Archive | April, 2013

Why People Believe in Conspiracy Theories

Here we go again: another  mainstream media article condemning all conspiracy theories due to some easy to mock dubious ones. This time by Scientific American:

Did NASA fake the moon landing? Is the government hiding Martians in Area 51? Is global warming a hoax? And what about the Boston Marathon bombing…an “inside job” perhaps?

World conspiracies pyramid

In the book “The Empire of Conspiracy,” Timothy Melley explains that conspiracy theories have traditionally been regarded by many social scientists as “the implausible visions of a lunatic fringe,” often inspired by what the late historian Richard Hofstadter described as “the paranoid style of American politics.” Influenced by this view, many scholars have come to think of conspiracy theories as paranoid and delusional, and for a long time psychologists have had little to contribute other than to affirm the psychopathological nature of conspiracy thinking, given that conspiricist delusions are commonly associated with (schizotype) paranoia.

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Obama: I Want To Close Guantanamo

Looks like the Guantanamo hunger strikers have caught the attention of US President Obama. From USA Today:
President Obama said Tuesday that his administration would re-engage Congress on closing the U.S. military-run detention center at Guantanamo Bay, calling the facility a "recruitment tool for extremists" and suggesting it is undermining U.S. security. "It needs to be closed," Obama said at a White House news conference marking the first 100 days of his second term. "I'm going to go back at this." Obama's comments come as military officials say that as many 100 prisoners at Guantanamo are engaged in a hunger strike. With the situation getting more difficult, the Pentagon in recent days dispatched 40 additional Navy medical personnel to Guantanamo to deal with the hunger strikers. They bolstered a staff of about 100, said Lt. Col. Samuel House, a base spokesman...
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Former Lawmakers Received $20,000 Honorariums to Appear at UFO Disclosure Event

ufo-5Whatever gravity that having five former congressmen and one senator might have brought to this year’s UFO disclosure hearing at the Washington Press Club may be negated by the revelation that each of them received a $20,000 honorarium for their presence. I’m available if anyone wants my opinion on UFO disclosure. Bribe – I mean, “honorarium” – negotiable.

Via The Guardian:

The politicians who made up the committee were given just five minutes each to cross-examine witnesses, but defended their presence and the $20,000 “honorarium”.

“I would not have come if I thought it was damaging to my reputation,” said California Democrat Lynn Woolsey, who retired from Congress this year after 10 terms in office. “I am here because I believe in transparency.”

Roscoe Bartlett, a Tea Party Republican from Maryland who served 10 terms in Congress and chaired a sub-committee of the House armed services committtee, said: “Extraterrestrials are not anti-biblical.

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Inside Paris’s Belle Époque-Era Human Zoo

human zooMessy Nessy Chic on a surreal symbol of the history of colonialism — the human zoo:

In the furthest corner of the Vincennes woods of Paris lies the remains of what was once a public exhibition to promote French colonialism over 100 years ago and what we can only refer to today as the equivalent of a human zoo.

In 1907, six different villages were built in the Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale, representing all corners of the French colonial empire at the time– Madagascar, Indochine, Sudan, Congo, Tunisia and Morocco. The villages and their pavillions were built to recreate the life and culture as it was in their original habitats. This included mimicking the architecture, importing the agriculture and appallingly, inhabiting the replica houses with people, brought to Paris from the faraway territories.

Over one million curious visitors [attended] from May until October 1907 when it ended. Today, the Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale is kept out of sight behind rusty padlocked gates, abandoned and decaying.

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Police May Soon Be Able Check For Illegal Drug Use Via Breathalyzer Test

breathalyzerImagine if this Swedish invention were to become a part of stop-and-frisk. US News and World Report writes:

Police might soon be able to detect more than just alcohol on their breathing test devices. A new Swedish-designed device can detect 12 different controlled substances, including methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, morphine and marijuana.

In a study published in the Journal of Breath Research Thursday, Olof Beck, of Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet, detected drugs on the breath of 47 patients at a drug addiction emergency clinic.

“Considering the samples were taken 24 hours after the intake of drugs, we were surprised to find that there was still high detectability for most drugs,” Beck said in a statement. He suggested that a breath test could be given at the scene and then confirmed with a blood test later.

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Uruguayan Scientists Create Healthy Glow-In-The-Dark Sheep

It has been announced that nine sheep born this past October at Uruguay's Institute of Animal Reproduction have been developing normally and living contentedly. The sheep were genetically engineered to contain a gene from a jellyfish which spurs the production of green fluorescent protein, a modification which will no doubt soon be a common one for designer house pets:
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Solar Powered Plane to Fly Around The World

People powered might just as well be the description of this nifty solar plane, as the 12,000 solar cells are all sponsored to the tune of $200 each.

640px-Flea_Hop_HB-SIA_-_Solar_Impulse

Finn Olaf-Jones reports for the Wall Street Journal:

…In 2003, [Bertand] Piccard approached European companies to sponsor what has become a $148 million project and began assembling a team of 80 engineers and technicians plucked largely from Swiss universities. After seven years of tinkering, they arrived at a machine with a deceptively simple design: Solar Impulse—with its sleek, clean lines, white-gloss finish and rakishly angled 208-foot wings (bent to increase the plane’s stability)—resembles what you might get had Steve Jobs reimagined a child’s balsa-wood glider in giant form.

“The crux to flying nonstop around the world with solar energy is being able to fly even when the sun isn’t out, especially at night,” notes André Borschberg, a former Swiss air force fighter ace and McKinsey & Company consultant who, as the project’s CEO, oversees the design team and takes turns piloting the plane.

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Does Anti-Defamation League Leader Support Blanket Spying on American Muslims?

ADL-Logo-BlueThis seems sketchy, but is he advocating blanket monitoring of America’s Muslim Community or is he simply discussing how such reactionary measures come about? The Daily Beast’s Ali Gharib feels that it is the former. Your thoughts?

The most staggering ambivalence about bigotry in Foxman’s Haaretz interview, though, wasn’t about Christians or even Palestinians; it was about American Muslims. Asked by his interviewer, Chemi Shalev, about anti-Muslim discimination, Foxman sought to rationalize it. First, he argued that incidents of anti-Semitism occur more frequently than those related to anti-Muslim bigotry, as if tracking bigotry is a game in which scores are kept. But then Foxman digs deeper.

Shalev: You don’t think that “Muslim-baiting” is much more acceptable in the mainstream media than, say, “Jew-baiting”? There is a Congressman now who is calling for the authorities to keep track of the entire Muslim community.

Foxman: I don’t think that’s Muslim-baiting. It’s a natural response.

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Is SETI Science?

Picture: SETI (C)

Picture: SETI (C)

Steven Novella of the Neurologica blog tackles an interesting question: Is the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) scientific?

Via Neurologica:

With regard to SETI the hypothesis is this – life arose spontaneously on Earth, there is nothing special about the Earth and therefore it is possible for life to arise elsewhere in the universe. It is possible that some of that life evolved intelligence, and some of that intelligence developed technology. One method for a technological civilization to communicate across stellar distances is through radio signals. Therefore, perhaps the Earth is being bathed at this moment with intelligent radio signals from other worlds.

Every link in that logical change is perfectly reasonable. The best way to test that hypothesis is to simply look. Looking is part of science. It is a valid way to test many hypotheses. It is not necessary to be able to prove that there are no intelligent radio sources anywhere in the universe in order for this endeavor to be properly scientific.

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