Magician Brian Brushwood recounts on his blog the tale of how Teller, the mute half of the magic duo Penn & Teller, sent him a lovely letter in reply to his own that changed his career for the better. It is so great that we have to share it with you, especially since we all know Derren has expressed his appreciation of Teller’s magic often (for example in his book). You just know it’s worth a read when the letter starts like this;
“My dear bastard son,
It is about time you wrote, my boy.”
Do take ten minutes out to watch the six videos on critical thinking below. A wonderfully soothing voice, combined with great graphics, teaches you the basics of logical thinking and the scientific method. May come in handy when talking with your intransigent science, logic and climate denying uncle. Just sit him down and make him watch. Also covers some of our innate brain-biases in the first episode.
There are a few tickets still up for grabs at some of the venues for the final leg of the Svengali tour.
Derren’s live shows are immensely popular and often sell out well in advance.
However, we have it on good authority that if you move with the swiftness of an oiled gazelle you stand a good chance of snatching up one of the last remaining tickets for Derren’s mind-warping show.
We’re telling you about it first because you’re a blog reader and we do so love our blog readers.
So get cracking! Tickets are selling like hot cakes on a cold day and when they’re gone; they’re gone.
You can browse the list of venues over on the Svengali Tour page.
Best of luck!
Remember when you were told to bow your head for prayers at the beginning/end of school assembly? Well, Bideford Town Council has just had a slap on the wrist for incorporating a similar ritual into their formal Coucil meetings:
A Devon town council acted unlawfully by allowing prayers to be said before meetings, the High Court has ruled.
Action was brought against Bideford Town Council by the National Secular Society (NSS) after atheist councillor Clive Bone complained.
Mr Justice Ouseley ruled the prayers were not lawful under section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972. However, he said prayers could be said as long as councillors were not formally summoned to attend.
The judgement was being seen as a test case which could affect local councils across England and Wales.
Mr Justice Ouseley ruled the prayers as practised by Bideford Town Council had been unlawful because there was no statutory power permitting them to continue.
The NSS, which said prayers had no place in “a secular environment concerned with civic business”, argued the “inappropriate” ritual breached articles 9 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protect an individual’s right to freedom of conscience and not to face discrimination.
The article goes on to include the reaction from the church-going members of the Council:
Anthony Inch, a Bideford town councillor and Torridge district councillor, said he hoped there would be an appeal leading to the ruling being overturned.
“I’m disgusted, surprised and saddened by the decision,” he said.
Simon Calvert, of the Christian Institute, said: “We are pleased that the court has said the saying of prayers at meetings does not breach human rights laws.
“But it is bizarre that they should be declared unlawful because of the 1972 Local Government Act.”
He added: “The judge’s finding that the Local Government Act doesn’t give local authorities power to include prayers as part of their formal meetings – we think that’s extraordinary.
“I mean we’re talking about a practice that goes back to the Elizabethan era”
Heaven knows, we could all do with a little more Elizabethan doctrine in our lives.
So what do you think; is the NSS just nitpicking and prayers should be part of the formalities of official Council business? Or should expressions of Faith be kept out of official Government business?
You can read the full article over on BBC News
You’ve heard of our super-close relatives the Neanderthals, of course. But did you know there are far more species of humans that went extinct, like the tiny Floresiensis (“Hobbits”)? There are 14 known species of human being that are no longer with us. These were all out-competed, possibly even murdered by homo sapiens (us!) and other human speciesor in some cases driven to extinction by rapidly changing climate conditions (hint, hint, we’re changing the climate today faster than ever before!).
The newest addition to the group of known extinct humans are the Denisovans, who last lived approximately 30.000 years ago, at the same time as Neanderthal and modern humans roamed a similar region of Russia. Their remains (well, read on…) were found in a cave (Denisova Cave) around 10 years ago, even though they were not recognized as a new race of humans until 2010. Only a short while ago a group of German scientists has mapped the complete genome (DNA sequence) of these extinct human beings. Guess what they needed to do that? Just a bone fragment from a little piece of finger, which was, together with a wisdom tooth, the only found remains of the Denisovans in the cave.
With the full DNA sequence of Denisova Hominin, we can determine when and where our evolutionary lineages diverted and possible see what these extinct humans were like. Read more about this remarkable achievement on Nature.com. Some Denisovian genes probably live on through interbreeding with modern humans, since it looks like modern-day Melanesians and Australian Aboriginals have some Denisovian left in them. Fascinating stuff. More research is being done on a toe bone discovered in 2011.
So no worries, all you have to leave is a toe or a finger in a convenient, yet protected, location and perhaps future humans can bring you back to life! Your genes anyway.