Saturday, 28 February 2009

Let Me Repeat: Homeopathy is a Scam

I wrote a while ago about the homeopathy scam and its use on poor unsuspecting animals.

That’s bad enough, but it’s even worse to use it on poor unsuspecting children.

And especially heinous is the frankly dangerous idea that homeopathy could in any way be an acceptable method of childhood vaccination.

Check out this nonsense from the Homeopathy Plus website:

Homeopathic immunisation - also known as homeoprophylaxis - is a safe and effective way to protect you and your family against childhood and other epidemic diseases.

Effective? No. Safe? Well . . .

The homeopathic immunisations are “safe” because

they are free of harmful components


have none of the adverse reactions or side-effects associated with vaccines.

That’s true. It will have no side effects.


What is not true is that homeopathic treatment will in any way protect anyone from anything.

After all, how could it?

It’s a valid question, and one that those promoting this ridiculous pseudo-science can’t even answer themselves.

Here’s their “explanation” of how it works:

The nature of potentisation is the mystery of Homeopathy. What is understood is that the potentisation process imprints energetic information from the original substance onto the diluting liquid during the stages of succussion. This liquid is then prescribed according to the Law of Similars as either drops or medicated pilules to the unwell person. They carry the energetic information into the body to trigger a self healing reaction that moves the person back to a state of health.

Notice how you get to the end of the paragraph and don’t know anything more than you did at the start?

That’s because it is nothing but utter, unadulterated nonsense.

This has got to stop.

Ripping off people who are happy to waste their money on placebos is one thing, but if this rubbish starts getting promoted as a legitimate alternative to vaccination, then we have the potential for a serious public health problem.

Evolution is Just a Theory

One of the most common attacks on evolution, particularly by proponents of Intelligent Design, goes something like this:

“Evolution is just a theory. Intelligent design is another theory. Why can’t they both be taught in science classes?”

It sounds reasonable, but there’s a tricky sleight-of-hand in this argument.

When something like evolution is described as a scientific theory, it means something different from the usual everyday meaning of the word “theory”.

In scientific terms, a theory is the highest level of understanding.

For example, it’s a theory that the Earth revolves around the sun. It’s a theory that substances are made up of atoms.

LightBulb1It goes like this: we start with an idea. In the case of evolution it was: “animals evolve over time”.

In the beginning, that was just an idea. The next step was to form a testable hypothesis.

Using gaps in the known fossil record we could predict what must lie in between. If the idea was right, we’d find animal fossils that matched the predictions.

EvolutionAnd we did. (Of course this is a greatly over-simplified description of both the hypothesis and the evidence. There’s a lot more to it than just that.)

The hypothesis must also be falsifiable: it must be possible to find fossils that will prove the hypothesis wrong. This is possible, but it hasn’t been done.

So after 150 years the hypothesis has been well and truly confirmed by the weight of evidence. Then, and only then, is the hypothesis elevated to the high status of “scientific theory”.

Yes, evolution is a theory. And it carries all the evidence required to be called that.

The problem with Intelligent Design?

It’s not even a theory.

There is no evidence. There is no falsifiable hypothesis. There isn’t even a testable hypothesis.

In fact, when you get right down to it, Intelligent Design is nothing more than an idea.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The bible says I’m immoral

Your morality is 0% in line with that of the bible.

Damn you heathen! Your book learnin' has done warped your mind. You shall not be invited next time I sacrifice a goat.

Do You Have Biblical Morals?
Take More Quizzes

I knew I got that one about cutting my wife’s hand off wrong.

What’s up with Joaquin?

River’s little brother has been behaving oddly recently. Check out his appearance last week on Letterman:


Rumour has it that it’s all part of a Spinal Tap-style mockumentary about Joaquin’s burgeoning hip-hop career.

It could well be. Casey Affleck has been following him around with a camera and if you check Dave’s Unabomber gag at the 3-minute mark, it definitely looks like Joaquin’s holding back a laugh.

If it is a joke, it’s damn funny.

If it’s not, then . . . well.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Oscar Nibbles Part 3

The final bite. See you at the show, kids.

Changeling Actress (Angelina Jolie), Art Direction

Changeling Clint Eastwood directs this nice little film based on an apparently true story of LA police corruption circa 1928.

It’s a bit all over the shop trying to be a family drama, a conspiracy thriller, and carry a police procedural sub-plot that feels a bit tacked on.

