The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

Happy Birthday Carl Sagan!

November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. Carl Sagan

FEW CELEBRITIES IN SCIENCE have done more for the promotion of science, reason, rationality, and critical thinking than Carl Sagan, whom we remember today upon the occasion of his birthday: November 9, 1934. Carl would have been 77 years old today. Happy Birthday Carl!

3rd Annual Carl Sagan Day

This Saturday, November 12, 2011, marks the third annual Carl Sagan Day, which takes place at Broward College: North Campus in Coconut Creek, Florida. This free event is a celebration of the life and teachings of Carl Sagan, whose many books, television appearances (most notably Cosmos), and NASA projects influenced a generation of thinkers. For more information, go to

The Measure of a Man

In celebration of Carl Sagan Day, we would like to share with you a free lecture from our Distinguished Lecture Series at Caltech: Carl Sagan: The Measure of a Man. In this lecture, Michael Shermer, William Poundstone and Keay Davidson take an illuminating look back over the life and legacy of one of the 20th Century’s most celebrated astronomers.


Dr. SETI: “Cosmic Carl”

Back in 2009, Daniel Loxton put together a free, downloadable Skeptics Mix Tape, comprised of a selection of songs of science and skepticism. In one of the songs, Cosmic Carl, folk singer Dr. SETI leads a live audience in a fond shout-out to the late, great astronomer Dr. Carl Sagan. Have a listen and feel free to download ALL the songs in MP3 format for non-commercial use at home or in your classroom.


Carl Sagan Tribute Articles has a compendium of articles on Carl Sagan that you can read for free on on our website. Several of them are tribute articles from various back issues of Skeptic magazine.


Items of Interest at Shop Skeptic (limited availability)

Lecture Sunday: Robert Trivers

The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and
Self-Deception in Human Life

Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 2 pm
Baxter Lecture Hall

WHETHER IT’S IN A COCKPIT AT TAKEOFF OR THE PLANNING OF AN OFFENSIVE WAR, a romantic relationship or a dispute at the office, there are many opportunities to lie and self-deceive—but deceit and self-deception carry the costs of being alienated from reality and can lead to disaster. So why does deception play such a prominent role in our everyday lives? In his bold new work, Rutgers University evolutionary theorist Robert Trivers unflinchingly argues that self-deception evolved in the service of deceit—the better to fool others. We do it for biological reasons—in order to help us survive and procreate. From viruses mimicking host behavior to humans misremembering (sometimes intentionally) the details of a quarrel, science has proven that the deceptive one can always outwit the masses. But we undertake this deception at our own peril.


Tickets are first come, first served at the door. Seating is limited. $8 for Skeptics Society members and the JPL/Caltech community, $10 for nonmembers. Your admission fee is a donation that pays for our lecture expenses.

Skepticism 101: 2nd Call for Course Syllabuses
from Those Teaching Skeptical Courses

A few weeks ago, I sent out a call for all teachers and professors who are teaching courses in skepticism, critical thinking, science and pseudoscience, science and the paranormal, science studies, history or philosophy of science, the psychology of paranormal beliefs, religious studies, and the like…

Thank you very much to those of you who have already contributed. We appreciate your efforts and your support. For those of you would like to contribute, please EMAIL Anondah Saide
(one of my graduate students) with your:

  • course syllabuses,
  • lectures,
  • Powerpoint presentations,
  • reading lists,
  • YouTube videos,
  • classroom demonstration ideas,
  • student projects and experiments,
  • research project ideas, and the like.

I want to add them to my own Course Syllabus on Skepticism 101, and create an online Skeptical Studies Program at for teachers and professors everywhere to go to in a creative commons/open source system so that we can build a new academic field going forward with skepticism into academia.

To start the process off I share with you my own Course Syllabus for Skepticism 101, which I am teaching this semester at Chapman University on Tuesdays from 4–7pm with 36 freshman, the future of the skeptical movement!





A.J. Mass
Interview with A.J. Mass

This week on Skepticality, Derek interviews A.J. Mass (a staff writer for ESPN, and card dealer in Atlantic City) to discuss his new book How Fantasy Sports Explains the World: What Pujols and Peyton Can Teach Us About Wookiees and Wall Street. From the Last Supper to Star Wars, winning advice about almost any facet of life can be found almost anywhere, especially when you pay attention to reality and the current known odds.


Paranormality (book cover)
Paranormality: Psychic Dogs, Ghosts and Silly Voices—an Interview with Richard Wiseman

While at TAM9, the hosts of MonsterTalk sat down to talk with psychologist Richard Wiseman about his new book Paranormality: Why we see what isn’t there. It was supposed to be a chat about the paranormal, ghosts and Wiseman’s findings. But a conversation with Richard Wiseman is rarely so simple as that.

Kitchen Table Cryptozoology

As part of the research for his upcoming book on cryptozoology with Donald Prothero, Daniel spends a few minutes playing with playdough at the kitchen table—and demonstrates a simple but under-appreciated principle behind false positive sea serpent sightings.



Some spaces available on our
Upcoming Geology Tours

Whale Watching, Geology and Tide Pools

November 12, 2011

tide pools

We have a few spots left on our 1-day whale watching tour coming up on November 12, 2011. Questions? Email us. To register, call 1-626-794-3119 with a credit card to secure your spot.


Viva Mojave!

January 14–16, 2012


We still have space available for this tour from January 14–16, 2012 which highlights the Mojave Desert and the Las Vegas area, Calico, Afton Gorge where Ice Age floods drained Lake Manix, Red Rock Canyon, and the Hoover Dam. Explore the Las Vegas Strip on your own in the evening.



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Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

FREE PDF Download

Wisdom of Harriet Hall

Top 10 Things to Know About Alternative Medicine

Harriet Hall M.D. discusses: alternative versus conventional medicine, flu fear mongering, chiropractic, vaccines and autism, placebo effect, diet, homeopathy, acupuncture, “natural remedies,” and detoxification.

FREE Video Series

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods.

FREE PDF Download

The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

FREE PDF Download

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and can you tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

FREE PDF Download

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Mind altering experiences are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

FREE PDF Download

Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

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