November 2010 Blog Posts

Comment problems continue

Since upgrading Subtext, I've had issues with new comments not appearing. The Subtext project seem to think that caching comment data is a good idea. Which is great, except that new comments don't turn up, and I can't find a documented way of turning this caching off. I'll keep working on it, but I'm still stuck on mobile broadband, meaning server admin is not easy. Bear with me

Brian Houston Fails Theology 101

First rule of convincing your marks rubes customers congregation that you know what you're talking about: Don't make claims that are obviously and patently impossible OK, now I'm pretty sure I've dealt with this before. The definition of omnipotent, as Brian has rather redundantly, but helpfully, mentioned, is that your magic god thing can do ANYTHING, no matter what. So, as a wise man once said: Can this god create an object so heavy he himself cannot lift it? Tip: I can do that. Another one I like is "Can god make a cup of coffee so hot that he himself can't drink...

One More Thing

This one a little more on the levity side than the last... And the updated lyrics, for those who wish to know such things Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's  evolving And revolving at 1742km an hour (at the equator), That's orbiting at around 29km a second, so it's reckoned, A sun that is the source of almost all our power (barring geothermal & nuclear). The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see Are moving at 225km/sec In an outer spiral arm, at roughly 402,000km an hour, Of the galaxy we call the 'Milky Way'.   Our galaxy itself contains a hundred...

Three things

This weekend at TAM Australia, I did three things that will shape my skeptical year to come. The first thing I did was to sit on a panel with some prominent skeptics, and , in response to the question "What would you do in terms of activism if you were offered a budget?", declare, unplanned, that I would host a Sydney Skepticamp within the next six months, were I given money to get it started. It took mere seconds for the audience to start throwing in cash, Robin Hilliard hurling in an immediate $50 dollar note. Others followed with twenties, tens...

Open Letter to Budget Petrol, Petersham, NSW

Jason Brown, Dulwich Hill, NSW 2203 To who it may concern I've been a regular customer at budget petrol since I moved to Dulwich Hill over two years ago. You've been my closest LPG station, and running a large 4WD on gas necessitates a regular fill, especially in weeks where I'm running a heavy commute. I estimate that I would spend at least $1000 to $1500 per year on gas alone at your station, not counting the times I've grabbed a few groceries, oil and fluids, spare bulbs and the like. However, today I was disappointed to notice that you've started stocking Power...

What I did this weekend.

On friday morning, I parted ways with my employer. This was probably inevitable since the IT Director who hired me stormed out a month or so ago after a bust-up with the CEO. At that point all my projects were put on hold, I was relegated to piecemeal web development, and told specifically not to take on any new work without approval. Which, obviously, never came. I was already talking to recruiters and considering options, but was hoping it would at least wait until after TAM Australia. Still, this way I get a pay-out of notice, leave and entitlements. Better, if I stay...

Deuteronomy 13:6-11

6 If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known, 7 gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), 8 do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. 9 You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death,...

Antivaxer Logic

Bananas are rich in potassium. Potassium explodes on contact with water. The human body is > 60% water - and in infants that number is higher! Therefore, bananas make you explode

Minor problem with comments - do not be alarmed

Yes, your comments are being accepted, they're just not showing up immediately due to some obscure cache setting hidden away in the depths of SubText. I'm working on it, honest. I'll clean up duplicates as they appear, until such time as I get it fixed.

Speaker Registration Thread for Skepticator Live

Skepticator Live is taking place in just over a week. If you're attending and want to speak, this thread is where you register your interest. Simply leave a comment below with Your name A very brief bio The chosen subject for your 5-minute talk Preference for a time of the evening you'd like to go on stage Don't comment here unless you're registering to speak. I'll delete any comments that aren't registrations because this will form my master list for the evening In formal pre-registration we currently have Chrys Stevenson speaking on Australia...

TGA tells PowerBalance to stop making absurd claims

Vic Skeptics are reporting today that Australia's TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) are calling on PowerBalance to withdraw their crazy claims. QLink, Shuzi, Eken, Phiten and others using the PowerBalance schtick, you'd be well advised to do the same The TGA is not exactly known for strong enforcement, but I do note the text of the requested retraction clearly says the claims were unlawful, so PowerBalance would probably be well advised to cut it out about now. As would their imitators. For full details, see the Vic Skeptics blog or the TGA decision.

Fiona MacDonald of Cosmos Magazine: New Journalist of the Year

You may recall Fiona wrote an excellent piece on the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) and their figureheadcase, Meryl Dorey, earlier this year Well, I thought in view of that I'd best let Mrs Dorey know at her post on the story.

Changes to comments

I've just set the blog to close comments after 60 days, partly to cut down on spam comments and partly because there's a thread that won't die back in the archives and I've had enough of having to revisit it because another antivaxer has decided to not read the actual article but comment anyway. Have I ever mentioned that antivaxers really wind me up?

Email to QLink / Clarus Products

More on the Q-Link Saga

Clarus Products, makers of the placebo pendant Q-Link have released a media statement emphasising that they do not pay third parties for endorsements. Here's the release in full STATEMENT BY CLARUS TRANSPHASE SCIENTIFIC, INC., DEVELOPER-MANUFACTURER OF Q-LINK™ PRODUCTS & SRT™ TECHNOLOGY (SAN FRANCISCO, California) –Recent media attention in Australia to energy products generally and particularly to our own Q-Link™ brand product line calls for our clear comment. As the developer and manufacturer of the Q-Link™ range of energy products – products that have been on the market for 19 years and sold to more than a million users in more than 50 countries – we want to make...

