Archive for the skepticism Category

Euclideon Unlimited Graphics – Too Good to Be True?

Posted in skepticism, Technology with tags , , on August 2, 2011 by cpolsonb

Every so often a news item comes along that gets me excited. Often times these are technology news items, researchers and companies distributing press releases about their new “breakthrough” technology. I get excited but I stay level-headed, the vast majority of the time exciting new medical or energy technologies simply don’t pan out in the long-term. Sometimes things turn out to be prohibitively expensive, sometimes it’s a technological limitation and other times it’s a fundamental misinterpretation of results or an intentional deception. One such technology that I stumbled upon the other day comes from an Australian company named Euclideon that promises a paradigm changing computer graphics technology that will revolutionize video gaming by processing “Unlimited Detail” on current generation computers.

Such a claim is extraordinary, so extraordinary in fact that the whole thing started to smell a bit fishy and I soon began to notice red flags popping up all over the place. Now before I go into this let me make something clear, I am not making any factual claims about Euclideon’s technology, I am not a computer programmer or graphic artist and am coming at this from a layman’s point of view. Nevertheless there is no expertise required to notice a few red flags, except perhaps some experience with critical thinking.

For the full scoop straight from the horse’s mouth you can watch this 10 minute video recently released by Euclideon:

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Omega Point Theory – Resurrection! (Pun intended)

Posted in Philosophy, Physics, pseudoscience, skepticism, Spirituality with tags , , , , on September 10, 2010 by cpolsonb

It sure has been along time! Around 2 months since my last post and I do feel bad about it…

But what now has finally brought me out of my intellectual stupor? Why it’s my old buddy Omega Point Theory of course! For those who are interested or need a little refresher here are the two previous posts I’ve written on Omega Point Theory:

Omega Point(less?) Theory

Omega Point Theory – Redux!

After the long silence from Mr James Redford, presumably because he had not seen my blog entries, Redford has written a characteristically lengthy reply. Please sit back and relax while I examine this reply openly and honestly and see what it has to offer.

Without further ado, here is James Redford’s response.

Hi, Christian Polson-Brown.
Your write in reference to the abstract of my article “Jesus Is an Anarchist” (Social Science Research Network [SSRN], revised and
expanded edition, October 17, 2009 [originally published December 19, 2001] http://ssrn.com/abstract=1337761 ): “Mr Redford describes the implications his research have on the world as ‘profound’, a small slice of hyperbole if I’ve ever seen it!” It’s hardly hyperbole if Jesus Christ exists and he is God’s Messiah. Your response is the logical fallacy of circular reasoning, as you’re assuming as true that which has not been demonstrated to be true: that Jesus Christ doesn’t exists and he is not God’s Messiah.

For the historical reliability of Jesus Christ’s existence and his bodily resurrection, and the untenability of theories which deny his
resurrection, see Prof. William Lane Craig, “Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ”,
Truth, Vol. 1 (1985), pp. 89-95. http://www.leaderu.com/truth/1truth22.html For more on the historicity of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, see William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 3rd ed., 2008), Chap. 8: “The Resurrection of Jesus”, pp. 333-404, particularly pp. 360 ff.

It is empirically impossible to prove the non-existence of something, and science does not claim to. This point is articulated elegantly by Carl Sagan with his “dragon in my garage” story, printed in Demon Haunted World and available to read here. Burden of proof in this situation lies squarely on those making the claim of existence. For the life of Jesus of Nazareth to be accepted by the scientific community his existence needs to be proven, rather than his existence not disproved. Every argument that flows from the existence of Jesus is therefore based upon a false premise. The reference you cite regarding historical evidence for Jesus comes from a highly suspect journal. The journal “truth” existed for only three volumes and is written from an openly admitted “distinctively Christian perspective”.

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Skeptical Blogging and Preaching to the Choir

Posted in conspiracy thinking, pseudoscience, skepticism with tags , , , , , , on June 26, 2010 by cpolsonb

The first time I seriously considered starting a blog was at a local Perth Skeptics event. The guest speaker was Kristjan Wager who runs the ProScience blog. He was talking to us about skeptical blogging in general, what got him started, what it involves and how he has found it. One of the guests there asked a rather pointed question about whether skeptical blogging serves any practical purpose, and whether we are merely “preaching to the choir” as they say. I’ve heard this sort of sentiment repeated elsewhere; the view that the blogosphere is merely an “echo chamber” of like minded individuals patting each other on the back. These people argue that our efforts would be best served elsewhere, maybe handing out leaflets on a street corner or engaging in direct confrontation of forums. In my short time as a blogger I have found that the reality is actually very different.

