Author Archives: Administrator

Newsletter 38

Please sign up at www.libelreform.org

I am hoping to send out a proper newsletter later this week, but in the meantime I have an urgent and important request.

It has been 18 months since I was sued for libel after publishing my article on chiropractic. I am continuing to fight my case and am prepared to defend my article for another 18 months or more if necessary. The ongoing libel case has been distracting, draining and frustrating, but it has always been heartening to receive so much support, particularly from people who realise that English libel laws need to be reformed in order to allow robust discussion of matters of public interest. Over twenty thousand people signed the statement to Keep Libel Laws out of Science, but now we need you to sign up again and add your name to the new statement at:

www.libelreform.org

The new statement is necessary because the campaign for libel reform is stepping up a gear and will be working on much broader base. Sense About Science has joined forces with Index on Censorship and English PEN and their goal is to reach 100,000 or more signatories in order to help politicians appreciate the level of public support for libel reform. We have already met several leading figures from all three main parties and they have all showed signs of interest. Now, however, we need a final push in order to persuade them to commit to libel reform.

Finally, I would like to make three points.

First, I will stress again – please take the time to reinforce your support for libel reform by signing up at:

www.libelreform.org.

Second, please spread the word by blogging, twittering, Facebooking and emailing in order to encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up.

Third, for those supporters who live overseas, please also add your name to the petition and encourage others to do the same; unfortunately and embarrassingly, English libel laws impact writers in the rest of the world, but now you can help change those laws by showing your support for libel reform. While I fight in my own libel battle, I hope that you will fight the bigger battle of libel reform.

Thanks for your continued support.

Simon.

Newsletter 37: Application to Appeal (again) on Wednesday

1. Application to Appeal

2. Twitter

3. TAM London

4. Spanish Castle Illusion

5. Out and About

6. Old Competition Winner

7. New Competition Puzzle

1. Application to Appeal
I am back at the High Court on Wednesday 14 October. I will renew my application to appeal the ruling on meaning in my libel case against the British Chiropractic Association. Hopefully there will be news on the result by the end of the week. Jack of Kent’s recent blog gives an excellent summary of the current situation.

http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/2009/10/simon-singh-background-to-next-hearing.html
The campaign for libel reform is moving up a gear. Richard Dawkins spoke at the Liberal Democrat party conference – there was a huge show of support from and the delegates and libel reform will be part of the Lib Dem manifesto. I spoke to the science group at the Tory party conference this past week and raised the issue of libel reform. Over the next three months there will be a major push on the issue of libel reform, so please keep an eye out for news. And, of course, wherever you are in the world, please sign up to the statement of support. We need to turn 20,000 names into 100,000 names!

http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/project/333/

2. Twitter
I have joined the legions of Twitterers as “SLSingh” – follow me for various updates on everything from lectures to the libel case (as well as maths, crypto and cosmology).

3. TAM London
The Amazing Meeting came to London courtesy of the James Randi Foundation. It was a brilliant weekend. In particular, it was great to see and hear Randi via the video link, which enabled the audience to ask him lots of questions. I was reminded of Randi’s remarkable involvement with Project Alpha – find out more at:

4. Spanish Castle Illusion
In case you have not seen it, here is one the most extraordinary optical illusions on the web:

5. Out and About
I will be giving various talks around the UK this autumn. They are all listed on my website – please keep an eye out for the two fundraisers for Bletchley Park, the two events on libel happening this coming week in London, and lots of shows with Robin Ince’s Book Club in Cambridge, Bath, Brighton and Folkstone.

https://www.simonsingh.net/Simon_Lectures.php

I have not listed this winter’s “Godless” shows as they have all sold out. However, if you don’t have a ticket then visit the New Humanist website at the end of the week for some good news.

http://blog.newhumanist.org.uk/2009/10/nine-lessons-and-carols-for-godless.html

(Before I receive a fresh batch of emails – similar to those I received last year – I should clarify something. As far as I am concerned, the “Godless” shows are not anti-religious, but rather pro-rationalist. They will be celebration of the universe. We may even have some carols.)

