here is a copy of the letter I sent:

Dear Maria Miller,

I am writing as one of your constituents who is deeply concerned about the effect our libel laws have on medicine, science, journalism and literature. I believe English libel law cripples free expression both in the UK and abroad.

Firstly, I would urge you to sign cross-party EDM 423 Libel Law Reform to send a clear message from Parliament that you are committed to reforming these unjust laws.

Freedom to criticise and question, in strong terms and without malice, is the cornerstone of argument and debate, whether in scholarly journals, on websites, in newspapers or elsewhere. Our current libel laws inhibit debate and stifle free expression. They discourage writers from tackling important subjects and thereby deny us the right to read about them.

The law is so biased towards claimants and so hostile to writers that London has become known as the libel capital of the world. The rich and powerful bring cases to London on the flimsiest grounds (libel tourism), because they know that 90% of cases are won by claimants. Libel laws intended to protect individual reputation are being exploited to suppress fair comment and criticism.

The cost of a libel trial is often in excess of £1 million and 140 times more expensive than libel cases in mainland Europe; publishers (and individual journalists, authors, academics, performers and blog-writers) cannot risk such extortionate costs, which means that they are forced to back down, withdraw and apologise for material they believe is true, fair and important to the public.

The English PEN and Index on Censorship report has shown that there is an urgent need to amend the law to provide a stronger, wider and more accessible public interest defence. Sense About Science has shown that the threat of libel action leads to self-censorship in scientific and medical writing.

I would urge you to back the campaign by English PEN, Index on Censorship and Sense About Science for a Libel Reform Bill.


Crispian Jago

and here is her response in full:

As I have spent much of the last year activley supporting the libel reform campaign, I'm afraid that it's hardly likely that I will be voting for an MP who does not support this much needed reform.

And, just in case you too also support Libel reform and happen to live in Basingstoke, you may wish to bear Maria Miller's stance in mind on election day.

Bible Code

Many conspiracy theorists seem very keen on the idea of hidden messages or codes secretly embedded within ancient writings. Believers claim hidden prophecies of significant world events and disasters can be uncovered and deciphered by analysing the Bible. By simply selecting a random paragraph and taking out the punctuation and merely inserting the passage into a matrix a skeptic, if suitably motivated, and with the benefit of hindsight is easily able to uncover whatever it is they fancy. Believers see predictions of the assassination of President Kennedy and the 9/11 twin towers terrorist attack uncovered in the bible as irrefutable evidence of divine revelation even though rational thinkers can locate predictions of the death of Leon Trotsky and Princess Diana secreted within “Moby Dick”.

Saturday 23 January 2010

Why I love Carl Sagan

Science is a mosaic. Good science from disparate fields seems to conveniently converge to help us gradually gain a clearer overall view of our universe and make valid predictions based on that knowledge.

No one joined this rich mosaic of scientists together more sublimely and eloquently and passionately communicated this amassed wisdom better than Carl Sagan. Thanks Carl.

Click to embiggen and stand well back for a clearer view, or get up close and see how Carl cut his teeth on Einstein and Feynman.

Friday 22 January 2010

The 10:23 Secret Practice Video

On 30th January 2010 over 300 skeptics are expected to take part in a homeopathic "overdose" as part of the 10:23 Campaign.

The 10:23 Campaign is a national movement headed by the Merseyside Skeptics Society, which aims to raise awareness of homeopathy, a multi-million pound industry based on a long-discredited 18th century ritual, selling remedies to the public which have no scientific basis and no credible evidence for their efficacy beyond the placebo effect.

The homeopathic "overdoses" will take part in towns across the UK and videos of each event will be uploaded to the 10:23 website.

However, Science, Reason & Critical Thinking can exclusively reveal the video of the 10:23 practice run.

inspired by a suggestion of Jack of Kent

Friday 15 January 2010

Marvin The Homeopathic Android

It occurred to me that the Sirius Cybernetic Corporation may well be inept enough to install a homeopathic GPP chip into one of their robots...
Please sign up to the 10:23 campaign

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Storm: A different perspective

The conversation in the dining room of a white walled and carpeted inner North London top floor flat has been well documented by Tim Minchin. However the conversation in the kitchen on that fateful evening has been less well documented.

[Kitchen during Pre dinner drinks]

Physician: OK darling, I’ve given the guests some pre-dinner drinks while they admire my new painting and stroke the cat, how’s the starter coming along?

Actress: Just don’t fucking hassle me, I’ve got 4 courses to prepare. Anyway, how are Tim and Sarah getting on with Storm?

Physician: Yeah, pretty good, just a bit of light hearted chatter, I don’t think you need of worried about Storm and Tim not getting, they seem fine. In fact they're…

Actress: Sshhh

Physician: What?

Actress: Listen.

Physician: What?

Actress: I’m sure she just mentioned astrology.

Physician: Fuck.

