The Skeptic Canary

The blog of Dr Tom Williamson, atheist, humanist, skeptic and Norwich City fan!

Archive for the ‘skepticism’ Category

Skeptic Canary Show Roundup

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Well, our new venture “The Skeptic Canary Show” has got off to a flying start (if I do say so myself!) with seven live episodes in the bag, over 4000 downloads and many more shows planned! The show features myself and my co-hosts David James and Paul Hopwood talking to a guest to discuss issues relating to skepticism. In this post, I’ll give a brief synopsis of the shows that have been broadcast since the QED episode.

For our fourth episode we were joined by Ben King from the Grime and Reason blog to discuss skepticism and politics. You can listen back to the show here. However, I will say that myself and David were experiencing technical difficulties during this episode, so we will definitely be inviting Ben back in future!

In episode 5, David took over hosting duties to interview Geoff Whelan from the Greater Manchester Skeptics Society to talk about the case of James McCormack, who was recently imprisoned for selling bomb detectors that had no chance whatsover of working. You can catch up with that show here.

Episode 6 went off the beaten track of skepticism a little, as we were joined by Paula Kirby to cast a skeptical eye over the history of the GDR (commonly known as East Germany), where Paula lived for a couple of years in the late 1980′s. I really recommend this episode for anyone who has any interest in modern history, as some of Paula’s revelations, especially those concerning the Stasi, were very intriguing! We could have talked for a lot longer too, so we will endeavor to invite Paula back for a future episode. You can listen what has been our most popular show so far here.

For our seventh episode we were joined by Gavin Schofield of the Greater Manchester Skeptics and Just Skeptics podcast. I’d recently been on my stag night, so in honour of my best man and 9-11 conspiracy theorist brother (Hi Ed!) we had a discussion on conspiracy theories, ranging from 9-11 truthers to the moon landing hoax, all the way to the theory that Hitler currently resides in a base in Antartica. Be warned though, we do talk about the very real conpiracy of the attempted police cover up after the Hillsborough disaster. However, we also talk about the personal conspiracy theories of the owners of Amy’s Baking Company! You can listen back to the conspiracy laden show here.

So, our next show will feature evolutionary psychology graduate Kat Ford, who will be joining us to talk about the modern face of physiognomy (a word as hard to pronounce as it is to spell!). Kat recently presented her findings to great acclaim of the audience at the latest Ignite Liverpool, and she will be speaking at skeptic groups throughout the UK. It promises to be a fascinating discussion, so join us on Wednesday ay 22nd at 7pm. Listen live here!

 

Written by Tom

May 19th, 2013 at 1:20 pm

QEDcon episode of The Skeptic Canary Show now available

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Well, what can I say about QED? As expected, it was absolutely superb. The talks were varied and fascinating, the panels were engaging and at times unintentionally hilarious, and it was wonderful to meet up with so many great members of the skeptic community (apologies if I didn’t get the chance to talk to you, there were just so many people there)! Huge thanks to the organisers and everyone involved.

In the latest episode of The Skeptic Canary Show, myself and fellow QEDcon attendee David James discussed the event with Paul Hopwood, who sadly for him didn’t get a ticket in time (hopefully next year Paul!). Keir Liddle from the Edinburgh Skeptics was kind enough to call in, as was Rob McDermott who made history by being the first person to swear on the show! Don’t worry though, the recorded version has some hasty censorship applied. Go and have a listen at the link below.

The Skeptic Canary Show Episode 3 – QEDcon

Incidentally, I couldn’t resist posting this pic of myself at Richard Dawkin’s table at dinner. Cheers to Richard Cooper for taking it!

Written by Tom

April 18th, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Episode 2 of The Skeptic Canary Show will feature Ed Clint

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ecEpisode 1 of The Skeptic Canary Show is now in the can, you can listen back to it through the link below. It’s also been submitted to iTunes, so hopefully you will be able to hear the show through that soon too!

