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Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday

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We have been getting a great deal of e-mail asking about the various "experiments" on YouTube (inspired by events on Fast Food Nation) in which a McDonald's hamburger and fries are left out for weeks or months. To the surprise of some, the food does not rot away to nothing but instead shrivels a little and becomes hard and shiny, but does not get moldy or rotten. The implication is that there is something wrong and unnatural about food that doesn't rot when left out.

The Economic - XKCD

The Economic Argument



The Economic - XKCD

If being a blessed marriage ment you could count on sunny weather for your wedding, wedding planners could tell you to skip the tent.

Also you could get lower disaster related insurance if you live in an area with less sin.

The title got truncated, or Norm is trying to give us a meta message of some sort. (Go there for the alt-text.)

Re: the "had us at hello" article.

Isn't it a bit silly? Aren't we using them mostly in ironic ways, and not just the new ones? Even the cited ones, from Jerry McGuire ("show me the money", "you had me at hello") are used comically just cause of their cheesiness.

Same with the "box of chocolates" line. I see all these in the same category as "release the kraken". When exactly were these movie one-liners an expression of "wit and wisdom"? Wit, sure, but wisdom, rarely if ever.

Others may be different, like the "are you talkin' to me" and "What do you mean I'm funny?" routines from Taxi Driver and Goodfellas, are repeated cause they're just plain cool memorable scenes in the movies. And are also usually used in comedic context.

I think its about the "wit and wisdom" of the writers.

But really it seems clear that things catch on because they reach a critical mass of people that find them to be common knowledge. Now we have the internet and tv and tv over the internet and movies are less central to our viewing practices.

•The Burger "Experiments"

I have had this discussion before. I think you can pretty much pin it on the salt and moisture content of fast food. Salting food is a way to reserve it. Works the same in Big Mac as it does in cured meets. No on is remarking on the age of their cheese and ham as evidence of them not being real food.

Salt is probably less healthy than anything other mystery ingredient you could include, so these folks aren't wrong about fastfood, they are just ignoring the obvious answer because mystery carries a bigger negative.

Re: Remote viewing and its effectiveness. President Jimmy Carter in GQ: -==-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

GQ: One of the promises you made in 1976 was that if you were elected, you would look into the reports from Roswell and see if there had been any cover-ups. Did you look into that?

Carter: Well, in a way. I became more aware of what our intelligence services were doing. There was only one instance that I’ll talk about now. We had a plane go down in the Central African Republic—a twin-engine plane, small plane. And we couldn’t find it. And so we oriented satellites that were going around the earth every ninety minutes to fly over that spot where we thought it might be and take photographs. We couldn’t find it. So the director of the CIA came and told me that he had contacted a woman in California that claimed to have supernatural capabilities. And she went in a trance, and she wrote down latitudes and longitudes, and we sent our satellite over that latitude and longitude, and there was the plane.

GQ: That must have been surreal for you. You’re the president of the United States, and you’re getting intelligence information from a woman in a trance in California.

Carter: That’s exactly right.

GQ: How did your scientific mind process that?

Carter: With skepticism. Whether it was just a gross coincidence or…I don’t know. But that’s one thing that I couldn’t explain. -==-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I've mentioned before a woman I knew well who met my cousin for the first time and ran her hands up and down him.. and said "you got kicked here by a horse when you were 12." Something I certainly never knew but was confirmed later by my mother.

Hell if I know how that works, but hell of a coincidence. She was a very mild person and did the same thing a few other times but was very shy about it.

I should also mention that the USA intelligence programs often protect and extend the influence of American/Western businesses... thus a psychic program run by them DOES influence those industries if indirectly.

For a good read on how the CIA influences other countries for the benefit of the oil business read this from National Geographic:

Oil was at the root of a 1953 event that is still a sore subject for many Iranians: the CIA-backed overthrow, instigated and supported by the British government, of Iran's elected and popular prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. Mossadegh had kicked out the British after the Iranian oil industry, controlled through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (later BP), was nationalized, and the British had retaliated with an economic blockade. With the Cold War on and the Soviet bloc located just to the north, the U.S. feared that a Soviet-backed communism in Iran could shift the balance of world power and jeopardize Western interests in the region. The coup - Operation TP-Ajax - is believed to have been the CIA's first. (Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., Teddy's grandson, ran the show, and H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the father of the Persian Gulf war commander, was enlisted to coax the shaw into playing his part. Its base of operations was the US Embassy in Tehran, the future "nest of spies" to the Iranians, where 52 US hostages were taken in 1979). Afterward, the shaw, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was returned to power, commerical oil rights fell largely to British and US oil companies, and Mossadegh was imprisoned and later placed under house arrest until he died in 1967

