Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fun with skeptical songs

The most excellent Daniel Loxton (author of the important manifesto "Where do we go from here?" [pdf]) has put together a fun list of freely-available skeptical songs. There are some pretty cool songs, I especially recommend "Carbon Cycle" [mp3] by Hard ’n Phirm and "Cosmic Carl" [mp3] by Dr. SETI...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

African science blogrolling for June

It's been a long time since I've updated the African science and skepticism blogroll, but here it is. (Thanks to James for the hard yards on this one).

New Scientist on AIDS denialism

New Scientist magazine has a pair of fantastic articles on AIDS denialism: "AIDS denial: a lethal delusion" (by Jonny Steinberg, author of Three Letter Plague) and "Five Myths about HIV and AIDS". Though entirely fringe in the medical literature, AIDS denialism continues to claim lives, so public education -- especially in southern Africa, the epicentre of the pandemic -- is extremely important.

See also: Nicolli Nattrass' fantastic Skeptical Inquirer piece (which I linked to before).

An open letter to the MCC

The Treatment Action Campaign (an AIDS activist NGO) recently published an important open letter by physicians and academics to the Medical Control Council (South Africa's equivalent of America's FDA) about its failure to adequately regulate quack remedies.

The summary:
"*The Complementary Medicines 2002 call up has resulted in an untenable regulatory hiatus where medicines of unknown quality have flooded the South African market.
*The South African public has been put at risk – not only health-wise but in terms of potentially fruitless expenditure of their disposable income on products which have not been independently assessed.
*This undermines citizens’ rights to bodily and psychological integrity as enshrined in the Constitution of our country.
*It is the Medicines Control Council’s responsibility to regulate all medicines available to the public.
*The Medicines Control Council has failed to ensure that as far as complementary medicines are concerned, their availability is in the public interest, and it has failed to consider “only” these products’ safety, quality and therapeutic efficacy in relation to their effects on the health of South African persons, because it has not required any evidence for these products’ safety, quality and efficacy.
*Based on the Zondi judgment, the Medicines Control Council must resume its statutory obligation to consider all medicinal claims made in the advertising of medicinal products.
*The 2002 call up should be rescinded, and replaced with a notice in terms of Section 19(2) of the Medicines Act – but with the additional provisos of submitting current certificates of analysis and all advertising claims made. A six month period should be stipulated for fulfilment of these requirements."

See also: a news piece on the open letter by Health-e and a blog post on the MCC's regulatory failure by Roy Jobson (one of the signatories).

The return of the Carnival of the Africans

After a hiatus of a couple of months, the Carnival of the Africans is returning on the 28th of this month at Simon Halliday's Amanuensis. If you're an African science blogger or have blogged about African-related science, please check out the guidelines and then email your submissions to Simon at simon(dot)d[dot]halliday(at)gmail{dot}com.

Also see Simon's call for submissions...

Exploring Ötzi

Discovered in 1991 on a glacier in the Ötztal Alps in Austria, Ötzi the Iceman is a beautifully preserved mummy of a man who died in around 3300 BCE. Amazingly, scientist have pinpointed where he lived (by analyzing the isotopic composition of his teeth), what his last meal was (chamois, red deer and some plants), his possible occupation (copper smelter), among many other details. Importantly, it was also determined that he was a victim of violence: an arrowhead was lodged in his shoulder, there were bruises and cuts to various parts of his body, and he apparently received a blow to the head.

The European Academy Bozen/Bolzano recently released a fantastic photoscan of his entire body, which allows anyone to explore and analyze him in detail. I particularly recommend checking out his tattoos -- interesting stuff indeed.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Video: Being open minded

A fantastic video (embedded below, or click here) on open mindedness and critical thinking. A must see, seriously.

Technological Quarterly

The latest edition of the Economist’s always-fascinating Technological Quarterly is out. Highlights: combating malaria by shooting down mosquitoes with lasers (no, really), a lengthy but worthwhile piece on Marty Cooper the father of the mobile phone, the benefits of building a smart electricity grid, shades of Knight Rider with smart and connected cars, and using the ubiquitous cellphone as sensors (to answer scientific questions, respond to emergencies and so on).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Leonie Joubert book launch

Unfortunately, South Africa has few good science journalists. Luckily for us, we do have the most excellent Leonie Joubert, who not only covers science well, but is also a card-carrying skeptic. The author of two previous books, Boiling Point and Scorched (which I reviewed here), Joubert has a new book coming out entitled Invaded: The biological invasion of South Africa.

If you're anywhere near Cape Town on June 13th, go attend the book launch at the Cape Town Book Fair! More details are here.

Oh, noes! Rational arguments!

I've linked to the always fantastic Onion a number of times now on this blog, but this article might be the best yet. It's just wonderful. Entitled "Oh, No! It's Making Well-Reasoned Arguments Backed With Facts! Run!", it beautifully sums up the tactics and mindset of quacks, pseudoscientists, religious fanatics and their fellow idiots. It's demolition by satire.

A snippet:
Gah! It's calmly and evenhandedly deflecting everything we're throwing at it. Our deductive fallacies are only making it stronger! Wait…what on earth is it doing now? Oh, no, it has sources! My God, it's defending itself with ironclad sources! Someone stop the citing! Please, please stop the citing!

The language is impenetrable! For all that is good and holy, backpedal with all your might!