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Our Next Lecture at Caltech
Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 2 pm

Drs. Linda and Thomas Spilker
How To Boldly Go Into Space:
An Insider’s Look into How Space Missions are Created, Funded, Built, Launched, and Run

with Dr. Linda Spilker & Dr. Thomas Spilker Baxter Lecture Hall

DRAWING ON THEIR DECADES OF WORK FOR NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Drs. Linda and Thomas Spilker give us an inside view of what goes into the unmanned space program, from the origin of a space mission, to how the funds are found to finance it, to how the spacecraft is designed and built, and to the launching and running of such a mission, often designed to last for years and even decades. How do you get a spacecraft to Saturn, anyway? Who decides what it should study when it gets there? What happens when something goes wrong? And, as a society, why do we explore the solar system (and beyond) and what do we learn from it? Don’t miss this revealing account of what rocket scientists do. READ more

The views expressed by the speaker are solely those of the speaker. The content of this presentation does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the California Institute of Technology and should not be taken as an endorsement.


Is God Dying? The Decline of Religion
and the Rise of the “Nones”

According to the 2012 Pew Research Center survey, there are 48 million Americans with no religious affiliation. In Michael Shermer’s December 2013 ‘Skeptic’ column for Scientific American, he discusses some of the reasons why we are seeing a declining trend in religious belief.



Dr. Peter Steidl, Neuroscientist

Dr. Peter Steidl

Neuromarketing: You Know You Want This!

With the shopping season upon us, Derek decided to sit down and talk with someone who knows a thing or two about swaying people using the power of marketing. Neuroscientist, Dr. Peter Steidl, has been an advisor to the World Health Organization, represented Australia at the European Center for Social Science Research, and is an author and working professional in the world of neuromarketing. Just how much power, or sway, can marketing really have on our spending habits?




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About this week’s eSkeptic

Since late 1964, when The Warren Commission announced its conclusions that Lee Harvey Oswald alone killed the 35th President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and that there was no evidence of a conspiracy, skepticism of its findings has become a persistent obsession that has lasted 50 years.

In Skeptic Magazine issue 18.3 (2013), David Reitzes recounted some of the most durable myths and conspiracy theories, and reminded us that the job of a skeptic is to use critical thinking to properly assess the evidence, and to use our critical faculties to distinguish verifiable evidence from idle speculation, not to merely doubt for the sake of doubting. Michael Medved—a popular national radio talk show host—commented on the air recently that of the thousands of published works he has read about the JFK assassination, David Reitzes’ article in Skeptic magazine was by far the best short piece he had ever seen. You can read that article in its entirety for free on

Skeptic magazine publisher Michael Shermer did a number of media interviews surrounding the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, and wrote this Los Angeles Times opinion editorial which ran on November 26, 2013. In this week’s eSkeptic, we present a letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times, from Stephany Yablow, in response to that op-ed, followed by Shermer’s reply.

A Reader Responds to
Michael Shermer’s LA Times Op-ed

J. Edgar Hoover came up with the lone-gunman scenario within 24 hours of the assassination as a coverup. Lyndon Johnson backed it, demanding that the case be closed quickly.

The Warren Commission was political window dressing. It failed to thoroughly investigate, interview witnesses and experts and conduct forensic studies. It produced a shallow report.

Maybe people would believe the lone-gunman theory if Jack Ruby didn’t waltz into the jail and kill Lee Harvey Oswald. There was no reason for Ruby to have unilaterally decided to kill Oswald; hence, the theory that someone directed Ruby to do so. There must have been at least two people (the requisite number of actors to define a ‘conspiracy’). If the lone-gunman proponents had a better answer, they haven’t convinced us yet. —Stephany Yablow, North Hollywood

Michael Shermer Replies

The Warren Commission report was shallow? At 889 pages, I wonder what would be considered deep.

In any case, five different government investigations — along with countless private inquiries — have concluded that the evidence overwhelmingly points to Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin.

Oswald’s Carcano rifle with his fingerprints on it was found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building. Three bullet casings there match what 80% of eyewitnesses in Dealey Plaza reported hearing: three shots. It was the same rifle Oswald purchased in March 1963, which he then used the following month in an attempt to assassinate the rabidly anti-communist Army Major General Edwin Walker (Oswald attempted to defect to the Soviet Union in 1959).

Co-workers saw Oswald on the sixth floor of the book depository shortly before JFK’s motorcade arrived, and saw him exit soon after the assassination. Oswald went home and picked up his pistol and left again, shortly after which he was stopped by Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit, whom Oswald shot dead with four bullets. He then ducked into a nearby theater without paying, which resulted in a police confrontation. After he attempted to shoot an officer and was arrested, he said, “It’s all over now.”

