Showing posts with label skepticism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label skepticism. Show all posts

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Saving The World - One New Podcast At A Time

The Rational Crank has been away for a while, but I have something new, a PODCAST.  Every few weeks or so, a few of my friends and I will get together over a late night dinner and chat about stuff - some overlooked news, some strange  ideas and some bad jokes.  We start with a conspiracy game and end by solving all the world's problems.  If you like this, let me know and tell a friend.  You can also leave a review on iTunes, Digg or your portal of choice. 

Alright, honestly, I don't even know how to put this on iTunes, Digg or my portal of choice yet.  I don't even know what to call it.  One step at a time, ok.   Anyone know what an RSS feed is?   

I would like to give a big thanks to all of my friends on the show.  I would also like to thank the podcasts that inspired me: the Skeptics Guide To the Universe, The Amateur Scientist, The Conspiracy Skeptic, The Dumbasses Guide to Knowledge, and Potter and Pals.  I freely admit stealing a little something from all of these great podcasts.      

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This Could Be Craziest Post I Have Ever Written

A while back I spoke about pareidolia, the act of seeing specific images in vague random shapes. It was easy for me to find a bunch of pictures of the virgin marry to illustrate the phenomena, So I started looking for some pictures of the big man, himself. They were also easy to find - Jesus on toast, Jesus in an x-ray, Jesus in a Kit Kat bar. But, there was one picture in particular, that I came across, that I specifically did not use. When you stare at this picture, if you squint your eyes, and you use your imagination you can clearly see the image of Jesus in…I’m sorry, I can’t say it. It is too crude for my blog. Believe it or not, I DO want to maintain a certain civility in my posts. And this image of Jesus would be crossing the line.

But I can’t stop thinking about it. Not because of where the image is, but because of what the implications of this image appearing in this particular place, are. You see, the fact that the image of Jesus can clearly be seen in… this place, could very well be absolute proof that there is no God.

According to Christian beliefs, God is responsible for all things. He designs the sunsets. He determines the number of leaves on every tree. And, he determines the growth patterns on the hair on….

If he really existed, he did this. He is responsible for this image. He is the guy who put THAT there. There is no way around it. You can’t say it was man’s fault for seeing it. God is all knowing. He knew that there would be some bozo with a cell phone camera and the rudimentary skills to upload images to the internet. If God didn’t want us to see Jesus in this place then why has he been conditioning us for all these years to spot Jesus in all those other places - in potato chips, and tree bark and oil stains? If Jesus really is appearing in all those ordinary places then you can’t blame us if we suddenly see him so clearly in…NO I WON’T SAY IT.

God does not exist. That is the only reasonable explanation. The alternative is too appalling to imagine. There can be no other explanation. If he exists, he is an insane deity, baiting us, wanting us to identify this horrible image. He is waiting, like a tiger in the tall grass, waiting to judge us unworthy, to cast us to hell - ready to pounce, wishing with all his heart that we fail. GOD IS MAD, YERNING TO ENVELOP US ALL….. Oh, ok. Here’s the picture.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday, December 18, 2009


I found these and many more on Buzz Feed. They are a collection of Virgin Mary sightings for 2009. The phenomenon is called pareidolia, the act of seeing specific images in vague shapes or smudges. We all do this when we look at a cloud and imagine a dog or fire truck. We are also doing it when we look at a satellite image from mars and see a human face.And yes the one at the end is a condom. I am so sorry.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


At parties, you’ve heard me say that when it comes to my world view I am a “Skeptic.” (Right now, I am addressing only the people I have gotten drunk in front of, which it turns out is more of you then I wish to admit) Some of you think I use the word Skeptic as a general adjective, as in: “I am skeptical, please refill my wine glass.” To be clear, when I say I am a Skeptic I mean, I belong to an organized group calling, themselves “Skeptics.” Yes, there is such a group. You’ll be surprised to hear there are a number of such grumpy sounding groups. They publish grumpy magazines like "The Skeptic” and “Skeptical Inquirer.” They have grumpy podcasts like “Point of Inquiry” and “The Skeptics Guide to the Universe.” They have grumpy congressional lobbing groups and they even hold grumpy conventions. They just had one this month in Las Vegas where I’m sure no one gambled because no one believed they could win. That’s all a pack of lies of cause. They are not a bunch of grumpy people. They are just like everyone else. (I was about to say they are just like you and I, but since I myself am not know as mister sunshine I thought better of it.)

