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.

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My favorite music of 2010

It is that time of year again to review the music of the year. Now, I’ll remind you of my usual disclaimer: I make no claim to know what is good music, but I know what I like, so you’ll have to live with that.

So, without much further ado, here is 2010 in Review (curious what 2008 or 2009 looked like?)

Some honorable mentions that just missed: Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy; Typhoon’s Hunger and Thrist; Caribou’s Swim; Vampire Weekend’s Contra and Robyn’s Body Talk. Kanye always impresses me at first but I’ve been burned by the staying power of his stuff. Caribou released what I had hoped that Hot Chip’s One Life Stand was while Robyn’s inclusion is highly weighted by what might be my single of the year “Dancing on my Own“.

20. Dealing in Antiques by Cats on Fire – Sure, might be rarities/demos but I love this band.
19. Surf Noir EP by Beat Connection
18. Magic Chairs by Efterklang – More Scandinavians. Sorry.
17. Fur Dich Immer Noch Fanta Sie by Die Fantastichen Vier – Quickly, they’re becoming, in my mind, the most important non-English-speaking act out there.
16. Fight Softly by the Ruby Suns
15. II by Crystal Castles – Shouting and synths. I still follow that siren song.
14. Halycon Digest by Deerhunter – Many people will gasp, but dang it if Deerhunter is still uneven.
13. High Violet by the National – In a sense, the opposite of Deerhunter: too even.
12. Trans-Continental Hustle by Gogol Bordello
11. Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager by Kid Cudi – After Lupe Fiasco, probably the most daring mainstream rapper out there (Sorry, Kanye and Jay-Z)

10. Hidden by These New Puritans – Like the Horrors in 2009, These New Puritans’ sophomore album annihilates their so-so debut.

9. Transference by Spoon – This might be the first time Spoon has ever made one of my “best of” lists. I have honestly no idea what this Spoon album clicked with me while every other one hasn’t.

8. Memphis by Magic Kids – Sorry, it is sticky sweet, like XTC 2.0, but better and much much younger than they should be.

7. All Day by Girl Talk – I still can’t shake the feeling that Girl Talk doesn’t deserve to be this high, but you have to acknowledge the fact that I can’t stop listening. I still feel dirty in a postmodern way.

Check out the mashup deconstruction of All Day.

6. Grinderman II by Grinderman – I know some like the mellower side of Nick Cave, but I do appreciate the badass side, too.

5. My Best Friend is You by Kate Nash – Honestly, she should be one of the Doctor’s companions, right? Right?! (Steven Moffatt, I hope you’re listening).

4. The Suburbs by the Arcade Fire – They’re R.E.M. or something now. You might have heard of them.

3. Lisbon by the Walkmen – Sometimes I think the Walkmen are the best true rock band in existence. Maybe that is why I would have been a poor music director at a radio station and a much better petrologist.

2. Treats by Sleigh Bells – Back in the mid ’90s, I proclaimed that Atari Teenage Riot was ahead of its time. I think time has caught up.

1. This is Happening by LCD Soundsystem – I’m not 100% sure, but I think James Murphy’s albums topped my lists every year he released one. Bastard. Honestly, “Dance Yrself Clean” is absolutely monumental, like the Colossus of Rhodes but extant.

There you go … now have it.

Top 100 of ’00s: An Introduction

As we close out the oughts (2000-2009), we find ourselves reflecting. As with any decade, it is always fun/time-killing/inane to make lists of the so-called “best” of that ten-year period. Mostly, these lists are meaningless drivel with no basis in fact or reality – and this is definitely one of those lists. This is by no means the best music of the decade – although you will read many lists that purport to be so. Remember, anyone who tries to tell you they can determine what “art” was “best” is full of high-grade s^&t, so at least we’re straight on that. This is, instead, is a list of albums I enjoyed the most over the last 10 years – half of which I was in graduate school in Oregon, a portion I was in Seattle, one-third I was in Davis, CA and the reminder (and currently) I am in lovely Granville, OH, happily spending my time as a professor in geosciences. I’ve listened to a lot of music thanks to my time at KBVR and writing for Three Imaginary Girls (under my pen name, Erik Gonzalez) – along with all the time I’ve spent talking about music with all of my friends. Its great fun and I’ll likely be making these lists for ages (I hope).

