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Science or Bunk: How to Tell the Difference Why I care if You Waste Your Money.

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Presentation on theme: "Science or Bunk: How to Tell the Difference Why I care if You Waste Your Money."— Presentation transcript:

1 Science or Bunk: How to Tell the Difference Why I care if You Waste Your Money

2 What is Science? A process, not a recipe: Get curious. Ask a question. Decide how to figure out an answer. Do an experiment. Make sure you understand what you are doing. Figure out what the results of the experiment mean. Have you answered your question? If you made a hypothesis, was it confirmed or refuted? Keep on going!

3 What is Pseudoscience? Something that sounds “scientific” but is missing one or more key ingredients: Thoughtful testing by experienced scientists Peer review by other experienced scientists Consistency with known scientific laws and facts Next we will look at some warning signs of pseudoscience; not everything that exhibits these signs is nonsense, but the more there are the tighter you should grasp your wallet.

4 Warning Signs of Pseudoscience The discoverer pitches his or her claim directly to the media, bypassing scientific review. Particularly beware of paid infomercials… Example: Cold fusion. The original announcement in 1989 contained little information useful to scientists who wished to replicate the results; they have in fact never been replicated. (At this point, even if they are, Pons and Fleischmann won’t get credit).

5 Warning Signs of Pseudoscience A powerful establishment is supposedly trying to suppress the work. Example: MagniworkMagniwork

6 Warning Signs of Pseudoscience The scientific effect is at the limit of detection. Example: Cryptozoology (Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot, etc) Many alternative health schemes fall into this category as well (homeopathy).homeopathy

7 Warning Signs of Pseudoscience Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal. The plural of “anecdote” is not “data”; data need to be collected in a thoughtful, reproducible way. Example: cryptozoology again; alternative remedies are particularly susceptible to this one. The placebo effect is real, and needs to be understood before you believe claims for any remedy.

8 Warning Signs of Pseudoscience The discoverer claims a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries. Sorry, but we have learned a lot in the past 100 years or so! Much of what our ancestors believed about astronomy, biology, history, psychology…. was wrong. Examples: Doomsday 2012; alternative medicine; astrologyDoomsday 2012

9 Warning Signs of Pseudoscience The claim requires new laws of nature, often in serious contradiction to well-established knowledge. Examples: homeopathy; magniwork and other free energy devices; astrologyastrology

10 I’m not a scientist; how can I figure out what’s what? First – see what the scientists are saying. Go to original sources as much as possible. If you are on the Web,.gov sites are best. Next; last Second – if someone makes a claim, ask “How do you know?” Learn how to evaluate the response. Third – beware of “scientifical” or “sciency” arguments. Especially beware of anything with “quantum” in the title that doesn’t involve partial differential equations, and anything that invokes vibrations, frequencies, or energy flow.

11 Useful Resources Health: Quackwatch, Snake Oil? e-oil-supplements/ e-oil-supplements/ Energy: Popular Science, Wired Science, General: Mythbusters, Discovery Channel and

12 Useful Resources Blogs: Respectful Insolence, Bad Astronomy, omy/ omy/ Pharyngula, Scientopia blogs, Science blogs,

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