"I am all in favor of the skeptical mind. Do not believe anything unless you have experienced it. Do not believe anything - go on questioning, however long it takes." - Osho

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Busy week, and holidays.

Yes, I am a lame blogger; I've been incredibly busy. I've been jaunting about pretending to have a life (I don't).

I am also going on holiday at 7am tomorrow, to lovely Florida. I will hopefully see some juicy yummy pseudoscience that I can blog about on the netty-book whilst I am away, however I'm not sure my resort has wifi. Oh well. We shall see!

I have a wee post scheduled for Monday on Teen Skepchick, so give it a look when I'm gone please!

Yeah I'm really tired. See you in two weeks, when I will have stopped pretending not to be socially awkward!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Microblog: Super sand!

Researchers have come up with a new way to clean dirty water- and the promising venture could be a low-cost way to purify water in developing countries. This awesome technology involves coating sand grains in graphite (yes, the stuff in pencils) and running water through it- apparently draining the water of many pollutants.

P.S. I've been really busy the last week, hence lack of blog posts. However, look what I have! It's my interview with Sue Blackmore! Admittedly, only the first half. I recommend it, though, it's fascinating. And took me four hours to transcribe half of it. Yay!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Why do we condemn assisted dying?

Assisted suicide, or "assisted dying", as it is sometimes called, is a topic which is regarded in our culture to be taboo- and at the very least, controversial.

To give a brief overview, assisted suicide is when someone, almost always with a terminal or progressive disease, is given help to die peacefully. This is usually done by drinking a very strong drug, which first puts you to sleep, and then kills you by cutting off oxygen supply, and then stopping your heart.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Dr Susan Blackmore

I just finished an interview for Teen Skepchick with Dr Susan Blackmore, a psychologist and ex-parapsychologist, and I must say it was fascinating. She's a very interesting woman, who clearly has a passion for what she studies, and I really enjoyed interviewing her. It was my first interview, but she was very easy to talk to and I felt it went well. We largely talked about parapsychology and scepticism, and although I had originally intended to ask her about memetics it would have taken the interview way over time! It will probably take me a day or two to write up and edit it, as it was quite long, but as soon as I have finished I'll post the link up here so you can take a look.

p.s. Thank you, PZ. Thank you lots. Also, thank you to Brian Engler for sending a little note to PZ Myers. Excellent- I appreciate it!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

MICROBLOG: Exoplanets

An impressive ten new planets have been discovered outside our solar system by the Corot satellite. However, seven of them are said to be gas giants like Jupiter, so close to their sun that they orbit in just a few days. Definitely no chance of life there, then!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Measles: the comeback tour we aren't so keen on.

Apparently measles are making a big comeback this year. There have been 334 cases of measles in the UK in the first three months of 2011 (Jan-Mar). This is very bad news, which you can think of in context once you realise that there were only 374 cases in all of 2010. Of course, one case of vaccine-preventable disease is too much in what is supposed to be a developed country such as Britain- so a ridiculous amount like that is downright frightening. It has been said, unsurprisingly, that the majority of people who contracted measles had not had their MMR vaccine.

Firstly, let it be known that measles isn't a joke. You don't necessarily recover in a few days. People seem to have forgotten that measles can still be fatal, even in 2011. That's why we vaccinate against it. The symptoms are horrible, and the consequences can be worse. It isn't like catching a cold, or a tummy bug.
It can definitely be said that Andrew Wakefield is partly responsible for parents not wanting to vaccinate their children, after his horrible 1998 study which apparently showed that there was a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Although he was later shown to be a fraud - conducting the study with conflicts of interest- and his study to be inaccurate, his data had cultivated doubt about vaccines in the minds of the public.

I'm mentioning him for two reasons: one- that anybody with doubts about vaccines should know who he is, and that he's a quack, and two- that although correlation by no means equals causation, most of the cases of measles in England and Wales this year have been in kids ages 10-14. These are the children who should have been vaccinated around when Wakefield's original Lancet paper was published, but before it was shown to be bunk. Of course this is just me speculating, but it seems possible that his study could be part of the cause. Or maybe just a coincidence that makes him look even worse.

Also- I checked the stats on the OECD website, and apparently the United Kingdom only has an 86% vaccination rate- that's horrific. We are 25th of the 29 countries with data on the site. Ouch.

It's not just the UK either! Jenny McCarthy & Co seem to have been working their evil, evil magic in the USA- they've seen 118 cases so far this year. Normally they only see 50 cases of measles in a full year- this is the highest number for Jan-Mar since 1996.

I know that teens aren't the most likely people in the world to be having dilemmas about whether to vaccinate their kids, but hey, there's no reason not to know about the anti-vax movement. You can be of use to your own parents and relatives, friends- or anyone who's confused or unsure about the safety of vaccines. Or you can store the info in your amazing, ultra-cool noggins and bring it out in the event you do have children. The overwhelming message? VACCINATE YOUR BABIES PLZ.

As a last note, I think I'm going to start including page breaks in these after today, because it'll tidy up the blog quite a bit. So (unless it's a microblog) if my entry seems rather short, click the title/link and you can read the rest.

Oh also, David is amazing. Best not to ask.

Friday, 3 June 2011


I was gunna start a new microblog feature so that I can update even when I'm super busy, be it about sceptical topics or cool news stories- I was gunna keep it arouuund 200 characters? Yay or nay? It would be something like the Twitter format if you're familiar with it. For example:

"The new strain of E-coli that has had an outbreak in Germany has been found to be unrelated to Spanish cucumbers, as the Germans first suspected. Spanish farmers are now looking for compensation."