Monday, May 31, 2010

Ramblings on Patriotism (1)

It’s time once again for the FIFA World Cup, and yet again the streets of Manchester are awash with St. George’s crosses – and once more the only reaction I can muster is a feeling of intense befuddlement.

Your regular garden variety patriotism I can just about grasp – while I disagree with the idea I can almost, (but not quite) understand it. If the people with the cheap flags bolted to their cars also had full sized flagpoles in their yards which they attended to every morning and evening with chocked throats and tears welling, then I could understand a vast outpouring of pride every four years. I’d still think it was utterly ridiculous, but I'd at least note their consistency.

That’s not the case though – the people who’ve picked up cheap flags from the local supermarket for the duration of the world cup stay away from this more “American” style of patriotism – if they’re at all patriotic for the rest of the time, then it’s a crafty new form of patriotism – a ‘stealth patriotism’.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gambling Systems (Extra Soapbox)

This week on the Just Skeptics podcast we were joined by Rick Owen, who talked at great length about common fallacies encountered whilst gambling. He was kind enough to write this accompanying piece for us:

On my guest slot on episode 2 of the Just Skeptics podcast I talk about gambling superstitions and scam systems. Without repeating the podcast spot (you'll have to listen to it), I thought I would expand on a couple of points and include some weblinks.

You can see the free roulette system here. In the podcast I talk about the Martingale system, wherein your stake is doubled after each loss (on 1 to 1 odds like a coin-toss). The problem is that exponential growth gets very big very quickly. If you have infinite money you should be okay. The system on the website is actually a split Martingale system, or Labouchère system : a more gradual increase in stakes, but still doomed. These systems are especially risky in real casinos where each table has a minimum and maximum bet, so you will quickly run up against the table maximum and your system will crash.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Podcast - Just Skeptics Episode 1

We've finally got our podcast off the ground, and we'd suggest you listen to it!
Every week we'll be discussing a handful of skeptical or scientific news stories, and then we'll let our rotating guest host get on a soapbox and rant about a topic of his or her choosing.
This week we're joined by guest host Allan Callister as we cover the wierd and wonderful world of acu-pressure, celebrate the closure of the Prince Foundation and admit to being incredibly smug.