Thursday, 30 July 2009

Fox News needs a lesson in geography...

Fox News might be the self-proclaimed "Fair and Balanced" (yeah right) news channel but it would seem they spent too much time mopping up Bill O'Riley's vile spew and not enough time reading their geography text books.

Notice anything a little off here?

I ask: how can anyone find Fox News a trustworthy source for information pretaining to issues in the Middle East when they don't even know the correct location of Egypt?

(via Media Matters)

Sunday, 26 July 2009

The Food Network caves to Big Prayer™

The Food Network is not a television station that I watch alot (mainly because it makes me very hungry whenever I do), but earlier today I was watching a show about using liquid nitrogen in the kitchen. During one of the commercial breaks, an ad caught my attention. It featured a man, on the street, lamenting about the world's economic situation (try as I might, I can't seem to find the ad on Youtube). What piqued my interest was that the man began saying how he began praying that things would get better...but it didn't seem that prayer made any difference. He went on to say how he was beginning to question if prayer actually did anything. "Alright," I said to myself, "an ad supporting critical thinking and rationality!" That's when the ad turned a different direction: the answer, the man said, was because he simply wasn't praying big enough.

The ad, it turns out, was for a book called Pray Big. There wasn't really any information about the book, but it gave a website to check out: So I did.

Pray Big, sponsored by "Crossroad Christian Communications" (the folks responsible for spewing out 100 Huntley Street) is written by Will Davis Jr., a guy who resembles a wimpy Al Bundy. He likes to point out that his official title is Dr. Will Davis Jr., despite the fact that his CV consists of a BA in History from Baylor University and a Masters in divinity and a "doctorate in ministry", whatever the hell that is, from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (try getting a PhD from a real University before calling yourself a doctor next time, Davis).

The website claims:
"Will Davis Jr. offers straightforward guidance on how you can pray with focus and confidence for big things, small details, other people and, yes, even yourself. He teaches you how to pray and includes one hundred pinpoint prayers based on the Bible."
Davis supposedly teaches the idea of "big, pinpoint prayers". In other words, he thinks that prayers work better if they are specific and for big things (ignoring the fact, of course, that prayer of any kind doesn't work at all). He claims that when people pray they typically "underask" for things from God. The problem with prayer, he says, is that people should ask for MORE.

To be honest, I'm not surprised by this at all. The whole idea of prayer is inherently a selfish one. Christians believe that God put humans on the planet for the sole purpose of worshiping him, and nevertheless, they expect that their God should give them whatever they demand, just as long as they put their hands together, close their eyes and whisper some words off into the aether. Davis simply takes the egotistic concept of prayer and stretches it to the next level: don't ask for wimpy things, ask for BIG things!

But the bigger issue here is: why is the Food Network airing ads for this Christian hogwash? They are a private company, so I suppose they are allowed to air whatever ads they wish, but what do you think the chances are of airing an ad supporting a secular or humanist view? What do you suppose their excuse would be rejecting such an ad?

Friday, 17 July 2009

BBC puts 'mediums' to the test: Surprise! They're hacks!

Psychic "mediums" are con artists. Most critically thinking individuals are readily aware of this fact, but a large portion of the general public seems unaware of this. Why else would Sylvia Brown be a frequent guest of Montel Williams (despite her being wrong, wrong, wrong on so many occasions)? Why else would John Edwards have had a popular day-time TV show?

In an attempt to inform the general public and help keep people from being swindled by these snake-oil salespeople, the BBC put three mediums up to the test. The result: they're all cheaters. Big surprise there. Video below:

They took three mediums to "The Chocolate Factory", a made up factory with a fictitious history which they published on an "official" website, as well as planting tidbits of info around the building (like a portrait of the fake original owner, complete with his name on a plaque). They then took the mediums through the building and asked them to "channel" the history of the factory.

They all were able to "divine" the fictional history of the factory. Funny how they could contact the ghost of a person who never even existed.

The reasonable explanation, of course, is that they had read the information of the website before hand. Nevertheless, they all presented the information as having come from a channeled spirit.

And, as usual, once they are told that the whole thing was made up, they attempted to make excuses: "Oh, I was just testing you", "oh, I was reading your thoughts instead", "oh I wasn't wearing my glasses when I standing in front of George Bull's portrait".


Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Beer, Chemistry and Marketing, a violently exothermic reaction of the brain.

Television advertisements.

Some of them can be absolutely ingenious. Some of them can be incredibly annoying. And some of them can be unquestionably, mindbogglingly stupid. The latest marketing campaign for Miller Genuine Draft beer belongs to this last category.

You've probably seen the commercials. They portray someone in a tough situation where they are uncommonly open, and consequently resolve the situation to their benefit. This is complete with their marketing slogan: "Miller Genuine Draft is in a clear bottle because it has nothing to hide", showcasing their unique clear bottles. And it's those damn clear bottles that make this marketing campaign so stupid. It would seem that the folks at Miller forgot to hire a chemist or two for their marketing department, because beer is bottled in dark bottles for a reason.

One of the key ingredients in beer is hops. Hops contributes much to the flavour of beer, through a class of chemicals known as isohumulones. Isohumulones are in all types of beer, and are perfectly fine. They are not a problem by themselves. Problems can arise, however, because of another chemical found in beer: riboflavin.

Ribovlavin (better known as Vitamin B2) is found in all kinds of foods and beer is no exception. Unfortunately, riboflavin and isohumulones don't get along very well. Riboflavin tends to break down isohumulones, so having them both in beer can be problematic. Normally, this is not a big deal, though, because the chemical reaction whereby riboflavin degrades isohumulones requires a catalyst, and that catalyst is light. This is the reason why beer comes packaged in dark-coloured bottles. The dark colouration keeps out light, and prevents the isohumulones from breaking down.

Why is isohumulone degradation a bad thing? Well, when these chemicals are broken down by riboflavin, they form a compound called 3-methylbut-2-ene-1-thiol. This compound gives the beer a very, very bitter taste: the beer becomes spoiled (unless you happen to enjoy very bitter beer, I suppose). If this happens to beer, then it is often referred to as being "skunky". Little wonder why: 3-methylbut-2-ene-1-thiol is very similar to the compound used by skunks in their spray.

So beer that is bottled in clear bottles like Miller Genuine Draft (as well as Corona, and beers bottled in green bottles like Heineken) will end up spoiling and becoming very bitter much quicker than beers packaged in dark bottles.

So does Miller Genuine Draft really have nothing to hide? I think the fact that their beer contains skunk juice is something worthy of keeping hidden.

EDIT: It's been brought to my attention that Miller uses a strain of hops that contains a more light-stable form of isohumulone to prevent their beer from skunkifying when exposed to light. Nevertheless, the chemistry remains the same and is still interesting. Take note all you home brewmasters out there.