Skepticism, Medicine and Science News

Psychics at Nursing Home in Norway – A Bad Idea

One of the larger tabloid newspapers in Norway recently ran a story about a nursing home that employed two alleged psychics to deal with some “unexplainable” phenomena being reported by the patients. The specifics were extremely vague, but one official at the nursing home described the phenomena as things unexplainably falling down, the sense of another presence in an empty room, the sense of a weight on their bodies etc. All the common ghost/daemon/spirit/poltergeist “signs” in other words.

I think bringing these psychics in to take a look at this is just a complete waste of money. What are they supposed to do about this? Let’s just entertain the notion that things are, in fact, falling down more often than is the norm at this nursing home. If so, the psychics can cleanse the house all they want and it will do absolutely jack. What they should do is bring in the janitor to tighten some screws. And if things are not falling down more often than normal, the problem really lies within the psychology of the patients. If that is the case, sure, maybe the psychics “cleansing” will appease them a little bit, but it will not be a permanent fix. A week later and they will most likely be just as nervous as they were before, and the way to help them would really be for them to talk to a psychologist/psychiatrist. 

As for the other phenomena mentioned, there are a lot of possible, real-world explanations to them. One example is the Old Hag Syndrome, otherwise known as sleep paralysis. This is a condition where you are sort of in limbo between asleep and awake, so your body will be paralysed but you are still totally conscious. People who experience this have described feeling a large weight on their chest, and the presence of someone/something malevolent in the room with them. Well gee, that sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? Sleep paralysis have also been found to correlate with depression and even previous substance usage. And guess what, the nursing home in question currently specifically treats patients with a history of substance abuse…

This is just one possible explanation for these events, but it just shows that there is always a lot more to be gained by investigating all the possible real-world explanations before defaulting to paranormal ones. 

John Henry Fuseli – The Nightmare


November 6, 2008 Posted by | General Skepticism, Other, Psychology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Amaz!ng Meeting

For those who do not know, The Amaz!ng Meeting, or TAM, is an annual skeptical meeting held by the James Randi Educational Foundation, or JREF. Also commonly referred to as “nerdvana”, it is a 4-day event with tons of lectures and skeptical festivities. Last years TAM included lectures from Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, PZ Myers, Matthew Chapman, Sharon Begley, Phil Plait, Penn & Teller, Richard Saunders, Dr. Richard Wiseman, Dr. Michael Shermer, Adam Savage and Steven Novella. Next years TAM (TAM 7) will take place in Las Vegas at the South Point Hotel and Casino from July 9 – July 12 2009. It will most likely be a hoot. I know I would be going if I lived in the states…sigh… Anyways, more information about TAM, and also the Amaz!ng Adventures, can be found here

The amazing James Randi

November 5, 2008 Posted by | General Skepticism, Other | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The 2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition is an annual event hosted by the Natural History Museum in London and BBC Wildlife Magazine. The winners this year has just been announced, and they include some absolutely striking pictures. The overall winner was Steve Winter for his picture of a leopard in a snowstorm:

Other awards in separate categories were also announced, and some of my favorite images are:

Continue reading

October 31, 2008 Posted by | Other | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Golden Calf

Did you know that yesterday, October 29th, has been dubbed the “Day of Prayer for the World’s Economies” by some christian named Cindy Jacobs? And that she and a bunch of other Christians gathered at Wall Street to pray for an amelioration of the current financial crisis? Well, they did, and I guess there is nothing wrong with that, but there is just one peculiar aspect of this whole seance, and that is that they chose to gather in front of the Wall Street bull statue (read here for more information about bull/bear markets). Wonkette has a fantastic picture of this:

Now, is it just me, or does that remind you of a certain, quite famous, biblical story? Something about a golden calf and the 2nd commandment? And just for a comparison: 

Wow…I guess someone forgot to read up on their bible, something other blogs also have pointed out.