Skeptic Canary Show Episode One

I am very happy to announce that Episode Two of The Skeptic Canary Show be be broadcast on BlogTalkRadio at 6:30pm UK time next Wednesday April 10th. Our guest will be Ed Clint, evolutionary psychology grad student at UCLA and co-founder of the Skeptic Ink Network. We are hoping for a lively and rewarding debate, so if you want to get involved with the show you can register for a free BlogTalkRadio account and call in via Skype! Be sure to bookmark the link below:

Skeptic Canary Show Episode Two

Written by Tom

April 4th, 2013 at 12:02 am

Introducing “The Skeptic Canary Show”!

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Having appeared on Justin Vacula’s Brave Hero Internet radio show, I thought I’d take the plunge and start my own! It’s imaginatively titled “The Skeptic Canary Show” and you will be able to listen to it live on Wednesday April 3rd at 7:00pm UK time.

I was attracted to the Blog Talk Radio platform because each episode has it’s own URL. You can bookmark the show, listen to it and listen back to it all from the same link! You get a dashboard during recording so you can accept callers, and it plugs in with Skype.

The first show is entitled “Skepticism 101″ and will be a discussion on skepticism, what it is and what it means to people. Joining me will be Paul Hopwood and David James. You can call in via Skype! Just wait until the show starts and you will see a Skype icon. Clicking that will start a Skype call so you can be on the air!

If you would like to be a guest on future episodes you can pitch me an idea at tom at skepticcanary dot com.

Listen to Episode One of the Skeptic Canary Show at the link below!

Skeptic Canary Show Episode 01 – Skepticism 101

 

Written by Tom

April 1st, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Posted in podcasts,skepticism

A superb investigation of the “rape t-shirts” controversy on Skeptics with a K

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A few days ago Internet retailer Amazon came under fire for selling t-shirts based on the World War 2 slogan “keep calm and carry on”. These shirts featured a variety of disturbingly offensive variations of the famous phrase, including “keep calm and grope them”, “keep calm and hit her” and “keep calm and rape a lot”. In their defence, the company behind the shirts, Solid Gold Bomb, claimed that the slogans were generated automatically by a computer program, and that they were probably not even seen by human eyes before going on sale. The guys at Skeptics With a K have investigated this, and it is an absolutely superb piece of skepticism. I would humbly suggest that you check out this great piece of work at the following locations:

Once you have heard the podcast, hopefully you will understand why I got this t-shirt made!

Written by Tom

March 10th, 2013 at 7:35 pm

I’m on the latest episode of Just Skeptics

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Last week I had the privilege of being a guest host on the Greater Manchester Skeptic Society’s podast “Just Skeptics”. I had a blast recording it, and it’s a really intereting show covering Vitamin K injecions, Police and Crime Commissioners, Nadine Dorries’ appearance on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, and Donald Trump’s meltdown on Twitter following the US Presidential elections. My own contribution was a quick quiz from wisdomofchopra.com and a chance to enthuse about Brass Eye. Enjoy!

 

Written by Tom

November 18th, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Posted in podcasts,skepticism

In support of the Merseyside Skeptics Society Psychic Challenge

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This weekend, the Merseyside Skeptics Society held their annual Halloween Psychic Challenge at Goldsmith’s College, London. I think the challenge is a great idea, and I for one am eagerly awaiting the results on the 31st. However, some aren’t so keen, and have had a bit of a dig at the society and skeptic societies in general. I’ve made a car vid talking about these concerns. Enjoy!

Written by Tom

October 22nd, 2012 at 12:42 pm

QED tickets on sale today!

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QED logoToday at the appropriate time of 10:23am, tickets for QED 2013 go on sale! QED is a two day convention of science and skepticism taking place at the Mercure hotel in central Manchester on the weekend of April 13th 2013. The last two QEDs were absolute blasts and I’m sure things will be no different in 2013. What’s more, full price tickets are just £99, and students can attend for £59, a total bargain!

