Category Archives: Newsletter

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.

PPs. To unsubscribe, please send a blank email to newsletter-unsubscribe@simonsingh.net. For further help with subscribing and unsubscribing, please visit https://www.simonsingh.net/Sign-up.html

Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People

1. Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People
2. Chiropractors and libel case
3. Odd Christmas Presents
4. Trick or Treatment? in Sweden & Italy
5. Competition Winner
6. Puzzle Competition

1. Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People

The main reason for this newsletter is to let you know about an extraordinary show being organised by Robin Ince in London. Even if you can’t make it to the show, you might be interested to hear that it brings together comedians, musicians and scientists (including me) to celebrate the life, the universe and everything The first two shows sold out at the Bloomsbury Theatre even before tickets were advertised, so an extra show has been added at the Apollo Hammersmith, which holds 3,500 people. The show is on December 21 and you can find out more at http://skeptic.org.uk/news/tag/godless and you can book tickets via http://www.londononline.co.uk/events/1470/

As you will see on the website, the show will include Richard Dawkins and Ben Goldacre, and the secret extra special guests will include Tim Minchin, Ricky Gervais and Dara O’Briain. There will be an advert in Saturday’s Guardian so I would recommend getting in quick if you want to come along.

2. Chiropractors and libel case

Unfortunately I am still not in a position to talk about the libel case, but there has been a fair amount of blogging on the subject so you can get up to speed by googling various words such as Simon Singh chiropractors libel sued etc.

3. Odd Christmas Presents

If you are already thinking about Christmas presents then how about naming a symmetrical mathematical object after a loved one. The very clever and kind-hearted mathematician, writer and broadcaster Marcus Du Sautoy has offered to find an appropriate object in return for a minimum donation of $10. You can find out more at http://www.firstgiving.com/findingmoonshine

4. Trick or Treatment? in Sweden & Italy

After publication in Britain and America, Trick or Treatment? has just been translated and published in Sweden and Italy. I spent a couple of days in Stockholm with my co-author Edzard Ernst – we lectured to doctors and skeptics and conducted half a dozen major interviews, which led to the book being catapulted into the bestsellers list. To celebrate the launch in Italy, I am giving away ten Italian editions of Fermat’s Last Theorem and The Code Book. If you would like a copy then please email me at simoncontact@hotmail.com – put “Codici & Segreti” or “L’ultimo Teorema di Fermat” in the subject header along with your address in the body of the email. I expect a flurry of interest for the ten books available, so please do not bother emailing after midday on Friday as they will go very quickly.

5. Competition Winner

In the last newsletter, I asked: “What was the first in-flight movie?” Jack Flynn from California wins a copy of “Hot Topic – how to tackle global warming and still keep the lights on” signed by the authors Gabrielle Walker and Sir David King. Jack – perhaps you could lend your copy to Sarah Palin once you have finished reading it.

Jack agreed with me that the answer to the competition was “Inherit the Wind”, a brilliant film based on the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial and starring Spencer Tracy. It is now available on DVD and worth watching as a reminder of how we have moved backwards in terms of creationist thinking in high places. It is certainly something that Sarah Palin ought to watch after she has read “Hot Topic”. However, I received lots of other suggestions for the first in-flight movie and I suspect that they are also correct depending on how the terms of the question are defined. Hence, I am also sending a copy of Fermat’s Last Theorem to Anna Johnston in London who (like many others) suggested “The Lost World” as an answer.

6. Puzzle Competition

I am hoping that this competition has only one answer, but I am happy to be corrected. Which American entertainer with a mathematical and scientific slant to much of his work (and whose surname contains twice as many letters as his first name) was supposedly introduced to the UK thanks to the patronage of Princess Margaret?

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 26. One of the correct entries will win a copy of On Space and Time edited by Shahn Majid and with chapters by Roger Penrose, John Polkingforne and others speculating on the nature of the universe.

And, finally… thanks for all the emails of support regarding the chiropractic libel case. I am sorry if I have not had time to reply, but the emails are all much appreciated.

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.

PPs. To unsubscribe, please send a blank email to newsletter-unsubscribe@simonsingh.net. For further help with subscribing and unsubscribing, please visit https://www.simonsingh.net/Sign-up.html

Unhappy Chiropractors, Tim Minchin & Trick or Treatment in America

1. Unhappy Chiropractors
2. Tim Minchin in Edinburgh
3. Trick or Treatment in America
4. The Computer with a Poker Face
5. Five Particles
6. Competition Winner
7. Puzzle Competition

1. Unhappy Chiropractors

As some of you may have heard, I am being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association. I cannot say much at the moment, but I will return to the subject in due course. In the meantime, thanks for the emails of support and the various blogs backing my position. I have not had time to reply – as you can imagine, I am fairly busy at the moment – but the support is much appreciated.

