Quickies: Edison’s Creepy Talking Dolls, Scientific American’s Past Predictions, and the Decline of Pseudoscience

  • Ghostly Voices From Thomas Edison’s Dolls Can Now Be Heard – “Though Robin and Joan Rolfs owned two rare talking dolls manufactured by Thomas Edison’s phonograph company in 1890, they did not dare play the wax cylinder records tucked inside each one.” And the article even has the audio from the dolls. Good thing there isn’t a doll recorded reciting the Necronomicon.
  • The King of Bullsh*t News – “How a small British news agency and its founder fill your Facebook feed with stories that are wonderful, wacky – and often wrong.” (Some pics on this article may be NSFW.)
  • Judge Orders Feds to Pay for Katrina Damage – “The government knew about the risk, the opinion said, from repeated warnings and studies from the Army Corps itself.” From Radium.
  • Why Scientific American‘s Predictions from 10 Years Ago Were So Wrong – “Number one on the list was a stem cell breakthrough that turned out to be one of the biggest cases of scientific fraud ever. (To be fair, it fooled everyone.) But the list held other unfulfilled promises, too: companies now defunct, an FBI raid, and many, many technologies simply still on the verge of finally making it a decade later.” And where’s my bubble car??
  • The Little Tramp – A profile of the feminist comedy on “Inside Amy Schumer” from The New Yorker. From Donna.
  • Chlamydia outbreaks hits nearly 10 percent of small Texas school in district with no sex-ed policy – “In fact, Texas state law requires any sex-ed course to devote more attention to abstinence than any other behavior. And students must be taught that abstinence until marriage is the best way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.” It would be funnier if it wasn’t so tragic that young people are being infected with preventable diseases just because the “adults” in their life are grossed out by sex.
  • Why Zack Kopplin Is Losing Ground In The War Against Creationists – “For the past eight years, 21-year-old Zack Kopplin has been fighting to keep creationism out of Louisiana’s science classrooms. Despite a series of setbacks and the feeling that he’s continually losing battles, Kopplin still feels he’ll win the war. We spoke with him to learn more.”
  • The Decline of Pseudoscience – “Now that ‘natural’ living has gone mainstream, its days are numbered.” I wish I could believe this but these things have existed for so many years.
  • Karen O Writes Google Doodle Song About Nellie Bly – ” ‘Oh, Nellie, take us all around the world and break those rules ’cause you’re our girl’ “

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Mary Brock works as an Immunology scientist by day and takes care of a pink-loving princess child by night. She likes cloudy days, crafting, cooking, and Fall weather in New England.

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  1. “This year, Senator Guillory accused scientists of burning people alive for believing the Earth was round and that the Earth rotated the sun. Senator JP Morrell had to correct him that the Church actually had done that.”

    Zach Kopplin is my new hero. He must feel like Sisyphus, but future generation of kids will benefit from his selfless quest for reason.

  2. Oh, and of course, no one ever thought the earth was flat, so that comment was doubly ignorant. But what do you expect from someone who believes that Adam was formed from dust and Eve created from Adam’s rib. And that doesn’t sound like mythology?

  3. Mary,

    Those Edison Dolls truly are creepy sounding. Its also hard to make out what they’re saying.

  4. Mary

    I hope Zack Kopplin’s losing streak ends soon. We need people like him to fight creationists.

    Just think of what could be at stake if our side actually lost?

    Understanding of Evolution has led to incredible discoveries! Some of them, like this one, could literally save millions of lives.

    Scientists Found a Way to Make Drug-Resistant Bacteria ‘Evolve Backwards’

      1. Mrmisconception,

        In her defense “evolve backwards” is in quotes, so I don’t think Kaleigh Rogers literally meant to say that the bacteria “evolved backwards”

        1. Kaleigh Rogers may not have written the headline, quite often they have a dedicated headline writer.

          It just bugs me when people talk about evolution as if it were directional. It adds to the public’s misunderstanding of evolution and we can ill afford more of that. :)

      2. The phrase “evolve backward” is used a few times in the article, so it’s not just due to a bad headline writer. And I completely agree that it only perpetuates the public’s misconceptions about evolution.

        I read so much bad science writing, even in respected publications. I’ve even read quotes from paleontologists that seem to suggest directionality. Colleges should teach communication skills before paleontologists head out into the field.

  5. What’s interesting is, I know a black woman from New Orleans who has actually grown tired of conspiracy-mongering, and not only about Katrina.

  6. Of course, the doll recordings have a lot of wear, and possible damage, accumulated. But some of the strangeness might be ameliorated by investigating the recording speed.

    Even when 78RPM became the norm, many, probably most, commercial recordings were at inaccurate speeds. I’ve seen reissues of old opera recordings where the speed was corrected to match the actual pitch of the performer, the effect was dramatic. It seems that the actual recording speeds varied from 69 to well over 80 RPM. (NB I am citing this from memory so…)

    And: Edison’s earliest machines were hand-cranked and had no governor for speed control.

    Much the same with early movies, shot at a slower frame speed, the supposed ‘flickery’ or ‘jerky’ quality was caused by the wrong speed of later projectors.

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