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Online Reading Recommendations > Sunday, 14 November 2010 00:15:15 EST

Illustrating Anomaly Hunting With Star Wars

Keywords: link

Conspiracy theories hit you fast and hard with all sorts of facts and inconsistencies that the theorists believe all point to one inevitable conclusion.  When I hear this, I recognize the hallmarks of anomaly hunting.

But what is anomaly hunting?  I throw the term out there, but it's one of those concepts that's hard to explain to people in ways that hammers home what it is and why it's a form of poor reasoning. 

There's an article that illustrates the concept much better than any technical description that I could give, and it's titled Uncomfortable Questions: Was The Death Star Attack An Inside Job?

It's basically taking the well known story line of Star Wars and doing anomaly hunting on it, finding "connections" to draw their conclusions that the destruction of the Death Star was, in fact, an inside job.

For example, isn't it strange that the Grand Moff Tarkin didn't deploy any of the station's TIE fighters until the "rebels" were in position and it was too late, even though he had plenty of opportunity foil their plans?  Isn't it strange that Darth Vader was conveniently outside of the Death Star when it exploded, when there was absolutely no reason for it?  Don't you find it odd that the droids who supposedly delivered the information that brought down the Death Star were once owned by Darth Vader himself?   And what of these reports that the rebel who blew up the Death Star was actually Darth Vader's son! 

And there's plenty more "evidence" that the destruction of the Death Star was, in fact, an inside job.  Read the article and see if you don't agree that this is just the type of anomaly hunting that conspiracy theorists do to come to conclusions that don't, in fact, actually represent what really happened.
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Online Reading Recommendations > Monday, 11 October 2010 22:56:27 EST

Alexander And The UFO

Keywords: historical, ancient alien theory, aliens, link

I just came across this fascinating article when looking up the claim that Alexander The Great encountered a group of UFO's:

http://deliyannis.blogspot.com/2009/11/alexander-great-and-ufos.html

The story is that Alexander came across a group of "flying shields" during the siege of Tyre.  The story apparently originated with Frank Edwards, who I've run across before when looking for the source of a story about a psychic detective

The guy never bothered to list any of his sources, and I get the feeling that at least half the time he just pulled stuff out of thin air.  That certainly seems to be the case here, because there's absolutely no historical account that backs up Edwards' story as he described it.

It still amazes me how many of the stories and claims that I've looked into are based on absolutely nothing.  When I first started writing this blog I expected that most such stories would at least have some kernel of verifiable truth that has been taken out of context and exaggerated beyond all recognition.

But contrary to my naive expectations, it seems like a good deal of the time, perhaps even most of the time, there's just nothing there.  Somebody pulled the story right out of thin air, and that's all there is too it.

It makes the whole endeavour just a little bit anti-climactic.  But I guess that's the way things go.
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Online Reading Recommendations > Friday, 27 August 2010 17:22:24 EST

Ebook Recommendation: How To Make The Most Of A Flying Saucer Experience

Keywords: link, aliens, book

Today I want to talk to you about being abducted by aliens for fun and profit!

This is a fun, tongue-in-cheek book about the flying saucer phenomenon by Professor Solomon available as a free download online.  Professor Solomon has figured out the reason that aliens are visiting us and can tell you the best way to enjoy your abduction experience.

And he's set up a live webcam on an alien ship to record his abduction adventure.  If you're lucky, maybe you'll catch a glimpse of him cavorting with an alien:

Live Alien Webcam
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Online Reading Recommendations > Friday, 16 July 2010 11:03:40 EST

Article Recommendation: Poffy's Review Of Ancient Aliens

Keywords: link

I regularly check my hits from Google searches, and through that I found out that I'm in the #2 spot for the search term: "Dr. Algund Eenboom" crazy - in case you don't remember, Eenboom is one of the talking heads from the Ancient Aliens series that I've been analyzing.

I took a look at the #1 result, which came from a website called Poffy The Cucumber's Movie Mania.  The author of the article, Jon Dunmore, happens to actually be a friend of Giorgio Tsoukalos (that guy's a riot!), and does an excellent review of the Ancient Aliens series.  He has really good style, and I love the way he writes:

ANCIENT ALIENS is - like all von Däniken's Chariots of the Gods books - speculative fiction masquerading as hard science. Each of the scores of segments in this 5-part series starts off promising, knowledge dripping like blond ambrosia off naked Valkyrie shoulders, and then - oil slicked into a gutter of disinformation with red herrings, straw man arguments and narrators with scary voices.

