Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The news in brief

Here at Worldwide Wacko Watch, we're alternately working hard finding breaking news stories about the activity of the world's wingnuts and bringing them to your doorstep, and looking nervously out of the window, because it's still raining.  Yesterday alone we got over five inches of rain.  All of this precipitation is thanks to the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee.  Lee seems to have looked down at the Finger Lakes, and thought, "Wow.  This would be a nice place to retire."  If it doesn't stop soon, I'm going to begin to think that the people in Kentucky who are building a scale model of Noah's Ark may have been right after all.  And I hope you appreciate what it took out of me to write that sentence.

Be that as it may, we do have a few interesting bits of news to share with you, so we'll take a break from barricading our offices with sandbags to tell you about them.

First, we have a story from Wales, where an Anglican vicar has declared Wales to be "the most haunted place in the world."  Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe, who is not only a clergyman but is a black belt in judo and rides a motorcycle, moved to Wales some years ago and began to investigate its alleged hauntings.  He found lots, according to a recent interview in WalesOnline (here).

“I would say Wales has a disproportionate amount of incidents,” Rev. Fanthorpe said.  “Welsh friends and Welsh mediums seem to have this highly-developed spiritual sense, a high intelligence and sensitivity – it’s a perceptiveness and degree of awareness that you don’t find in other parts of the UK.  It may well be something inherent, something in the genes of Welsh people that carries this extra power and extra awareness with so many spiritual phenomena.”

He stopped just short of saying that there were genes in Irish people that allowed them to see leprechauns and genes in French people that made them obnoxious to tourists.

In any case, Rev. Fanthorpe has visited a variety of sites, including Roch Castle (supposedly haunted by King Charles II's mistress), Pembroke (where a Nessie-like creature has been seen offshore), and Skirrid Mountain (haunted by notorious Nazi Rudolf Hess).

Rev. Fanthorpe is not just doing all of this traveling about for his own entertainment; he's doing it for yours.  Yes, he will be featured in a television show, the latest in the fine old tradition of Ghost Hunters, in which they make a lot of stir, strike dramatic poses, and then find nothing, week after week.  This one, however, will be unique in that the principal investigator will be a man of the cloth.  They did not mention the title for the proposed show, but I suggest "Holy Spirits."

Next, we have a report from Russia that one of their scientists has built a working time machine.

Pravda reports that Vadim Alexandrovitch Chernobrov, of the research institution Kosmopoisk, released a statement last week that he had successfully built a time machine using a "capsule surrounded by intense magnetic fields."  The magnetic fields, Chernobrov said, "warped time," and two synchronized chronometers, one inside the capsule and one at some distance from the experimental site, went out of sync during the duration of the experiment.

Chernobrov stated that animals put inside the capsule "experienced serious to deadly effects," but this didn't stop him from conducting experiments on humans, who had no detrimental results other than "seeing colored circles, and experiencing some moderate arrhythmia."

Chernobrov is still exploring his results, and their potential applications.  Physicists in other countries, however, are skeptical, and are currently trying to replicate the phenomenon, thus far unsuccessfully.

Chernobrov stated that he is willing to act in an advisory capacity to his colleagues in other labs.  "If you can somehow harness the lightning," he said, "and channel it into the flux capacitor, it might just work!"

Next, we have an announcement that will be of great interest to Skeptophiliacs in Oklahoma: McGee Creek State Park, in Atoka, will be the host of the Great Oklahoma Cryptid Fest this Saturday.  It will start at 1 PM and go until either they find Bigfoot or all get discouraged and go home, whichever happens first.

Featured guests will be Nick Redfern, of UFO conspiracy theory fame, and a host of "professionals" from the cast of the ThisIsNotHistory Channel's MonsterQuest.  A good time is certain to be had by all, and please take note that I am in no way suggesting that it might be a great idea for someone to hide somewhere in McGee Creek State Park on Saturday, wearing a gorilla suit.  This would in fact be a really bad idea and if anyone does it, then shame on them and they certainly didn't hear me coming up with such a plan.

Lastly, we have the disappointing news that Comet Elenin appears to be breaking up as it approaches the sun.

Elenin, you may recall, is the comet that was discovered late last year, and then became the subject of a whole host of hysterical predictions - most of them centered around the destruction of humanity.  Websites arose like weeds, connecting Elenin to the Planet Nibiru, Mayan prophecies, and the Book of Revelation.  Woo-woos began to weep, wail, and gnash their teeth over the imminent cataclysm, which most agreed would occur at the moment of Elenin's closest approach to Earth, on October 21, 2011.

"But wait," the scientists said, "Elenin's tiny!  And it will be 22 million miles away at closest approach!  It won't have any effect on us at all!"  But their voices were drowned out by howls of derision, because of course no one would listen to a bunch of dimwitted scientists when you have nonexistent Mayan prophecies to guide your understanding of the universe.

Unfortunately for the woo-woos, however, NASA announced last week that Elenin's "coma" (the glowing mantle of gas around the comet itself) appears to be dimming and elongating, an observation that frequently precedes a comet's disintegration.

That noise you just heard was the collective sighing of a bunch of disappointed woo-woos, who now are finding that they will actually have to plan on going to their day jobs on October 22.

So, that's the news for today from Worldwide Wacko Watch.  I'll now return to my previous occupation, which is watching the rain.  I just received a call from our school superintendent to announce that the rain is bad enough that they're delaying the opening of school for two hours, and may actually cancel school if it gets any worse -- a "rain closure," something that has never happened in my twenty-five year career as a teacher.  Myself, I suspect that she's just wanting to make sure she has enough time to complete her Ark.

1 comment:

  1. Lionel Fanthorpe was the presenter of Fortean TV in the UK for some years. He's good value as entertainment.