Tag Archives: local events

Now THAT Is An Investigation

Hrm, I don’t know how, exactly, I missed this one. Guess I don’t read as much FARK as I used to.

But, in Picayune, a church was having troubles with vandals in the cemetery. Not the sword-swinging visigoth type, but the traditional “kick shit over and have a good time” variety.

So, they put up a motion-activated, night-vision game camera.

They did not catch the vandals.

Instead, the camera caught an image of a naked man in the cemetery with a camera.

Later, it was discovered the said man was out photographing Orbs.

Why would he need a late-night naked photo-run in the cemetery to capture a photographic mistake?

Well, I bet he was looking for the good ole’ ghost orb.

Would-be ghostbusters, keep your pants on, and don’t cross the streams.

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So THAT’S An Investigation

Hello everyone.

I’ll not be apologizing about the extended absence. We can discuss that at our next meeting.

Yes, a meeting. Time and place to be determined in true Heisenberg style.

The past week has actually had something of interest! A couple of things, actually.

First off, a couple of the JSS members were on hand at the state capitol Monday morning with a rather heavy plaque from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. It wasn’t the nicest plaque or decoration, and the media showed up two hours late, turning what might have been a media storm into little more than some comment-field rage on the local news sites.

For their credit, the spokesman for the group that placed the first decoration, a nativity scene, had this to say about the FFRF plaque:

“It’s great that we live in a country that we’re free to do that, that’s what makes our country whole is that both organizations can express their views.”

Amen Brother.

Now in more traditional skeptic news, the Mississippi Paranormal Society recently did an investigation at the Vicksburg Theatre Guild’s Parkside Playhouse.

Afterwards, they awarded the Playhouse with a little placard saying this:

The
Mississippi Paranormal Society

Herby recognizes
The Parkside Playhouse
in
Vicksburg, MS
As to Having

Paranormal Activity

This being decided after a paranormal investigation was conducted on
November 18, 2010

Whoa! Verified paranormal activity? Call the skeptics! Call the press! Call the JREF, I need a million dollars.

One must ask: What did they find?

“The investigation came up with a few personal experiences that could not be explained away as not being paranormal.

Some of the personal experiences that we had were as follows:”

1. A Couple of investigators saw a shadowy mass. (Picture 3 on bottoms of page is where it was seen.)
2. A chair in the auditorium squeaked as if someone was sitting in it.
3. One investigator felt that he was touched. He did wave it off as if it may have been something else. Still was an interesting experience that may have been paranormal.
4. An investigator caught a glimpse of something in the control booth at the back of the auditorium (could have been a trick of light from the flashlight hitting an object in the window, but then again, it could have been a figure… just not too sure.).
5. One investigator suddenly felt angry, but couldn’t understand why.”

*Facepalm*

Never mind. Call off the press. A few extremely *personal* experiences, indeed. It’s like a case file for the need for objective evidence. I like how whoever wrote this up doesn’t even really appear to believe it.

And as for number five, I think I have the same problem! My computer is haunted!

Though in a more interesting note they have a YouTube Channel with their EVPs (and the most badass ghost-hunting logo I think I’ve ever seen).

Those of you who don’t know what an EVP is – well, it’s Electronic Voice Phenomena, which is basically listening to white noise recorded by either turning up your microphone or gain. Then you hear things.

They also use the Franks Ghost Box. I’ve seen these in action before, they basically flip through AM stations randomly and quickly at a steady rate, creating – well, white noise.

Ghost hunters use these and standard white noise generators to get big swatches of static in which things are heard.

Couldn’t be auditory pareidolia could it?

To refresh you on some basic Skeptic 101, Auditory Pareidolia is when your brain creates a familiar noise out of other random noises. The wikipedia example is a classic one: You’re in the shower and you hear the phone ring. There was no phone ring (and that’s important to remember from the ghost radio example) but your brain concocted the noise out of the meaningless “static” of the sound of falling water.

