Thursday, March 31, 2011

Healing the Waters of Japan

This morning, when I checked in on Facebook, among the usual mix of status updates and reports on my friends’ moods and activities, one post stood out. A woman that I want to high school with posted a link, under a heading of “please post this to your wall quickly!” The link was to a "Water Ceremony" with a Dr. Masaru Emoto that was to take place today at noon.

Hmmmmm.  Water Ceremony?  This sounded interesting, so I clicked through, and here was the full description:
Global Event - Please join us right from where you are - for a special Water Ceremony for the waters at the nuclear plants Japan. This Thursday at 12pm in YOUR time zone. Thank you for your love and support!
My skeptic senses were tingling, so I clicked on the link to read the letter from Dr. Masaru Emoto that accompanied the notice.  And I wasn’t disappointed. What an enraging and yet entertaining mess of pseudoscientific nonsense and well-meaning spiritual mumbo-jumbo!  I really have to post the whole thing, with my comments interspersed:
A letter from Dr Masaru Emoto... 
To All People Around the World,
Please send your prayers of love and gratitude to water at the nuclear plants in Fukushima, Japan!
Screw the people actually affected by the tsunami and the earthquake, the relief workers struggling to find and save people, and the many others who are actively trying to help – we need to send our “prayers of love and gratitude” to the freakin’ water!
By the massive earthquakes of Magnitude 9 and surreal massive tsunamis, more than 10,000 people are still missing…even now… It has been 16 days already since the disaster happened. What makes it worse is that water at the reactors of Fukushima Nuclear Plants started to leak, and it’s contaminating the ocean, air and water molecule of surrounding areas. 
Human wisdom has not been able to do much to solve the problem, but we are only trying to cool down the anger of radioactive materials in the reactors by discharging water to them.
Well, human wisdom, or, as I like to call it, science has pretty much determined that this is exactly the thing to do to “cool down” the reactors.
Is there really nothing else to do?
I have an idea!  Let’s get people to think nice thoughts and maybe the water will turn into wine, er, clean water.
I think there is. During over twenty year research of hado measuring and water crystal photographic technology, I have been witnessing that water can turn positive when it receives pure vibration of human prayer no matter how far away it is.
Man, that “pure vibration of human prayer” is pretty damn powerful! Why didn’t we use that to, I don’t know, stop the tsunami from hitting Japan in the first place?
Energy formula of Albert Einstein, E=MC2 really means that Energy = number of people and the square of people’s consciousness.
Say what?  You mean ol’ Albert got the formula right, but the words wrong?  Or was he just fucking with us with all that crap about mass and velocity, when he knew all along that consciousness is the key to energy?
Now is the time to understand the true meaning. Let us all join the prayer ceremony as fellow citizens of the planet earth. I would like to ask all people, not just in Japan, but all around the world to please help us to find a way out the crisis of this planet!!
The prayer procedure is as follows.
Day and Time: March 31st, 2011 (Thursday) 12:00 noon in each time zone
Please say the following phrase: “The water of Fukushima Nuclear Plant,  we are sorry to make you suffer.  Please forgive us. We thank you, and we love you.” 
Tell me again why we’re apologizing to water?  Have we hurt its feelings?  Is the water itself suffering?  And I love a good cold glass of H2O as much as the next guy, but “we thank you and we love you?”  Seriously?  Water must be pretty needy to need that kind of reassurance of our affections.
Please say it aloud or in your mind. Repeat it three times as you put your hands together in a prayer position. Please offer your sincere prayer. 
Thank you very much from my heart.
With love and gratitude, Masaru Emoto  Messenger of Water
Gotta love that title, “Messenger of Water.”  Wonder where that position ranks on the company flow chart?
So, as much as I enjoy the mental image of a multitude of well meaning people chanting this ridiculous prayer while aiming their powerful energies at the waters in Japan, what bothers me is the thought that these same people might actually believe that by doing this they are somehow contributing  to the health and welfare of people that are suffering.
So here’s my suggestion to all those who might be taking part in this silly ritual:  After you’ve finished concentrating on healing the waters of Japan, try concentrating on writing a check to the Red Cross or one of the other relief agencies that are actually doing some good for people affected by tragedy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Very Definition of Chutzpah!

