Skepchick Quickies 11.2

  • The NSFW problem – PZ gives an elegant response to Roger Ebert’s post. (For those wondering if they can read these at work, Ebert’s post has naked ladies and PZ’s post does not.)
  • Researches breed extra large insets – “You know, I’ve been so busy preparing for the robot apocalypse that I might have overlooked the possibility (and severity) of a giant insect apocalypse.” From Steve D.
  • Don’t watch cable news – “Dice. Coins. Roulette wheels. Monkeys throwing darts. Slips of paper in a hat. Eenie meenie miney mo. These are all methods of picking alternatives that would outperform the vast majority of political pundits.” From cerberus40.
  • Why real life ghost hunters hate “Ghost Hunters” – “TV series about paranormal investigators get huge ratings — but their hokey science is making them enemies.” From Mark.


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

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  1. On the NSFW problem, I actually see another side of it. I work at an office that is primarily female (in fact, of the 16 people on payroll, there are only two men; myself and a 70 year old. Our other two, who are on another payroll, are also male, but they work far fewer hours). One of my coworkers has put up, in her own little corner of the office, what she refers to as “The Wall of Hotness”, which is a number of pictures of half-naked (or even fully clothed) men. Nothing inappropriate, certainly… everyone’s at least as covered as a set of swim trunks would. But would it be considered equally appropriate for me to plaster my workspace with pictures of beautiful women, were I so inclined? Even my co-workers concede that would be objected to, even though the other is not.

  2. Many parapsychologists derive a healthy part of their income, and research funds, from speaking engagements, but now those are beginning to dry up. Loyd Auerbach, a field investigator with a quarter-century of experience who has appeared on “Larry King Live,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “Late Night With David Letterman,” is one of a number of parapsychologists who have felt the squeeze from the reality TV ghost-hunting shows. In 2006 he took part in and was paid for 14 events in the Halloween season alone. The next full year, that number dropped to five. The year after that, to two. And then, in 2009, to one. This is the new reality for Auerbach, a man once dominant in his field. So far in 2010 only one paying gig has come his way. “I was making a good part of my living lecturing and doing events. Now the TV stars are getting all the lectures,” he said. “It’s been difficult to pay my mortgage.”

    It took a while to get to it in the article, but the crux of the ghost hunting “schism” is as mundane as you can truly get…money. As for all the other “criticisms” from “legitimate” parapsychologists regarding the lack of scientific rigor among the various TV shows, who cares? It’s like reporting that a wizard complaining to a sorceror “you’re doing it wrong”.

  3. Giant Insect Apocalypseâ„¢ fell out of fashion in the 1960’s, but I think it is ready for a resurgence. Hey, Hollywood! Want to remake something? Remake…THEM!

  4. “Real life ghost hunters…”

    How long would a sane rational person tilt at windmills? Wrong question, sane people don’t; crazy people tilt at windmills, or those who lie to get paid.

  5. Typical token treatment of skepticism in the ghost-hunters article. They actually interview Ben Radford in the middle, but there is no discussion of the basis of skepticism, what constitutes scientific evidence, or logical fallacies. The do admit there is actually absolutely no evidence for ghosts, but then blithely ignore it. At the end, the author attributes skepticism about ghosts (and parapsychology in general) to “a rigid, almost inhuman refusal to see anything beyond the material world.”

    As for the answer to the question asked by the article’s title, I think they do get that right: “Follow the money.”

  6. The Giant Insect Apocalypse requires about a 50% increase in the oxygen level of the atmosphere. The Robot Apocalypse requires viable AI. I’m sticking with the Zombie Apocalypse.

  7. Today, laboratory-controlled random number generator tests — experiments where a subject sits in front of a number generator and tries to “will” one number over another — seem to suggest that the mind has an unknown ability to affect reality.

    [citation needed]

  8. 13 comments and no one has mentioned the “Don’t watch the cable news “piece. This was very interesting to me,because it deals with the uncertainty of ‘certainty’. Confirmation bias is one of the most pernicious traits of human cognition when it comes to sorting out reality. It serves us all well to acknowledge it’s existence and the part that it plays in our and other’s thought processes.

  9. I can’t recall ever watching a cable news pundit without asking “I wonder if this character knows how full of shit he/she is?”
    The article merely reinforced my confirmation bias.

  10. @davew: Actually, I was thinking the photos of Kari Byron in lingerie and a lab coat. Rawr.

    And I’m the guy who talks comic books with anyone who comes in range, and recommends fantasy & sci-fi series to people. And works on the upcoming adventure during lunch. I am in very little danger of losing my geek cred.

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