Cordial Deconstruction

Observations from our shared single objective reality in a materialistic, naturalistic, & effectively macro-deterministic universe.

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SSSL Skeptics in the Pub with Katie Dyer – Isn’t It Just Common Sense?

Posted by Karl Withakay on May 22, 2023

The Skeptical Society of St. Louis (Facebook Link) will be hosting a Skeptics in the Pub featuring a talk by Kathleen Dyer, PhD (Professor of Child and Family Science at the California State University, Fresno) On Friday, June 2nd at 6:30PM -9:00 PM at Alpha Brewing Company in Saint Louis, Missouri.

Everyone is welcome to attend (SSSL members & non-members alike), admission is free -no cover charge, registration is NOT required.

Don’t drink? Please come anyway. Consumption of alcoholic beverages is also NOT required.

See below for more details:

SitP with Dr. Katie Dyer – Isn’t It Just Common Sense?

When: Fri, June 2, 6:30pm – 9:00pm

Where: Alpha Brewing Company, 4310 Fyler Ave, St. Louis, MO 63116, USA (map)

Event Links:


The Skeptical Society of St. Louis is excited to host Dr. Dyer in partnership with our friends at Alpha Brewing for our next Skeptics in the Pub (SitP): Isn’t It Just Common Sense? Confronting False Beliefs about Children and Families  
Kathleen Dyer, PhD (Professor of Child and Family Science at the California State University, Fresno) identifies some of the most widely held false beliefs about children and families and describes the social science research methods employed to expose them as false. 

  • Are oldest siblings more responsible?
  • Does praise help to raise children’s self-esteem? 
  •  Do opposites attract? 
  •  Sugar makes kids hyper…..right?

Bring your questions about children and families — let’s put our common sense to the test. It is a celebration of science in the interest of improving the everyday lives of ordinary people. Dr. Dyer considers why these false beliefs are so readily endorsed and so hard to dispel, and provides evidence of strategies that can help challenge them.

An excerpt of Dr. Dyer being “interviewed by Susan Gerbic at CSICon in 2016:
“[…]I’ve been teaching students and parents how to interpret the research on things like corporal punishment, bed-sharing, and breastfeeding for two decades. I’ve also been combating nonsense such as the anti-vax movement and the Mozart effect, because those issues are salient to my discipline[…]”


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

World marks 50th anniversary of NASA screwing it up for everybody else.

Posted by Karl Withakay on July 20, 2019

Today is the 50th anniversary of the day NASA set an unreasonably high benchmark for every other human effort by successfully sending three people to the moon, landing two of them on the surface, and returning all three back to the Earth 4 days later alive and well.  Ever since then scientists, engineers, and other people in all walks of life have had to deal with an unreasonably high benchmark for human achievement, frequently having listen to others complain, “How come we can put a human being on the moon, but we can’t have a VCR or microwave clock that won’t lose the time when the power goes out?”

One can only guess that Neil Armstrong must have regretted his involvement in the mission for the rest of his life as he was probably never been able to get out of a single household chore since the day he landed, likely having had to listen to his wife say “You mean to tell me you can land on the moon and come back, but you can’t go to the store and pick up some groceries or do a simple job like cleaning the gutters?” on more than one occasion.

NASA, to its credit, has attempted to rectify the situation on several occasions.  However, one of the first major attempts to rectify the situation was an uncategorical failure.  NASA seemed to have reduced everyone’s expectations by incorrectly grinding the main mirror for the Hubble Space Telescope, but then screwed it up by ingenuously fixing the telescope in space, setting the expectation that any failure, no matter how big, could now be turned into a stunning success.

NASA is now of victim of its own success and further pathetic attempts to rectify the situation, such as incorrectly mixing English and metric units on the Mars Climate Orbiter mission have failed to reduce expectations set by the “Apollo Standard”, and have actually subjected NASA itself to criticisms such as, “How come NASA can put a person on the moon, but they can’t figure out the metric system?”

One can only hope that the inevitable first crewed mission to Mars will take a colossal wrong turn and end up on the strip in downtown Las Vegas instead of Mars.

Seriously, though, the Apollo program was (in my opinion) one of the top three achievements in the history of space exploration, which are,  (in no particular order)  Apollo, Voyager, and the Hubble.

If you want an actual Apollo related Deconstruction, I don’t stand a chance of doing it as well as Phil Plait has done over at the Bad Astronomy site.

(This blog post is an update of a ten year old post that was partly inspired by a Jerry Seinfeld stand up routine.)

