Categories: "Science"

Loony astrologer tells scientists to ask the Moon's permission before crashing things into it

The stupidity of some people is often hard to grasp, especially when you've got those good old wacky astrologers/shamans/priestess of something or other like Satya Harvey (real name Ann) - I ain't gonna link to it because I'm not increasing the ad revenue, but you can search for her and probably find what I'm talking about, or go through the link below to a related article which links to it.

This is what she said in regards to the successful completion of Japan's lunar orbiter Kaguya, which finished its mission by impacting the lunar surface a couple of days ago.

In many traditions, including astrology, the moon represents the feminine. It is the yin, the intuitive, the emotions. Women are connected to the moon by their menstrual cycles while they are fertile, and all beings, including the earth herself, are affected by the pull of the tides.

Did these scientists talk to the moon? Tell her what they were doing? Ask her permission? Show her respect?

Yes and in other, less whacky traditions the Moon is a 3474km wide ball of rock. We can talk to it all day and never get a response.

Honestly, and to think this loon is conning money out of people for her astrology shaman rubbish.

Hat tip to Patricia Phillips writing on the same website making sure those whacky new age types know it's nonsense.

Marmite Jesus looks more like Freddie Mercury

For some strange reason this nonsense made it onto the BBC News website.

It may not be immediately obvious to everyone, but one family are convinced they can see the face of Jesus on the lid of a jar of Marmite.

Claire Allen, 36, said she was the first to notice the image on the underside of the lid as she was putting the yeast spread on her son's toast.

Her husband Gareth, 37, said he could not believe his eyes when he saw it.

Mr Allen, of Ystrad, Rhondda, said: "The kids are still eating it, but we kept the lid."

He explained: "Claire saw it first and called her dad to come and take a photo of it.

"When I first looked at it I wasn't sure, but when I moved it away from me it started coming out. I thought yeah, she's right - that's the image of Jesus.

The only trouble is, it looks more like Freddie Mercury than Jesus.

Of course this is no more than pareidolia. I see all sorts of things in my bathroom rug, care bears, dragons, dwarfs, even yesterday I saw the Ebay logo. But that doesn't mean care bears are looking out for me. The survival value of this overly aggressive pattern recognition is obvious - it's much better to think you see a tiger hiding in the grass, than to not see one at all even when there is one there. It only takes a few vague suggestions of something to get our brains to fill in the missing detail and latch onto something, be they visual or even audio. Everyone encounters this all the time, be it pictures in clouds, tree bark or on bumpy wallpaper. The difference is most people know its just an illusion, apparently Claire Allen hasn't quite realised it yet:

People might think I'm nuts, but I like to think it's Jesus looking out for us

Yes, yes we do. Why would your intergalactic cosmic dictator be hiding in a jar of Marmite, couldn't he come up with something a bit more impressive?*

*This argument by no means can be used against the Flying Speghetti Monster - he is food and so would obviously appear in it.

The NHS should not be funding nonsense

It looks like the National Health Service might soon be willing to provide acupuncture for suffers of back pain, thanks to guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

What is acupuncture?

Essentially its the notion that disease or other problems are caused by your qi (read: magical body energies) being out of whack.  This out-of-whackness can be corrected by inserting needles into specific meridians (read: magic qi pathways) to reflow the qi energies.

Today however we know the actual causes of disease, and there's no magic qi involved.

So what do the studies show?

Studying acupuncture is actually fairly difficult as its problematic to develop way to blind the tests, and decent placebo controls are difficult to achieve.  However some recent studies have been well designed to take these into account.

Typically they would comprise of four groups.  One group getting real acupuncture, with the needles being inserted into the magic qi pathways, a second group getting fake acupuncture, by having the needles inserted randomly.  A third group having no needles inserted, for example having cocktail sticks pressed against the skin without penetrating it, this group acts as the placebo control.  And finally a forth group getting no treatment.

What do the results look like?  For starters inserting needles in the actual acupuncture meridians show no difference to inserting them randomly.  This tells us that the whole qi thing is bunk - but anyone with two brain cells would have guessed that anyway, considering we actually know how the body works today and we don't just make things up randomly.  Importantly however jabbing people with cocktail sticks without breaking the skin produces the same results as the real and fake acupuncture.  What does this tell us?  That acupuncture is no better than placebo.

