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Friday, April 22, 2011

Silly Science


The Silly Science

          In my home office I have a set of wooden salt and pepper shakers on top of the television next to my desk.  This is my earthquake indicator.  Whenever I sense that a tremor is occurring I look at my "earthquake indicator" to see if it is shaking.  

           Most of us in an earthquake prone area such as where I live develop a hypersensitivity to earthquake awareness.   A truck passing on the street can sometimes make the house shake, but will not move my "earthquake indicator".  When I do see it moving, I will immediately turn on the television and so far without fail my device has correctly identified the tremulous event as a legitimate earthquake.  Sure it's silly, but so far it works for me. 

          Many of us probably use what might be appropriately termed old wives tales, folklore, or superstition in order to make predictions or identify events around us.  Some will swear by astrology, feng shui, or other ancient practices, while others will label them as pseudoscience.

           We see claims used in advertising and media campaigns that we may blindly accept as fact and yet never see data to back up what we've been told.  When nine out of ten doctors recommend something, how many doctors were asked in the first place and how did they pick those doctors and were any of them our doctor?

            Do you believe every poll you see cited in the media?  Data can be skewed and results can faultily favor the side that may have instigated the polling in the first place.  We are often besieged by silly science, pummeled with perfidious propaganda.  What should we believe when the truth is often tenuous?

                                 The Real Science

There are a few bloggers that I've run across in the Challenge who are writing about real science.

Holly Ruggiero is offering a comprehensive study of minerals and precious stones.

Stephen Tremp at Breakthrough Blogs has been presenting information about his specialty fields of knowledge related to quantum and astrophysics.

M. Pax at Wistful Nebulae has also taken to space for the Challenge, which fits the frequent sci-fi theme of this blog.

Golden Eagle at The Eagle's Aerial Perspective is obviously doing her research on various scientific subjects and passing it on to her readers.  This immensely talented young lady has a great career ahead of her in science as well as writing science fiction.

S is also for So-Cal Library Connection:

          For anyone who has visited the wonderful library blog, So-Cal Library Connection, and was unable to leave a comment, this situation has been remedied.  The So-Cal blog comment section is now open for business!  I encourage you to visit this blog and weigh in on some of the very relevant topics that the dedicated librarians who contribute to this blog have been discussing.  If you haven't visited So-Cal Library Connection, then I highly recommend that you do so.  The topics on this blog are of interest to many, if not most of us.  Stop in and at least say hello!

So what do you say?

          Do you resort to any silly science?   What scientific advances or topics do you keep up with the most?
Science fiction:  nonsense, predictor of the future, or just a fun reading genre?   How much of what you hear in the news do you trust?    When's the last time you told a librarian "Thank You"?



  1. Science predictors to show when earthquakes are going to happen probably do work, thats if they are more reliable then any weather predictors. And the last time I said thank you to a librarian was back in the day when I used to go to the library, where as now I don't really go anymore. Great earthquake detector too.

  2. Well Arlee I actually frequent our local library so I thank out librarians quite often! I love your earthquake indicator! Hey whatever works right? I should have one seeing that I live right next to the New Madrid Fault line! Seems we get more tornadoes than earthquakes here.
    I love science, always have and I do find it amazing how much fiction has turned into fact over the years.
    As far as scientific advances go I read popular science. Thats about as far as I go with keeping up!
    Love Di ♥

  3. science was never my strong point but my son loves it

  4. My sinuses feel the pressure many hours before serious thunderstorms arise. Don't know if that counts as silly science though.

  5. Three unrelated comments from me: I am married to a rocket scientist. and my favorite expression, "Figures don't lie, liars figure."

    (I am in a Earthquake area also, my indicator is hanging on the wall - if it move, I seek cover, I can worry about the TV later, if I have power.)

  6. I don't live in an area where earthquakes happen very often, but several years ago we did have a little tremor ... my teacups were rattling on their saucers. We lived right next to the railroad and although the trains made the ground shake, they never rattled the teacups. So I guess my teacups are my earthquake detectors. Fortunately, they've been very quiet.