Thanks to the in-depth traffic statistics that wordpress keeps for all it’s blogs, I have been able to observe where the majority of my traffic comes from. Contrary to the echo chamber hypothesis, my statistics indicate that a good deal of traffic comes from search terms not typically associated with the skeptically mindset. Right up front the big exception to this conclusion is from very top search term “richard dawkins” or “dawkins” which has accounted for a full 9.54% of my total views. Who’s to say however that all those people searching for dawkins are doing so from a skeptical mindset? After dawkins the most popular search terms of all time are “omega point theory criticism” which I will concede seems like a directly skeptical search. Then you get into “global temperatures” & “earth’s atmosphere” which while still scientific indicate that non-skeptics may be stumbling upon my skeptical rundown of climate change denial.

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What TAM Australia Means to Me

Posted in News, personal views, skepticism, Trips and Visits with tags , , , on June 9, 2010 by cpolsonb

Just a few days ago it was announced that TAM Australia tickets would go on early-bird sale June 20th, with full public sale on July 4th. What is “TAM” and why do I care? First a little background.

TAM stands for ‘The Amazing Meeting’ and is a science and critical thinking conference hosted by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). For the last seven years it’s been held in Las Vega and just last year they branched out across the pond and held a TAM in London. Now it’s our turn, time for a TAM meeting down under! If you’re not aware, the JREF is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to fostering critical thinking in new generations and providing information and resources for the public and media about paranormal or psychic claims (amongst a host of other things). Most famously they are know for the $1,000,000US challenge, the prize pool of which is available to any claimant that can demonstrate the existence of anything paranormal under stringent and mutually agreed upon conditions. The Amazing Randi himself is far more than a name for the JREF, he is still, at the venerable age of 82 a fearless warrior on the front-line of battling harmful pseudoscience and paranormal nonsense.

When I was first introduced to the organized skeptical movement in 2006 through the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast it became immediately obvious just what a figure James Randi has been over the last half a century. The SGU team with their ‘Randi Speaks’ segment gave me a direct channel to hear from Randi and the podcast itself opened my eyes wide to movement as a whole. Now, four years on I am completely enthralled by the entire culture, constantly reading blogs, browsing the SGU forum, writing my own blog, following fellow skeptics on twitter, reading the books and of course, still listening to the podcasts! (with a host of others like Skepticality & Skeptoid added to the pile). Over the last four years the idea of attending a TAM event was like a far off dream, something that I may be able to do in a hefty number of years. I imagined by the time I finally attended a TAM (if they were still running), most of the names I’m familiar with would have passed out of the spotlight in the movement and made way for equally hard-working, yet less personally important folks.

But now the chance has come. Later in the year I will (hopefully) be flying off and coming face to face (or at least room to room) with many of my skeptical heroes, including the group that got me into it (the SGU). TAM offers a chance to connect face to face with international skeptics and reach far beyond the small pocket I’ve seen in Perth. I have no idea what the conference will be like or how comfortable I’ll feel at a conference of mostly older professionals but I have no doubt it will be a remarkable and gratifying experience.

Now I just have to grab an Australian Skeptic subscription so I can get an early bird ticket. Oh, and I need to start thinking about why I deserve a $150 student reimbursement :P

Broadening Skeptical Outreach Through Manga

Posted in skepticism with tags , , , , on May 10, 2010 by cpolsonb

No I don’t mean the psychic kind of medium, I’m talking about discovering a new means through which critical thinking can be taught. The notion of using Japanese manga comics to communicate a message about science or critical thinking would likely never have occurred to me, but thankfully it did to someone! That someone Canadian resident Sara Mayhew, graphic designer and mangaka (manga artist), author of Secrets of Sorcerers and Love Pet. Her current project is called Legend of the Ztarr and is available online here.

