## A Skeptic’s Guide to Free Energy Machines

9 May, 2017
##### This article has been revised and re-posted from August 2011. It first appeared as a Vic Skeptics discussion pamphlet by Peter Barrett of Canberra Skeptics, but it’s up to date: from time to time these machines still get promoted in niche magazines and websites. Vic Skeptics and our interstate colleagues are from time to time called upon to test claims for “Over-parity Engines”, a.k.a Free Energy Machines.

Imagine you have an ordinary one litre jug. Two things which I’m sure you’d agree with are that you couldn’t pour more than a litre of water into it or empty more than one litre out of it.

Now imagine you had two such jugs, one full to the brim with water and the other empty. Pour the water from one jug to the other and back again. Repeat this process as often as you like. Is there any way you could imagine that you’d end up with more than one litre of water split between the two jugs?

The logical answer is “No.” In fact, due to spillage and evaporation, it’s more likely that you’d end up with less than one litre of water.

This is a fairly accurate representation of one of the most basic principles of physics, known as Conservation of Energy. This principle states that energy can change form, but can’t be destroyed or created. A good example of this is the production of household electricity in Australia. Most electricity in Australia is generated by burning coal. The coal has chemical energy. When it’s burned, it releases heat energy.

This energy heats water to steam, which turns a turbine (kinetic energy). The turbine drives a generator, producing electrical energy. We then use this electrical energy for heating, cooling, running the TV, and so on. Read the rest of this entry »

## A Skeptic’s Guide to the Scientific Method

17 March, 2017

### And it doesn’t work.”

#### – James Randi

The term “Scientific Method” is used to describe the way scientific research is designed, performed and reviewed. Good science depends on rigour – strict and unfailing adherence to basic principles.

In simple terms, as a scientist,  you would:

1. Make some observation about something that is going on in the universe. Read the rest of this entry »

## The Great Debate: Evolution vs Creationism

18 January, 2017

This article first appeared as a Vic Skeptics discussion pamphlet and was first posted here in March 2011.

With Charles Darwin’s impending 208th birthday on February 12 it seems appropriate to revisit it.

By PTH

One of the many amazing stories in the Bible is the story of The Great Flood.

Before The Great Flood Noah was commanded by his God to build an ark (a large boat) and to collect a pair of all the animals on Earth. The Great Flood wiped out all the other animals, including humans, and those on Noah’s Ark repopulated the Earth after the flood subsided.

Given our present knowledge of evolution, genetics, geology, physics and archeology, few people, even practising Christians, believe the story to be literally true. However there are some people who insist that all the Bible stories are literally true. As well as the story of Noah’s Ark they also believe that:

 The Earth and all living things on it were created in six 24-hour days.

 This occurred about 10,000 years ago.

 All present day animals are descended from those on Noah’s Ark.

 The theory of evolution is incorrect because it is not consistent with the Bible stories.

These are the fundamental beliefs of Creationism. But why are the religious beliefs of Creationists of concern to scientists? Does it matter if people’s religious beliefs are in disagreement with scientific knowledge?

## Lynne Kelly

12 October, 2016

Dr Lynne Kelly is one of the more interesting people to be encountered among the Australian Skeptical community. She’s a writer, researcher and science educator, as well as being a foundation member of Australian Skeptics.

Lynne tends not to follow stereotypes. Her first tertiary qualification was in Engineering; armed with this, she began a teaching career in government secondary schools. On the way she co-authored a series of Maths text books. She later branched into extension education for gifted children. Her 1994 book Challenging Minds: Thinking Skills and Enrichment Activities is one result of that period.

## A Skeptic’s Guide to Bible Codes

31 August, 2016

This article first appeared as a Vic Skeptics discussion pamphlet and was first posted here in March 2011.

by Peter Barrett, Canberra Skeptics, updated by Ken Greatorex

In the late 1990s, a book called “The Bible Code” was published. Its author, Michael Drosnin, claimed that a high-powered computer program had uncovered a large number of secret messages in the Jewish Bible (the Christian Old Testament). The most amazing claim was that a few years before the book’s publication, this program had discovered that the then Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzakh Rabin, faced assassination. Several months after Drosnin and his partners warned him, Mr Rabin was assassinated. Read the rest of this entry »

## A Skeptic’s Guide to Life In the Universe

9 July, 2016

This article first appeared as a Vic Skeptics discussion pamphlet and again here in December 2010.
The full range of our discussion pamphlets can be downloaded from our  USEFUL INFO  page.

by Peter Barrett, (Canberra Skeptics), updated 2016 by Ken Greatorex

It’s one of the great questions: is there life elsewhere in the universe, apart from the Earth? Skeptics would say, “Almost certainly, but at the moment we don’t know how likely it might be.”

Life thrives on Earth, particularly in the tropical and temperate latitudes. Life exists even in the harsh desert and polar regions. But most importantly, life has been found to exist in places previously thought inhospitable, such as inside rocks in the dry valleys of Antarctica or around geothermal vents, where the water is boiling hot. The fact that life can survive in such unlikely places dramatically increases the range of potential habitats for life elsewhere. So are there places where life could exist elsewhere in our own Solar System?

## A Skeptic’s Guide to Dowsing

20 June, 2016

This article first appeared as a Vic Skeptics discussion pamphlet and again here in 2010.
The full range of our discussion pamphlets can be downloaded from our  USEFUL INFO page.

Dowsing, (also known as Divining) is widely practised in Australia. Dowsers claim the ability to detect useful substances in the ground using processes which are not able to be explained by current scientific principles.

The most frequently dowsed substance in drought-prone Australia is water. Many Australians can claim a friend or relative who is a water-diviner.

Australian Skeptics have long been interested in dowsing. It clearly lies within the range of paranormal activities which come under scrutiny. Australian Skeptics offer a sum of money, (currently \$100,000) to anyone who can demonstrate paranormal ability of any kind. Our only stipulation is that candidates must pass a proper scientific test, the protocols of which have been agreed upon by all parties before the test commences. Most acceptors of this challenge have been water-diviners; probably because they are genuine people who believe in their abilities, and are as interested in being tested as we are to test them.