Tuesday, June 15, 2010
When we passed around the books during the orientation, and this book got to me I immediately knew I would enjoy it. Science has always been my thing, by means of what truly interests me. This books shows how there can be flaws in science, and the thing you must do is always question. You can't just accept what is presented to you, you should test and questions all things. He shows that there is a thin line between science and pseudoscience, to a degree.
It relates questioning to psuedoscience in that if you dont question science that is presented to you, you are no different that a person who, without the blink of an eye, accepts every UFO sighting without question. In my personal opinion, I would find religion to be almost identical. Believing without any factual evidence whatsoever. The books explains, however, nothing is for naught, and even studying people who genuinely believe these things could give a ton of information of how the human brain actually works.
He provides his "baloney detection kit" to help the reader understand how to reject false data and information. Some of the main uses for this determining of questioning and skeptical thinking is to question authority, where we in our society tend to just listen and not question. This is actually a major flaw in society which Sagan points out.
My one possible flaw with the book is that it is a bit outdated, because it was published in 1995. But as a scientist (or soon to be) i understand there are many, and constantly changing, factors and rules to continue science being as accurate as possible. Testing and retesting is the basis of all good science, and nothing is ever truly accepted as fact, but you can use the data to create your own opinions.
Overall this was a great book. Showing you how do dispute things that seem unfathomable, not only because they seem unfathomable, but because you question and think for yourself. Some people may truly believe the things they do, but the truly intelligent get that way from asking the questions they want answers to.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Voodoo science by Robert Park was a short but entertaining read. Park a distinguished physicist at the University of Maryland covers a wide variety of sciences that in his eyes are based on no fact at all and are believed by people who are uneducated and or are mislead; he groups all of this into Voodoo Science.
Park specifically goes into great detail about cold fusion and how on more than one occasion the public has been mislead about "discoveries" and ground breaking new science that just isn't true. He concentrates on the University of Utah and the two chemists Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons who "discovered" cold fusion. Park describes that the two went to the media about their discovery without having any proof and when other scientists tried to emulate the discovery no one could do it because one it was impossible and two Park describes that you cannot get energy for free. He explains when a ball is dropped from a height it will never bounce higher that the point it was dropped because everything looses energy and you cannot get it for free and cold fusion was going against that theory and trying to get something for nothing.
One of the best parts of the book is right in the beginning and is what draws you in Park talks about Joe Newman and his Energy Machine. Park explains that Newman cannot get a patten on his machine because the US Patten office will only give a patten to a perpetual motion machine if it runs for an entire year without stopping. Park explains that the Patten office had to make this rule because they have had so many people try to achieve the impossible and once again get something for nothing and create a machine that runs on nothing but itself. Park questions if Newman's machine works why doesn't he just let it run for a year to get his patten.
The book overall was a great read and if your looking for some scientific entertainment it is highly recommended. It gets a little confusing a some spots if your not a big science person, but it isn't difficult to read.
Has the belief in superstition become commonplace in today's world? Do we as human beings trust superstitious convictions so much that actual science is becoming all too hazy? In the novel Superstition, Robert L. Park goes in depth to find answers to these questions and why our cultures go on to accept superstitions beliefs all too well. His brutal honesty and awareness pulls you in as a reader and has you questioning yourself. His scientific perspectives give you a harsh reality check and have you wondering how any intelligent person in today's world would believe anything other than pure science since there's been immense research and evidence to back it all up.
In each chapter, we are tested and shown how often people mistake pseudoscience for science. Park discusses the integration of physicists and their religious sides while comparing peoples' conviction of the Bible as either literal or metaphorical. He talks about the foundation of intelligent design versus evolution and its impact on our education systems. He questions the existence of souls and heaven while taking on supernatural beliefs such as New Age spiritualism and OBEs. He statistically combats the effectiveness of prayer and discusses the ever popular stem cell research debate as to when a zygote actually becomes a human life. These issues and more set the stage for a controversial, yet insightful read.
My favorite part of this book was Park's discussion on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and the discovery of a 160,000 year old human skull in 2003 providing evidence that Homo sapiens came from Africa. Here, he discusses the lactose tolerance of East Africans and Northern Europeans and how this was not part of the original design of Homo sapiens. He then raises the common question of those who deny evolution: if evolution is real, why aren't we evolving? Park explains that we are, in fact, evolving. He says that evolution tends to happen rapidly among isolated populations that adapt to specified local environments, but there really aren't any isolated populations left. Evolution is greatly waned by gene mixing among populations living in separate environments, and this is exactly how humans reproduce today.
Superstition relates to our course book in a number of ways. In chapter 2, bogus therapies are discussed and we look into why people think certain medications work when in reality they are ineffective. Park talks about the homeopathic flu medication oscillococcinum and how naive people are by not knowing that these medications are proven effective or not. He believes homeopathy is a crock and people should be smarter than to believe something not proven to be safe or effective.
