Friday, March 29, 2013

Psychophysics Experiments: Alien Tricksters Or Bunglers?

"Velcro I grok but zippers?" 

December 10, 1965.  Betty and Barney Hill returned home to find a mystery waiting for them: a large oval-shaped chuck of ice on the kitchen table.  They didn't know how it got there or what it signified.

The inexplicable object greatly disturbed the couple.  It was another weird event following their abduction by humanoid aliens one night four years ago on a lonely country road.  Betty put the ice chunk in the sink, using hot water to melt it completely away.

In her diary Betty noted the unusual properties of the ice.  There was no wetness on the table.  The chunk was light for its size and wasn't completely hard but "flexible."  She also recorded that there was a cut pattern inside it.

This and other paranormal happenings are detailed in the book, "Captured!  The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience," by Stanton Friedman and Kathleen Marden.  What I find unusual is that the Hills sought out physical proof of their encounter but when they had what appeared to be such proof they destroyed it.

But humans do act in odd ways at times.  And so do aliens, at least the ones  mentioned in "Captured!"

In the search for tangible evidence of their abduction the couple worked with a "psychophysical" team.  Sometimes psychophysics is written in quotes in the book as if to set it apart from any field with the same name.  The co-authors don't provide a definition.

Over at Wikipedia the psychophysics entry had this definition: "the analysis of perceptual processes by studying the effect on a subject's experience or behaviour of systematically varying the properties of a stimulus along one or more physical dimensions." 

But this type of psychophysics doesn't match what the is described in "Captured!," attempts to telepathically arrange an ET meeting through Betty Hill.  From what I gather "psychophysics" refers to an overlap of mental and material states through the use of extrasensory perception.

The psychophysics team hoped to obtain physical evidence such as alien hardware that would prove the reality of the ETs Betty believed were tracking her and Barney.

In a letter to a team investigator Betty said that she, her husband, and her relatives were hard-headed realists who believed in space travelers and life on other planets, not ghosts.  But they were experiencing paranormal activity, causing her to wonder if the ETs had the power of invisibility.   

Betty was instructed to send out a mental message at a certain time each day.  For example:

"In eight more days go to my parents farm in Kingston, New Hampshire.

"Best science men are there.

"Come close to science men.

"All is safe."

Briefly, the series of experiments ended up with others, not Betty and the psychophysics team, experiencing unusual encounters suggestive of aliens making limited contact.  One attempt on September 9, 1967 by the team was a failure but there was a UFO sighting in the area the day before by a family conducting its own contact experiment.

The previous year Betty telepathically asked the aliens to knock on her parents' door.  A cousin with the same surname but living elsewhere heard a measured beat of nocturnal knocks.  So Betty thoughtcasted again and gave more detailed directions to her mother's home.  

The second time the aliens found the right house.  Betty's mother heard a knocking for several minutes one night, once again in a certain pattern, but she was afraid to see who – or what – was making the sound.  This was followed a tremendous roar and house-shaking explosion.  A neighbor reported seeing a UFO the same night.

Throughout "Contact!" there are mentions of Betty and others seeing UFOs but no direct communication is made.  Betty never gains solid evidence of the lurking ETs.

Now let's speculate that aliens were indeed involved in these events.  What was going on?  Leaving a chuck of ice on a kitchen table with no apparent meaning.  Appearing a day before the scheduled meeting time at the wrong location.  Rapping on the door to the wrong house late one evening.  Then rapping at the right one on another night but again in a way so weird that no one wanted to answer.  (Talk about knockturnal nonsense!)  Becoming upset that no one responds that the pilot puts the pedal to the metal, scaring the hell out of everyone by blasting away in his saucer.

Maybe the aliens are spoiled brats playing tricks.

Or maybe they're just bunglers.  During her abduction the aliens didn't know how the zipper worked on Betty's dress when they were preparing her for an examination.  They ripped her dress.  Later the aliens were astounded that her husband Barney had false teeth and checked to see if her teeth would pop out of her mouth.

Just because a civilization has advanced technology doesn't rule out that some of its members are dim bulbs.  After all, take a look at our world...

And with that in mind, imagine what kinds of representatives the Galactic Council would send to this podunk planet out here in the spiral arm boondocks.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Skepchick: Ads Undermine Message

Over at those questionable ads keep popping up.

