Episode #9: bin Laden’s bad thinking, homeopaths & HIV and pharmaceutical companies behaving badly

The ninth episode of Consilience is out! You can download the mp3 here (15.9mb) and the file’s page on Archive.org is here.

Teaching Angela to Appreciate History
On May 7th, 1952 Geoffrey Drummer published the idea for the integrated circuit.


P. boisei: not into nuts

Osama bin Laden (OBL) was shot and killed by a group of US Navy SEALs in Abottobad, Pakistan on May 2nd. We don’t want to get into the politics of the case, but there are a number of interesting skeptical and critical thinking angles here. Firstly, OBL seems genuinely to have believed he and his Arab buddies brought down the Soviet Union – a perfect example of the self-serving bias coupled with confusing correlation and causation. Also: as far as we can tell, no psychic predicted OBL’s death. One Dr. Turi claims to have predicted his death, but all he said was “Someone famous may also meet a sad fate in the water!”. Conspiracy theorists have also been working overtime after OBL’s death.

Gravity Probe B has confirmed two more of general relativity’s predictions: frame-dragging and the geodetic effect. There are, however, some problems: frame dragging had already been confirmed and some researchers are questioning the corrections the researchers had to make in their data.

Homeopaths in Kenya are advising HIV-positive people to stop using antiretroviral drugs and depend on homeopathic preparations instead. The organization responsible for this is the Abha Light Foundation. (Einstein’s Ph.D contributed to the empirical estimation of Avogadro’s constant).

“Nutcracker man” (or Paranthropus boisei) seems to have subsisted mainly on grasses. The hominan cow!!1! The PNAS paper is here.

Easily distracted people have larger left superior parietal lobes. The paper is here.

Sometimes pharmaceutical companies do bad things.

Michael curates the African science and skepticism blogroll (published once a month). There are a lot of excellent blogs listed that deserve much larger audiences. This month’s highlighted blog is Quackdown, an anti-quackery blog run by the NGO Treatment Action Campaign.

Skeptics in the Pub – Durban is Thursday 19 May, 18:00, at Pizzetta, on Davenport Rd.

Skeptics in the Pub – Pretoria is Saturday 21 May, 12:30, at Braza in Irene Mall.

Your hosts…
Angela is @angelameadon on Twitter, her blog is The Skeptic Detective, and you can email her at skepticdetective@gmail.com

Michael is @michaelmeadon on Twitter, his blog is Ionian Enchantment, and you can email him at michael.meadon@gmail.com

Owen is @owenswart on Twitter and all his online activities is brought together at owenswart.org, and you can email him at owen.swart@gmail.com



About Michael Meadon

Michael Meadon is a graduate student in cognitive science at the University of KwaZulu Natal in Durban, South Africa. When he's not procrastinating online or propitiating his wife, he investigates the effects of rapid & unreflective facial judgments on political elections. He expects to graduate any decade now. When he was an innocent undergrad Michael studied Politics, Philosophy & Economics at the University of Cape Town. Unfortunately, he had to find out for himself that "social" and "science" often don't go so well together.
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4 Responses to Episode #9: bin Laden’s bad thinking, homeopaths & HIV and pharmaceutical companies behaving badly

  1. Tom Maydon says:

    Hi guys

    Another good episode. Just wanted to get back to you on two points. Firstly, I think Owen mentioned in the piece on homeopathy that 1 in ten dilutions thirty times would result in a 30C label. I’m sure this was an oversight, but it would be 30X or 30D. 1 in 100 dilutions would be 30C . On your point around the law of infinitesimals and how it isn’t accepted by all homeopaths, I agree. You can find that quite a few “homeopathic remedies” will have 2d/3d ingredients which really could be considered truly active ingredients.

    Now for a shameless plug. Anyway, in terms of Blogs, I started one a while back (its updated irregularly) as I thought it would be nice to have a repository of summary arguments against typical skeptical/quack topics. The blog is “Pause and Consider” and you’ll find it at http://pauseandconsider.blogspot.com/ . One or two of the pieces (alternative medicine and homeopathy being 2 of them) have been posted as My24 articles on news24 and they sparked some interesting debate.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Hi Tom,

      Arrgghh + facepalm. Thanks for pointing out that silly mistake – I know this, but somehow something else came out of my mouth. What’s a speaking typo? Speako?

      Ah, Pause and Consider is up and running again? Cool. Will ad it to the blogroll again. (I deleted it a while back due to inactivity). Please keep writing!


  2. Tom Maydon says:

    Sorry Mike, thought it was Owen (it was a few days ago that I listened to it)! Anyway, was fairly sure that you guys understood the dilution process. Pause and Consider will continue to be updated sporadically, as it is more of a repository than a newsy blog, I just need to find interesting enough topics and find some time. How the likes of PZ and Steve Novella find the time to write as prolifically as they do, I shall never know.

  3. Pingback: Episode #11: Zombies, talking robots and the Rapture! | Consilience

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