I always hear anecdotes like this, but I would love for something like that to happen to me directly. The closest I've come to is a friend of a friend who thinks he has "powers" (honestly he believes in that), guessing my astrological sign. And I'm not even sure if my friend didn't mention to him my birthday or something like that.

He could not guess another friend's sign when we brought it up without him or my other friend expecting it though.

Yeah, I have lots of those friends too. I tolerate them but they only remember the times they were right. Guessing an astro sign is a 1/12 chance which isn't that rare anyhow. Compared to lat/long of a downed aircraft that is. ;)

Well my point was that I always hear it from third persons, who (not surprisingly) are believers. The Carter incident seems to be pretty unreliable anyway. He didn't even seemed to have witnessed it, so who knows what happened.

For all we know the woman was given the location the plane was last seen at and wrote down ten numbers and the when the satelite found close to two from the list, the agent that believed in the shit ran that to the president in some desire to convert him.

Carter should have insisted a double blind study be done on this woman immediately and if the agent couldn't produce, fire his crazy ass before his psychic tells him russia is attacking with the hour and he tries to launch a preventative attack.

I'm curious, how many CIA officers (let alone those who report directly to the president) do you personally know?

You paint a different world than the one they live in.

Try looking at the WINs on this site to get an idea of how they approach analysis:

I've mentioned before a woman I knew well who met my cousin for the first time and ran her hands up and down him.. and said "you got kicked here by a horse when you were 12." Something I certainly never knew but was confirmed later by my mother.

This paragraph makes no sense. Why do you need your mother to cnfirm that your cousin was kicked by a horse? Has your cousin lost all memory of his/her pre-teen years?

R7, see my reply below (got attached to the comment down there).

It makes perfect sense, if you are a scientist and like to test things.

Re: the "had us at hello" article.

my personal favorite is good old Arnie's "I'LL BE BACK." preferably said with that adorable German accent. I use that one all the time, prefacing most excursions out to the pasture with it. The other one I love is: "Write if you get work". The ambiguity of that one is so charming - like, if you don't get work, don't bother to write?

Re: the "had us at hello" article.

I am embarrassed to admit I used to turn to my wife in the morning and do John McLaughlin (of the PBS pundit show):

Bye BYE!

Personally, I prefer "life is like a Piñata".

re: "life is like a Pinata"

I got one of those for a little girl's birthday party once. I didn't understand that it came UNFILLED. I also didn't understand how HARD it would be to break the darn thing open.

Imagine - ten little girls all decked out in their party finery of flouncy skirts and patent leather shoes, each with a stick, BEATING the hell out that pinata. Definitely getting in touch with their inner demons. Talk about an atavistic nightmare. THEN, they found, after all that effort, that it was EMPTY. I ran.

I didn't understand that it came UNFILLED. I also didn't understand how HARD it would be to break the darn thing open.

Thus, life is like a piñata.

You don't know what the hell's coming out and you have to hit it hard to get it anyway.

You're very right about inner demons too!

because it is the nature of receivers of attention to say something agreeable like: "yeah, I was kicked by a horse" as they wish to match the statement. So I asked my mom if anything happened to my cousin when he was a kid. She told me the story.

If you watch scammers they will say something like "who has passed with the letter S in their name?" and the subject will say "is it Steven?"

I'm not a 'believer' in any case... just stuff I can't explain either, but that the CIA and foreign intelligence services do (doesn't mean they are right). And when evidence presents itself, I ask: WTF? and remain skeptical. If you ask any of the 'friends' I have they would know that I listen carefully and test their observations.

The one thing I DO know is that in 1000 years, we will know more than we do now and look back at the primitive ideas of the 2000's. We often place incorrect limits on our Universe, which btw, is much larger than you think it is (10^23 larger than we can physically see) and is far more complex than our minds can imagine (ask Feynman).

