Archive for March, 2010

Skeptics in the Pub: Matt Smith

Million Dollar Psychic

by Dr Matthew Smith
Matt Smith
When: Thu, Apr 15, 2010 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines (aka the Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool

Summary

Can a scientist become a psychic and win a million dollars?

Do we all have hidden psychic powers? Can we learn to be psychic? Psychologist Dr Matthew Smith is determined to find the answers to these questions and see if he can discover and develop his own abilities and claim the $1 million offered by magician James Randi for anyone who can demonstrate psychic ability.
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I Wonder: Connecting With The Dead

I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone when I say that psychics bug me. It’s the cold reading, the lying or fuzzy-thinking, the misguided and arrogant belief that they are helping people cope with death by making up stories about their dead loved ones – it’s all creepy and wildly disrespectful, I think.

I can, however, entirely see the appeal psychics have. We’ve all lost someone we love – it’s part of life, part of the human experience, and it utterly and completely sucks. The idea that there’s something beyond the world we see, that somehow a form of our consciousness survives it and is able to come back through the void to reassure the ones we love is immensely attractive. It’s also, thus far, demonstrably untrue.

When I was growing up, I’d spend every summer at my grandparents’ static caravan in a little wooded caravan site, every year between the ages of 1 and 14 (or so). When I was maybe round about 4 or so I made friends with a kid there, and every year we’d spend the whole summer at each others’ side – he was the first person I’d go call for when I woke up in the morning, and other than mealtimes I’d be with him until I went to sleep, for 6 weeks every year, for maybe 14 years. We were as close as brothers. His name, too, was Michael, and though I’d only see him a few weeks of the year, for those weeks we were like family.

Still, kids grow up, and the appeal of a tin-pot caravan in the middle of small wood in County Durham soon wears off for a teenager, and I stopped heading to the caravan site every year, and in doing so I lost touch with Michael.

When I was 20, I learned Michael had taken an overdose, and had died. Understandably, I was knocked sidewards when I found out. To this day it still hurts that my best friend isn’t around any more, and that I’ll never see him again. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Is It? #7

What Is It? #7

What Is It? #7 (click to enlarge)

It’s that time of the week again – time for our What Is It? competition. Same rules as always apply, check out the image and tell us what it is.

Last week we showed you this photo, and asked you what it is. The answer? It’s a photo of nanoparticles (in brown) attaching themselves to cancer cells (in violet) from the human abdominal cavity. This is actually pretty cool – scientists at Georgia Tech and the Ovarian Cancer Institute have further developed a potential new treatment against cancer that uses magnetic nanoparticles to attach to cancer cells, removing them from the body. The treatment, tested in mice in 2008, has now been tested using samples from human cancer patients. The results appear online in the journal Nanomedicine. [Image Credit: Ken Scarberry/Georgia Tech]

It was a difficult one, sure enough, and nobody got it entirely correct, but the closest to the correct answer was Stan T, with this guess:

Out of focus bone marrow aspirate, acute leukaemia, non specific esterase stain.

A partial congratulations to Stan T for coming closest – let’s see you all raise your game for this week’s photo!

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Dogs, Doom and Dictators

Last weekend, the Bluecoat gallery in Liverpool hosted a day of events under the title Views From The Grassy Knoll. It was a mixture of talks, screenings and performances covering everything from conspiracy theories and art, to science and politics. It also included an overview of what Skepticism is by Gavin Schofield from the Greater Manchester Skeptics, which I sadly missed but which I heard was a very good talk.

The headline lecture was 2012 by Dr Bill Aitchison, a performance artist and researcher. I was lucky enough to be able to make this one, albeit fifteen minutes late, and found it a very interesting and entertaining, if strange, experience. Read the rest of this entry »

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