2. Tim Minchin in Edinburgh

I gave a couple of talks at the Edinburgh Book Festival last week, and then spent a day enjoying the Fringe Festival. If you are going to the Festival this week, then do catch “Behind the Mirror” at the Pleasance or Damian Callinan at the Gilded Balloon in a show entitled “Mmmm… they’re small”. And, if you can get tickets, then I would certainly recommend the brilliant Tim Minchin. If you are not in Edinburgh, then you can see Tim in action at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFO6ZhUW38w&feature=related

3. Trick or Treatment in America

The book that I co-wrote with Professor Edzard Ernst on the subject of alternative medicine has just been published in America. We will be involved in various interviews over the next couple of weeks, so you might hear us discussing the book if you are based in the US. The first American review of Trick or Treatment appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121910370844351409.html

4. The Computer with a Poker Face

If you get this email in time, then I have a radio programme being broadcast this morning on the subject of the first world class poker match between humans and a computer. It is on BBC Radio 4 at 11am (Tuesday), but if you miss it then you can listen again via the BBC’s iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/

5. Five Particles

And to tie in with the start of LHC at CERN (the big new experiment in particle physics), I have a series on BBC Radio 4 entitled “Five Particles” It runs each afternoon at 3.45pm from Monday to Friday starting on September 8th. In fact, it is part of a season of programmes about particle physics on Radio 4, all under the heading of Big Bang.

6. Competition Winner

In the last newsletter, I asked: “Which famous medical TV series had an episode call “Trick or Treatment”?”. The answer was M*A*S*H, and the winner was Melanie Miller from Kentucky, who receives a copy of Marcus Chown’s new children’s book, Felicity Frobisher and the Three-Headed Aldebaran Dust Devil.

7. Puzzle Competition

What was the first in-flight movie?
Clue – it tells one of the great science stories of the twentieth century.

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 August 22. One of the correct entries will win a signed copy of The Hot Topic by Gabrielle Walker and Sir David King, which has the subtitle “How to tackle global warming and still keep the lights on.”

And, finally… my wife just pointed out this charming bit of Olympic footage. A BBC journalist gets confused with Michael Phelps and is mobbed by adoring fans: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/olympics/7569430.stm

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.

PPs. To unsubscribe, please send a blank email to newsletter-unsubscribe@simonsingh.net. For further help with subscribing and unsubscribing, please visit https://www.simonsingh.net/Sign-up.html

Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial

1. Trick or Treatment?
2. Woodstock for Skeptics
3. Science Museum Signing & Lectures
4. Free Polish editions of Big Bang
5. Competition Winner
6. Puzzle Competition

1. Trick or Treatment

After two years of work, “Treatment or Treatment?” was published this week and already it has caused a bit of fuss. You may have noticed that my co-author and I wrote a letter to The Times newspaper criticising Prince Charles for publishing a misleadingly rose-tinted pamphlet on alternative medicine. This sparked a rather heated response from homeopaths and other alternative therapists. Here are links to our original letter and the accompanying news article:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/letters/article3760311.ece
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/alternative_medicine/article3760857.ece

In fact, we actually dedicated the book to Prince Charles, because he is the world’s most outspoken advocate of alternative medicine and he has previously asked for the evidence relating to these therapies. My co-author and I have been through the evidence, just as His Royal Highness requested, but unfortunately the results are not very flattering for practitioners of alternative medicine.

Before I get another batch of angry emails from alternative therapists, I should point out two things. First, my co-author, Edzard Ernst, is the world’s first professor of alternative medicine, so we really have taken a proper look at all the available scientific evidence. There have been literally thousands of scientific investigations into alternative medicine and our conclusions are based on the results from these studies. Second, we are not entirely negative about alternative medicine. When we encountered a therapy that has something to offer patients then said this clearly in the book, but unfortunately such therapies were in the minority.

