Thursday, May 10, 2007

The 60th Skeptic's Circle

In a flurry of activity, the blog has gone from completely empty to being set up for an elaborate presentation. A stage is set up with a podium just to the left of center. To the right of and behind it is a large screen, presumably for displaying highlighted posts for the current Skeptic's Circle. Soon enough, the lights dim and a spotlight appears, tracking Infophile as he walks to the podium.

Welcome one and all to the latest edition of the Skeptic's Circle, where we highlight the best posts from the last two weeks in critical thinking and in debunking pseudoscience, quackery, denialism, pseudohistory, and frauds. I am particularly honored to be able to host the 60th edition of this since, as many of you are likely aware, the number 60 is quite an interesting number.

The number 60 is the lowest number to be divisible by the first 5 natural numbers (and the 6th as a bonus). This leads it to having a plethora of divisors, making it the most relatively abundant number below 100. It's also notably a unitary perfect number and a semiperfect number.

For an instant, the shadows off to the side of the stage appear to be take on a human form, but it quickly fades. Probably just pareidolia.

Additionally, the number 60 and related numbers show up in numerous places in human culture. The most obvious would be that it's the number of seconds in a minute and the number of minutes in an hour. It's also the number of degrees in each angle of an equilateral triangle. Also, it's divisors sum up to 108, which shows up in many more places in religion and literature.

There's that human-like shadow again. Wait... if it were just irrelevent pareidolia, would it be pointed out in the post like this? Or maybe it's just a test of your skepticism.

But enough about the number 60, onto the circle. While I'd hoped I could get 60 posts for this, I wasn't quite that fortunate. Nevertheless, I doubt you'll be disappointed. Our first post comes from the organizer of the circle himself, Orac from Respectful insolence...

Infophile appears to be triggering a remote in his hand, likely to turn on the screen and start the slide show. The screen switches to show a "Loading..." display for a few moments, and then promptly switches to the dreaded Blue Screen of Death, stating that the system has performed an illegal operation and must be shut down.

Great, just great. I apologize for the inconvenience people, but this should only take a moment. I really should have made sure the company I hired to organize this had upgraded at least to Windows XP, but it's too late for that now. While waiting, why don't you talk amongst yourself. I'll even give you a subject: Why did it take so long for Microsoft to fix this problem.

Infophile strikes a key on the podium to commence the shutdown, and at that moment every electrical device in the room simultaneously shuts off, plunging the auditorium into darkness.

Okay, whose idea was it to run the entire room's electrical functions from the same computer, and not even install a backup? You can't tell me this hasn't happened before. Trust me, I'm going t...

Infophile is abruptly cut off, as if his speech were overwritten by silence. This is followed by a disturbing thud. After a few hectic seconds of worried audience members scrambling to get up to the stage and many others asking about what had happened, the lights switch back on.

Somehow, you managed to get pushed to front, and you can see that Infophile is now lying prone on the stage, showing no signs of life. Looking over his body, you see no obvious signs indicating what might have happened to him, but you're not a doctor (for the purposes of this story), so you can't be sure. While inspecting him, you also find a crumpled note which appears to be listing various websites - perhaps the list of posts submitted for this circle.

Call out, "Is anyone here a doctor?"

Flatten out the note and use the computer to check out the sites for the latest Skeptic's Circle. Yes, it's heartless, but you're a busy person, and this is all fictional anyways.


The Factician said...

Nicely done.

Anonymous said...

Man, it's hard to pick the links out with the colors you've chosen!

Infophile said...

Really? Sorry if it's hard for you to see, but I didn't really anticipate anyone having any problems with this scheme. The light brown seems to be quite a contrast from black - at least to me (Monitors with different settings might see things differently, I imagine). Or, are you saying they blend into the background?

Anonymous said...

It doesn't dissappear into the background. On my monitor with the, what, mustard?, background and the single pixle wide text, it gives the illusion that the black text is brownish. I can't tell the difference between it and the actually brownish links. Once a link is followed it goes to a darker brown and is more easily seen. When I turn the text size up in my browser this effect goes away, so it could easily be something that isn't affecting others.

Anonymous said...

I agree that those links are really hard to distinguish from the plain text. I got to the end of the post without picking one of them, and my eyes ain't that bad!

So I can't comment on the quality of the link content.

Try another colour, or underline the links.


Infophile said...

There ya go, links are underlined now.

jba said...

Ha! thats great. I just had some major Zork flashbacks, mixed with 'Choose Your Own Adventure'. Ah, nostalgia.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the underlining. Big difference.

Am I correct that there is only four links?


Infophile said...

On this page, yes. Of course, the latter two lead into the bulk of the Skeptic's Circle posts (one way or the other).