#003 Sciencism: Critical Eye – 03/11/2011

This week on Sciencism: Critical Eye, Ross Balch is joined by Dan Abrahmsen and David Balch. We discuss Australia’s Shonky awards, UK “psychic” Sally Morgan denies Randi’s million dollar challenge, belief and confidence affecting performance, Boots remove homeopathy point of sale, Harld Camping apology, “Rod” spotted on NRL game and pareidolia in a testical. We also discuss what comprises good science.


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This year’s Autralian Shonky awards(1) for terrible products are in, we discuss the insurance industry and their terrible treatment of customers following the Australian floods, sensa slims ridiculous weight loss claims and the power balence(2) and how the placebo effect perfectly explains its efficacy.

Simon Singh challenged TV clairvoyant Sally Morgan to prove her powers scientifically(3) which no surprise she declined. She responded by saying it’s up to science to prove her wrong not for her to prove she really can talk to dead people, in that case I may as well make the claim that mystic aliens have declared I should be supreme ruler of the Earth, prove me wrong! My first declaration will be to axe Sally Morgan’s dumbfounding show!

New research suggests that peoples sporting performance improves if they believe that the equipment they are using belonged to a successful sport person.(4) Goes to show the value of confidence and the way the brain can trick itself into believing anything.

A recent complaint made to the MHRA in the UK has resulted in Boots, the UK’s leading pharmacist, having to remove their point of sale for homeopathic products due to violations in the claims being made for the products.(5) Unless the claim is may quench your thirst there is really no claim that can be made for homeopathy that can be considered non fallacious.

Harold Camping, Sciencism’s favourite doomsayer has apologised for his incorrect predictions.(6) We still wonder when the next one is likely to surface…

This week a “rod” was spotted during a live NRL game.(7) After some careful analysis like all supposed rods we come to the conclusion that it was an artefact of video filming, specifically that the video is a time lapse and all we are viewing is an aeroplane, a point some experts seem to have missed.

Pictures were published this week of what looks like a face in agony from an ultrasound of a patient’s testicle.(8) We have to admit this one is rather impressive; nearly all the features of a face are present. Yet another great example of pareidolia to add to the archives, a good rival for the face on Mars.

The show is rounded off this week with a discussion for the skeptic’s toolkit about what makes good science including the use of blinding, effect size and sample sizes.


1 – The 2011 Shonky Awards, CHOICE, 24/10/2011, http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/awards/shonky-awards/shonkys/the-2011-shonky-awards.aspx

2 – P. R. Verdan, T. S. Marzilli, G. I. Barna, et al., Effect of the Power Balance(R) Band on Static Balance, Hamstring Flexibility, and Arm Strength in Adults: The Lifespan Wellness Research Center, J Strength Cond Res, [24] <24>, (2011)

3 – I. Sample, Sally Morgan rejects Halloween challenge to prove her psychic powers, The Guardian, 31/10/2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/oct/31/sally-morgan-rejects-halloween-challenge

4 – H. Fields, The Case of the Haunted Golf Club, Science, 27/10/2011, http://news.sciencemag.org.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/sciencenow/2011/10/the-case-of-the-haunted-golf-clu.html

5 – Activism win: Boots removes homeopathic products, Doubtful News, 01/11/2011, http://doubtfulnews.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/boots-removes-homeopathic-remedy-advertising-after-mhra-upholds-complaint-chemist-druggist/

6 – N. Menzie, Family Radio Founder Harold Camping Repents, Apologizes for False Teachings, The Christian Post, 30/10/2011, http://global.christianpost.com/news/family-radio-founder-harold-camping-repents-apologizes-for-false-teachings-59819/

7 – L. Speigel, UFO At NFL Game: TV Camera Captures Strange Object In Flight During Broadcast, The Huffington Post, 01/11/2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobileweb/2011/11/01/ufo-nfl-game_n_1033966.html

8 – Screaming face seen in testicle ultrasound, Perth now, 03/11/2011, http://www.perthnow.com.au/screaming-face-seen-in-testicle-ultrasound/story-fn6mhcc1-1226185093567



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