Archive for September, 2013

Let Me Check the Calendar

September 26, 2013 4 comments

I’m just wondering what year this is. Is it 2013, or is it still 1913, or 1813, or even 1313? Maybe I should check my calendar… What makes me wonder are the antics of some religious groups who seem to be stuck in a mindset 500 years old where people still think demons and exorcisms are real.

In this case I am referring to three teenage “exorcists” supervised by the father of one of them who is also a reverend (and who claims that by himself cast has out over 15,000 demons) who are visiting the UK to help rid it of a bad case of demonic possession partly caused by reciting spells from Harry Potter.

A newspaper headline about the visit reads: “Teenage exorcists who say Harry Potter has corrupted the world head to Britain armed with Bibles and holy water to tackle a hotbed of cult activity”. Believe it or not, this is not satire. This is real. How could you satirise something which has already reached such a pinnacle of unthinkable stupidity?

So these teenage heroes want to rescue London’s youngsters who are being possessed after reciting spells in Harry Potter books which invite possession by demons. Yes, apparently the spells in the HP books aren’t just rather clumsy Dog Latin (Expecto Patronum, Expelliarmus, Finite Incantatem, Incendio, Locomotor Mortis, Wingardium Leviosa, etc). In fact they are real spells straight from witchcraft which has been gradually perverting the country for hundreds of years. Oh, and “loose morals” are also significantly to blame for the problem as well!

It’s not all for the good of humanity though, because individual sessions with these people go along with a “suggested contribution” of 200 pounds. Still, I guess it’s worth it if you have a demon you want to get rid of.

It’s such a remarkable story that a British TV crew is making a documentary about it. After 6 months you would think the documentary maker would have seen some fairly remarkable and convincing events which would convince him of the seriousness of the whole thing, right? Well no actually. He says after watching the exorcisms for that long he doesn’t believe in exorcisms! And anyone who sees an exorcism will soon realise you really have to be a moron to believe this stuff. But most religious people are morons so there are no surprises there!

Do other groups embarrass themselves like this by acting like total fools? Well yes, I guess some do, and I’ll discuss them later. But it seems to take religion for people to really go over the edge of reality into a land of total fantasy. Even the Catholic Church – which at least has made a few meagre efforts at modernisation (by accepting the truth of evolution, for example) – still thinks demonic possession and exorcism is true.

OK, fair enough, everyone makes mistakes. The consensus of natural philosophers (I hesitate to call them scientists because the period I’m referring to was prior to the establishment of science in its modern form) used to think that the Earth was at the center of the Universe and that the path of the planets could only be explained by an incredibly complex system of epicycles in the planets’ orbits.

But when the evidence changed the consensus also changed. No one said “we can explain the phenomenon so much better using a heliocentric model but we have always believed in a geocentric universe and that’s what it says in all our old books so, despite the evidence, we will continue to believe the old idea”. No, they realised the old book was wrong and they wrote new books instead which reflected reality much better.

If they had continued to believe the old model despite the vast evidence against it they would have looked like fools because that’s exactly what they would have been. And that also describes these religious freaks who believe in demons, and creationism, and the Flood, and Adam and Eve, and all that other abject nonsense.

But it also describes people who think homeopathy, or magnetic bracelets, or the flat Earth, or the Moon hoax, or 9/11 conspiracies, or free energy, or magic water, and a whole pile of other silly things are real. On the other hand these other superstitious beliefs don’t tend to be as widely accepted or to last as long as religious superstition. I haven’t hard much about 9/11 conspiracies recently for example, despite it being the anniversary of the attack.

So I think religious nonsense is the worst form of nonsense. It seems to be taken the most seriously by its proponents, it is probably the most widely believed, and it is considered by many to be the most unacceptable to ridicule.

Maybe the real problem is that the Harry Potter fantasy world is more realistic and interesting than the Christian fantasy world. Maybe that’s the real reason these religious freaks feel so threatened!


