‘Tribal Science’ by Mike McRae

How do you define science? And whose theories are the right ones?

Take a humorous and intriguing journey through the uncharted territory of scientific squabbles with scientist Mike McRae, Australia’s next-gen Dr Karl, as he reveals arguments and accusations about who is right and who is wrong in the world of science.

Over time, science has come to permeate our everyday existence: advertisements for beauty products use words that sound scientific, movie makers blur the lines between science and science fiction, and people spend billions and risk their health on bogus medical treatments. Without knowing it, we have accepted science as a social practice to explain and understand the world around us.

Charting the history of science and our trust and blind faith in ‘science’, Mike McRae boldly examines the boundaries of what constitutes science and what doesn’t. In an engaging and straightforward way, McRae explains how and why science developed and why it works, and gives us tools to interpret the good science from the bad.

Intelligent and entertaining, Tribal Science reveals a compelling paradox that lies at the very heart of science and our everyday lives.

A book by Booki.sh

The Fundamentals of Physics (in 28hrs)

Over 28 hours, Ramamurti Shankar (from Yale Univeristy) presents the Fundamentals of Physics through 24 videos. They provide a thorough introduction to the principles and methods of physics with an emphasis placed on problem solving and quantitative reasoning.

The videos are for those who have a good preparation in physics and mathematics.

This course covers Newtonian mechanics, special relativity, gravitation, thermodynamics, and waves. You can get more information about the course here.


Court hears: Cult Leader killed 4-year-old because he thought he was gay

The leader of a religious cult could face the death penalty after being accused of killing a four-year-old boy because he thought the boy was gay.

Moved to act by Faith

Prosecutors are pushing for Lucas Moses, 27, to face the sentence after he was charged for two counts of first-degree murder against four-year-old Jadon Higganbothan and 28 year-old Antoinetta McKoy, who was looking to abandon the Durham-based sect in North Carolina.
The court was told on Friday how Moses, head of the polygamist Black Hebrew Israelites, shot Higganbothan for gay ‘behaviour’ after he found him hitting another boy on the bottom.

Moses also forced Vania Sisk, the mother of the four-year-old to shoot McKoy, while another two women who lived with Moses, Lavanda Harris and Larhonda Smith, have also been charged for their parts in the killings.

As reported by ABC, Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline said: “In the religious belief of that organisation, homosexuality was frowned on.”

She added: “Sometime in October 2010, Smith told Moses that Jadon had hit another child’s bottom, and Moses became angry and started walking around the house with a gun that belonged to Jadon’s mother, Vania Rae Sisk.”

Cline told the court how Higganbothan was taken to the garage and shot while the Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew was played on speakers to mask any noise.

McKoy was also beaten and shot after trying to escape Moses’ home. Moses believed she might tell people about the previous murder, according to Cline. As reported by ABC, the attorney said: “Once she got in the front door, the beating started. Moses began to beat her and other ladies in the house began to beat her and this beating went on for most of the day.”

From: Cult leader accused of killing 4-year-old because he thought he was gay

EBM the wrong way: Man Shoots off Finger to Remove Wart

From: http://www.healthyinnovation.net/?p=166

By Debi Warner, Clinical Librarian, Anthelio Healthcare Solutions

Article Reference:http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/weird-news/2011/06/16/man-shoots-off-his-own-finger-to-get-rid-of-growth-wart-an-idiot-86908-23205185/

Anyone who has had a wart can sympathize. Sean reports that his wart was as big as his thumbnail, was extremely itchy and that he had tried all sorts of things to get rid of it. Then he used his 12-bore shotgun and shot off his whole middle finger. Though he is doing well and the itching has stopped, he’s been sentenced to 100 hours of community service by the British courts for illegal possession of a firearm.

Searching on the internet for cures for warts is great fun. A physician from Oklahoma says mix as much salt as possible in petroleum jelly and cover with an adhesive nightly.[1] I don’t know much about salt and petroleum jelly, but an adhesive, usually duct tape, is a known treatment.

The treatment of warts makes a good topic for introducing Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM). EBM is a process for providers to analyze what they read and decide if the treatment may be useful for their patients based on the evidence presented. Good doctors use both individual clinical expertise and the best available external evidence. The practice of evidence-based medicine is largely physician-centric.

To consider a treatment under the principles of EBM, it is necessary to divide the problems into parts. A process called “Pico” is used to identify the parts.

P= patient /problem. The problem statement usually begins: “In adult males with finger warts”

I= intervention. This is the attempt at treatment which is being considered: “does cryotherapy…”

C=comparison. This is another treatment serving as a basis for comparison. It can be either a different

treatment or a placebo or just doing nothing: “as compared to application of salicylic acid or

duct tape”

O=outcome. This is a statement of what the results of the treatment should be: “result in the removal

of the wart.”