6. Old Competition Winner
Noel Potter from Cleveland suggested 6^(2+1)=216‏ as a solution to A^(B+C)=BCA, so he receives a copy of “Why Does E=mc^2?: (and Why Should We Care?)” by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. Other possible solutions include 5^(1+2)=125 and 2^(8-1)=128.

7. New Puzzle Competition
Lisa Wadley from the University of Glamorgan is working on a student project and asked me if I knew the longest word that could be Caesar-shifted to form another word. For example, COLD turns into FROG if each letter is replaced by the letter 3 places further down the alphabet. Or DOLLS turns into WHEEL if each letter is Caesar shifted by 19 places. But can you help Lisa and find a word that is longer than 5 letters long?
Please send your answer to competition@simonsingh.net – put your answer in the subject header and your address in the body of the email. The closing date for entries is October 14 – Lisa’s project deadline is approaching fast. The winner (whoever comes up with the longest pair of English words) will receive a copy of “Isaac Newton” by James Gleick.

Cheerio,
Simon.

Newsletter 36: Application to Appeal Rejected

1. Application to Appeal Rejected

2. Back from Oz

3. Camden Festival

4. Skeptics in Love

1. Application to Appeal Rejected
For everyone following my libel case, the bad news is that my application to appeal seems to have been rejected. I say “seems” because I have not yet seen the official ruling as the letter is still in the post. However, there seems to have been a leak and my options are already being discussed by various bloggers. As usual, Jack of Kent has provided a clear summary of the situation:

http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/2009/07/simon-singh-loses-first-attempt-at.html

http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/2009/08/simons-choice.html

The Court of Appeal’s refusal is obviously disappointing, but I remain in good spirits. I will not be making a decision about my response until I have seen the official letter and the details of the refusal, and I will also need to time to discuss the situation with friends, colleagues, supporters and family. In the meantime, while my particular libel case is ongoing, it continues to raise a whole series of arguably more important issues, particularly the appalling state of English libel laws. I am pleased that the Culture Secretary has agreed to meet with signatories of the Keep Libel Laws out of Science campaign statement to hear how the laws affect science writers. We are also pursuing a meeting at the Ministry of Justice and with front benchers in other departments to lobby for a change in the law.

http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/project/333/

Also, Ben Goldacre’s recent and excellent article in the Guardian (“An intrepid, ragged band of bloggers”) documents various activities that will interest those following my case.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2009/jul/29/simon-singh-science-chiropractic-litigation

2. Back from Oz
I have just returned from the Adelaide Festival of Ideas and from speaking to skeptics in Sydney and Melbourne. Thanks to everyone who came to the events and offered words of support. Also, the Australian media covered “Trick Or Treatment?”, the problems of English libel laws and the evidence for chiropractic on national TV, print and radio.

http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2009/s2625864.htm

http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2009/07/10/2622720.htm

http://today.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=837529

3. Camden Festival
It is very short notice, but I will be appearing tonight and tomorrow night in Camden, along with Robin Ince, Ben Goldacre, Nathalie Haynes, Andrew Collins and others.
http://www.camdenfringe.org/index.php?action=&id=3&disp=details&acts_id=279

Robin Ince will be in Edinburgh performing “Carl Sagan is my god and so is Richard Feynman” with guests from 19th -30th at midday as part of the Free Fringe. He will also be performing his solo show and Book Club show, also on the Free Fringe and on the same dates, but at different times. If you are in Edinburgh, I highly recommend catching at least one of his shows. Robin is brilliant. You can find more information and a video clip at:

http://www.myspace.com/robinince

http://www.robinince.com

(The latter site also contains details of how to get tickets for this year’s “Nine Lessons…” shows at the Bloomsbury Theatre.)

