Thursday, February 13, 2020

March 15 - It Came from the Science Fair!


IMPORTANT NOTICE: [March 12, 2020, Noon]: Because of the concern about meeting in large groups and the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 virus, this lecture has been postponed. We expect to reschedule it later this year.


Presented by Adam Ruben, PhD
Writer, Comedian, and Molecular Biologist

What are the most common mistakes kids make when preparing projects for science fairs?  What can we learn from these events about the way science is taught and understood?  And can we all please agree, onceand for all, that science has learned all it needs to learn from measuring classmates' heart rates before and after playing video games?  In this talk, scientist/comedian Adam Ruben will share some of the most bizarre, most inadvisable, least scientifically rigorous science projects he's judged and talk about their implications for the future of science education.

Adam Ruben is a writer, comedian, and molecular biologist. Adam has performed stand-up comedy and told stories on stage for more than 20 years. He has appeared on the Food Network, the Travel Channel, the Weather Channel, Discovery International, Netflix, and NPR, and he currently hosts the shows Outrageous Acts of Science and What On Earth? on the Science Channel and is writing episodes of Elinor Wonders Why, a new show on PBS Kids premiering in September 2020. Adam is the author of two books, Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School (Random House, 2010) and Pinball Wizards: Jackpots, Drains, and the Cult of the Silver Ball (Chicago Review Press, 2017), and writes the monthly science humor column Experimental Error in the otherwise respectable journal Science.

SUNDAY, March 15, 2020 (Note date- Sunday is not a typo)
1:30 pm
Central Library
Barbara M. Donnellan Auditorium
1015 North Quincy Street
Arlington, VA

Monday, January 13, 2020

February 8 - Should We Worry About 5G Towers?

Presented by Roopesh Ojha, Ph.D.

The fifth generation wireless technology for digital cellular networks, popularly known as 5G, is rapidly being deployed around the world. The leap in network speeds it will enable have several well-known benefits and, if the past is any guide, the most profound benefits haven't even been imagined yet. 5G uses radio frequencies that are higher than the radio frequencies in current use. In some quarters, concerns have been raised about putative health impacts of these radio waves. In this talk, Dr Ojha will take a look at 5G from the physics perspective as well as the statistics perspective and discuss where the balance of probabilities lies.

Dr. Ojha has worked for the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (including a year operating a telescope at the South Pole) in Cambridge, MA, the Australia Telescope National Facility in Sydney, and the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, DC. He currently works for the Fermi Gamma-ray Space telescope primarily studying the physics of active galactic nuclei - galaxies where the dominant source of energy is matter falling onto a central supermassive black hole. Dr Ojha is known for his ability to communicate science at any level, from highly specialized scientific meetings to elementary school students. He is a regular speaker at local schools, non-profit organizations, and STEM events.


Saturday, February 8, 2020

1:30 pm 

Connie Morella Library

7400 Arlington Road

Bethesda, MD

Saturday, January 11, 2020

January 2020
  • "The Little Non-Profit That Could" presented by Nick Little, Vice President, General Counsel, and Legal Director of the Center for Inquiry

  • February NCAS Lecture - "Should We Worry About 5G Towers?" Saturday, February 8, 2020 at Connie Morella (formerly Bethesda Regional) Library.
  • National Archives Project Blue Book Exhibit
  • Prez Sez
  • AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!
  • Shadow Light
  • Time to Renew?

Click to see Shadow.

Shadow of a Doubt - January 2020

January 2020

NCAS Public Lecture Series

The Little Non-Profit That Could –
CFI’s challenge to pseudoscience and alternative medicine through consumer protection laws

Nick Little
Vice President, General Counsel, and Legal Director of the Center for Inquiry

Saturday, January 11, 1:30pm - 4:00pm
Central Library
Barbara M. Donnellan Auditorium
1015 North Quincy Street
Arlington, VA [map] [directions]
Virginia Square-GMU Metro station will be closed, but shuttle buses will be connecting it to/from East Falls Church and Rosslyn stations
https://www.wmata.com/service/status/details/weekend.cfm#main-content
FREE admission – Everyone welcome, members and non-members


How is so much pseudoscientific junk on store shelves? Why isn’t homeopathy illegal? Nick Little, Legal Director and General Counsel of Center for Inquiry (CFI), explains the path that CFI has taken to filing consumer protection lawsuits against retail giants CVS and Walmart for their marketing of homeopathic products.  The talk will address the limits of the law in dealing with pseudoscience, and how litigation and lobbying together can help skeptics challenge both government policies and private company promotion of pseudoscience — from climate change denial to snake oil medical products.

Nick Little is Vice President, General Counsel, and Legal Director of the Center for Inquiry. As CFI's attorney, he supervises the Center's litigation, both in the area of separation of church and state and the protection of the rights of non-believers, where he has brought multiple suits to require states to permit secular wedding celebrants, and in the area of skepticism, where he has filed CFI's groundbreaking consumer protection suit against CVS stores for their deceptive marketing of homeopathy. Educated at Oxford University, the University of  Warwick, and Vanderbilt University Law School, Nick seeks to keep CFI involved in cutting edge litigation to further its mission of a secular society based on reason, science, and humanist values.

