The Twitter Report: Leave the Long Island Medium Alone!

Just before the new Cosmos premiere last week, I noticed that "#LongIslandMedium" was trending on Twitter, a reference to a woman named Theresa Caputo. She's just the latest in a long line of talking-to-the-dead hucksters who exploit the grief of the bereaved, using the same unsubtle cold-reading act that never fails to dazzle the gullible. I decided the hashtag could use an antidote to credulity:Like all people who falsely claim they can speak to the dead, the #LongIslandMedium is abusing … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: Rewilding

UnderGreenLeaves

While I was doing research for this week's post on de-extinction, I came across an article by George Monbiot on the phenomenon of "accidental rewilding" that I thought was worth sharing.I loved the book The World Without Us, which describes how rapidly nature would move in and erase the artifacts of civilization if human beings weren't there to act as caretakers and groundskeepers. The author, Alan Weisman, cites a few places where this has happened, like the village of Pripyat near … [Read more...]

On the Morality of: De-Extinction

Dolly

I was fascinated by a lengthy article last week on "de-extinction", the emerging science of cloning extinct species back to life. While we almost certainly won't be recreating dinosaurs Jurassic Park style, there are many vanished animals for which we have well-preserved specimens from which we could extract genetic material, from passenger pigeons to woolly mammoths, dodos to thylacines (or even the Australian gastric brooding frog, a bizarre species that gestates its young in its stomach). … [Read more...]

Your Weekend Brain Training with ClearerThinking.org

If you're motivated to be a better reasoner and critical thinker (and shouldn't we all care about that?), then you should want to hear about ClearerThinking.org, an online academy founded and run by my friend Spencer Greenberg.If you know how human cognition works, then you know that we're far from being perfect reasoning machines. There are certain systematic biases built into our brains that operate without us even being aware of them, causing us to make reasoning errors or decisions that … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: The Promise of In Vitro Meat

CoffeeWithBacon

Earlier this month, the first ever lab-grown hamburger was eaten at a taste test in London. The tasters' reports were guardedly positive:Upon tasting the burger, Austrian food researcher Ms Ruetzler said: "I was expecting the texture to be more soft... there is quite some intense taste; it's close to meat, but it's not that juicy. The consistency is perfect, but I miss salt and pepper."This is meat to me. It's not falling apart."Food writer Mr Schonwald said: "The mouthfeel is like … [Read more...]

A Richness of Planets

Exoplanets

I've been writing a lot lately about hatred and discrimination, about the small prejudices that keep humanity fractured and ignorant. It's important to fight for reason and equality, but I think it's equally important to remember why we're fighting these prejudices, and keep in mind the greater things that we can accomplish if we overcome them. Consider, then, this column about the real meaning of the exoplanet revolution by Caleb Scharf, director of astrobiology at Columbia University.The … [Read more...]

Inundations

StraitOfGibraltar

The webcomic xkcd is one of my daily reads, so I've been enjoying this article on Wired about its creator's most ambitious project yet.Most of xkcd's comics are one-panel jokes, but starting in March, he unveiled an astonishing comic called "Time" - an animation consisting of over 3,000 separate frames, posted gradually over a period of several months. What at first seems to be a simple story about two people building sandcastles on a beach shore and wondering about the origin of the sea is … [Read more...]

Critical Thinking vs. Victim-Blaming

SnakeOil

This caught my skeptical eye: an article about police efforts to fight the "blessing scam" in Asian neighborhoods in New York City. The scam involves a con artist who approaches the mark, usually an elderly person, to convince them that their cash and valuables are tainted by bad luck that can be removed by a special blessing ritual. The victim is persuaded to put their valuables in a bag and hand them over, but during the ceremony, sleight-of-hand is used to switch the bag for an identical one … [Read more...]

Book Review: God and the Atom

GodAndTheAtom

(Author's Note: The following review was solicited and is written in accordance with this site's policy for such reviews.)Summary: Written at an expert level; ordinary readers won't be able to keep up.Victor Stenger is a professor of physics and the author of many atheist books such as God: The Failed Hypothesis. His new book God and the Atom brings these domains together by arguing for the importance of atomic theory in disproving theism.Stenger's aim is to show that scientists … [Read more...]

Book Review: Sex at Dusk

I just finished reading Sex at Dusk, independent scholar Lynn Saxon's reply to Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha's book Sex at Dawn, which I reviewed last month. This book fills in the biggest gap in my original review, so I wanted to say some more about it.When I originally read Dawn, I thought that Ryan and Jetha's strongest argument was the existence of the South American tribal societies that believe in partible paternity, the idea that a child can have more than one biological father. … [Read more...]


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