Sunday, November 19, 2006

The PEAR Has Finally Rotted

From the November 8 Princeton Alumni Weekly comes the welcome news that PEAR, the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory, is closing.

Don't be fooled by the fancy name. "Engineering Anomalies" is just a fancy name for good-old-fashioned parapsychology. PEAR's director, Robert Jahn, has been trying to show psychic phenomena are real ever since I was an undergraduate. But with funding reportedly drying up on his unsuccessful efforts, PEAR could no longer be sustained.

PEAR has been an embarrassment to Princeton alumni since day one. Jahn and colleagues never succeeded in demonstrating any significant effect; one of the strongest results they claimed was an 0.02% advantage in coin flipping. Other claimed results, such as the ones dealing with "remote viewing", have been criticized for sloppy experiment design. And to my knowledge no one has succeeded in replicating their results. Jahn claims "it has been the most personally stimulating and rewarding intellectual activity I've ever been involved in". Pitiful.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Innumeracy in the Record

From the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, Friday, November 17, 2006,
page C1:

"Thirty years later, I've now written a newspaper column every week, 52 weeks a year, a total of 5,230 articles. It's an experience I wouldn't have missed. And what have I learned?"

Clearly not multiplication.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Higher Education at Conestoga College

Conestoga College is a community college based in Kitchener and three surrounding communities. They offer a large variety of useful courses in electronics, business, and other subjects.

Unfortunately, they also offer several courses that don't belong at a community college. These courses, as described in the Conestoga College catalogue for Winter 2007, make truth claims about ESP, psychic powers, astral projections, auras, and homeopathy that have no factual basis. I would not object to a course exploring these topics provided no truth claims were made. For example, a course carefully examining the evidence for and against psychic powers would be welcome. These courses apparently don't do that. Here are the descriptions:

Homeopathic Medicine - An Introduction

This 200-year-old system of healing is based on the principles of "like cures like", using tiny doses of plant, animal and mineral substances to stimulate the body to recover its balance. Learn about the philosophy and history of homeopathic medicine and the top 10 remedies homeopathy has to offer.

The Psychic World

This one-day seminar will help you to develop the dynamic powers of your mind. The course will cover such topics as E.S.P. games to increase your own abilities, learn how to meditate, how to see auras and decipher what the colours mean. We will discuss how to interpret your dreams and control them, Astral projection and more.

Advanced Psychic World

Advanced Psychic World continues where 'The Psychic World' left off. It will cover such topics as: alternative realities, ley lines, other styles of meditation, and astral projection. The class will be taken on two group projections. Students will need to bring a blanket and pillow.

Reincarnation - Who Were You?

This one-day workshop explores the possibility of past lives and what karma is. It gives some very interesting theories as to why bad things do happen to good people and why you are where you are today. This class also includes three group past-life regressions which may help the students to remember their previous lives. A blanket and pillow is needed for this class. The students should wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing.

Why is Conestoga College sponsoring such nonsense? Who is in charge of approving the curriculum and how did these courses get approved? Call Conestoga College President John Tibbits at (519) 748-5220 and ask. Or send him e-mail at At the very least, Conestoga College should add a disclaimer to their catalogue saying that they do not endorse this pseudoscience.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Some of the Bums are Gone

Well, sanctimonious prig Joe Lieberman is still around. And Orrin Hatch, of course was never in doubt. Jon Kyl easily won re-election.

But hard-core culture warrior Rick Santorum -- the man whose last name has now become a synonym for disgusting -- is gone. Don't let the door hit you on your way out, Rick.

George Allen is currently trailing by about 8,000 votes. But I wouldn't be surprised if the Republicans find a way to steal this one.

Discovery Institute shill Deborah Owens Fink lost bigtime.

All in all, it's a pretty good election. Science won. Fundamentalists lost.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Throw the Bums Out!

If you're an American citizen, as I am, you can't help but be appalled by what's been going on in Washington lately.

Instead of addressing serious issues such as global warming, the Republican-led Congress has been on a hate-filled crusade against gay marriage.

Instead of trying to find a solution to the mess in Iraq, our clueless Commander-in-Chief is repeating "Stay the course" as if it were his own private mantra.

Instead of adequately funding stem-cell research, Republicans have been attempting to suppress it in the name of their love affair with the embryo.

Instead of trying to fix a broken voting system, Republicans have been intimidating voters, throwing legitimate voters off the rolls, and pushing defective voting machines.

It's time to throw the bums out. No, not every Republican is corrupt, and not every Democrat is a paragon of virtue. I won't feel bad if smug and pious Harold Ford fails to get elected. But here's my own private list of politicians that have to go.

#1: Rick Santorum: This anti-gay bigot is an embarrassment to Pennsylvania, the state of my birth. He's also claimed that intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes. His opponent, Bob Casey, is an opponent of abortion rights, but he'd be better than the vile Santorum.

#2: Orrin Hatch: He tries to look statesmanlike, but deep down he's a wingnut. He's an anti-gay bigot because "It's a religious belief to me that homosexuality flies in the face of biblical teachings." He supported the nomination of far-right Alabama attorney general Bill Pryor for the federal bench.

#3: Jon Kyl: Kyl has consistently voted against environmental protections. He's against abortion and stem-cell research. He opposed the chemical weapons treaty. I don't think his opponent, Jim Pederson, has much of a chance, but we can hope, right?

#4: Deborah Owens Fink: No, she's not in Washington, but this member of the Ohio school board has been pushing the pseudoscience of intelligent design in Ohio schools. She claims that evolution is "indoctrinated" in schools but has refused to provide any evidence of that claim.

#5: Joe Lieberman: If you look up "sanctimonious prig" in the dictionary, it says "see Lieberman, Joe". Failed to win the Democratic nomination, so instead of taking his licks like a man, he ran as an independent. Then had the temerity to claim "I didn't choose to run as an independent." Who did, then, Joe?

#6: George Allen: Let's see: Confederate flag lover, caster of a racial slur against an American of Indian descent, bizarre reaction when he learned he was Jewish, racial slurs as an undergraduate... What's not to like? And his campaign against Jim Webb has been worse than despicable.

So, get out and vote, and vote against these creeps.