The Grand List of Pseudoscience

This semester I’m teaching introductory geosciences for the first time in almost two-and-a-half years. The central theme that I will be using this time is “science”. OK, that might sound strange, but what I’m hoping is to help student learn how science is done, how to differentiate good science from, ahem, less good science, and how to read science in the media. It is a bit of a philosophical pursuit, where I already have readings planned (amongst the more typical geoscience fare) about cognitive dissonance, statistical analysis and understanding error.

The core of this part of the class will be a paper on pseudoscience — what it is and how to recognize it in popular culture. The goal will be for students to see how “science” is used to try to legitimize pseudoscience but how, ultimately, these fraudulent claims can be disputed. My hope is that this will allow students who never take another science class to at the very least be armed with skills to help them not fall for these charlatans.

So, I asked my wife, friends, wife, colleagues and the Twitterverse what are pseudoscientific topics that could be subjects for these papers. Here is the raw, unfiltered list — the final list will be more refined, where I might combine/split topics and eliminate some — but for now, you can enjoy the full grandeur of today’s “pseudoscience”.

(in no particular order)

  • alchemy
  • intelligent design
  • homeopathy
  • crystal healing/power
  • astrology
  • planetary alignments driving tectonic events
  • creationism
  • expanding Earth
  • hollow Earth
  • dowsing/water witches
  • cryptozoology
  • personality testing
  • phrenology
  • ancient aliens
  • earthquake prediction
  • aliens/abductions/UFOs
  • anti-anthropogenic climate change
  • anti-vaccine
  • yeti/bigfoot
  • chupacabra
  • morphic resonance
  • anti/pro GMO
  • ESP/telepathy
  • vitamins
  • mass human cloning
  • magnetic field reversal disasters
  • Bermuda Triangle
  • Reiki
  • Atlantis
  • Diet fads
  • scientology
  • ghost hunters
  • angels
  • carbon-based oxygen
  • weather control/HAARP
  • acupuncture/chiropractic
  • young Earth
  • Great Flood
  • magnetic/metal/Phiten bands for health
  • cleansing
  • Aura/chakra
  • chemtrails
  • prophecy/Bible codes
  • past lives
  • aromatherapy
  • eugenics
  • paleo/Atkins diets
  • highly advanced ancient civilizations
  • Jersey Devil
  • Deep (non-organic) oil
  • extant dinosaurs
  • Martian civilizations

New additions:

  • Biorhythms
  • Nibiru (or other solar companions/rogue planets)
  • Area 51
  • Global consciousness/Gaia hypothesis
  • cider vinegar diet
  • raelism
  • flat Earth
  • anti-fluorination
  • Apollo landing hoax
  • Earthquake weather

Got more? Feel like something shouldn’t be on the list? Leave me a comment as I work on the final list.

My Favorite Albums of 2013

Yes, once again, my attempt to claim to still have relevance in the world of musical critique. Enjoy!

Honorable Mentions: Waxahatchee: Cerulean Salt; Trophy Wife: Trophy Wife; Pixies: EP1 +  Bagboy

15. The Knife: Shaking the Habitual I had a few albums this year where I really (I mean really) listened the hell out of it for a week or two and then haven’t found the mood to return. Shaking the Habitual is the first of those and also the only one to feature a song about fracking.

14. Sigur Ros: Kveikur I was honestly surprised how much I liked this album, but then I realized that they actually added some pop structure to their sound and, yup, that was it.

13. Franz Ferdinand: Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions A band who is consistently consistent. Can’t tell if that is a good or bad thing. Fun listen, but man, how do you ever live up to a debut like theirs?

12. Charli XCX: True Romance A few songs on this (“Stay Away”, “How Can I”, “You’re the One”) are off the wall. Some of the songs are filler. However, those good songs are great (especially this live version of “Stay Away”).

11. Kanye West: Yeezus Every freaking time with Kanye, I think the album is monumental when I listen to it pretty much nonstop for a few weeks. Then I don’t touch. Then I return and wonder what I heard the first 100 times. Not to say it isn’t a good (and jarring) album, but didn’t even age well over 6 months.