I absolutely loved reading this book and would recommend it to people like me who agree with Park’s point of view. I always felt the same way Park feels in his novel and his book really helped give me a better insight on many aspects of superstitious phenomena. I would also suggest this book to jaded religious people so they can see the other, scientifically proven, side of superstition.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vss1VKN2rf8 <----Evolution described
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Thomas Gilovich believes that most things that intuition can lead us astray can be proven with statistics. He explains how our minds try to find order in randomness even when everything is irregular, and we always look for evidence to confirm our idea. He also shows how people tend to overlook data if something has made a bad impression in the beginning we do not give it a chance again. The author uses many examples to show how common misconceptions can be proven with statistics.
My favorite part of the book was when he talked about hot hands in basketball. I have experienced this streakiness first hand when I played basketball or even baseball. I definitely believed in hot hands, or even a player being hot at a certain time. Gilovich says that this really doesn’t happens and backs it up with statistics.
I enjoyed reading this book especially because it used a lot of examples that happen in real life. I also like things to do with statistics and this book used statistics to dispose of misconceptions. If you do not like statistics than you probably won’t like this book as much as I did.
The Mozart affect says that a child’s IQ increases if they listen to Mozart’s music. It was born after, two professors at the University of California played two 10 minutes of the Mozart Sonata. They found that the college students had an increase in spatial-temporal reasoning for about 10 minutes after it. Parents have leapt at the chance to increase their child’s intelligence.
These people that jumped at the chance to make their children smarter thought they should do it to babies too, but according to Dr. Alexandra Lamont,” There's no evidence that just listening to music, not learning to play an instrument, has any effect at all with children or with babies." parent's music room. Even though there are some skeptics companies still make cds that parents still buy to play to their unborn babies.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Anyone who has ever smoked knows it is bad luck to light three cigarettes with the same match. Most people do follow this rule because they are afraid something bad may happen to them. We make sure the third person doesn’t light the cigarette. But the question is.. What’s so bad about it? Most people don’t even know why they follow such rules. Nine out of ten times it is about following others.
This started in the Army during WW1. The theory behind this is that when the first solider lit his cigarette the enemy is able to see the light. The second cigarette lit allowed the enemy to aim, and the third cigarette lit will allow the enemy to shoot. To prevent this from happening, they decided to blow out the match after the second cigarette was lit so the enemy didn’t have enough time to shoot. But, why do we still follow this theory?
One person might sneeze and ten will say “God Bless You”. Some even take it offensively if you don’t say that after a sneeze. Think about it.. What does God have to do with a blessing? There really isn’t any need for anyone to be asking for God’s blessings after a sneeze. In this case we should say “God Bless You” after a cough or hiccups also.. But we don’t? Hmm strange isn’t it..
The blessing started from the time when plague took over Europe. People who suffered from this begin to sneeze violently. The sneeze was so brutal that it could even lead to death. The pope then decided to pass a law which required people to bless the sneezer. Medically, the sneezers were supposed to cover their mouth while coughing to prevent the spreading of the disease. Instead, people believed that it was to keep the soul intact because if they were to sneeze in the air then they would allow the soul to escape and death would be imminent. So “God Bless You” is just a myth which has been carried on from centuries.
Ritalin Nation: Rapid-Fire Culture and the Transformation of Human Consciousness by Richard DeGrandpre
There were many interesting topics and chapters in this book; however my favorite would have to be the third chapter, thinking like a scientist. Being a biochemistry major I have always thought of myself as someone who thinks like a scientist. After reading this chapter and thinking more about what Kida was saving, I was amazed by how many people including myself give into ideas without having any scientific evidence. I am sure that we have all done it, our friends tell us a story about this great remedy or this great new idea, and the first thing that comes to mind is wow that’s great. Because we are hearing it from someone we trust like a friend or family member we are more likely to believe them, than to go out and look at the evidence. Although after reading I have to admit that I do fall into these traps eventually, I think this was my favorite part because I am proud of the fact that more times than not I think exactly like a scientist. I can be a very skeptical person who wants some prove before I believe something, so I related really well to this chapter and what it was talking about.
When I think about this book, I think all Americans, especially people who make decisions like politicians, should read this book. In the book there were numerous occasions which the government was given money to one of the ideas which had no real statistical or scientific backing, only anecdotal evidence. I think this is a serious problem that needs to be looked into. With the state of the current economy and the government always looking for budget cuts, these are the types of programs that should be getting cut. People giving government money should be even more skeptical, and require even more sound evidence any common person deciding whether or not to believe something. Things like the CIA spending $20 million dollars on a stargate program seems ill-advised and wasteful. This book can help to teach people how to make sound judgments. I think this book and its ideas can help solve some of this countries problems, and if nothing else save it from wasting money on useless programs. There are far better things our government could be doing with that money.In our class we’ve covered a lot about pseudoscience. Kida refers to pseudoscience as, “claims presented so that they appear scientific even though they lack sufficient supporting evidence and plausibility.” Personally I like the term junk science. As we learned in class, we all hold many pseudoscientific beliefs. However, I found it very interesting taking what I learned about pseudoscience in class and looking at it from another perspective through the book. Kida allows the readers to understand why. You get a feeling for why people have these pseudoscientific beliefs. Also, he is able to give people the knowledge to recognize these pseudoscientific beliefs so they don’t fall victim to believing in them. The class was able to teach me what pseudoscience is, but this book was able to teach me how not to think like a pseudoscientist but a scientist.