Edzard and I have simply tried to help the public navigate the world of alternative medicine by explaining which therapies work, which ones do not, and which ones are downright dangerous. I will discuss some of the evidence regarding alternative medicine in a future newsletter, but for the time being you might like to read something that I wrote for the Guardian newspaper to tie in with Chiropractic Awareness Week: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/apr/19/health

2. Woodstock for Skeptics

Last week, the world’s most famous skeptic, James Randi, visited London. I was delighted to be invited to speak as part of a series of lectures in his honour. There is a charming account of the evening at: http://skepchick.org/blog/?p=1326

I recorded my own favourite recollection of the evening in a column for The Times newspaper. “On Saturday night, perhaps for the first time in history, there was a round of applause at the announcement of a hospital closure. I was speaking at a seminar organised by Skeptics in the Pub, and I had just explained that the Tunbridge Wells Homoeopathic Hospital is due to close next year because of a huge drop in the number of referrals. Nobody in the audience was belittling the suffering of those patients who would be deprived of homoeopathic treatment, but instead they were endorsing the fact that the money saved would be spent on more effective treatments.”

You can read the whole article at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article3798760.ece

3. Science Museum Signing & Lectures

It is very short notice, but if you are in London today then I will be signing books at Waterstones bookshop at the Science Museum (020-7942 4481, London SW7) from 3.30pm until 4pm. Please come along and say hello if you are in the neighbourhood. And, of course, the museum has free admission, so you can check out the Making of the Modern World gallery or explore the revamped Launch Pad, which is full of interactive exhibits.

In particular, if you are an alternative therapist who has been annoyed by Trick or Treatment or any of my recent articles, then please come along for a chat and we can talk about the evidence for and against alternative medicine.

I will provide more information soon, but I will be speaking at the Hay Book Festival on May 24, the Bristol Festival of Ideas on May 21 and at the Edinburgh Book Festival on August 10. In the first two lectures, I will be speaking with my co-author Professor Ernst.

4. Free Polish editions of Big Bang

Big Bang, my history of cosmology, is being translated into various languages and I have just received the Polish editions. If you live in the UK and if you read Polish or know someone who reads Polish, then just send an email to simoncontact@hotmail.com and tell me your address. I will despatch copies to the first six emails that I receive, so if you don’t receive a copy of Wielki Wybuch then it means that you were not quite quick enough. (Unfortunately I cannot extend this offer outside the UK because of the high cost of postage.)

5. Competition Winner

In the last newsletter, I asked: “Which children’s book touches on mathematics and has Milo as its central character?” I thought that the only answer was The Phantom Toll Booth, but it turns out that there is another book that fits the bill, namely The Mathematical Parrot. Hence, there are two winners. Nik Whitehead in Iceland wins a copy of The Great Escape by Natalie Haynes and Anna Johnston in Devon wins a copy of Marcus Chown’s new children’s book, Felicity Frobisher and the Three-Headed Aldebaran Dust Devil.

6. Puzzle Competition

Which famous medical TV series had an episode call “Trick or Treatment”?

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. One of the correct entries will win a copy of the new children’s book Felicity Frobisher and the Three-Headed Aldebaran Dust Devil by the renowned science writer Marcus Chown.

I would like to finish with a big thank you to everyone who emailed me after my last newsletter and welcomed me back from my long silence. I am sorry that I am unable to answer all your emails, but they are much appreciated. Many, many thanks.

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.

PPs. To unsubscribe, please send a blank email to newsletter-unsubscribe@simonsingh.net. For further help with subscribing and unsubscribing, please visit https://www.simonsingh.net/Sign-up.html

Eighteen Months of Silence

1. Eighteen Months of Silence
2. Trick or Treatment?
3. Quirkology
4. James Randi in London
5. Free Finnish Big Bangs
6. Competition Winner
7. Puzzle Competition

1. Eighteen Months of Silence

It has been eighteen months since my last newsletter, and my only excuse is that I have been busy writing a new book – more about that in a moment.

Last year I also managed to get into a spat about the terrible Channel Four documentary entitled “The Great Global Warming Swindle” – this has now been broadcast around the world and is still very influential. If you want to know the real truth about this documentary, then I would strongly recommend visiting: http://www.climateofdenial.net/?q=node/3

And if you want to get up to speed on the issue of global warming, then I would suggest reading “Hot Topic” by David King and Gabrielle Walker, which I reviewed for the Sunday Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2008/02/02/bokin102.xml

A recent project has been a programme for BBC Radio 4 entitled “The Computer with a Poker Face”, about the first serious poker match between a computer and humans. Unfortunately the programme has already been broadcast and is no longer available online, but you can read about the match at: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/26/business/26poker.html?n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/People/M/Markoff,%20John

2. Trick or Treatment?

It was a long time ago, but my last newsletter explained that I had been involved in investigating homeopathy. This sparked a curiosity in me about the claims of other alternative medicine, which has now turned into a book called “Trick or Treament? Alternative Medicine on Trial”. This will be published on April 21 in the UK and in August in America, with other translations to follow soon after.

