I had the pleasure of being on Rational Alchemy and the podcast got posted the other day. Sorry I didn’t post this sooner. Be sure to check it out, it was great fun. Talked about Power Balance and Facebook in greater detail. So if you caught Skeptically Speaking and want to know more, give this one a listen.
Reminder to everybody that I will be on Skeptically Speaking tonight.
I’ll be on the “Speaking up” segment at the beginning of the show talking about skeptical activism on Facebook. Specifically in regards to our big win getting the Power Balance Facebook page taken down.
I decided it was time for a change. I dumped the old blogging software for a new one, found a nice theme, customized it and now we’re good to go! I hope you enjoy the new look. This will blowout all the old comments and user accounts, sorry about that. I tried to move them over but it didn’t work out.
In an update to my previous story I am happy to say that the Power Balance Facebook page has been taken down. I’m not quite sure if Power Balance took it down, or if Facebook did. It doesn’t really matter why, just that it was.
Up Up and Away – Alien Abductees:
Kitty Mervine shares her work with alien abductees over the past 6 years. What began as a suggestion from James Randi and Phil Plait has turned into a passion for getting know and helping people that believe they have been abducted by aliens. Along with her web site, Kitty answers questions at several “expert” sites and uses a team of “experts” to help with her advice and answers. Abductees prove to be not only “reality challenged’ but also kind people with problems that in some cases become friends. Kitty just doesn’t educate the abductees, she also educates skeptics about what life is like for an abductee and how compassion and education can make a real difference in the life of an abductee.
Australian Skeptics were represented by Richard Saunders and they did some blind testing on the show. As most that come to this site would expect, it failed. But, this is where the story begins in this case.
We started asking for evidence that support their claims. Through this discussion one member of the group started having a bit of a dialog with us. Dave suggested she test the bracelets and I supplied a protocol for double blind testing.
I’m pleased to announce that this person did do the testing and reported the results over two status updates:
“yeah ok… it’s placebo… got a refund this morning…. :p”
“be true to yourself.. test the bracelet.. your mind is a powerful thing.. even il admit I was fooled … grow from this experience … ”
Thanks to Dr. Rachie, Richard, and Dave for bringing attention to this, and thank you to Suzi, the Facebook member that put the claims to the test and sided with science and reason.
Full report will be coming probably next week. Due to a compatibility issue with firewire standards I have to pull the video off the camera using a different computer that I don’t currently have. Sorry about that.
In any event, judging from the data we currently have there is no evidence of anything paranormal or supernatural at the Goffstown Historical Society. We did however come up with some interesting findings from a “ghost hunting” perspective.
Kitty, one of the members of the group that was helping with the investigation did get some orb pictures, while I didn’t get any. After some evaluation I have concluded that this has to do with the camera/lens type and the proximity of the lens and the flash on the camera.
The flash on Kitty’s camera is very close to the lens, this causes much less of an angle for flashback to occur. On my camera the lens sticks out much further, and the flash is a greater distance away from the lens. This causes less of a chance for the reflection to enter into the lens.
Another anomaly we found with Kitty’s camera seems to be caused by lens flare. I hope to demonstrate this in my full report.
Black “ghost fog” was recreated purposefully. I have one example using my finger, and Kitty recreated it with her camera strap. We were unable to capture anything else with the cameras.
We would like to thank Andi from the Goffstown Historical Society for her time and generosity. They have some really great items in their collection and we suggest that you all go check them out during their open houses. Just don’t expect to see any ghosts
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RELEASE DATE: Granite State Skeptics to Investigate Haunted Building
On Halloween Night
Granite State Skeptics today announced that its members will conduct a
live investigation of a haunted building. The investigation will take
place on Halloween night, and is being sponsored by Granite State
Skeptics and Skeptical Analysis of the Paranormal Society.
“The SAPS team has extensive experience exposing myths about alleged
hauntings,” said Granite State Skeptics president Travis Roy. “We’re
excited to work with them, to get at the truth behind supposed
paranormal activity here in New Hampshire”
The actual location, in the greater Manchester, NH area, will be
announced on the night of the investigation, on the group’s Twitter
feed at twitter.com/gsskeptics. The group will also share live Twitter
updates, as their investigators look into various claims, including
ghostly apparitions, lights that spontaneously turn on and off, and
electronic voice phenomenon, or EVP.
After the investigation, the group will hold a meeting at the Hannah
Dustin Memorial in Boscawen, NH. Attendees will hear the story behind
the memorial, and examine the preliminary findings of the
investigation. The investigators will also take questions about their
findings, and the procedures used during their examination. Time
permitting, the group also hopes to announce a second investigation to
end the night.
