Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Shadow of a Doubt - February 2022


February 2022

NCAS Public Lecture Series

Protecting the Public from Misinformation:
“Inoculating” with a Weakened Form of Misinformation

  YouTube Live Event with Q and A 

Presented by John Cook, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub

Wednesday, February 9, 7pm US/Eastern (UTC-05:00)
NCASVideo YouTube Channel:

For more information, call the NCAS Skeptic Line at 240-670-NCAS (6227).

The public are overwhelmed with misinformation and conspiracy theories, causing confusion about important issues such as climate change, vaccination, and COVID-19. How do we respond to the firehose of falsehoods? One way to effectively neutralize the influence of misinformation and pseudoscience is logic-based inoculation. This applies the idea of vaccination to knowledge—we can build immunity to misinformation by exposing people to a weakened form of misinformation. In other words, explain the misleading techniques used in misinformation. Dr. John Cook will outline his psychological and critical thinking research into inoculation and how he has used gamification and cartoons to overcome some of the psychological hurdles facing scientists and educators.

John Cook
is a postdoctoral research fellow with the Climate Change Communication Research Hub at Monash University. His research focus is on using critical thinking to build resilience against misinformation. In 2007, he founded Skeptical Science, a website that won the 2011 Australia Museum Eureka Prize for the Advancement of Climate Change Knowledge. In 2020, he published the book Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change: How to Understand and Respond to Climate Science Deniers, applying critical thinking, inoculation research, and cartoons to engage and educate readers about climate misinformation. He recently released the Cranky Uncle game, combining critical thinking, cartoons, and gamification to build players' resilience against misinformation. He currently works with organizations like Facebook and NASA to develop evidence-based responses to climate misinformation.

There will be an online question-and-answer segment after the presentation.

How to Watch and Participate in this Online Event:

1) Use a supported browser... https://www.youtube.com/supported_browsers
2) Use the link https://youtu.be/KBz0s5cMAbA .  If typing the link, use "0" (zero).
3) The live stream begins shortly before 7pm US/Eastern (UTC-05:00) on Wednesday, February 9, 2022.
4) To post questions, you must be signed in to a Google account.
5) Post your questions in the chat window to the right of the video player when the live stream is active.
6) Click into where it says "Say something..." and begin typing (up to 200 characters). Then click the send icon .

Along with your question, please post what city or town you're in.

February PhACT Lecture
Our skeptical neighbors to the north, the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (PhACT), will host their next online event on Sunday, February 20 at 2 PM ET.  Faye Flam, science journalist and opinion columnist for the Bloomberg News Service, and Dave Cragin, PhD, Director in Quality Assurance at a large pharmaceutical company, will present, "Media coverage of the pandemic - what did journalists get right, what could be done better?"  Event details at http://www.phact.org/meetings.php.

March NCAS Lecture
The March NCAS lecture will be a YouTube live event; details TBD.

Confessions of Coincidence
By Scott Snell
I've had another entertaining coincidence recently.  On the afternoon of January 22, a Facebook friend suggested that I "friend" a friend of his named Ricky Piel.

That evening, I attended a hockey game at Capital One Arena.  During an intermission, I briefly saw two people dressed as bananas pass by on the concourse.  I was curious about them, but not much.  After the game, I saw them again on the Metro subway platform, and asked why they were dressed that way.  Their answer wasn't interesting (something like, "we just thought it would be fun"), but at that moment my mind finally got the pun of Piel/peel!

Naturally I alerted them immediately about this important sign of...something, and they seemed to love it even more than I did.  (People who dress as bananas are apparently easily entertained.)

My favorite part of the experience was my having to be exposed to the "2nd incident" (seeing banana people) twice, and then engage them in conversation before my brain's pattern detector suddenly found the pun.

For those skeptics among you (and I hope that's every single one), I've provided documentation below.  (Yes, I actually Googled "jan 22 capitals senators banana" and found a photo.)

At left is a redacted screen grab of my friend's Facebook message to me about Ricky Piel.

As I've written in other Shadow columns about coincidences, "We're surrounded by an incredible number of occurrences and details, only some of which we even notice, so we should expect some random 'alignments' of two to happen now and then. We never notice the many misalignments, so when an alignment occurs, it seems remarkable, and could be quite affecting."

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 2021 came to $72.36, meaning that over $14000 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 three hours of a Montgomery County lecture room rental.)

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

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