I decided to make a video asking people if and why they believed some different myths. I found it interesting to hear everyone's responses, obviously not all my friends think like a scientist!
Carl Sagan book, "The Demon-Haunted World," is a book that argues Science vs. Superstitions. Sagan goes on to talk about how without science and the appreciation for it the world will soon rather than later go into the "Dark Ages" again. He believes that knowledge is the greatest power anyone can have. The main question that he brings up is "Can the proper use of skepticism and critical thinking keeps us away from the brink and ensures that the promises of reason and science are actually fulfilled?" In other words if we teach only the finding and product of science, no matter how useful or inspiring it might be, without communicating its critical method, how can the average person possibly distinguish the difference between science and pseudoscience. Carl Sagan believes that there is no dumb question that with every question there is an answer. This book is a personal statement of his lifelong love affair with science.
Sagan take many discussions that people might talk about, specific irrational beliefs and ideas, he explains the concept than refutes it. The primary difference between science and superstition, according to Sagan, is that science relies on rigorous process of observation, proposed answer and an open mind to decide whether statement and facts are true or false. He takes stories and experience from average people, and even experiences from his childhood, and either agrees with the story or refutes it. He believes that everything is usually assumed to be correct until proven otherwise. He also draws strong lines between the oldest of demon stories in human history and modern paranormal claims such as alien abduction and ghost.
The part of the story that I found most interesting was chapter six, "Spoofing and secrecy." Sagan talks about alien abduction or UFO's in almost every chapter. I think that the topic comes up most frequently because he works mainly with plants and has a huge interest in extraterrestrial life, which we know as "Aliens." In the chapter he goes on to explore the idea about auroras and crop circles. He lays out the question to see if it a hoaxes or it these claim are really from the "Little Man with Big Eyes." Also in the chapter he begins to talk about hallucinations. He wants the reader to keep an open mind about the idea and to not just judge at face value. He doesn't draw the line between reality and imagination. He wants the reader to make up their mind using the facts that he wrote.
Sagan was a member of the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board committee that investigated the Air Forces’ UFO studies. So I guess that’s where the fascination started. He goes on to say that there is a part in our front temporal lobe which is where your forehead is, thats where our hallucinations might occur. People can't tell the difference between the dream world and real life. The symptoms that might occur are lost of time, sexual abuse, and experimentation. People can't remember these events on their own so they seek help with professional therapist that specializes in UFO sightings and alien abductions. Sagan believes that in most cases the therapist usually puts the idea in the patients head about most of the "experience."
I thought that this book was a very interesting story. I stayed very interested in the story even though it was over 400 pages. Sagan really makes his readers think about a problem or question in so many different ways. Instead of jumping to conclusions he shows how to sort through the information and come out with a understanding of the topic. He urges people to take into account how important science and technology is to the world and planet. He believes that this world we're living in is heading towards the dark ages again if people don't stay educated and interesting in learning more. Sagan take on the science as candle in the dark is very inspirational. I look forward to reading more about Sagan and maybe even another book.
We've all been told as children at one point or another, "Don't cross your eyes or they'll stay that way," or that sitting too close to the TV is bad for our eyes. But are these childhood no-no's truths or fallacies? Are these just fictitious facts that started due to parents being annoyed by their kids or did some pediatrician back in the day use the urban legends as a means to diagnose adolescent problems?
According to Dr. Eugene R. Folk, former co-director of the Pediatric Ophthalmology Clinic at the University of Illinois, crossing one's eyes is not damaging at all. Strabismus, the scientific name for this condition, is usually something that happens at birth or as the result of an eye or head injury. If the small muscles that control eye movement are affected, this can cause eyes to become misaligned. So next time your mother tells you to stop crossing your eyes, she's probably just annoyed or creeped out.
As far as sitting too close to the TV is concerned, this myth can be put to rest as well. There has been no real evidence concluding that when you sit too close to the television it's bad for your eyes. The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that children have an easier time being able to see up close without eyestrain than do adults which is why you can often find kids with their books to their noses, and older folks with their reading material being held in a different room to see it. You can now remember these tall tales as you have children and it's up to you whether or not you want to continue the false rumors!
Timothy J Lawson, in his book, Scientific Perspectives on Pseudoscience and the Paranormal: Readings for General Psychology, strongly emphasizes the importance of study replication in order to establish reliability of the results. He also speaks of the important scientific practice of random sampling. A very large issue with the studies that Mr. Vyse has compiled, which he does point out, is that they are taken from a very narrow demographic, usually college students, and as such, results about the population as a whole cannot be reliably gleaned. One thing of interest that is not mentioned by Mr. Vyse is the importance of weighing results. Most of the studies, whether done on chickens, college students, of random pedestrians, gave up some sort of result. However, what that result means and whether it tells anything useful is another matter. Since most of the studies were done singularly, it could be mere happenstance that the result gotten was any given characteristic. It may have been mere chance that the particular group of subjects was made up of more superstitious females and less superstitious males, for instance. The studies were done on small groups, usually volunteers, and alternate options for results were not thoroughly looked into. Since few of the studies have been replicated, and since some of them don’t relate directly to superstition anyway, like whether or not people will continue to engage in a behavior that is apparently torturing another human, which they will incidentally, Believing in Magic should be viewed as a good starting point for further inquiry. So if you are planning on putting together a study of superstition, read this book.