An Offensive Post

September 24, 2013 2 comments

I just listened to a podcast where writer Richard King was interviewed about his book “On Offence: The Politics of Indignation”. As you might have guessed from the title, the book is about how some individuals and groups use real or feigned offence for their own nefarious purposes. It’s a phenomenon I have seen quite a bit of too, so I thought it might be an interesting subject to post a blog entry about.

The way I see it, the primary cause of most cases of offence is not the person making the offensive statement or doing the offensive act, it is the person who finds offence in what is often a fairly inconsequential action.

And it’s ironic that in taking offence and in their reaction to that offence many groups reinforce the original point of the offensive statement. For example, when certain Muslims objected to the famous “Danish cartoons” by rioting and killing who they saw as their opponents they reinforced the original point of some of the cartoons: that Islam is a violent, mindless religion.

And it’s true: Islam is often mindless and violent (and unthinking, and backward, and ridiculous, and… well you get the idea). But the way to try to correct that impression is not to run around in a mindless violent fashion saying “we are not mindless and violent”, it’s actually to be thoughtful and peaceful. The worst violence was started months after the publication of the cartoons after deliberate provocation by religious leaders in the Islamic world and resulted in over 200 deaths. A religion of peace? Really?

If those same Muslim leaders had come forward and said “actually, these cartoons aren’t very funny” (they weren’t) and “while there are some cases of extreme believers performing atrocities in the name of our religion you cannot blame the religion itself” (which is very debatable but at least a point which might be able to be defended) many people – me included – would have been forced to re-examine our opinions.

If you are a Muslim or are just a naturally politically correct person you might find what I said above offensive. Well that’s your problem, not mine. I just wrote about some issues in what I consider a logical and factual way. If what I have said either doesn’t make logical sense or is factually incorrect the best response would be to treat this an an opportunity to correct my ideas by pointing out where I went wrong. I’m happy to be corrected on any issue.

I wouldn’t want to suggest that the only source of fake offence is in Islam, or even in religion in general. There are plenty of other places where the phenomenon is also apparent. Of course, few other groups react to being offended by rioting in the streets and murdering people! But it also happens in personal relationships, the workplace, politics, in fact anywhere that people want to influence other people and aren’t too concerned about the rules of fair debate.

In politics fake offence is a common way to avoid answering difficult questions. One politician might act like he is offended when another asks him to justify a race-based policy, for example. Or the suggestion that there might be favouritism or even corruption in a political action is often deflected by a pretence of offence at the mere suggestion of wrongdoing.

And criticising a statement by saying “that is offensive” is meaningless. In fact what should be said is “I find that offensive” because it is a subjective thing. But even saying that isn’t sufficient. It’s like saying “that is wrong” or “that is inappropriate”. What is required is a statement of why something is inappropriate, or wrong, or offensive.

So if a Muslim (sorry to get back to that again, but it really is the most egregious example) finds criticism of their religion as offensive they should say something like “I find that offensive because only 10% of Muslims are violent which is similar to all other religions”. Except, of course, they couldn’t say that truthfully. What they would need to say instead is “I find that offensive because I don’t like people pointing out the huge hypocrisy in my belief system”. But if you are offended for that reason, then you deserve to be offended.

So in many ways when people are offended they should use it as an opportunity to examine their own motivations. When people make stupid statements about groups I identify with (atheists, computer geeks, political liberals, etc) I don’t get offended, I take it as an opportunity to show why they’re wrong. And if they aren’t wrong then I have learnt something. Either way, getting offended is completely the wrong response.

Barking Mad?

September 21, 2013 Leave a comment

Generally New Zealand has been fairly free from crazy stuff being taught in its schools. As I have mentioned in the past, there is a certain amount of religious instruction (or religious propaganda to be more accurate) but, as far as I am aware, total garbage like creationism has never been taught as a serious theory. Maybe that is about to change.

Two new schools have just been set up under the government’s “charter schools” system which will teach creationism. They claim it will be taught as part of the “controversy” in the scientific world regarding evolution (no such controversy exists except in the minds of religious nut jobs and the extremely ignorant) but many people (including me) suspect it will be just a cheap and dishonest way to push religious lies onto a captive and naive group of young people in the hope of converting them to the fundamentalist Christian worldview.

Even disregarding this travesty of total disregard for educational principles, charter schools are controversial. They are entirely an ideological political solution in search of a problem. The libertarian Act party (which really doesn’t even exist any more except through a cynical political trick inflicted on the voter at the last election by the conservatives) supports the idea of public-private partnership schools because of that party’s ideology. So the National Party, who no doubt also have some positive regard for the idea, said they would implement it in return for Act’s (which doesn’t really exist, as I said) support.

So we have an unsupported political idea implemented purely through political expediency being hijacked by an extremist religious group to force their own nonsensical beliefs on innocent children. Yeah, that sounds like another great achievement of our conservative government!

Already the $19 million the government will be giving private companies and groups to run the schools has had to be increased. Sounds to me a bit like yet another case of this government’s habit of handing out corporate welfare to those who shouldn’t need it. As a taxpayer I object to paying anything so that a bunch of religious morons with ideas stuck 200 years in the past can spread their lies to the next generation.

So far I have been rather critical of these new schools but I do want to change direction here a little bit and say that I think their supporters do have some good points. Charter schools are seen as an alternative to the state school system we already have. Our education system is pretty good by international standards but is far from perfect. I actually think that an alternative approach, as is made possible by these new schools, is actually quite a positive idea.

But if greater flexibility is a good thing why not just give our existing school system some more flexibility in how they operate instead of creating a whole new tier of schools simply to fit in with libertarian dogma?

For example, I think there are many subjects where registered teachers aren’t necessarily the best people to teach them. I don’t think doing an education degree or teacher training necessarily makes someone a better teacher. So allowing “under-qualified” teachers to teach certain subjects is a good idea. I’m sure that once a person goes through the “production-line” of teacher training they come out with certain fixed ideas which discourage originality.

That shouldn’t be used as excuse to hire cheap, incompetent people as teachers so that the private owner of the school can make better profits, but it might be used to get some greater diversity in the skill set and approach of teachers. We should allow this (in a controlled way) in our existing school system though – so there is still no need for charter schools.

It doesn’t look like the new schools will last long anyway because the Labour/Green opposition is strongly opposed to them (and rightly so) and will probably eliminate them if/when they win the election next year. I would like to see them assimilate some of the better elements into the existing system, although I suspect they won’t.

The leader of the opposition has said the charter schools idea is “barking mad”. I think that is a bit too strong. The idea has some good elements which we should try to retain but certainly any good which might come from charter schools is purely a lucky coincidence because the whole philosophy behind them is totally morally bankrupt!

Three iPhone Games

September 18, 2013 2 comments

The iPhone is a great gaming platform. It has an excellent, hi-resolution screen, nice sound (through the phones, not so much the built-in speaker), a really powerful graphics processor, a good CPU, and a huge collection of different game apps.

A friend recently criticised it by saying the screen is too small and he prefers his tablet, to which I replied “OK, let’s have a look at your tablet games then”. He had to admit “I don’t have it with me, the screen is too big to carry around”. Exactly. That’s my point. If I wanted a gaming device I could use at home I would use a computer or console connected to a big TV. But I prefer a device I always have with me and that means the screen must be small (I do have an iPad but use it a lot less).

The biggest problem with gaming on the iPhone (and this applies to all categories of apps) is that there is just too much choice. I have apps I have bought (luckily they are all very reasonably priced or free) and never used, and this especially applies to games. But there are a few iPhone games which I not only play, but play a lot: every day in fact.

I don’t have hours to play games but I do have numerous short periods of time when I want to “waste” a few minutes, so I am a “casual gamer” from that perspective. So now I will cut to the chase and list the games I have spent more than a few minutes playing. This could be seen as a recommendation but it really depends on what you are looking for. If you want to avoid wasting time every day playing addictive games then stop now!

Game 1. Clash of Clans. I have played this game every day for well over a year. That has to be some sort of recommendation, doesn’t it? The game has been near the top of the paid charts of iTunes for a long time so I guess many other people are hooked as well!

The game is free but it is difficult to progress without making some in-app purchases of “gems” which allow you to buy upgrades (you can do this without buying anything but it takes a lot longer). I figured the game was worth about $10 so that’s how much I bought. However I do know some people who have spent hundreds!

And that’s the problem. Not only is it a somewhat devious way to make people pay (get them hooked on the free game but force them to pay to make progress) but it does disrupt the balance of the game-play as well. If you are defeated it could be because your opponent is really skilled – or more likely he has just spent a fortune on upgrades!

But I guess I should describe what sort of game this is. It is basically an empire building, cooperative, strategic combat game. The player builds a village and after progressing to a certain point builds a clan castle and joins a clan (of up to 50 other players) where he can swap troops and chat.

Different village buildings can be used to train troops, or gather resources, or defend against attacks. When the player has sufficient forces he can attack other players and win trophies from them. The purpose of the game is to gather trophies (although there are strategies used when building capabilities where players deliberately lose them).

Many processes take a long time (my last town hall upgrade took 2 weeks) and there is usually a 12 hour shield period after a defence so there’s no need to play continuously for long periods of time. It’s just a few minutes to swap troops, a few more to tidy up after a defence, and a few more to attack someone.

The game has a lot of subtle strategy and doesn’t need to involve a huge amount of time so it suits me fine. The fact that I am still playing it after all this time shows how addictive it is!

Game 2. Real Racing 3. I love racing and flying simulations but most of them are too hard to control on a phone. Also, after a few races there is generally nothing new to try in most racing games. But RR3 is different because of several innovative features.

First, there are three driving assists available: steering assistance, traction control, and braking control. If the player turns all of these on all he really needs to do is steer because the car will always brake at the corners to get around them at the right speed. I use the phone like a steering wheel and just tilt it to steer. It works really well. Of course you can go a lot faster if you turn some or all of the assists off, but you need to concentrate or you’ll be off the track at the first corner!

Second, RR3 has a feature called Time Shifted Multiplayer. It’s usually not practical to get 20 people together to race against each other, but with TSM various players races are gathered together and you can race against them after they have played. How it works exactly I don’t know but it’s very effective and more interesting than racing against computer generated opponents.

Finally, the game has an excellently paced way to progress to better cars and events. Every event pays the driver a certain amount and that can be used to pay for new cars or to upgrade the current car. I started with a Nissan Silvia and now have an McLaren MP4-12C. Unless you upgrade your car you will get trashed in the next race!

The events themselves are also quite varied. There’s the short drag race in a straight line to test acceleration and fast gear changes, conventional multi-lap races on many different courses, time trials of single laps, top speed on a lap, elimination events where you must stay out of last place, chase down the lead car, racing against one opponent, and others.

The tracks are quite realistic. After watching the real racing at Mount Panorama on TV the same race on RR3 seems very familiar. The same applies to the cars. They have similar capabilities to the real thing and different cars are better or worse at different types of events depending on their top speed, acceleration, braking, cornering ability, and other factors.

Like Clash of Clans, RR3 is free but some people buy in-game bonuses to advance more quickly. I have progressed reasonably far without spending anything yet but I will probably spend what I think the app is worth because I think the developer should be rewarded for producing such a great game.

Game 3. The Simpsons Tapped Out. Back in the day I must admit I was one of those really lame people who played Farmville. There, I have admitted it! But to move on… The Simpsons is like a more modern version of Farmville where you must build a community (in this case the town of Springfield instead of a farm) by giving the characters tasks to do to earn money and experience which can then be used to get more buildings, characters, and other features.

