Category Archives: Headline

I don’t understand the point of this, therefore it’s stupid

That might as well have been the headline to this piece in the National Post, entitled: Fat kids get picked on–and other things you didn’t need a study to tell you

There are no doubt countless important studies that discover things that help the public better understand ourselves and the world in which we live. There are also a lot of studies that tell us things we already know. Or didn’t need a costly study to tell us. … A cynic would suggest that studies such as these are conducted by researchers who could be making better use of their time by not re-examining widely accepted conclusions.

Oooh, so when we “know” something already we should just accept that as truth and not bother to prove that there’s actually something to X perception, as opposed to it being some sort of confirmation bias. Wow, I’ve been doing this science thing all wrong.

What is a “widely-accepted conclusion”? Like that we lose the most heat from our heads and that’s why we should wear hats (bullshit). Like that?

[T]he researchers found “that obese children had higher odds of being bullied” regardless of a number of socio-economic factors. The authors “conclude that being obese … increases the likelihood of being a victim of bullying.”

Apparently this research is useless. But only if you accept the conclusion before having the data to support it. Maybe rich fat kids didn’t get picked on. Who knows? Without a study, no one – at least not for sure. And if the NP author’s issue is that he doesn’t consider the research question interesting, well that raises the question: Why does individual specific interest determine what scientific studies ought to be done?

The author provides several more examples of research that he finds unimportant, yet provides no analysis for why this is a problem (other than to suggest that money ought to be spend elsewhere, but then it’s turtles all the way down again – based on what? why is this a problem? etc).

Is this how the public perceives science research? If so, we have our work cut out for us to change that perception lest we end up just accepting “common knowledge” as the objective truth regardless of evidence just because Joe Sciencepack thinks that’s how it’s done.

UFO =/= Alien Spaceship

Just to be clear, UFO means “unidentified flying object”, but when most people hear “UFO” they actually hear “alien spaceship” and/or “government conspiracy”. In reality, UFOs can be literally any object with the necessary conditions that this object is flying and hasn’t yet been identified. It’s pretty self-explanatory really. So then why is it that I still have to read news stories like this one?

What this headline should have said: Britain publishes boring files about weird lights and questionable eye-witness testimony, probably just as useless as when we didn’t know the secret details.

Probably too wordy. But sometimes accuracy demands it.

And “Flying Saucer Working Party”? Wtf?

The burning stupid that is this morning

This morning, 4:05:06 AM, 07/08/2009, apparently in each time zone separately and regardless of the arbitrary nature of both the year calendar and the way we measure time, an amazing thing happened! Except that it didn’t because of all that stuff I wrote just then. More…


A ghost was caught on film in a British museum. Methinks there is pseudoscientific paranormal investigations afoot. Let’s take a look at the story. More…

Mars alien skull

Apparently anything vaguely spheroid with 2 dark spots on it is considered an alien skull these days. So says The Telegraph which published the following picture the other day with the title “‘Alien skull’ spotted on Mars”. At least they used quotes around “alien skull”. But then they have this gem of a picture caption:

An oddly shaped space boulder appears to show eye sockets and a nose leading to speculation it might be a Martian skull.

Sigh. More…

What This Headline Should Have Read Part Deux

Ah No shortage of craptacular news.

Hilton Blamed For Chihuahua Epidemic
12 February 2009 8:35 AM, PST

Paris Hilton has been blamed for an epidemic of abandoned Chihuahuas in California animal shelters – because she’s made toting around the pups in tiny handbags a major trend. The hotel heiress was investigated last year after admitting she owned 17 dogs, allegedly breaking U.S. laws that ban non-breeders from having more than three per address. Animal shelter bosses in Santa Barbara have now banned anyone under 21 from adopting a miniature pup, after seeing a growing trend of young women dumping their full grown dogs when they’re sick of caring for them. And activists are blaming Hilton’s menagerie of tiny animals for the problem. Chihuahua Club of America head Lynnie Bunten tells the National Enquirer, “Chihuahuas are not a toy or a fashion accessory. But because some people think they are – then realise they’re wrong – there’s a growing problem of abandoned Chihuahuas.”

This is bullshit. On what planet is anyone responsible for what other adults do to copy an observed behaviour? Well OJ killed his wife so I killed my wife. I thought it was the trend, so it’s totally his fault. Punish him more. Ok that’s a ridiculous example. But, however much I think Paris Hilton is a vapid attention-whore, I do think she gets the shit kicked out of her in the media for no good reason. This is not her fault.

This headline should have read: Activists are retarded. Here is yet another example.

You know who is responsible for this behaviour? THE PEOPLE DOING IT. She can’t help if people see what she’s doing and omfghavetodoittoo!!! If pet abandonment is a problem that is going to be solved, the productive thing to do is target the individuals committing the “offense” with education, etc. It does no good to say “We have an abandoned dog problem. Paris Hilton tends to carry dogs around and has too many animals. Get her!” How does that help the dogs? Non sequitur much?

I don’t blame Paris Hilton. I blame all the vapid whores in California who think dogs are charm bracelet attachments. And I blame California “activists” for typically managing to cloud issues with garbage and help no one.

"What This Headline Should Have Read" Inaugural Post

I’m going to start a new regular topic called “What This Headline Should Have Read” for when I see particularly ridiculous news items. The rules are that either the headline is way off from the actual story, or the story is in in some way shamefully ridiculous with the headline being laughably erroneous or euphemistic.

Today’s offending item is a news item from that reads:

Hewitt’s Ghostly Encounter

27 January 2009 11:10 AM, PST

Jennifer Love Hewitt is a firm believer in the afterlife – the actress is convinced her grandmother has spoken to her from beyond the grave. The 29-year-old stars in spooky TV show Ghost Whisperer, in which she plays a woman who can see and communicate with ghosts.

And it was a chance encounter with the show’s producer, James Van Praagh, who is also a psychic, that put Hewitt in touch with her late relative.

She tells Britain’s Ok! magazine, “We had an evening with James where he kind of did this thing, and my grandmother came through.

“She just wanted to say hello and tell me that she was looking out for me. It was really nice.”

In my job when people see things that aren’t there (i.e., hallucinate), talk to them, and make elaborate stories about these figments of imagination (i.e., delusions), we call a psychiatrist for a consult.

For any news to take this at all seriously without a shred of irony is laughable. Even though it’s just some lame internet news site, is that some sort of license to throw their brains out the window before writing these things? James van Praagh is a crook no better than Sylvia Browne (save that he’s not got quite the empire she has) with no abilities that are demonstrably real or able to withstand any scrutiny. He warps people’s brains by manipulating the memories people have of their loved ones and the emotions they have surrounding their deaths. John Edward may be the president of Douche Island, but he’s got to be President Douche of someone – enter: James van Praagh.

But anyway, to the headline itself: How is a report from a 2-bit psychic at all the same as a “ghostly encounter”? Both are imaginary, yes, but a “ghostly encounter” typically involves the person believing they actually encountered someone. As opposed to some merciless fatso telling them what a dead person allegedly said.

This headline should have read: “James van Praagh has Schizophrenia” or “…is Heartless Crook”.

Remember that time journalism had standards? Me neither. But just to stick it to the people who deserve it, I will be commenting on those I come across more often, rather than just snarking about it to myself.

[Edited for formatting – was trying to decide the best way to do this…I’ll leave it this way and see if it works out.]