I first heard about Sara and her work on the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Forum where she posted an announcement about her upcoming talk at the TED conference. If you haven’t heard of it before TED is an annual convention on Technology, Entertainment and Design where speakers are invited to talk about their specialty in such fields. Other noted skeptics who are TED fellows include James Randi, Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins so Sara is clearly in good company. The TED conference is just fantastic and I highly recommend you check out there catalog of lectures available in full online for free on their website.

Soon after I heard about Sara and her plans to take manga and critical thinking to TED I quickly had a couple of other encounters with her work. Sara was interviewed on episode #127 of the massively popular Skepticality podcast and was able to spread the word even further about her work and her plans. Sara also recorded a 2 minute video describing herself and her beliefs as part of a Nokia’s responsiveness program (embedded below). She also runs a very cool blog called “There Are Four Lights” the title of which is an awesomely nerdy Star Trek reference. It’s clear from her blog that her popularity has exploded and there are a number of posts detailing exciting events she’s participating in and work she’s done.

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Breaking News – Victory to Simon Singh BCA Admits Defeat!

Posted in health, News, pseudoscience, skepticism with tags , , , , on April 15, 2010 by cpolsonb

How totally cool! Big win for skeptics and rationalists in the UK as the British Chiropractic Association admits defeat and ceases legal proceedings against Simon Singh. There have certainly been a lot of ups and downs in this case, with most of the ups coming in the last 6 months of so after a shaky first year for Simon. What trickle down effects this will have for chiropractic remains to be seen but one things for sure, the old addage “any publicity is good publicity” doesn’t really apply here. This victory is of course unrelated to the continuing campaign for libel reform in the UK which hopes to ensure this kind of legal bullying cannot happen again.

The BCA today served a Notice of Discontinuance bringing to an end its ill-fated libel claim against Dr Simon Singh arising out of criticisms he made of its promotion of treatments for childhood ailments.

Dr Singh’s predicament as the sole defendant in an action brought in respect of a comment piece in the Guardian newspaper (to which the BCA never directed any complaint) was seen as a rallying point for those concerned about the abuse of UK libel laws in connection with scientific debate.

Interest intensified when Eady J ruled that his words were not comment and that in order to defend himself he would have to prove the objective truth of what he wrote.

Earlier this month the Court of Appeal overturned that ruling and this has lead the BCA to abandon its claim.

The Big Libel Gig!

Posted in health, News, pseudoscience, skepticism with tags , , , , , on March 20, 2010 by cpolsonb

This past Sunday (14/3) at the London’s Palace Theater in jolly old England, artists, scientists, authors and performers from all walks of life put on a show to help raise awareness (and money) for the fight for libel reform in the UK. For more information on what Libel Reform is all about take a read of my previous blog on the subject here. This Big Libel Gig really did have a stellar bill, including such talent as: Dara Ó Briain, Tim Minchin, Marcus Brigstocke, Robin Ince, Ed Byrne, Shappi Khorsandi, Professor Brian Cox, Simon Singh, Professor Richard Wiseman, Dr Peter Wilmshurst and Dr Ben Goldacre. All of these talented and gifted individuals gave wildly popular talks/performances many of which had the audience in stitches (figuratively).

Seeing such a group of people come together for such a worthy cause is just super awesome, how I wish I could have attended. Libel Reform is such a passionate issue of mine because it is well beyond a mere scientific issue, it is one of human rights. This is an issue that any member of the public can feel outrage over, regardless of their religious or philosophical viewpoint. For me it’s much more of a humanism fight than a scientific one. It is also a prime example of how a ground swelling of support from the skeptical movement can translate into a public issue. There is perhaps no better current example of the influence that skeptics and rationalists are actually capable of wielding. So far 197 members of parliament have signed “Parliamentary Early Day Motion 423” and Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, leading Tories and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg MP have all praised the Libel Reform campaign since 10,000 letters were sent to MPs. This comes on top of the chilling effect it’s had on UK chiropractors (a prime example of abusers of current libel) which you can read about in my blog entry here.

For a taste of what was in store at the Big Libel Gig I’ve embedded two videos of backstage interviews conducted by skepchick founder Rebecca Watson and host of the Little Atoms podcast Neil Denney. The first is with psychologist, author, magician and master of British wit Richard Wiseman and the second is with wildly popular musician and comedian Tim Minchin.

Enjoy!

Coarse Language Warning (including some Libel of their own)