  7. As I don't live in an earthquake zone I have not got an indicator, but I don't blame you in the least.
    Fore armed is fore warned so they say.

    Have a good day Lee.

  8. Silly but accurate sinuses know when a change in the weather is coming, my husbands knees know when it is going to rain. Dad always said (and he was right) that if the birds are out going about their business it will be an "all day" rain. Same thing for when there are beads of water on the underside of the eavestrough. In the winter if there are a lot of birds that seem to be moving past or hiding in the shrubbery they are "flying ahead of the storm". Red sky at night sailors delight, Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning. Yes, I guess I DO use silly science.

  9. I tend to be skeptical in general. Not always a good trait. But I do recognize that many times "silly science" provides a very real comfort to people when they are confronted with the unknown or unpredictable. If you believe it works, and your personal experience indicates as much, then more power to you!
    74% of all statistics (such as 9 out of 10 doctors) are falsified anyway. At least, that's what the statistics say. ;)

  10. I'm grateful not to live in an earthquake zone. Very occasionally we get a small tremor - but probably not strong enough to shake your shakers!

  11. Salt and pepper shakers over the TV sounds good enough for me, and as others say, use your intuition. It seems to me though that many of these events even for the experts, to a large extent are unpredictable beyond a certain level.

    So we all do our best, between scientific knowledge, quackery, intuition and guess work to survive.

  12. I have to admit, the sillier the better:-) Stop in & read Stylish Blogger

  13. Hi Lee .. intuition .. fortunately we don't tend to get earthquakes here .. though England has had a couple in recent years.

    In Johannesburg we used to get mine dump/workings movement and the house used to shake ..

    I'd watch the animals - they seem to be the best guide .. but science certainly has its place .. and human intelligence for using salt and pepper shakers!

    Cheers fun post and thanks for the links .. Hilary

  14. Interesting facts and post.Always new theme here.

    Mine for "S" : Sounds of Music

  15. We do live on a fault line but it rarely does anything, thankfully. I like your earthquake detector. I've heard that dogs are a good detector too.
    I am constantly at the library and I'm shocked at how many people don't go to them any longer.
    Only 1 week left on the challenge! How do we celebrate!

  16. I don't have any silly science. I like to keep up with what is being discovered in the depths of the sea or in places where we have not gone yet.

    Never liked Sci-Fi - don't read it at all. I don't trust anything in the news, it all has a "spin."

    It has been a long long time since I have been in a library, I can't remember.

    Gregg Metcalf
    Colossians 1:28-29

    Gospel-driven Disciples

  17. I need a particular wooden spoon to make gravy and white sauces. When I have prepared a feast for friends, I have to announce, "It probably isn't fit to eat," to forestall mishaps. To avoid colds and flu, I keep my hands away from my face unless I wash thouroughly first.

  18. you should just keep a horse in your office, I hear they can sense trouble coming before it actually happens :) Sure, it could get a bit smelly, but I'm sure you like animals :P

  19. I use the Force. Seriously, if I'm not "feeling it," I don't pursue it. ("It" could pretty much be anything, from buying a chatski to forming an opinion about someone.)

  20. I use a non-scientific method to check the weather - I look out of the window;-)
    News reporting in this country (UK) is frequently poor, lazy or misinformed. Too often reporters try to make something 'spectacular' out of very little. Never mind, next week will be almost entirely taken up with the Royal Wedding!!

  21. Me fear and respect yellow ball in sky. It give heat and light. Except when it take day off.
    Then, rain.

  22. I'm big on thank-you's.
    Love the Silly Science.

  23. It may not be science (silly or otherwise) but my dog is the most reliable warning device for severe thunderstorms I've ever known. The sky can be scary black but if she's not shaking the storm will miss us. On the other hand, if she's nervous and trying to hide - even if there are no dark clouds in sight - I know they're coming.

