New Curiouser And Curiouser About “An Honest Liar” – And New Classroom Modules For Teaching Skeptically!

This will be one of several sporadic updates – because despite claims that the FTB site will be minus updates because of a convention, I don’t think that thirty-two bloggers in total will have nothing to say over this weekend. Not when there’s at least two items of cool news I have for you!

[…Except in the highly unlikely situation that someone trips over the server and the site disappears into the ether, or kids insert peanut butter sandwiches into the disk drives of the non-Reason Rally attendees. Besides, doesn’t the forecast call for torrential rain in DC? I hope Tim Minchin has an umbrella for his piano!]

First things first – Two New Classroom Modules Available From The James Randi Educational Foundation. The two modules are The Cottingley Fairies: Examine the Evidence and Dowsing: Science or Pseudoscience and I’m certain you’ll find them a fun and interesting read even if you’re not a teacher or a student, as I really found them enjoyable to contribute to. There’s another one in the works, which will probably be out later in the year.

Then – transcript of a killer interviewI previously conducted a Token Skeptic interview with Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom – now you can read the article for yourself over on my CSICOP’s Curiouser and Curiouser column! James Randi – An Honest Liar:

It’s a funny thing that one of the most influential figures in skepticism has never had his life properly documented in a film. That is about to change.

An Honest Liar will profile the life of famed magician turned professional skeptic James “The Amazing” Randi as he embarks on a series of public crusades to expose America’s beloved psychics, mentalists, preachers, and faith healers with religious fervor. Along the way, the film will show how easily our perceptions can be fooled by magicians, con artists—and even documentaries.

Please do pass on this article to as many as you can, over Facebook, Twitter, email, carrier-pigeon… because the more people know about the project, the more funding they can raise to complete the documentary. Read about Randi to your heart’s content over at the CSICOP website and check out the other articles featured while you’re at it!

Speaking of podcasts, since I’m of the opinion that my readers are more than likely keen podcast-listeners and since both my podcast and the popular Skepticality program featured “A Midsummer Night’s Foxconn“, with interviews that break down the Shakespeare “documentary” Anonymouswith Bob  Blaskiewicz and Eve Sieburt – you might be interested in the CSICOP article with Joe Nickell: Did Shakespeare Write ‘Shakespeare’? Much Ado About Nothing.

Even more James Randi? In Wired – Why Magicians Are a Scientist’s Best Friend:

The immensely talented and popular Penn & Teller long ago joined me as foes of harmful deception, along with other magicians; the president of my foundation, D.J. Grothe, has a background in magic, and many of our associates are professional magicians, as well. They all agree with me that the Society of American Magicians and the International Brotherhood of Magicians should re-establish their once very active investigations of the fakers who claim supernatural powers.

On NPR! Is Homeopathy A Sham? by Alva Noë – the comments section could use some help:

Is this just ignorance? Or self-deception? Have my friends been swindled? Or is this an example of the well-documented, but poorly understood placebo effect? Or are things more complicated even than that?

Spoiler alerts with this one – Game Theory in The Hunger Games:

 But how does the Hunger Games function? Why don’t all the tributes just agree not to kill each other? The Prisoner’s Dilemma helps to answer this question…

Here’s an article about science writing that I found amusing and got me thinking about the difference between composing journal articles and composing science blog posts – How To Write Like A Scientist by Adam Ruben on ScienceMag:

I didn’t know whether to take my Ph.D. adviser’s remark as a compliment. “You don’t write like a scientist,” he said, handing me back the progress report for a grant that I had written for him. In my dream world, tears would have come to his eyes, and he would have squealed, “You write like a poet!”

In reality, though, he just frowned. He had meant it as a criticism. I don’t write like a scientist, and apparently that’s bad.

I asked for an example, and he pointed to a sentence on the first page. “See that word?” he said. “Right there. That is not science.”

The word was “lone,” as in “PvPlm is the lone plasmepsin in the food vacuole of Plasmodium vivax.” It was a filthy word. A non-scientific word. A flowery word, a lyrical word, a word worthy of — ugh — an MFA student.

Speaking of enjoyable science reading, there’s also A Fun DYI Science Goodie – Proof Yourself Against Sensationalised Stats:

Mark Twain said there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. Illuminating this, renowned business professor Aaron Levenstein said that statistics are like bikinis – what they reveal is suggestive but what they conceal is vital. 

Does the world really need more science journalism? Matter says yes, and thousands agree: “… I think the project’s 2,000+ backers have affirmed that there is demand for more long-form science journalism…”

Finally – coinciding with the launch of this year’s Science Writing Prize, The Guardian are running a series called Secrets of Good Science Writing. The Wellcome Trust blog features a whole slew of blog-posts on this topic, which are excellent food for thought for UK/Ireland writers who are interested in entering for the prize (and a really good read of some top picks in science writing as well).

… and if that doesn’t keep you entertained while you’re waiting for the rain to abate or the sun to rise as you enjoy your weekend coffee, I don’t know what will! Don’t forget to pass on a link to the CSICOP article and encourage others to help support the Honest Liar documentary.

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