I'm not saying anything DOES exist, but like Carter, I can't explain it, and that makes me curious. In any case I'm thinking it is as reliable, best case, as anything else purely human: our memory, our freethrow shot, our golf game.

To ask Feynman you will need a OUIJA board - so does that statement make you a believer?


false premise... the lack of exploitation by a capitalist entity could also signify the inability of capitalism to commodify all human desires/needs/emotions/practices.

second false premise... that prayer is not commodified. from indulgences to televangelism, clearly big bucks is generated, albeit not as a product designed to reduce health care costs.

third, i work as an environmental engineer and see perfectly respected (and capitalist) contractors use both scientific equipment and dowsing to locate water for digging wells. i have personally witnessed, on at least 20 occasions, readings taken with $10k equipment matching up with readings taken with sticks and an experienced eye (which is what true dowsers will tell you they use, not magic).

fourth, there are several scientific studies that demonstrate the healing power of prayer. doesn't mean god is answering anything, just means that human biometric readings can be altered by the brain...duh. so while we may all agree that healing by god cannot be proven, we certainly should not dismiss or mock the way peaceful and tolerant religious practitioners find solace, comfort or the kind of relaxation that aids in healing. while this may not be equivalent to "remote prayer" it is not a great leap.

i'm just not comfortable with, to paraphrase a familiar phrase, fighting arrogance with arrogance. seems like the previous post on why challenging one's beliefs causes retrenchment applies here as well.

Way to miss the point.

Firstly, it's a joke.

Secondly, it's indeed funny cause it's true. Why not save those $10k in equipment and just go with a dowser for $30/hour?

Also the "healing power of prayer" that has been "demonstrated" by "several scientific studies: (which?) is in fact the healing power of placebo, if anything. Thus, it's only bound to placebo cures. You'd still save thousands in (e.g.) cancer treatment if prayer actually worked.

The largest, best conducted double-blind prayer study was commissioned by Templeton I think around 2007 or so. It didn't even find that placebo was a result. So prayer is even a pretty bad placebo. Better go with homeopathy or acupuncture if you want placebo.

Re: arrogance.

I wonder if it is seen as arrogant when people mock Scientologists or the Raelians. What exactly is the difference in their beliefs with "mainstream" religions? They're equally ridiculous after all is said and done.

You can have your comments published immediately if you registered, btw.


didn't miss the attempt at humor. as with most jokes, the humor lies in the truth within. as your second points stipulates. so, you are telling me to lighten up because it is a joke and that it is funny because it is true. seems a bit contradictory to me.

as for saving the 10k, you missed the point. the example was to demonstrate the ridiculous claim about capitalism blah blah blah. also, to show that the two strategies coexist in the real world. professionals in the field don't feel the need to sit on their asses and debate (as we are)...they go with what works and for them, in the case of dowsing, they often choose to use both to cross-check each other, or one when another seems to fail. but don't let the facts get in the way of a good joke. especially when you aren't really kidding.

as for studies, yep, healing power of placebo is documented. and if prayer is placebo, it works as well as anything else. why, because our mental health and attitude has a great deal to do with our physical health. which was my point. and so you want citations for a point you agree with. don't have time at the moment, but they are out there if you really care.

and re: arrogance, it is the mocking period. theists mocking atheists. atheists mocking theists and cultists. i'm comfortable with being skeptical of theisms. i'm also comfortable with rationality and science not having explanations for all phenomena. at least not yet. and i'm comfortable with the life i live so that i won't be pissed or regretful or fearful when i die. and i don't think it is my business to tell (or mock) another person for however they reach the same level of comfort as long as they don't impose their thing on me and others through public policy or violence. but maybe i'm just too sensitive to racial jokes, rape jokes, religion jokes... maybe the letter r in general.

I pointed out it was a joke not because you should dismiss it as such, but because it seemed to me you were taking it way too seriously. But that's my perception. The second point is the point I wanted to make.

as for saving the 10k, you missed the point. the example was to demonstrate the ridiculous claim about capitalism blah blah blah. also, to show that the two strategies coexist in the real world. professionals in the field don't feel the need to sit on their asses and debate (as we are)...they go with what works and for them, in the case of dowsing, they often choose to use both to cross-check each other, or one when another seems to fail.

