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Special Articles — Sounds Sciencey

Unmasking "scientifical" claims, sham inquiry, and science imposters in popular culture. A column by Sharon Hill.

Faking Science Cred at a Sci-Fi Con: Not Smart

Faking Science Cred at a Sci-Fi Con: Not Smart

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
August 14, 2014

Paranormal investigators playing the role of “experts” and pretending to be scientific is not going to fly when the lack of deep knowledge is evident and there are actual scientists in the audience.

Psi, Sci. (Sigh!)

Psi, Sci. (Sigh!)

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
June 11, 2014

Some say the case for psychic ability has been made, others say it hasn’t. Yet others say someday it will be, or will never be. In 130 years, has there been progress in psychical research?

The Excluded Middle: A Skeptic Explores the Extraordinary

The Excluded Middle: A Skeptic Explores the Extraordinary

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
May 20, 2014

Attending events outside your own frame of reference involves getting into a suitable frame of mind. It’s often helpful to suspend judgement and just listen.

Giving up the Ghosts: Formerly Known as “Ghost Hunters”

Giving up the Ghosts: Formerly Known as “Ghost Hunters”

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
April 4, 2014

Question: How does an avid ghost hunter and true believer in paranormal phenomena turn into an avowed skeptical commentator?

Prehistoric Survivors? They Are Really Most Sincerely Dead

Prehistoric Survivors? They Are Really Most Sincerely Dead

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
February 28, 2014

A popular gambit in cryptozoology is to say that a cryptid is a real animal that was presumed long extinct but has lived on undetected. Here is why that sounds sciencey, but is bad reasoning.

Burzynski Clinic: A Scientifical Year Of Fail

Burzynski Clinic: A Scientifical Year Of Fail

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
January 10, 2014

Looking back on 2013, what was the most flawed sciencey story of the year? I pick antineoplastons—touted as a miracle cancer cure with little to no proof.

Bigfoot Files: Science, Skepticism and the True Believers

Bigfoot Files: Science, Skepticism and the True Believers

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
November 22, 2013

There is a small, elite group of skeptics who know their Bigfootery. That’s right, the Bigfoot skeptics.

Pacu Panic: Swallowed Hook, Line, and Sinker

Pacu Panic: Swallowed Hook, Line, and Sinker

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
October 25, 2013

First, it was found in Danish waters. And then France. Then in New Jersey. A fish, normally found in the Amazon, was scaring the pants ON fishermen around the world. Why be scared of a pacu? Teeth and what it was rumored to eat.

Ghost Meters: I Can Name that Ghost in 5 Milligauss

Ghost Meters: I Can Name that Ghost in 5 Milligauss

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
October 1, 2013

Why do paranormal investigations use EMF meters? Turns out, they don't even know why. This is what happens when the paranormal gets sciencey. It isn't pretty but there is beeping and flashing lights.

UFO research is up in the air: Can it be scientific?

UFO research is up in the air: Can it be scientific?

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
August 28, 2013

A few months back, a British anomaly investigation organization announced the possible death of UFOlogy. “No way! It's alive and well here,” said the U.S. UFOlogists. So it is. But what is the real status of the study of UFOs?

Over-reliance on Science

Over-reliance on Science

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
July 26, 2013

Science is great, one of the best processes humans have come up with. It has everything to do with how we live long, productive, healthy lives. It is not, however, the be-all and end-all method of how to solve every problem.

Supernatural Creep: The Slippery Slope to Unfalsifiability

Supernatural Creep: The Slippery Slope to Unfalsifiability

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
May 29, 2013

I'm taking a step beyond sciencey with the following topic. What happens when science doesn't cooperate with your subject area? Researchers of unexplained events may get frustrated and disenchanted with the scientific process when the eyewitness accounts they collect are too weird to explain via conventional means. They go unconventional.