Still, it’s good and Angelina’s good. But not so good that you ever forget it’s her.

3.5 out of 5

Milk Picture, Director (Gus Van Sant), Actor (Sean Penn), Supporting Actor (Josh Brolin)

Sean PennA biopic of gay rights activist Harvey Milk is particularly topical right now, particularly given the recent shenanigans around the nefarious Proposition 8 in California.

It’s sad that the main take-away message from this film is that even after 30 years, so little has changed.

Sean Penn does his usual quality job in the title role and Josh Brolin’s terrific as his evil nemesis.

4 out of 5

The Wrestler Actor (Mickey Rourke), Supporting Actress (Marisa Tomei)

Mickey Rourke Grounded in an extraordinary performance from comeback kid Mickey Rourke, this is a visceral and moving film to rival any of the great sportsman-as-damaged-hero classics.

Here the hero’s pain is brought to wince-inducing life as his psychological damage is played out on the screen as physical trauma.

It’s ridiculous that this isn’t up there for Best Picture and Best Director.

4.5 out of 5

Oscar Nibbles Part 2

Time’s running out, so I better get through these quickly.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Picture, Director (David Fincher), Actor (Brad Pitt), Supporting Actress (Taraji P. Henson)

Benjamin Button Very long and reasonably slow but somehow without being boring or turgid. The director is just taking his time to tell a story that needs time to tell properly.

Besides, the last half-hour has a great emotional payoff that makes the previous gruelling two-and-a-bit a more than worthwhile investment.

Brad Pitt is fine as the eponymous Benjamin and for once it’s Cate Blanchett chewing the scenery.

3.5 out of 5

Revolutionary Road Supporting Actor (Michael Shannon), Art Direction

Revolutionary Road Channelling his earlier work American Beauty, director Sam Mendes beautifully captures the angst of being trapped in the gilt cage of 1950s suburbia.

Easily one of the best in the line-up this year and criminally under-nominated.

Why the hell wasn’t Kate Winslet nominated for her performance in this instead of The Reader? Like she said herself in that episode of Extras: “How many more movies do we need about the Holocaust? I mean, we get it, it was grim.”

4.5 out of 5

Frost/Nixon Picture, Director (Ron Howard), Actor (Frank Langella)

Frost-Nixon There’s absolutely no good reason why a film about a TV interview should be so enthralling. Yet it is.

This film is just beautifully crafted. The political machinations behind the scenes reflect the ones being discussed in front of the cameras.

And the parallels to our recent Presidential misdemeanours are made clear without being rammed down our throats.

Ron Howard, this almost makes me forgive you for The Da Vinci Code.


4 out of 5

Saturday, 21 February 2009


The word around the tubes is that Caprica, the prequel series to Battlestar Galactica will be getting a DVD release on April 21, before its first broadcast on SciFi channel sometime in 2010.

Is this the beginning of the end of broadcast TV? Here’s hoping. And isn’t it appropriate that a show about the beginning of the end of mankind would be the harbinger of such a thing? Sigh.

Still, that’s still a good three months off so here’s a trailer.

Check it out. Science fiction, Dallas-style soap opera and proto-Cylon boobs.

This is all looking very promising.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Oscar Nibbles Part 1

The Oscars are almost here.

And I’ve obviously left it far too late for my usual bloated and self-indulgent reviews of all the films involved.

Apart from anything else, I haven’t even seen them all yet.

So here are some short reviews of some of the films nominated.

The Reader Picture, Director, Actress (Kate Winslet)

Kate WinsletI could happily watch Kate Winslet read a phone book (does that even mean anything anymore? Who uses a phone book?) so given that she spends the film getting read to, instead of reading, in this respect this film failed to make me happy.

However, she did get her tits out. That made me happy.

4 out of 5

Slumdog Millionaire Picture, Director (Danny Boyle), Cinematography

Slumdog Millionaire It’s much-feted and tipped to sweep the pool but it’s easily the weakest of the lot. Or at least, the weakest of the ones I’ve seen so far.

Little more than a tedious exercise in style over substance, it’s like Trainspotting had a simultaneous fun-ectomy and transplanted faux-social conscience.

Mr. Boyle, what were you thinking? And where the hell is 28 Months Later?

2.5 out of 5

Doubt Actress (Meryl Streep), Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Supporting Actresses (Amy Adams and Viola Davis)

Philip Seymour Hoffman This is one of those films obviously based on a stage play so it’s all about the performances and a natural magnet for acting nominations.

