Archive for April, 2010

Derren Brown Investigates… Joe Power

Sometimes, just sometimes, I could almost be convinced that there’s someone up there listening. Not all the time, of course, and only half-heartedly – I’m not about to go all Goddy on you guys – but who could blame me, when things like this happen:

Derren Brown – beardy mind-meddler and generally top fella – investigates those who claim to have psychic powers… starting with my old mate Joe Power. I’ll come to Joe in a moment (we’ve a bit of a history), but first I’d like to say well done to Derren. I remember after his ‘Messiah’ show, it looked like he was heading into a more publicly skeptical position. While that hasn’t happened quite as far as we’d have liked (the lottery show for example), this latest show, coupled with his role in ‘Science of Scams’ suggests that skepticism is something Derren’s focusing on a little more. If that’s the case, this is excellent news – where Randi has been a major figurehead for decades (possibly even centuries, he seems to always have existed), he needs somebody to help shoulder the weight and take up the slack. With his public persona, showmanship, reputation and expertise, I really think Derren can play that role, should he desire to.

One person who certainly can’t play that role, is Mr Joe Power. For those of you not aware, Joe and the Merseyside Skeptics Society (and myself in particular) have something of a past – in fact, long before the 10:23 Campaign, taking on Joe Power was one of the first pieces of skeptical activism I got involved in. Having criticised his appearance in a local paper, blindly promoting him as ‘The Man Who Sees Dead People’, I decided to meet Joe Power at his Liverpool book signing, and invited him to take the million dollar challenge. What I got wasn’t polite declination, but bizarre insults – with Joe genuinely comparing all skeptics to paedophilesYou can read the whole account here, and I recommend you do, to really get a feel for the kind of man Joe Power is. It was during this conversation that I heard Joe had been investigated for a prominent TV show, and at the time I put two and two together and predicted it was Derren Brown who he was referring to.

I can’t wait to see the show on May 10th.

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Bad PR: Schrödinger’s Cock!

It’s official: TOP Gear host Jeremy Clarkson has the largest penis in show business, according to British women.

No you heard me right – I said he HAS the largest penis in showbusiness, not that he IS the largest penis in showbusiness. As reported in multiple sources last week, including our old friend The Sun:

A survey carried out among 4,000 housewives revealed a large portion of them think Clarkson is the proud owner of a ten-and-a-quarter inch penis.

Unsurprisingly, of course, The Sun went with the headline ‘Clarkson in Poll Pole Position‘. See what they did there? That’s called journalism. Or something.

Apparently, according to this definitely-scientific survey of random women (and I love the specific implication that they were housewives – more of that later), the Top Gear hosting, Daily Mail writing, right wing caricature Clarkson is in possession of a ten and a quarter inch effort, downstairs, with Gordon Ramsey closely following behind him – or at least as closely as his speculated 9 and a half inches will allow, at any rate.

Now, those of you of a more skeptical bent – and I believe there are quite a few of you out there – will have spotted the inherent flaw in this entire piece: no, I’m not talking about the continuation of some rather dodgy and long-debunked myths regarding size, ego and masculinity; or that the numbers involved are ludicrously and comically out of kilter with the real average underpants size of a fella; or even the fact that they’re clearly confused by the fact that Clarkson is a massive cock, rather than that he possesses such. No, I’m talking about the glaring fact that this survey purports to have surveyed people’s opinions and speculations of something which is grounded in fact. At the moment, Clarkson’s piece is entirely safely secreted in his over-tight dad-jeans, and thus while there is a factual answer to the penis problem, there’s only baseless speculation at this stage. Were we able to open the box, we’d be able to put the speculation aside and start dealing in facts.

What we have, in short, ladies and gentleman, is Schrödinger’s Cock. Read the rest of this entry »

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Skeptics in the Pub: Phil Allport

Dr Phil Allport

Liverpool and the Large Hadron Collider

by Phil Allport
When: Thu, Jun 17, 2010 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines (aka the Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool

Summary

The Large Hadron Collider is the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. It was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) with the intention of testing various predictions of high-energy physics, including the existence of the hypothesized Higgs boson.

Dr Phil Allport will be talking to the MSS about the involvement of Liverpool and other UK universities in the design and construction of the LHC experiments, as well as the schedule for the accelerator’s projected 20 years of operation.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Newspapers Wake Up From A Coma Speaking Fluent Bullshit

This is a story that recently popped up in both the Daily Fail and the Telegraph (from now on referred to as the BellyLaugh).

Apparently, Croatian doctors are baffled after a teenage girl who fell into a mysterious coma woke up speaking fluent German. The teenager has been unable to speak Croatian – although can understand it when it is spoken to her – and now communicates only in German.

Pretty off-the-wall I think you’ll agree. This is the kind of thing that would have steadfast believers in past lives screaming “Proof!” in very loud voices, particularly if this unfortunate teenager didn’t speak German beforehand. Going by the tone of the article, you would think that this is what had actually happened. Read the rest of this entry »

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InKredulous: Episode #003

InkredulousA satirical comedy podcast with four rounds of questions on skeptical topics, and four guests answering them. Episode 003 is up and we think you’ll really like it.

Your host is Andy Wilson (@InKredulosi) of the Merseyside Skeptics Society

Appearing this month are:

You can contact the show at inkredulous@merseysideskeptics.org.uk, and follow us on twitter @InKredulosi to get the early heads up on who will appear on the next show. As always, thanks for listening.

Play

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What Is It? #11

What Is It? #11

What Is It? #11 (Click to embiggify)

It’s that time of the week again, where we show you another of tricky photos and ask you – What Is It? This week, the Prof has taken some time off (these lazy academic types!) so I thought I’d give you this offering – another ‘Who Is It’ this time. Answers below, please.

Last week we showed you this photo, and asked you what it is. The answer? It’s a cryobot probe, currently being used by Russian scientists to break through the 2.5 mile thick ice in Antarctica to access ‘Lake Vostok’ which has not seen light between 250,000 and 25,000,000 years. This lake could be sterile and if so means there will be an inexhaustible supply of high oxygenated water. It may be connected to other ‘under ice’ lakes in the region by rivers which means if they contaminate it, they contaminate them all – to the concern of other, non-Russian scientists. Find out more on Lake Vostok.

Winner this week was Hugh Randolph, who was first in with:

Is it a submarine used to explore “frozen” lakes?

Hugh wins for the fastest sort-of-right answer. However, we did also get an exactly-right answer, from Thomas:

It’s a Cryobot, a robot that can burn itself through thick layers of ice.

Well done Hugh and Thomas. Good luck with this week’s!

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