Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Shadow of a Doubt - February 2012

The Monthly Calendar of the National Capital Area Skeptics
  • Feb 11th - Brian Engler - Measuring Mythology
  • March Lecture:  Ann Merchant - The Science & Entertainment Exchange
  • January Lecture Redux -  Lawrence Krauss
  • Torn From Today's Headlines by Scott Snell - Nowhere to Hide: Looking for an Apollo Moon Landings Hoax–from Inside NASA (Addendum)
  • Shadow Light
  • Drinking Skeptically - Feb 8th

NCAS Public Lecture Series
Brian D. Engler
speaking on his recent Skeptical Inquirer article

Measuring Mythology:
Startling Concepts in NCCAM Grants

Saturday, February 11, 1:30pm - 4:00pm
National Science Foundation, Room 110
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA [map] [directions]
(Ballston-Marymount University Metro stop)
Enter NSF from the corner of 9th N & N Stuart Streets.
FREE admission – Everyone welcome, members and non-members

Over the past decade and more, huge annual expenditures by the U.S. citizenry, fed by an increasing interest in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), prompted the authors' research into U.S. taxpayer funding of so-called alternative medicine. Extensive review of National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants for CAM studies—that were principally funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) but also significantly augmented by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and many other NIH Centers and Institutes—and of ensuing clinical trials that displayed a paucity of reporting, steered the authors toward their conclusion: Ignorance of science, the lack of publications in peer reviewed medical or science journals and the failure to report clinical trials in scientific medical journals have demonstrated the failure, despite the expenditure of $2 billion taxpayer dollars over nearly 20 years, to confirm cures based not on scientific evidence but rather on cultural mythology.

Brian D. Engler will discuss the research underpinning his paper "Measuring Mythology: Startling Concepts in NCCAM Grants," co-authored by Eugenie V. Mielczarek and published in the January/February 2012 issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine.

Engler is a retired US Navy Commander; his fields of study are operations research and business administration. Mielczarek is emeritus professor of physics at George Mason University.

Refreshments and socializing after the talk.

March NCAS Lecture
Saturday, March 10 at 1:30 pm at National Science Foundation in Arlington.  Ann Merchant (Deputy Executive Director for Communications for The National Academies) will discuss The Science & Entertainment Exchange ("The Exchange"), a program she oversees for the National Academy of Sciences that connects entertainment industry professionals with top scientists and engineers to create a synergy between accurate science and engaging story lines in both film and TV programming. From a quick fact check to a special briefing, The Exchange provides quick and easy access to experts from all the scientific disciplines. The goal of The Exchange is to use the vehicle of popular entertainment media to deliver sometimes subtle, but nevertheless powerful, messages about science.

January NCAS Lecture Redux
Congratulations to January's NCAS lecture speaker, astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss, author of A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing.  His presentation drew over 150 attendees, the largest audience for a regular monthly lecture in the 25-year history of NCAS.  Many thanks go to the NCAS volunteers who helped with crowd control, the book signing event, and the audio-visual system in both NSF meeting rooms, which allowed the large audience to enjoy the program.  Krauss was also able to take questions from audience members in both rooms.

Unfortunately for those unable to attend, Krauss declined to have his presentation videotaped for the NCAS YouTube channel, but he will give a similar talk on Monday, March 26, at the University of Maryland in College Park.  The time and room location for the event will be provided in the March Shadow of a Doubt.

Lawrence Krauss, signing copies of his latest book
after his January 14, 2012 NCAS lecture.
(Photo credit Nelson Davis, Jr)

Torn From Today's Headlines
By Scott Snell
Nowhere to Hide: Looking for an Apollo Moon Landings Hoax–from Inside NASA (Addendum)
In Part 1 of this article (see the December 2011 Shadow of a Doubt), I considered the slim possibility that the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO, for which I am flight software engineer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center) might not actually be in orbit around the Moon: "Playing devil's advocate, could LRO have not actually been launched to the Moon?  We interacted with it at Goddard during pre-launch testing, so I know it existed then and there.  But is it possible that it was later concealed somewhere on Earth, and its amazing images [of Apollo hardware] (along with data from six other instruments) are faked?"

I failed to consider an LRO discovery that probably proves that it is, in fact, in lunar orbit.  In March 2010, scientists using the LRO Camera (LROC) successfully located a Soviet rover (Lunokhod 1) that had been missing for four decades.  Lunokhod 1's laser reflector is a valuable scientific resource that had eluded earlier Earth-based searches.

More information is available at

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 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

Drinking Skeptically, now in MD and  VA!
On Wednesday, February 8 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

Chevys Fresh Mex
4238 Wilson Blvd (Ballston Common Mall) in Arlington, VA

The February 2011 issue of Washingtonian magazine features the Sidebar on its cover, for a story on the best bars in the DC area.

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.

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