Two days later, Oswald was himself assassinated by a pro-Kennedy nightclub owner named Jack Ruby, who said his motive was “saving Mrs. Kennedy the discomfiture of coming back to trial.” Thousands more pieces of evidence all converge to the unmistakable conclusion that Oswald acted alone.

In the 50 years since, conspiracy fabulists have concocted more than 300 different people and organizations allegedly involved in the assassination, and yet not one line of evidence conclusively supports any of these suspects. It’s time to move on and let JFK R.I.P. END



  1. Mike Milne says:

    Oswald + friendly fire?

  2. Don Smith says:

    As a network news cameraman I had the opportunity to spend most of a day with Robert Oswald. Very, very nice man. He said he has no doubt that his brother acted alone. I also had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with Earl Ruby, brother to Jack and also a very nice man, who will tell you that his brother acted alone in his obsession with JFK. Dr. Shermer also left out that the doubters of the lone gunman theory were convinced that it was not Oswald in his grave and convinced a judge to exhume the body in 1981. They were wrong. It was Oswald. Finally, as a resident of Dallas who has business around Dealy Plaza fairly often, I can tell you that there are conspiracy hawkers selling ‘proof’ all around the plaza. Trouble is, pick a hawker, pick a conspiracy.

  3. Edward Golledge says:

    The lunatic fringe has marginalized skeptics of the lone gunman theory. Not all conspiracy theories are created equal, however, and you do a disservice to your readers by glossing over the equally ridiculous conclusions of the Warren Report, 800+ page tome that it is.

    Even as I write this, I grow bored–I’m tired beyond description of the JFK debate (and have been for years). So I’ll not present the logical counterarguments, many of which you’ve heard anyway. But your piece disturbed me.

    I respect eSkeptic, and almost always enjoy the articles. However, I suggest that you stick with science. Politics and the gangster nature of our National Security State are unquantifiable and, quite simply, out of your realm.

    • Roy Edmunds says:

      I tend to agree that the Skeptics would do well to stick to science and pure science at that…even psychology reeks of educated guess work and artful dodginess…I doubt very much that we will ever know for sure now exactly what happened and who was involved….there seems to be enough incompetence in high places which we have difficulty in accepting and this leads us to conspiracy….and as you say unquantifiable….

  4. Anthony Reffi says:

    Great response. The suspicion of Jack Ruby was one that persisted to trouble me, but I was unaware of that quote. Thanks for clearing that up.

  5. Raquel Baranow says:

    Jack Ruby’s testimony to the Warren Commission was very weird:

    Mr. RUBY. All I know is maybe something can be saved. Because right now, I want to tell you this, I am used as a scapegoat, and there is no greater weapon that you can use to create some falsehood about some of the Jewish faith, especially at the terrible heinous crime such as the killing of President Kennedy.

    Now maybe something can be saved. It may not be too late, whatever happens, if our President, Lyndon Johnson, knew the truth from me. But if I am eliminated, there won’t be any way of knowing.

    Right now, when I leave your presence now, I am the only one that can bring out the truth to our President, who believes in righteousness and justice.

  6. will walters says:

    I still haven’t seen or read an explanation of why Gov. Connolly still has his hat in his hand after the “MAGIC BULLET” passed thru his wrist. As I under stand it that bullet was fired while the limo was behind a road sign. When the limo appeared after passing behind that sign Kennedy was clutching at his throat and Connolly, with his hat in his hand was starting to turn around to look behind him (See frames 230-263). Will somebody please explain this to me????

  7. Bad Boy Scientist says:

    I believe that comet ISON is really a space witch riding her space broom. No one can explain how the so called nucleus of the comet broke up when it passed behind the Sun and the comet ‘magically’ re-appeared with a different trajectory. Why someone please explain to me how comet ISON obeys Newton’s laws? Until them, I believe it – and all comets – are space witches.
    [For those of you who haven’t had your morning coffee – this is mocking the ‘arguments’ of the conspiracy theorists who obsess over some tiny anomaly in the evidence and then build a ‘theory’ full of many, many crazy assertions.]

  8. Ted Fontenot says:


    Have you looked? This is the internet. Check out McAdams site for starters.

  9. Phil Leone says:

    Will Walters, you should know that the Governor never let go of his hat until he got to Parkland. Eyewitness Nellie Connaly… who was seated next to the Governor.

  10. Dr. Strangelove says:

    The only conspiracy in JFK’s assassination is the stupidity and incompetence of the Secret Service. It’s mindboggling that a lone gunman killed the most powerful man in the world. The Russians with all their nuclear weapons could not do it. Fidel Castro with his communist army could not. The Mafia with all their assassins no. The CIA with their killer spies and James Bond lethal gadgets no. The military-industrial complex with all their money and fighter jets no.

