A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



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Censorship is Weapon #1: Trump orders online Tech Giants to stop

Censorship trumps everything else. Without free speech, there are no free elections, and no progress in politicized science. The base temptations of the human condition thrive in the dark.

Ten years too late, the House Judiciary Hearing on antitrust laws is on:

Republicans tear into big tech CEOs

Katelyn Caralle, Nikki Schwabm, The Daily Mail

For more than five hours the world’s richest man, Bezos; fourth-richest, Zuckerberg; CEO of the world’s most valued corporation, Cook; and its key search engine, Pichai; were repeatedly ripped as copycats, liars, bullies, drug dealers and traitors.

…big tech’s out to get conservatives. That’s not a suspicion, that’s not a hunch. That’s a fact,’ Representative Jim Jordan asserted at the top of his opening remarks.

‘We’re 97 days before an election, and the power – as the previous chairman and ranking member have said – the power these companies have to impact what happens during an election, what American citizens get to see before their voting, is pretty darn important,’ he said.

Trump issued an Executive Order to prevent social media giants from altering or editorializing free speech. He declared that if Congress won’t act, he [...]

Thursday Open Thread

Peter Ridd will take the fight for free speech to the High Court

For Peter Ridd, it would have been so much easier if he had gone quietly. This battle is not for him, but for our Australian Universities. He shouldn’t need to take this to the High Court, or even the Federal Court. The Scott Morrison government could turn off the tap to every institution which won’t guarantee free speech and enshrine it in their employee contracts. Dan Tehan is reviewing the university model code, but they don’t need a review. They know, we know, everyone knows, without free speech our universities are just Big Government advertising agencies, or victims of the latest FashionThink trend. Those funds could be frozen tonight, and watch how fast the universities can rewrite their contracts. At the speed of light…

Donations are already flowing in for the High Court Battle. Thank you to all who can help his GoFundMe Campaign.

From John Spooner, The Australian.

Peter Ridd Seeks High Court Appeal

Charlie Peel, The Australian

Sacked James Cook University professor Peter Ridd will go to the High Court over his controversial sacking for publicly criticising the institution and his colleagues over their climate change science.

A week after the Federal Circuit Court overturned [...]

Older children may spread Coronavirus even faster than adults do

New research shows that families with teenage children were three times more likely to get Covid  (odds of spread , 18%) than families with children under ten (5%). It appears that it’s more dangerous to live with teens than to live with adults (12%). It may be that teens are more likely to be asymptomatic which means people don’t realize they need to isolate from them.

The question of opening primary schools is potentially very different to high schools. Quite possibly puberty affects immune systems in ways that make teens effectively young adults.

Older Kids May Transmit COVID-19 as Much as Adults Do, New Evidence Shows


The results also showed up something unexpected, however. When index patients were categorised by age (0–9, 10–19, 20–29, 30–39, 40–49, 50–59, 60–69, 70–79, and >80 years), households with older children (index patients of 10–19 years) had the highest rate of infection spread to household contacts, with 18.6 percent of household contacts later showing the infection.

By contrast, young children (index patients 0–9 years of age) seemed to confer the least amount of spread of the virus, with just 5.3 percent of household contacts contracting the infection, which [...]

Tuesday Open Thread

Still no vaccine to Typhus, but it was beaten in overcrowded ghettos of Warsaw in 1941

For 450 years Typhus ravaged Europe. The death rate without antibiotics is somewhere from 10 – 40%.

Warsaw Ghetto workers

There is still no vaccine to typhus, but overcrowded ghettos of partially starving people managed to stop the spread in 1941. The Nazis crammed some 450,000 people into a 3.4km2 area in Warsaw. In the first round, typhus spread rapidly, infecting 120,000 people and killing 30,000. But the Jews got organized and just as everyone was expecting rates to rocket with winter approaching, the exponential curve fell off suddenly “to extinction”. A new paper claims they beat it with social distancing, hygiene, and home quarantine.

Typhus is due by a bacterium transmitted by lice and fleas. It causes a fever, headache and rash. It was such a scourge that in 1759 one estimate suggests as many as a quarter of all prisoners in England died from typhus. Infection rates were so bad in prison that the disease was called ‘gaol fever’ and prisoners on trial would even infect court members from time to time. In the early 1600′s more than 10% of the total German population may have been killed by typhus. Currently it is infrequent except for in [...]

Watching the Three Gorges Dam as China Floods

UPDATE: Scroll through the Twitter thread #ChinaFloods

See the spectacular and heart-wrenching footage of raging torrents. I have never seen water move on that scale. Why isn’t this on the news?

But NO evacuation #Hefei #Anhui? Like demons in the night #4thReichChina #Chinazi #Xitler #CCP blew up dams & intentionally flooded & killed a city of 60 million PEOPLE to try save richer more important areas. #ChinaFloods #ChinaTruth #HumanitarianCrisis #EnvironmentalDisaster

— Binni (@ExpelChina) July 25, 2020


There is remarkable footage coming out of flooding in China #Chinafloods.

