Category Archives: Newsletter

Newsletter 41: Happy New Year – Here’s to a libel-reforming, quack-busting, Higgs-hunting 2011

You can read this newsletter online.

1. Libel Case Over – a story with a happy ending … almost

2. Future newsletters and twitter

3. Uncaged Monkey Tour

4. Skeptics in the Pub

5. Overseas books

6. Old Competition Winner

7. New Competition Puzzle

1. Libel Case Over – a story with a happy ending … almost

It has been almost a whole year since my last newsletter. As many of you will know, the British Chiropractic Association sued me for libel for an article published in April 2008. The case lasted for a miserable two years, but it had a happy ending in April 2010 when the BCA dropped its case against me – in short, I feel that the last two years have vindicated both myself and my criticism of chiropractors. You can find out more about the case on the web, as there was lots of news coverage, such as this article.

My case is over, but other science journalists, scientists and journals are still being sued for libel or being threatened with libel, so the case for libel reform continues. English libel law is incredibly hostile to free speech, and the phenomenon of libel tourism means that it can be used to silence critics and crush scientific debate around the world. The good news is that the UK Government is listening to public opinion and is publishing a draft libel reform bill in March 2011. To make sure that the bill delivers proper reform, it is important that we maintain the pressure for reform. Please sign the petition for libel reform and encourage your friends to do the same:

http://www.libelreform.org/sign

2. Future newsletters and twitter
Now that the case is over and my life is returning to normal, I will probably send out a newsletter three or four times a year, but my main means of making announcements and pointing to interesting things has become twitter. Please follow me on twitter if you want the latest news, etc. My twitter ID is @slsingh

3. Uncaged Monkey Tour
The magnificent Robin Ince is masterminding a touring show featuring geeks such as Ben Goldacre, Brian Cox and myself. There will be other geeks and comedians joining us in what Robin promises will be a mix of “intelligent comedy and comedic intelligence”. We are covering England, Scotland and Wales, and we should reach over 15,000 people in two weeks. You will find a full list of dates and venues here.

4. Skeptics in the Pub
If you cannot make it to the Uncaged Monkey Tour, then do support your local geeks by visiting one the many Skeptics in the Pub venues. The London SitP, which was revitalized by the brilliant Sid Rodrigues, regularly attracts over 200 skeptics/rationalists/geeks/etc, and there are similar events up and down the UK and around the world.

In 2010, I spoke at roughly 10 SitP events, and I enjoyed every one of them. Thanks to everyone who organized them, attended them and contributed to the discussion.

5. Overseas books

I have some signed overseas translations of my books (German, Catalan, Italian, Japanese, Serbian), which I am keen to find a good home for in return for a small donation to the libel reform campaign. You can find details here.

6. Old Competition Winner
Last time I explained that my physics teacher played a trick on the class. He rolled a transparent rod over two words. Each word spelt out a colour and was printed in that colour. The first word was apparently flipped when seen through the rod, but the other word was not. The teacher said that this was due to the difference in colours and the way that various wavelengths are refracted. In fact, it was nothing to do with refraction. The key point was that the letters in one of the colours were all symmetrical along the horizontal axis. I asked you to find that colour.

Annoyingly, I cannot remember the symmetrical colour and I am now questioning my recollection of the whole episode, because nobody sent in a truly satisfactory answer. The best answer (in my opinion) was BEECH sent in by Brian Suda from Iceland, who received a signed copy of “Afterglow of Creation” by Marcus Chown.

8. New Puzzle Competition
A personal highlight of 2010 was that one of my books made a cameo appearance in two different TV detective shows on opposite sides of the planet. Can you name the book and both TV shows? This might be an absurdly tricky question, so you might win even if you can name just one of the TV shows.

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 midday on Jan 7. The winner (picked at random from the inbox) will receive a copy of An Ocean of Air by Gabrielle Walker (A Natural History of the Atmosphere).
Cheerio and, remember, please sign up to www.libelreform.org/sign – and if you would like to donate to the campaign for libel reform then you might consider purchasing the 2011 Geek Calendar, which has already raised £15,000 for the campaign.

