Rosalind Florence Williamson

Wow, it’s been quite a fortnight in the Williamson household! For those that listen to the show, you’ll know that myself and Celia were expecting our first child, due on May 19th 2015. Well, after a routine checkup a couple of weeks ago, the doctors decided that our baby needed to be delivered early and Rosalind Florence Williamson was born the next day on March 11th 2015 and taken straight to the Special Care Baby Unit. So far she’s doing very well and Celia is absolutely fine! We visit her every day and we are incredibly grateful to all our friends and family who have supported us. Everyone at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital have been absolutely wonderful, and we are very lucky to live in a country with excellent socialised healthcare! Love the NHS.

In case you were wondering, Rosalind is named after Rosalind Franklin, a great scientist whose work was vital for the unraveling of the structure of DNA. Florence is the city where I proposed to Celia. Sorry if you are feeling a bit queasy right now!

Obviously my extra curricular projects such as the show and flagforliverpool.org will have to wait for now, but I am planning on dropping in to qedcon.org so see you there!

Oh alright then, one picture of Rosalind!

Rosalind's first facepalm

The Show is back!

After an unintentionally long 6 month hiatus, the Skeptic Canary Show is back!

The format has changed, so it is now a straightforward pre-recorded podcast. No longer an hour-long unedited chat, the show now has features, jingles, stings and even a competition! Search for ‘skeptic canary’ on iTunes or listen right here on skepticcanary.com.

Listen to episode 60, the first show with the new format!

Sally Morgan’s fans react to her apologising for her husband

It’s not been a good week for Sally Morgan, otherwise known as Britain’s best loved psychic. A video has emerged where skeptic campaigner Mark Tilbrook is confronted by Sally’s husband and tour manager John Morgan, and later her son-in-law and tour manager Daren. If you are going to watch the video below then brace yourself, it’s pretty nasty homophobic stuff:

In case you can’t (or just haven’t) watched the video, I’ve transcribed a few ‘highlights’.

0:52 JM: “I am gonna knock you out one day, because you are a nuisance.”

1:03 JM: “One day, you’re gonna be lifted, and you’ll disappear somewhere.”

1:33 JM: “But you’re a prat, and I’m losing my temper because I’m gonna knock you out sooner or later. So fuck off before I do you”

And then the homophobic stuff begins:

3:10 JM “You know, you look pale. Are you on drugs or has someone shagged you too much? One of your boyfriends been up your arse?”

3:42: JM (referring to skeptic meetings) They’re all gay. They’re all gay.”

Hopefully that gives you some idea of the contents of the video. Sally Morgan Enterprises has since apologised. Well, they have “apologised for any offence caused”, which of course isn’t the same thing. Some of her fans have their own ideas. I’ve been on the Sally Morgan Facebook page and tried to inform people of where they can not only watch the video, but also read the leaflets that Mark Tilbrook was attempting to hand out. Sadly, my comments (as well as pretty much any comments from other skeptics) have been deleted and I have been banned from the page. Only pro-Sally comments are tolerated there, and many go so far as to excuse John Morgan’s behaviour. Now, Sally Morgan’s Facebook page is public and the comments are there for all to see, but I believe in protecting people’s identities so I’ve blanked out names and faces. Here are a few samples:

01

03

05

07

02

That last one is an example where Mark’s cognitive faculties are called into question. Here are a few more:

09

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As you might have noticed, the spelling and grammar on this page is not up to a particularly high standard (I doubt Mark Tilbrook came after Sally Morgan with a tub of margarine). Here’s a fan wishing Sally would resurrect her career as a TV pig farmer:

sows

At least all is not lost. One Sally fan is aware that she has been asked to take a test:
not lost

And to finish, here’s something that puts everything into perspective.

really sad

Does wisdomofchopra.com pass the Turing test?

wisdom of chopraSome time ago I created wisdomofchopra.com, a site that generates random Deepak Chopra-style quotes. In case you aren’t aware, Deepak Chopra is a new age guru famous for interspersing his sentences with the word “quantum”. I thought it would be fun to make a random phrase generator based on words from his Twitter feed, thus wisdomofchopra.com was born. The source code for the generator is available on GitHub.

One thing I get asked a lot (often jokingly, of course) via the Wisdom of Chopra Twitter account is “does the generator pass the Turing test?”, or in other words, are the quotes generated by Wisdom of Chopra indistinguishable from those of Deepak Chopra himself? Fortunately, I happen to have data that can answer this very question! If you look at the top menu bar on the wisdomofchopra.com site, you will see a link to a quiz. The premise of the quiz is very simple: you are presented with a quote, and you have to tell if it is either a randomly generated quote, or a genuine musing of Dr Chopra. I have stored (anonymously, don’t worry!) every answer, so I can see how many of the answers are right and wrong.

When I present the raw numbers you will reach a predictable yet somewhat disappointing conclusion, but first lets approach this scientifically. We have two hypotheses, the first being that the two sets of quotes (random and real) are distinguishable from each other. If this were the case, you would expect to see significantly more right quiz answers than wrong ones. The second hypothesis is that Wisdom of Chopra passes the Turing test, and therefore the two sets of quotes are indistinguishable to humans. If this hypothesis is correct, then the person undertaking the quiz would be forced to choose an answer randomly and the task becomes akin to flipping a coin, so the number of right and wrong answers would be statistically the same.

So, onto the big reveal! I can tell you that from June 22nd 2012 to the present day, there have been 73,999 correct quiz answers and 39,581 wrong ones. Now, just by glancing at those numbers you should be able to conclude that the ayes have it and the generator fails the Turing test, but if you wanted to, you could put them through a binomial test to make absolutely sure! Still, around 35% of the answers are wrong, so telling the quotes apart is far from a doddle!

So there you have it. Even though it would be great if it did, I’m afraid I have to report that wisdomofchopra.com does not pass the Turing test. Sorry!

Ep59 – Skeptic Ink Special – Skeptic Canary Show

Join us on the Skeptic Canary Show this Wednesday July 23rd when we will be talking with some of the writers at the Skeptic Ink network! They have recently contributed to a book entitled “13 Reasons to Doubt”, which you can buy here. As always, you can get your questions in to the show via Twitter and email (tom at skepticcanary.com). See you here Wednesday at 7!

Ep57 – Leo Igwe – Skeptic Canary Show

The Skeptic Canary Show returns this Wednesday June 25th and our guest will be Leo Igwe. Leo has been the Western and Southern African representative to IHEU, the International Humanist and Ethical Union, and has worked as a human rights advocate in Nigeria. His work includes campaigning against and document child witchcraft allegations. As always, you can get your questions in to us via Twitter and email (tom at skepticcanary.com). Join us here from 7pm this Wednesday!

Ep54 – Johnno Pearce – Skeptic Canary Show

This week we are joined by Johnno Pearce from A Tippling Philosopher to chat about philosophy! Questions we will be addressing include “Is it right for Dan Linker to call Neil deGrasse Tyson a philistine for his views on philosophy?”.

As always, we welcome questions from the audience before and during the show. You can get your questions in via Twitter or email tom at skepticcanary.com. See you here from 7pm this Wednesday May 14th!