Archive for June, 2009

Saturday Salute to a Scientist – Emily Rosa

Ok so maybe I’m a day late, but I’ve only done one Saturday Salute so far, so it’s about time I salute the next scientist. I’m going to try my best to put out a salute every Saturday from now on, because they enrich our lives in so many ways, they deserve accolades.

On to the topic at hand…This week’s scientist is one that has proven that EmilyRosaanyone can do good science.

When Emily Rosa was 11 years old, she had a paper published in JAMA, a peer-reviewed medical journal. She is the youngest person to have done so.

For her fourth-grade science fair, at age 9, Emily tested the claims of Theraputic Touch Practitioners, who purported to manipulate their patients’ Human Energy Fields by holding their hands over the person without touching them.

From her Wikipedia page:

Emily’s study tested the ability of 21 TT practitioners to detect the HEF or “aura” when they were not looking. She asked each of the practitioners to sit at a table and extend their hands through a screen. On the other side of the screen, Emily flipped a coin as a means of randomly selecting which of the TT practitioner’s hands she would hold her hand over. The TT practitioners were then asked which of their hands detected Emily’s HEF. Subjects were each given ten tries, but they correctly located Emily’s hand an average of only 4.4 times. The paper concluded, statistically, that “the null hypothesis cannot be rejected at the .05 level of significance for a 1-tailed test, which means that our subjects, with only 123 of 280 correct in the 2 trials, did not perform better than chance.”

For proving that anyone can do good science regardless of age, for seeking out truth, and for using science to demonstrate that Theraputic Touch is useless and not worthy of health practitioners’ time, Emily Rosa, I salute you.

A Face Appeared to me on my Balcony

I was lying on my balcony this morning enjoying watching the clouds roll by, when I noticed a face staring back at me.

It was just a little scuff mark on the window frame, but my brain, looking for order, pulled a tiny little face out of it. My very own pereidolia! Here it is, I tried to get the clearest picture possible but this was the best I could do:


Maybe if I were a Christian I would have seen Jesus…instead, and it’s kind of random, I saw Data. You know, the android from Star Trek.


I stared at it for a little while longer and thought maybe it looked more like a vulcan. But I think I’ve decided it looks most like a Cardassian, mostly because of the big neck.


I thought it was funny that all I could see were Star Trek characters, but I do love Star Trek!

What do you see?

Going to the Moon, 40 Years Later

Here’s something cool…

On July 20th, 1969, humans first set foot on the moon. Now you can follow what happened leading up to the mission via Twitter as if it were happening today.

Go to:


[Follow me on Twitter @EnlightningLinZ]

“These Things Happen in Threes”

So Michael Jackson died, what? You haven’t heard?

Oh, by the way, Farrah Fawcett died too.

But wait, that’s only two, don’t bad things happen in threes?  Oops, hold on a minute, didn’t Ed McMahon die a few days ago? Phew! I guess celebrities can sleep soundly tonight.

Where does this idea of things happening in threes come from? I googled my ass off but I couldn’t find the origin of this adage. Perhaps it just comes from the fact that the number three is such a nice, round, pretty number. There are so many examples of the pervasiveness of the number three in our culture. The holy trinity, three dimensions, the three little pigs, and so on. There’s even an entire website dedicated to instances of the number three:


People have a tendency to look for patterns, and the saying that bad things happen in threes is just another example of this.

If the adage were true, you should be able to use it to make predictions. When Ed McMahon died we should have been expecting two more celebrity deaths. But what are the criteria for a group of three? When does one group of three end and the next begin? How do you choose who is put in what group of three?

It’s all based on confirmation bias. We have this idea in our heads that things happen in threes, so we look for patterns where there are none.

Our heads are full of these useless tropes. We say them without thinking, and I think it’s time to abandon this one. Each death is sad on its own, and lumping them into a group does nothing but satisfy our need to find patterns.

