Purely a figment of your imagination

What amuses, annoys, concerns or otherwise interests me – Noodlemaz


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QEDcon 2016

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Part of this year’s goodie bag – a QED sticker to adorn whatever you fancy

After about 13 hours of sleep post-QED, I started to write some words about it!

6 years in a row. A strange feeling walking back into a hotel room like one I stayed in 3 years ago, but quickly settling into familiarity, largely because of all the friendly faces to see and hugs to give/receive.

I haven’t been to many conventions in my time, but of those few, this skeptical event has to be the best by a long way.

Not just because the organisers are very talented and kind people I’m proud to call friends, or the consistently excellent, approachable and affable speakers, or because fellow attendees are a joy to be around (in all states of sobriety and so far from it). All of that and more.

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When A Wild Pick-Up Artist Appears

Loads of these - cleanest one I could find. Force women to do things!!!

Loads of these – cleanest one I could find. Force women to do things!!!

Anyone familiar with the horrors of the online “manosphere”, Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs), or similar will probably be aware of their sleazy manifestations walking among us; the pick-up artists (PUAs).

A friend recently had a bit of time where she was out dating between relationships and, while mostly finding dates online, occasionally was approached in person.

This is a story of one of those times, and how she came to discover a real-life PUA who makes money off desperate men by promising them what they think they’re being cruelly denied by the world.

Made notorious also by Neil Strauss’ book, The Game, these men are the epitomy of entitled, selfish, insecure men and a very real danger to women. Continue reading


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QEDcon 2015

As ever, the opening video didn’t disappoint – congratulations to all whose hard work made this tweaked Left Behind trailer funny and so technically impressive:

QED is my Christmas; or, what I imagine Christmas to be like for people who actually enjoy it. My family now is smaller than it was, and we do things our own way, so it’s better – but I’ve never been much of a fan. QEDcon is where I spend time with my chosen family, or most of them at least!

Topping 550 people in its 5th year, it had the same friendly, warm, welcoming and highly intoxicated atmosphere it always has. Continue reading


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Sense About Science: Fad Diets

Ask for EvidenceDiets on the internet: You might as well make them up.

Sense about Science have a new (ish, I’m a bit slow off the mark on this one!) campaign focus – exposing the claims behind fad diets.

Many societies currently have a problem with nutrition. In places where food is abundant, or supermarkets and fast food chains present the main family options, a lot of people are overeating and eating badly. Poverty doesn’t help, and when you already have little money, companies duping people with claims of superhealthy items and food plans are extremely unethical.

The NHS resources are, in my view, the best place to go for a start. To learn about calories, going about losing weight, “hidden” weight-gain causes, asking a GP about getting and keeping a healthy weight and more – really many of these things should be in schools, so equipping people with skills that will last a lifetime and help them to keep healthy, combating challenges such as lack of support at home when children are growing up.

Unfortunately, a combination of culture generally, celebrity following, personal challenges and insufficient regulation of food suppliers often leads to people who are frustrated and find it difficult to keep healthy and happy. Where there are vulnerable people with problems, there are quacks ready to take advantage and make money from them.

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QEDcon 2014

My QED write-up this year is extremely late but I’ve backdated it so you’ll never know, mwuahahaha. Oh.

qedconAs ever, it was a fun, friendly, fascinating, inebriated weekend with the new venue (more on that later) full of lovely people whom I very much look forward to seeing more of next year (and throughout the year, for those who live near-ish by).

The speakers were fantastic as expected and the new addition of the Skepticamp during the first day as people arrived was well-received. It’s a great opportunity for people to showcase their talks on subjects they care about to a receptive skeptical audience – so if you’ve got one brewing, hopefully it will be back next year!

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Scientists cure cancer but no-one notices

The Cancer Research UK Science Update Blog has published an excellent post by Kat Arney on cancer conspiracies – here it is, plus some other excellent pieces:

Licenced under Creative Commons by-nc-nd 2.0 (Image B0002108)

Wellcome Images: Human breast cancer cells dividing

It has prompted me to look back through my posterous archive for something I remember writing but couldn’t find on here – about how offensive it is when people accuse us (people working in cancer research in any capacity) of being part of some great conspiracy to hide cures. I’ve edited it a bit as it’s from 2011.

Let us not forget that many people are living examples that we can and do cure cancer, it’s just difficult to define “cure” – 5 years free? 10? We all die of something. But particularly “treatable” diseases include some forms of leukaemia, or breast, skin and testicular cancer – surgical techniques, chemo- and radiotherapy have come a very long way in the last 50-60 years, since DNA was discovered and we started to learn a lot more about this hugely varied set of diseases.

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Ask for Evidence – Miracle Cures

Sense About Science have  been running a campaign called Ask for Evidence, which has gained plenty of support since its launch.Ask for Evidence

The idea is that by encouraging people to challenge claims made about products, services, lifestyle choices and policies:
– the public could feel empowered to question claims they see in future
– people and companies should expect to be asked to back up their claims
and, ultimately:
– we should start to see fewer false/dangerous/baseless claims.

Examples of what exactly people have asked for evidence of can be found here.

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