Posted in Deadpan, Humor, Science, Space | Leave a Comment »

Skeptical Media Links Page Updated

Posted by Karl Withakay on November 14, 2017

For anyone that’s interested, my skeptical media links page has been updated.  There have been a lot of additions in the last year, culminating with links for photos on videos from CSICon 2017 (Link to CSICon web site).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Karl Withakay Skeptical Conference Media Links

Posted by Karl Withakay on November 7, 2016

To provide a small breathe of life into my fallow blog, I have created a page of links to photos and videos that I have shot at various skeptical conferences that I have attended over the years.

Karl Withakay Skeptical Conference Media Links



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

My Reflections on Mark Cuban’s Reflections on the Meaning of Leadership

Posted by Karl Withakay on October 8, 2015

I ran across an article today by Colin Campbell on The Fiscal Times website detailing Mark Cuban bemoaning what he thinks are the problems with the Republican Party right now. In that article are some reflections by Cuban on leadership that I have some of my own reflections on.  Seeing as it’s been a very long time since I updated this blog, I decided use this opportunity to put those reflections on Cuban’s reflections into blog post form since this longer format is more conductive to sharing these reflections than Facebook is.

I’ll quote a Cuban reflection and then put my own counter-reflection following. I’m not calling these Deconstructions since they’re more my opinions than they are fact based take-downs. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time on this, so please keep that in mind when reading thanks.


“Leaders don’t conform to the consensus. They create consensus to their vision and goals.”

Leaders must form their vision and goals based on the best available information, which is often determined by consensus. They must not be blinded by their own opinions, desires, dogma or ideology, and they must be open to the possibility that they are wrong, which leads directly into….


“Leaders don’t change their positions mid debate. They welcome scorn from the masses because it creates the opportunity for dialogue.”

Leaders must be reasonably open-minded and willing to change positions based on new, fuller, and better information. They must not charge blindly forward once a path is chosen. “Dialog” implies an honest two-way exchange of ideas in order to reach a consensus, whereas the use of the word “masses” implies its own scorn of those whose ideas are unworthy of consideration.

Consider the opening words of the speech by Ben Franklin on the last day of the Constitutional Convention in 1787:

Mr. President

I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error. Steele a Protestant in a Dedication tells the Pope, that the only difference between our Churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines is, the Church of Rome is infallible and the Church of England is never in the wrong. But though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain french lady, who in a dispute with her sister, said “I don’t know how it happens, Sister but I meet with no body but myself, that’s always in the right — Il n’y a que moi qui a toujours raison.”


Now back to Cuban:

“Leaders don’t look backwards to condemn what has already been done, they look forward to create a better future.”

Leaders must look backwards to learn from the past or be condemned to repeat or continue past mistakes and miss opportunities to sustain and repeat successes. It is necessary to identity past mistakes and successes in order to learn from them. Forward thinking leaders must look backwards.


“Leaders are not dogmatic. They are principled and know that change is never easy, but when it’s necessary, they must lead.”

Leaders should not be dogmatic despite all Cuban’s previous points seeming to indicate that leaders should form their ideology & dogma and stick to them against any and all opposition.  Also, sometimes when necessary, leaders follow or lead others in following someone else’s path. Good leaders are able to do this.


That’s all for now, thanks for reading.

Posted in Criticism | 1 Comment »

My Guest Spot On The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Podcast

Posted by Karl Withakay on March 31, 2013

Just  a quick note today, I was a Guest Rogue on this week’s episode of the podcast, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe.  SGU Podcast 402 – March 30, 2013

You can listen to the podcast by following the link or via iTunes.

It was a great experience, and I think I did acceptably well enough.  I’d certainly love to do it again sometime, but since I won the spot in an auction at the SGU dinner during The Amazing Meeting 2012, I probably won’t have another opportunity.  However, if the SGU team ever needs anyone to fill in on short notice in the future and they can’t find any heavy hitters to be on, this is a standing offer to be available for a guest spot in the future.

(If you’ve never heard of SGU, here’s some basic info on Wikipedia.

Posted in Critical Thinking, Science, Skepticism | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Wormholes, Portals, and Time-Space Travel

Posted by Karl Withakay on February 1, 2013

I’d like to discuss what seems to me to be a fundamental problem with various forms of wormhole/ portal based travel in either space or time as represented in various forms of science fiction.   It occurred to me some time ago, and in fact I started writing this post back in November 2012.  I was reminded of it today while reflecting a little on the last five seasons of Fringe, which led to me thinking about The Observers and the way they can travel through time.

Science fiction frequently treats the Earth as if it was fixed in space relative to all other points and objects in space when we know this is not the case.  Consider, if you will, Back to the Future when the DeLorean hits 88 mph and jumps through time to arrive in the exact same place on Earth, but at a different time.

