Monday, December 26, 2022

January 21 - Discuss the film "Science Friction"

This January, NCAS presents a different kind of event. We invite you to watch the documentary "Science Friction" BEFORE January 21, 2023 (see below for ways to watch). Then join us that Saturday, January 21 at 1:30 PM EST for an online Q & A with Executive Producer Brian Dunning.

From the film's website:

"Finally, a documentary about scientists who get misrepresented by the media.
Those TV documentaries you see, and the science experts they feature? Did you know that producers often edit them out of context, and twist their words, to make it seem like they promoted some pop sensationalism instead of the real facts?

'Science Friction' exposes this practice and gives the scientists a chance to clear the record."

Executive Producer Brian Dunning is the host of "Skeptoid", the award-winning weekly science podcast. Since 2006, Skeptoid has been revealing the true science behind popular misinformation and urban legends.

Full information about this documentary can be found at

Streaming services that carry "Science Friction" can be found at

To watch the film for free (with ads), use this link:

The link for the online Q & A will be
Questions will posted in live chat and relayed to Brian by NCAS president Scott Snell. 

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Shadow of a Doubt - December 2022


  • December 3 -  NCAS lecture - The "Science" of the Paranormal by Bryan Bonner and Bob Lewis, Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society
  • Teller on the Mend
  • Peter wood Returns to "Penn & Teller: Fool Us"
  • Solar Power Beaming Experiment Returns to Earth
  • Follow-Up: Wyoming Prison Freethinker
  • Prez Sez
  • AmazonSmile
  • Shadow Lite
  • Time to Renew? 
Read Shadow here

Shadow of a Doubt - December 2022


December 2022

NCAS Public Lecture Series

The "Science" of the Paranormal

Bryan Bonner and Bob Lewis
Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society

Saturday, December 3, 1:30pm - 4:00pm
Central Library
Barbara M. Donnellan Auditorium
1015 North Quincy Street
Arlington, VA [map] [directions]
(Virginia Square-GMU Metro station)
FREE admission – Everyone welcome, members and non-members

  Also a YouTube Live Event with Q and A 

NCASVideo YouTube Channel:

For over two decades, the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society has examined a wide range of reported paranormal phenomena, including ghosts, poltergeists, psychics, UFOs, cryptids, and much more.

Unlike others in the field, they have made sure not to run around cemeteries, screaming and scaring the group with over‐active imaginations.  From the field to the lab, they test bizarre beliefs and practices, conduct experiments and on‐site investigations, and re-create unusual events.

With extensive experience and training, using a collection of equipment and the most important tool--critical thinking--they utilize stage magic, mentalism, history, and science to seek the evidence to solve the mysteries and close the cases.

Their work has earned the respect of believers and skeptics alike, and earned the fear of fraudsters and charlatans.

Bob Lewis and Bryan Bonner will be joining us remotely via Zoom.

Refreshments will be available.

Teller on the Mend

As many of you may already know, Teller of Penn & Teller (and 2012 NCAS Philip J. Klass Award co-laureate) underwent quadruple bypass surgery on September 29.  He's been posting updates on Twitter, starting with
and recently

The Penn & Teller show scheduled for MGM National Harbor on December 10 has been rescheduled for July 30, 2023.

Meanwhile, "The Tempest" has opened to rave reviews at Round House Theatre in Bethesda.  Teller is credited for co-directing/co-adapting and magic.

A conversation with co-director/co-adapter Aaron Posner and actor Nate Dendy:

Peter Wood Returns to "Penn & Teller: Fool Us"

Speaking of Penn & Teller, "Collector of the Impossible" Peter Wood returned to "Penn & Teller: Fool Us" on May 3, less than a week after entertaining NCAS members and guests at the Klass Award event on April 27!

Here's his segment from the episode that was broadcast on November 11:

See also Peter's videos discussing his return to the show:


Solar Power Beaming Experiment Returns to Earth
On November 12, the US Space Force announced that its X-37B space plane had landed safely that morning at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility.  Among the many experiments onboard during the 908-day orbital flight was the Naval Research Laboratory's Photovoltaic Radiofrequency Antenna Module (PRAM). This experiment successfully harnessed solar rays outside of Earth's atmosphere and aimed to transmit power to the ground in the form of radio frequency microwave energy.

Dr. Paul Jaffe, the PRAM Principal Investigator, described the experiment in this NRL video:

See also

In addition to his career as an electronics engineer, researcher, and integration and testing section head at the Naval Center for Space Technology at NRL, Dr. Jaffe is a lifetime member of NCAS and served as its president from 1998 to 2003.

