Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Head of ATSC ‘bomb detector’ company arrested on suspicion of fraud

Posted in News by Skepdude on January 22, 2010

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT TIMESONLINE

The boss of a British company that has sold million of dollars worth of “bomb detectors” to Iraq’s security forces has been arrested on suspicion of fraud.

Jim McCormick, 53, the managing director of ATSC which is based in a former dairy in Sparkford, Somerset, has been questioned by detectives from Avon and Somerset Police after a complaint that he misrepresented the devices.

In November, Mr McCormick, a former Merseyside police officer, told The Times that his devices, which consist of little more than a telescopic antenna on a molded plastic handle, are able to detect explosives in the same way as a dowsing rod finds water.

Thousands of the devices are in use at military and police check points across Baghdad where they are used to search vehicles and pedestrians for explosives. In recent months hundreds of people have died after car bombers were able to penetrate the security cordon supposed to protect the centre of the Iraqi capital.

Colin Port, the Somerset and Avon Police Chief Constable, personally ordered the investigation. A force spokesman said in a statement: “We are conducting a criminal investigation, and as part of that, a 53-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of fraud by misrepresentation. That man has been released on bail pending further inquiries.

“The force became aware of the existence of a piece of equipment around which there were many concerns, and in the interests of public safety, launched its investigation.

“It was reported to the Chief Constable Colin Port, through his role as the Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead on international development. He is chair of the International Police Assistance Board.

“Given the obvious sensitivities around this matter, the fact that an arrest has been made, and in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation, we cannot discuss it any further at this time.” The Iraqi Government has spent a total of $85 million (£52.7 million) buying 1,500 of the bomb detectors from ATSC.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT TIMESONLINE

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The most massive scientific fraud ever?

Posted in Respectful Insolence by Skepdude on March 12, 2009

Science as it is practiced today relies on a fair measure of trust. Part of the reason is that the culture of science values openness, hypothesis testing, and vigorous debate. The general assumption is that most scientists are honest and, although we all generally try to present our data in the most favorable light possible, we do not blatantly lie about it or make it up. Of course, we are also all human, and none of us is immune to the temptation to leave out that inconvenient bit of data that doesn’t fit with our hypothesis or to cherry pick the absolutely best-looking blot for use in our grant applications or scientific manuscripts. However, scientists value their reputation among other scientists, and there’s no quicker way to seriously damage one’s reputation than to engage in dodgy behavior with data, and there’s no quicker way to destroy it utterly than to “make shit up.”

True, opposing these forces are the need to “publish or perish” in order to remain funded, advance academically, and become tenured, a pressure that can be particularly intense among basic scientists, who will basically lose their jobs and very likely their academic careers if they cannot cover 50% or more of their salaries through grants. I always remember that I’m fortunate in that, even if I failed utterly to renew all my grants and burn through whatever bridge funds my university might give me, I’d be unlikely to be fired, as I could just go back to operating full time. Indeed, I’d even be likely to generate more income for my department by doing surgery than I could through research. Clinician-scientists are in general a drag on the finances of an academic department.

Despite the pressures, however, I’m still left scratching my head over this recently revealed massive scientific fraud, as reported in Anesthesiology News, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. A bunch of you sent it in to me, and when that happens, I usually conclude that I’d best comment on it. First, the fraud:

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “RESPECTFUL INSOLENCE”

Skepquote of the day

Posted in Skepquote by Skepdude on January 14, 2009

I want my commenters to be uncivil. There is no virtue in politeness when confronted with ignorance, dishonesty, and delusion. I want them to charge in to the heart of the issue and shred the frauds, without hesitation and without faltering over manners. These demands for a false front of civility are one of the strategies used by charlatans who want to mask their lack of substance — oh, yes, it would be so goddamned rude to point out that a huckster is lying to you. I am quite happy that we have a culture of being rude to frauds here.

Pharyngula

Stop Sylvia Browne site Hijacked?

Posted in Thinking Is Real by Skepdude on October 30, 2008

It appears the domain/URL for Robert Lancaster’s Stop Sylvia Browne website has been taken over during his recovery from a stroke suffered earlier this year. While it’s unclear how the domain was transferred to the new site owner, there’s no suggestion of hacking or other illegality at this stage.

The alarm was raised in a stopsylviabrowne discussion thread on JREF. It appears the site is now in the hands of someone with a less than skeptical view of the self-professed psychic and the paranormal industry. Here’s one quote from the contact page on the “revised” website:

“Have a psychic story? Whether you experienced a great psychic reading that came true or were sucked into a scam, write to us and we will post your story. If you would like to show your support to the cause of revealing the fake psychics and standing up for those with true gift, please write to us your story and we will post it on our site!”

READ THE REST OF THIS STORY AT “THINKING IS REAL”

Hat tip to Podblack Cat for pointing us to Thinking is Real.