Category Archives: Biographical

What Really Happened to Phineas Gage? – Psychology’s Most Famous Case Study

Phineas Gage close-up

If you have ever studied psychology, you probably know the name “Phineas Gage.” He was an American railway worker whose life changed dramatically on September 13, 1848. He was removing rocks so a railway to be laid, which sometimes requires drilling holes into the big boulders that can’t be pushed aside, and pushing in gun powder with an iron rod before exploding them from a safe distance. That day, however, he accidentally scraped the boulder which ignited the gun powder, projecting the rod into the air. It went straight through his head… but he lived. His legacy lives on as psychology’s most famous case study; but his legend is usually distorted in myth.

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Edward Snowden: A Man of Peace

Thank you Snowden bus

Edward Snowden has just been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize – an award that has certainly lost credibility because of some of the recent recipients, including U.S. President Obama. Snowden is a man who gave up his cozy life snooping on the private data of people within and outside of his country, and was smart enough not to stick around to see what kind of damage the American government would do to him, like they did to others who blew the whistle on illegal behaviour. Though there are indeed others who also deserve such praise, I hope at least the nomination helps Snowden’s cause.

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The 2013 Round-Up

Anime digital tokyo skyline

2013 was a hectic year, but it has finally ended. Actually, it ended several days ago; but as you can imagine, things were hectic. The news cycle never stopped and the stories kept coming in, which is why I updated my existing articles a lot more than write new ones. But that doesn’t explain everything, which is why I’ll take the opportunity to do so below. Along the way, I’ll also mention the top Skeptikai articles of the year.

 

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America’s Most Outrageous Legal Decision of 2013

affluenza

There have been many profoundly unjust decisions in the United States this year. One of the worst would have to be the setting free of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed the unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin, who committed absolutely no crime and was literally trying to run away from Zimmerman, who was wielding a gun. Yet, an even more outrageous case has surfaced recently, which I can only succinctly  describe as: the worst legal decision of the entire year.

Posted in Abnormal & Clinical Psych, Biographical, Culture, Legal Issues, Psychology | 1 Comment

Everything You Need to Know About Prism, Internet Freedom, and Edward Snowden (Updated)

This is Edward Snowden

The case of Edward Snowden has not only polarized the United States, but it has raised concerns from people all over the world. But it’s not just the US – the UK is now getting a lot of attention for creating a fake internet cafe just to steal passwords of foreign diplomats at the 2009 G20 summit in London. Some are even arguing that they have even more access than the American NSA (National Security Agency); but the NSA is understandably getting the most heat, especially from places outside of the US. I say “especially from places outside” because the mainstream US news is clearly on the side of the government. Indeed, it seems that the narrative within the  mainstream media is not about the message so much as the messenger. This post aggregates news programs outside the US to tell the real story of exactly what’s going on with Edward Snowden and the NSA.

Posted in Aggregators/lists/rankings, Biographical, Culture, Legal Issues, Media, Technology, TED | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exorcism, the Human Stun Gun, and Suggestion

Pope Exorcism

When the world ended last year, I pointed out the there is a certain degree of relativism to the apocalypse. That is, you, the reader, must have been impervious to the apocalypse. Why? It’s simple – you never believed it. And therefore, it didn’t happen. Unfortunately, many people do believe in things for which there is no evidence, including the end of the world. In the Vatican City, new Pope Francis has nothing to say about the end of the world, but he may have just performed his first exorcism as Pope, which is yet another phenomenon for which there is no evidence. And it reminds me of the “Human Stun Gun.”

Posted in Abnormal & Clinical Psych, Biographical, Culture, Japan, Psychology, Science, Skepticism | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Inattentional Blindness and the Invisible Violinist

Anime violinist ao blue

If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound? It would be hard to prove if you weren’t there to notice it. But what if you were there… and you still didn’t notice it? This is something we experience every day. Even cavemen couldn’t possibly focus on all the stimuli around them at once – from the rustles in the bushes, to the winds blowing by, to the tribesmen hunting for food – so what chance do we have, in our world of constant advertisements vying for our attention? Our most natural coping mechanism is to (justifiably) unconsciously tune out most of the stimuli around us; but the case of the Invisible Violinist begs the question: What are we missing?

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The 2013 Pigasus Awards

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Every year, the James Randi Educational Foundation gives awards to recognize the special few uncritical thinkers who do more to peddle pseudoscience and damage the public in ways that only celebrities could. Below are five “winners” of various categories whose success in nonsense have given actual science communicators like myself a greater challenge – not only to inform the general public of the way things are, but to do so while battle the faulty preconceptions caused the non-scientific thoughts and beliefs caused by such purveyors.

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Egyptian Satirists Are in Serious Danger of Angering the Authorities

Bassem Youssef with Morsi pillow

If you watch any of the English-subtitled videos of Bassem Youssef, you get the distinct feeling that his TV show “AlBernameg” is the Middle Eastern equivalent of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. This is by no means a coincidence, because Youssef, an Egyptian satirist, modelled his show after the American comedian’s. In fact, Youssef has even been on Stewart’s show before. But unlike Stewart, Youssef does not live in a country where free speech is a constitutional right. That’s why he is now at threat of being prosecuted for insulting the highest authority in the country.

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Should Parents Tell Their Kids “The Truth” About Santa?

The whole truth about Santa Claus

Spoiler Alert! Santa is a dangerous alcoholic, suffering from obesity, and doesn’t exist.

Actually only one of those is true. Well, maybe two… but if you pass the age-test, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Posted in Biographical, Culture, Japan, Skepticism | 7 Comments