There will be more about the book in my next newsletter, but (in brief) I have co-authored the book with Professor Edzard Ernst, the world’s first professor of complementary medicine. Our goal has been to examine the scientific evidence surrounding each form of alternative medicine in order to find out what works and what does not, as well as what is safe and what is dangerous.

As many people have already pointed out, I wrote at the end of the Big Bang that it would be my last book, but I became so obsessed with alternative medicine that I could not resist putting pen to paper again. Having written about mathematics, cryptography and cosmology in the past, it is a major change in direction to write about alternative medicine, but the issues it raises are so important that I could not refuse the challenge.

3. Quirkology

Richard Wiseman, my Theatre of Science partner, published Quirkology last year. To tie in with the book, he created a series of fascinating YouTube clips, including this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voAntzB7EwE

4. James Randi in London

April 19 sees an “An Evening with James Randi and Friends” in London. There will be series of short talks, including one from me, followed by a rare chance to see the Amazing Randi lecturing in the UK. Tickets will disappear soon – to find out more, please visit: http://skeptic.org.uk/randi/

5. Free Finnish Big Bangs

Big Bang is being translated into various languages and I have just received the Finnish editions. If you live in the UK and if you read Finnish or know someone who reads Finnish, then just send an email to fbigbang@simonsingh.net and tell me your address. I will despatch copies to the first six emails that I receive – if you do not receive a copy, then please assume that you were sadly not one of the first six. (Unfortunately I cannot extend this offer outside the UK because of the high cost of postage.)

6. Competition Winner

In the last newsletter, I asked: “What is the longest word that you can make from the letters that appear in the top row of a typewriter keyboard?” I thought that the answer was, appropriately, TYPEWRITER, but some of you knew better. It seems that TEETERTOTTER (a seesaw) is the true champion word, and Ashok Argent-Katwala was one of several people who pointed this out. He wins a copy of Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8) by Sandy Balfour

7. Puzzle Competition

Which children’s book touches on mathematics and has Milo as its central character?

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 21. One of the correct entries will win a signed copy of The Great Escape by Natalie Haynes, which Julie Burchill called: “Funny, fresh and feline – this is a strange, sinister, shimmering story which will appeal to cats of all ages.”

I will write again soon with more information about “Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial”.

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.

PPs. To unsubscribe, please send a blank email to newsletter-unsubscribe@simonsingh.net. For further help with subscribing and unsubscribing, please visit https://www.simonsingh.net/Sign-up.html

Dodgy Homeopaths Uncovered

1. Dodgy Homeopaths Uncovered
2. Theatre of Science in New York
3. Mentos Videos
4. Flying Spaghetti Monster
5. Free Japanese Big Bangs
6. Competition Winner
7. Puzzle Competition

1. Dodgy Homeopaths Uncovered

It has been several months since my last newsletter, but I have been busy tracking down dodgy homeopaths. Working with the organisation Sense About Science, I contacted ten homeopaths and every single one of them was willing to offer homeopathic protection against malaria instead of conventional medicines. Scientific evidence suggests that homeopathic remedies do not work (except at a placebo level), and here is clear evidence that homeopathy is dangerous as well as being useless. You can find more details of what happened here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,174-2269389,00.html

And BBC Newsnight did some great undercover filming and you can see their report and an interview with me and a homeopath representative at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1UJ_qGZ24k

2. Theatre of Science in New York

Theatre of Science is about to cross the Atlantic and will be appearing in an off-Broadway theatre in November. Richard Wiseman and I will be demonstrating some of the more bizarre aspects of science, which will include zapping each other with one million volts. Also, we will be joined by the wonderful contortionist Delia. There will only be five performances and the tickets have just gone on sale. More information at https://www.simonsingh.net/Theatre_of_Science.html

I am only giving a few talks in the UK (Reading and Oxford), and you can find details at the usual location: https://www.simonsingh.net/Simon_Lectures.php