Superstition, a truly exhilarating and engaging piece of literature by Robert L. Park, explores the scientific side of superstition by applying logical reasoning to the resilient (and somewhat foolish) beliefs that many people share. He boldly points out that many people confuse pseudoscience with science; and emphasizes that science is supported with empirical evidence, while pseudoscience is mainly sustained through anecdotal evidence. He also argues that science is always eagerly advancing and rewriting itself, while religion and superstition strongly resist change. What is remarkable about pseudoscientific issues like superstition, and what Park baffles over, is that they somehow persevere even past their unsuccessful attempts at being proven by science. His viewpoint and novel can be summed up in one powerful sentence, “Science is the only way of knowing- everything else is just superstition.” This is, in fact, the ending line of his book; and is the underlying principle in his examination of long-lived superstitious beliefs that have clearly been proven faulty by modern science. It is a very provoking investigation that is strong and assertive; and Park is not bashful in expressing his true feelings about the seemingly dubious (at least to scientists) superstitious issues that he covers.
In his novel, Park reviews many superstitious questions, like the effectiveness of alternative medicine like homeopathy and acupuncture (that are still practiced today); the power of intercessory prayer; the theory of intelligent design; the possibility of reincarnation and the existence of heaven; and other phenomena like astral projection and out-of-body experiences. The truth of the matter for many of these superstitious questions, is that since they have not and cannot be scientifically proven, there is not much validity to them. Park emphasizes that many “studies” which claim to show evidence of such phenomena are barely statistically significant, and much of the information has been “cherry picked;” in other words, the information that supports the theory is given central focus, while unsupportive evidence is overlooked, or simply pushed to the side. Despite all this, superstitious beliefs somehow stand strong through the test of time and even failed scientific confirmation. However, Park holds his ground that science trumps many of the superstitious beliefs that are instilled in us as children; and it would be to our advantage as a society of people to embrace that. He insists, “What science is learning about the laws that govern the universe gives us the power to transform the world into the closest thing to paradise that any of us will ever see. This knowledge did not come from sacred texts, or the revelations of prophets.” Science is where the answers come from.
I really enjoyed a brief section in Park’s novel which discussed the success of our species, Homo sapiens, and our subsequent rapidly growing population on Planet Earth. He asks, “What do we do now?” He deems the obvious answer to be the use of birth control; but reasons that many strict religions around the world would consider such a practice as unacceptable. He makes what I believe to be a very daring, but nonetheless, notably true statement that, “The end result is inevitable unless we overcome our religious objections to birth control. This is the point at which superstition goes from being a harmless indulgence to a threat to the human race.” I was in awe when I read those lines; not only because of their utter truthfulness, but because they made me realize how strong the power of superstition really is. People tend to tightly adhere to what is “safe and comfortable,” but perhaps do not realize the larger repercussions attached to some of their beliefs. Why are we all so afraid of change in this aspect? Especially when it can lead to the advancement of our species, just as modern science has shown. This novel was a unique and enlightening experience that has truly made me view pseudoscientific issues in a new light.
Check out this link to watch a 7-part dialogue by Robert Park, speaking at a National Capital Area Skeptics event about his novel, Superstition.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Flim-Flam! by James Randi (“The Amazing Randi”) was a fantastic read! The text is very well-written, with an incredible sense of style (and humor.) I found myself chuckling aloud at references and remarks Randi makes throughout the text, whilst he discusses everything from fairies, the Bermuda Triangle myth, Mayan prophecies and alien interactions, pseudo-surgery, levitation, table tilting, and Randi’s own Put Up or Shut Up challenge. Randi’s knowledge and sarcasm combine to make for an educational and entertaining read.
There were so many parts I could consider my “favorite,” but I will save my absolute favorite part for last. For starters, I loved several of the opening quotes to the chapters. Chapter three opens with Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” from
One of the first funny lines in the book is in the introduction when Randi criticizes the
Funny part aside, my favorite part of this book was chapter two, Fairies at the Foot of the Garden. Randi discusses the case of Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, two girls who apparently took pictures with fairies. These photos impressed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the author of Sherlock Holmes and a celebrity amongst spiritualists) who denied any and all falsities about the photographs. I did a research paper last semester on spiritualism, so I was very familiar with Doyle, his writings, and his popularity, as well as the ability of two little girls to trick an entire nation. I identified Griffiths and Wright with the Fox Sisters, who started the spiritualist movement in
Randi provides lot of factual information in this chapter, as well as the entire book. He delicately weaves the information in his prose and comedic phrases, easily allowing the reader to become enveloped in the information. In chapter two, Randi dispels the fairy photographs, showing how they are cutouts from a gift book, and “accidental” over-exposures. Many people have analyzed the photos, questioning everything from the girls’ bodily positions, to mysterious “strings”, and evident clips at the bottom of the photograph. The girls were asked if they could take more pictures, but there were a lot of circumstances to the photos being taken (including specially marked film, a specific camera, and the fact that Wright had experience in a camera shop.) These photos were the tip of the iceberg, showing a lack of skill and a desire to be left alone by the girls.