4. Skeptics in Love
I am sorry that I missed TAM 2009 (the annual skeptics conference in Las Vegas), but I was busy being skeptical in Australia. I am particularly sorry that I missed the skeptical marriage of the century. Best wishes to Sid and Rebecca. Watching this made me smile for a very long time.

Writing this newsletter has been a bit of an urgent panic in light of the refusal of my application to appeal, so there is no competition winner or new competition to announce. More news, competitions, etc., in the next newsletter.
Cheerio,
Simon.

Newsletter 35: Festival of Ideas

1. Application to Appeal

2. Heading Down Under

3. “Dissing science is like…”

4. Old Competition Winner

5. New Competition Puzzle

1. Application to Appeal
Unlike recent newsletters, I will try to avoid filling this one with lots of tedious legal details. However, I will mention that the Application to Appeal has been lodged and I am now waiting for the result. For more news and information about my libel case, you can visit the Sense About Science website or follow any of the insightful and entertaining bloggers who are covering the subject. The most recent media coverage was in the Daily Mail and there is also an interview I gave to the Nature podcast.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/jun/19/chiropractic-bca-mca-singh

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1196696/Back-cures-brave-scientist-epic-court-battle-How-Britains-libel-laws-threatening-free-speech.html

http://nature.edgeboss.net/download/nature/nature/podcast/extras/singh-2009-06-29.mp3?ewk13=1

Most important of all (if you have not done it already), please sign and support the libel reform campaign and encourage others to join the list of 15,000 names.

http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/project/333/

2. Heading Down Under
I am currently in Adelaide, where I am taking part in the Festival of Ideas. I have already spoken at a couple of events, and have two more to come on Sunday. You can find out more details at the festival website or my website. I am also giving a talk on Tuesday in Adelaide about risk and probability, which is an event sponsored by the Royal Institution of Australia. I will also be speaking in Sydney on July 15.

http://www.simonsingh.com/Simon_Lectures.php

http://www.adelaidefestivalofideas.com.au/

http://riskprobabilityandgambling.eventbrite.com/

http://skeptics.meetup.com/163/calendar/10746110/

3. “Dissing science is like…”
This is slightly out of date, but I wanted to mention a couple of online video projects that caught me eye. The first is Alom Shaha’s online film which asks ‘Why is Science Important?’. My favourite contribution is from Mark Miodownik:

http://whyscience.co.uk/contributors/mark-miodownik/mark-miodownik-science-is-your-mum.html
And then there is the Periodic Table of Videos, starring the magnificent Professor Poliakoff.

http://www.periodicvideos.com/

4. Old Competition Winner
In the last newsletter, I asked: “On average, which planet is closest to Pluto?” The winner was Tanja Cilia from Malta, who correctly identified the answer as Mercury. The vast majority of answers were outer planets, so have a think about why the innermost planet is the correct answer. Tanja will receive a copy of “Quirkology” by Richard Wiseman as soon as I return to the UK. (By the way, Richard’s new book (“59 Seconds”) is published this month.)

5. New Puzzle Competition
Today I was interviewed by Luke Stegemann of the Adelaide Review. He has been experimenting with numbers and discovered solutions to the equation:

A^(B+C)=BCA

For example, 5^(1+2)=125. Can you find another solution?

Please send your answer to competition@simonsingh.net – put your answer in the subject header and your address in the body of the email. The closing date for entries is July 14. The winner will receive a copy of “Why Does E=mc^2?: (and Why Should We Care?)” by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw.
Cheerio,
Simon.

Newsletter 34: I will apply to the Court of Appeal on Monday

1. Court of Appeal and Campaign Launch

I am glad to say that on Monday I will apply to the Court of Appeal in an attempt to overturn the recent negative ruling on meaning in my libel case with the British Chiropractic Association.

Also, Sense About Science have launched a campaign linked to my libel case and focussing on the need to overhaul the English libel system, which is deeply flawed and which therefore has a chilling effect on journalism.