I’ll be standing by with my credit card and finger over the F5 key at 10:23 today, as I don’t want to miss out on the dinner, which sold out within about a day last time. Hopefully many of you will be doing the same!

www.qedcon.org

Written by Tom

September 20th, 2012 at 8:21 am

Posted in events,skepticism

Merseyside Skeptics put Shuzi to the test

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The guys at the Merseyside Skeptics Society (MSS) have been busy with some world class skeptical activism! The people that brought the ludicrous nature of homeopathy to the world’s attention with the 10:23 campaign have cast their eyes on a wristband made by the company Shuzi. The band makes all sorts of claims, similar to Power Balance bracelets (and we all recall what nonsense they were).

Unimpressed by Shuzi’s claims of it’s “Nano Vibrational Technology” being able to “unclump” and “improve communication” in your blood, the MSS devised a simple but comprehensive protocol to test the Shuzi band. They enlisted the help of a rugby player, who was tested to see how many kicks he could make when we was wearing either a genuine Shuzi band, or a “sham band (a Shuzi band with the “chip” removed). He attempted 50 kicks with and 50 without the band, but what I found impressive about this test was the blinding. In this sort of test, it’s hugely important to remove as many biasses as possible. The bands were covered by a sweatband, so the rugby player did not know which was which, and the identity of each band was kept a secret from the experimenter. The results were unsurprising. When wearing the real band, the player scored 26 out of 50, and with the “sham” band he scored 22. Although he scored more with the real band, this difference is not statistically significant. I’ve taken the liberty to illustrate the results in a graph.

Shuzi graph


As you can see, the above graph is pretty dull, not really showing much of a difference between the two tests. However, imagine I am a marketeer for Shuzi and I want to make this graph look as good as possible. I could do something like this:

shuzi exciting


Look at how much better this is! It’s the same data, except it’s in 3D, the Shuzi bar is a gold colour, and most importantly I’ve changed the axis so that the Shuzi bar is so much bigger than the sham bar. See how a little creative presentation can make your data look so much better than it is?

Anyway, it has to be said that they’ve got a good deal of press coverage from this. It’s appeared in the local Liverpool Echo, and even made it onto the Daily Mail of all places, making a nice change from the pseudoscientific guff we are all used to. Job well done guys!

Written by Tom

September 4th, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Staying out of the “Skeptidrama”

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A few days ago I announced on Facebook that I was vowing to stay out of what has been dubbed as “skeptidrama”. For those of you who read that status update, the purpose of this post is simply to reiterate what I said on Facebook on my blog, so there is no need to point out that I’m writing about skpetidrama, thanks! :) My vow went as follows:

Have decided for good to stay out of the “skeptidrama”. There is so much more to skepticism than a few bloggers bickering. I don’t want to be a part of that any more, so please, if you see me talking about it tell me to STFU.

Of course, this leads to a really annoying Catch 22 situation where saying “I’m not going to talk about skeptidrama” is itself talking about skeptidrama. You can’t win!

If you don’t know what “skeptidrama” is, then good, you don’t want to know. Trust me, you really, really, don’t want to know. At first I thought getting involved would be a good idea. I mean, everyone involved is supposed to be a skeptic, so what harm could be done by pointing out the error of people’s ways? Quite a lot as it happens. You end up becoming a target yourself, and the more you try and resist it, the more you make yourself a target and you just go down in certain people’s opinions. I think it works in a very similar way to trolling, as it happens.

So, for me, there will be no more! I won’t be reading certain blogs, I won’t be engaging with certain people, I will just leave them to it. This is not something that comes natually to me, as I’m used to engaging with people, especially if they call themselves skeptics. So, if you see me engaging in “skeptidrama” after you’ve read this, then please, tell me to SHUT THE FUCK UP! Cheers! :)

Written by Tom

August 19th, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Posted in skepticism