10. The National: Trouble Will Find Me I think in Pitchfork’s year end list, they mention the idea that some folks really want the National to be boring. Maybe I’m one of them because I know I’ve liked almost every National album, but I never feel like I really like that band. I’ve now come to terms with the idea that the National are really good … maybe I just didn’t want to admit they have out Eitzeled Mark Eitzel.

9. The Blow: The Blow No Paper Television, but still an indie pop gem.

8. Chvrches: The Bones of What You Believe I think a theme for me in 2013 (musically) was female-fronted synth pop. Chvrches are really just this year’s version of the Purity Ring, but that didn’t stop me from liking the album.

7. Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels Killer Mike and EL-P. They even released the album for free. What more could you ask?

6. Queens of the Stone Age: … Like Clockwork Maybe two years ago, I wouldn’t have given a new Queens of the Stone Age album a moment’s attention. Yet somehow, I let myself into their back catalog for reasons I can’t fully remember and I found myself enthralled. So, here I am, really digging on the new album, even if at times, it just sounds like late 90′s Urge Overkill.

5. Deltron 3030: Event II Again, another album that must exist in the shadow of its predecessor (and over a decade of hype about a sequel). Not as cohesion and captivating as the original Deltron album, but a very worthy piece in the saga.

4. Tullycraft: Lost in Light Rotation I love them dearly. What else can I say?

3. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City Kind of like the National, Vampire Weekend somehow become a really great band. I mean, you listen to their debut and think “huh, fun … but talk about influences on their sleeves”. Listen to Modern Vampires of the City and you think “huh, this is fabulous.” If I had to pick my favorite single song from 2013, it was probably “Step”.

2. Mikal Cronin: MC II Pure, wonderful, glorious power pop (in the classical Elvis Costello/Matthew Sweet sense). Rivers Cuomo is eating his heart out, likely with a spoon.

1. Arcade Fire: Reflektor The third band on this list that I’ve liked but never like liked. Of course, put them in a room recording with James Murphy and suddenly you take that band I like and turn them into some sort of post-wings Tran Zor Z. Murphy just reinvents the band in front of your ears (?) and you wonder where they’ve been hiding all these years.

There we have it! Here’s to 2014.

Bold Predictions for the 2013 Baseball Season

Sometimes merely picks the teams to win the division and wild card is too random — I mean, I am usually entirely wrong and as predictions go, they’re pretty boring. So, I thought I’d whip up 10 bold predictions for the 2013 season that if they do come true, well, I might need to change careers. Here goes.

  1. Yoenis Cespedes will hit at least 40 HR. It seems like it has been awhile since any Oakland Athletic hit 40 HR. 13 seasons to be exact, when Jason Giambi (still kicking around with the Indians after almost getting named manager of the Rockies) hit 43. Cespedes is in his prime and looked very comfortable in the majors during the second half of 2012.
  2. Houston won’t be the worst team in baseball. The newly-American Leagued Astros have been getting a lot of grief over their AAA roster in the majors right now. However, I think that two teams actually might be worse: the Marlins and the Rockies. Sure, Miami has Giancarlo and Colorado has Troy, but the absolute lack of hitting for the Marlins and utter lack of pitching for the Rockies might put them into the 105+ loss realm.
  3. Joe Girardi will be fired by the end of the season. Here’s a fun one! Sadly, Joe will be the fall guy after Jeter, CC and Teixiera combine for over 162 games on the DL. I find it hard to imagine the 2013 Yankees being much different than the 2013 Red Sox … except there isn’t anyone to take on the Yankees bad contracts.
  4. Seattle makes a run at the playoffs. The Mariners have a few things going for them right now: good pitching, better hitting and closer fences. Of course, they are in a killer division, with the A’s, Rangers and Angels. However, they  will make a run at the end of the summer, but ultimately miss that second wild card by a game or two.
  5. Jacoby Ellsbury is traded by the deadline. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jacoby. He’s a Beaver like me and been a blast to watch when he’s not hurt. Unfortunately for him, his contract (or lack there of) for 2014 and the presence of Jackie Bradley Jr. means that Sox can try to get some value for Jacoby. My hunch might be a 1B prospect.
  6. The Tigers win the AL Central by 10 games or more. The Indians, Royals and White Sox might not like it, but the Tigers might lap the field in the Central. Sure, Cleveland and Kansas City are better than 2012, but too many problems remain. However, one of those teams might make a run at that second Wild Card.
  7. Tim Lincecum has Tommy John surgery. OK, not much of a bold prediction, but something must be wrong with Timmy after dropping off the face of good pitching over the last year.
  8. Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper combine for 75 HR. Distribute the homers as you seen fit, but the Nationals will be a great team in 2013. The Braves will also be a good team, possibly the second best in the NL, but they’ll have to settle for the Wild Card again.
  9. Josh Beckett is traded again at the deadline. Josh wears out his welcome in Los Angeles as the Dodgers underperform yet again. Likely destination: the Royals as they try to make that playoff run (that fails).
  10. Cincinnati bests Toronto in the World Series. It will be a close Series, but in the end, Chapman is able to close the door on the Jays.

