Grant Rants

Archive for the ‘fraud’ Category

The stupid, it burns: Facebook vs. my sanity edition

- July 11th, 2011

Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens and the rest of you!

I’m convinced that Facebook is waging some kind of psychological warfare on me. It’s relentless. Merciless. It stops at nothing to inflict upon me the hottest, fiery burning stupid it can possibly create.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that  Facebook is an epic domain of the burning stupid in a way that can eclipse even Glee.  It’s staggering what you can find on there if you spend a few minutes looking. I mean it’s common place to see a couple having it out in series of posts and the whole time you are thinking “why aren’t you two having this conversation IN PERSON. We’re not cyborgs yet!” (Although the robot apocalypse is surely coming.)

Then there is the guy who took a woman hostage, had the police outside, and posted about the whole thing on Facebook until he finally was arrested. First off, everyone knows that Twitter is really the more effective forum for this sort of thing and two, just how far gone do you have to be? Bad enough you took someone hostage and shot at police, but you are going to document the entire thing in public? Criminals are stupid.thestupiditburns

But the serious assaults launched upon my brain by Facebook comes in a much more subtle fashion, mostly from the ads that frequently vie for your attention on the right hand side of the screen. Facebook must use some kind of algorithm to place “personalized” ads. Like if you were constantly posting stuff about, say, how much you love Glee, you would always see ads about the Heart of Darkness and brain damage. In my case, I get carpet bombed with ads about religion.

This is because, I suppose, I often post links to stuff by Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins and the like. Atheist stuff. You know, cause I’m an atheist. In the warped mind of the Facebook adbots, this means I must want to buy religious stuff. It’s like if you posted a lot of stuff about the Beatles, and then got lots of ads about buying Glee CDs. You’d just want to pull your hair out.

I get ads for the oxymoronically named “Liberty University” – the outfit started by Jerry Falwell that regards evolution as affront to their religion – faith healers, psychic fairs, and Muslim dating websites. (I know, I was surprised those existed too.)

But this latest one takes the cake. I defy anyone to explain what in Odin’s empty eye socket this is supposed to be selling. Take a look:

CrazyasYup. They are selling a “blessed divine mercy quantum pendant” PLUS the science of wellness energy for life! Not to vent about this, but that is that even supposed to be? It’s totally meaningless. You just strung together a bunch of words, you jerks!

It’s like I could sell “Thor’s Mango Singularity Bracelet + Science of Quasar Cooking” I mean, what? How damaged would your brain have to be to think that meant anything?

Also curious is the price point. Apparently this blessed quantum pendant is normally worth $200. I can only surmise that it is initially constructed using the CERN particle accelerator in Geneva and then shipped to the Pope to be blessed. Hence the 200 clams they would usually ask. But NO! For a limited time you can buy this insane junk meant for suckers pendant for the low low price of $29! I guess quantum powered knick knacks just don’t sell like they used to.

I actually decided to check out the website in the ad, mostly because I must be into self abuse. In a completely bizarre video, they claim that these pendants were made using volcanic lava (as opposed to the other kinds of lava one can find on every street corner, I guess.) and will protect your family using something called “scalar energy.” (scalar fields are part of quantum theory in physics, although never observed in nature, contrary what the snake oil pendant sales folks will tell you.) If you Google it, you’ll all manner of loony references to scalar bracelets and pendants and whatever.

It’s really no different than those insipid Q-Ray Bracelets. Remember those? The hideous bracelets with teeny magnets in them that was supposed to cure all that ails you? You can still find infomericals about them from time to time, although they no longer contain specific claims about health and wellness because Health Canada told them stop. Turns out, you just cannot run about making health claims about something that does absolutely nothing. If only Health Canada would crack down on the homeopaths and Feng Shui peddlers too.

Anyway, the point being that if you are ever considering buying a super blessed, quantum scalar amazing health wellness Thor’s mango pendant…don’t. It’s just junk and has nothing to with science, or health, or wellness, or mangos.

Look there is a basic rule I have about people who start talking about quantum mechanics. It’s a very complex and confusing science. There aren’t many people who understand it and those that do tend to be highly educated brainiac types. Your average Joe Slob, like you and me, don’t understand it. We cannot even really come close to understanding it unless we decide to really invest time in serious physics education. So when you hear someone start talking about quantum physics in relations to jewelry, or spirits, or religion or whatever, just throw a pie in their face. It’s like the physicist Richard Feyman once said: “if you think you understand quantum theory, you don’t understand quantum theory.”

The stupid it burns: March of the Psychics edition.

- February 7th, 2011

Ah, the psychics are back in Niagara, peddling their brand of con-artistry, always ready to make an easy buck off of the backs of the desperate and the gullible.thestupiditburns

Ok so this is not exactly new. These yoyos have been around for, well, forever. The difference now is that there isn’t any reason to take them seriously. Hundreds of years ago a clever man with even a moderate skill at reading people’s body language and navigating through what a person says or does not say, could fool the ignorant into thinking he had supernatural powers to tell the future or talk to dead people. Today, we know that while having skills at observation and deduction can be impressive, there is nothing supernatural about it.