Therefore, to construct a proper problem statement before going on to analyze the success of the different treatments, one would ask:

“In an inebriated 38-year old British male with a wart on his finger, does shooting off the wart, as compared to the many creams he used, result in the removal of the wart?” (Yup, so far, 100% of the time.)

The next step in the process is to do the research which compares the treatments. There is interest more recently in a child of EBM called “Comparative Effectiveness Research” (CER), especially in the light of healthcare reform. CER is more of an effort to directly compare available treatments. The official Institute of Medicine definition of CER is “evidence that compares the benefits and harms of alternative methods to prevent, diagnose, treat, and monitor a clinical condition or to improve the delivery of care. The purpose of CER is to assist consumers, clinicians, purchasers, and policy makers to make informed decisions that will improve health care at both the individual and population levels.” The fact that CER can address cost and benefits at the policy or population level makes it more controversial.

Brauer ordered to withdraw “Hot Flush and Menopause Relief” advertisements


In a recently ruling by the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s Complaints Resolution Panel (CRP), Brauer Natural Medicine – Australia’s largest distributor of Homeopathic Remedies has been handed down an order to cease certain claims about one of their products – the “Brauer Hot Flush and Menopause Relief”.

Section nine of the complaint revealed Brauer’s response for a request of their evidence, where they stated “the evidence for [the] product claims and indications consists solely of traditional homoeopathic evidence […]”. The findings reveal the truth about the evidence used to support Homeopathy as a product to be sold to the public.

The CRP noted that Brauer provided “an extensive array of evidence in support of the submission”, however the CRP recognized (in section 13) that “Traditional homeopathic evidence is not evidence that a product is efficacious in providing benefits such as the relief of menopause symptoms”.

As such, the CRP has since ordered Brauer to:

withdraw the unqualified representations that the advertised product is “for the relief of menopause symptoms and hot flushes associated with menopause” and “helps relieve common menopause symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, mood swings”

Brauer now need to inform all their distributors that their claims were unfounded, which is fantastic news – we may even see an end to this product line all together as a result of this ruling.

Interesting headlines for July 14, 2011

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My response to Paul H Smith regarding prima facie evidence

This is post two of a series, see the previous post here.

2. On the subject of prima facie evidence: By prima facie evidence I mean something along these lines: a remote viewing result that so clearly resembles the correct target, that any unbiased rational agent would acknowledge a match, assuming no other disconfirming facts.

By disconfirming facts, I mean that the result was produced by a scientifically-sound experimental protocol, and was not the result of fraud, sensory leakage, or other similar non-ESP source.

I would suggest there are a number of problems here:

  1. Prima facie is a Latin expression meaning “at first sight”. It is generally used in common law to denote a case that is strong enough to justify further discovery and possibly a full trial – it is not a term often found in science, as scientific investigation generally labels this as an observation, of which the causal agent is to be narrowed down and identified. Wikipedia explains this problem:
    “It is logically and intuitively clear that just because a matter appears to be self-evident from the facts that both the notion of the evidence presenting a case in a self-evident manner and the facts actually being facts (which, presumably, would require evidence of at least a minimum degree of quality) can often be reduced to entirely subjective interpretations that are independent of any truthful merit by sufficiently skilled individuals. That is to say, appearances can be deceptive even to the objectively minded, and they can be subjectively interpreted (meaning that what amounts to a prima facie case for one judging individual would not do so for another). Just because a matter appears to be evident from a certain presentation of the facts it does not follow that that matter has any truthful validity – which would limit the common sensical utility of prima facie evidence.”
    For example, being found standing near a dead gunshot victim with a smoking gun in your hand would establish a prima facie case for murder.  It may turn out it was not the man holding a gun, but someone else who shot the man dead, and the man charged with murder was firing at that other person.We can not use prima facie evidence as “strong” evidence for anything; merely as a basis on which to undertake further investigation – this is in keeping with our best investigation methods.Additionally, the reasoning used to support Remote Viewing on the basis of prima facie evidence is erroneous; even if one tries to support such a claim by verbosity: 1,000,000 erroneously controlled results are still wrong, no matter the number.
  2. “Assuming no other disconfirming facts, “scientific investigation does not “assume” no other disconfirming facts, it systematically seeks to remove factors other than those that are implicated in the hypothesis. Indeed, this is what the result should be when you refer to a “scientifically-sound experimental protocol”, however, the problem is that you explicitly state that it is assumed that prima facie evidence is the result of such a process; this of course is one of the matters of contention.