Bobby Kielty sporting the “look of the oughts”.

So, like I said, I am approaching being done with compiling my list of the top 100 albums of the ’00s. I’ll likely start posting them in batches of ten in the next few weeks – and I’ll even try to make some iTunes mixes with choice cuts from the albums I can find on the music store. Remember, this list is not meant to be (a) all inclusive – I’m sure I’ve missed something, and thats life; (b) appeal to everyone – there are definitely certain bands that some people think are good (ahem*fieryfurnacesbrokensocialsceneanimalcollective*) that I dislike greatly – don’t expect to see them here; (c) even represent my favorite music of the decade – there are many songs from less appealing albums that aren’t represented here … I would try to make a Top 100 songs, but I think my head might explode at that; (d) a permanent list of the best of the decade – my opinions/tastes change, and so will my opinion of albums. I wrote a best of the 1990s back in 1999 and I wish I could find that file, but alas, it is lost to the ages. I do remember that my #1 was DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing…, so I think I still feel pretty good about that. Here’s to hoping my #1 of the 2000s weathered as well.

Anyway, as a bit of a preview, here is a breakdown of the percentages of albums on my list from each year of the decade. Note that the percentages imply that my Top 100 has more than 100 albums. It does. Deal. The distribution implies that 2006 was the “year for music” while 2000, 2008 and 2009 were not so hot. I think this distribution reflects my general detachment from music in 2000 and the relatively recentness of 2008/2009 – it is hard to judge/rank the bestness of albums that have come out recently against the ruler of giants from the middle of the decade.

The oughts

  • 2000: 7.8%
  • 2001: 10.7%
  • 2002: 12.7%
  • 2003: 9.8%
  • 2004: 10.7%
  • 2005: 12.7%
  • 2006: 14.7%
  • 2007: 9.8%
  • 2008: 6.9%
  • 2009: 3.9%

Look for No. 91-100 coming to this space in the near future.

A vision for the 2010 Red Sox (a.k.a. wild fantasies that will not come true)

The 2009 Red Sox were pretty good. They weren’t great, but they did make the playoffs only to flame out in ALDS versus the Los Angeles Angels (which, incidentally, translates to The Angels Angels, right?) Since 2004 and 2007, the blow of such events has been greatly lessened for me. Sure, I was not pleased with their performance and the eventual crowning of the hated Yankees as champs, but by no means was I heartbroken/crushed/unable to eat or sleep for days as it was before the Sox return to glory. The Sox didn’t win, but hey, you can’t win every year (and I still can’t imagine what 2003 me would think if he knew that 2009 me would be writing that calmly, lucidly and soberly.)

Anyway, this is not to say that I don’t want the Sox to succeed. Of course I do, that is why I’m a fan. I love my Red Sox no less than I did in 2004 and I still can’t stand to listen (yes, I tend to listen to the Sox) them lose any game. So, with the Yankees not getting any weaker and the Rays likely to bounce back, what can the Red Sox do to keep pace in 2010? Let’s see …

The roster (as of 11/23/2009) – starters in italics when there is an appropriate starter

  • C: Victor Martinez; Jason Varitek
  • 1B: Kevin Youkilis*/Mike Lowell*; Casey Kotchman
  • 2B: Dustin Pedroia
  • 3B: Kevin Youkilis*/Mike Lowell*
  • SS: Jed Lowrie
  • RF: J.D. Drew; Jeremy Hermida
  • CF: Jacoby Ellsbury; Brian Anderson
  • LF: Jeremy Hermida
  • DH: David Ortiz
  • SP: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield
  • CL: Jonathan Papelbon
  • SU: Daniel Bard, Hideki Okajima
  • MR: Ramon Ramirez, Dustin Richardson, Manny Delcarmen
  • LOOGY: (none)
  • MU: (none)

* According to some things I’ve read, Youkilis might play third and Lowell might move to first, which could make sense in terms of defense. I’ll list them at both of the hot corners.

So, what is needed? A shortstop, a left fielder, a starter and some relievers. Sounds about right, and mostly in that order. What to do?