I Hate Religion

I do, I hate it. Those are some strong words, but I truly experience hatred for religion. I don’t hate people who are religious, in fact I love many people who are religious. I don’t hate the believers, I hate the beliefs.

I’m watching an episode of the Tyra show right now (it’s a guilty pleasure, so sue me), and she has a lesbian couple on whose religious family does not want to attend their wedding. Bride-to-be Juliana’s mother Lia is vehemently opposed to her daughter’s relationship based solely on her religious beliefs.

Lia is clearly heart-broken because of her daughter’s homosexual relationship. Why wouldn’t she be? She thinks that her daughter is going to hell. That’s a scary thought, and you can see the terror in her face.

The only reason Lia believes that her daughter’s wedding is a mistake is because she has been indoctrinated to base her morality on some book, not even a good book, written thousands of years ago by goat-herders.

Religious beliefs lead to irrational, black and white views of right and wrong. I cannot think of any reason why two consenting adults who are in love with each other shouldn’t be able to get married. Yet the Bible says it’s wrong, so gay people continue to be discriminated against.

Look no further than the comments section of this Tyra show episode for examples of how irrational beliefs breed hatred:

I am so dissapointed in you………….May you rot in Hell!! It may have boosted your ratings but you should be ashamed of yourself!!! -Straight Mom

Tyra, I am a Christian, and it sounds like you may have been at one time. I am very disappointed in you I guess for pushing this christian women to attent a gay wedding even if it is her daughter. God is first. Gayism is an abomination in God’s eyes. This is an unforgiveable sin. Murder is forgiveable. If you have read the Bible you would know this. -Corinna

Tyra – I understand that you have to listen to all your guests and their situations, but the segment on gay marriages is just WRONG. I don’t care how many ways you twist it, it’s a sin against God. In Leviticus 18:22, it clearly says “Do not practice homosexuality; it is a detestable sin”. Not just a sin but a DESTESABLE SIN. It just can’t get any clearer than that. So when gays say they are born that way, they are saying that God made a mistake and we know God does not make mistakes. The Lord says “You must obey all my laws…Leviticus 19:19. For the daughter to sit there and cry begging her mom to go against her beliefs, is asking her to go against what God has commanded. -Deej

Tyra, you dummy this is an ABOMINATION!! Do you know God said you cannot enter into heaven with this?? It’s against His nature. Yes, there are other sins, but this you cannot go to heaven with, Tyra. -Sharon Taylor-Hamilton

There is a tendency in our culture to think that religious belief should not be criticized, but I think this needs to change. When these beliefs are a barrier to someone’s rights, the beliefs should be ridiculed.

Thankfully not all of the comments on this episode are like the ones I posted above. Some people know what’s right:

If they really loved their daughter and accepted her for who she is, there wouldn’t have to be a decision to make. -Ashley

I hope that people can eventually look past their beliefs and realize that gay marriage is not only beautiful, but that it’s right.

SCEPCOP – A Steaming Pile of Kookiness

I’ve been having some fun in the last little while looking at this website:


SCEPCOP: The Scientific Community Exposing Pseudo-Skeptical Cynicism of the Paramormal is a shining example of what skepticism is not.

Being skeptical means looking at the evidence before accepting something, but the M.O. of this website seems to be to believe everything unless it’s backed up by science. The logical fallacies abound.

The SCEPCOP team explains the reason for starting up this site: “After all, if the pseudo-skeptics can form organized groups to attack the paranormalists, why can’t we form an organized group to attack them too?”

Unfortunately it is a misconception that skeptics are out to get believers of the paranormal. The real goal of the skeptical movement, however, is to  demand evidence and to shoot down bad arguments. It is not to attack anyone.

If SCEPCOP wants to be taken seriously, all they need to do is present some evidence for the paranormal. Instead, they rant about wonderful skeptics such as Steven Novella and James Randi.

I have fun laughing about the poor arguments and the clear bitterness all over this site, but it does sadden me to see yet another group that mistakes skepticism for cynicism or denialists or closed minded.

I really like Brian Dunning’s response to these types of criticisms, so I invite you to have a read (or a listen): Skeptoid: Who is Closed Minded, the Skeptic or the Believer?

[Note: Thanks to @SkepticZone for tweeting about SCEPCOP…follow me on Twitter @EnlightningLinZ]

New Posts Coming Soon

Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile, I live in a cold climate and we’ve had our first warm days of the summer this week so I’ve been trying to enjoy the weather. This morning I was outside watching my husband run in the marathon, and I’ll be at a barbeque for father’s day later today. I plan on resuming my daily blog posting as well as responding to some of your comments on my older posts as soon as possible.

Until then, here’s a fantastic youtube series: Mr. Deity

Captain Picard Loves the new Star Trek

Patrick Stewart, aka Captain Picard, has given his review of the new Trek movie, and he loves it!

“I loved it,” Stewart told British tabloid the Daily Express. “It was a very, very odd experience to be in the cinema watching a new Star Trek movie that I wasn’t in.”

Unlike William Shatner, Stewart isn’t bitter about not being a part of the cast.

“With the exception of Leonard Nimoy, I didn’t know any of the cast. But it’s still Star Trek. I got a great kick out of it.”


Bigfoot and a Critical Thinking Exercise

Martin J Clemens posted a link to his article on the evolution of Bigfoot on a forum I frequent, and I thought it woud be a fun opportunity to exercise my critical thinking skills. I had frequent nightmares about Bigfoot as a kid, so I have to say I had fun picking apart the arguments in this article…Here goes:

Since the presentation of the Patterson Video from October 20th, 1967, Bigfoot mania has swept the globe.  As a cultural phenomenon, or more accurately, an urban legend, Bigfoot’s popularity has skyrocketed, since that cold autumn day, when two business associates, Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin, happened to encounter what is arguably the most controversial anthropological find of modern science.

I don’t think you can call a film that’s probably a guy in a bigfoot costume anthropological evidence. And maybe it’s controversial in your circle but I doubt many (if any) anthropologists are losing sleep over it.

As possibly the most famous entry in the anthropological category of ‘Cryptid’, the Sasquatch, or more commonly, Bigfoot, has garnered more than its fair share of attention, both from believers and sceptics alike.

Among the sceptical arguments against the existence of this oft-described monster of the woods, is the pseudo-scientific claim that such a creature, if it could have evolved in the first place, could not survive for such a long period of time and remain unknown to modern science.

I don’t think any skeptic would say it’s impossible that this creature exists, I certainly wouldn’t. But people have been looking for it for a long time and no evidence has been found. It’s unlikely that a population of these creatures could have gone undetected for such a long time especially with people actively looking for it. After such a long time without any evidence it’s reasonable to be dismissive of claims that there’s a bigfoot until actual evidence is brought to light.

What I hope to show in this article is the fundamental flaw in the above reasoning, and to demonstrate, through an abstract examination of the currently known ethos of the Sasquatch, that it is not only possible for such a creature to exist and to flourish, but that it may even be likely.  In other words, I hope to debunk the debunkers.

Just because something is possible or even likely doesn’t make it true. Without evidence there’s no reason to think it’s true. The people who debunk bigfoot are simply looking at the evidence and pointing out that it’s not actually evidence for bigfoot.

Continue reading ‘Bigfoot and a Critical Thinking Exercise’

New Rainforest Discovered using Google Earth

How cool is this…I had no idea there were still undiscovered places on Earth. Dr. Julian Bayliss, a part of the Darwin Initiative, was looking for “similarities between different patches of medium altitude rainforest,” when they saw “a large patch of dark green of which there was no official record.”

This patch of forest, located in Mozambique, could be the largest rainforest in Southern Africa. Because this forest is so isolated, essentially an island, there are species that evolved in isolation. They have found a possible 10 new species in this rainforest.

These scientists are hoping to get this forest official protection.

I’m looking forward to learning more about this forest and the species within it. How amazing to find such an isolated forest, undisturbed by humans.


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