Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Shadow of a Doubt - April 2013

The Monthly Calendar of the National Capital Area Skeptics
  • Einstein's Jewish Science?:  Looking at Physics, Politics, and Religion - Steve Gimbel
  • SkepTour -- A Skeptic's Field Guide to the National Capital Area: Saturday, May 11
  • Save the Date -- Thursday, May 30 Event
  • NCAS Board Elections: Electronic Voting
  • Feel The Power of the Dork Side - A Review by W.T. Bridgman
  • Drinking Skeptically, April 10
  • New Postal Address, New Phone Number

NCAS Public Lecture Series
Einstein's Jewish Science?:  Looking at Physics, Politics, and Religion
Steve Gimbel

Saturday, April 13, 1:30pm - 4:00pm
Bethesda Regional Library
7400 Arlington Road
Bethesda, MD [map] [directions]
(Bethesda Metro station)
FREE admission -€“ Everyone welcome, members and non-members

Between the world wars, Nazi sympathizers tried to denigrate the theory of relativity by calling it "Jewish science."  The Nazis, of course, were wrong.  The notion of "religious science" usually brings to mind creationism, but our two best theories of gravitation before Einstein, those of Rene Descartes and Isaac Newton, bore indelible marks of their founders' theology.  How did science change in the time leading up to Einstein to remove theological influence from physics?

Dr. Steve Gimbel is author of Einstein's Jewish Science: Physics at the Intersection of Politics and Religion (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012), and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Edwin T. and Cynthia Shearer Johnson Chair for Distinguished Teaching in the Humanities at Gettysburg College.

Refreshments and socializing after the talk.

SkepTour -- A Skeptic's Field Guide to the National Capital Area: Saturday, May 11
The National Capital Area Skeptics is compiling information to publish in a skeptic's field guide to the area. This isn't just the DC edition of Tobin's Spirit Guide -- we also want to include items with scientific, pseudo-scientific, and cultural significance to skeptics.  We are crowd-sourcing this info, and you are invited to help.


Statue of Samuel Hahnemman, founder of homeopathy, at Scott Circle
Curse of the Hope Diamond in the National Museum of Natural History
The Exorcist Steps in Georgetown

And on Saturday, May 11 (start time and rain date TBD), we will take this to the streets.  We will select a few key locations for a walking tour in the downtown DC area, ranging roughly from Dupont Circle to the Mall.  The goal is to have a 2-3 hour leisurely walk, with brief talks along the way.

How you can help:

• Send suggested locations, along with any supporting background information, to SkepTour@ncas.org,
• Volunteer to be a docent for location(s) along the tour.

The field guide will be an on-going project, and can include locations across the VA-MD-DC area. For a location to be considered for the May walking tour, we need your input by April 21.

After locations are selected, volunteers will be asked to research, prepare BRIEF (< 5 min) presentations and answer questions on the May 11 walk.

If you have questions or want to help in any way, please contact us at SkepTour@ncas.org.

Save the Date -- Thursday, May 30 Event
On Thursday, May 30, "World Renowned Psychic and New York Times Bestselling Author SYLVIA BROWNE will present an 'An Evening of Insights and Live Readings'" at The Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, VA.

Save the date for a special skeptical event related to Sylvia Browne's upcoming appearance.

NCAS Board Elections: Electronic Voting
The 2013 NCAS election is underway.  In early April, your e-mail inbox should've received a single-cast secret ballot from "elections@ncas.org via surveymonkey.com <member@surveymonkey.com>".  (NCAS will receive information indicating who voted, but nothing to indicate who cast each ballot.)  Please vote by April 30, 2013.

Note that voters will not be at risk for spamming as a result of participating...SurveyMonkey has a zero-tolerance spam policy:

Feel The Power of the Dork Side - A Review
by W.T. Bridgman

On the evening of March 8, my wife and I attended Feel the Power of the Dork Side, a comedy show by Dr. Pete Ludovice.


The opening act was a former graduate student who had dropped from the graduate program the week before.  His act was pretty good but had a few rough spots.  He might have had more appeal to the Tosh.O crowd.

Dr. Pete's show was educational and entertaining.  Among the many things I learned:

1) The importance of humor and farts in problem solving.
2) What chewing gum has in common with children's toys.
3) What's the difference between a certain popular cookie in the grocery store vs. the vending machine.

He stressed the importance of good marketing for science and covered, with humor, some of the success and failures of media attempts to market science.  In this aspect, he was saying some things similar to Randy Olson of Flock of Dodos fame (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randy_Olson).

Being from Georgia, he naturally explored the issue of science and religion.

The venue had about 100 seats, which perhaps a third to half were occupied.  There were a few problems with the sound system when Dr. Pete played video or audio clips, but those were not so severe that it interfered with enjoyment of the rest of the show.

The show was excellent and I recommend it to the technical and non-technical alike.  The only down side was finding parking before the event (and the online maps had some annoying errors).

Dr. Ludovice also has a weekly science radio show on WREK-FM in Atlanta, Inside the Black Box.

NCAS board member Tom Bridgman has a Ph.D. in Physics & Astronomy from Clemson University and currently works in visualization of heliophysics satellite data.  He also operates two websites dealing with pseudo-science in astronomy:

Shadow Light
Some members and contacts of NCAS receive a postal notification of this and every new monthly Shadow of a Doubt.  The Shadow Light postcard announces the monthly lecture and highlights of the electronic Shadow of a Doubt, which is available online at ncas.org/shadow.  NCAS thereby reduces Shadow production and postage costs.  To further reduce costs, members and contacts can opt out of postal notification altogether, while continuing to receive Shadow of a Doubt via e-mail.  To opt out, send us an e-mail at ncas@ncas.org.

Drinking Skeptically, now in MD and  VA!
On Wednesday, April 10 at 7:00 p.m., please join fellow NCASers at either of our simultaneous DC-area Drinking Skeptically events:

Jackie's Sidebar
8081 Georgia Avenue (entrance on Sligo Avenue) in Silver Spring, MD

The Front Page Arlington
Rear patio / National Science Foundation atrium
4201 Wilson Blvd (across from Ballston Common Mall) in Arlington, VA
(703) 248-9990

The February 2011 issue of Washingtonian magazine features the Sidebar on its cover, for a story on the best bars in the DC area.  (And you'll find the area's best hot dogs there, according to the June 2012 issue.)

Drinking Skeptically is an informal social event designed to promote fellowship and networking among skeptics, critical-thinkers, and like-minded individuals. There's no cover charge and all are welcome. Don't drink? Don't let that stop you from joining us! Some of the world's most famous skeptics are teetotalers, and we are happy to have you! Remember that drinking skeptically means drinking responsibly. If there's one thing science has taught us, it's the effects of alcohol on the human body.

New Postal Address
As of June 2012, NCAS has switched post office boxes, from 8428 to 8461:
National Capital Area Skeptics
P.O. Box 8461
Silver Spring, MD 20907-8461

New Skeptic Line Number
As of March 2013, NCAS has switched telephone numbers, from 301-587-3827 to 240-670-NCAS (6227).

Time to Renew?
Be sure to check your renewal date above your postal address on the Shadow Light postcard. Send any queries to ncas@ncas.org.  Use the online membership form to renew.