  24. We live in a place where we have tornadoes. One thing I've noticed is when I'm out walking and I suddenly feel a cool spot, especially when all the air is very balmy, it's going to storm. It usually does.
    I love science and the way things work and all of the new creatures that are being discovered. It's fascinating.
    I have been reading Golden Eagle's blog and yes, she is quite brilliant!
    I take the media's perspective with a grain of salt. I don't really trust them.
    Have a beautiful and Good Friday!

  25. Your silly science doesn't seem so silly to me. Any way to be alerted to Mother Nature's snit, seems a great method to me.

  26. Samuel -- I think that earthquake prediction will become more accurate in the future.

    Diana -- I haven't seen Popular Science in years, but it has offered some great articles in the past.

    becca -- Science is certainly not everyone's forte, but we should all take some interest.

    Alex -- I'm sure there is a scientific explanation for internal predictors like your sinuses and people have used signs like this for a long time.

    Rhonda -- I guess a good rule to follow is if stuff in the house starts moving seemingly on its own, then something's not right--run and hide!

    Cathy -- Sounds like your teacups work on the same principle as my salt and pepper shakers.

    Yvonne -- Around here the least little vibration immediately makes me think of earthquakes.

    MybabyJohn -- Sounds like you use signs that have been used for centuries--their must be something to them.

    Fa L -- Somethings work as well as others I guess.

    Paula -- Earthquakes can happen anywhere I guess. We never do know for sure.

  27. Elisabeth -- Sometimes it probably doesn't matter anyway. It's good the scientists keep studying this stuff but most of us probably shouldn't worry too much.

    Up -- Silly can be fun!

    Hilary -- Animals certainly have a keener awareness for natural things than humans do.

    Uma -- Thanks for stopping.

    Heather -- I'm glad you mentioned the celebration. See my post this Sunday.

    Gregg-- The unknown places still hold secrets to be discovered.

    Roxie -- Your cooking rituals sound like your own superstitious tradition, but the hand washing thing makes good sense and has been scientifically proven.

    Dezmond -- No horse in my office, but you've seen photos of my elephant figurine and I have a few clowns--part of the silly science crew.

    IBD-- Sometimes "it" can just tell us what we need to know.

    Jabblog -- Royal wedding? What Royal Wedding? Oh, that thing that all over the U.S. news as well? And how much is that all going to cost?

    Al -- You sound like wise man. And sometimes like wise guy.

    Carol -- What else can I say but "Thank You!"

    Linda -- Dogs are smarter than humans in some ways.

    Heather ---- Often I think the news is mostly entertainment, a great deal mind manipulation, and a little bit of useful information.

    Fredamans -- Some "silly science" does make plenty of sense.

  28. I take even legit science with a grain of salt. I love reading about it anyway.
    I see my librarians a couple times a week and always thank them or wish them a great weekend.

  29. You have the coolest earthquake indicator. It's a cool concept & if it works, great!

    Libraries are great places & I support them as much as I can. I also appreciate how easy it is to reserve a book using the online system. YAY! :)

  30. great post! Lots of interesting information! That must be super scary for you!

  31. Very interesting information. Thank you.

  32. Science is not my strong suit but I can get into your silly science. The very idea of science is discovering something we didn't know before and working backwards to prove it soooo...who's to say that salt and pepper can't be earthquake indicators :)

    Thanks for another useful, educational post :)

  33. Giggles-- I take just about everything with a grain of salt. In fact I probably use way too much salt. I'm surprised I don't have high blood pressure.

    Lisa -- Yeah, I don't know how it is elsewhere, but here in L.A. it's great how we can just go online, find what we want, and order it to be picked up at our local branch. I have used this often. It does mean that I rarely go to the library just to browse through the stacks, but it sure is convenient.

    Fishy -- Fortunately we don't get earthquakes all that often, but when they do happen it can get a bit scary. Thankfully I'm far enough inland where I don't have to worry about tsunamis.