    But Ostwald the loser, good-for-nothing bum can easily kill JFK. He had nothing better to do so in a lazy afternoon he shot the President of the United States. Even more incredible than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movies. Even Rambo could not kill Reagan in the movies. We don’t need conspiracy theories. History is stranger than fiction.

  11. doug says:

    JFK murder is not as clear as all seem to think… i am skeptical… first off, what was oswald’s motive?? Cuba?? Rubbish…. did he have bank accounts with money?? how much?? from where??
    did JFK really approve Diem’s murder as claimed?? sounds like hearsay to me… without a signed document, i’d call this assertion rubbish….
    Vietnam was CIA’s private war they took over when french left in 1954…. eisenhower probably knew about this and the implications and intentions of MIC (military industrial complex)… Ike also gave a warning about MIC in his departure speech… nobody listened…
    Lastly, zapruda film clearly shows head violently kicked back and jackie trying to collect the bits of bone and brain on the trunk of the car…. who ran autopsy??? can CIA intervention be excluded 100%?? if not, then anything goes….
    unless these loopholes are not closed with hard facts, then we could say the CIA did a good job covering their footprints… and who knows, maybe J.Edgar Hoover helped sweep up the dust….
    it is essential to stick to ‘real’ facts… and identify who in the govt… who had a motive, interest and capability?? Clearly, CIA and FBI, being pushed by big $ = MIC, who had lots of new weapons to try out and $ to be made on parts and service sales… it’s all about money and power… as always…
    Warren commission?? 900 pages of rubbish is NOT the way to identify to cause, but to hide it… did they also get some kickback or threats??

  12. Don Black says:

    Gee Whiz! We all know that America has a tough time keeping secrets secret. After all these years the secret, if there ever was one, to all this conjecture would surely have been outted by now, and we could move on to a more current mystery. Something like, who`s really buried in Grants tomb for instance. Seriously though, if any of the suspect intities besides Oswald, actually had a hand in JFKs death, what was ever really gained from his death? Where was the tangible profit? What course of American democracy, government, military, civilian life, was actually subverted, redirected or changed in any real or tangible
    Way. Sure, we got a different President out of it but otherwise life went on just as it should in a democracy such as ours. Cuba is still Cuba, Russia finally self imploded, we still wound up in Vietnam, and we are still licking our wounded pride. Whatever happened, happened, and we will probably never know why because the real story died at the end of Rubys revolver. We should collectively take a deep breath and be thankful that we as a democratic nation were strong, and brave enough to survive such a tramatic event, and continue to forge ahead and strive to set a good example for the rest of the world to follow.

  13. JB Smith says:

    NSA are partnering with Virginia State Police and local police and are torturing innocent citizens. Read “A Note on Uberveillance” by M. D. Michael. Newport News Police and Virginia State Police had a doctor implant me w/o my knowledge and consent with a biochip. A U. S. Attorney for the NSA/DOJ pretended to be my attorney. It enables torture and thought monitoring. They use it as a sensor and pulse energy projectiles at you. I had a heart attack. It enables voice to skull communication. See LRAD white papers or audio spotlight by Holosonics. See Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence by Springer page 9. See Mental Health and Terrorism by Amin Gadit. See Bio Initiative Report 2012. See Forbes and search Brandon Raub. Law enforcement tases citizens into “excited delirium” (see at nij org) to make them act in ways they normally would not. I believe they are directly responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre. There are 3 reasons to have it implanted 1) mental health, 2) criminal record, and 3) infectious disease. If you don’t meet any of those requirements like me, they’ll falsify your records. All the mass shootings are the work of law enforcement. They want to take away your right to bear arms and make America a police state. People aren’t suddenly going crazy, they’re being tortured. I also believe the biochip to be responsible for PTSD. Read Brian Castner’s book “A Long Walk”. I have the same ambiguous pains, twitches, heart attack, night mares, day mares, gurgling, etc. I never served in the war. What do we have in common? The biochip. Suicide is one way to get relief. Virginia’s suicide rate is higher than the national average and the military suicide rate is unacceptable! The torture is ongoing and I am in great pain. Please help?

  14. oiojes says:

    Even NOVA weighed in. They had some pretty good science on that particular show. They concluded that, like the 19th century ether, there was no necessity for it considering the evidence.

    Oswald’s motive may be murky– but no more murky than other assassins. Who can know the mind of Jeffry Dahlmer?

    But if Oswald’s motive is murky, imagine the motivations of a conspiracy. Castro? Why should he: he has everything he wants. The Mafia? It makes no sense. Johnson? Not a good fit. The Military Industrial Complex? Hell, they OWNED Kennedy.

    The lone gunman makes much more sense than any of this.

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