3. Mentos Videos

The Mentos/Coke experiment has now become a global phenomenon. Even if you have seen it already, here are a couple of video clips that are worth watching:
http://www.eepybird.com/dcm1.html (slightly amazing)
http://www.davideodesign.co.uk/pepsigirl.htm (slightly shocking)
4. Flying Spaghetti Monster

The junk science that is known as Intelligent Design has best been parodied by Bobby Henderson, who wrote to the Kansas Board of Education. If the board encouraged the teaching of Intelligent Design on the grounds that all possible theories ought to be allowed into the classroom, then Henderson requested that Kansas schools should also teach that life was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I have just reviewed the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and I would highly recommend it. In addition to discussing the creation of life, Henderson points out that the increase in global temperature correlates with a reduction in the number of pirates over the last three centuries. Therefore he suggests the reintroduction of pirates in order to combat global warming.

5. Free Japanese Big Bang

Big Bang, my history of cosmology, is being translated into various languages and I have just received the Japanese editions. If you live in the UK and if you read Japanese or are learning Japanese, then just send an email to jbigbang@simonsingh.net with your address and I will put a free book in the post. (Unfortunately I cannot extend this offer outside the UK because of the high cost of postage.)

6 Competition Winner

In the last newsletter, I asked: What is 1.79 x 10^12 furlongs per fortnight? The answer is the speed of light. Phua Kok Hee from Singapore wins a copy of ‘Dr.Riemann’s Zeros’ by Karl Sabbagh

7. Puzzle Competition

What is the longest word that you can make from the letters that appear in the top row of a typewriter keyboard?

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 September 15. One of the correct entries will win a copy of ‘Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose(8)’ by Sandy Balfour, sub-titled a memoir of love, exile and crosswords

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.

PPs. To unsubscribe, please send a blank email to newsletter-unsubscribe@simonsingh.net. For further help with subscribing and unsubscribing, please visit https://www.simonsingh.net/Sign-up.html

Theatre of Science – World Tour

1. Alternative Medicine
2. Spring Lectures
3. A Couple of Great Websites
4. Nice New Quote
5. Winnie Trivia
6. Competition Winner
7. Puzzle Competition

1. Alternative Medicine

Much of February has been taken up with writing about the BBC TV series “Alternative Medicine”. I wrote an article for the Daily Telegraph criticising its approach, which I felt was subtly anti-science and below the standards I would expect from the BBC. The series is likely to be transmitted overseas, so keep a sceptical eye out for it. You can read my article at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/connected/main.jhtml?xml=/connected/2006/02/14/ecnaccupunct.xml

I don’t have time to answer any queries about this article at the moment, but I am working on a follow-up piece that expands on my concerns. More details in the next newsletter. In the meantime, Professor David Colquhoun’s webpage carries more information about the series (and alternative medicine in general), and Ben Goldacre’s excellent Bad Science column is always worth reading to find out more about the often exaggerated claims of alternative medicine. http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Pharmacology/dc-bits/quack.html
http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/badscience/

2. Spring Lectures

I am giving a few talks in the UK this spring, particularly as part of Science Week. I will be in Glasgow, St Andrews, Dundee, Cambridge, London and Milton Keynes, and Theatre of Science will be performing in Newcastle this Sunday and Monday. More information at: https://www.simonsingh.net/Simon_Lectures.html

3. A Couple of Great Websites

One site is a simulation of an electron microscope, http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/electronmicroscopy/magnify1/index.html

… and the other is a strange musical website. Just type in your own lyrics or message, hit play and listen to the results. http://www.sr.se/P1/src/sing/index.htm

4. Nice New Quote

We cannot pretend to offer proofs. Proof is an idol before whom the pure mathematician tortures himself. In physics we are generally content to sacrifice before the lesser shrine of Plausibility. Sir Arthur Eddington

5. Winnie Trivia

This is a surprising story that I recently came across: “As a child, actress Danica McKellar played Winnie on the TV show The Wonder Years. Later, she made many appearances on The West Wing. But she’s also a mathematician.” http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5201825

There is an interesting mathematics section on her website: http://www.danicamckellar.com/

6 Competition Winner

In the last newsletter, I asked for a highly appropriate anagram for “APPLE MACINTOSH”. In fact, there were many, such as ‘Ah, not a simple PC’ or ‘A PC in posh metal’, so a runners-up prize (a set of non-transitive dice) goes to Sebina Mariadhas in Illinois. There is more information about these dice at: https://www.simonsingh.net/Rock_Paper_Scissors.html

In fact, the answer I was looking for was ‘Laptop machines’. Sean Peters from Kent wins a copy of ‘Miss Leavitt’s Stars’, an excellent biography of the astronomer Henrietta Leavitt by George Johnson.

