Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The year in review

Well, 2011 is almost over, and I thought it would be entertaining to review some of the top stories from this year, as a way of reminding ourselves how bloody amazing it is that humanity has survived this long, considering some of the silly things we say, do, and believe in.

In January, we had an announcement from the scientists at the Minnesota Planetarium Society that according to their research, the standard zodiac isn't correct.  So even if, for some reason, you think astrology actually works, that the position of the Sun relative to arbitrary patterns of stars has something to do with your personality, daily life, and destiny, you haven't been using the right constellation for your "sun sign" because the plane of the ecliptic has moved since the time of the Greeks.  There's now a thirteenth zodiac constellation (Ophiucus) and all of the dates have shifted.  (Link)

February brought the announcement that former Baywatch star Donna D'Errico was looking for Noah's Ark on the side of Mount Ararat.  Despite her plans to bring along a camera crew, she was quoted as saying, "I am not doing a reality show."  I have to agree with her there.  Reality is the last thing this is about.  (Link)

March was a contentious month, and saw two examples of mystics hurling abuse at other mystics for being mystics.  In Bulgaria, a monk named Brother Visarion wrote a book, and has been preaching sermons, denouncing two folk religious figures, the healers and prophets Peter Danov and Mother Vanga.  And in yet another example of the pot cursing the kettle, we had the Raelians, who believe (amongst other things) that Jesus' resurrection will be accomplished by cloning, criticizing the Christians for having wacky beliefs.  (Link)

In April, I wrote the post that has generated the greatest number of hits to date -- a piece about the claim that Rebecca Black's song "Friday" was really about the JFK assassination.  That this song could have anything going for it, other than being the most terrible song ever recorded, is hard to believe; but apparently enough people at least wondered to (1) generate the claim in the first place, and (2) send over 1,500 people to my blog to find out what I thought.  So I owe a rather reluctant debt of gratitude to Rebecca Black, even though I still would rather have both ears removed with a SkilSaw than have to listen to that song again.  (Link)

In May, we found out that (gasp!) Harold Camping was wrong again about the world ending, resulting in disappointment both from his followers, and from us godless heathens who thought we were finally going to be rid of them for good.  Camping, of course, was undaunted, and merely revised his date to October.  (Link)

June brought the startling announcement that the Smurfs were communists, and were indoctrinating children into Marxist ideology.  A Parisian lecturer named Antoine Buéno wrote a vicious treatise about the Red Menace of "Les Schtroumpfs" (as the French call the Smurfs), which was notable as making even less sense than the Muslim imam's claim that Mickey Mouse was an agent of Satan. (Link)

In July, we had the announcement that the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo's ship from the Star Wars trilogy, had been found crashed on the floor of the Baltic Sea.  Or, if not Solo's ship, at least a crashed UFO of some kind.  The Swedish treasure-hunting outfit Ocean Explorers were the ones who made the discovery, and the subsequent claim, and no one was more shocked than I was when it turned out to be... a bunch of rocks that were vaguely shaped like a spaceship.  (Link)

August often turns folks' minds onto vacations, and for the woo-woo minded we have a post about a variety of opportunities for mystical travel.  (Link)

In September my blog set another record, for the highest number of hits in a single day -- after I inadvertently pissed off a bunch of British ghost-hunters with this post, and they got wind of it, and a battle of cross-posting ensued.  (Link)

October was notable for the world not ending again, and also because the Russians began their big push to prove that the Yeti was real.  Some Russian scientists sponsored an expedition to Kemerovo, the site of many alleged Yeti sightings, and actually got a bunch of interested researchers from other countries to attend.  Unfortunately for any scientists who were interested in trying to find actual evidence, the whole thing was a publicity stunt, and included "Bigfoot nests" that had apparently been made using hand saws, a technology that most credible researchers believe Yetis don't have.  But the expedition did have one thing going for it -- the participation of heavyweight boxer Nikolai Valuyev, the "Beast from the East," who might have a personal interest in proving the existence of Bigfoot -- if you get my drift.  If you don't, you will when you look at his photograph.  (Link)

November brought a story about the organization PETA losing what little credibility it had left by attacking the video game character Mario for wearing a fur coat, and retaliating by creating a game of its own that had a crazed Mario carrying around a bleeding dog's head.  Evidently the word "fictional" isn't really part of these people's vocabulary.  (Link)

And most recently, in December we had the claim that a highly advanced alien species, possibly the Romulans, had a huge cloaked spacecraft parked near Mercury.  In fact, the spacecraft was exactly the size and shape of Mercury.  And, of course, it turned out that the spacecraft was Mercury, to the dismay of UFO aficionados and Trekkies alike.  (Link)

It's been a long year's journey through the world of the woo-woo, and for those of you who are regular readers, thanks for sharing it with me.  I wish you all a Happy New Year.  Myself, I'm looking forward to 2012, which will undoubtedly bring us all new examples of wingnuttery, and a brand new date for the End of the World.  So, let's boldly plunge forward into the New Year, with the fervent hope for peace, happiness, and love, and a quick wish that we'll find out that the Mayans were wrong, after all.

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