During the convention in Vegas, psychic, Connie Sonne participated in James Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge. For those of you who don’t know, Randi is a funny old bearded Skeptic who has offered a million bucks to anyone who can perform any supernatural feat under controlled scientific circumstances. A MILLION BUCKS FOR ANY SUPERNATURAL FEAT. To this date no one has even passed the preliminary testing for this challenge. Let me repeat that. To this date no one has even passed the preliminary testing. That should tell you something about the “supernatural.”

Connie was no exception. Using a divining stone she thought she could identify three playing cards in an envelope. She failed on all three. I give her credit for trying, though. She seems sincerer, like so many who truly believer. But something she said during the question and answer session after the test particular struck me. She of cause gave some excuse as to why she failed the test. They always do. She said the test didn’t prove anything, and she still believes she has psychic powers. They always do. But then she was asked if there was any test that would change her mind. And without skipping a beat she said “no.”

Think about that for a second. There is no empirical test in the entire world that could change this woman’s mind about a particular subject. Call me naïve but I do not believe there is a single position that I hold that I am not willing to change my mind about give enough evidence. Granted some things would require a mountain of evidence for me to change my mind but still it’s possible. And that’s what Skeptics are. They are people who are willing to go where the evidence leads, even if they don’t like the results. In today’s world this ability is crucial. To participate in anything less is to enable fanaticism, partisan politics, and religious extremism.

Poor Connie, I don’t mean to lay all that at her feet. She is just some lady who thinks she can guess cards in an envelope. I don’t mean to pick on her but if more people were willing to accept evidence even when they don’t like the results (and we are all guilty of this, myself included) the world would be a far far better place. Our unwillingness and inability to listen to contrary evidence and weigh that evidence fairly is the reason we are the only developed country in the world without health care. It is the reason the US is involved in two overseas wars, and why we, as a species are doing nothing about the dying seas and global warming. And it is the reason some people believed (all evidence to the contrary) it is a good idea to fly planes into buildings. .....Do me a favor, change your mind about somethings.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Here is the next installment of the dowsing test.

(DOWSER- TOM – not his real name)
Let’s make the Dowsing experiment into a kind of performance piece/party! I'll bring plenty of dowsing rods - I know that after I prove that dowsing is true, everyone will want to learn how. Maybe even you!

A test at a party would be great but not at the one coming up. We have not yet come up with the protocol for the experiment. And as the Wicked Witch of the West has said, "These things have to be done delicately."
I would love to learn how to dowse. You may not know this but there are a number of science organizations around the world which will award you large sums of money (we are talking a million dollars) if you can demonstrate to them that you can do what you claim. But we are getting a little ahead of ourselves. Why don't we see if you can dowse first? Then we can have a dowsing rave because you are going to be rich.
From what I have read these science groups usually start out their tests with a questionnaire to get the applicant to specify their claim, so that is what I am sending you.
I want to do this questionnaire thing through email because I think this experience would make a good article for one of those ponderous Skeptic magazines I'm always trying to get published in. Don't worry; I won't use your name. In fact, I'm hoping to get drunk enough at the dowsing party that I won’t want to use my name either.

PS, you can dress up like a guinea pig if you think that will help.

As a licensed science TV watcher I feel I am eminently qualified to administer this test. The following is a series of questions to help us agree on a protocol. Once you answer these questions, we can come up with some suggested parameters for the experiment. Feel free to email back to me any ideas you think might help, any rules that you would like to change, or any rules you cannot agree to. Also please add any excuse to drink alcohol during the test. I don’t think this will help the results but it will certainly make the experimenting more interesting.
Please answer the questions fully. Add any information or qualifications that you see fit. If you do not know the answer to a question or are unsure feel free to include that in your response. Or say “this is a dumb question.” Please include curse words only when needed.