“Phenomenology” Paranormal Conference Shows Shift from Sciencey to Spiritual

“Phenomenology” Paranormal Conference Shows Shift from Sciencey to Spiritual

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
April 24, 2013

When paranormal investigators give up on sciencey stuff, what's the alternative? The spiritual. I take you on a tour of a recent paranormal convention.

Leave Us Alone, You’re Spoiling Things

Leave Us Alone, You’re Spoiling Things

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
March 29, 2013

The Skeptic is the unwanted visitor to the paranormal-themed discussion. Questions are unwelcome; they spoil the fun. “Why do you bother nagging on the ghost hunters, the Bigfoot believers, and the UFOlogists,” they ask, “Why not go do something to stop real harm?”

Burning the Mean and Disparaging Skeptic Straw Man

Burning the Mean and Disparaging Skeptic Straw Man

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
March 1, 2013

Does “skeptic” equal nasty, obnoxious and shouty? No? Then why do we get automatically tagged with those characteristics even when we are not? The word carries some connotations. But that ought not bar an exchange between skeptics and believers. We have some bridges to build.

The Trouble with Pseudoscience—It Can Be a Catastrophe

The Trouble with Pseudoscience—It Can Be a Catastrophe

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
January 30, 2013

Pseudoscience is what one might call a two-dollar word. Skeptics often throw it around because of its weightiness and the values it transmits. We need to talk about this word, where it came from, and why we should be cautious about using it.

Appreciating Science: A New Approach to Science in our World

Appreciating Science: A New Approach to Science in our World

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
November 14, 2012

Members of the public don’t know much about science, and they seem fine to leave science to the scientists. That’s Trouble.

Weird news: Believe it? Or not?

Weird news: Believe it? Or not?

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
September 13, 2012

Every day, I scour the Internet for news. Not just any news. Weird news. What bizarre thing was seen, heard, or found today?

Astrology: More like Religion Than Science

Astrology: More like Religion Than Science

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
July 25, 2012

Proponents have no plausible explanation for how astrology might work. Whenever you have to resort to “insert supernatural here,” your concept is no longer a scientifically testable hypothesis.

Decisions, Decisions: The Problem with “You Decide.”

Decisions, Decisions: The Problem with “You Decide.”

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
July 2, 2012

My memory may be biased, but doesn’t it seem like every unsolved mystery television program has ended with the proposition “you decide?”

Bad Reaction: The Toxicity of Chemical-Free Claims

Bad Reaction: The Toxicity of Chemical-Free Claims

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
May 25, 2012

I had a startling realization a few years ago: I discovered that not everyone thinks science is good for humanity. How can that be? Scientific discovery makes our lives better, richer, longer, and healthier.

“You are Not Entitled to Your Own Bigfoot Facts”

“You are Not Entitled to Your Own Bigfoot Facts”

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
April 25, 2012

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I came across a website that provided “Bigfoot Facts” for kids. The site didn't say from where these facts were derived but they were commonly circulated in various books and all over the web.

Black(water) Market: Digging Up the Dirt about Slick Designer Beverages

Black(water) Market: Digging Up the Dirt about Slick Designer Beverages

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
April 2, 2012

On my regular stop to see the newest beverages one day, I noticed a slick, thin black bottle. The label read “Spring water enriched with Fulvic Acid.” Intrigued, I bought the 16.9 ounce bottle for $1.89.

Apocalyptic January and the Portents of Doom

Apocalyptic January and the Portents of Doom

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
March 7, 2012

They were science-based Doomsday agents, effective in scaring the bejeezus out of generally rational people. And the arrival of 2012—heavily weighted with (very commercially exploited) “End of the World” overtones—serves to popularize these stories even more.

“Scientific”: It’s just a catchphrase!

“Scientific”: It’s just a catchphrase!

by Sharon Hill
Sounds Sciencey
January 17, 2012

Science is all these things: a process, a way of looking at a topic, a community, an infrastructure, a career, a set of results, an authority, and more. We can use the word in many ways. That means it can be abused in many ways as well.