Shortstop: Am I the only one who thinks signing a 34-year-old after a fluke year is a bad idea? That idea’s name is Marco Scutaro. Now, trading for either Stephen Drew or Brandon Phillips is a good idea. Drew will cost more and Phillips costs more money, but either at short would be just fine. Additionally, I’d sign Khalil Greene to a minor league deal.

Leftfield: Everyone seems to think this should be a question of Jason Bay or Matt Holliday. Don’t get me wrong, they’re both fine players, but I just feel a lot of enthusiasm towards signing either to the big, long term deals they will want. Sure, if you can get either for 3 years, do it, but thats not happening. So, if the Sox don’t sign either? Well, how about a platoon of Marlon Byrd/Rick Ankiel and Jeremy Hermida? I’d also be tempted to sign Rocco Baldelli or Austin Kearns to minor league deals if possible. Or lets think waaay outside the box: Miguel Tejada in left? Maybe Conor Jackson?

Starters: The Sox have 5 guys who should be good to serviceable (when averaged over all 5). If you look at the top three, the rotation should be quite good, and if Daisuke can get his act back together, they should have a decent top 4. However, as last year showed, you can never, ever, ever have too much pitching. So the Sox really need to go out and sign some reclamation projects to shore up the rotation. Ben Sheets? Rich Harden? Eric Bedard? Justin Duchscherer? Kelvim Escobar? Brett Myers? Chien-ming Wang? There are a lot of options. This all being said, 2010 is a year of decision for the Sox – can they compete for a championship, so should they wait until it all comes off the books (well, Beckett, Lowell and Papi) in 2011? If they think they can win, they should go all in for any of the aces that could be dealt: Roy Halladay, Josh Johnson, Roy Oswalt, someone like that. It will be pricy, but that would definitely shore things up.

Relievers: OK, way too many to go through for potential relief help through free agency or trades, but … how about kicking the tires on guys like Joaquin Benoit, Kiko Calero, JJ Putz, Takashi Saito (again), Ron Mahay (as a LOOGY) or Chan Ho Park. Potential nontenders worth examining might be Jeremy Accardo, Taylor Bucholz, Matt Lindstrom or Seth McClung.

Wild card ideas: What if the Sox bring in a big 1B and just cut/trade Lowell or Papi – maybe acquire Lance Berkman for a bevy of prospects to the rebuilding Astros? Or what about signing Garrett Atkins as a free agent if he is nontendered? Or even get Tejada to play 1B?

My ideal 2010 Red Sox roster

Batting

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury CF
  2. Brandon Phillips SS
  3. Dustin Pedroia 2B
  4. Kevin Youkilis 3B
  5. Victor Martinez C
  6. Miguel Tejada 1B
  7. J.D. Drew RF
  8. David Ortiz/Mike Lowell DH
  9. Hermida/Ankiel LF

Starters

  1. Josh Beckett
  2. Jon Lester
  3. Clay Buccholz
  4. Daisuke Matsuzaka
  5. Justin Duchscherer

Relievers

  • CL: Jonathan Papelbon
  • SU: Daniel Bard, Hideki Okajima
  • MR: Ramon Ramirez, Kiko Calero, Ron Mahay
  • MU: Tim Wakefield

Bench

  1. Jason Varitek C
  2. Casey Kotchman 1B
  3. Khalil Greene SS

Enjoy!

The actual NL and AL Rookies of the Year

The BBWAA announced the voting for the NL and AL ROYs yesterday, and well, it was interesting.

AL winner: Andrew Bailey RP (Oakland) – He was definitely impressive, was he really that much better than Brett Anderson? Speaking of Brett Anderson, how did he did up with only 1 2nd and 1 3rd place vote? As Rob Neyer points out, Brett Anderson was better (in a fielding-independent world) than either Neimann or Porcello, both of which scored a lot more votes.

NL winner: We can all be a little saddened by the fact that Chris Coghlan OF (Florida) somehow conned the voters to get the win. I mean, are that many BBWAA writers still impressed with a pretty batting average? Apparently so. I would like to be the first to congratulation our 2009 version of the immortal Todd Hollandsworth. Now, how J.A. Happ got more votes than Tommy Hanson will baffle me for quite a while too (and poor ol’ Andrew McCutchen came in 4th! Fourth, people!)