This is another game I play for a few minutes at a time a few times a day. I just start the app (which I admit takes away too long) and give a few characters some tasks to do, collect some resources, and maybe start building something. There is also a small social element where the player can visit other people’s towns to collect resources in return for some extra experience points.

I suppose the best thing about this game is its sense of humour. The Simpsons is one of the most humorous TV programs ever and that is transferred quite well into the game. The characters have the same personalities and catch-phrases as they do on the TV program and do some of the same wacky things.

For example, currently I have Cletus de-lousing the young ‘uns, the Sea Captain telling a tall tale of the sea, Chief Wiggum collecting bribes, Lisa playing the sax, … well, you get the idea.

Apart from the humour this game is a fun creative outlet because you can rebuild Springfield (did I mention it needs to be rebuilt because of a nuclear accident?) your own way, either crazy or elegantly depending on your personality.

Again, this is a “freemium” app, meaning it is free but some people may choose to buy in-app purchases to make progress faster. So far I have avoided this and because there is no real competition in this game the people who have spent heaps don’t have an unfair advantage over the rest.

So those are my three iPhone game recommendations. Now I must get back to my iPhone because my village just got attacked again, I have a fully upgraded and repaired McLaren ready for racing, and I think Cletus has finished doing the de-lousing!

What’s Our Economy For?

September 16, 2013 Leave a comment

What is our economy for? That was a question which stood out in a recent radio program I heard about Brian Bruce, a film maker who worked on a show called “Mind the Gap” which was primarily about the increasing gap between rich and poor. A previous show he had made, called “Inside Child Poverty” caused some controversy during the 2011 New Zealand general election, so he has a history of making politically relevant material.

Some other questions the show asked included: “do you think you pay too much tax and others don’t pay their fair share?” (answer: sort of, and yes, I don’t mind the amount of tax I am paying but I would like to see big corporations and the rich pay their fair share as well) and “Do you work all week and still can’t make ends meet?” (answer: I am paid above the average and survive OK but I don’t have much left over for anything extra and I think it’s a poor reflection on our society that many people can’t survive).

So despite the fact that these issues aren’t necessarily a huge concern to me directly they should be directly concerning to the majority of people (who are negatively affected by current economic policies) and indirectly to everyone (because ultimately an unfair society cannot survive).

The show claims to have talked to people from all walks of life about what has gone wrong with our economy, and to have sought advice from Nobel Prize winning economists and world experts on how to get things right.

Of course, some people will claim that there is nothing much wrong with the economy and some will even claim that we need a more extreme form of what has already got us to where we are today. A similar thing would apply to economists: there are different schools of economics with some claiming neo-liberalism is the best economic model and others advocating a model with more intervention from government.

But, as I have said in previous blog posts, there does seem to be a general trend away from extreme neo-liberalism, laissez-faire economics, and totally “free” markets. All I can say is it’s about time. It has been clear for years now that the model has only benefitted the top few percent of the population and claims that if we hadn’t followed it the country would have been totally bankrupted are devoid of any real evidence.

So while the program (which I haven’t seen but have heard reports on) seems to have been a bit biased it does reflect a reality which more people are beginning to understand.

The Labour Party members, who were competing for leadership of the party at the time, certainly seemed to have identified with the message. Shane Jones said the TV program showed that “all the world’s leading economists” (not actually true) thought the gap was growing (which is a fact but one which some people try to justify). And David Cunliffe also railed against the inequality portrayed in the program.

So the next Labour leader (who we now know is Cunliffe) is very aware that we need to reverse some of the damage neo-liberalism has caused. If Labour are the main party in the next New Zealand government (and they certainly should be) we can look forward to some balanced, fair policies which don’t follow the simplistic ideology of neo-liberalism.

