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Polygraph & Lie Detection Part 2

Can the polygraph machine really scientifically measure if someone is lying, or are all those graphs and numbers just pseudoscience in the service of law enforcement? Can we tell if someone is lying to us by their body language or facial expressions? Michael Shermer puts both the polygraph and lie detection to the test in this dramatic episode that features O.J.’s jury consultant lie detection expert.

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Shermer on The Colbert Report

Being interviewed (if that’s what you can call it) by the inimitable Stephen Colbert was one of the wilder experiences of my career. I would imagine by now that most readers of eSkeptic know that Comedy Central’s hit series The Colbert Report features the comedian Stephen Colbert playing a role that is largely a parody of Bill O’Reilly and The O’Reilly Factor. Exaggerating the extremes of the conservative position on nearly everything, Colbert gets in his hilarious digs by arguing against liberals and liberalism. Well, words don’t do the show justice. You just have to see it. Anyway, I was on last Tuesday night. The show is taped in New York. (continue reading…)

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Weirdonomics & Quirkology

How the curious science of the oddities
of everyday life yields new insights
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Using an index finger, trace the capital letter Q on your forehead. Which way did the tail of the Q slant?

What an odd thing to ask someone to do. Exploring weird things and why people believe them, however, is what I do for a living. Coming at science from the margins allows us to make an illuminating contrast between the normal and the paranormal, the natural and the supernatural, and the anomalous and the usual. The master at putting uncanny things to the experimental test — the man I call the Mythbuster of Magical Thinking — is University of Hertfordshire psychologist Richard Wiseman. His new book, Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things (Basic, 2007), presents the results of his numerous (and often hilarious) experiments on all matters peculiar. (continue reading…)

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The Really Hard Science

To be of true service to humanity, science must be
an exquisite blend of data, theory and narrative
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Over the past three decades I have noted two disturbing tendencies in both science and society: first, to rank the sciences from “hard” (physical sciences) to “medium” (biological sciences) to “soft” (social sciences); second, to divide science writing into two forms, technical and popular. And, as such rankings and divisions are wont to do, they include an assessment of worth, with the hard sciences and technical writing respected the most, and the soft sciences and popular writing esteemed the least. Both these prejudices are so far off the mark that they are not even wrong. (continue reading…)

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A License to Secular Parenthood

In the 1989 Ron Howard film, Parenthood, the Keanu Reeves’ character, Tod Higgins, a wild-eyed young man trying to find his way in life after being raised by a single mom, bemoans to his future mother-in-law: “You know, Mrs. Buckman, you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car — hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they’ll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father.” (continue reading…)

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