Archive for July, 2010

InKredulous: Episode #006

Episode 6 of our satirical comedy podcast. With questions on skeptical topics, and four guests answering them.

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

Appearing this month are:

You can contact the show at andy@inkredulous.org, 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.

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Skeptics with a K: Episode #027

More homeopathy (!), treating impotence, victimising Bosnians and permanent gastric fistulas. Diagnosed by passages from the Koran, it’s Skeptics with a K.

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Bad PR: Chevrolet’s ‘Scientifically-Perfect’ Greeting

PH = √ (e2 + ve2)(d2) + (cg + dr)2 + π{(4<s>2)(4<p>2)}2 + (vi + t + te)2 + {(4<c>2)(4<du>2)}2

Or, as you might like to summarise it, hello – because that seemingly-complex string of numbers, values, algebraic representations and powers is actually supposed to be the formula for the perfect handshake. Still, I’m getting ahead of myself here, so I’ll take it from the obligatory start, by which I mean the Daily Mail:

Firm squeeze and three shakes: Scientists devise formula for the perfect handshake

It has been traditional greeting, a symbol of peace and a key part of business deals for thousands of years.

But today scientists announced that they have created a formula for the perfect handshake after it was revealed that seven in ten Britons are nervous about getting it wrong.

Regular followers of this blog will know the drill by now, but let’s go through the motions at least a little more. However, if you are a regular reader of this blog, and know about the general fourth paragraph reveal rule, you’ll know what’s coming next in the article:

More than two-thirds (70 per cent) of people said they lacked confidence when it came to performing the gesture, according to a survey for Chevrolet.

Yep – the double-whammy reference to a survey, and therefore the unmistakable whiff of PR, and also the mention of the survey’s paymasters and beneficiaries: Chevrolet. The only real surprise should be that the company’s name came as early as the third paragraph, but it’s more of a rule of thumb than a hard and fast law.

Staff at the car firm will be instructed on the ideal technique with a five-step process and given the mathematical formula in a new handshake training guide.

Excellent – I know when I buy large motorvehicles it’s not only a concern but a cast-iron demand of mine that the forecourt staff are trained in complex algebraic equations to perform fairly everyday tasks. Next on Chevvy’s list of formulas to develop is the formula for duping gullible young couples into extended finance packages, followed presumably by a formula for reading the Daily Mail without noticing which articles are little more than extended adverts.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Caption Competition #1

We’ve been running our What Is It? competition for a while now, and while it’s been great fun the last thing we want to do is be predictable. Because, you know, you’re all smart and easily bored, etc.. So, taking inspiration from some of the comments for our last competition, we thought we’d leave What Is It? by the wayside for now and try out a brand new caption competition instead.

It’s pretty self-explanatory. As per usual, no-one wins anything except our undying love/eternal derision (depending on if we like your caption). Each week we show you a new photograph and you all get to show off how witty you are by submitting a caption for the photograph in the comments field below. Then you get to feel all warm and tingly inside with the smug satisfaction of a joke well delivered.

Ready?

Here’s the first photograph in our Caption Competition, featuring our very own Andy Wilson and the superb David Aaronovitch:

You're the ones thinking of a caption, not us!

Click to embiggify

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F*ckin’ Magnetic Bracelets – How Do They Work?

Magnet Health Bracelets

This grey fella sure has his health problems

This week I want to take you both to the seaside, to take a look at something listener submitted, Blackpool-based, and textbook-woo. So, with a tip of the hat to Hoopy1888 on Twitter, I present to you – Magnetic Zone, and their Magnetic Health Bracelet.

Now, confusing as the name might seem, this isn’t a bracelet you wrap around magnets to help them stay healthy – this isn’t about the health of your magnets at all. Instead, this is about trying to use magnets to make YOU healthy. Confusing, I know, but stick with me, and I’ll talk you through the leaflet that our listener sent to my via the magic of twitpic. The leaflet – which is available on the MSS site and linked from the show notes – starts promisingly, with the printed name ‘Magnetic Zone’ hastily surrounded by scrawled writing either side of it, to read ‘www.magneticzone.co.uk’. Which is always nicely professional – especially when you visit the site, and find nothing but a black holding page with garish yellow text giving you an email address to contact, and nothing else. I know that’s how I like to get MY health advice.

Still, as the leaflet declares, these products promise that they ‘Change your health for the better’ – which is an amazing claim, presumably in oppostion to all of those bracelets that seek to change your health for the worse. Handcuffs, I suppose you’d call them.

So, what can these mystery bracelets do for you? Well, despite not yet saying anything about them – again, another sure sign that we’re dealing with a genuine health product here – the leaflet gives us a charming grey silhouette of a man with little lines coming off to list the ailments he can be relieved of via the use of Magnetic Health Bracelets (promotional price from £10, the handwritten scrawl appears to inform us). Read the rest of this entry »

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The Best Psychic Story Ever. Really. Ever.

Regular readers will know, I like a good psychic. Or, rather, a bad psychic. Or, rather, I like the process of discussing and exposing someone who claims to be psychic. You get the idea. Often, discussions of psychics tend to look at false predictions they’ve made, outlandish murder-solving claims they put forward, or generally the grief-profiteering many engage in. And then there are the claims which are just jaw-droppingly, batshit insane. I’ll let you guess which of these categories we’re going to take a look at now, but to set the scene I’d like to take you to Port Angeles, America, where – as the Peninsula Daily News points out – poor Robin Alexis had recently moved, what with her burning desire for privacy. Just to reiterate, that’s as as the Peninsula Daily News points out. The Peninsular Daily News, is a newspaper. Privacy indeed.

Oh, I should have mentioned, Robin Alexis is described as ‘psychic Robin Alexis’. So, ‘psychic seeks privacy, says local paper’? Accompanied by a charming full photo of said privacy-seeking psychic? Ho hum, I’ll carry on…

“She’s found it a welcoming place, where she can develop a variety of ventures: her Mystic Radio program, her Web portal to psychic readings and her online Soul Spa, all at www.robinalexis.com.”

Again, to reiterate – seeking privacy here, the privacy to discreetly go about her radio program, web portal and soul spa. Ho hum ho hum.

Apparently, as the paper tells us:

“Alexis describes herself as more than a psychic; she’s also a spirit medium and “metaphysical mother” who is now in the midst of an extraordinary three-way conversation”

Quite what a metaphysical mother is, I’ve no idea. Surely it’s a mother who isn’t actually there, or is there but on another plane? Like a meta-mum?

Still, this privacy-seeking, self-professed meta-mum with a burgeoning-yet-discreet media empire to non-promote has a terrible burden – she, discreetly and in no way publicly, despite being in the paper about it, claims to have been communicating for ‘many moons now’ with… Michael Jackson.

Just to be clear, that’s deceased king of pop Michael Jackson, not the former Tranmere Rovers and Blackpool defender Michael Jackson, nor Canadian actor Michael Jackson, best known for his role as Trevor on Trailer Park Boys, nor even the soldier Michael Jackson from Massachusetts, wounded at Bunker Hill during the American Revolution (though admittedly one of those would still be impressive, not least because the Tranmere defender’s been notoriously reclusive since his retirement at the end of the season). No, she’s been talking – she non-publicity-seekingly claims – to the deceased former most famous man on the planet, Michael Jackson. Ho hum ho hum ho hum. Also, as a couple of footnotes – I’ve got to thank Wikipedia disambiguation for a few Michael Jacksons there, and I’ve also been listening to way too much Andy Saltzman on the Bugle podcast lately. Read the rest of this entry »

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