Granite State Skeptics was created in 2008, as a place for like-minded
individuals to engage in informal discussion. After a hiatus, the
group has reformed, expanding its meetings to include guest speakers
on various topics, and committing to active skeptical outreach and
activism. From UFOs and ghosts, to psychics and alternative medicine,
Granite State Skeptics examines all forms of pseudoscience and the
paranormal from a responsible, scientific viewpoint.
The group’s meetings are open to the public. They take place on the
2nd Monday of every month, at Milly’s Tavern in Manchester, NH. For
more information, please visit www.granitestateskeptics.org. To learn
more about other investigations conducted by Skeptical Analysis of the
Paranormal Society, see www.skepticalanalysis.com.
– END –
Yesterday I was driving around Concord and passed by the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. I haven’t been there since they put the huge addition on and figured it was worth the look, mostly because the observatory hatch was open.
I must say, the new facility is fantastic. The current exhibit is on black holes. It starts by asking you to pick a name (from two columns) and then it takes your picture and prints out a card with a bar code.
As you walk around to each exhibit you put your card it and it keeps track of you and what you’ve looked at and you can interact with it online once you get home. During some points you can email your findings to your friends and record audio from yourself about what you’ve learned. It was a fantastic exhibit and the interaction was great.
After that I was wandering around looking at some items that were on loan from NASA when I was told the observatory was open so I headed up there. They had two telescopes setup that were pointed at the sun and I got to take a look. With the filters in place I got a great look at the sun and even got to see a sunspot. Turns out they’re also open every Friday night (weather permitting) and you can go look at the night sky as well. The person there said they usually have it on Jupiter, but also have it pointed to Neptune, and Uranus from time to time. If you have a free Friday night and the sky is clear you should swing by.
Perhaps the Granite State Skeptics can have an outing up there some time.
I recently happened to catch a segment on New Hampshire Public Radio‘s Word of Mouth, entitled “Biodynamics: The Next Green Wine.” The nearly nine minute segment focused on what biodynamics is, why it is being used in the wine industry, what sets it apart from organic and, of course, how it effects the products.
Biodynamic farming was introduced by Rudolf Steiner in 1924 in response to farmers complaints about degraded soil conditions and health of crops and livestock due to the use of chemical fertilizers. It capitalizes on one of the biggest misconceptions about organic farming, namely that farming organically forgoes chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In fact, organic farming allows all kinds of fertilizers and pesticides, but they can’t be synthetic. (To further complicate the issue, the 2006 agricultural appropriations bill (passed back in December 2005) allowed the use of 38 synthetic ingredients in organic foods.)
The core of biodynamic farming is a collection of nine preparations that are supposed to transfer cosmic “forces” into the soil to aid fertilization. Most of them include some kind of very specific instructions for use that usually involve ritualistic methods. Preparation 505 is a good example; Oak bark (Quercus robur) is chopped into small pieces, placed inside the skull of a domesticated animal, surrounded by peat and buried in earth in a place where lots of rain water runs past. The finished preparations are used in very small amounts, after being mixed into compost, inviting a comparison to so-called homeopathic remedies.
Planting, cultivating, and harvesting of crops are all planned with astronomical guidance, usually by the phases of the moon. Pest control is attempted by using small amounts of ash created by burning the offending pest or infected plant, yet another nod to homeopathy. Seeds must be gathered from the local plants to avoid getting your seed stock from large, multinational seed corporations.
So biodynamic farming turns out to be a bit of a hodgepodge of various other non-scientific disciplines, from homeopathy, to astrology, and includes some seemly religious rituals. But does it work? Most studies have shown little effect, and have attributed any effect that was observed to the extra care and use of compost from more normal methods of organic and sustainable farming.
So why do they do it? It turns out that the use of sulfates in winemaking makes it very hard to get an organic label on a bottle of wine. However, the different rules mean that it’s far easier to put a biodynamic label on the same bottle. And vineyards that label their wines as “biodynamic” are able to charge more for them.
So what’s the bottom line? It’s hard to tell, since wine varies so greatly depending on where it’s grown, the year, and various other conditions, like the weather, that are basically uncontrollable. Depending on the actual effort the vineyard puts in, and how much of a mark-up they charge for the biodynamic label, it could be worth the extra effort. And it certainly feeds the need that many consumers have, to search out things they perceive as better. Biodynamic has been said to be almost “super organic,” which makes the allure that much greater for people looking to feel like they’re doing that much better for the Earth, but in reality they seem to be paying for little more than rituals and wishful thinking.