The Earth rotates on its axis at a speed of about 465 m/s.  In other words, if the Earth was otherwise fixed in space, after standing in place on the surface of the Earth for one second, you’d be about 465 meters from the point in space where you were the previous second.*

However, the Earth is not otherwise fixed in space.  While it rotates about its axis, the Earth orbits the sun at roughly 30 km/s.  So after that one second, you’d be about 30 km from your previous point in space regardless of whether the Earth was rotating on its axis or not.

But wait, there’s more.  The sun and the entire solar system orbit the center of the Milky Way galaxy at around 220 km/s.  This means that after one second, you would have traveled 220 km from the point in space you were at just one second prior, give or take 30 km depending on where the Earth was in its solar orbit and what direction it was traveling relative to the motion of the Solar System.

As the sun orbits the center of the Milky Way, the Milky Way is also not fixed in space.  Our galaxy moves in and with an expanding universe, and is influenced in that motion by various factors, such as the gravitational pulls of the Great Attractor and the Shapley Supercluster.  The Sun and Solar System move with a resultant velocity of about 370 km/s relative to the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation.

So by jumping just one second forwards or backwards in time and arriving in the exact same location in space, you would be several hundred kilometers from the surface of the Earth in space because the Earth, the Solar System, and The Milky Way are all in constant motion in a celestial ballet.

This problem would apply to most wormholes and portals in space (technically space-time) as well unless such portals were gravitationally bound to the locations of the endpoints so that they traveled through space with the planets/ locations of the entry points.  The Stargate franchise gets around this problem nicely by making the wormholes connections generated between two gates rather than two regions of the fabric of space-time itself.

Back to the Delorean- after jumping through time to arrive in the same location in space, it would be stranded in the (near) vacuum of space and the drive doomed to death.  (There’s no way to drive back.)

Interestingly, this brings up another interesting conundrum:  What’s so significant about traveling at 88 mph (or any speed) relative to the surface of the Earth in the first place, and should it matter what direction you are driving relative to the motion(s) of the Earth?  Velocity is relative to some reference frame and not absolute.  The Delorean might be traveling at 88 mph relative to a bystander standing on the ground, but it would be traveling less than that relative to a tailwind and more than that relative to oncoming traffic, to say nothing about its velocity relative to something like the Moon or the Voyager 1 probe.  That DeLorean in free space would be traveling at least 88 mph relative to something; what would or wouldn’t cause it to time travel?  In fact, since there would be no air resistance or friction with the ground, it would likely still be traveling at 88 mph relative to the Earth** as its momentum carried on in space.

I don’t really have a good conclusion or summary here other than to say that traveling in time without also traveling in space may not be such a good idea.  Sorry, Doc.

* Note that the net distance from the previous point will be less that the arc distance traveled, but the difference over the time interval used would be minimal.  I’m also ignoring the motion of the Earth as a result of the Earth-Moon gravitational interactions as they co-orbit each other and other similar factors.

** I suppose things gets even trickier here.  No longer being on the surface of the Earth, the Delorean would no longer be rotating with the Earth’s surface as it revolves about its axis, but would continue on a tangent from where the Earth was before the DeLorean hit 88 mph and jumped through time.  This would be further complicated the change in gravitational forces exerted on the Delorean by the various actors due to their changed locations relative to the Delorean, which will be greater the further it has jumped in time.  There are also other complicating factors involved here, but I think I’ve made my point.

Posted in Fringe, Sci-Fi, Science, Space, Television, time | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 13 Season 5 An Enemy of Fate

Posted by Karl Withakay on January 21, 2013

A Dreary Blue Episode

There won’t be a plot synopsis of this episode over at Polite Dissent this week.

Discredited Fringe Science


“Blast this thing.  What I wouldn’t give for a good, old fashioned, tumor inducing cell phone.”

Science is often subtle nuanced, and it’s always difficult to completely rule anything out, but the best scientific research shows that there are no detectable health risks from low energy, non-ionizing radiation emitted from cell phones, especially not cancer.

Even Broyles is Smarter Than That, Right?

The minute Broyles got the information on the location of the high value prisoner, he should have considered himself compromised, as it should have been obvious to him that it would be easily traced back to him once they took action based on that information.  After that meeting with Windmark, he should have been doubly concerned that he had been found out.  Boyles was relying too much on his ability to block being read.

It’s Always About Getting Your Superiors to Understand the Importance of Your Project

Maybe it really was a lack of allocation of resources due to not considering the threat to be all that serious.  Windmark now seems to have plenty of resources for observation and tracking of targets.

Use the Best Quality For the One Tape Not Vital to the Plan

The video tape that Walter left for Peter was in better condition than any of the other ambered tapes.  There were no skips, unreadable segments, tracking problems, or garbled audio like all the other tapes had.

Questioning Observer Observation Again

They mentioned monitoring all the remaining members of the 12 Observer scientific expedition team, but they didn’t bother to keep September under observation?