Dr. Jaffe's March 2014 lecture, available on the NCAS YouTube Channel:

Follow-Up: The Wyoming Prison Freethinker

The March and April 2019 editions of Shadow of a Doubt included the following item:

Donate Skeptical Books/DVDs to a Prison Library
A Wyoming prison inmate recently [January 2019] wrote to NCAS (and presumably other skeptics groups) to request science/skeptics books/DVDs for donation to his prison's library.  A librarian confirmed the details: the books must be softcover only, and can only be donated by an organization, not by an individual.  If you'd like to participate, bring a new or used DVD or softcover book to an NCAS event, or mail NCAS a check to cover the cost of a new book or DVD.  We'll collect donations at the April 6 lecture and ship the items to the prison library.  Some of the prisoners have low reading levels, so having some science/skeptics books aimed at younger readers could be appropriate.

Recently I Googled the inmate who wrote to NCAS.  Turns out he was released from prison about a year ago and has a new book:

Prez (Re-)Sez
By Scott Snell

I don't have much more to say this month, other than correcting/updating what I said last month!  See below.

I want to thank everyone who contributed to the two membership meetings following the September and October NCAS lectures.  The resulting list of ideas for NCAS to re-activate itself following the pandemic is a good start and a work in progress.

 I'll focus here on only one aspect: though ideally all of our monthly lectures would be livestreamed for maximum participation, we do have technical limitations.  We can livestream a speaker who is in our meeting room.  But if our speaker is joining us remotely, only the audience in the meeting room can participate or even watch.

 That was the case for our October 8 talk about fake news (Professor Andie Tucher, who joined us from New York), and it will also be the case for our November 12 event with Ben Radford, joining us from New Mexico.

Our program producer, J. D. Mack, is now using additional equipment to allow live-streaming of remote speakers, starting with the November 12 Ben Radford event.

 Almost all of our speakers allow their talks to be posted later on the NCAS YouTube channel.  But skepticism can be much more than a spectator sport.  I suppose if you think of a question or a missed point after watching a video, you might contact the speaker directly, or at least post below the video.  I think the best situation is to be able to pose your question to the speaker during the event, so the question and answer will be part of the posted video.  And your question may spark other interesting questions and remarks during the event.

The absence of some of our members and guests is keenly felt during our events now.  Before the pandemic, we would get 30 to 40 attendees, sometimes more.  Now we get about 20.

I realize it's an investment of time and energy, and involves some risk.  But in return, as always, we have refreshments and camaraderie awaiting you.  And we offer an opportunity to directly interact with authors and other speakers.  In comparison with the Smithsonian Resident Associates program or events at Politics and Prose, or "Profs and Pints," ours is a competitive service due to it being free of charge, and due to J. D. Mack's technical capabilities of bringing remote speakers into the room with us.

Do you have an idea for a speaker or topic?  Don't let geography limit your ideas...we'll try to get that speaker!

And we'll be generally accessible again when our lectures will be livestreamed online only (no meeting room) during the winter months to avoid inclement weather and a possible resurgence of COVID-19.

As an aside, I was disappointed and somewhat concerned to hear that CSICon 2022 had no Q and A.  Yes, that would allow more speakers to participate, but first and foremost, we skeptics are questioners.  The irony of the Center for Inquiry not allowing time for inquiry at its conference is amusing but unfortunate.

Chip Denman told me that there were opportunities at CSICon "to interact with speakers in a more meaningful way than from a microphone in the audience."

It's true that there are sometimes poor-quality questions, or the questioner may be nervous and having trouble forming a concise question.  Or that an interesting concept for the speaker to consider may be difficult to convey succinctly.  And there are the inevitable pontificators.  But damn it, are we really supposed to just watch people present and then applaud?  Even the better presentations may have interesting gaps, or an audience member has important information unavailable to the speaker.  Just on principle, I think it's the right thing to do to allow time for good and bad questions instead of stacking speakers to fill the time.  (Though of course, some speakers may decide not to take questions.)  Imitating scientific conferences, which almost always have Q and A segments unless the session runs long, is probably the best model for skeptical conferences.  On those occasions when a presentation is so thorough (or inert) that no questions emerge, the next speaker can begin early.

So yes...I hope we will see you on Saturday and we'll hear your questions!

AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!

When shopping at, you'll find the same low prices, vast selection, and convenient shopping experience as, 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 second quarter of 2022 came to $41.83, meaning that over $8000 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 two hours of a Montgomery County lecture room rental.)

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

For more information:

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