Thus, you're wasting money. Any economically-conscious person or company would test what works first. Which is what the comic was aiming at.

as for studies, yep, healing power of placebo is documented. and if prayer is placebo, it works as well as anything else.

As well as expensive chemo and radiation therapy? Or any other type of real, scientific medicine/treatments really? How about surgery? Cause real medicine and treatments is what's really expensive. That's what "saving on healthcare" meant.

About the citations. You mention prayer studies that prove your point. It's custom for you to be the one providing the citations. I provided you with one, at least I want to know if the ones you're talking about were properly done. But in any case, you're admitting it's placebo, and there are other placebo treatments, equally unethical for a doctor to prescribe (knowing that it's placebo), but more effective, like those I mentioned.

not sure if you read about the Haiti quake, and the mother and daughter that were trapped together. The mom remained calm, faith in god, the daughter said god forgot them, and her energy level was much higher and she died. The mom lived.

If Religion / Faith is a virus that infects societies, it could act to make them stronger in some ways, thus it serves as an evolutionary advantage in certain times even if 1000000% based on self-delusion.

Self-delusion can be useful.

LOL! :)

Was thinking more of his quote "if you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics." or some such.

Everyone would think quantum mechanics is nonsense if it weren't for the astoundingly overwhelming evidence that it works. It's regarded as the most accurate scientific theory ever, even more than relativity. But this is because it gives measurable results and predictions.

That's what Feynman was talking about. You gotta put that quote in context. New Agers like to say this, but it's fallacious (not saying that you are one, but you're making the same argument).

So what I'm saying is this. First it needs to be established that there's some phenomenon to be investigated in the first place. This kind of supernatural phenomena has been probed for what, centuries now? There haven't been any reliable indications that there's actually a phenomenon there to be discovered, let alone evidence that it works.

Even more so, rather simple explanations are already available for what people are experiencing. Confirmation bias and other psychological quirks. True that not every individual claim can be proven to be that, but they're always so unreliable that it's reason enough for extreme skepticism.

So, before you investigate, the nature of the phenom must be well known?

Exactly how does that make you a great scientist? I'm certainly glad Tesla wasn't as boring as you are.


hence, why i don't register. just a different orthodoxy gleefully and smugly wrapped in logic that is more circular and semantic than logical. its a form of procrastination i have to give up.

Feynman was, of course, just underlining how weird Q.M. seems to us - we being creatures who live in a macroscopic world. The key word there is "understand". There is a related quote I've heard before (Feynman, von Neumann, E.B. Wilson - I don't know for sure):

You never understand quantum mechanics, you just get used to it.

But I think the only reason we think we "understand" classical mechanics is that all of our lives we have been experiencing life "classically". If you use Q.M. all the time, then one develops an "intuition" about what seems right. Though Feynman never made made jokes about it, I'm sure he actually felt he "understood" quantum mechanics in the only real sense that one thinks one understands anything.

I said: "The Universe is far more complex than our minds can imagine" Feynman agrees. QM is extremely accurate, provable, and yet makes little sense to our brains. Our brains being evolved to handle mm to km scales well, the others make little sense.

So, it seems you do agree with me. Coolness.

What I find odd is that we don't know exactly how a cell knows it's the tip of a finger, or the side, and yet they grow correctly. (prevalent theories include cell to cell communication... a game of 'telephone' through a hundred cells and the same potential accuracy). We relax the helix of DNA, allow it to uncoil and measure UV radiation. We find that carcinogens often disturb UV radiation in odd ways. Is it possible our DNA relies on this radiation in some way, and cancer is caused by interference in a radio signal? Again, hell if i know, but it is interesting to think that our electrical nervous system, already sensitive to EMF's could have elements that are also UV transceivers.

BTW: I did the math: if the seen Observable Universe was a 1mm cube, the Universe is said to be 10^23, which would be the square area of Nevada.

We are small, blind and dumb. Odds are something in this Universe makes us look dumb as ants on a picnic table, unable to understand that the world is not flat and communication can be more than a trail of scent.

And yes, we should test things before issuing belief, but how do you test something that is by it's nature unreliable? Testing ESP would be as reliable as testing 'love' on its best day (which is to say, not very reliable at all, if it did exist).

Tim, I'm glad you are so sure of Feynman's beliefs. Now provide the evidence. I prefer the quotes and interviews to your "Faith".


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