So you’d think that people, having the benefits of science in the 21st century wouldn’t buy into anymore right? Yah, well, people think Glee is a great TV show, so what do I know?

So many people fall for this clap trap, including  a Niagara Falls psychic fair over the weekend. The purveyors of this nonsense even have helpful advice about how to properly select your own psychic.  It’s no different than say, choosing a family doctor we are told:

If you’ve never dabbled in the spirit world, it turns out finding your first psychic isn’t much different from picking a doctor, accountant or lawyer.

Yes, it’s just like that. Doctors and lawyers and accountants have professional credentials and high levels of education and training that you can easily examine and check if you wanted. A psychic just needs to buy a cheap set of cards from the local toy store or some “crystals” and can start charging you money. Clearly, it’s the same thing….well, maybe for lawyers.

It just goes on getting worse. We’re given an explanation for how psychic powers actually work:

People who aren’t familiar with psychics can be overwhelmed by the different tools they use. If you’ve never had a reading, how do you know if you should have your palm read? Or a tarot card reading? Or even crystals?
It’s not that important, said Cheryl, a Hamilton medium who uses only her first name for privacy reasons, and the organizer of the show that ran three days at the Stamford Lions hall on Portage Rd.
The tools are just different ways of picking up on the vibration that exists within the person whose fortune is being read.
“Every living being has a vibration,” said Cheryl, who uses a deck of tarot cards handed down to her from another psychic she learned from.
“Basically, it all comes down to the vibration of who you are. That should come through regardless of the tools you use,” she said.

Really? And what is this vibration? What causes it? How it is detected. What scientific evidence can be offered to suggest it is even real? Is it more than zero? I have a tuning fork that vibrates like all get out. Can I read the future with that?

This is typical, however, of how the entire new age industry works. Offer an answer with confidence that makes it sound like you know what you are talking about, when in fact it’s total nonsense. I mean replace every use of the word “vibration” with “jabberwacky” and see if the meaning has changed in the least.

Like homeopathy peddlers, psychics rely on you not asking questions and above all to avoid that annoying thinking and junk. It’s like, so close minded and stuff to demand actual evidence. It’s all about the vibrations, man.

Then things get down right bizarre, even for standards of new age mediums:

Hair reading is one of the more uncommon methods, said Ted Leydon, a New Jersey-based reader who gets images of someone’s future by brushing their hair with his fingers.
It’s a technique he discovered when he was a boy and would finger-brush the hair of his older sisters….
When he reads their hair, their thoughts are going to their hair to his hands, said Leydon, who has visited more than 100 countries, but hasn’t encountered another psychic who reads hair like he does, he said.
“I would catch the energy from the working on their hair. It sometimes comes across with their innermost feelings.”

You get that? Hair reading. When you think something, your thoughts travel from your brain, into your skull, then into your scalp, and through your hair follicles into the fingers of the creepy man running his hands through your hair, and then are transferred from his fingers into his brain.

Of course, even this doesn’t have it’s own internal logic does it? Is hair fetish guy reading your “inner most feelings” or the your future? Or both? Also, one has to ask this guy several questions: What if I am wearing a wig? What if I am bald? Does hair colour or shampoo make a difference? Does my hair’s ability to transmit thoughts change as I age and my hair turns grey? What is the process by which thoughts are transferred to hair?

My hypothesis is that little hair gremlins riding teeny tiny hybrid cars made from cheese and dandruff get telegrams from the vibrational elves that live in your brain. They can take those telegrams to the hyper-dimensional dwarfs who exist on the psychic’s fingers who can then break the Morrison-Gaiman hyper-time barrier to bring those messages to his brain. What? Tell me how that is wrong?

The bottom line is psychics are frauds. Con men. QED. The most talented among them are pretty good at assessing your body language, picking up clues about who you are from what you say or don’t say. No psychic ever has even been able to demonstrate any ability to do anything whatsoever beyond common place observation and deduction and guess work.

As Carl Sagan used to say, extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence. And now, take it away, Richard:

The stupid, it burns: Vaccine science edition

- January 6th, 2011

Huzzah! Science 1. Burning stupid 0!thestupiditburns

What’s got me all excited? This bit of awesome news that broke yesterday about the dishonest bozos trying to make a non-existent link between autism in children and vaccines. Biologist PZ Myers has a good break down of what went over at Pharyngula.

Basically, there is a anti-vaccine crowd that believes, on the basis of no hard evidence, that vaccinations cause autism in children. The claims have been debunked before, but that didn’t stop these folks from continuing to beat the drum.  They whipped up enough of a scare in places like the UK that parents stopped vaccinating their kids and preventable illness like the measles made a comeback. Nice going, dumb dumbs.

Yesterday we learned a study claiming to establish a link between vaccinations and autism was little more than utter fakery. The report had been widely discredited for sloppy methodology, but these new revelations show just how far the fanatics will go to make their case. They know they have no evidence but they cannot accept the facts for what they are, so they just make it up. I’m serious. Turns out they just made up stuff and put in their report.

It reminds me again of what Jawaharalal Nehru said: “Facts are facts and will not disappear on account of your likes.”