Richard Saunders (of SkepticZone fame) tweeted about this today, and I had to check it out.  Some Chinese company is selling an Energy Wand/Nano Pen that is “a natural energy generating device – a transmitter of subtle energy or life force (chi or prana).”  
zero point energy wand
Naturally it goes on to string together a series of vaguely scientific sounding words and claims for this piece of nonsense.  For example, after stating that the magic wand is filled with "a specific combination of 35 different natural minerals as well as crystals” (so, by the way, is a handful of dirt from my backyard), it states that:

…this specific combination and fusion of mineral elements produces a catalytic conversion of energy, sourcing the Universal Life Force (Zero Point Energy/nano wand), and producing a long lasting natural resonance which has the ability to be transferred to the body, liquids, food and the environment.

Got that?  Not only will this toy let you sleep better and overcome various maladies, it will have an effect on your hamburger, coke and the trees in your backyard!  Wonderful!  Amazing!  Miraculous!!

But what really got my attention was the following blurb:

Customers who are confused question us daily regarding all the various "wands" now available on the internet. We will offer only this brief yet clear warning: There is deceptive and manipulative advertising all over the internet. You can purchase very inexpensive wands at other sites. However, you do not know how effective the contents are inside of the wand. Buyer Beware! Our ZPE Wands have a 96% to 98% customer satisfaction rate....Enough said.

I love that these shysters have the gall to use the “Buyer Beware” adage to warn customers about “very inexpensive wands” at other sites.  That is just so fucking hilarious.  Here they are, trying to bilk people out of their hard-earned money by selling them a worthless tube of dirt, and they have the nerve to warn people against cheaper tubes of dirt selling elsewhere. 

Ah, a skeptic's work is never done.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Skeptoid Goes Lyrical!

Anyone who is part of the formal Skeptical movement is no doubt aware of the host of popular podcasts that are out there.  Not only are podcasts like the Skeptics Guide to the Universe and Skepticality highly entertaining, but they are also extremely educational.  One of my favorites, since becoming aware of this evolving movement a few years ago, has been Skeptoid. It is a weekly podcast hosted by one Brian Dunning. In weekly bite-sized increments, Brian tackles issues ranging from the goofily bizarre to the plausibly scientific and lays out the pros and cons, before always encouraging listeners to do the research and make up their own minds.  It’s always interesting and educational and often downright brilliant.

And every now and then, Brian does something off the wall – like this week’s journey through the twin histories of music and knowledge called, fittingly, “The History of Knowledge.”  The piece features a series of songs in various historical styles, each focusing on a bit of pseudoscience or woo.  It’s pretty amazing.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Skeptic in the Room - Lyrics

I had a few requests, so here are the full lyrics:


I’m always amazed that some people believe
things that defy common sense
How do they accept the bizarre and the odd
for which there is no evidence

Sure, some people say that it’s harmless
And I wish I could just let it go...
But it’s not what we know that makes trouble
It’s what we know - that just isn’t so.


It’s always such a drag to be the skeptic in the room
I state my case and watch the room grow silent as a tomb
‘Cause I’m the one who always says “How’s that supposed to work?”
Which makes me end up sounding like an overbearing jerk

Yes, it’s a drag to always be the lonely skeptic in the room
I have to speak my mind when pseudo-science starts to bloom
Although I try to hold my tongue sometimes I just can’t make it quit...,
‘Cause people sure believe some crazy shit!

I have a friend, her name is Laura, loves to talk about her aura
Every time she’s off her game: her dented aura is to blame
She says everybody’s got ‘em, cameras have been known to spot ‘em:
Magic, mystic aural energy

One day I just had to ask her, Laura, make it clear...
How’s it all supposed to work? Please tell me - I’m all ears!

How’s an aura get created?, tell me how's it's generated...
is there a hypothesis for how an aura can exist?
Maybe you're just having mood swings, which you blame on magic woo things
That's the last time Laura talked to me!

My friend Dennis he’s a scholar; his tech skills earn him top dollar
just a few short years ago, Dennis saw a UFO!
Now he says they’re all around us; Aliens in fact surround us
Probably they’re living right next door!

I say “Dennis, tell me buddy, help me understand...”
How can there be flying saucers, buzzing ‘round the land?”

How come every single sighting seems to come in lousy lighting
I guess I’d accept the truth,  with valid photographic proof
But when you saw those lights a blinking - had you maybe just been drinking?
Dennis doesn’t call me anymore!

Britney is a modern lady, rather green and quite new-agey
Claims her latest malady, was cured by homeopathy!
She says it has magic rules, just take some wholesome molecules...
dissolve them in the purest H2O!

Britney took this grand concoction, and her pain was fixed.”
“Come again,” I had to say, “just what was in that mix?”