Set in 1964 amidst Catholic Church upheaval in the wake of Vatican II, Doubt tells the story of a priest and a young boy.

Three guesses what it’s about.

It’s really good, though. And Philip Seymour Hoffman is awesome.

4 out of 5

More to follow.

Thursday, 19 February 2009


Why does (did) my main blog page look like this?


Any ideas?

Maybe my blog was feeling abandoned.

I’m back from Twitter now. Promise.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Where Am I

This is what happens when you start Twittering.

You stop blogging.


I could have just Twittered that.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

George Hrab is Awesome


Check out the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast (of which this is the theme) and while you’re at it check out George’s Geologic Podcast.

It’s all good nerdy stuff.

Creation vs Evolution vs ???

I’ve just learnt something really interesting.

Here’s a very common belief among Creationists:

The theory of Evolution is only promoted as an explanation of the origins of life because the alternative, Creation, is just too unpalatable.

Now, what’s wrong with this sentence? Can you spot it?

That’s right: it’s the word “the”.

“The” alternative.

Just the one.

It says there’s only one possible alternative to Evolution . . . and it’s biblical Creation.

What an incredible lack of imagination these Creationists have!

There are any number of possible explanations for the origins of life.

We may have grown from the seed pods of giant plants. We may have arrived here from another planet. We may have been spat out of volcanoes fully formed by a complex chemical process. We may have evolved from more primitive species. We may have devolved from more complex species. We may even have been placed here by a multi-dimensional alien being some choose to call “God”.

The possibilities are literally endless.

Seriously, Creationists need to lay off the (biblical) fantasy and go read some science fiction.

They might learn something useful.

Friday, 13 February 2009

I’m on Twitter

Microblogging is a very pleasant way to throw out those little ideas that can be expressed in 140 characters or less.

You can follow me here. If you want.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Darwin Day

Charles Darwin Today marks Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday and this year marks the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species.

That’s 150 years since one of the biggest scientific revolutions in history. And 150 years of scorn and invective thrown at the man who prompted it.

The reasons for all the scorn are pretty obvious, though.

Darwin touched upon the question of our origins.

His work occupies a space many would prefer to keep unknowable, or to keep in the realms of the Gods.

But ultimately, and this is the real reason for the derision, Darwin’s ideas paved the way for the average man on the street to easily call bullshit on all this religious nonsense.

Darwin’s name is remembered because he dared to ask the questions most considered unanswerable.

And he dared to shine a light in places that religious powermongers would have preferred to keep in the dark.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The New Normal

The death toll from the fires continues to grow. The final figure will likely be over 300.

We've not seen a peacetime tragedy on this scale in the history of our nation.

As we sift through the ashes of this disaster and comfort the wounded and rebuild our communities, our thoughts must turn to where we go from here.

This is our climate now.

We can no longer talk about the ongoing drought with the vague notion that at some point it will end. We can no longer hold any hope of getting "back to normal".

We may see wet periods in our dusty future but it will soon be clear that these are the rare exception, not the rule.

Hot and dry is the new normal.

We will see more heatwaves like the one last week. We will see more years with record low rainfall.

And we will see more fires.

This is the human impact of climate change.

Not in any particular event, because no single event is attributable.

But rather in the frequency of events, and the severity of events, we will see the impact as we adjust to a new way of life.


Monday, 9 February 2009


Over the weekend my home state of Victoria experienced the worst bushfires ever recorded in Australia.

The count is 131 dead. The figure is being updated hourly.

Entire communities have been lost. Countless acres of land have been razed. As more and more tragedy is uncovered, the scale of the disaster grows.

This is one of the moments that will still be spoken of for decades to come. Stories both horrendous and heroic pile upon each other and will become, in time, the legends of an event rarely seen but long remembered.

At times like this we understand what it means to consider humanity a united family.

The fires have taken no heed of race or religion. Nature doesn’t care about our petty beliefs or concocted tribal distinctions.

We are no more important to this planet than the bugs and worms crawling in the scorched and blackened earth.

All we have is each other. We have our common humanity.

And we have our deep shared empathy for those who have lost so much.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Only 91?

Is your cat plotting to kill you?

That’s Milligan, obviously. I’m surprised it’s so low.

For Jackson it’s 83% which sounds about right.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

In Defence of Phelps

Michael PhelpsYour honours.