What does that mean?  It means it doesn't work.

Complimentary and alternative medicine have no place in today's society.  But they're nice sounding right?  Wrong, by definition they don't work.  If they did work they would simply be called medicine.  Getting people to think there's anything alternative about any of these "treatments" is one of the biggest marketing achievements in history.

If the NHS are going to do this - let me suggest a cheaper and safer alternative.  Paul's ancient mystical art of cocktail stick jabbing - all the same effects as acupuncture - but safer as there's no risk of infection from breaking the skin, plus I'll do it for half the price these acupuncture whack jobs will charge you.  The only difference?  My marketing department isn't as well funded.

Helen Sharman was the first British astronaut

Congratulations Timothy Peake on being Britain's first ESA astronaut. But several media outlets as per usual have got things slightly wrong, so let's gets the correction out there.

The Daily Telegraph for example says "Meet the first astronaut to fly to space under the British flag". Errr not quite.

I know what they're trying to distinguish between, the several British-born astronauts who have all been US citizens, and an actual British citizen, but it seems they're forgetting Helen Sharman, who is a British citizen, and flew under the British flag.

She went up to Mir in May 1991 onboard Soyuz TM-12 and performed medical and agricultural research. As part of the Juno co-operation agreement between the Soviet Union and a number of British companies, unfortunately it had to be in partnership with private companies as the Tories had prevented any money being used for manned spaceflight in the mid 80s. Despite fears of the mission being cancelled after the private companies failed to come up with the money to pay for the seat, some people namely those evil commies in the Soviet government understood how freakin' awesome spaceflight is and so made up the shortfall themselves, allowing the mission to go ahead.

And before anyone says then it was under the Soviet flag, here's the mission insignia clearly showing the British flag, and having English writing on it.

You might think people would spend 10 seconds doing a bit of research before writing their misleading headlines, but apparently not.

Science, evolution and god - a reply to a reader

Somebody recently commented on my entry describing why the Earth isn't 6000 years old.  I wrote an e-mail reply to them but it seems like they didn't provide the correct e-mail address when they posted the comment.  So instead I'll be posting my reply to them here, in the off chance that they read it.

Hello (hidden e-mail address), thank you for your comment on my blog.

Unfortunately I can't see much, if any connection between science and the word of god. There's no evidence to support the Earth being made from Ymir's flesh, or the mountains from his bones or the rocks from his teeth and jaws, or the seas being created by his icy blood. Nor any evidence to suggest that the stars, the Sun and Moon are the giants of the North and the South.

As for your remarks on white supremacists, I am somewhat confused. Europeans enslaved Europeans thousands of years before enslaving Africans. You don't need to setup a condition where whoever you're enslaving has to be sub-human. As we can see throughout classical civilisation, owning slaves was perfectly normal for the ruling classes regardless of whichever race happened to be involved in - you just need to setup the concept that owning people is acceptable, attempting to base a moral position on science is always a risky business as we saw the best science of the 19th century showing how closely related Africans and Europeans actually are, and not how distinct and seperate they are, as it turns out being seperated only by 50,000 years.

The prevailing mood in the 17th and 18th centuries among the slave-owning religious community was that they were separate species, and this provided the justification used against those who opposed it for the slave trade. This persisted right up until the civil war in the United States, where the largely religious southern states fought against the abolitionists of the more secular northern states.

Evolutionary theory unified all life on Earth, there's nothing different about us, we are all descended from the same self-replicating molecule, the genetic alphabet is the same in every species on Earth - the differences are trivial compared to our oneness with each other.

The default scientific position on the origin of life is obviously that life came from non-life, but this is nothing to do with the Theory of Evolution, which assumes we already have life.  We call this abiogenesis. Clearly we are here today, so this probably happened. To suggest a super-natural, extremely complicated entity being involved is much more unlikely than natural processes occurring and creating a molecule which could make copies of itself, and as such the burden of evidence would be upon those who imply a super-natural, complicated entity to prove its existence and role in the origin of life. To date no such evidence has come forward, in addition to that the implausibility of such an entity coming into existence itself - being far less likely than a relatively simple molecule coming into existence that can make copies of itself, practically places such a hypothesis on a level almost equal to that of an impossibility.