Science accepts this kind of prima facie evidence all the time. Some examples are a variety of psychological experiments and in the various taxonomic sciences, which could not exist without prima facie judgments concerning isomorphisms among exemplars of plants, animals, geological structures and so on. Prima facie evidence of the sort I have in mind would be problematic only in cases where it is the _only_ evidence available, or if the protocols under which it was produced were either undisclosed or demonstrably flawed.

As mentioned in point 1, prima facie evidence is accepted all the time as the basis for further investigation, not as evidence for or against a hypothesis. Assuming RV is an actual Psi pheneomena, one could use prima facie evidence if testing a novice of Remote Viewing for the basis of further investigation. It can not be used to validate Remote Viewing if such evidence is not established.

In the case of remote viewing, high-quality prima facie results are not the only evidence available, and any prima facie results offered as scientific evidence are accompanied by documentation of the protocol under which it was produced.

In this case, the evidence presented would not be considered prima facie results; they would be results produced by what is reported to be a rigorous scientific investigation of the hypothesis. If you have such results, including the protocol documentation, fantastic; then please present those protocols to justify the results, that is – all results, not just those considered to be a significant match to the target.

On the other hand, I do _not_ mean by “prima facie evidence” merely anecdotal reports or results that bear only a vague and perhaps accidental resemblance to the intended target.

I didn’t think you meant that, so that’s fine.

Here are some examples of prima facie remote viewing results. Since they were meant merely to show examples of solid remote viewing results, I have not provided a detailed description of the protocol. However, I can guarantee that they were all produced under appropriate blinding conditions with controls to preclude pre-knowledge of the intended target, sensory leakage, or cheating. http://www.rviewer.com/Student_Sessions.html

I would consider these examples of prima facie results (in the strictest sense), and I do  acknowledge that you are using them as an example of a strong remote viewing result. However, without seeing the hypothesis, testing methodology (or indeed details about how they are judged, and by whom) or indeed any statistical information (i.e. how many tests were performed, by whom and conditions of each test, if they differed), no tentative conclusion can be made.

However, I do acknowledge that the Student Sessions were not supposed to lead to a conclusion, but merely a presentation of what you (and perhaps your peers) consider a strong remote viewing result.

Deadly Nightshade .. in Lollipops


Nightshade - The only "active" ingredient

At the chemist today there was a box of lollipops that claimed to be an “All Natural” kids throat relief remedy. I had my suspicions, and they were confirmed: A homeopathic “remedy”. I’ve heard of these lollipops before, but had never noticed them in person. I initially thought someone was taking the piss and they didn’t actually exist.

Unfortunately, they do.

Concerning, is that the implied “active” ingredients list contains 4 times and of these, three items can be demonstrated not be be present in the “remedy”.

The fourth, Belladonna is a different story. The dilution used for Belladonna in this product is 3C, which is not typical of a homeopathic belladonna preparation (usually 30C), as such, Belladonna is the only ingredient listed in this “remedy” that has not gone past Avogadro’s Constant and is thus still present.

Wikipedia describes Avogadro’s Constant here:

In chemistry and physics, the Avogadro constant (symbols: L, NA) is defined as the ratio of the number of constituent particles (usually atoms or molecules) N in a sample to the amount of substance n (unit mole) through the relationship NA = N/n.[1] Thus, it is the proportionality factor that relates the molar mass of an entity, i.e. the mass per amount of substance, to the mass of said entity.[2] The Avogadro constant expresses the number of elementary entities per mole of substance and it has the value 6.02214179(30)×1023 mol-1.[2][3][4]

 Essentially, this means that prepartions of over 12C DO NOT include a SINGLE MOLECULE of the ingredient. Indeed, Homeopaths will agree that this is the case – they contend that water “remembers” what was initially in it, and this “memory” is transferred through shaking the water – Homeopaths call this “succession”.

If this still sound like a “medicine”, then I have a fantastic bottle of homeopathic whiskey for you!


Richard Wiseman, a Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, is releasing his latest book, Paranormality in America later this week. His book covers fortune-telling, out of body experiences (OBE), the concept of “Mind over Matter”, Talking with the Dead, Ghost Hunting, Mind Control, and Prophesy. You can read an introduction to his book here.

In conjunction with the launch book, a free app – also called Paranormality (developed by Sarah Angliss) has been released that exploits inattentional blindness, one of the many flaws we can fall victim to.

Whip out your phone and demonstrate to them they have psychic abilities! Your “victim” will be presented with three spoons, of which they must pick one to focus on – Ask them what it is, after all – you’re only going to press the “On” button – but, after pressing the ON button, their chosen spoon will begin to bend!

Learn about the trick by watching the video below!


You can of course, check out an earlier app that exploits such cognitive flaws – Telepathy