Rodial Limited, meet the Streisand Effect...

... Streisand Effect, meet Rodial Limited As this story outlines, Rodial Ltd, manufacturers of an expensive "boob job" gel, are attempting to stifle scientific comment through the use of UK libel laws. Good luck with that It is highly unlikely that this product, "boob job" by Rodial Ltd, works as claimed. Here's the original Daily Fail article upon which the case is being based.

Nothing New Under The Sun: Powerbalance, QLink, Shuzi and Franz Anton Mesmer

With the current money-making quack fads of Power Balance, Hotband, QLink and Shuzi, it may pay to get some historic perspective coupled with basic scientific work. In 1778, Franz Anton Mesmer, pictured above, moved to Paris and began a successful and highly lucrative career using his "Animal Magnestism". Paris Society flocked to Mesmer's baquet, from where he would produce a "magnetic fluid", imbued with near miraculous powers. Mesmer and his devotees were convinced they'd found a force of great import, and lobbied for scientific academies to give animal magnetism their stamp of approval. When the academies declined, Mesmerism continued apace, leaving a trail of...

Good Chiropractor/Bad Chiropractor?

An interesting comment appeared earlier on an old post about Chiropractors. It's not the first time I've encountered the idea, but I think I ought to spend a few minutes sharing the comment, outlining the problem and proposing what I think the solution is. Sure, it's no business of mine, but when has that ever stopped me? Here's the comment from Skg, in full: I must say, that while some (many?) chiropractors promote bogus treatments, not all do. I have been to see a few on occasion, and while I have some chronic health problems with range from annoying to severe (all of...

Hello to new readers, and a QLink update

A big "hi" to anyone that's arrived via Media Watch, or via Scienceblogs or via Crikey, or any one of the other new inlinks of the last few days. The spike in traffic, and presumably new subscribers, means I guess I should be picking up my game and including far more pages of thoughtful analysis of current skeptical issues. Or maybe I'll just carry on beating people up with words for the sin of credulity, and posting the occasional deranged music clip. That might be the way to go. Stick with what you know, they say. For anyone who didn't see the Media Watch...

Blog tools for skeptics: NoFollowr

Joel Birch has just launched NoFollowr, a WordPress plugin aimed at skeptics in particular, and activists in general, to control rel="nofollow" on blog links. It's available at and though I haven't tested it yet, Joel's previous output and the description of the tool leads me to believe it's well worth recommending to WordPress users. For those unschooled, nofollow allows you to link to a site without having search engines treat the link as a recommendation, a good technique for those less ethical links that we skeptics occasionally blog about. The NoFollowr site has more. And kudos to Joel for another excellent contribution...

Sydney's Mainstream technology correspondents: A case of the brain worms?

So, on the tail of Stephen Fenech's ethically-questionable QLink spruiking, and Charlie Brown's half-baked sales pitch for the same, we have yet another case of a "tech correspondent" from a mainstream news source utterly failing the critical thinking test. On the front page of today's print edition, and prominently on the online version, is this piece of utter fail: Cookie monsters: browser beware as political websites plant spy devices What? Surely not? An HTTP server using third-party cookies? On my internet? Stilgherrian's ever-excellent view on it is here, but for my part, let me say this Stop listening to the mainstreamers on the subject...

Channel Nine spruiks QLink

Or, at least, Today's "technology editor" Charlie Brown. As with Stephen Fenech, I've contacted Charlie Brown via Twitter asking for justification of his sales pitch. So far, not a peep. I'm told that Stephen and Charlie are good buddies. Not that I want to suggest collusion, but let's face it, I'm suggesting collusion. Are you being paid for this Charlie? In cash or in kind, either way is a problem for journalistic ethics. If you're not being paid, then you're clearly too gullible to be a technology reporter. If you are being paid, then you're clearly unqualified to be a reporter of any...

More on QLink

Or, "Moron. QLink?!?" So as I've already reported, Sydney's Daily Telegraph has today published a questionably-motivated piece of puffery on the QLink mini, written (or more likely simply boilerplated) by 'technology reporter' Stephen Fenech - brother of QLink endorsing "athlete" Mario Fenech. Not that I want to imply that there's anything untoward going on here, of course. Did you read that in a sarcastic tone? Good. So anyway, I asked Stephen Fenech, on Twitter, if he could give me some scientific peer-reviewed evidence to support his assertions [sound of crickets] Heloooo?? Stephen? Looks like he's hiding. This being the case, I figured I'd take a look at...

Shilling for quackery? The Telegraph? Say it ain't so!

From Today's Telegraph: A NEW product that's smaller than a five cent piece but powerful enough to shield us from the potentially harmful electromagnetic radiation generated by mobile phones and other electronic devices, has just been released. The Qlink Mini employs patented Sympathetic Resonance Technology (SRT) which can maintain the strength of naturally occurring protective energy systems within our bodies. OK, if you can't smell the bullshit already, then your nose is broken. The product, QLink Mini, is basically a small shiny sticker which you put on your mobile phone to shield you against harmful "electromagnetic rays". Let's just forget for a moment...


A thousand times, this.

Vaccination Saves Lives: Stop The Australian Vaccination Network
Say NO to the National School Chaplaincy Program