You'll notice I don't say it is impossible or never ever. In science we don't have absolutes, anything can change in light of new evidence.

Science is also not a god. Science is a method of understanding the world, a method for generating ideas, and then the testing of those ideas to see if they're actually real and exist in the real world or not. God on the other hand is a super-natural all powerful being that some humans speculate is actually real. They seem pretty different to me.

The prevailing mood in the scientific community is also that life changes - most obviously there are species alive today, like horses which weren't alive 100 million years ago. Back then we see completely different species, and we see gradual changes from species alive then, to species alive today. An example of life changing today can be seen in strains of flavobacterium that can digest nylon (an artificial substance). In the middle of the 20th century there were no bacteria that could digest nylon 6 - because it hadn't been invented yet. However this strain of flavobacterium evolved a new gene, a gene which enabled the digestion of nylon.

Obviously a chicken never gave birth to a giraffe - the two species are separated by over 100 million years of evolution. However we do see chickens giving birth to chickens that are slightly different to their parents, and we see giraffes giving birth to giraffes slightly different to their parents, like we see with all species. Over the course of millions of years these differences mount up. You mention chickens, cows and dogs. Just 10,000 years ago these species were considerably different to how they are today, since we domesticated them, we've been artificially selecting them as opposed to naturally selecting them so that traits we want survive, and the traits we don't die off and become extinct.

Evolution is not a religion, the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection is a scientific theory that describes the origin of species and their unity with each other. Just like how the Theory of Gravity describes how mass affects other mass in the universe, or how the Germ Theory of Disease explains, well, diseases. By scientific theory I don't mean guess, a theory in science is an idea which is backed up by evidence, and in the case of evolution it is backed up by a lot of evidence.

To say evolution is ungodly - whatever that means - is silly. Evolution explains how species change overtime. It says nothing about any gods. To say it is racist is in my opinion even more silly - there is nothing else I know of in all of religion which so brilliantly explains how life on Earth is so closely intertwined and related to each other.

Threatening me with burning in hell for all eternity isn't going to do you any favours. I can quite easily say that the Flying Spaghetti Monster will taunt you for all eternity with His Noodley Appendage. I hope you agree with me when I say such groundless remarks do not add to the conversation.

My belief, if you want to call it a belief, in evolution is based upon the prevailing scientific consensus that has existed over the last 150 years on the matter. How you could associate that with foolishness is beyond me, especially when you are unable to offer an alternative hypothesis to explain the diversity of life we see on Earth today, let alone any evidence to support it.

Again thank you for your comment.

Catching homeopathic pseudoscience on the Obama's visit

I was just going over some of the BBC's coverage of the Obama's visit to London today and caught something rather odd during Mrs Obama's visit to a London hospital.

The clip I'm speaking of can be found here. Why the BBC bothers to publish such short and trivial clips is beyond me, and why the BBC calls Sarah Brown the first lady is questionable too, as we do not use the term in this country and if we did it would apply to the Queen. Anyway...

About 9 seconds into the video Mrs Obama is being spoken to by some woman, and the only thing I can make out is "naturopathic homeopathic route". What the hell? If somebody has more information about what was being said I would love to hear it. Perhaps my American readers could also enlighten me as to where Mrs Obama stands on this sort of thing, she strikes me as being a pretty intelligent woman so with a bit of luck she was just rolling her eyes at this.

Seriously why is this even being talked about in a hospital? Or was she visiting one of our world famous and utterly ridiculous homeopathic hospitals – god I hope not. The only time anything like this should ever even need to be mentioned in a hospital is if a patient brings it up, and needs to be informed about it, namely with somebody sayings it bollocks.

Worse still it's not only rubbish. HOMEOPATHY KILLS, heck so-called ALTERNATIVE... (aka not scientifically proven, made up by a bunch of random people who don't bother to do any tests, heck why test things when you can make vague claims about whatever junk you put into a bottle and sell it) ...MEDICINE KILLS.

And even worse in the UK homeopathic hospitals are funded by the tax payer, the only thing the tax payer should be involved with to do with homeopathic or alternative medicine in general is banning it and putting the proponents of it in jail, yes Prince Charles I'm looking at you, and the rest of you lot.

1 2 ...3 ... 5 ...7 ...8 9 10 11 12 ... 36