1) As I understand it, you claim that by holding two bent metal surveyor flags in your hands (one in each hand) and walking around in a field, you can detect a pipe made of ferrous metal buried in the ground in that field. Is that correct? If you would like, please feel free to describe your ability in your own words.
2) What would you estimate is your success rate?
3) How far away from the point you indicate (radius) can the pipe be for you to still consider it a successful detection (hit)?
4) How deep can the pipe be for you to still consider it a hit?
5) If you pointed to a spot and did not find a metal pipe but instead found a terracotta, cement, plastic or PVC pipe would you still consider that a hit?
6) Are the pipes you detect always water pipes or can they be pipes carrying wires, sewage, fiber optics or gas?
7) Does electrical power running through the wires in the pipes affect your results?
8) Does your body act as an antenna and somehow focus energy in a way that facilitates detection?
9) Do the metal rods move in your hands by themselves or do you move them (even if just subconsciously)?
10) As you walk and search, do you continue standing straight up or do you have to crouch close to the ground? In other words, how much does distance from the ground affect your abilities?
11) How long does it typically take you to perform a detection?
12) Can you always perform this action or do you have good days and bad days?
13) Does the season or time of day affect your results?
14) Does rain, temperature, or weather affect your results?
15) If you are tired will your results change?
16) Does repeated testing affect your results?
17) Does the presence of other people or animals affect your results?
18) Does jeweler worn by other people affect your results?
19) Does drinking affect your results?
20) Will I be allowed to hold and inspect the surveyor flags before the experiment begins?
21) Will I be allowed to wear a lab coat while doing so?
22) Will what I am wearing under the lab coat affect your results?
23) Do you have favorite surveyor flags?
24) Do they have names?
25) Are the surveyor flags you use magnetized?
26) Will I be allowed to test whether they are magnetized by bringing them in contact with some other ferrous metals?
27) You mentioned that the force that you are detecting may or may not be magnetism. Will bringing your surveyor flags in contact with ferrous metals before the experiment have any effect on the results?
28) Does the presence of trees or nearby power lines affect your results?
29) Does the presence of drunken people affect your results?
30) I understand that the pipes you are able to find are made of ferrous metals. Am I correct in understanding that those pipes do not have to de magnetized for you to be able to detect them?
31) Would the presence of any of the following materials affect your results? water, wire, fiber optics, sand, cardboard, paper, cloth, wood, plastic, ice or alcohol.
32) As part of this experiment (and if you agree) I think I will be hiding a length of pipe in one of a number of cardboard or plastic boxes. If I use a pipe made of ferrous metal as the object of the test, what would you say is the shortest length that you would feel confident in detecting. Although I would like you to specify a short length to facilitate the test, I also want you to pick a length that would make you perfectly comfortable. What is the shortest length of pipe (and suggested diameter) that you feel that you can detect in a cardboard or plastic box?
33) If I did hide the pipe in a box, would a plastic box or a cardboard box be ok?
34) If we do use a metal pipe you will be allowed to approve and inspect the pipe. Before the beginning of the experiment the pipe will be checked to make sure it is not magnetized. If the pipe is checked for magnetism by bringing it in contact with other ferrous metals will that affect the outcome of the test.
35) Would putting sand in the boxes with the pipe (to equalize the weight and prevent the pipe from rolling in the box) affect the results?
36) Since I will suggest we perform this test in Claire and my backyard does the presence of a lake affect your results?
37) Since we will be, (I hope), in a party situation, when this experiment is performed, would people passed out in the backyard affect the results?
38) Will nudity affect the results? (I would like to make it clear that that last question is in no way related to what I will be wearing under my lab coat.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009


First off, I would like to say Happy New Year. I can’t seem to shake this nagging feeling that 2009 will be a really good year.
Recently our local, progressively minded, free newspaper, The Orlando Weekly, printed an article in which they asked local newsmakers what they thought 2009 will be like. They chose some county commissioners, a radio news personality, and some local charity board members to use their crystal balls to pear into the future. The responses the paper received were interesting but not outstanding with the exception of one, Kim Wade, resident “psychic” at a New Age Shop in Orlando called Avalon. I want to compliment Wade for her STUNNING AND DARING predictions for 2009.
Without the benefit of ESP, gay activist, Michael Wanzie foresees Florida’s ban on gay adoption being lifted in 2009. Kim Wade, on the other hand, went out on a limb to say “Political things will be front-row center” in 2009.
Because of the slowing economy, reporter, Mike Synan of WDBO radio was willing to predict the renovation of the Citrus Bowl would be canceled. By contrast, Wade, really put her money where her mouth was by predicting “We’re going to start tightening the belts.“ She wouldn’t even say “our belts.” because that would be too much of a commitment. She said “the belts.” Someone someplace will be tightening some belts that may or may not belong to them.
Even County Commissioner, Robert Stuart was weak in predicting a second national championship for the Florida Gators. But, Wade demonstrated a powerful, penetrating vision that burrows into the murky future like a laser by stating “We’re going to see more as far as – it’s not going to be so much the big guy as far as money, big time.” …… What???

