Skepticism

Skepchick Quickies 8.7

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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  1. On bacteria – but not these bacteria:

    Nova had a segment last night on Bonnie Bassler, microbiologist at Princeton. She was so excited about her work and saw so clearly the importance of what she was doing that I ran out to the living room, interrupted my daughter as she fought off the Covenant, and told her that she was going to Princeton because Dr. Bassler needed her help!

    That’s inspiring science!

    …or irritating science if you’re my daughter…

  2. From the government’s perspective, I’d imagine the UFO festival is a tourism thing, more than anything to do with UFOs. Nova Scotia, and the Atlantic provinces in general, thrive on tourism for about a third of the year. A $2000 government grant is peanuts. A community could conceivably get more money for an unthemed festival, provided the expected turnout was large enough to expect a return on the investment.

  3. This is a complete non-sequitur, but has anyone seen the Sprinkler Conspiracy video? It made me giggle. Maybe it’s been covered before, the video is about a year old. If so… disregard.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_c6HsiixFS8

    It has nothing to do with science (shockingly) but I thought it was such a fine example of batshit insanity that it deserves to be seen. My favorite line is “This wasn’t happening 20 years ago… but now it’s happening now.”

  4. Yeah, Peregrine, you’re right. The grant for the UFO festival was all about supporting tourism and/or a “cultural event.”
    I still wish the money had gone elsewhere, however.

  5. This is the same province where the only major city has a psychic fair every week at the community center…I drive by that regularly and shake my fist every time. But at least they’re not giving out grants to study UFOlogy, whatever that is — how do you study something that is by definition “unidentified”?

  6. I still wish the money had gone elsewhere, however.

    Like where? The oilsands? That money was earmarked for tourism, and that’s where it went.

    Nova Scotia relies heavily on tourism, and Shag Harbour has a ‘gimmick’ that they can market for tourism bucks. Saint John and Halifax have the cruse ship industry, PEI has Anne of Green Gables. And more than likely, they’ve all received grants of various amounts to support their tourism projects.

    The government has set aside money to promote tourism. The organizers of this even applied for a share of that money to help offset the cost of the event, and the department in charge saw fit to grant their request. It’s as simple as that.

    That’s what the government does; looks for ways to strengthen the economic growth of various communities, which is used by employees in the hospitality and tourism industry to feed their families, and eventually comes back to the government in the form of tax revenue, which is used to pave roads, educate children, and even do the same thing all over again next year.

  7. Kimbo, I suppose it depends on what they’re doing at the psychic fair. It’s not like they have a John Edward show every week. Probably just some dime-store psychics hamming it up for $5 a pop.

    I’m a little ambivalent about that, to be honest. Yeah, it’s crap, and people should think twice before taking any of it seriously, but these “psychics” have families to feed too. And on a certain level, it is just something of an entertaining curiosity.

    My wife had a tarot card reading done at the uptown flea market on Monday. It started out as good clean fun, but then lapsed into cold reading. The psychic crossed a certain “line” that would have been better off left alone. But at the end of it all, it was just five bucks. And we didn’t buy any of her junk jewelry either.

  8. Maybe I’d feel less strongly about it if it were called the “spend 5 dollars for fun” fair and not “psychic” fair. Like Detroitus said, lots of people don’t think twice and do take their readings at least a bit seriously (I cite our literacy rate as a reason to be concerned about that possibility). The “psychic” is planting the psychological seed for a person to be suspicious/expectant/disappointed about something, make them remember a loved one differently, or what have you. And it’s not like it’s a yearly event or something, it’s every week. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were regulars and that just makes me sad.

  9. @Kimbo Jones & Peregrine

    I think you both have good points there.

    Maybe one can draw a parallel between the psychic fair and the state lottery?

    A majority of people see both as pure entertainment (maybe wishful thinking on my part), but a minority show up each and every week to either “learn their future” and “get rich” respectively.

    Both are aimed at increasing state revenue, though the connection is a bit less direct in the case of the fair than the lotto.

    I think you could make the same for and against arguments for the fair as you could for the lottery.

  10. I only go to Psychic and tarot readings purely for entertainment. It’s like reading your horoscope in the newspaper – something to make you chuckle before you go off to work in the morning. I honestly treat psychic readings like I treat mentalists and magicians. They have to “know” a little bit about you before they can start giving you crap about your future, and I always enjoy trying to figure out the psychology behind such things.

    This is also why I enjoy watching Criss Angel on TV. I KNOW that what he does isn’t real – but damned if I know how he does it. I love trying to figure out the psychology behind his acts. I also like him because he always states something to the degree of “What you see is what you get.” It’s what you DON’T see that makes the magic. I once figured out one of his stunts….it gave me a pit of a superiority complex for a while simply because nobody else I knew could figure it out.

    As to the article about Women hanging out together – I find this very intriguing, because it’s entirely true, but I never really sat down to think about it. Being a biology major, I find that I do not necessarily behave like this…because our university is about 60% female, and the Biology department is about 75 – 80% female. I do, however, see it with the men. And they can do that…because I suppose I understand their need to hang out together in a sea of women (I hear too much estrogen can damage manhood. Ha.)

  11. Randi and Teller are authors of a paper published in Nature Neuroscience. That fucking rocks. This so makes up for the idiot freaked out be the rainbow in her sprinkler. Thank goodness, everytime I am sure that the world is completly overrun by fools something happens to make me feel hope.

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