Ghost hunters as populist “experts”

My magnum opus (the initial one, at least), Scientifical Americans, is in the printer’s queue right now. All the heavy lifting is done with the exception of the delivery box that shall soon appear at my door. I hope all of you reading this will do me the honor of purchasing it, if only to support…

Signed copies of Scientifical Americans

Hi, everyone. I suspect this may be the first post of several to promote my new book, Scientifical Americans: The Culture of Amateur Paranormal Researchers, releasing in mid-November. If you like my work in publications, podcasts, and on the web, you will like this book, too. It’s being published by McFarland (softcover). Here’s the summary: In the 21st century, reality television and…

Sidgwick’s 1885 seed of an idea

I’m currently working on a piece for Spooky Geology. Such topics typically involve diversions, tangents, sidebars and rabbit holes. What I think is going to be a direct list of references and ideas to answer a question about where some concept came from never turns out to be that. Instead, I find incomplete leads from…

Paranormal investigators and Velikovsky sound similarly sciencey

In January 2013, I wrote about Immanuel Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision, and pseudoscience, referencing Michael Gordin’s excellent book The Pseudoscience Wars (2012). Well, I’m writing about it again, to be included in a book about amateur investigation groups “sounding sciencey” and fooling the public. I went back to some of my old sources and found a good one. It’s…

Sciencey: People get it

In the course of writing, there are times when you have to either create a new word because there isn’t just the right one coined yet or you adopt a word, use it three times, and make it your own. My research and writing for the public has often been about how activities, advertisements, and…

Cryptozoology and Myth, Part 1: The Illusion of Facticity in Unknown Animal Reports

What can we make of folklore tales that cryptozoologists use to support claims that an unknown animal has been historically reported and remains to be identified? Cryptid researchers say that modern reports of Bigfoot-Sasquatch, lake monster, sea serpents, giant flying animals, and elusive land creatures are supported by the stories of native people, legends or…

Cranktastic

I am thoroughly enjoying The Philosophy of Pseudoscience on Kindle, edited by M. Pigliucci and M. Boudry. In chapter 8 by Erich Good, there is a discussion on that character we call the “crank”. I have a gmail folder labeled “cranks”. I don’t often get through their 2000 word screeds of rambling jargon and ALL…

Ketchum’s Galileo Gambit

One of my essential reading blogs, Respectful Insolence, has resurrected an older post on The Galileo Gambit. It was timely. It was in reference mainly to the day to day parade of quackery that passes by in the media. Orac coined the term “Galileo gambit” to describe a very common ploy used by quacks – they…

Astrology sounds sciencey

This month on Sounds Sciencey, I discuss astrology. Astrology: More like Religion Than Science I looked into this topic back in graduate school after I saw it discussed in a book about the changing worldviews that occurred throughout our history. At one time, alchemy and astrology were the forebears of science. Astrology lives with us…

Better living without chemistry?

My latest article for my Sounds Sciencey column is about chemistry. Or, more precisely, how it is viewed by the public. There is this thing you might see on labels of products ranging from baby health goods to fertilizer: “CHEMICAL FREE”. But what does that even mean? I say it’s meaningless and is harmful for…