As I implied with my initial statement, we need to decide what the economy is for. Is the economy something which we must all be subservient to? Something which we work for with some vague idea that it will provide all we need? Something which is a natural or ideal consequence of human activity? Or is it a tool which we should shape to benefit the majority?

I don’t think the economy, or markets, or anything else are free or natural or the highest ideal which we should aim for. All markets – even those labelled as “free” – are just human inventions shaped by political and social forces. Change the forces and you change the market.

We need to change the “free” market into something which makes the participants free and the market the tool which creates that freedom, instead of the other way around which we have now: we are all slaves to the market. As I said, all we can do is hope that this happens, and hope is better than nothing.

Past Peak Apple

September 12, 2013 2 comments

About a month back I read an article titled “Are We Past Peak Apple?” which suggested that we shouldn’t expect any major new innovations from Apple because the products they sell are already mature. For example, the ideal form factor and feature set has already been established for the smartphone: look at what the current iPhone and Android smartphones can do now. What more can be reasonably done? And the same applies to the tablet (although it is not quite as mature), the desktop computer, and the laptop.

So none of these devices have changed much for years. In most cases Apple was responsible for defining what these products should be like even though they didn’t create them originally. But the original designs of all of these products was truly terrible: early smartphones were basically useless, tablets were clumsy, and computers were extremely unfriendly (I know, I tried to use them all). It was the iPhone, iPad, and Mac which transformed these into usable products, and after that companies like Microsoft and Google just copied.

Yesterday Apple announced the latest iterations of the iPhone: the iPhone 5C and 5S. Apple say they are still innovative (after the loss of Steve Jobs) so what have we got? A cheap, colourful phone which is basically identical to the iPhone 5 which has been around for a year, and a new phone almost identical to the old one except for having a faster processor, a better camera (but with the same number od pixels) and a fingerprint security system.

It’s not really all that impressive, is it? Despite being an Apple fan I will admit, it isn’t. But the Samsung Galaxy S4 wasn’t impressive either and neither was any other smartphone designed in the last few years. The fact is the smartphone has got to the point where there really isn’t anything truly significant which can be added or changed any more.

I should clarify a point here: these phones are impressive in many ways. The performance, storage capacity, and extra components (such as camera, GPS, motion sensor, compass, multiple wireless systems, sensors such as gyros, etc) are literally incredible. Just a few years ago it would have been impossible to believe that a device could do all this and still get good battery life, be compact, and not cost ten times what they actually do.

So when I say the new phones are’t impressive I mean the amount of progress shown in the latest versions over the previous model isn’t that great. There is no real innovation, no real revolutionary change. It has go to the point where evolution has taken over, and that’s exactly what we would expect.

So does that mean that we won’t see anything genuinely innovative from Apple (and others) again? I think we will, but not in existing product categories. The stage is set now for someone to create a good wearable digital device. There have been a few attempts already: Google Glass, the Pebble watch, etc, but these aren’t really what people want. It’s time for Apple to do what they have done before: to make a new wearable device (let’s call it an iWatch) and show everyone else how it should be done.

I still think we are past peak Apple (and peak Google, Microsoft, Samsung, etc) because most of the important digital products have been already optimised to a high level, but there will be more breakthroughs in the future, just at a slower rate than in the past.

Spooky Attraction

September 10, 2013 Leave a comment

In New Zealand we have a “celebrity psychologist” known as Nigel Latta. In reality he is just a purveyor of pop-psychology advice and is probably popular more because he is entertaining and tells people the simple answers that they want to hear (such as “if you are having trouble with teenagers it’s because they’re not right in the head” which is partly true but surely a gross oversimplification) rather than having any deep insights or knowledge.

