Afternoon InquisitionScienceSkepticism

Ask Surly Amy (sorta): AI’s and Inspiring Science

Hi Skepchick,

I have 2 questions. The first is: what does the AI stand for? This is driving me crazy. There’s almost always “AI:” at the beginning of almost each new article and I don’t know what it mean. I bet it’s something very obvious… The second and possibly more important question is how should I get my sister into skepticism? She doesn’t seem that brainwashed and is relatively smart, but it seems that she is also ignorant or neglectful of important things happening in the real world.

Sincerely,

Michael

This question wasn’t directly sent in to me but I volunteered to answer it so here we go…

Dear Michael,

To answer your first question, AI stands for the Afternoon Inquisition. The AI feature is something that we have been doing here at Skepchick for many years. We write a quick post and then ask you wonderful readers to give us your thoughts on the topic. Often times we try to keep the AI short and light-hearted and keep the longer more thought intensive topics for regular posts. It is our way of keeping you engaged and keeping us hip on what the community is thinking about.

At the end of each AI post we are supposed to write this:

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

But we have gotten lazy. Sooooooooo very laaaazy. I promise we will try to remember to post the explanation at the bottom of our entries from now on. Thanks for reminding us!

As for the second question, well this depends a lot on what you sister is interested in to begin with. Find a topic that she likes and then investigate it with her. Show her fun things that have to do with the topics she is already involved in. Maybe it will have to do with the science of the moon, or some type of technology or some aspect of design. It could be anything. Without knowing your sister specifically I can’t tell you what will spark her interest but the whole world of science is essentially about learning and understanding how things work. So find something that she likes already and dive into it. Set a goal to find some interesting facts she didn’t already know about the topic she likes then explain how we use the scientific method to verify those facts.

As for being skeptical once you have a love and understanding of science the skepticism will follow. No one wants to be scammed or taken advantage of so you could show her some of the tricks used by psychics, alt-med pushers or by marketing companies to con her out of her hard earned cash. Does that bracelet really give you better balance? Is that skin cream really better or just more expensive? What makes that juice “super”? What toxins are people detoxing from? You get the idea. And you can always send your sister links to interesting stories written here on Skepchick or depending on her age, stories from Teen Skepchick. The goal of Mad Art Lab is to post stories that are inspiring and are inspired by science and skepticism so you can look there for fun topics too.

And here is a shot in the dark, maybe watch Cosmos with her? It’s on Hulu. It’s an oldie but it’s still really relevant and hugely inspiring. And they are working on a remake of it slated to come out in the next few years produced by Seth McFarlane and staring Neil DeGrasse Tyson. So it would give you a chance to discuss which one is better and give you some quality family science time that doesn’t require you to talk too much. ;)

If you can give us some more info on what your sister is interested in then I’m sure the readers can offer you up some other potentially relevant links in the comments!

Got a question you would like some Surly-Skepchick advice on? Send it in! We won’t publish your real name, unless you want us to and creative pseudonyms get bonus points! Just use the contact link on the top left of the page.

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Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics. She is the fearless leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+. Tip Jar is here.

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8 Comments

    1. This works great… so long as they aren’t also a budding engineer. I <3 MB but man does it drive my engineer husband insane with their basic mistakes sometimes (although sometimes mistakes=edits for tv time).

      1. They seem pretty receptive to retesting things or admitting when they are wrong when they mess up or make mistakes but I guess that doesn’t always come through as being the case when you watch the individual shows. I have seen the MB stars on a lot of panels and they are always open to discuss their techniques. But yeah, television is often the victim of editing. My husband is a television editor and the process isn’t always pretty or ideal.

  1. Hi Amy,
    This is Michael (the e-mailer). I wish I can prove it somehow, but I’m not creative enough. Thanks for the response. I’m glad you were able to answer the question about my sister as well as you did considering I gave very little information about her. In retrospect, I could’ve told you that she loves yoga, has some artistic ability, has a vast network of friends (900ish facebook friends… that are mostly real life friends) and is aspiring to become a math teacher (She’s going to teacher’s college next year). I could’ve also told you that I’m not a cute 13 year old asking for help; I’m actually a supposedly mature 23 year old asking for help and my sister is 20 years old. Maybe I should show her some studies about yoga from a skeptical point of view and share articles from Skepchick or Teen Skepchick that I think she might like. I also like that you reminded me of Cosmos. I’ve read the book but have not yet watched the series. Sharing my enthusiasm about Carl Sagan should be easy enough.
    Once again, thank you so much for the response.
    PS: I read in the comments section that mrmisconception suggested Mythbusters. Thanks for the advice. I don’t know if it will be effective though. That show has been running at almost every dinner we had at our college residence and she didn’t seem to give it too much attention. (Maybe because she was just too busy talking with friends at the time?).

    1. Oh you should definitely watch Cosmos! You will love it. Some of the photography and effects are a bit cheesy by todays standards but it is still very beautiful and Sagan’s love of science is contagious!

  2. You can set an example by living your own life skeptically.

    A sense of humor and humility help. You could point out areas that you may have viewed nonskeptically in the past and laugh about how gullible you used to be!

    It’s also fun to pick up the woo/logical fallicies/magic thinking in every day life. TV shows and commercials are great for that. It could just be a 10 second moment and then move on. If she wants to talk about it at more length, she will make that clear.

    If she is not interested right now, you can’t make her a skeptic, but at least you can plant the seed of skepticism. It may be that she comes around in 5 or ten years!

  3. I have that Surlyramic!! With the black trim. :) I LOVE IT.

    Michael:
    I don’t know if she would be too old for it, but the MTV animated show “Daria” is loaded with skepticism and is led by female protagonists. (I’m 31 and I still watch it, lol.) I mention it as an option if you can’t turn her onto the more science-focused shows. Also, a quick search on Google turned up several blogs on yoga and skepticism for me. You and your sister might be able to find one she can connect with.

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