Guru tries to kill skeptic on live TV

You can probably guess what the outcome was.

When a famous tantric guru boasted on television that he could kill another man using only his mystical powers, most viewers either gasped in awe or merely nodded unquestioningly. Sanal Edamaruku’s response was different. “Go on then — kill me,” he said…

…First, the master chanted mantras, then he sprinkled water on his intended victim. He brandished a knife, ruffled the sceptic’s hair and pressed his temples. But after several hours of similar antics, Mr Edamaruku was still very much alive — smiling for the cameras and taunting the furious holy man.

“He was over, finished, completely destroyed!” Mr Edamaruku chuckles triumphantly as he concludes the tale in the Rationalist Centre, his second-floor office in the town of Noida, just outside Delhi.

Maybe these gurus, who know that they are full of shit, are used to intimidating audience people and are hence unafraid of being challenged to do what they say they can do. Still, you would have to be an idiot to expect to go through life without someone asking you to back up your words. I hope this guy was as humiliated as the article suggests, what with him boasting about his supposed ability to commit gratuitous murder. I take great amusement in gurus, psychics, seers, and other woo-pitchers being exposed as frauds and having their “careers” derailed.

Is astrology scientific?

To most readers of this blog, this question has all the relevance and importance of “Is water dry?” Nevertheless, this post at “Understanding Science,” a site hosted at the University of California-Berkeley, provides a nice checklist of criteria for determining whether a concept or discipline can properly be called scientific. These include:

  • Does it focus on the natural world?
  • Does it aim to explain the natural world?
  • Does it use testable ideas?
  • Does it rely on evidence?
  • Does it involve the scientific community?
  • Does it lead to ongoing research?
  • Do its researchers behave scientifically?

At a glance, this looks like a list someone would have created after regarding the world of Intelligent Design creationism and picking out precisely those things that are most lacking. As for astrology, it obviously fails with flying colors.

Why Breathe When You Can Swallow?

From a recent ad spotted in Running Times magazine, we discover a way to get oxygen into the bloodstream of athletes without using the lungs. Yes, it’s SportsOxy Shot from Scientific Solutions LLC. They’re selling “super oxygenated” water that’s supposed to drastically improve athletic performance. A “serving” is 10 milliliters and it contains 15 volumes percent O2. Hmmm, a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation reveals something interesting. Let’s say we have a decent (though not elite) runner with a VO2max of 60 ml O2 per kg per minute. Further, let’s say that they’re running at an easy pace and using maybe 2/3 rds of their maximal O2 uptake and they’re kinda small, maybe 50 kg. That’s a per minute O2 intake of 2 liters. Why do I get that impression that swallowing 10 milliliters of “highly oxygenated” water isn’t going to have much of an effect over the course of even a short race, such as 1500 meters?
Oh, and a 500 milliliter bottle is only $60, on special. Stop by and order yours today, and while you’re at it, check out some of their other great “products”.

Richard Dawkins interviews Michael Baum

You probably know who Dawkins is. Baum is Professor Emeritus of Surgery at University College London, and and in the interview the two men discuss the validity of complimentary and alternative medical therapies. Suffice it to say that Dr. Baum, who sounds so remarkably similar to Dawkins that minimizing the video window offers the illusion of Dawkins talking to himself–is skeptical.
The video below is just under ten minutes long and is the first in a six-part series; the others can be found here.

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Florida, vanity, and lying healthcare dispensers

If there’s one part of the country that may be as obsessed with its collective personal appearance as Los Angeles, it’s Florida — specifically its larger cities and metropolitan areas, especially those in the state’s southern coastal areas: Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Tampa-St, Petersburg, Naples, Fort Myers, and others.
In L.A., people at least have the excuse of needing to look New and Improved owing to anticipated, incipient, or extant acting careers. In Florida people just want to look good for the hell of it, and more specifically don’t want to look old even though the median age is (reaching into my ass here) about 87.3.
I live in the Sarasota-Bradenton mini-coglomerate, which numbers about 650,000 people, among them Stephen King, Paul Reubens (a.k.a. Pee Wee Herman), Jerry Springer, and Martina Navratilova. It’s not the sprawling hell that Broward County, where I held my first Florida address, has become, and it retains a more of an “old Florida” feel than strip-mall- and golf-course-covered South Florida does. But make no mistake — it has its fair share of eight-lane thoroughfares, magnificently inconsiderate drivers, and ugly condominiums, with the influx of humanity trickling off recently as a result not of carefully managed growth but of a cratering housing market.
Getting back to the main idea here, plastic surgery and its derivatives (e.g. labiaplasty in Melbourne is getting very popular) are more than alive and well — they’re thundering around town, priapic and beaming ever prepared to give your wallet a nice reaming while returning nothing of value. And some of those derivatives are comically, gloriously dishonest.

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