The most common audio pareidolia is the old “voice in the noise,” which if you’re a person who uses headphones to listen to music in an environment where people *might* talk to you – you know this one. Your brain, keyed for voices, picks them out of the less meaningful noises – creating them whole cloth.

Backtracked satanic lyrics in rock and roll music? Same thing.

So go on and listen to the EVPs. For bonus fun, you can imagine the ghosts saying things that the ghost hunters *didn’t* record, and the magic of audio pareidolia will make it happen!

Someone Got A Picture

Well, someone out there took a picture. I sure didn’t. Even brought the fancy new camera just for that purpose, not really thinking about the fact that I’d be behind the table pointing out the fate of the Ewoks.

The Panel!

Sadly, I did not have time to get into costume.

It’s better than some pictures of me out there.

Some of us were more excited about the thing than others.

Excitement!

...though, I won't be naming any names.

Comic Con Complete

Well, we’re back from the 2010 Comic-Con. It didn’t take long, since the convention was, quite literally, right around the corner.

And it was great! We had an impressive turnout for the Saturday panel; “The Science of Science Fiction,” which easily had significantly higher attendance than any of the other panels Saturday or Sunday. We only regret that there wasn’t more time!

We got off to a worrisome start – next year we’ll remember extension cords and get the projector and computer squared away long before the last minute.

But begin we did. Local writer and editor Tom Head started off after a mad-science introductory by Yours Truly. Tom drove home the point that any extraterrestrial life out there would be highly unlikely to look anything like us, and the only reason that such things haunted the Sci-Fi circuit was because, well – you need a guy in a suit, and you need that rubber-suited actor to have something that audiences can relate to. The character of a hive-minded insect might be fascinating, but it’s quite difficult to relate to.

Tom also presented me with a copy of this issue of Skeptic Magazine, as his collection of Carl Sagan interviews was the one featured on the cover. If we’d had more time, Tom could have gotten into the joys of working with so much Sagan material, but, alas, we had only a single hour – much to the dismay of the audience.

Even with the small amount of time, Tom got to expose those in attendance to the heady speculative work of real exobiology, and how it could sync up with the demands of fiction without losing an edge.

Since a full 3/5 of the panel seemed to be avid Star Trek fans, I felt a bit out of place with my own bit; a few minutes on The Ewok Apocalypse. While this was the first time in my life to ever have to A: Do a powerpoint presentation and B: talk about physics in front of a crowd, and C: Talk about the death of millions of Ewoks, reports from the crowd were favorable.

(I got to work this picture into my first powerpoint presentation. Thank you very much, internet.)

Then Millsaps College own Dr. Patrick Hopkins gave us a little information on teleportation. Even with his limited timeframe, he was able to quickly run down the ideas and misconceptions behind Star Trek style teleportation – even including the infamous “Heisenberg Compensator.” Though, of course, he was not able to really explain the device; even the series’ “inventor” of the device, Michael Okuda once said, when asked how the HC worked “very well, thank you.”

So I guess we couldn’t expect much more – but Hopkins did fill in the assembly on how the infamous “quantum teleportation” could have been more accurately called “replication,” but for the vagaries of science reporting and funding cycles.

This happens more than you'd think.

He then explained the problems and psychological unease most people would have with replication-teleportation – and right before the entire science enchillada wrapped itself around a sticky core of Star Trek, MSU physics instructor Josh Winter came in with a nice presentation on the malapropriation of science by 2012 Apocalypse Promotion.

(Also, SMBC has been known to explain the quantum replication-teleportation conundrum this way.)

Josh had an excellent presentation prepared – plenty of references to some silly science movies like 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and The Core (the mere mention of which can still cause a room to chuckle and groan, apparently).