Actress: No we’re OK, he’s just ignored her, quick, give me hand to carry the starters through before she gets her fucking star charts out.

[Kitchen between Main course and desert]

Physician: The cheeky fucking bitch never touched her veal. You ordered that in especially from the farm shop too.

Actress: I’m surprised you bloody noticed, I saw you staring at her tits all through the main course.

Physician: I wasn’t staring at her bloody tits; I was trying to work out what that stupid bloody tattoo was.

Actress: It was a fucking fairy on her tit and before you gawp at her arse, that’s a butterfly, and do you realise how much wine you’ve drunk?

Physician: Sshhh, she just mentioned something about Pharmaceutical companies being the enemy.

Actress: Jesus fucking H. Christ, his diplomacy dyke will never hold out to that.

And if you've not seen it yet, here's the legal advice offered to Storm.

Friday 8 January 2010

Inaugural Winchester SitP Event

PLEASE NOTE, due to increased interest, the venue of this event has been changed to a pub with a larger function room. It will now take place at:

The Roebuck Inn
57 Stockbridge Street
SO22 6RP

For updates on this, and future events, sign up on the Winchester Sitp Website
The first Winchester Skeptics in the Pub event will be in the Roebuck Inn in Winchester on Thursday 28th January 2010 at 7:30pm

The guest speaker will be Simon Singh

Simon Singh is the author of several bestselling science books, including 'Fermat's Last Theorem' & 'Big Bang'. Most recently he co-authored 'Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial' with Professor Edzard Ernst. His Radio 4 programmes include 'Five Numbers', 'Five Particles' & 'The Serendipity of Science'.

Recently there have been a series of high profile libel cases brought against scientists, science writers and medical researchers. Simon Singh, who is currently being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association, will argue that English libel laws crush free speech and block scientific progress. He will explain how our libel laws are notoriously friendly towards claimants and hostile towards defendants, which means that international libel cases are brought to London. Singh will also give his views on how libel laws could be reformed to bring them in line with other democratic countries, and will explain why he is backing a national campaign for libel reform.

Simon will be the inaugural speaker of the Winchester Skeptics in the Pub and will be introduced by the fearless leader of the Skepchicks and co-host of The Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast, Rebecca Watson.

Tuesday 5 January 2010

Trust Boots?

Here's some suggestions for some new homeopathic remedies for Boots to peddle...

Saturday 2 January 2010

Save A Prayer

Here’s a short 42 second video taken from Genesis TV where the presenters discuss the podcast I contribute to, The Pod Delusion. The best advice they seem to muster in response to our podcast, is to pray for me and my fellow contributors, presumably in the hope that we will see the error of our rational and critical thinking ways.

Coincidently, I heard from a good Christian friend of mine recently who also happily informed me that he and his church were praying for me, again as a result of my preference for clear thought and logic over blind adherence to pre-enlightened myths.

Although I do not take offence when being told I am being prayed for (I’ll leave offence as the blackmail weapon of choice for the believers). I am however exasperated by the amount of genuine good intent wasted on this futility.

The cumulative amount of effort and time frivolously wasted on prayer is frustrating when there are so many worthwhile alternatives that could have a genuine effect.

Therefore, if you are religious and you wish to pray for me, in order to ensure some value is added by your good intentions, I would ask that you save your prayer until you have first recently completed at least one of the items on the following list.

  1. Donate time or money to a humanist secular charity
  2. Give blood
  3. Become an organ donor
  4. Launch an over ripe tomato in the general direction of Pope Benny XVI
  5. Post a fresh steaming turd through Nick Griffin’s Letter Box.

At least then I will know that you have actually done something that might actually stand a chance of having a genuine effect.

NB Actually, if you are religious and you do seriously want to complete one of the above tasks before praying for my condemned soul, please select one of the first 3, as I only added the last 2 for comic effect.

Friday 1 January 2010

Pod Delusion New Year Awards Show

You can listen to the New Year Awards Show below, or subscribe to the Pod Delusion on iTunes

Political Scandal of the Year by Simon Howard
Product of the Year by Salim Fadhley
Disease of the Year by Billy Abbott
Social Media Mogul of the Year by Liz Lutgendorff
Blogger of the Year by Crispian Jago
Quote of the Year by Martyn Norris
Comedian of the Year by Misty
Gaming Twat of the Year by Jim Dixon
Douchebag of the Year by Owen Duffy
Most Missed 2009 by Jon Treadway
Pod Delusion Listeners Award by James O’Malley

and as promised in my report, here are the links to my Top 10 blogs of 2009:

10. Adventures in Nonsense & Zeno’s Blog
9. The Enemies of Reason
8. Heresy Corner
7. Podblack Cat
6. Dr. Petra Boynton
5. Gimpy’s Blog
4. Carmen Gets Around
3. Jourdemayne
2. Vagina Dentata
1. Jack of Kent