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Confidence Scams: Who Does Them, and Why We Fall for Them

The latest issue of Skeptic magazine (21.1), CONFIDENCE SCAMS, features an excerpt from Maria Konnikova’s The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It … Every Time. The Washington Post calls the book “An unnerving manual for conning and getting conned.” And Vice calls it “A gripping examination of exactly why so many of us are such suckers for schemes that shut down our saner instincts.”

Get the digital edition instantly from, or via the Skeptic Magazine App for iOS, Android, BlackBerry PlayBook, Kindle Fire HD, Mac, PC, and Windows 8 devices. You can also pre-order the print edition from Shop Skeptic. The print edition won’t likely hit newsstands for another week or two.


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Haunted Houses (issue 58)

Physically bound inside each and every issue of Skeptic magazine is Junior Skeptic: an engagingly illustrated science and critical thinking publication for younger readers (and the young at heart).

In this issue we’ll summon our courage, light a candle, and venture inside the ancient horror of haunted houses. Imagine walking dark hallways, peering into abandoned rooms. We strain to recognize unfamiliar shapes in the shadows. A cold draft stirs the cobwebs; outside, wind moans through the trees. We climb creaking stairs up into the unknown. Ahead of us, we — wait, did you hear something? Were those…footsteps? Our skin prickles with fear and tension. Breathless, trembling, we call into the darkness, “Is somebody there?”

Read table of contents
for Junior Skeptic # 58

Order Skeptic Magazine 21.1 to get Junior Skeptic # 58


Gravitational Waves, Black Holes and the Nature of the Cosmos

Janna Levin (photo by Sonja Georgevich)

Photo by Sonja Georgevich

On Thursday, February 11, 2016, the National Science Foundation made a thrilling announcement: gravitational waves—first predicted by Einstein as part of his general theory of relativity in 1916—had been detected for the first time. This incredible development made front page news and was reported by outlets across the country. How was such a remarkable discovery, a long hundred years after Einstein’s prediction, made possible?

In this Science Salon based on her new book, Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space, astrophysicist and award-winning writer Dr. Janna Levin tells the epic story of the scientific campaign to record these waves—the holy grail of modern cosmology. A handful of physicists, led by Kip Thorne and Ronald Drever at Caltech and Rainer Weiss at MIT, have been working nearly their entire careers to conceive of, design, and build an instrument sensitive enough to detect gravitational waves. Levin delves into the lives and fates of the scientists, painting compelling portraits of these very human visionaries. She journeys from Los Angeles to Boston, to the LIGO interferometers in Hanford, Washington and Livingston, Louisiana, to the labs, offices, and observatories where the work in this great quest has painstakingly unfolded over the past five decades. Her account of the personalities, surprises, setbacks, and successes is a compelling and intimate portrait of the people and processes of modern science.

Order Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space from Amazon.

Call 1-626-794-3119 now to reserve.

Learn more about Science Salon

Hunting Monsters
MonsterTalk Episode #101

In this episode of MonsterTalk, paleontologist Dr. Darren Naish (@TetZoo) returns to discuss his newest book, an overview of the field of cryptozoology, titled Hunting Monsters: Cryptozoology and the Reality Behind the Myths.

Get the MonsterTalk Podcast App and enjoy the science show about monsters on your handheld devices! Available for iOS, Android, and Windows 8 devices. Subscribe to MonsterTalk for free on iTunes. Follow the RSS feed.



  1. Bad Boy Scientist says:

    I am very happy to see the Skeptic is starting to feature more topics such as Maria Konnikova’s The Confidence Games. This will help us with our PR. It is hard to convince people that we’re not just a bunch of kill joys when we focus on Bigfoot, Ghosts and Astrology while giving a free ride to scam artists.

    A long time ago in my Astronomy class I presented the standard debunking of Astrology and a student asked “Yes, but what’s the harm?” I gave the pat answer of wasting money and making bad decisions based on faulty info, to which she replied, “Yes, but people waste money on all sorts of things and make bad decisions all of the time – why is Astrology special?” I said in this class, the special thing is people confuse Astronomy with Astrology and I just want to make sure MY students know the difference.

    But we skeptics should ask ourselves “What makes the stuff we focus on so special?” If we branch out from the ‘woo’ and address things like scams and predatory lending (and some of the stuff Wall St has been doing) then we can say we’re advocating using reason to protect us from bad decisions and wasting money.

    If not, we’re just kill joys.

  2. Bob Pease says:

    to paraphrase Beavis and Butthead

    Astrology sucks more than anything COULD suck!

    I have to leave right now, but more later.

    One example

    A lady who was sitting by the phone with a stopwatch.
    She was expecting a job offer, as she was chronically unemployed.
    She could not accept a job while Mercury was retrograde as it was sure to turn out to be a bad job .

    Unfortunately this degree of madness is not uncommon among asrtomancers, and I feel sad to think that a lot folks think it is a harmless but fun diversion

    Dr Sidethink Hp. D

  3. Bad Boy Scientist says:

    I respect your opinion and usually agree with you but I submit that the following suck far, far more than Astrology:
    Drug Abuse
    Gambling Addiction
    Domestic Violence

    As my student said, people waste money and make bad decisions all the time, what’s special about them doing it for astrology rather than for drugs or booze?

    Still, in my Astronomy classes, when students bring up Astrology, I explain that the position of stars and planets have no impact on their life (unless they cause a comet or asteroid to hit the Earth ;). If they think about it, the way newspaper horoscopes are written, they might as well be called ‘motivational thoughts’ because any effect they have is psychological. Oh … that reminds me of something else that really sucks:

    Self-Help books & seminars!

  4. Bob Pease says:

    thanks for the reply.
    I agree that atromancy is dumb but don’t agree that the serious practice is relatively harmless.

    It is the last refuge of the philosophically needy who are too unprincipled to study Science and associated worldview.

    The Four Horsemen are War, Famine , Pestilence and Plague
    My pint (sic) here is that War over distribution of food and energy will Take us out.

    if The MAGICAL worldview can be abandoned , Science has a chance of giving us time to figure out what to do.

    ASTROLOGY IS A religion (dogma , clergy, liturgy) and we don’t need to have it numbing the public mind to prepare them for grinning acceptance of despotism and the upcoming wars whose PUTATIVE cause is Dominion and “God’s” will.

    I.E ” The LORD doesn’t want infidels (or Heathens) to use up our stuff.

    We have to get together as one world based on SCIENCE , not manticism to figure out how to beat Global warning .

    Incidentally Astrology is really numerology with imaginary planets and moved stars and constellations serving as talismans.

    what about the folks who are “really ” Ophiucans” because the Roman constellations have precessed in 2000 years

    In essence , “astrology” is just as nuts as Scientology ‘ AND LESS FUN, BUT NOT MAYBE LESS DANGEROUS

    OH BTW Mercury is retrograde now so I better not encourage anyone to make medical decisions.

    Sic Transit..

    DR sidethink

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