Skepchick Quickies 10.22

  • Ohio cross-burning lawsuit ended – “An Ohio middle school teacher accused of burning images of crosses on students’ arms has dropped a federal lawsuit that challenged his firing.”
  • Smart-blind – “My brother is color-blind. But smart-blind is by far the greater disability.” Loved this post so much. From Steve.
  • Fast food does rot – You’ve probably heard about the woman who left a Happy Meal out for six months and it didn’t mold. Well, here’s what happens when you don’t let the food dry out. From Mark.
  • The Allais paradox – “Modern investigation into our irrationality didn’t begin with a brain scan, or with discussions of the amygdala. Instead, it began with a few inconsistent people, making economic decisions about their vacation.” From cerberus40.
  • Cute Animal Friday! Parkour puppy will blow your mind, from Maria. Superhero pup is here to save the day, from nowoo. Otter pup gets a swimming lesson, from elianara. And a seasonally appropriate video from Alyssa, big cats with pumpkins.


Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. “Freshwater, who had worked for the district since 1987, also was accused of using a scientific device to mark a student’s arm with a cross and of keeping a Bible on his desk.”

    Well… at least he was scientific about it.

  2. I really hate the way that article emphasizes the teacher’s religious preachings in class, like he’s being persecuted for his beliefs. He burned students! That is not acceptable regardless of the belief behind it. He should never work with children again.

  3. I liked his burger experiment. I’ve seen a few of these where people take thick, only lightly grilled burgers and compare them to the thin, fried to death-burgers you get from the fast food restaurants. Which just doesn’t make any sense at all because there is a lot more moisture in the home made burgers, and probably more pathogens. Seems this guy actually thought that through, well done!

    I’ve also done a burger experiment where I took one McDonald’s burger, split it in three and stored the three parts in different conditions with different degrees of moisture. One part dried up, the other two molded: http://nomsandsciunce.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/why-wont-those-mcdonalds-burgers-go-bad/

    There are quite a few more experiments like this too (for example this one: http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/10/the-burger-lab-the-myth-of-the-12-year-old-mcdonalds-hamburger.html ) , and they all get the same results. I’m surprised (well, not really?) that people still go on about this myth even all the very thorough busting it’s been through.

  4. I don’t recall if I said much about the earlier experiments on fast food, but I remember that the demonstration never really did sit well with me. This re-visitation, while addressing at least one flaw in earlier demonstrations, has one glaring flaw that SCREAMS at me:

    He put all of the burgers in the same container. both fast food burgers, and his homemade “control” burger, and the tomato, are in the same greenhouse container, causing potential for cross-contamination of his samples.

    Good proof of concept, but still flawed. The samples need better isolation.

  5. @Peregrine: I had the exact same thought about the cross-contamination. However, his aim was to prove that the fast-food burgers would rot, and rot they did. In fact, increasing the chance of cross-contamination seems like a good idea if one is only trying to prove that the fast-food is not immortal.

  6. @Peregrine: I think he addresses that in the posts. The experiment is testing the idiots’ hypothesis that fast food doesn’t rot because it’s inedible for mold and bacteria, not, as he writes “that [it is] cooked so well, [it doesn’t] come with any bacteria”. So cross-contamination is actually good.

    My only gripe with the posts is that he apparently has a fear of mold that’s well into the irrational.

    I also loved the smart-blind post. And the Allais-paradox. Excellent offerings. I shall not destroy the universe this week.

  7. Freshwater absolutely was fired for his religious beliefs, because he was openly preaching them in the classroom. That’s part of the administrative hearing that has dragged on… for years now.

    There is a LOT more to the Freshwater firing than this article lets on. It is by far the most insane creationist teacher story to date. Aside from the teacher burning marks into children, there have been clandestine meetings with anonymous sources, lawyers lying about documents being destroyed, then lying to cover up their lies, parents encouraging students to lie on the witness stand, and now attorneys subpoenaing bloggers for literally every document and correspondence they have related to this case (we suspect this last action is what caused Freshwater to drop the lawsuit.)

    Pretty much everyone involved has been the target of a lawsuit (Freshwater’s lawyer even tried to sue the parent’s attorney for representing them!) We’re not sure at this point whether or not this settlement means things are (finally) coming to a close, or if it’s just this particular lawsuit.

    Panda’s Thumb has been covering and discussing the trial in detail for a long time. If you’re curious to know more about it, check out Richard B. Hoppe’s (RHB) writings. He’s a hell of a guy.

    He has a summary here:

    An annotated list of his posts here:

    And we’re discussing the recent events here:

  8. @spurge:

    Of course it’s not persecution; I hope I didn’t come accross as implying that it was. But regardless, it’s still illegal to burn a student. This guy is playing the persecution card so that people will overlook the physical harm that he did, and it’s clearly working since the article focused more on that.

  9. The ‘smart-dumb’ post made me float a little bit. I dunno, maybe it’s me but I LOVE being the dumbest one in the room. I went to college with a HUGE group of freaky Real Genius-style intellects, and it was awesome, just breathing that rarefied atmosphere.

    Surround yourself with the best people that will allow it – you might learn something.

  10. @Skept-artist, @Bjornar:

    Point taken, however, if the aim is to test that processed food does in fact rot in the presence of moisture; be it the moisture naturally present in the samples, or as maintained by the presence of the sponge in the greenhouse, contrary to previous demonstrations, then each individually isolated sample, in its own greenhouse with it’s own sponge, should rot just as well as all of them together in the same greenhouse. Maybe a little slower, perhaps.

    He said in the experiment that he opened the lid of the greenhouse at night, to expose them to the bacteria present in the air, so that should be sufficient exposure to stimulate mold growth, without having to expose them to each other. He also mentioned wanting to use an ordinary kitchen sponge instead of the anti-microbial sponge, to increase the chances of bacterial exposure. But I did not see any mention of exposing the samples to each other for that purpose. Though I may have skimmed past it.

    So while this experiment does debunk the initial demonstration, some health-nut might still come along, and rightly so, claim that it was the exposure to the “properly rotting” organic burger and/or organic tomato that caused the processed fast-food burgers to rot.

    Science is about, after all, in no small part, improving experimental technique.

  11. I am still amazed that parents didn’t file criminal charges. He used something to burn children. This would seem to be aggravated assault a felony. I am also so surprised that no parents beat his ass.

  12. Couldn’t finish the Allais Paradox article. The writer can’t even do basic math, so what else was wrong? The increase from 0 to 1 is not 100%. It is undefined. Sad, sad.

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