We all want something to believe in. Randi brings up a good point that it’s possible Doyle was so interested in the supernatural because he wanted to believe he could contact his dead son. Many people wanted to show that fairies were real, because they seem fun to believe in, and we are all searching for the unknown. In the end, what started as a small practical joke got blown into larger proportions than originally though possible.
I recommend Randi’s book to anyone who has had an interest in any of the paranormal events discussed in this book. Randi does a great job explaining the event, the back story, the tests conducted on the event, the people involved, news stories, and the possible outcomes, all with a sense of humor and wit. Oh, and if you like cracks at Uri Geller fairly often, you’ll definitely enjoy this book.
Please enjoy this video I found on YouTube of Randi discussing the Fairies further.
My favorite part of the book was how DeGrandpre goes about to discuss how doctors, psychiatrist and pharmaceutical companies are a part of a conspiracy of people coming together to fool the American society that their children are a victim of the Attention Deficit Disorder. Americans are at fault for their children behaving in t6his manner, most parents are more concerned with spending quality time with their children opposed to Quantity time. Being that we live in a fast pace nation our children en root overactive uncontrollable behavior, however if we slow down our lives and parents focus more on their children and their surrounding environment they will find another solution to their child's behavior opposed to Ritalin.
Our Nation as a whole has become dependent for Ritalin as a solution for their child's behavior. What Americans fail to realize that Attention Deficit Disorder is a syndrome that has not been proven to be biologically inherited however developed throughout time.
The Demon Haunted World By Carl Sagan is truly a wonderful piece of literature. This book gives its reader the opportunity to investigate all of the fascinating tales of paranormal activity, extraterrestrial visitors, witchcraft, demons, and numerous other unusual phenomenon that have been pestering mankind throughout the ages. Carl Sagan carefully presents each individual phenomenon to the reader and explains them away by simple science. Carl Sagan attempts to relay the importance of science and its method as an invaluable tool in the growth and advancement of mankind. He warns that the institution of science in America is in sharp decline. He fears that science is what separates us from the people of the dark ages. Upon the conclusion of this book, I realized that science is critical to our society. Science provides the answers to life’s deepest mysteries. This is the message that Mr. Sagan is trying so desperately to relay to his readers. Science has provided mankind with a wealth of knowledge and technology throughout the ages. Phenomena of past generations that were once considered acts of demons or alien invaders, are now easily explained by scientist. It is absolutely critical to our society to continue to advance our scientific exploration and implore our younger generations to take up the reigns of the science and push our boundaries of knowledge and understanding to even greater heights.
I particularly enjoyed chapter 7; this chapter explores “The Demon Haunted World”. Sagan takes you on a journey back in time to the dark ages. He explores the catalyst that fueled the witch hunts in Europe. He outlines the thinking and logic of the people during these turbulent times. He shows how a select few used the power of fear and persecution to advance their own personal lot at the expense of countless innocents lives. The most fascinating and educating part of chapter 7, in my opinion, was the section that referred to Pope Innocent VIII proclamation pertaining to public obsession with demons. In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII declared, “It has come to Our ears that members of both sexes do not avoid to have intercourse with evil angels, incubi, and succubi, and that by their sorceries, and by their incantations, charms, and conjurations, they suffocate, extinguish, and cause to perish the births of women”. “With this bull, Innocent initiated the systematic accusation, torture, and execution of countless “witches” all over Europe. They were guilty of what Augustine had described as “a criminal tampering with the unseen world.” Despite the evenhanded “members of both sexes” in the language of the Bull, unsurprisingly it was mainly girls and women who were so persecuted. I found this particular passage to be very interesting. How could the Pope, a person that is suppose to inspire peace and stability to the land and its people bring such chaos and panic to his people? I found this fascinating, it wouldn’t be usual to me if a person of low class and education was responsible for such rhetoric but a person of the Pope’s caliber should be leading his followers out of darkness not creating a pandemic of fear. Carl Sagan’s book is a warning to mankind, continue to embrace science and all its wonderful discoveries or revert back to more animalistic times.
Sagan, Carl. The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. New York: Ballantine Books, 1996.
A Horseshoe is one of the original symbols for good luck and protection whether its jewelry, pictures, or an actual horseshoe. For protection, a horseshoe is suppose to be nailed above the doorway. There are two theories as to whether the horseshoe is to be facing up or down.
In terms of the horseshoe representing good luck, in most of Europe, Mid-East, and Latin America it is known that the horseshoe is to be facing upward. This is so that the "luck doesn't run out." On the other hand, other nationalities believe it is to be hung upside down so that the "luck can pour down on you." For protective purposes, a horse shoe is to be pointing up, and that's to prevent witches from passing under the magical protective horseshoe.
Where did the story of the horseshoe originate from? One story is quoted below from Dr. Doug Butler's, The Principle of Horseshoeing.
Once upon a time, a wise old blacksmith was hard at work making horseshoes. The sound of the anvil attracted the attention of the devil. He saw that the smith was making horseshoes, and he thought it would be a good idea to get his own hoofs shod. So the devil made a deal with the smith and stood to be shod.