Refreshments will be available.


The underground parking garage entrance is located at the library's NW corner.  Surface lots are north and east of the building.



February NCAS Lecture
Roopesh Ojha, PhD will discuss the alleged health impacts of fifth generation wireless technology in "Should We Worry About 5G Towers?"  Saturday, February 8, 2020 at Connie Morella (formerly Bethesda Regional) Library.


National Archives Project Blue Book Exhibit
On December 5, the National Archives issued a press release about a new display in the East Rotunda Gallery of its museum in Washington: "Today, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the end of Project Blue Book [the Air Force's unidentified flying objects (UFOs)  investigation], the National Archives is displaying a selection of records from the program in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC. The records, on display through January 16, 2020, are a sample from the thousands of pages of textual records, still pictures, motion pictures, and sound recordings in National Archives holdings relating to Blue Book."

https://www.archives.gov/news/articles/project-blue-book-50th-anniversary

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHeZjJgO9Ns

Comment by Scott Snell, NCAS President:
I've visited the exhibit.  It's just a few artifacts in a display case.  If you're already planning to visit the Archives museum (perhaps to double-check on what the Constitution says about impeachment?), spend a few extra minutes and visit the Project Blue Book exhibit.  Otherwise I'd recommend using the two links above to see everything on your computer.

By the way, the two comic book pages in the display are excerpts of Weird Science-Fantasy #26 (December 1954) by EC Comics:

https://files1.comics.org//img/gcd/covers_by_id/36/w400/36810.jpg

https://www.comics.org/issue/11733/

Prez Sez
By Scott Snell
Happy New Year and Decade!  (The third decade of the century won't start until next year, but we've started the twenties!)

The holidays are often a time of wish lists and resolutions.  At the recent (Dec 19) NCAS board meeting, I and the rest of the board put together a short wish list of ideas for new events, new things to try, etc.  Some, perhaps all, will eventually be developed and announced.

What about you, our members?  Do you have a wish list for NCAS?  It could be an idea for a speaker, a lecture topic, a type of event that NCAS could present, or some other activity.  If so, send an email to ncas@ncas.org.

Regarding resolutions, I'll share one of mine here.  But first, 2020 hasn't been announced as the "Year of the Skeptic," though maybe it should be.  2020 brings to mind the acuity of 20/20 vision.  Perhaps it can bring to mind the acuity of thought as well.

My resolution is to improve my skepticism.  I've always intended that, but making a resolution of it might be a step forward.

One of my "self tests" is to see how often I'm surprised by something in the news (assuming I've been following the particular topic long enough to have a sense of what's likely to follow).  Are my predictions coming true?  Am I confronted with more or fewer inconsistencies (conflicting information, or a mismatch between hypotheses and information) over time as I'm following the topic?  Through an iterative process, I hope to find (though perhaps fool?) myself in a less-frequent confrontation with conflicting information, except for some cases when an important fact emerges.

It can be fun to do an "audit" of your positions.  If you post on social media, review what you've posted about current events over a year or more and see how well they've held up over time.

If your audit turns out worse than you expected, you may feel the same way I have at times.  Setting aside the normal and expected fallibility of news coverage of emerging stories, would it help to reconsider your sources of news, and how to think about the presented claims?

We skeptics have known for a long time about some publishers' and TV/radio producers' coverage of the paranormal, rife with omission of important information, unlikely interpretations of presented information, and undue emphasis or de-emphasis of particular details.  The problems apparently aren't limited to paranormal topics.  Personal biases and dedication to causes are why this occurs, though their own genuine ignorance and cynical exploitation of the public's misconceptions surely play a part too.

It can be time-consuming to find and play back full recordings of speeches and examine other primary sources of "political data," though that is one way to check on how well your news media sources are doing their job.  A quicker way to check on them is to examine their news coverage for unasked questions.  Are there particular "angles" that are omitted, either out of ineptitude or because of an agenda?

Hunt around a bit.  Use keywords from the question(s) you would've asked.  If you find another news source that includes the omitted elements, you may have found a better news source...at least for that topic, or in that particular case.  It's frustrating when it's only for that topic or case.  But we have to do our best with what we have available.


AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!
When shopping at smile.amazon.com, you'll find the same low prices, vast selection, and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that a portion of the purchase price (0.5%) goes to NCAS! It's simple and automatic, and it doesn't cost you anything!

AmazonSmile's disbursements to NCAS in the third quarter of 2019 came to $13.51, meaning that over $2700 of purchases were designated in support of NCAS.  (As an example of how NCAS can put that money to good use, it's more than enough to cover a half hour of a Montgomery County lecture room rental.)

Thanks again to our members who have chosen to support NCAS!

For more information:
http://smile.amazon.com/about
https://press.aboutamazon.com/news-releases/news-release-details/amazon-launches-amazonsmile-simple-automatic-way-customers

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.

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.
http://ncas.org/shadow