I wish I could write like that.

Take a look, it's worth the read!
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Musings > Monday, 5 July 2010 07:19:13 EST

One Of These Things Just Doesn't Belong...

Keywords: link

It just came to my attention, as I was looking at my referral links, that my good buddy Ben Radford has quoted me on his website in support of his book.  He's also included a link to dumbassguide.info.

I just love the absurdity of the situation.  The list of quoted reviews are otherwise nothing but skeptical heavyweights - James Randi, D. J. Grothe, Richard Wiseman, Martin Gardner, Michael Shermer.... and then me.

And what's more, the way I'm quoted makes me sound as though I think I belong in that group!  How awesomely absurd is that?

That just made my morning.  :clap: 
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Online Listening Recommendations > Sunday, 30 May 2010 20:11:50 EST

Podcast Recommendation: Irreligiosophy

Keywords: link

There's a lot of humour to be had in making fun of religious beliefs.  I came across this podcast, Irreligiosophy, a little over a month ago.  Two ex Mormons, Chuck and Leighton, discuss issues relating to religion, and explore the details of many different religious beliefs, all the while adding a healthy dose of ridicule towards everything.

They've got great on-air chemistry and are fun to listen to.  I mentioned the podcast to Doug Delong of the Planet Japan podcast, who I know loves to make fun of religion, and he found them entertaining enough to give them a mention on his show.

Of course, Doug has lately been mentioning on his show everything I casually tell him about.  I choose to believe that it's because I have interesting things to say, rather than that he's just desperate for material..... but in either case, I believe you can tell that his endorsement of Irreligiosophy was genuine.

So you can take it from me and fabled raconteur Doug Delong, along with his co-host Jennifer Edda, that this is a fun podcast.  Give Chuck and Leighton a listen!
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Online Listening Recommendations > Sunday, 30 May 2010 19:42:31 EST

Podcast Recommendation: The Reality Check

Keywords: link, Canada

I want to plug a great skeptical podcast by some fellow Canadians: The Reality Check.  This podcast is produced by the Ottawa Skeptics, a skeptical group over there in our nation's capital. 

It's a group style discussion podcast where each member prepares a talk on some issue for discussion.  They seem to have a lot of fun, and the deliberately awkward segues between segments are just great.

The show often starts out with a parody song on skeptical matters, which is also pretty fun.  A new episode comes out every Monday, and I highly recommend giving them a listen.
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Online Reading Recommendations > Wednesday, 26 May 2010 04:20:38 EST

Blog Recommendation: Skeptic North

Keywords: link, Canada

I thought I should mention here one of my favourite blogs, Skeptic North.  This is a Canadian blog on science and skepticism.  Back in January they accepted one of my articles as a guest post

As a Canadian, I enjoy having a Canadian source for my skeptical news and analysis.  They have a very good staff of regular contributors, and a weekly segment of skeptical fails and wins from the media.

Check them out!
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Online Viewing Recommendations > Monday, 17 May 2010 06:14:31 EST

Ancient Aliens Clips

Keywords: aliens, ancient alien theory, link

Being the dumbass that I am, I only just realized that this Ancient Aliens show that I've been criticizing (Click on "ancient alien theory" under keywords above to see all the articles) is probably on YouTube.

The thing is, I realize that these kinds of videos can often be deleted from YouTube without notice, leaving all blogs that have embedded them with broken links.  So it's not ideal for writing articles that you hope to be accessible well into the future.

But, at least while it's available, I'll display these videos for your viewing pleasure.  You can make sure that I'm being fair in my analysis and criticisms of the show, and make comments on statements that I have yet to cover.

UPDATE:
The clips have been deleted from YouTube.  As an alternative, use this link to view the show instead.
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Online Reading Recommendations > Friday, 14 May 2010 12:25:55 EST

Ebook Recommendation: Testing Treatments

Keywords: link, book

I want to recommend a really good read about the scientific practice of medicine.  It's called Testing Treatments by Imogen Evans, Hazel Thornton, and Iain Chalmers.  It's available as a free download online, so if you're interested, there's no excuse not to get it.

Health and medicine is one of those fields where I feel that people could definitely benefit from better science based thinking.  I've complained in the past about how fuzzy and woo-ish this subject can get, even within the field of medicine itself.

Good books on the science of medicine are, I believe, something we should endeavour to read so that we can wrap our minds around the issues of medicine and gain a firmer understanding of how our bodies actually work.
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