Me and Hari in the calendar

Buy the Geek Calendar here

Simon.

Newsletter 40: No more newsletters about libel reform

1. Back at the High Court – final update

2. The Magic of Computer Science

3. Nine Lessons DVD

4. Skeptics in the Pub

5. Kitchen Physics – invisibility in a bowl

6. Old Competition Winner

7. New Competition Puzzle

1. Back at the High Court – final update

My ongoing libel case goes to the Court of Appeal on Tuesday, when the meaning of my article will be decided by three of the most senior judges in the country. Whatever the outcome, the ruling could have a major impact on how English libel laws affect free speech in Britain and around the world.

I have written about the case at length in previous emails, so I will not summarise the story again. In fact, this will be the last time that I mention the libel case until the whole legal process has been completed. So, if you want to keep up to date with the case then please track events on twitter by following @slsingh or #libelreform

My final words on the subject are simply a plea to sign up to the petition for libel reform. English libel laws have a damaging impact on writers around the world, so we welcome signatories from all countries. My own writing has effectively been halted for almost two years because of the extortionate costs of libel and the painfully slow legal process. More generally, the libel laws can effecively crush criticism by bloggers, scientists, journalists, humans rights organizations and many others. Please sign up at www.libelreform.org/sign.
If you would like more information on why English libel laws are so oppressive, then please visit

http://www.libelreform.org/news/432-simon-singhs-weird-idea-that-might-just-work

And, if you have already signed the petition, then please encourage others to sign up. If you want to remind yourself of the reasons that might persuade your friends, family and colleagues to sign up to libel reform then please visit the link at the end of the previous paragraph.

2. The Magic of Computer Science

The Magic of Computer Science is one of the best mathematics education resources I have ever come across. If you are a teacher or you have some budding young mathematicians that you want to inspire then please download this free resource. To be honest, even if you don’t have children to teach, the download contains plenty of interesting ideas for grown ups too.

http://www.cs4fn.org/mathemagic/magicdownload.php
For mathematics teachers in the UK, here are three outreach projects that might interest you.

http://www.mathsinspiration.com/

http://www.mmp.maths.org/risk

http://www.mmp.maths.org/enigma

3. Nine Lessons DVD

If you missed the first “Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People” show in 2008, then the good news is that there is now a DVD of the show. I would highly recommend the DVD, which features Richard Dawkins, Stewart Lee, Josie Long, Simon Singh, Richard Herring, Gavin Osbourne, Isy Suttie, Ben Goldacre, Andrew Collins and many others.

http://www.gofasterstripe.com/cgi-bin/website.cgi?id=6888&page=videofull

4. Skeptics in the Pub

I have spoken at half a dozen Skeptics in the Pub events in the last few months, and on each occasion it has been a thought-provoking and entertaining evening – certainly for me, and hopefully for the audience too. Why not check out your local Skeptics in the Pub? There are venues around the world, including Cape Town, Sydney, Boston, Vienna and Leicester.

http://skeptic.org.uk/events/skeptics-in-the-pub

5. Kitchen Physics – invisibility in a bowl

Try this brilliant kitchen experiment, courtesy of the Naked Scientists.

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/content/kitchenscience/exp/making-pyrex-invisible/

6. Old Competition Winner

In the last newsletter I wrote:

The lead singer of The Cure is Robert Smith?.

Is this statement true or false?

If false, who is this person?

If true, where was he born?
The vast majority of answers said “true” and sent me the birthplace of the lead singer of The Cure, but unfortunately they did not read the question! The initial statement was about “Robert Smith?”, i.e., the question mark is actually part of the name.

http://www.mathstat.uottawa.ca/~rsmith/

So the correct answer is “false”, he is a mathematician.

The only correct answers were from John Sheekey, Craig Barnthson, Eddie Mizzi, Tim Lovell, Barry Keeting, Rohit Jnagal and Rob Oldaker… and it was Rob from Somerset who was the prize winner and who received a copy of “The Hair of the Dog (and other scientific surprises)” by Karl Sabbagh.