I found his programs on managing children (especially teenagers) interesting in parts but frustrating as well. He is a real clinical psychologist but seems to have made some sort of Faustian deal when he started making TV programs. That didn’t improve much with his next TV show which involved examining crimes, and his appearance on “Sensing Murder” was a real disaster (and the main subject of this blog post). Needless to say, I don’t hold out much hope for his next effort, a new TV program called “Nigel Latta Blows Stuff Up”, being worth watching!

So on to his effort in Sensing Murder. First, this is a program made in New Zealand which uses psychics in an effort to solve crimes. Despite all the great claims and hyperbole involved in the program, and the fact that many people take it seriously, it has never solved a single crime or even achieved a single significant breakthrough in all the years it has been running.

I would have thought that if you investigate a few lucky guesses invented by people who claim no paranormal abilities you might make some progress through pure, stupid luck, but the “psychics” in this program don’t even seem to be able to do that! If you ever needed evidence that psychics are fake, this should provide it.

In fact there are two types of psychics: the liars and cheats who know they are fake and use their claimed abilities to gain fame and money, and those who are totally deluded even about their own experiences and genuinely think they have special powers. I’m not sure which type appear on Sensing Murder but I suspect it’s mainly the first type.

Apparently the producers of the show (surely total charlatans themselves) realised it was losing credibility so they decided they needed an “expert skeptic” to admit he couldn’t explain the extraordinary abilities of the psychics. But instead of asking a real skeptic like the relatively well known and skilled Vicki Hyde, they asked Nigel Latta instead. After all, he’s a clinical psychologist who does TV programs. That makes him credible, right?

Well no, I don’t know whether he is genuinely naive and ignorant or whether he just put on an act for the TV program, but he’s obviously no skeptic, nor is he a scientist, as became very obvious in the program.

Before I go any further I have to admit I only got this material second hand because I will not watch worthless nonsense like Sensing Murder. So maybe there was more on the original program very different from the parts I heard which made Latta look a lot better, but I really doubt it.

Anyway, let’s look at some quotes from the program and I will explain why they make Latta look like such an idiot (I’m not saying he is an idiot, although he probably is, just that he looked like one)…

In the program it was claimed that his appearance would result in the “filming process being laid bare”, and he was introduced as a “die-hard skeptic and clinical psychologist” and was asked to scrutinise a psychic reading.

He said “I can’t find a way to rationally explain what I saw today”. Well there are two possibilities there: 1, there really is something going on which cannot be explained by conventional means; or 2, Latta is totally unaware of the cheap magic tricks which psychics use and can easily be replicated by any competent magician and which any real skeptic would be very aware of. I wasn’t at the reading to know for sure but I would be prepared to suggest that any real paranormal investigator would have detected the second option pretty quickly.

But then poor old Nigel really got out of his depth. Here is part of his “explanation” for psychic powers: “there is no way for the information to get from this particle to that particle unless there’s some kind of telekinetic other communication between those two particles that we can’t explain. Einstein called this spooky attraction at a distance and it freaked him out, and freaked him out until his death bed.”

The TV commentary then added, just to emphasise the point that they didn’t have the slightest idea what they were talking about: “That same spooky attraction is what appears to connect the sensing murder psychics to those who have passed on.” Yeah, that will be it. What a brilliant application of modern physics!

In fact, quantum physics does have a phenomenon commonly referred to “spooky action (not attraction) at a distance” and it has been observed to be real although the exact explanation of the underlying process is unknown (as is the case in a lot of quantum physics). But that phenomenon involves subatomic particles and cannot be used to transmit information. Suggesting it as any sort of explanation for alleged psychic abilities is just pathetic.

I certainly hope Latta can get his facts a bit more accurate when he hosts the new program “Nigel Latta Blows Stuff Up” which is purportedly aimed at “demystifying science”. With the brainless mumbo jumbo we got from him in Sensing Murder maybe the more likely outcome is “mystifying science”. Certainly anyone who thinks that psychics are real and that their abilities are explained by “spooky attraction at a distance” really doesn’t seem to be the right choice for a real science program.