Review – Surfcoast Skepticamp 2018

3 April, 2018

It was a glorious, sunny day in Airey’s Inlet for the annual Skepticamp where we were privy to a range of fascinating talks to hone our critical thinking skills. For a $5 donation we were treated to a delicious, healthy lunch and many of us also took the opportunity to socialise over dinner at the nearby pub afterwards.

First up was Geelong Skeptics Society Co-founder and Speech Pathologist Zola Lawry who spoke about the importance of being skeptical about “Facilitated Communication”. Questions have been raised over who is actually communicating. Could it be the well-meaning facilitator rather than the severely disabled client? Zola presented the claims and the evidence for such cases as Anne McDonald of “Annie’s Coming Out” fame and her facilitator Rosemary Crossley. Read the rest of this entry »


The Case Against Bread

18 January, 2018

1. More than 98 percent of convicted felons are bread eaters.

2. Fully HALF of all children who grow up in bread-consuming households score below average on intelligence tests.

3. In the 18th century, when virtually all bread was baked in the home, the average life expectancy was less than 50 years; infant mortality rates were unacceptably high; many women died in childbirth; and diseases such as typhoid, yellow fever and influenza ravaged whole nations.

4. More than 90 percent of violent crimes are committed within 24 hours of eating bread. Read the rest of this entry »


A Skeptic’s Guide to the Age of the Earth

10 December, 2017
This is a re-blog of an article which was first posted on this site in April 2012. Like most of our “Skeptics Guides” it was based on a Vic Skeptics discussion pamphlet. The full range of our discussion pamphlets can be downloaded in .pdf  form by clicking the “useful info” link here or at the top of the page.

USEFUL INFO

When naturalists started examining the Earth in the 18th century for evidence of its age, they were to a large extent seeking to confirm the suggestion of the Bible that the Earth was several thousand years old; but the closer they looked, the less certain they were that this was the correct answer.

Geologists examined the rocks across Britain, and noted that the same sequence of rocks occurred in different places, suggesting that the rocks had a common source. They also noticed that different levels of rocks contained different groups of fossils, including fossils of animals different from those of today, and not mentioned in the Bible. Yet the fossils were in similar orders in different locations. Rocks were also classified according to how they were made, and by the order in which they’d been created. In the first case, rocks were classified as sedimentary, igneous or metamorphic. Sedimentary rocks are rocks created by grains of mud or sand laid down over the years on lake or sea floors, and compressed into rock by the weight of material lying above them. Igneous rocks are rocks of volcanic origin. Some are from lava which has cooled solid on the surface of the Earth (such as basalt), while others have cooled while still inside the Earth (such as granite), and emerged after they’d solidified. Metamorphic rocks are rocks (usually sedimentary) which have been altered by heat or pressure (such as limestone being converted to marble). Read the rest of this entry »


A Skeptic’s Guide to the Pyramids

5 October, 2017
This is a repost of an article which first appeared here in November 2011.
There are links to two “Pyramids” classroom activities at the end; a motivational and interactive practical exercise and a crossword.  
There’s a PDF version (text only). https://vicskeptics.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/pyramids.pdf

By Peter Barrett (Canberra Skeptics)

Think of Egypt and you think of pyramids. These impressive objects have fascinated people for centuries; they were even tourist destinations for the ancient Greeks and Romans. What amazes people today is their massive size combined with the precision of their construction. There are people today who believe that this size and precision is evidence that the ancient Egyptians couldn’t have built the pyramids unaided, and that they instead were assisted by aliens or people from Atlantis. Read the rest of this entry »


Staying Rational in a World of Tweets, Fake News, Alternative Facts and Sound Bites

30 June, 2017

by William P. Hall
william-hall@bigpond.com
http://www.orgs-evolution-knowledge.net 

( based on a presentation at Vic Skeptics Café, 19 June 2017 at the Clyde Hotel, Carlton, Vic)

Today we are living in a world of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and blogs where anyone (even President Trump) can instantly post their ideas to the world for essentially no cost. We are also living in dangerous times where exploding human populations and technologies are affecting the planet’s climate and natural resources where extreme concentrations of wealth and power, warfare, epidemics, climate extremes, ecological collapses and famine threaten humanity’s survival. Unsurprisingly there are often conflicts between vested interests seeking wealth, power and control versus those concerned with the futures of our descendents and of humanity in general. Both are heavy users of the new media. Read the rest of this entry »


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.
The full range of our discussion pamphlets can be downloaded from the “Useful Info” link at the top of this page.

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
This article first appeared here in July 2011. You can also download the latest .pdf version here: Scientific Method . Our full range of  Skeptics Guides can be accessed using the USEFUL INFO tab at the top of this page.

“Science is best defined as a careful, disciplined, logical search for knowledge about any and all aspects of the universe, obtained by examination of the best available evidence and always subject to correction and improvement upon discovery of better evidence. What’s left is magic.

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 »