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:

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03

05

07

02

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

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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!

Skeptic Canary Show Roundup

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!

 

QEDcon episode of The Skeptic Canary Show now available

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!

Episode 2 of The Skeptic Canary Show will feature Ed Clint

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

Introducing “The Skeptic Canary Show”!

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

 

I’m on the latest episode of Just Skeptics

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!

 

In support of the Merseyside Skeptics Society Psychic Challenge

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!

QED tickets on sale today!

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