    Ladydragonfly -- Thank you for stopping by.

  34. San -- Thanks. Sounds like we are both a bit silly at times!


  35. I tend to follow technological advances closely, because they're such an integral part of accessibility and making my life as a blind person easier.
    But I most definitely do not believe every "scientific" claim I hear or read, thanks to some eye-opening Psychology statistics classes in college. I learned how the experiments are supposed to be conducted, and how scientists often do not live up to even the minimal standards for accuracy.
    My Grandma knew all kinds of "old science" and I'm sure I use some of it, but I can't think of specific examples right offhand.
    Science fiction is a fun genre to read, but I think it also gives important glimpses into our future, and to what we're thinking.

  36. I can´t think of any silly science I use at the moment but wouldn´t using something like a bell be better as an earthquake warning???

  37. My post for letter S is up.

    Thanks for looking.
    Laura T.

  38. Wow. Thank you so much for the shout-out! :)

    I tend to think of science fiction as a fun genre, but also a way of exploring potential futures--it's impossible to say for sure what the world will be like 1000 years from now, or even 50, but it's interesting to read about how an author thinks people might be living.

    I thanked a librarian yesterday; I try to do it whenever I visit a library.

  39. Love your example of Silly Science. An earthquake predictor. Great creative idea. I will have to think about that topic. I like the idea and am not sure but I imagine I have some indicators like that. My husband is always making fun of my predictions based on something weird. Great job.

  40. I believe little of what the media tries to portray as science, and my hubby tends to believe all of it. Together, we probably add up to close-enough-to-normal.

    Even real science baffles me, at times. No matter how many times my husband has explained the actual process, I still kinda believe that what makes the light go on when I flip the switch is magic.

  41. Rachel -- I didn't have time or space to get into the topic of "loaded" research data, but you are so right. Sometimes it's laziness and sometimes they set out to prove something in particular and force the results to reflect what they want to prove. There are often a lot of questions especially in the inexact sciences such as psychology.

    Paul-- If it were a very sensitive bell that might be better but I think earthquake indicating works from the bottom up rather than from something that's hanging, unless of course it's a very big earthquake.

    Laura -- Thanks for stopping by.

    Golden Eagle -- It's interesting to see what has come to pass from the predictions of past science fiction authors.

    Jeanne -- It's not an earthquake predictor that I have--if so I'd probably be more famous. My wife likes to interpret dreams as predictions.

    Word Nerd -- It's good to look at both sides to come to the real truth. And I too am baffled by many advancements. Computers are incredible technology.


  42. Well I actually do believe in Astrology to a point. That the planets alignment on the day you were born can influence personality and such. But I don't believe that astrology can predict my future.

  43. i thought it was intersting not silly.. I am ON P... still got Q done today.. I am behind.. but I will finish... R... will be sat. am.. and S, T On monday... my son is on spring break.. and needs constant... attention,, and play.. so I am behind.

  44. I think most of what I hear with a grain of salt. I know how easily results can be skewed and things made to appear as something they aren't.

  45. Who would have known that salt and pepper shakers could have another purpose! If it works, then why not?
    I have tried old home remedies that have worked.

    Yes. It is hard to get the truth these days. Reporting always has a slant. Then again, I guess it always did, but we weren't always aware of it.

  46. Marjorie -- I like to read my astrological forecast in the paper, but to me they're like fortune cookie fortunes--generic and all-encompassing that can suit whoever reads them.

    Lisa -- You're not all that behind and it's all okay anyway. Hope you're having a good time with it and with Easter vacation.

    Dafeenah-- now it's hard to know what to believe and some things should be researched before taking them as fact.

    Linda H -- News reaches more of us more quickly than ever before and there is so much to sift through that we sometimes think we know things we don't really know for sure.

  47. I like how your Silly Science involves commom sense, which a lot of people don't give enough credit.
    For example, I always know that it's going to rain, the day after I wash my car. I am always appreciative to our local librarians as they've been very helpful to me. They really should have tip jars near their desks! Julie

  48. As someone who was a research analyst in a past life, I tend to be skeptical of any advertising-centric polling or "4 out of 5 dentists recommend" type stories. People are trained to pour over data until they can find a favorable story, and that is what they sell. Not lies, but most definitely biased/skewed to be favorable to whatever side.

    Been loving the challenge Arlee! Happy S Day!

  49. I really pay attention to my kid's dreams. Once we couldn't find the remote (I know, NOT a big deal, but still) and my daughter dreamt where it was in a dream and we went there and sure enough, there it was. Things like that have happened a few other times--not science, but interesting.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I don't know how you have time, but I really appreciate it.

  50. Do you resort to any silly science?

    No, I don't resort to any silly science. I read the horoscopes sometimes for fun but that's about it. I did think about going to a palm reading place once with a few co-workers who planned a group outing, but we ended up not going. Maybe they did anyway on their own though.

    I most scientific topics that I keep up with the most is Weather. That's about all I'm interested in. There are rarely any scientific advances that I keep up with because this particular area does not interest me much but I tend to read news articles and magazines about global warming and other environmental changes.

    I consider Science fiction to be just a fun reading genre. I trust about half of what is on the news, until I can investigate further to determine whether the news story is accurate or not but that all depends on the news story. If they reported that 5 cops beat somebody up, I'm going to be quick to jump to conclusions until I learn more about the events that happened in the moments before the incident. However, if the Weatherman says that it's likely going to rain tomorrow, then I believe him 100% and plan on taking an umbrella with me when I go out that next day, lol.

    The last time I told a librarian "Thank You" was probably when I was in high school. I do not make a habit of thanking the librarians at the library that I visit these days because many of them have attitudes and act like I'm bothering them if I ask them a question so I usually just go, go whatever I'm there to do and then I leave. No conversation. No need to say "Thank You."

    The Madlab Post

  51. Julie -- Yeah, you can usually count on that car washing thing and the rain to follow. Maybe you should try it in a drought-stricken area.

    Corinne -- data can be interpreted many ways.

    Scarlett-- I think dreams do tell us a lot. I've many stories of people finding lost things through dreams and having their dreams give them other important information.


  52. I lived all my early days in So.Ca. I don’t think the salt & pepper shakers are silly (or at least not that silly).

    Thanks for the mention.

  53. Earth Quakes. I live and have lived under the threat of many natural disasters. Flood, Thunder Storm, tonado, blizzard, hail storms, etc. I would have to say an earthquake would freak me out big time. I would end up spread eagled on the floor crying "please make it stop. please make it stop, please make it stop!" For me the earth has all ways been permanent and steady. The one and only thing I could count on. It the very ground becomes undependable I might just lose my mind.

    My silly science is weather sense. I was struck by lightning when I was 5. Growning up Lakota taught me to watch the world around and spot the clues to incoming weather. The feel of the air, the wind direction, duration and strength, cloud formation and humidity all play a part. It also takes time to learn the patterns of an area.

    Some people believe that by singing a chant, and doing a dance that I can make it rain. That is so not true. All I have to do is wash my car.

    Your science is not silly. but good observation. Good observation is good science :)

  54. Holly - My salt and pepper shakers have not been wrong yet--when I see them moving there has always been an earthquake reported later.

    Ikce-- Scientific research is usually based on observation of events and the outcomes. I think that people who have grown up closer to land and nature learn from their own observations and the traditions passed down to them and what they know tends to often be very accurate. Paying attention to one's surroundings and learning from them makes a lot of sense.


  55. I love silly science/folklore. I was told,when I was growing up, that you could always tell when rain was coming because a) the cats would be busy cleaning themselves b) the birds would be lined up on the telephone wires.
    I think they are both true to some extent especially the cat one - mine always clean themselves excessively before a rainstorm.


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