The wise blacksmith saw with whom he was dealing, and so he nailed on a red-hot shoe, driving the nails square into the center of the devil's hoof. The devil then paid him and left; but the honest blacksmith threw the money into the forge fire, knowing it would bring him bad luck.
Meanwhile, the devil walked some distance and began to suffer the greatest torture from the new shoes. The more he danced and pranced and kicked and swore, the more they hurt him. finally, after he had gone through the most fearful agony, he tore them off and threw them away.
From that time to this, whenever the devil sees a horseshoe he turns and runs--anxious to keep out of the way of those torturous devices.
I guess my luck won't run out and no witches will be paying me visits due to the fact of that my horseshoe point up!
Voodoo Science, written by Robert Park, discusses and exposes a plethora of pseudoscientific claims throughout the past and throughout his own personal encounters. His explanations are clear, concise, with an entertaining aspect for the average everyday reader. Robert Park is a retired physics professor from the University of Maryland which, in my opinion, provides him with the credentials to dismiss many of the claims he discusses. He explains scientifically why some concepts just cannot physically work due to particular laws such as the Laws of Thermodynamics and quantum mechanics. According to Park, “voodoo science” is a pathological, junk, pseudoscience. These scientists expect what they want to see, fool lawmakers and jurists, and have no scientific evidence to back up their claims.
In his first chapter, Park begins with a discussion on a group of different scientists and inventors who were featured on various news channels, each claiming to have formulated their own devices that created unlimited, nonpolluting clean energy – Joe Newman invented an unlimited energy generator, James Patterson had his energy beads, and Fleishmann and Pons’ had their cold fusion reactors. Park discusses these stories first because he believes that “the first exposure of most people to new scientific claims is through the news media, usually television.” None of the men could scientifically explain why their machines worked, and no one could completely replicate their results – clear representations of pseudoscientific studies .
Park furthers his concept of voodoo science by discussing other controversial topics such as evidence against the theory of global warming. He also discusses placebos affects and alternative medicine. Park provides evidence that debunks cases which have created fear amongst the public such as the dangers of microwave radiation, power lines, EMF, and PCB correlations with leukemia and cancer rates in children – Parks explanation would be especially helpful for worried parents across the country. In his last chapter, he details other strange phenomenon such as UFOs, Roswell New Mexico, abductions, and nuclear “Star Wars” lasers.
The chapter that I found the most interesting was “Chapter 3: Placebos Have Side Effects In Which People Turn to ‘Natural’ Medicine.” Honestly, I do believe in some holistic approaches to medicine (although they are not pseudoscientific). Some of the natural medicines Park discusses were ridiculous, though. Within the first few pages, he discusses a product called “Vitamin O” which is naturally infused with oxygen. People claim to have more energy and immunity while taking this – but it is merely water, oxygen, and sodium chloride. Naturally, water picks up oxygen through the air so it is really no different from regular water. It also claims to be safe – well, duh, because it is just salt water. Park also discusses placebo effects concerning sugar pills and seeing doctors. In the first half of the twentieth century, most medicine was based on placebos and sugar pills. Today, the doctors act as actual placebos – they provide reassurance, a noteworthy diploma, and a wide range of knowledge on illnesses. People feel better just from sitting in a doctor’s office. Hahnemann’s law of “like cures like” is completely absurd, too. Why does quinine relieve malaria symptoms? Because it provides the same symptoms as malaria? It just does not add up nor make any sense. Park also mentions “magnetism deficiency” which can be cured by wearing magnets. I believe this section on placebos can be tied in with our reading in “Scientific Perspectives on Pseudoscience and the Paranormal” on the Q-Ray. The Q-Ray is a stylish bracelet that, as we all know, provides a supposed regulation in the human bodies’ ions and, in turn, improves pain as well as other symptoms. Does it really do this? For some, yes – but it’s only a placebo affect. Imitation bracelets provide the same effect as these.
The concepts that Park has discussed throughout his book can A) provide lawmakers with the knowledge to know the difference between voodoo-scientific inventions and those that are genuine, B) confirm the need for pier reviewing, C) promote studies which have confirmed evidence, and D) educate the public on issues that they are not aware of. A lot of people believe half of these voodoo scientific concepts because they do not understand the background information regarding the science.
Source: Park, Robert "Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud" Oxford University Press: 2000
In the book, Ritalin Nation: Rapid-Fire Culture and the Transformation of Human Consciousness, author and psychologist Dr. Richard DeGrandpre exposes America's addiction to high-paced life and the rapid rise of ADD and ADHD diagnosis in the United States. The author does not believe that there is some sort of ADD or ADHD "epidemic" simply caused by bad genes. He also argues that Ritalin is being used as a substitution therapy for these children who have been absolutely bombarded with sensory overload. He feels that Ritalin is not the answer to these hyperactive kids struggling to keep attention, for any of us would benefit and show improved overall performance while using a stimulant like Ritalin. DeGrandpre's message is that because of our high-paced way of life in America, we are and our children are becoming "sensory addicts" because of the hectic pace we just call "everyday life".