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Well, I found myself at yet another party, with too much wine in me. There I was with five others arguing about the paranormal. As is generally the case, I alone was defending Science and Skepticism against assaults from all sides. I wasn’t doing very well. My losses were completely due to the amount of alcohol that I had consumed and in no way related to my position, which I assure you was rock solid. Or at least that’s how I remember it. Although the next morning I woke up with a terrible headache and my socks were missing.
Sensing vulnerability, one of my friends decided to attack on another front by reminding me that he is an accomplished dowser. They all know exactly where my buttons are and have no qualms in pushing them liberally.
The long and short of it is I have a challenge. I must come up with an experiment to test my friend’s abilities. I will try to document this experiment and keep you posted as to how it is progressing. The following is the first email exchange:

(ME)So I’ve been thinking about our dowsing experiment. I need to ask you some questions to help me come up with a protocol we can both agree on. Can I email you? This is going to be fun. I’m going to make believe I’m a scientist. Maybe I’ll buy a lab coat.

Any time, any place, dude! Email me, or call. You can dress like a scientist, I'll dress like a guinea pig!

To be continued.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Last week at a party a friend of mine started talking about the experiments of Masaru Emoto. The following is an entry from Wikipedia:

Masaru Emoto , is a Japanese author known for his controversial claim that if human speech or thoughts are directed at water droplets before they are frozen, images of the resulting water crystals will be beautiful or ugly depending upon whether the words or thoughts were positive or negative. Emoto claims this can be achieved through prayer, music or by attaching written words to a container of water.

Two things came to mind when I heard this claim. Don’t you think it is an amazing coincidence that nice thoughts produced white orderly crystals, while angry thoughts produced black splotchy disorderly crystals? I understand that the bad guys are supposed to wear black hats and the good guys are supposed to wear white, but, come on. What are the chances that a chemical reaction would somehow correlate to old Hollywood western stereotypes? Couldn’t it have been just as likely for the crystals in the nice water to be disorderly or green in color, or shaped like ovals or spikes? Why were the angry water crystals black? Why not silver or gold? Why weren’t the bad water crystals blue diamonds, or yellow stars or green clovers? The mathematical chances that these results would correlate with some preconceived notions of what is “beautiful” has to be astronomical.
The second thing about memory water that bothered me is its implications outside of science. I am one of those strange combinations - skeptic and artist. If this “research” is correct, it would not only turn the world of physics on its head, it would do the same for the world of aesthetics.
I understand that the next statement is an argument from consequence but I’ll proceed anyway. There has always been a question in the art community as to whether beauty was really in the eye of the beholder. Is it truly all a matter of taste or lack thereof? Or do particular works of art possess an inherent beauty completely independent of the person viewing them? It seems Dr. Emoto has cleared this up for us. Since crystals that are black, uneven and misshapen are connected to “ugly thoughts” and white orderly crystals are the result of “Nice thoughts” then the implication is clear. Nature itself has made up its mind as to what constitutes good art and what constitutes bad art. If you take this idea to its logical conclusion (twisted uneven black things are connected to “bad” and straight orderly white things are connected to “good”) then beautiful paintings are the ones with the most order and the most white pigment. So I say out with all those Salvador Dali paintings, with their twisted images and dark landscapes. We should throw away all our Norman Rockwell’s with their splotchy, oddly proportioned teenagers and children with dirty faces. And don’t get me started on Jackson Pollock. Give me a painting of a white puppy dog, (purebred only of course), on a white background, facing forward and positioned evenly in the exact center of the canvas. Now that’s “nice” art.