If it works well what would then be - water has selective mem'ry?
Knows the good but not the shit, that ever was dissolved in it.
Thanks to science here's what we know, really it's a big placebo...
       Britney told me just where I can go.

I have a friend, no doubting Thomas, quite devout and really honest,
    Says despite what we’ve been told, the Earth is really not that old.
He will brook no whys or wherefores, that's what holy books are there for
    Earth was born six thousand years ago.

To contradict you, Thomas, I admit to feeling grief
   But maybe there’s some evidence to counter your belief!

Like chemistry, biology, astronomy, anatomy,
    astrophysics, botany, geology, zoology...
molecular biology, physics, physiology
   Thomas says “So what?” they’ll burn in Hell!

My young neighbors Dave and Tina, talked about how they had seen a
    Former Playboy pinup queen, shouting out about vaccines.
Now they think its realistic - so that no one grows autistic
    Not to vaccinate their little kids.

Dave, please listen now before it really is too late
   Don’t take health advice from one to whom you used to masturbate?!

Beauty queens have certain assets; science really ain’t their strong set
    you should get a good assist - from a freaking scientist!
Guys, I won’t speak gingerly - ‘cause this could cause great injury
   The right thing is what Dave and Tina did!

FINAL CHORUS:’s...not... always such a drag to be the skeptic in the room
Sometimes I state my case and find that people will consume
Though I’m the one who always says “How’s that supposed to work?”
It doesn’t have to mean that I’m  an overbearing jerk

No it’s not bad to always be the lonely skeptic in the room
Bu I’ll still speak my mind when pseudo-science starts to bloom
Although I try to hold my tongue I know I’ll never quit...,
‘Cause people do believe ...
And man do they believe!
Yes, people do believe some crazy shit!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Turtle Science

A couple of years ago, scientists discovered a fossil in China that shed new light on the evolution of turtles.  There had apparently been a lively debate in the field of turtle science about whether the turtle's upper or lower shells evolved first, and this new fossil seemed to indicate that it was the lower that had primacy.

Well, as an avid listening of science and skeptical podcasts, I heard several discussions about this discovery over the next few weeks.  And, while driving around listening to one of those podcasts, it suddenly occurred to me that this was a good topic for a song.  Why, you ask, would that have occurred to me?  I have no idea.

Anyway, I proceed to write and record "Turtle Science," which I have recently posted on YouTube.  I decided to mix in some audio clips from one of those podcast discussions about the fossil, and therefore you'll hear the voices of the renowned podcasters who host the Skeptics Guide to the Universe throughout the song.

Skeptics vs. Atheists

Setting:  a dusty, mostly deserted desert town, somewhere in Arizona or Nevada.  Or maybe New Mexico. You know, someplace dry and dusty.
Crickets chirp; buzzards circle overhead; somewhere a wolf howls.
Slowly approaching down a dusty, deserted street, two weathered old fighters eye each other, each showing the signs of battles past in his wrinkled skin and watery eyes.  In the distant background somebody (probably named Zeke or something) plucks at a poorly tuned guitar.
“So,” says the first gunslinger, when the two antagonists are close enough to speak to each other, “this is it then.”
“Yup,” says the second fighter, then he turns and spits into the dust.  “I reckon so.”
Did I mention that it’s, like, really dusty?
“You ready to admit that ah’m right?” asks the first man.   

The second man growls, spits into the dust again, and shakes his head.  

“Come on,” pleads the first man, “you’ve read Dawkins. You’ve read Hitchins. Hell, you spend half your time readin’ PZ Myers’ blog.  There ain’t no way you can be a skeptic and not be a atheist too.”

The second man shrugs.  “And I’m sayin’ it is possible.  And I’m saying you better get used to it, ‘cause we’re not gonna get anywhere if we don’t figure out how to get along.”

The first man’s eyes squint, and he looks at his foe suspiciously. “You ain’t one of them no good accomodationists, is ya?” He says the word with the kind of loathing a man might have for a rattlesnake.

“Them’s fightin’ words,” growls the second man, and his fingers instinctively start to caress the on button to his ipad as he contemplates a 3,000 word blog post.  “I know lots of good skeptics that aren’t willing to rule out the existence of some kind of...”  he pauses, glances up into the sun with a weary expression, “supreme being.  Not me, of course,” he quickly adds, “but you know, other guys out there.” He waves an arm vaguely in the direction of California.