It is not just an attention deficiency and a sensory addiction that results from such a rapid-fire culture, DeGrandpre argue that our morals have been effected too, "This is a culture in which the demands and expectations of society have given rise to a dramatic overall increase in work and stress, a conflicted sense of life priorities, and a cynical view of what is possible for ourselves, our families, and our society as a whole" (DeGrandpre 44). Working more instead of being home with the family, cosidering work a "refuge" from stresses at home, ending personal relationships instead of fixing them, these are some of the examples he gives that have resulted from our full-steam ahead lifestyles in America. At the end of the book he gives a few rules for Americans to live by to try to slow down their pace and appreciate the important things in life, "Redefine the bottom line. Spend less time at work; parent more and parent better. Learn more effective life skills, and pass them on to your children. Do these things by being less worn out, stressed out and distracted by the perceived nesessity of material wealth" (DeGrandpre 228). He even included a JCPenney ad that he received in the mail that was "relating" to it's hard-working customers, "Traffic jams. Kids to school. Work. Meetings. Deadlines. Rush hour. Soccer practice. Groceries. Cooking. Dishes. Laundry. Homework. Bathtime. Pay bills. Call mom...squeeze in a little bit of time to go shopping!". Just reading that ad makes me feel anxious but sadly enough, most American families could probably relate to that exact schedule, and think it is completely normal!
Reading this book was really interesting and enjoyable, it was more like leisure reading than a reading a book for class. My favorite part of the book was when the author referred to America's sensory addiction and how our fast-paced lives have distracted us from the important things in life, because I could not agree more. Whether it was talking of the ADD / ADHD "epidemic", people calling work a refuge and desiring to spend more time in the office or when he talks about how people are more willing to end a relationship rather than fix it, every time I turned the page I was nodding my head in agreement. Through my work in an emergency room, I have been able to see two of the points given above day in and day out. It seems that every time I am working in pediatrics, there isn't one day I can get through without seeing multiple past medical histories of "ADD" or "ADHD" in kids that seem like fairly normal, spunky children. Unfortunately, you could sometimes tell when kids are being treated with Ritalin because they almost look "stoned" in a way, either in tune or out of tune with what is going on around them. I definitely disagree with immediately going to Ritalin when a child seems too hyper or not focused enough. Also, at my job I work with many people who most would consider "workaholics", working 48 hour days, holding down 2-3 jobs at a time and even traveling out of state to get more money in the bank. All this time, they are trying to help their significant other do the juggling act of maintaining the kids at home with a simple phone call of love and advice. Lastly, most people have seen friends or family members that had a relationship go sour over quick, little, unimportant setbacks that both parties decided was better to end the relationship over than to try and work out the kinks or settle the issue that arised. All in all, I really enjoyed how much I could relate to the points he was making to my everyday life.
Reading this book has certainly opened up my eyes to the unfortunate truth to America's rapid-fire culture society, how I am affected by it every day and it made me think that I too am probably a product of a sensory-overload upbringing. I have recommended this book to many people already because no matter who you are or what kind of household you lived in growing up, if you were born and raised in the United States, than you can read and really, truly relate to this book. Since finishing up the book, I have had a real desire to try to take Dr. DeGrandpre's advice to put the important things back into perspective in my life and try to reduce the stress I feel at work, school and home to better enjoy my life. To anyone who did not read this book, my advice is to slow down and really figure out what means to most to you and more importantly, what makes you happy. If we all try this, hopefully one day we will not live in a rapid-fire culture where big bank accounts, the newest material goods, impatience with loved ones and sensory addiction rule our country and get in the way of what is really important.
Sources: DeGrandpre, Richard J. Ritalin Nation: Rapid-Fire Culture and the Transformation of Human Consciousness. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000.
One of the most prominent examples was Park’s discussion of the scientists who adamantly support cold fusion. At the University of Utah in 1989, Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons, both of whom were well respected individuals of the scientific community, claimed to have discovered a new process by which energy could be indefinitely produced. This process, which claimed to use fused deuterium nuclei, became what is now known as cold fusion. However, the two men did not actually discover a new way to create an indefinite energy source, and the way in which they went about presenting their ideas to the world displayed key characteristics of pseudoscience (such as the ones mentioned in Timothy J. Lawson’s book).
For one thing, the men based their arguments on extraordinary claims that were not supported by well-researched, scientifically peer tested evidence. Furthermore, they took their ideas to the media before they offered them to the rest of the world’s scientific community for verification, which is a key component in testing a new idea in the scientific world. With an idea as big as cold fusion, something that could potentially solve humanity’s energy problems and eliminate the use of oil, it would have been logical to have those ideas tested by other scientists before claiming they were proven discoveries. The only access other scientists had to information regarding cold fusion came to them from the media, which was not a significant enough source to run further tests in other laboratories that could have reproduced or disproved the same results. However, because both men were well regarded scientists at the time of their “discovery,” the media and public were happy to run with the idea that cold fusion was, in fact, a possibility. After all, these men’s name held some significant weight, which is another tactic that pseudoscience often uses. Needless to say, the idea eventually came to be considered impossible.