I can’t verify the authenticity, or dates, but it seems likely that terrible things are happening in China. There are shots of levees being deliberately broken to allow waters to flood fields to take the pressure off the dams, and some say the flooding is done without warning and even at night. One shot shows a barge with people on board crashing into bridge pillar and breaking apart. Lord help them.  There are reports that the grain crops have been hit hard. “Agriculture wiped out”. There are multiple other reports of thousands going without food or water, with no attempts to rescue them. And there are scores of videos [...]

Weekend Unthreaded

Hottest summers in the last 2000 years were during Roman times

There’s a reason the Romans wore Togas

A new study near Sicily shows the sea surface temperatures were a whole two degrees Celsius warmer then. The worst-case scenario of the Paris Agreement has already happened, and it was nearly 2,000 years ago.  And instead of being a baked-earth apocalypse, the Roman empire flourished during the warmth and declined as it cooled.

Time to burn oil and Make Rome Great Again?

The expansion of the Roman Empire coincided with the warmest period in the Mediterranean of the last 2,000 years.

Probably just a coincidence. /

A formanifera with the awkward name of Globigerinoides ruber apparently likes to live near the sea surface around 10 to 50 m down. Depending on the temperature, it ends up with slightly different ratios of calcium and magnesium. At some point it dies, sinks and sits in a mud layer on the sea floor 475m below. Eventually, for this lucky mud, someone digs it out and analyses it. This new study suggests the Mediteranean warmed up during Roman times from AD 1 to AD 500.

This was the Roman Climatic Optimum — an era we are spending trillions to avoid.

The researchers suggest that cooling and [...]

Friday Unthreaded

New Study: Covid Infected only 1 – 7% of US population in April. Herd Immunity still far off.

Antibody tests versus PCR tests: PCR tests are nose or throat swabs that amplify up short fragments of viral RNA. They only detect infection in the day or two before symptoms show, and for a few days to a few weeks later. The PCR tests cannot show past infections. Antibodies take around a week or two to rise so don’t show active infections, but will show up past ones, though — in the case of Coronavirus, may still produce no result after a few months in some people as antibodies decline.

Test results like these must finally have convinced Donald Trump to change course. It’s long past time the US got serious about this disease, but hopefully rapid action now — masks and distancing and more testing can prevent the trainwreck of rapidly rising infections across the US in two months time as winter and the US election approach.

This study shows that most people in the US have not had this virus, and herd immunity is unattainable without hundreds of thousands more deaths. It also shows how inadequate testing is in the US.

Many antibody studies have tried to estimate the true extent of the Coronavirus infection. Some were [...]

Ridd appeal: JCU spent a fortune to win the case and trash its own reputation

 Ridd loses: Federal Court rules that science is whatever the JCU Vice Chancellor says it is.

JCU wins the appeal on all 17 points that Justice Vasta scathingly awarded to Peter Ridd.

If, hypothetically, fraud was happening at JCU and a staff member reported it, the Australian Federal Court decision has just declared that its fine for JCU to sack that whistleblower for being uncolliegiate.

As I said, this is a case so pointless that even if JCU wins, it loses. And it has spent a fortune to win the legal battle and prove that we cannot trust anything anyone says from JCU.

This win doesn’t just tarnish the VC and admin, it taints everyone who works there.  No matter what any good academic says at JCU, the world will wonder what they didn’t say. We can’t know whether they would have preferred to say something else, but couldn’t out of fear that they will be sacked because the VC might not like it.

To recap Peter Ridds crimes: he said “for your amusement” in an email once. (Illegal satire). He said “ We can no longer rely on our science institutions.” He talked about the replication crisis in science, [...]

Wednesday Unthreaded

So far Woke they’ve become the racists they’re looking for…

What happens when the left overreach so far they lap the whole argument and hit themselves from behind?

When Wokes and Racists Actually Agree on Everything

by Ryan Long.


“We kicked someone out for marrying a black woman, but if you can prove hes still a racist we’ll let him back in”

When there is no rational debate left, there is always satire. Brilliant.

h/t David E

Interferon Beta reduced risk of severe Covid by 80%

Welcome to the Era of the Anti-Virals. They’re everywhere.

A legacy of the coronavirus pandemic is the dawn of new ways to stop viruses. Here’s another new (old) one — it’s only a small trial, but if it can stop 4 out of 5 people developing the severe form of the disease it will be a gamechanger. If this gets similar numbers on larger trials, then we still need mass production. But national policies will swing on a dime if a safe drug with this much potential appears.

After Coronavirus we might not be so content to accept the annual seasonal virus scourge.

Postenote: These are preliminary results, not a large trial, but at least it is placebo controlled and randomized.

Breakthrough’ treatment slashes virus death risk: study

by Patrick Galey, MedicalXpress

In a randomised trial of 100 patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19, those who received an inhaled formula of the protein interferon beta were at 79 percent lower risk of developing severe disease compared to those who received a placebo.

They were also more than twice as likely to make a full recovery compared with the control group.

The firm [...]