7. Puzzle Competition

What is 1.79 x 10^12 furlongs per fortnight?

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 March 10. One of the correct entries will win a copy of ‘Dr.Riemann’s Zeros’ by Karl Sabbagh, a popular description of the Riemann Hypothesis.

Finally, thanks to everyone who emailed me about last week’s Enigma cipher story. Here it is in case you missed it. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4763854.stm

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.

PPs. To unsubscribe, please send a blank email to newsletter-unsubscribe@simonsingh.net. For further help with subscribing and unsubscribing, please visit https://www.simonsingh.net/Sign-up.html

Theatre of Science – World Tour

1. Theatre of Science – World Tour
2. Farewell Einstein Year
3. Einstein’s voice
4. Online shop – closed
5. Holiday advice
6. Competition Winner
7. Puzzle Competition

1. Theatre of Science – World Tour

After our successful run in London, Richard Wiseman and I are taking Theatre of Science on a mini world tour. Next week we will appear in Dublin and then we head to Newcastle in April. We also plan to appear in New York later in the year, but there are no firm dates yet Details of the Dublin and Newcastle shows (and my other lectures) can be found at:

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

2. Farewell Einstein Year

Einstein Year (celebrating the centenary of Einstein’s miracle year) is now over. Perhaps the greatest tribute to Einstein was a cartoon by the brilliant American cartoonist Herblock. You can see the cartoon at the link below, and the other link takes you to a rather bitter (but honest) article I wrote last month about the state of British physics.

http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/swann/herblock/images/s03494u.jpg

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,3605,1647948,00.html

3. Einstein’s voice

… and one more bit about Einstein … you can actually hear the great man himself talk about energy and mass equivalence in a one minute clip available at:

http://www.aip.org/history/einstein/voice1.htm

4. Online shop – closed

My online shop has now closed down. Of course, my four books are all still widely available at other online stores or in brick bookstores. My book titles are:

Big Bang
The Code Book
The Cracking Code Book (junior version of The Code Book)
Fermat’s Last Theorem (or Fermat’s Enigma in the USA)

Details of translations and overseas stockists are available at:
https://www.simonsingh.net/Overseas_Editions.html

And the interactive CD-ROM version of The Code Book is available either as a free download or via Virtual Image Limited at:
https://www.simonsingh.net/Code_Book_Download.html
http://www.virtualimage.co.uk/html/thecodebook.htm

5. Holiday advice

I am going to be heading off to see the total solar eclipse on March 29. If you want a memorable holiday, then consider organising your travel plans around the eclipse. The link below shows the path of the eclipse, which is followed by a link that discusses the best viewing locations (e.g., Ghana, Libya, Turkey):

http://www.eclipse.org.uk/eclipse/0212006/
http://travel.independent.co.uk/news_and_advice/article333568.ece

6 Competition Winner

In the last newsletter, I set you a Nubble puzzle – use the basic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division to construct the answer 24 by using all the numbers 1, 3, 4 and 6. The problem was so tricky that several people resorted to turning the 6 upside down so that it was a 9, using exponents, modulo arithmetic and different bases, but in fact the answer was quite straightforward.

24 = 6 / (1 – 3/4)

The name drawn out of my inbox was Rohit Jnagal from India, who won a copy of “E=mc2” by David Bodanis.

7. Puzzle Competition

This month, the competition involves an anagram. There is a highly appropriate anagram for “APPLE MACINTOSH”. Send your answer to anagram@simonsingh.net – put your anagram in the subject header and your address in the body of the email. The closing date for entries is January 10. One of the correct entries will win a copy of ‘Miss Leavitt’s Stars’, an excellent biography of the astronomer Henrietta Leavitt by George Johnson.

And that’s it for this newsletter. Except, I mentioned an excellent optical illusion in my last newsletter, but the site hosting the illusion crashed due to the sudden increase in the number of visitors. If you missed the illusion then it is available again at the site below. If you encounter any problems, then just wait 24 hours – your patience will be rewarded.

http://www.ianrowland.com/MiscPages/Mrangryandmrscalm.html

Best wishes for 2006,
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.

PPs. To unsubscribe, please send a blank email to newsletter-unsubscribe@simonsingh.net. For further help with subscribing and unsubscribing, please visit https://www.simonsingh.net/Sign-up.html