Archive for the ‘Skepticism’

Deadly Spanish Air Currents

August 26, 2012 By: erik Category: Fighting Stupidity, Science, Skepticism, Spain, Weird

Curtain in BreezeCultural differences fascinate me, as do superstitions. So naturally I am enthralled by the utter mortal fear Spaniards have for air currents, specifically those running through a house. Every time I open two windows on either side of my house to get a nice current of fresh air running through, I am told to close one of the windows, because air currents (corrientes) are dangerous. When there’s a baby or child in the house – forget about it! – the importance of reducing air pressure differentials goes up by several orders of magnitude. Everyone in Spain knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who died because they had fresh air running through their house.

Blindfolded Wine Taste Test: Can you distinguish white from red? Cheap from expensive?

June 11, 2012 By: erik Category: Experiments, Fighting Stupidity, Science, Skepticism, Spain, Wine

Blind Wine Taste TestHave you ever heard the claim that some wine experts, when blindfolded, cannot actually tell white wine from red wine? My gut reaction was the same as everyone’s, “That’s ridiculous, they’re so different!!” But I know enough about psychology and illusions to know that the wine industry is mostly bullshit, and it’s very possible that we might be kidding ourselves. Ever since hearing this claim, I’ve been dying to run an experiment on myself. This past weekend, I finally had the time and wine and test subjects… My parents, wife and I drank wine blindfolded to see how good we were at sensing the wine in the glass without our eyes.

Plastic Cap Charity

October 28, 2011 By: erik Category: Marketing, Media, Politics, Skepticism, Spain

Bottle Cap RecyclingSeveral months ago, I was informed that we were to stop recycling plastic bottle caps of all kinds in our household because my mother-in-law was collecting them to give to a charity to help a sick boy. Immediately, I was skeptical and full of questions. I feel unsettled when I hear of a scheme like this and I can’t understand the motivations of all the parties involved. When beer or soda companies offer to support a local sports team if residents collect bottle caps of their products, that’s one thing; that makes sense to me. But this indiscriminate collecting? What could possibly be the motivation?

Spaniards Don’t Understand Roundabouts

August 05, 2011 By: erik Category: Complaining, Fighting Stupidity, Skepticism, Spain

RoundaboutThis rant has been near the surface for several years now, but a news report on television yesterday set me off, and I need to write it down to get it off my chest. Let me be clear. It’s not that Spaniards are stupid or generally bad drivers, the problem is that they are taught wrong at driving school! Believe me, I know, because I had to go to Spanish driving school to get my Spanish license.

Pulpo Paul: The Psychic Cephalopod

July 06, 2010 By: erik Category: Skepticism, Soccer, Videos, Weird

thumbToday I walked into my local grocery store and said with a wink, “Hey, do you guys sell German flags? I want to hang one on my balcony.” (Hanging the Spanish flag on one’s balcony is a common way to show support for the Spanish World Cup team who will face off against Germany tomorrow in the semi-finals.) My grocer friend, Andrés, said, “Have you heard the story of Pulpo Paul (Paul the Octopus)?” I assumed he was about to tell me a didactic Aesop-esque fairy tale about why one shouldn’t be such a cheeky jerk, but he turns to the checkout computer and pulls up this internet video to show me…

Making Decisions About Car Seats

June 13, 2010 By: erik Category: Musings, Parenting, Science, Skepticism

thumbSometimes it seems like parenting is one big series decisions about trading comfort for safety. My child is tall and lanky, so it has taken her forever to reach the magical 9 kg threshold in which the car seat manufacturers say she can face forward in the vehicle. In her rear-facing seat, she looks, and is, horribly uncomfortable. As her tall and lanky father who takes a couple transatlantic flights a year, I sympathize. My daughter, her mother, and I have all been looking forward to when we can flip her around to face forwards.

Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol is Anti-Science

October 05, 2009 By: erik Category: Complaining, Fighting Stupidity, Reviews, Science, Skepticism

The Lost SymbolI started and finished Dan Brown’s new novel, The Lost Symbol this past weekend. While it was a heck of a can’t-put-it-down thrill ride, the overall message and theme of the book was very disturbing to me. It seems like, after pissing off The Church with The Da Vinci Code, Brown has decided to do a 180° and fire in the other direction, at Science.

Spoiler Alert: I will not discuss any aspects of the plot in this post, nor any of the puzzles that are solved along the way. What I will discuss is thematic elements, particularly as they relate to the “science” in the book. If you want to be completely surprised by everything you read in The Lost Symbol, read no further, but I promise you can read this post and still enjoy the exciting twists of the book.


Will a cactus absorb radiation from your computer?

July 23, 2009 By: erik Category: Fighting Stupidity, Science, Skepticism

Radioactive CactusYesterday I was watching La Ruleta de la Suerte, Spain’s version of Wheel of Fortune. Sometimes they have puzzles in a category called “Did you know that…?” where the answer is some interesting factoid. Unfortunately, their research into these factoids is pretty lax. In this category yesterday the clue was “Anti-radiation” and the answer was “Place a cactus next to your computer”. The host later went on to explain that scientists have shown that placing a cactus next to your computer will absorb, and protect you from, the harmful radiation that your computer gives off. Intuitively this sounded to me to be what the ever-eloquent British call “a load of bollocks.”

Rosquillas – Spanish Doughnuts

January 27, 2009 By: erik Category: Food, Photos, Recipes, Skepticism, Spain

Rosquillas - Spanish DoughnutsLast weekend, my in-laws came over and Marga and her mother made rosquillas for the first time. Like churros, another Spanish delicacy, rosquillas are basically just fried dough, except this dough contains a little white wine and anisette for flavor. Mmmm….anisette…


September 20, 2008 By: erik Category: Complaining, Science, Skepticism, Spain, Weird

September TémporasMy calendar has three days this week (Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) marked témporas. There don’t seem to be any pages on the internet about témporas in English, so I thought I’d make one.

My father-in-law tried to explain them to me recently. He explained that, he already knew that August wouldn’t be very warm this year because he’d observed the weather during Easter. What?? He explained that everyone knew that the weather during Easter affects the weather for the rest of the year. I said, “But you don’t really believe that, right?” He said, “Sure, the shepherds and farmers have been using that wisdom for centuries!” I was just a liiiittle bit skeptical.

September Témporas

Témporas are the days right around a change of seasons, and, legend has it, one can observe the weather on these days and forecast the weather for the entire season. Here’s a translation of one of the only websites I’ve found about it: