QuickiesSkepticism

Skepchick Quickies, Weekend Edition – 11.23

Jen

Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. Re: Epidemics of fear… The silliest thing about “modern people” is that they think they outgrow the silliness of their ancestors. The obvious point to make her is the nonsense going on in African countries. Change the word women to small children and you have the same event. But lets take it another step. The world economy is suffering from what we used to call a panic. Sure, there are problems, hard concrete ones, but the situation is being exacerbated (if that’s the right word) by a feeling of panic by people who don’t know any better. okay, I’m not an economist, and I don’t even play one on tv, but still…

  2. “Semiology,” is absolutely one of my favourite “ologies” – especially the rich sound of the word – following a rich seam of meaning…
    This is particularly interesting quote from the witch hunting article – “During rationalism, “the horrors of various centuries disappeared in just three or four decades making it hard to believe they ever existed” and then “the myth that fear and fanaticism stem from an almost prehistoric age” appears…” You’ve got to love the optimistic mindset that can start a sentence “during rationalism…” lovely.

  3. The yahoo news article is ignorant. E=mc^2 has been demonstrated empirically many times – I believe first with fission reactions back in the early 1950s.
    I think in the 1990s there was an experiment that managed to measure it in chemical reactions. (Hard – the conversion of mass to energy involved in a chemical reaction is tiny.)

  4. I agree with llewelly. If Einstein was wrong, there would be no nuclear energy. Yahoo’s statement makes about as much sense as saying that someone just “confirmed” Darwin or Newton’s Laws.

    Actually, one can say that the first successful empirical tests were those done in the 1930’s and 1940’s (Fermi and the University of Chicago pile come to mind, among others).

  5. Still, it did confirm QCD. I mean the QCD, well, is quite a mess of equations… (from my pre-physics impressions). Try reading this article on Nature instead, if you don’t like the idea misrepresentation of E=mc^2. I find it awesome that they could crunch through so many equations & numerical solutions like that.

  6. Couple of problems with the which hunt article.

    “trials of witches were isolated phenomena” um. no. What about Senator McCarthy? What about the Satanic Ritual Abuse trials of the 80’s and 90’s (one of which took 7 years to produce no convictions.)

    “The “cloud of fear” means people consider certain acts as normal which outside of this sphere would appear to be foolish.” How is this a unique situation from combat? In combat that which is unvirtuous at home becomes virtuous, and that which is virtuous becomes cowardice.

    ” the middle level mass, devoid of defined characteristics, is “dominated by fear, hate and envy” towards those that possess some type of outstanding quality.” Uh, maybe just a bit of a Marxist Soviet anti bourgeois bias there?

    And faith healers offing themselves cracks me up, sorry.

  7. Physicist Matt Springer at Built on Facts has a nice, snarky takedown of the Einstein article.

    Re. panics: I recently found a really amazing blog — one of those specialized and obsessive blogs where you marvel at the passion and conviction of the blogger — called Magia Posthuma. It’s an exhaustive study of the “vampire panic” that gripped Vienna and the Hapsburg Empire in 1731-32, an event that captured the imagination of western Europe and led to Polidori’s The Vampire, Stoker’s Dracula and ultimately to Buffy.

    Niels is a physicist, and his goal is to sort out the mythology, literature, and sensationalism from the verifiable history. A lot of his blog posts contain translations and/or summaries of original source materials from archives in Vienna, Leipzig, etc. Amazing reading (although it helps if you can read a little German).

  8. @truthwalker: I believe the article said that trials of witches were isolated phenomena in the Middle Ages, and they meant literal witch trials, where a person was on trial for being a witch, not metaphorical ones as with McCarthyism.

    And how is this different from combat? Because in combat, the threat is real. In addition, there’s a difference between unvirtuous and foolish.

  9. Marlowe, though McCarthy burned no one at the stake, I think costing people their jobs, reputation, and imprisoning many is hardly a mere metaphor.

    Yes, the threat in combat is real, however, one’s placement in that threat could be based on the most tenuous of threats to one’s nation.

    And morality IS reversed in combat. Killing someone because they are wearing the wrong colors (uniform) is a gang murder. Unless you are in a war. Then it becomes virtuous. Blowing up a power plant is terrorism, unless you are in a war. War reverses the socially accepted moral code. So do witch hunts.

  10. Einstein’s theories were initially “proven” (quite convincingly I’ve read) by star observations taken during full solar eclipses in the early 1920’s. It appears that the French scientists have been able to corroborated one aspect of Einstein’s theory.

    I have a very good friend who’s brother had an infection in a toe. He didn’t know at the time he had diabetes and he and his wife prayed and prayed for his toe…., his foot…, and his lower leg. Which he eventually lost. If they’d kept praying and didn’t finally go to a doctor he would have been dead in another day. Hearing voices is bad. Doing what they say can be fatal!

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