“But look,” says the first man, trying a different approach, “if you’re a skeptic ya gotta be skeptical of all kinds of nonsense - you can’t pick and choose what types of strange beliefs you’re gonna criticize.  You can’t say we’re gonna reject your UFOs and your alternative medicines and your pseudoscience, but we’ll leave your Gods alone.  You just can’t!”  He’s getting worked up, frustrated at his opponent’s position.

“That’s NOT what ah’m sayin’!” interrupts the second man. “I’m not talking about doctrine and dogma and rules and holy books and such.  There’s just some people who think you can reject all that nonsense and still think there’s something bigger out there that, I don’t know, started the whole process.”

“Then I guess we’re gonna have to settle this the old fashioned way,” growls the first man.

“I reckon you’re right,” answers they second. They glare at each other and move a tad closer.  A little dust blows into their eyes.  

Suddenly the doors to the nearby saloon are flung open and a local rushes out. “Hey,” he calls out to the two gunslingers, “there’s a feller in here selling some kind of ee-lixer!  Says it’ll cure just about anything that ails ya. Ya gotta see it!”  The local waits briefly to see if he’ll get any response, then shrugs and hurries back indoors.

For a long moment the two old fighters stare grimly at each other. Then, slowly, the corners of the first man’s lips curl up into a grin.  “An ee-lixer!” he says, shaking his head in contempt.

“Sounds like nonsense to me,” says the second man, also now smiling.

“Whattya say we go straighten that feller out,” says the first.  The second man smiles and nods and they walk, side by side, into the saloon, putting aside their argument for another day while they join forces to beat down another purveyor of pseudoscientific nonsense.

And besides, there’s beer inside.

The Skeptic in the Room

You know how it is when you have a friend who believes something wacky and you just can't help challenging him or her about it?  Right, that feeling.  Well, I recently wrote a song in which I tried to capture what it's like to be that guy - the skeptic in the room - who just can't help challenging people's goofy beliefs.   Enjoy...

Magic Beans Arena

For years, the good people of Sacramento have enjoyed cheering on their NBA basketball team, the Kings, at venerable old ARCO Arena.  Once the price and joy of this town, ARCO has become something of a white elephant – an old, leaky stadium tricked out with exactly none of the luxury suites that are the fountains of profit that warm the cockles of sports owners’ hearts.

ARCO Arena has also been at the heart of the recent flurry of concern about the future of our basketball team. The Kings’ owners, the flamboyant Maloof Brothers, are having all kinds of financial problems with the team and with their other business ventures (including the Palms Casino in Las Vegas);. As a result, and because of the city’s inability to get behind any of the myriad proposals that have been floated to build a new, more modern arena to replace ARCO, they are exploring the idea of moving to the Kings to Anaheim.  Although the Kings would be far down the list of SoCal sports franchises, Anaheim would almost certainly represent a greener pasture than Sacramento for the Maloofs. 

Adding insult to injury for our fair city, ARCO has declined to pick up its naming rights sponsorship of the building.  And so, today, for the first time in its history, ARCO Arena has a new name. The new sponsor is…wait for it!...Power Balance!  Yes, Power Balance, the purveyor of those ridiculously overpriced silly rubber bracelets with pointless holograms embedded in them that have become popular among athletes for some reason.  Sacramento, the Capitol City of the great State of California, now features the most ridiculously named civic centerpiece in the West.

I combed the Power Balance web site, searching for some explanation of what the hell their magical bracelets are supposed to do.  The closest I found was this statement:

The founders of Power Balance™ have always believed in the benefits of various holistic practices and Eastern philosophies and set out to develop a product to more easily and affordably embody these beliefs.

What gibberish! How do you “embody” holistic practices and eastern philosophies in a freaking rubber band!  

If the Kings stay in town, I’m presented with a dilemma. I hate the idea that even a small fraction of my ticket price will go to support this type of pseudoscientific claptrap.  So here’s what I’ve decided to do:  every time I go to a game, I am going to contribute 10% of the ticket price to some appropriate skeptical endeavor, web site, podcast or cause.  In other words, if I’m going to support the idiots at Power Balance, I will also support those who are working to raise awareness of science in our lives, so that maybe someday companies like Power Balance can no longer vacuum money from gullible consumers.

Of course, if the Kings leave, problem solved!

Another New Blog?

Ah yes, this is the start of another new blog.  In this space I will share my thoughts on subjects of a skeptical nature.  I will share songs that express my points of view in, mostly (and hopefully) humorous ways.  And I will link to interesting posts and videos of like-minded folk around the blogosphere.

So here goes nothing!