The most astounding thing, however, is that there are people in the scientific community who still feverishly defend cold fusion to this day, even though it is now refuted by a majority of the scientific community. These people are not ignorant or unintelligent, but rather are devoted to the belief that we are on the verge of a huge discovery. They are not, however, steered by science, but by faith. Like anyone who falls for the pseudoscientific claims of today, be it Q-Ray bracelets or aromatherapy, individuals of the scientific community are just as prone to be led astray by a strong belief and desire for something to work, even when all other signs point to the fact that it doesn’t. In short, it is not a lack of intelligence or good will, but a desire to find solutions that leads people to believe in pseudoscience, and so we must all be careful not to believe everything we read.
In the book "The Demon Haunted World Science as a Candle in the Dark" Carl Sagan looks at many forms of superstition such as Ufos, witchcraft and he also discusses religious beliefs. He discusses demons and how they were supposedly sent from some sort of god to control humans.Sagan also discusses therapy and how many therapists lead their clients to believe certain events, such as a alien abduction, as the truth in order to further therapy sessions. Sagan shares his skepticism about topics such as reincarnation, ESP, and psychokinesis. Sagan speaks about scientific ways to figure out phenomenons such as using mathematics to figure out winnings in sports instead of believing in winning streaks. Sagan states that science can be used a form of problem solving in the world because it uses testing to come to a proven conclusion. Carl Sagan goes in to detail about phenomenons such as seeing faces of celebrities in food. Carl Sagan also talks about the imagination and how it can lead people to have hallucinations and believe in the paranormal when there is no empirical evidence. Sagan often discusses aliens and the many claims that people have about being abducted. Carl Sagan used the "Demon-Haunted World" to open the eyes of his readers to and to make them understand that certain theories and treatments must be thoroughly analyzed first before a person should believe in these theories. Carl Sagan states the differences between science and pseudoscience.
My favorite part of the book "The Demon-Haunted World" is Chapter 10 which is entitled "The Dragon in my Garage". Sagan starts chapter 10 by making a hypothetical situation in which he claims that there is a dragon in his garage. When the participant asks to see the dragon Sagan states that the dragon is invisible. The participant continues to press for evidence that the dragon exists because they believe what Sagan has said about the dragon being real. Sagan's claims become more ridiculous about the dragon in his garage. For example, Sagan claims that the dragon floats in the air and that is why it will not have footprints in flour and the dragon breaths heat less fire so it can no be detected by a radar. The participant believes every word and continues to press on with more suggestions of how they can see the dragon. The dragon test relates to the Q-Ray bracelet. There is no empirical evidence that the Q-Ray bracelet works, but millions of people will still purchase it because others on the Q-Ray website claim that it work. An additional example of the Sagan's dragon test relating to the pseudoscience and the paranormal class is alien sightings. Thousands of people have claimed to have seen aliens, but that should not be enough evidence to prove that aliens exist. No matter how unrealistic a topic may be people will still believe in it because others state it as the truth.
A topic that relates to the pseudoscience and the paranormal class is the belief in UFOs and also the fact that therapists do not reject the claim of a UFO abduction from their clients. "I'm surprised that there are psychiatrists and others with at least some scientific training, who know the imperfections of the human mind, but dismiss the idea that these accounts might be some kind of screen memory." (Sagan 173)This relates to the section in the pseudoscience and the paranormal lecture about dreams in which the therapist does not discourage the false memories created by clients in their dreams, but instead encourages them so that the therapist can have control over the therapy session. Also, this section of Sagan's book "The Demon-Haunted World" relates to the pseudoscience and the paranormal course because the lecture contained many videos that showed people who claimed to be abducted by aliens which gives many others the lead way to also claim that they have been abducted by aliens.Sagan discusses a book that he read entitled "The Fifty-Minute Hour" in which a psychoanalyst name Robert Linder was suppose to treat a physicist with the code-name Kirk Allen, who believed that he could travel into the future and see space crafts. The more Linder heard Allen's stories, the more he believed that they were true. This relates to the pseudoscience and the paranormal class because the more claims that people hear about UFO abductions and products that claim to treat depression such as aromatherapy the more they believe in these claims and try false solutions to their problems.
The last chapter of Carl Sagan's book is chapter 25 which is entitled "Real Patriots Ask Questions" made me think about the book "The Demon-Haunted World" outside of class. Sagan states that "The methods of science-with all of its imperfections-can be used to improve social, political, and economic systems, and this is, I think, true no matter what criterion of improvement is adopted." (Sagan 423) Sagan also states that "In almost all cases, adequate control experiments are not performed, or variables are insufficiently separated." (Sagan 423) The world faces many problems that need to be experimented over and over again until a solution is found. By just trusting people who claim to be an authority in a certain subject without question we will never know the answers if we do not completely agree with what this authority figure is claiming. If people start to look things scientifically and if people demand an answer that can be proven than a lot of issues within our society can be cleared up.
By Lauren Raddi
Sources: The Demon Haunted World Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan, Ballantine Books, New York, 1996.
In Robert Park's follow up book Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science, he dives into topics that some people dare to investigate or want to think differently. Questions that were explored in the book varied from 'Is there an afterlife?' & 'Is there a Main Creator or is it Evolution?'. I really did enjoying discovering these complex ideas and questions and having them answered within the text. It was an easy read and there was at no point where I was bored through out the book. His writing was simple and he had lots of researchers and experts to support his claims in the book.