Nov 18 2011

Some Friday Quickies

There are a few items I have had in my list of interesting tidbits this week, but each one is too small a topic to make a full post – so I will throw them together for some Friday munchies.

Sundogs

The first is a YouTube video of the apparent sundog effect. This is a cool illusion, the technical name for which is parhelion. Bright spots occur near the sun due to atmospheric effects. The video shows this quite well – a bright splotch that jumps around. This is interesting to skeptics because sundog illusions are often the proposed explanation for apparent UFO sightings or miraculous sightings in the context of looking up in the direction of the sun in the daytime sky. Apparently this is the first time it has been clearly captured on video.

Poe

The next one comes from the RationalSkepticism.org blog. They link to another YouTube video in which a creationist who goes by the name Theologikus claims that he can disprove evolution. He argues that the reason different types of animals are found in different strata in the geological record is not because of evolution over time, but because during the flood animals climbs to higher altitudes to get away from the water. Faster smarter animals climbed higher, and so are found higher up in the geological record.

Unfortunately, or at least humorously, RationalSkepticism got Poed. Theologikus is pulling a prank – he is creating satire of terrible creationist arguments. He typically starts off credibly, but eventually sprinkles in hints that he is not entirely serious (like saying with a straight face that snails are fast and that’s why they are found in the highest geological stata). He’s actually quite funny, and cutting in his criticism, once you know it’s satire.

Here is another video in which he “proves” the earth is flat. And here is one where he is not in his satirical character but is being straight about his atheism.

It is true that some creationists argue that the geological strata are caused by animals differentially climbing away from the flood. Theologikus nicely shows how absurd this argument is. Satire can be very effective – but Poe’s law stands. It is impossible to create a satire of creationism that someone will not mistake for the real thing, unless you give it away somehow.

Psychics

Finally, we have a news report from Germany (you can translate the article to English) reporting that an alleged psychic told a client that they should remove all of their money from their bank. Right there red flags should have been raised, but of course if you are seeing a psychic you are probably not the most skeptical person in the world. Perhaps that is why some con artists pose as psychics – it is a great way to have gullible marks flock to you.

In any case, the client was told they would soon need to make a large purchase, so they should have cash on hand. They dutifully complied, taking out several hundred thousand euros from the nice safe bank and placing it in their apartment. Within days their apartment was robbed, and they lost all their money. Talk bout bad luck. What are the odds that robbers would choose that moment to hit their apartment, right when they were stashing hundreds of thousands of euros in cash there?

Unless, of course, you think there is a connection between the psychic and the robbers. Hmmm.

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Update: As pointed out in the comments below, there is a follow up to the story. Apparently the women who went to the psychic hid her money so well that even she could not find it.  After going back to investigate the apartment further, police found the “missing” money. http://www.augsburger-allgemeine.de/augsburg/Diebstahl-nach-Besuch-bei-Wahrsagerin-ueberraschende-Wende-id17573131.html

Despite this turn in the story – psychic powers are still fake, and if an alleged psychic tells you to remove your money from the bank, don’t.

 

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