The campaign has issued a statement of support, which has already been signed by an incredible list of people, including James Randi, Richard Dawkins, Ricky Gervais, Sir Martin Rees, Penn & Teller, Stephen Fry, Martin Amis and Steve Jones. It would be terrific if you would also sign up to the statement and (better still) encourage others to sign up. It is conceivable that this campaign could help reform the English libel laws (which unfortunately affect overseas journalists too). Please help us move closer to having a free press.

You can find the statement and sign up at:
http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/libelcampaign

2. Fighting Fund

I have had many kind and generous offers of financial help, but at the moment I am able to fund my own legal costs. However, if you would like to help, then please make a donation to Sense About Science, who will need funding to maintain what could be a long battle to reform the libel laws. You can find out how to donate at:
http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/project/336

3. Cheltenham and Oxford

I will be speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival on Saturday 6 June and at Oxford Skeptics in the Pub on Monday. More information at:
https://www.simonsingh.net/Simon_Lectures.php

And finally, a massive thanks to everyone who has been so supportive over the last month. You have genuinely played a crucial role in my decision to go to the Court of Appeal.

Cheerio,
Simon.

Ps. You can find plenty of press coverage about the libel case at the Sense About Science website, but some highlights include:
http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/uk/ouch+dr+singh+hits+back/3194057

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1190863/Stars-writer-sues-chiropractors-saying-unproven-treatment-bogus.html
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/silenced-the-writer-who-dared-to-say-chiropractice-is-bogus-1696408.html
http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/

Newsletter 33: Simon Singh v British Chiropractic Association & Justice Eady’s ruling on meaning

I apologise for the silence since last week’s bad news at the High Court, but at last I have been able to take stock of the situation and write a quick update.

It has been over a year since I wrote an article for the Guardian newspaper (19 April 2008) about chiropractic, its effectiveness in relation to childhood conditions and its risks. The British Chiropractic Association then decided to sue me for libel and I have spent most of the last twelve months building a defence.

Prior to the full trial it was agreed that it would be helpful for the actual meaning of the article to be established in a preliminary hearing. On Thursday 7 May 2009 the preliminary hearing took place at the Royal Courts of Justice in front of Justice David Eady. It is not an understatement to say that his ruling was, from my point of view, disastrous and misguided.

The core of my article, and the aspect that I thought was mainly under scrutiny, suggested that chiropractors lacked evidence to support their treatment of several childhood conditions. I therefore called these treatments “bogus”.

The judge held that merely using the phrase “happily promotes bogus treatments” meant that I was stating, as a matter of fact, that the BCA was being consciously dishonest in promoting chiropractic for treating the children’s ailments in question, in that they were promoting treatments they knew were ineffective.

Although I maintain my position that such chiropractic treatment for childhood conditions lacks any significant scientific basis and that chiropractic in general carries risks, I do not and never have meant to imply that chiropractors are deliberately and dishonestly offering such treatments. My view is that, for example, they may not know the scientific evidence, they may not understand it or they may have a biased interpretation of the evidence – I don’t know. More generally, I share the commonly held view that alternative therapists who offer treatments unsupported by reasonable evidence are deluded rather than deliberately dishonest. I think that Justice Eady has failed to interpret the meaning of the article in the way that a reasonable reader would understand it.

The current ruling by Justice Eady means that I stand very, very little hope of a successful defence at trial, so going to trial is not a realistic option. My two reasonable options are to:

1. Settle now, which will cost in excess of £100,000 (the vast majority of these costs would be to cover the BCA’s legal bills, as opposed to damages).

2. Submit an appeal in relation to the meaning of my article, hoping for a more reasonable ruling on meaning and then fight the case on what the article really meant.

I have until May 28 to lodge an application to appeal. I am seriously thinking about this option and am discussing it with my lawyers. It would increase my legal costs and eat up more time, but on the other hand I think I deserve the chance to fight my case on a reasonable interpretation of my article.

Moreover, this case demonstrates the chilling effect that the libel laws can have journalism in general, and science journalism in particular. The events of last week impact far beyond the author of one article on the subject of chiropractic.

Last Thursday was a miserable day, but I like to think I am as resilient as a Tigger. I am certainly in good spirits. In particular, family, friends, readers and bloggers have all cheered me up.

Thanks also for your supportive messages. I will try to reply to emails, but please forgive me if I don’t. The best option is to post to the Facebook site (see below) – I do regularly read the wall and it frequently makes me smile. I should also point out that the enormous support that I have received from around the world has certainly made me more enthusiastic about lodging an appeal (if this turns out to be a practical option).
Scientists, journalists, comedians, rationalists, skeptics, bloggers, politicians and those who care about free speech have all expressed their outrage at last week’s ruling.

The next event that will interest those following the case is a public meeting on Monday 18 May at 6.30pm at Penderel’s Oak Pub (283 High Holborn, WC1V 7HP). Speakers will include me, the amazing Nick Cohen, the fantastic Dave Gorman and the heroic Evan Harris MP.

If you cannot make it to the meeting, then please help by letting others know about the case, the ruling and the possibility of an appeal. If there is an appeal, then it would be great to launch it upon a strong tide of public support.

If you want to find out more about the case (or want to inform others) then below are some useful links. This includes mainstream media coverage in New Scientist, Nature and the Economist.

Thanks again to everyone who has been so supportive.

Simon (still smiling) Singh.

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=33457048634
For Simon Singh and Free Speech – Against the BCA Libel Claim
This seems to be the best place for keeping up with the latest news and developments. It contains links to various blogs and articles commenting on the case. Joining the group is a great way to show your support.

http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/

Jack of Kent’s blog is well informed and written from an expert’s point of view. Recent update postings include:
http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/2009/05/bca-v-singh-astonishingly-illiberal.html
http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/2009/05/what-should-simon-singh-do-next.html

Googling words such as SIMON SINGH, BCA, LIBEL will take you to lots of blogs and articles about the libel case. Google news is particularly helpful (search “SIMON SINGH”, and you can also then click on the blog option.
http://news.google.co.uk/news

Coverage
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20227086.200-comment-dont-criticise-or-well-sue.html
http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090513/full/news.2009.479.html
http://www.economist.com/science/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13643973

Newsletter 32: Preliminary hearing starts tomorrow

Apologies for the second newsletter in a week, but this is just a very quick note about the preliminary hearing of my libel case which starts on Thursday 7 May.

Simon Singh v The British Chiropractic Association (BCA).

What will be happening?
The British Chiropractic Association is suing me for libel and this hearing will be a chance to for the Judge to clear up a couple of grey areas before we gear up for a full trial this autumn. The decisions will be very important as they are likely to determine what the Judge will require in the form of a valid defence and the meaning of the article at the centre of the trial.

How to find out more?
The Contempt of Court Act applies so there are severe limitations on what anybody (particularly me) can write on the subject until the preliminary trial is underway.
Therefore, the best source of information is the web, which contains lots of articles and blogs that have discussed the case in detail. You can Google words such as Singh, BCA & libel.

In particular, I would recommend visiting a blog written by Jack of Kent who is a lawyer and who has taken a special interest in this case. This blog will be updated during the hearing and Jack of Kent will also be twittering from outside the court at appropriate breaks in proceedings.

http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/

http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/2009/03/bca-v-singh-first-court-hearing-is.html (This blog is particularly relevant and is followed by keywords that you can use to find other postings relating to the case.)

Jack of Kent will also be posting to the Facebook group.

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=33457048634

Where and when?

The hearing on Thursday 7 May might start as early as 10am, but it is more likely to be 10.30, or possibly even 11am. There is a good chance that it will run into Friday. It will take place at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand (WC2A 2LL), probably Court 13 or 14.
If you are interested and have the time, then you are welcome to attend all or part of the hearing. There should be plenty of room in court. If you get lost then my friend David Allen Green will be standing by the information desk in the main hall of the Royal Courts of Justice at 9.30am on Thursday. I hope to be able to join David for lunch at the Knights Templar pub on Chancery Lane, and this will also be a good meeting place for supporters.
If you need more information then you can call the Royal Courts of Justice on 020-7947 6010 (case reference no. is HQ08X02657), otherwise just drop in. As long as you are quiet and do not disturb proceedings then you can arrive and leave during the hearing.

And, finally, thanks to everyone who has been so supportive over the last year. The blogs, emails, facebook postings, pats on the back and phone calls have all been much appreciated and a real morale booster.

Cheerio,
Simon.

Newsletter 31: Preliminary hearing and lots of lectures

1. Preliminary Hearing

2. Lots of Lectures

3. Fermat’s Last Theorem online

4. Climate Numpties
5. Night of 400 Billion Stars

6. Competition Winner

7. Puzzle Competition
1. Preliminary Hearing
The libel case brought against me by the British Chiropractic Association reaches the High Court on May 7 with a preliminary hearing. The Contempt of Court Act applies so there are severe limitations on what anybody can write on the subject until after the event. However, bearing in mind the constraints I hope to post a quick update prior to the hearing explaining the sort of issues that will be at stake.

2. Lots of Lectures
Coincidentally, the paperback of ‘Trick or Treatment? is published on May 7, the day that the preliminary hearing starts. It is going to be a busy month, particularly as I also hope to be lecturing and debating on the subject of alternative medicine at half a dozen venues across the UK (e.g. London, Edinburgh, Cheltenham).
The first event will be a major debate on the pros and cons of alternative medicine run by Kings College medical students on April 28. Professors George Lewith and David Peters will be arguing that alternative medicine does more good than harm, while Professor David Baum and I will be arguing the opposite. The debate is open to everyone, so please do come along if you are interested.

http://www.kcl.ac.uk/news/events_details.php?event_id=1635&year=2009

More information about all the events is available at:

https://www.simonsingh.net/Simon_Lectures.php

3. Fermat’s Last Theorem online
People often ask when the documentary that I directed about Andrew Wiles and Fermat’s Last Theorem is next on TV. I rarely get any warning, but you can watch it online in relatively high quality at:

http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=fermat%27s+last+theorem&emb=0&aq=f#

4. Climate Numpties
I have just started writing a monthly blog on the Guardian website. My most recent blog looked at that odd population of people who doubt manmade climate change. The one before that discussed the ability of Prince Charles to understand science. And the first one looked at an overlap between football and mathematics.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/apr/01/climate-change-sceptics

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2009/mar/16/prince-charles-global-warming-detox

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/feb/27/tottenham-hotspur-david-bentley-symmetry

(And I have just posted an article about homeopathy and pets:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/apr/24/homeopathy-pets-vets-animals-placebo)

5. Night of 400 Billion Stars
Following on from the hugely successful Godless shows, Robin Ince is organising another night of music/science/comedy on 29 June, this time to mark the International Year of Astronomy. Tickets disappeared very quickly last time, so I would recommend contacting the Bloomsbury Theatre now to avoid disappointment. Alongside Robin, there will be me, Lucy Porter, Helen Keen, Chris Addison, Martin White and many others. You can find out more at:

http://blog.newhumanist.org.uk/2009/04/night-of-400-billion-stars-bloomsbury.html

http://www.thebloomsbury.com/event/run/1322

6. Competition Winner
In the last newsletter, I asked: “Which American president quoted the third derivative in a speech during his re-election campaign?” The winner was Shekhar Sathe from Mumbai, who correctly identified the answer as President Richard Nixon, According to Hugo Rossi: “In the fall of 1972 President Nixon announced that the rate of increase of inflation was decreasing. This was the first time a sitting president used the third derivative to advance his case for re-election.” Shekhar (and others) also pointed out: “Actually John McCain also used the third derivative in his election campaign when he called a school boy a jerk. Jerk is a derivative of acceleration. But McCain was not on a re-election campaign!”

7. Puzzle Competition
On average, which planet is closest to Pluto?

Send your answer to competition@simonsingh.net – put your answer in the subject header and your address in the body of the email. The closing date for entries is April 30. The winner will receive a copy of “Quirkology” by my friend and psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman, who has just started a blog at:

30 second introduction

Cheerio,
Simon.

Newsletter 30: Nine Lessons and Carols … a postscript

1. Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People
2. Top 10 Skeptics Who Kicked Ass in 2008
3. Chiropractic libel case – quick update
4. Forthcoming lectures
5. Bletchley Park
6. Competition Winner
7. New Competition

1. Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People

Just before Christmas I contributed to three shows entitled “Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People”. We played to 5,000 people and the performers ranged from Richard Dawkins to Ricky Gervais.

Although the shows seemed to be a great success, I did receive a few emails criticising me for taking part in such anti-religious events. I should stress, however, that I saw the events as a celebration of science and rationalism, rather than any kind of denigration of religion. Perhaps Robin Ince, the brilliant comic behind the whole idea, explained it best: “Rather than create a marauding mob going out to burn down the churches, it’s about people saying ‘Take me to the library!’”

Based on their success so far, there should be similar shows later this year. In the meantime, Robin is currently on tour in the UK with his great new show, so catch him if you can:
http://www.ents24.com/web/artist/12597/Robin_Ince.html

And you can watch Tim Minchin’s marvellous nine minute beam poem which ended the “Nine Lessons” show (audio only) at:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujUQn0HhGEk

2. Top 10 Skeptics Who Kicked Ass in 2008

I was delighted to be named as one of the “Top 10 Skeptics Who Kicked Ass in 2008”. It was a particular honour to be alongside Sanal Edamaruku. You can find out about his marvelous exploits and see the rest of the list at Rebecca Watson’s Skepchick blog:
http://skepchick.org/blog/?p=4996
www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNoX0XKUZlk

I saw Rebecca when she was in London speaking at Skeptics in the Pub last month. You can find out about similar Skeptic Pub events around the world (from Vancouver to Johannesburg) at:

Skeptics in the Pub

And if you are an isolated skeptic, then you can always listen to the “Skeptics Guide to the Universe” podcast (co-presented by Rebecca):

Home

3. Chiropractic libel case – quick update

The trial date is still uncertain, but it will probably be in the early summer of 2009. I can, however, confirm that the trial will not involve a jury, because of its complicated nature, and instead the final decision will be made by the judge. The best place for news on the case is the Facebook group, which monitors various blogs and articles, and which now has almost 2,000 supporters:
For Simon Singh and Free Speech – Against the BCA Libel Claim
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=33457048634

4. Forthcoming lectures

In February, I will be lecturing in London and Cambridge:
https://www.simonsingh.net/Simon_Lectures.php

5. Bletchley Park

There is a renewed effort to save Bletchley Park, where Alan Turing and other codebreakers cracked the Enigma code and changed the course of the Second World War. You can find out more about the problems at Bletchley Park and sign the petition at:
http://savingbletchleypark.org/

6. Competition Winner

In the last newsletter, I asked: “Which singer was born of a Born of a Born?” The winner was Deborah Bardsley from Cambridge, who knew that Olivia Newton John is the granddaughter of the physicist Max Born, and who receives a signed copy of “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins.

7. New Competition

To celebrate President Obama’s inauguration, his full-blooded endorsement of science and his backing for alternative energy schemes, I tried to think of a question that was both presidential and scientific (or at least mathematical) and here it is – who is the only American president to employ the third derivative in a speech during his re-election campaign?