Josh reassured us that there was no reason for the Earth to explode on 2012, he laid out the mechanics behind the Equinox and Solstice, pointed out the ridiculous nature of “galactic alignments” by showing us that the sun is aligned between us and the galactic center every solstice, and should we be so unfortunate to have some shooting cosmic death-rays coming from the galactic center then, how lucky we’d be! The sun would be in the way! He also informed the unwary that we’re going to be safely within the galactic plane in 2012, so not to worry. The man was the exact opposite of reading Death From the Skies, is what I’m saying.

Josh gave us a brief rundown on the magnetic poles – how we know they migrate, and more – but before we could really settle into his entertaining lecture, the panel-mistress was giving us sterner and sterner looks.

We’ll have to get more time next year – or maybe host an event that’s not tied to the smooth operation of dozens of comic book shops.

Unfortunately, Scott Crawford didn’t get a chance to break out the really speculative science with the ideas behind a workable warp drive (available in the year 4000), but we can always hope for next year. The JSS members and the Comic-Con Crowd are a great match.

I’d like to thank the speakers in public (once again) and thank the JSS member who paid for their tickets.

The Sunday meeting wasn’t quite as exciting; nor well-attended, but we managed to amuse some people with our Science Quiz (10 questions, 11 points available) – perfect score could have gotten you the aforementioned issue of Skeptic Magazine, but one knowledgeable man by the name of Mark from Flowood won himself a one year subscription by getting 8 out of 11.

Just so you all know, the gram measures mass, not weight. More people got that one wrong than any other.

And we’re going to do a meeting this month – maybe not even one in a bar. We’ll see, soon enough.

Well that takes care of that!

I know I said I’d post about the inanity of Prince Charles.

But I’m a bit busy putting together the JSS panels for the 2010 Jackson Comic-Con, the Southern Fried Comic-Con.

And there is quite a lot to talk about there.

So let’s pull out something a bit easier, courtesy of Mississippi Atheists (and plenty of other members and friends!) – Louisiana has finally figured out a way to stop the gulf oil spill. With… prayer.

No, not oil-eating bacteria, not bio-engineered fungal threads, not booms and boats and an army of cleanup workers.

Prayer.

First off: Do they think that no one in Louisiana is praying about it?

Do they think that it will help? How about thanking the people actually out there cleaning things up and trying to save the Gulf?

I suppose if the oil well seals itself in the next few days, I will eat my words.

Jackson Comic-Con 2010

Hello, long-ignored readers. I’m sorry for ignoring you all for so long. Really, I am.

Anyway, on to business!

The Jackson Mississippi Southern Fried Comic Con of 2010 is right around the corner. This years’ event is oh-so-worthy of attention from all you locals for a few reasons:

1: It’s geek city. I know we’re not all into that sort of thing, but judging from some of the Skeptics in the Pub conversations, we’ll fit right in. Or maybe you just like gawking at people in Stormtrooper outfits. I fit into both categories.
2: last year was a lot of fun. This year seems like it’s going to follow in that trajectory.
3: The Jackson Skeptical Society has a panel discussion! Yes, we do!

One whole hour (and maybe more!) – the overarcing topic: The Science of Science Fiction. Presenting Yours Truly, discussing the inevitable Ewok Apocalypse from the end of Return of the Jedi.

If this happens in the sky above you, it is a bad thing.

Dr. Patrick Hopkins of Millsaps College discussing Star Trek style teleportation.

This is how we are arriving for that part of the talk.

Physics Instructor Josh Winter from Mississippi State University will discuss 2012 and the Hijacking of Science by Psuedoscience.

Not pictured: Reality.

Local author/blogger and editor Tom Head will be presenting the realities and unrealities of extraterrestrial life.

Hint: They won't look like this.

And Scott Crawford, Science Officer of the local Star Trek group, the USS Haise, will regale us with findings about the potential for the future of warp speed, and what it would require.

HINT

HINT

The individual talks won’t take toooo long, I know mine will only be a few minutes (in which you’ll hopefully get to see a picture of an Ewok on fire, but – no promises) and I’m expecting us to be done with our talking in about an hour.

Then, the fun part begins! You’ll get to ask questions, point out what you think we got wrong, and belittle us for not understanding the difference between hypermatter and duracrete in the Death Star.

The Comic Con has a Facebook Page, and a small website.

The brief on when and where:

Cabot Lodge Millsaps.

When: Ten AM to six PM. June 26th and 27th

Our panel will be in the afternoon, I’ll know exactly what time soon enough!

Today in Science!

We’ll be having a meeting soon, doncha worry there, trusty local readers. I HAD planned on screening Here Be Dragons by Brian Dunning of Skeptoid at the local library, and was working out a weekend timetable. Then I realized I didn’t really like the movie that much. It seems like something perfect for a junior high or high school class, not really the cup of tea that our wicked group of deviants would enjoy. Does anyone have a copy of Cosmos they’d lend to the cause? Maybe we’ll get together for the National Day of Reason.

Anyway, since I’ve been gone so long, I figure that a double post today won’t hurt, eh?

First up: You can watch people sneeze and have an immune response.

So, you’ll thank me later for this pic. When you’re not sick. Because of me.

You're Welcome

And I don’t know if you know it yet, but Cracked dot com is one of the most hilarious websites out there. And they, like many truly hilarious people, are often quite skeptically-minded. And they do dick jokes. Comedy is one of those brilliant mediums where you can make people question without preaching, so it’s no surprise that those things which get the least amount of questioning (and need it the most), those things that have the least amount of answers – get skewered by comedians. Just ask George Carlin. Well, don’t, because he’s dead. You can ask him, he just won’t speak back.

Anyway, cracked has a few good articles up at the moment: ridiculous history myths, which includes this very helpful bit:

Of course, the story stuck after that because it gives us the chance to do the thing we love doing most: look down on people. They fell for it, we didn’t, therefore we’re smarter than our grandparents. We’re the enlightened generation, and don’t believe in stupid bullshit. 

Then, it links to a page claiming that Lady GaGa is an illuminati mind-control puppet. Because we modern, enlightened people would… oh, wait – see what he did there!

Then there’s an article that’s just balls-out skepticism, including the Loch Ness monster, the curse of the mummy, the Fox Sisters and Crop Circles. There’s also a great quote here, too:

This sort of thing has the same attraction as any good conspiracy theory: the “I am special because I have secret knowledge the common sheeple never will!” principle.

How better to impress your dull traditional friends than revealing to them the suppressed truth that will totally blow their closed suburban minds? And you only had to spend six bucks in an airport bookstore to get it!

Amen, brother.

Finally, a community-created effort describing, mainly, pyramid bullshit, but also a bit of 2012 hokum as well. Yes, there’s a good quote in there, too – figured I’d make the trifecta.

Conspiracy theorists claim that if they serve no purpose to humans, pyramids must have been built by aliens. Of course assuming that anything that serves no purpose to humanity must be created by aliens would mean that conspiracy theorists themselves were created by aliens.

Ah well. Are any real news organizations out there doing as much for reason as a fount of dick jokes and scatological humor?

NPR is going to give it ”a shot” with a bit about vaccine paranoia and the problems it causes (mainly, vaccine-preventable disease).

Some of my mailing lists have been throwing this nugget of science news my way lately; biologists have found an anaerobic metazoan in the deep sea. Like the deep-sea giant tube worm these creatures have unorthodox biologies. And as any quack’ll tell ya, scientists don’t accept anything new. Especially chemists, and those pesky physicists who are always shooting down perpetual motion/free energy scams. Of course, this should stop things like the acceptance of new forms of life and the creation of a new element.

The deep sea creature could well prove to be a bit of inspiration for those intrepid exobiologists out there. I’ll keep listening to the SETI podcast Are We Alone? (which I just found out about today) and see if they mention it. They have a fun monthly “skeptic check” series which covers the usual topics.