As I mentioned in a previous post - "Skepchick's Incongruous Ads" - sometimes the automatically generated ads at the site are contrary to the organization's goals.  I've been randomly checking; the problem remains.

Skeptics are against unproven medical claims and products.   For example, in a recent post entitled "Centrum Silver has Been 'Studied'” the writer, Masala Skeptic, says that the TV commercial for a vitamin supplement was misleading, showing how that while the ad didn't lie, it wasn't exactly being truthful.  She links to online sources to back up her point.

OK, that's fine.  But what about the ads that appear with the article for Vitamin Advisor Andrew Weil, MD or Opurity Vitamins?  Have those companies been checked out?

Most skeptics are atheists.  So why do I see ads on for a Christian dating service?

The problem is worse when a Skepchick writer has a post that is completely undermined by stupid ads surrounding it.  Contributor Elyse wrote a powerful piece, "Don’t tell me to love my body," a reaction to an ad of a beautiful model in bra and panties with the tagline that all women should love their bodies.  She includes a copy of the ad, showing how women are supposed to be held up to the standards set by advertisers.  She mentions that she has lost a lot of weight but still has problems with her body image.

But her well-written message ends up with an ad for the weight reduction product Pure Green Coffee - "The Hottest New Way to A Flat Belly."  The link to the Pure Green Coffee page at shows a blubbery cartoon woman in bra and panties squeezing her bulging stomach with the caption: "Cut down a bit of your belly everyday with this 1 weird old tip."

So has a Skepchick investigator checked out the claims for Pure Green Coffee?

I don't know the validity of claims for the health supplements promoted at .  I doubt the Skepchicks have time to check out every advertiser.  But that's not the point.

The advertisers' messages shouldn't undermine the Skepchick messages.  For example, Rebecca Watson is upset when she's treated like a sex object but ads for companies like with a line-up of lovely foreign ladies still are seen.  In fact the ad ran as part of the "Don't tell me to love my body" post.

Don't get the impression that all ads seen at are incongruous.  There are also other ads, for example, for automobiles, furniture, writing courses and stores like Radio Shack.  If these were the only kind of ads appearing there wouldn't be a problem.

But apparently most people are unaware of the problem thanks to programs like AdBlock that conceal advertising.  I didn't know about the ad situation at until a reader mentioned it in a comment and I deactivated AdBlock.

Is AdBlock going to be the fig leaf excuse for the site?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Plattsburgh Linked To Skepchick Wikipedia Attack

Once again skeptic-feminist Rebecca Watson has stirred up another controversy, this time with the social news website Reddit. And once again people are viciously attacking her online.

On a panel at the recent SXSW conference in Austin, Texas she criticized Reddit for its lack of moderation, allowing the promulgation of bigoted and hateful comments and viewpoints.

In her article at – "SXSW and Reddit’s Introspection Problem" - she gives examples of nasty comments made by Reddit fans and defenders. Watson has faced similar attacks before regarding the "Elevatorgate" incident at an atheist conference back in 2011.

Talking about the furor in a article - "It Stands to Reason, Skeptics Can Be Sexist Too" - Watson said she had heard about sexism being experienced by women attending skeptic conferences. While at the atheist conference she decided to address this problem, writing:

"I used my time to talk about what it’s like for me to communicate atheism online, and how being a woman might affect the response I receive, as in rape threats and other sexual comments."

At the end of a long day she was leaving the hotel bar, returning to her room, when a man joined her on the elevator. The man said he was interested in her POV and would like to talk with her some more back at his room over a cup of coffee. She declined, thinking the man was hitting on her.

After she wrote about the incident she ended up receiving rape threats and sexual comments, the same kind of attacks that are reoccurring with the Reddit controversy.

The "SXSW and Reddit’s Introspection Problem" article mentions that her Wikipedia bio has also been re-edited and screwed up by some of her extreme critics. One attacker added the statement that she was "an insufferable cunt."

In the comments section following the article the Wikipedia vandalization was mentioned again. "krelnik" wrote that her bio was on his watch list and that one of the edits was done on a home internet connection in Plattsburgh, NY.

Yes, I live in Plattsburgh. Yes, I've written critical posts about Watson and the Skepchick site.

No, I didn't screw around with her Wikipedia bio. Any differences of opinion I have with Watson I address through this blog.