8. New Puzzle Competition

When I was twelve years old, my physics teacher Mr Mynett played a trick on the class. He rolled a transparent rod (maybe made of glass, perhaps three centimetres in diameter) over two words. Each word spelt out a colour and was printed in that colour. The first word, YELLOW printed in yellow, was apparently flipped when seen through the rod, but the other word was not. Mr Mynett said that this was due to the difference in colours and the way various wavelengths are refracted.

In fact, it was nothing to do with refraction. The key point was that one of the colours was symmetrical along the horizontal axis. For example, imagine that the words had been baby creatures, such as CHICK and PUPPY. Both words would have been flipped, but it would have seemed that CHICK had not been flipped because it is symmetrical.
Annoyingly, I cannot remember the symmetrical colour. Can you think of it? There may be several symmetrical colours, so the prize will go to the longest colour. Let’s assume that it was written in CAPITALS and in this font.

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 midday on Feb 23. The winner (picked out at random from the inbox) will receive a signed copy of “Afterglow of Creation” by Marcus Chown.

Cheerio and, remember, please sign up to www.libelreform.org/sign

Simon.

Newsletter 39: Festive Newsletter

1. Christmas tricks on Youtube

2. Spooky Illusions

3. CERN pop-up book

4. Hammersmith show on Sunday

5. Christmas fundraising gifts

6. 2010 will be a big year

7. Old Competition Winner

8. New Competition Puzzle

1. Christmas tricks on Youtube

This youtube clip has just gone viral. It contains some wonderful science tricks that you can try at home. My favorite is the homemade CO2 flame extinguisher.

2. Spooky Illusions

This Monroe-Einstein illusion is brilliant. The earlier illusions in the slide show are slightly spookier.

3. CERN pop-up book

I twittered about this a couple of weeks ago (@SLSingh), but it is worth another mention in case you are looking for a last minute gift for the budding particle physicist in your family.

http://popupbook.web.cern.ch/popupbook/

Watch the video here.

4. Hammersmith show on Sunday

This week I am performing with Robin Ince and a whole host of scientists, comedians and musicians. Every night is sold out except Sunday at the Hammersmith Apollo. It will be a celebration of science, the universe and rationalism, so please come along. The line up includes Richard Dawkins, Dara O’Briain, Barry Cryer and Brian Cox.

You can buy tickets here.

The highlight of last night’s show was the rock god John Otway singing his scientific reworking of a 1970s disco hit. Watch, learn and admire:

[tube]eWOzQE9Isek[/tube]

5. Christmas fundraising gifts

If you are still looking for a Christmas gift and would like to donate to the libel reform campaign, then you can buy signed books by me and Ben Goldacre at:

http://www.justgiving.com/bookfund

If you place your order by Friday morning, then it will be despatched by Friday afternoon and you should receive it by Christmas. The books are expensive, but please bear in mind that all the profits go to a good cause, namely free speech.

6. 2010 will be a big year for me

There are lots of reasons for this, but the first major event will be my appearance at the Court of Appeal on Feb 22 in relation to my libel case. The court will consist of three of the most important judges in the country, namely the Lord Chief Justice, the Master of the Rolls and the formidable Lord Justice Sedley. Their decision will have a major impact on science journalism in the UK and around the world. You can read more about this at Jack of Kent’s blog.

7. Old Competition Winner

In the last newsletter we were helping Lisa with her university project. The longest words that could be Caesar shifted into other words were from Bob Ellington in Indiana. ‘Corocoro’ (town in Bolivia) is a Caesar shift of ‘Wiliwili’ (Hawaiian tree). For those who don’t like proper nouns, Bob also suggested the words ‘abjurer’ and ‘nowhere’, which are one letter shorter than ‘Corocoro’ and ‘Wiliwili’. Bob receives a copy of “Isaac Newton” by James Gleick.

8. New Puzzle Competition

The lead singer of The Cure is Robert Smith?.

Is this statement true or false?

If false, who is this person?

It true, where was he born?
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 midday on December 18 – I am keen to post the prize so that it arrives in time for Christmas. The winner (picked out at random from the inbox) will receive a copy of “The Hair of the Dog (and other scientific surprises)” by Karl Sabbagh.

Merry Christmas,
Simon.

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.