My Favorite Music of 2012

Back by popular demand (ok, popular by me), here is my annual post on music I liked in 2012. It isn’t in any particular order, but there are 10-12 songs and/or albums that occupied a large slide of my musical listening for the year.

Some honorable mentions:

Bonnie “Prince” Billy – I See a Darkness

I know a lot of people didn’t like the new “upbeat” version of “I See a Darkness” (here is the original), but I love it.


Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror

I wanted to like this more than I did. However, “Comeback Kid” is a great track.

Jack White – Blunderbuss

Old Mr. Reliable. Nothing shocking, yet nothing bad.

El-P – Cancer 4 Cure

I don’t know why I’m always so wary of El-P albums. I’ve liked them before on the first few listens and then never returned. “The Full Retard” is a great track, albeit very NSFW or NSFKids.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – “Can’t Hold Us”

Nothing against The Heist, but I haven’t had bought the album yet, so it seemed disingenuous to include the whole thing. However, this live version of “Can’t Hold Us” from KEXP is ridiculous. This track is probably one of my top 5 favorite songs on 2012.

The top 10 (not in any order, really)

Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal

Ubertrendy pick. Too bad. Highly listenable. Not sure about its longevity, though.

Aesop Rock – Skelethon

Drop the old producer, and suddenly Aesop Rock is free to be, well, better. Probably one of the bigger surprises of the year for me.

Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

Kind of like my fetish for Xiu Xiu (although I didn’t like this year’s offering nearly as much as their previous work), Dirty Projectors are a love/hate band for most people. Swing Lo Magellan had more “songs”, but still plenty of weirdness.

Japandroids – Celebration Rock

Speaking of “songs”, Celebration Rock turned the Japandroids into arena rockers and it is awesome.

Metric – Synthetica

To be honest, I haven’t particularly liked the last few Metric outings, but for whatever reason, Synthetica stuck with me. Whether that’s a mark for quality music or just catchiness, beats me.

Dum Dum Girls – End of Daze EP

If you’re looking for the highest density of great songs, the End of Daze EP is it. Blows the Dum Dum Girls first two albums out of the water — and that is only with 5 songs to boast.

Hot Chip – In Our Heads

I’ve said this before – Hot Chip are the Pet Shop Boys of the 21st century. Not that the Pet Shop Boys are gone, but, whatever. I’m right. The video for “Night and Day” is trippy as well.

Walkmen – Heaven

I tend to be of the opinion that the Walkmen are the best rock band active today. Just try to prove me wrong.

Ok, so I sort of lied. These next two might have been my two favorite songs of the year.

Alt-J – An Awesome Wave

I probably don’t want to admit how many times I listened to “Breezeblocks” this year. The rest of the album is pretty solid as well, but man, they entered “Take Me Out” territory with this track.

Purity Ring – Shrines

Let me tell you, my new subwoofer loved this song. I can’t really put my finger on it, but if this is the music that people are making in Edmonton, then wow.

I hope everybody has a great 2013!

GeoRock!

I’ve been working on this for a while, a playlist of geology related/inspired/themed/named songs and artists for a little playlist. It surely isn’t the be all/end all of geoRock, but hey, no playlist ever is. If you do track down all the songs, they will fit nicely into a normal CD-R, but for our purposes, I’ve linked to YouTube for your listening enjoyment (sorry about any ads).

GeoRock

  1. Eruption – Van Halen
  2. Megalodon – Mastodon
  3. Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash
  4. Lava – The B-52s
  5. If You Want to Rock, Go to the Quarry – Last Hard Men
  6. Earthquake – Labrinth featuring Tinie Tempah
  7. Will Do – TV on the Radio
  8. Volcano – Presidents of the United States of America
  9. Tidal Wave – Apples (In Stereo)
  10. Missing Link – Dinosaur Jr. and Del the Funky Homosapien
  11. Pompeii – Sleater-Kinney
  12. Volcanoes – Islands
  13. Radioactivity – Kraftwerk
  14. Mammoth – Interpol
  15. Dinosaur Act – Matthew Sweet
  16. Metal Guru – T Rex
  17. Mica – Mission of Burma
  18. RUT! – B for Brontosaurus
  19. Ice Age – Joy Division
  20. Mutual Core – Bjork
  21. Coal – Michael Penn
  22. Diamonds and Gold – Tom Waits

Feel free to add suggestions of other GeoRock songs in the comments.

The Red Sox in 2013

Considering I’m finding politics so depressing lately, I thought I’d write about something that isn’t as depressing … but its close. The 2013 Red Sox will likely be one of the most interesting teams in the majors considering how the 2012 Red Sox pathetic 93-loss season lead to GM Ben Cherington’s colossal disassembly of the team, sending Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to Los Angeles (along with their quarter-of-a-billion dollar contracts) for prospects (some pretty decent). This leaves the Sox in full rebuild mode, which also means wild speculations about the Sox can abound! Here’s my suggestions to Ben and company (because I know they want to hear it).

First off, what we have now

The Sox have a few potential major league free agents: James Loney, David Ortiz, Cody Ross, Aaron Cook, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Scott Podsednik and Vicente Padilla. So, if we want to examine what the Sox might look like if they did nothing, here is the roster:

Hitters

  • C Jarrod Saltalamacchia / Ryan Lavarnway
  • 1B Mauro Gomez / Jerry Sands
  • 2B Dustin Pedroia
  • SS Jose Iglesias / Mike Aviles / Pedro Ciriaco
  • 3B Will Middlebrooks / Danny Valencia
  • RF Ryan Kalish / Daniel Nava / Jerry Sands
  • CF Jacoby Ellsbury / Ryan Kalish
  • LF Ryan Sweeney / Daniel Nava
  • DH Empty

Pitchers

  • SP Clay Buchholz / Jon Lester / Felix Doubront / John Lackey / Franklin Morales / Zach Stewart / Rubby de la Rosa
  • RP Alfredo Aceves / Junichi Tazawa / Rich Hill / Craig Breslow / Mark Melancon / Andrew Miller / Clay Mortensen/ Scott Atchinson / Pedro Beato / Chris Carpenter (the other one) / Daniel Bard / Andrew Bailey

Not exactly the worldbeaters we are used to coming from Fenway. Now, some of these guys should like be nontendered or moved in one way or another – I’d include Aceves, Sweeney, Aviles, Atchinson (done after TJ surgery), maybe Stewart. In an ideal world where unicorns jump over rainbows, John Lackey is dealt with in a manner befitting a man of this stature. I don’t see any of them in the rebuilding Red Sox. A few more of these guys are great role players, but not anyone you’d loan your car to: Gomez, Ciriaco, Nava*, Valencia. You need players like this around, but they are, well, a dime a dozen. Where does that leave us?

The remaining Sox

  • C: Saltalamacchia / Lavarnway
  • 1B: Sands?
  • 2B: Pedroia
  • 3B: Middlebrooks
  • SS: Iglesias
  • RF: Kalish? / Sands?
  • CF: Ellsbury
  • LF: Empty (so lonely)
  • DH: Still, oh so empty
  • SP: Buchholz, Lester, Doubront, Lackey, Morales/de la Rosa
  • RP: Tazawa, Hill, Breslow, Melancon, Bailey, Mortensen, Bard, Miller, Carpenter, Beato

First, the good: The Sox are set at catcher, second, third and center. I might be in the minority, but I think they can put together a good bullpen merely from the arms on hand (and maybe throw in an Alex Wilson or a Brandon Workman).

The bad: The outfield is weak. Kalish could be good, or he could be Ryan Sweeney. Sands has no track record of MLB success, but at least he has somewhat of a (PCL) bat. Depth in the outfield is non-existant as we saw this year with the likes of Marlon Byrd, Podsednik, Che-Hsuan Lin and Jason Repko graces the pastures. The rotation doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence either – Buchholz, Lester and Doubront could all be solid, but after 2012, it is anyone’s guess. Lackey will be innings fodder while Morales and de la Rosa are interesting, they are also question marks.

The ugly: First is even worse – nobody even close to an MLB firstbaseman in the lot. Where to go from here …

The future Red Sox

Don’t get me wrong – the Sox have a good farm system right now. Its just that most aren’t ready to make that big leap from the minors to starting in the majors just yet. According to Soxprospects.com, the top 5 prospects are:

  1. Xander Bogaerts – SS (in AA)
  2. Matt Barnes – SP (in A)
  3. Jackie Bradley, Jr – OF (in AA)
  4. Allen Webster – SP (in AA)
  5. Rubby de la Rosa – SP (in AAA/majors)

The top 4 there are bonafide … but a ways away from the big club. Rubby is mentioned above. Some other interesting names are Bryce Brentz (OF – AAA), Drake Britton (SP – AA), Stolmy Pimental (SP – AA). Again, no one that can (likely) make an impact at the major league level in 2013 (but you never know).

So, what about free agents?

We should start with first base as it is the awful gaping hole on the Sox infield. It is an underwhelming bunch: mathematician, another kind of mathematician and a statistician. OK, no, but really … Lance Berkman? Aubrey Huff? Carlos Lee? Carlos Pena? Lots of guys with little to nothing left in the tank. There is always Kevin Youkilis and who knows, maybe with Valentine out, we can patch things up, but he looks a lot like toast too. Maybe Eric Chavez can play first? People mention Nick Swisher, but it sounds like he wants more (in both years and $$) than a rebuilding team would want to offer to a guy on the wrong side of 30.

For the outfield issue, the biggest move might be to bring back Cody Ross. He isn’t perfect, but he plays an adequate outfield, seems to like hitting at Fenway and shouldn’t be astronomical in price (unless the Yankees make a play). Upton, Victorino, Hamilton – they will all be too pricy. Jonny Gomes might be an interesting role player, especially if for some reason the Sox can’t resign David Ortiz (see below).

For DH, resign David Ortiz. It is that simple. Sure, you’re going to end up paying for “legacy”, but it is a no brainer on a team with a veteran presence like that beyond Dustin Pedroia.

Adding depth to the rotation via free agency is possible too – maybe Edwin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez or Brandon McCarthy or the like. No big deals, though. Avoid Kyle Lohse at all costs as his magic will disappear outside of St. Louis (see also, Joel Piniero). Shawn Marcum is interesting. Again, not a lot to be giddy about there. As for the pen, if you wanted to add depth via minor league deals. I’ve always like JP Howell and Mark Lowe for no good reason whatsoever.

So, the Sox might need to make some deals, eh? I’m not going to suggest any pie-in-the-sky fleecing (like Felix for Lackey and two free tickets to the USS Constitution), but rather some sensible moves that could help solve some of the aforementioned problems.

  1. Deal Daniel Bard to Seattle for Mike Carp and Hector Noesi: Bard can likely bounce back, but probably not in Boston. Carp can play 1B and OF, maybe as a platoon with Sands and Noesi adds some rotation depth (really, he does).
  2. Deal Mike Aviles and Franklin Morales to Cincinnati for Drew Stubbs and prospect: With Billy Hamilton moving to CF, Stubbs time is near an end in Cincy. He was pretty bad in 2012, but has bounceback potential. Also allows for:
  3. Deal Jacoby Ellsbury to San Francisco for Tim Lincecum. OK, hear me out on this one. Why in the world would this happen? Well, SF needs outfielders and the Sox need a good starter. Tim has been terrible in 2012 and so was Ellsbury – but they’ve both in great (albeit Tim greater). Jacoby has one year of team control left, probably worth ~$9 million. Lincecum has one year left on his deal, worth $22 million*. The Sox can definitely afford to take on that extra money for the year of Lincecum. Heck, I’d throw in a prospect, maybe better one going to SF and less back to Boston. (*Edit: Oops, I thought it was $13 million. What’s $9 million amongst friends.)

Where does that leave the 2013 Red Sox?

Good question! I think they’d definitely be in shape for a run at the wild card(s). The roster would stack up like this:

  • C: Salty/Lavarnway – They will split time and we’ll all be happy with the results.
  • 1B: Eric Chavez – Just pray he doesn’t get hurt. Start praying now.
  • 2B: Pedroia – The rock.
  • 3B: Middlebrooks – Will come back nicely.
  • SS: Iglesias – Sure, he hitting might be a little ugly, but FIELDING.
  • RF: Ross  - He’ll be back
  • CF: Stubbs / Kalish – If Stubbs is terrible, install Kalish for the long haul.
  • LF: Sands / Carp – Might be a steep learning curve for playing the wall, but it happens to everyone.
  • DH: Ortiz – Until he retires.
  • Lineup: 1 Stubbs 2 Sands/Carp 3 Pedroia 4 Ross 5 Ortiz 6 Middlebrooks 7 Chavez 8 Salty/Lavarnway 9 Iglesias
  • SP: Lincecum, Buchholz, Lester, Lackey, Doubront – This rotation could be surprisingly solid and balanced
  • Pen: Bailey (closer), Tazawa and Hill (setup), Miller, Melancon, Breslow, Mortensen
  • Bench: Kalish, Carp/Sands, Lavarnway, Ciriaco

That leaves one great question – who the heck is the manager. As of October 11, we know that the Sox will interview Tim Wallach and Brad Ausmus. The rumours are that the Sox brass loves John Farrell. The media pundits love the idea of Jason Varitek. I think they’re all wrong. Of course, I have no idea who might be the winner here (and trust me, most people would love to manage the Red Sox) – maybe Joe McEwing or Tim Bogar … however, my hunch is it might be someone with no major league managerial experience.

There you have it. Pure speculation, but a 2013 Sox team that looks like that might be better than people expect … and much more likely than not, much better than the 2012 abomination.

The All Seafood Baseball Team

Sometimes I lie awake at night when I can’t sleep and think about relatively odd things. Last night I was wondering if one could construct an all-seafood* baseball team – and after a little digging on Baseball-Reference.com, I was able to make a passable roster of such players. Enjoy!

The Lineup

  • C Hank Conger – Mike Scoscia might hate him, but I’ll have him on the All Seafood team
  • 1B Mike Carp
  • 2B Ron Oester – Did I cheat here? Yes, I did. Too bad.
  • 3B Melvin Mora
  • SS Lip Pike – Lip played for the Worcester Ruby Legs in 1881 at age 36 after taking 3 years off. I’m hoping he took those three years from 1878-81 hunting down the rabid buffalo.
  • RF Kevin Bass – Bass is the most common fishy name in MLB history.
  • CF Mike Trout – Might he become the best seafood player ever? Only Tim Salmon stands in the way.
  • LF A.J. Pollock
  • DH Tim Salmon – With 299 career home runs, Tim is the king of the sea!

Pitching staff

  • SP Brian Bass
  • SP Art Herring – Not really an illustrious career, but did lead the major in hit-batsmen in 1931.
  • SP Dory Dean – If you can believe it, Dory Dean went 4-26 in 1876, even with a 3.73 ERA.
  • SP Harry Eells – I know some of you might say “that can’t pronounced ‘eels’!” However, his nickname was supposedly “Slippery”, so I’m right.
  • SP Anthony Bass
  • CL Chris Ray – To my great disappointment, there has never been an MLB closer named Muddy Mudskipper

Some players that didn’t make the cut for being at least a marginal major leaguer included Michael Clampitt, Snapper Kennedy and Keith Darter.

Got any suggestions of players I missed?

* Are freshwater fish we eat also called seafood? Seems odd to me.