October 30, 2008 Posted by | Other | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Answers (or not)

Nothing really spectacular in the news right now, so I thought I’d give you all a treat in the form of some especially ludicrous quotes from the answers in genesis web site (and I swear, I’m not making this up): 

Time and time again I have found that in both Christian and secular worlds, those of us who are involved in the creation movement are characterized as ‘young Earthers.’[…] I want to make it VERY clear that we don’t want to be known primarily as ‘young-Earth creationists.’ AiG’s main thrust is NOT ‘young Earth’ as such; our emphasis is on Biblical authority. Believing in a relatively ‘young Earth’ (i.e., only a few thousands of years old, which we accept) is a consequence of accepting the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator.

So….what are you saying exactly? 

If there were Vulcans or Klingons out there, how would they be saved? They are not blood relatives of Jesus, and so Christ’s shed blood cannot pay for their sin.

Aww, the poor Klingons, what did they ever do to hurt anybody?

Jesus is now and forever both God and man; but He is not an alien.

Sure glad that’s been resolved. 

In an evolving universe, life should have developed everywhere. Space should be filled with radio signals from intelligent life forms. Where is everybody?

Everybody is stuck on their individual planets because some of the aliens decided science was bad and that they all should worship the flying spaghetti monster instead, thus preventing the creation of radio wave-emitting devices. 


October 28, 2008 Posted by | General Skepticism, Other | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You’ve Got Mail!

And an STD… It’s the latest craze, you can now notify people you have had sex with that you have an STD with just a couple of mouse clicks. From this site you can send out eCards (you know, e-mail cards) to all your friends informing them that they might want to go and get tested for STDs. Some of these cards are hilarious, and here are just a few examples:

I got screwed while screwing, you might have too.

Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason. I got diagnosed with STDs since we played. 

You’re too hot to be out of action. I got diagnosed with STDs since we played. 

No one wants to be the bearer of bad news…but I got diagnosed with STDs. (You might have one too)

Got laid. Was happy. Got tested. Wasn’t healthy. 

Wouldn’t you just love to get one of those in your inbox?

October 27, 2008 Posted by | Other | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Palin Flaunts Her Scientific Ignorance

I haven’t commented much on the ’08 election on this blog yet, because I would rather stick to the science and keep it non-political. However, Sarah Palin recently gave an interview where she said some things that were just so appalling it deserves some comment. 

So she basically talks about how she thinks scientific projects are expensive, and then she says this:

 You’ve heard about some of these pet projects they really don’t make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not.

Oh. My. God. Did she just say that? How ignorant can a person get? And this person just happens to be running for VP! Yeah, scientists do a lot of research on fruit flies. Would she rather they did it on humans? Fruit flies, or more specifically Drosophila, have been extremely valuable for scientific progress. Where would genetic research been without it? Just as an example, a search for “Drosophila” on PubMed yielded an astounding 65480 articles…. Nothing to do with public good, she says? Is she for real? Seriously? How ignorant can you get?

October 26, 2008 Posted by | General Skepticism, Other | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lights On

Today we celebrate the 129th birthday of the electric light bulb. Using a carbon string in a vacuum, Edison managed to create a light bulb that lasted half a day. So, happy b-day!

The original light bulb submitted to the US patent office by Edison

October 21, 2008 Posted by | General Science, Other | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

50 Year Anniversary

It was 50 years ago yesterday, on October 18th, that the first “video game” was presented to the public at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. It was called Tennis for Two, and the players were to whack a glowing dot over a similarly glowing net using analog controls. The game was played on an oscilloscope, otherwise used to visualize wave forms. 

The game was created by nuclear physicist William Higinbotham.

October 19, 2008 Posted by | Other | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nikon Small World Contest

Earlier this year, the Nikon Small World contest was held, and Scientific American recently put up a slide show of the top 20 entries. The contest is held for pictures taken through a visible-light microscope, and there are some really stunning ones here.  (Oh, and i suggest you visit the contests gallery).

1st place 2008: Michael Stringer – marine diatoms (200x)

2nd place: Paul Marshall – Carbon nanotubes (30x)

More pictures inside. Continue reading

October 16, 2008 Posted by | Other | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment