Podcast Spotlight | The Skeptic Zone

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I’ve wanted to post on this show for a long time, as I listen to it each week, and usually on Sunday morning (my timezone) when it pops into my feed, so here it is:

Hosted by Richard Saunders, and recently with a pair of kittens as show mascots, Henrietta and Maude, this is the official podcast of the Australian Skeptics.

I’d especially like to highlight the most recent episode, #396 from May 22 just this last weekend, as it is a good listen with a lot of useful items. This episode features:

0:04:28, there’s Saunders’ interview with Dr. Meredith Doig of the Australian Sex Party, a rather tongue-in-cheek name for a political party nonetheless with some very unashamedly evidence-based and progressive policy positions, linked to here.

My attention was grabbed starting at 0:20:45, with a report on recent findings on the supplement industry in Australia and North America by Dr. Rachel Dunlop. The problem of dodgy safety standards in herbal supplements, vitamins, and fish-oil supplements, especially from the lack of adequate regulation, leads to products that are sometimes tainted with dangerous filler ingredients, some having none of the active ingredients listed on the labels, and in the case of fish-oil supplements, rancidity from faulty processing. The upshot: Caveat emptor, and avoid allegedly natural health products unless medically diagnosed with nutritional deficiency and issued a prescription for them by  your physician. Do check out her  article on this at The Conversation.

0:31:00, The Raw Skeptic Report, with Heidi Robertson, is about recent news on the unethical behavior of rogue chiropractors slipping into hospitals unannounced and ‘treating’ newborns, their irresponsible use of social media, anti-vaccination stance and other actions showing disdain for not just real medicine, but even their own regulatory bodies. Here’s a link to a post on the Reasonable Hank blog discussing some of it.

Also mentioned in the show are the Sydney dinner for June 4, ‘Secrets of the Psychics’ for those who can attend, with a dual act, one by self-styled ‘psychic’ Nelly Klyne, to be followed up with an discussion of psychic skills by Richard Saunders himself.

You can follow Saunders on Twitter @skepticzone, and I highly recommend the show, so if you’re inclined, subscribe to it even if Australia is physically not your locale.

The Skeptic Zone kittens would like that. Good stuff!


Caturday’s Astrophenia | Carina Blues & Nebular Hyperbole

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Vanakkam….Namaskar….Slamalaikum….Namaste…. This week has been busy, so I’ve had little time for blogging, but things are getting done where they need to be. That includes work on study notes, and my weekly Bengali quizzes as my pre-semester learning review continues. I’m halfway through the Great Courses lectures on Indian history with three discs to go before finishing, and have at the awesome Sharmishtha Basu’s suggestion found a book on the subject by historian Romila Thapar. I’m also practicing unfamiliar but damned useful study methods so as to make them customary in all my learning. Some methods are better supported than others by evidence, and it’s those that should be favored, as those lead to more solid and reliable learning. Part of that involves giving myself time to pause from Internet use and think, while also absorbing as much as I can in the time that remains. After all, thinking is useful, but you can’t think well without good content to think about!

Still, I try to post on this site at least once, twice, or more each week, as I’m not on blogcation this time of year. I’m making plans that I’ll announce soon once I formulate them on the future of this blog toward the end of this year, as it’s been close to eight years since this site’s founding, actually my third blog, my second to be created using WordPress. This one was created on December 28, 2008, and it’s now-defunct predecessor on January 15 of that same year. Barring accident or misfortune, the next major blogcation this year will be during November, when Election Day rolls around and my country’s future for at least the next four years is decided by the utterly insane American political process. It’s a process worthy of Lovecraft’s madness-inducing alien gods, and Nyarlathotep only knows how it will turn out!

*tentacles crossed metaphorically*

Tf. Tk. Tts.

Milky Way Over Quiver Tree Forest

Clouds of the Carina Nebula

The Orion Nebula in Visible and Infrared

Halo from Atacama

The Surface of Europa

3D Mercury Transit

Milky Way and Planets Near Opposition

LL Orionis: When Cosmic Winds Collide

Inside a Daya Bay Antineutrino Detector

Milky Way Over the Spanish Peaks

NGC 5078 and Friends

IC 5067 in the Pelican Nebula

The Great Carina Nebula

Cat’s Eye Wide and Deep

Image of the Fortnight

Mars Near 2016 Opposition


Can Stars be Cold?

Spiral Galaxy M81 Photograph by Robert Gendler

Clue to Mars’ Climate History: Polar Cap Slowly Building

Next Time You’re Late to Work, Blame Dark Energy!

Mysterious Martian Plumes in Upper Atmosphere May Be From Solar Storms

SETI’s Dr. Janice Bishop Wins Award for Clay Science Research on Mars

A Lord of Rings: Saturn at Opposition 2016

Sand Dunes in Arabia Look Like Pits in This Optical Illusion

SETI Institute at Baycon 2016

The House Makes NASA a Counteroffer It Probably Can’t Refuse

Jupiter Estimated to Get Hit by an Asteroid Six Times a Year

New Hints at a Kinder, Gentler World

Anti-Vaxxers, Conspiracy Theories & Epistemic Responsibility

Hat Tip to Andy Hall of Laughing in Disbelief and CrashCourse‘s YouTube channel

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Mr. Eccles Presents | Stephon Alexander: The Jazz of Physics

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In The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe, physicist and jazz saxophonist Dr. Stephon Alexander revisits the ancient realm where music, physics, and the cosmos were one. This cosmological journey accompanies Alexander’s own tale of struggling to reconcile his passion for music and physics, from taking music lessons as a boy in the Bronx to studying theoretical physics at Imperial College. Playing the saxophone and improvising with equations, Alexander uncovered the connection between the fundamental waves that make up sound and the fundamental waves that make up everything else. As he reveals, the ancient poetic idea of the “music of the spheres,” taken seriously, clarifies confounding issues in physics. Dr. Alexander is the Royce Family Professor at Brown University’s Physics Department. In 2013, he won the prestigious American Physical Society Bouchet Award for “his contributions to theoretical cosmology.” He is also a jazz musician, and recently finished recording his first electronic jazz album with Erin Rioux.

via Skeptic Magazine‘s YouTube channel

The Call Bulletins | 2016.05.19

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I’m mostly done blogging for this week, and have decided to cancel some of the paid options for this site, namely the ‘No Ads’ and ‘Media File’ subscriptions. So, the ads that WordPress shows on its unpaid sites with renew later next year. It’s good though, that in the nearly 8 years I’ve posted on this site only 29% of the total space for media files has been filled by all of the images and PDFs I’ve uploaded. I’ve decided to use the funds freed up from this to expand my Patreon support for the artists, writers, podcasters, and bloggers I follow and sometimes share from here.

I’m currently working on a draft for the Bengali edition of Lost in Translation, which will be scheduled for posting when complete, sometime next week. I’ve lately been setting up quizzes for my Bengali lessons, for both catch-up work on earlier material as I’m going over now, plus the next set of study units I’ll engage with when the next 18 week semester begins later this summer. These quizzes have been set with notifications, so that each Friday night one of each in the set will pop into my inbox, ready to be completed before moving onto the next week’s study unit.

Tf. Tk. Tts.

Great Courses from the Great Courses® | The Big Questions of Philosophy

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This course of 36 lectures is taught by Professor David Kyle Johnson of King’s College. It deals with the most perplexing ideas in philosophy, those which have yet to yield any definitive answers to our species’ inquiry.

From the start on how we do philosophy and what it is, leading up to the biggest question of all on the meaning of life, this course is bound to at some point touch on matters many will find unsettling.

This includes matters of the existence of the soul, of the existence of minds, and even the existence of persons as real, discrete things existing ‘out there’ in the world.

The matters of free will, of justice, of what makes our actions moral and defines the Good, are all discussed in as much detail as allowable for the roughly 30 minute lectures.

These lectures offer, at best, tentative answers and remaining problems to keep you thinking about the best arguments offered for them to date.

A warning: If you are frightened by the prospect of having your beliefs on these questions called into at least some doubt, then avoid this course.

I personally found the lessons on morality, personal identity and the nature of government unsettling in parts, but in a good way, and have since revised my prior social and political views in light of the questions raised. This is as it should be.

In my view, dogmatic adherence to any ideology or a fixed set of conclusions is reactionary and dangerous, and this course is a terrific way to overcome that.

I found this course enjoyable and enlightening, and if you are into asking questions without cheap, easy, and simplistic answers, then this course is for you.