Contributions

Mystery of the Borderline Bar Silent Shooting
December 20, 2018


On November 7, 2018, a shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, by former Marine Ian David Long left nearly a dozen people dead, including the shooter.  One victim, Sgt. Ron Helus, it was revealed recently, was killed not by Long but instead “friendly fire” from another police officer’s gun in …

Stonehenge Assumptions
December 17, 2018


In my years of media and science literacy I’ve repeatedly encountered cases where people have failed to question their premises and simply forged ahead without bothering to make sure that the assumptions were grounded in fact. Premises often seem self-evident—and who wants to waste time verifying or fact-checking something that’s obvious? About six or seven …

The ‘Growing’ and ‘Common’ Threat of Something We Have Little Data On
December 5, 2018


In a recent article in The New York Times, Sharon Otterman describes cyber flashing, in which objectionable images are shared anonymously to random available mobile devices using the AirDrop platform, as “a growing trend of technology-enabled sexual harassment,” though she later notes that “Danielle Citron, a professor of law at the University of Maryland and …

‘Why Isn’t the Media Covering This Story?’—or Are They?
November 9, 2018


Distrust of the news media is, or at least seems to be, at an all time high. A recent report by Gallup and the Knight Foundation found that 42 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of independents, and 94 percent of Republicans say they have lost some trust in the media. Some, perhaps much, of the …

Fear and Loathing of ‘Trump’
October 30, 2018


If you’ve spent any time on social media over the past few years you’ve likely seen several versions of Donald Trump’s last name. Various versions include “tr^^p,” “Strump,” and “Tr**p,” though writer Joyce Carol Oates understandably prefers the correctly-numbered-asterisk version “T***p.” Meryl Streep gave a blistering 2017 Golden Globes speech that never mentioned Trump’s name …

‘First Man’ A Fitting Space Odyssey
October 15, 2018

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First Man tells the true story of the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling). As the film shows, he got there largely through skill and determination, but also luck and circumstance. The outlines of the story are, of course, well known, and part of the challenge in telling …

Polls Show Most Americans ‘Believe the Women’
October 2, 2018


As the country waits to see what becomes of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh pending the results of an FBI investigation, one thing has become clear: Whether or not the Senate believed Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations against Kavanaugh, most of America does. In a PBS Newshour / Marist poll taken September 22 to 24, …

The Curious Case of the ‘Destination Truth’ Yeti Track
September 13, 2018


The Yeti—formerly known as the Abominable Snowman—is the Himalayan version of the American Bigfoot. Like Bigfoot, it is large, powerful, leaves strange tracks, and has never been proven to exist outside of folklore and myth. Interest in the supposed creature is fueled by occasional sighting reports and odd footprints. In 2007, Josh Gates, host of …

When Mistaken Eyewitness Testimony Leads to Death
September 5, 2018


Skeptics and psychologists often point out the fallibility of eyewitness testimony, though the general public continues to put great stock in it. It seems so self-evident that personal experience is a reliable guide to the world that when something “unexplained” happens, people often assume that the event must truly be mysterious. There’s nothing wrong with …

Emo’s Fundamentalist Heretic Or, Turning Allies to Enemies in a Few Easy Mistakes
August 22, 2018


I’m always fascinated by how thinking goes wrong. Sometimes it’s the result of intentional deception or obfuscation, such as is often found in advertising or political speech. But more often it’s the result of critical thinking lapses, logical errors, or simply misunderstanding. It’s errors of interpretation, often of substituting what someone actually says for what …