Saturday, December 19, 2009

Review - Hypnotism for Beginners

Unusually for an avid reader of books, I spend a great deal of time reading. This not only educates me on many interesting subjects but many non-fiction books will also entice me with the further reading sections (just before the index if you need directions), allowing me to learn more on a subject or to explain what I have  not (yet) understood. Being of this mind-set I find that often I rashly buy books without looking at prior reviews, or checking the authors take on the subject. 

There have been many times when I have rushed to on payday just before I leave the house and find myself buying in haste, a book that is complete tripe. My latest, frivolous and bird-brained purchase was the book 'Hypnosis For Beginners', an entertaining but ultimately chilling glimpse into the mentality of a master hypnotist which I will now dissect for your pleasure.

I had an idea that a book like this would tell me about how hypnosis can effect the brain and how a hypnotherapist will talk in a slow controlled voice to gain access to the unconscious mind. Being ignorant of the subject I wanted to know how it worked, but what I got was more painful and of dubious morality.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

James Randi on Climate Change

Since the dawn of mankind the world has had it's great men - Norman Borlaug, Carl Sagan, Galileo Galilei and that dude that invented the wheel (his name was either Frank or Bob). These are the people who have changed not only the way we look at the world but also how we interact with it. The problem with this is that if they say one daft thing or hold one stray belief they can potentially damage the great respect that thousands of people have for them. We all grew up knowing that Albert Einstein was a revolutionary scientist who changed everything, we also realise that he could have done so much more if only he hadn't spent so much of his later life not understanding quantum theory and applying his great intellect to try and disprove it. 

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Can 10 minutes on a magnetic bed cure all your aches and ailments? (Er, no)

Fantastic news - the UK is finally getting it's own electromagnetic clinic using the latest Bemer 3000 magnetic beds. Using 'Bio Electro Magnetic Energy Regulators' they emit a "pulse which is actually just below that of the earth's own magnetic field". It "balances energy defeciences", allows "self-healing on a cellular level" and boosts the immune system. It doesn't actually cure anything though, as the person opening the clinic makes very clear in this article (she also makes it clear that she has no idea how it works!) It's a pity that we don't have a responsible newspaper investigating this important issue of unverified health care, the only ones touching this are the Daily Mail.

The journalist asks a few good question, but falls into many common traps. "The Bemer 3000 promises to help... a menu of ailments so extensive you can't help wondering if you're actually being served up a prime loin of codswallop on a bed of humbug" - a good start, quickly followed by "you never know, do you?" and "It is estimated that the worldwide market for magnetic devices is £2.45 billion a year, we all couldn't have got it that wrong, surely?". Yes, they almost certainly have got it that wrong.

There is a very slim possibility that the Bemer could 'help' with the seemingly endless list of complaints on their website, but I'm going to steer well clear of anything that appears on Quackwatch as a dubious treatment, unless there's significant evidence that it works.

- Gavin Schofield

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Bad advice for the winter.

Last Saturday I went out for a venue finding mission with some skeptical chums, and in between bars I was distressed to see that mad, bad and dangerous medical advice is never far away. Nearby to a possible venue we chanced upon a vegetarian health shop and in their window we found this:

I set out to find some Skepticism but I ended up finding more woo than the contents of a regency era romantic novel. Not everyone has the constitution of a ninja skeptic like myself, for instance the elderly may not take too well to this non-scientific claptrap. Please note that the advert points out that Mr. Moorhouse has been on Countryfile, but doesn't mention any qualifications that enable him to cure the common cold (let alone the flu!) This health shop should really have it's socks pulled up, this could be potentially deadly advice.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

'Open Letter to Alliance Boots' by the Merseyside Skeptics

The Merseyside Skeptics Society have a fantastically well thought-out letter to Boots regarding their sales of homoeopathic remedies. I'll reproduce the text below, but I strongly recommend that you visit their website, attend their events and listen to their podcast.

If you happen to have a Digg account, make sure to Digg this for them, as many people as possible should read it.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Digital Cables - Woo Style

Purchase a flat screen TV from almost any electrical retailer, and you can be almost guaranteed that you'll encounter a little woo. You'll be offered some form of expensive home-theater grade cables from a brand such as Profigold or Monster, which retail for frankly ridiculous prices. The reason for this is simple - a shop like Comet makes a larger margin from their cables, sometimes running to 80 or 90% profit compared to the 10 or 15% they get from the TV itself.

The jargon used by these companies can be overwhelming, battering potential customers into making a purchase with sheer complexity. Here's a couple of typical quote from Monster cable, arguably the most prominent of these companies:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Selling tools to Ghost Hunters - a Question

Imagine this scenario. You're working in an unnamed electronics store, and you get into a conversation with a potential customer. He asks you about Infared Thermometers, so you begin to demonstrate one you just happen to be holding. At this point he asks you if you sell EMF meters, and the alarm bells go off.

You've got yourself a ghost hunter! What would you do? I have absolutely no idea, and each time it happens I'm almost at a loss for words.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Winchester is the UFO capital of Europe???

I saw this entertaining piece of nonsense last month in the Metro (October 5th), but it's slipped my mind until tonight. Better late than never I suppose. According to Councillor Adrian Hicks, a humanoid alien was wandering around Winchester high street (this sighting was apparently linked to US and British military operations.)

I'm not quite sure what he's basing that on as the close proximity of an a Air Force base doesn't necessary mean they are connected - even assuming it is an alien. The alien was closer still to a branch of the Works bookshop, perhaps the alien could be linked to them?

“UFOs are flying in and out of the military base – Winchester is the UFO capital of Europe.” - Adrian Hicks