Send your answer to competition@simonsingh.net – put your answer in the subject header and your address in the body of the email. The closing date for entries is February 5. The winner will receive a copy of “E=mc^2” by David Bodanis, subtitled “A biography of the world’s most famous equation.”

I will leave you with Captain Disillusion’s farewell mantra: “Love with your heart – use your brain for everything else. You can watch his excellent You Tube debunking at:

Cheerio,
Simon.

Chiropractors & Private Eye

1. Chiropractors & Private Eye
2. Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People
3. Trick or Treatment? in Italian
4. TED
5. Competition Winner
6. Puzzle Competition

1. Chiropractors & Private Eye

You may have read an article in the current issue of Private Eye magazine regarding the British Chiropractic Association and its libel action against me. Unfortunately, I am still not in a position to say much about the case, which will probably come to trial in the first half of 2009. However, you can find out about the case by Googling various words such as “Simon Singh”, “chiropractic” and “libel”. There is also a Facebook group that is following the case. If you want keep up to date, then you could sign up to it: For Simon Singh and Free Speech – Against the BCA Libel Claim.

2. Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People

The three shows take place later this week. The events are sold out, but I look forward to bumping into those of you who will be attending. Here are a couple of previews that give an idea of what we will be doing:
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/features/three-godless-christmas-shows-1097299.html
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/stage/comedy/article5287689.ece
(N.B. The blueshift-redshift error was made by the journalist, not me!)

3. Trick or Treatment? in Italian

I have ten spare copies of Trick or Treatment? in Italian. I am happy to post them to the first ten people who email me. The books are, of course, free, but perhaps those who receive copies might consider making a donation of £10 (or $10 or 10 Euros, it’s all the same) to a charity of their choice. Just email me at simoncontact@hotmail.com with your address. Please do not bother emailing after midnight on Thursday as the books will go very quickly

4. TED

I was invited to speak at TED a couple of years ago, but I was unable to attend. I am hoping that I will get invited again soon, but in the meantime I have been looking at some of TED’s online lectures and discovered some fascinating speakers. Here are some of my favourites, but there are lots of other thought-provoking sessions:


5. Competition Winner

In the last newsletter, I asked: “Which American entertainer with a mathematical and scientific slant to his work was supposedly introduced to the UK thanks to the patronage of Princess Margaret?” The winner was Judy Paterson from Auckland, New Zealand, who correctly identified Tom Lehrer and who receives a copy of On Space and Time edited by Shahn Majid.

Apparently Princess Margaret mentioned that her musical tastes ranged from Mozart to Tom Lehrer in an honorary degree citation. This provoked a great deal of curiosity in Lehrer, who had previously been unknown in Europe. Many entrants to the competition commented on their favorite Lehrer songs, which included:
Wernher von Braun – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEJ9HrZq7Ro
New Math – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXx2VVSWDMo
Elements – http://www.privatehand.com/flash/elements.html
Elements (by a four-year-old) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWkVO6Bp8VM

Lehrer also wrote satirical songs, but he remains unconvinced that his musical jibes ever had any effect: “I don’t think this kind of thing has an impact on the unconverted, frankly. It’s not even preaching to the converted; it’s titillating the converted… I’m fond of quoting Peter Cook, who talked about the satirical Berlin cabarets of the ’30s, which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the Second World War.”

6. Puzzle Competition

I will be seeing Richard Dawkins at the “Nine Carols…” events and I will be asking him to sign a copy of The God Delusion as a prize for this competition. The question is this – which famous female singer was born of a Born of a Born?

Send your answer to competition@simonsingh.net – put your answer in the subject header and your address in the body of the email. The closing date for entries is December 19.

Have a very merry Christmas.

A Festive Cheerio,

Simon.

Ps. If you need to email me, then please do not reply to this address, as your email will not reach me. Please go via the website https://www.simonsingh.net and click the contact button. It takes me ages to answer emails, as I am struggling to keep up with my correspondence, so please be patient.

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