I’d like to draw your attention to the recent accusations and penalties meted out to one Mr. Michael Phelps, elite swimmer.

To wit: the recently-circulated picture apparently showing Mr. Phelps, if you’ll pardon the expression m’luds, sucking down a bong.

Item 1: A three-month ban from competitive swimming.

This will be nothing but counter-productive.

What Mr. Phelps needs is a greater training regimen. More hours in the pool. Less free time in which to toke on the chronic green.

Item 2: Cancellation of Mr. Phelps’ Kellogg sponsorship.

This is a foolish action on behalf of Kellogg.

The company is at risk of alienating an important part of its core market, namely: people with killer munchies and so wasted they’re unable to do anything more than pour milk into a bowl of cereal.

Estimates place this demographic at up to 16% of Kellogg’s fixed customer base.

We propose this alternative marketing strategy:


Item 3: The public reaction.

Now m’luds no-one is suggesting marijuana is a performance-enhancing drug.

In fact, despite its undeniable medicinal and anaesthetic properties weed has a certain reputation for being performance-reducing.

Being a cone monkey makes one shiftless and boring, prone to disjointed rambling and watching old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation because they offer wondrous existential insight.

Yet Mr. Phelps’ clear natural ability has allowed him to overcome his devotion to Mary Jane to win 14 Olympic gold medals and to hold no less than 32 world records.

Surely these achievements in the face of a proclivity for busting down some blunt is worthy of nothing but our utmost respect.

Your honours, I rest my case.

Friday, 6 February 2009

A Change on Climate?

Andrew Bolt has decided who’s to blame for those ridiculously high temperatures we experienced last week, and it’s . . .

. . . those evil Lefty Greenies!

That’s right. All those people banging on about stopping climate change instead of trying to protect people from the rising temperatures are the ones to blame.

For some reason this makes perfect sense in his twisted little mind.

Because what we need is more electricity use, not less! If we want to cool the Earth then let’s crank up those air conditioners!

We seem to be at an interesting point in history here.

We’ve just had a glimpse of what Mr Bolt’s focus will be once the fact of climate change is no longer deniable.

He’ll simply shift from ranting about it not really happening, to ranting about not enough being done.

His latest rant beautifully straddles these two lines of thinking, indicating that we might be somewhere near the tipping point.

Andrew Bolt by SpoonerIt goes something like this:

“If the Earth is warming which it isn’t then it’s utterly ridiculous to tell people not to use their air conditioners because that would cool the Earth dummy and anyway it’s cold that kills people not warmth so global warming would be great even though it’s not really happening.”

He even added a caveat to his usual cherry-picked statistic that the Earth hasn’t warmed since 2002, saying “it may soon warm again”.

Andrew Bolt: neo-Greenie?

Monday, 2 February 2009

Dead Pool 2009 – January Update

Celebrity Dead Pool now has its own blog!
Find it at Celebrity Dead Pool 

We’re just one month into the new year and while we’re yet to see any score in the pool, we’ve already seen some serious mortality.

The year started on a tragic note, with the announcement on the 2nd that Jett Travolta, the son of sometime actor and noted Scientologist John, had died at the tender age of 16.

Dalek Annual 1976 On the 6th John Scott Martin, the world’s longest-serving Dalek operator (rolling around in one of those things from 1965 to 1988) passed away at the age of 83.

Also on the 6th, Apple boss Steve Jobs declined to deliver the Macworld keynote address, throwing the rumour mill into overdrive and prompting this very tasteless (albeit very funny) cartoon on xkcd.

(And that mill continues to turn, with the announcement on the 15th that Mr. Jobs will be taking extended sick leave until June. Hmmm.)

Ricardo Montalban as KhanThe 13th and 14th saw an unfortunate classic actor double-bill, with the respective deaths of The Prisoner Patrick McGoohan at age 80, and Fantasy Island (and occasional Star Trek) star Ricardo Montalbán at age 88.

On the 16th we farewelled Sir John Mortimer, creator of the modern legal drama with his classic grumpy barrister Rumpole of the Bailey.

John UpdikeOn the 25th Kim Manners, director of many, many episodes of modern classic The X-Files and modern classic wannabe Supernatural, passed away at 58.

Finally, on the 27th we farewelled American author John Updike, a man who tragically lived to see his classic novel The Witches of Eastwick go from a great book to a passable film to a dodgy stage musical.

And that wraps it up for January. Stay tuned for further updates.