Windmark Explained!

Windmark’s emotional behavior is now explained by the influence of being in the past.

Some Nit-Picking About Lock Picking

What kind of electronic lock is vulnerable to hot wiring like the one Peter cracked in this episode?

Oh, We Got Weapons…

It was nice to see the Fringe team use four years of Fringe experience in their attack against The Observers and Loyalists.

Be Internally Consistent*

How was Walter able to escort the boy into the future if September took the inoculation that he needed to make the trip?

* See the comments section where I am corrected on this.

Continuity Questions

If The Observers have taken over 2136, presumably 2167 in that time line’s future will be a time already taken over by Observers with few, if any, remaining humans, and there will be no breakthrough leading to the creation of the Observers as a new continuity had already been established.  In order to prevent The Observers from being created, wouldn’t you have to go back to a point before The Observers’ takeover to send the boy forward into 2167?

How will the reset affect the alterverse?  Will Fauxlivia and NerdLee remember Olivia’s last visit?

It would seem that no doors have been completely closed to some day returning to the Fringe universe(s).  I doubt it will happen to a show that had a level of popularity appropriate to its title, but John Noble is only 64; he could still be around in 5 or 10 years.

My Alternate Ending

In my alternate ending, when September is shot, Windmark goes to grab the boy to capture him, and when he does, the boy touches Windmark’s face.  The boy reveals the full depth of what he is to Windmark, and allows Windmark to experience and understand the full range of the human experience beyond just the hate he has been feeling.  (This would be perhaps visualized with various video and audio clips: a white tulip, Niagara Falls, Peter and Olivia kissing while Etta plays, MLK’s I have a dream speech, the Ode to Joe, etc.)  Upon experiencing this revelation, (maybe a small tear forming at the corner of one of Windmark’s eyes would be too corny here…) Windmark picks up the boy and runs through the portal/ wormhole.  The show then proceeds as it did, except Walter is seen playing with Etta as Peter and Olivia tell them it’s time to go home.

Closing Comments

I’m not prepared to make a comprehensive, qualitative assessment of the show’s ending at this time.  I think it usually takes time to think about and reflect on the ending of a show you’ve been watching for five years.  I am prepared to say that this last season was a bit of a disappointment for several reasons.

Season five was really a different show; a spin off from Fringe with the same characters if you will.  The show used to be about Fringe events, dealing with them individually, and figuring out The Pattern underlying all of them.  Season five was a post apocalyptic resistance show with the Fringe characters, and at times it was clear the writers weren’t used to writing such a show.  They frequently had highly wanted criminals walking around in public with impunity, with those in power not using technology and techniques widely available in the 20th century to combat the resistance.

Furthermore, it seems fairly obvious that the nature and purpose of The Observers in season five was a retroactive continuity different from whatever they were originally intended to be.   * 2/1/13 See the the comments section where this is at least partially refuted.  The retcon of Anomaly XB-6783646 being the boy that was important rather than Peter is an even more very disappointing retcon that is easily contradicted from numerous other episodes of the show.

I’m glad we got a fifth season, but while I enjoyed pointing out the plot flaws, I much preferred separating the wheat from the chaff in regards to the science presented in the show, and there just wasn’t as much of that in season five due to the different format.

I’m not sure what will become of this blog going forward.  I hope I don’t loose interest in or devotion to continuing with it as many even longtime bloggers before me eventually have.  I don’t want to make any promises, and I’m going to be pretty busy with other things until at least mid March (2013), but I have a few ideas.  The show Revolution seems to provide enough material to fill out a blog post each week, and I may just start covering that show going forward.  I hope you will occasionally check in to see if I have anything new to say that you might find interesting.  Thanks for coming and thanks to all those who have commented.  Until next time…

Posted in Dreary Blue Episode, Fringe, Science, Television | Tagged: , | 17 Comments »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 12 Season 5 Liberty

Posted by Karl Withakay on January 21, 2013

A Dreary Blue Episode

There won’t be a plot synopsis of this episode over at Polite Dissent this week.

Underdogs or Top Cats?

The resistance has a comprehensive surveillance system that can track a convoy, and they even have satellites!

Prime Suspect

Broyles is known to have worked very closely with Peter, Olivia, Walter, and Nina in the past.  Shouldn’t he be at the top of the suspect list for the potential identity of “The Dove”?  Why would you even put any other names on the list until he was definitively ruled out?

Minor Trivia About Cortexiphan

Cortexiphan has a shelf life of 127 years, which is very long for a drug.  Maybe it’s like fine wine and it actually gets better with age.

The lot of Cortexiphan used by Walter was made on 3-06-11.

It’s too bad Scott’s not still watching; I’d love to heart what he says about the volume of fluid (cortexiphan) that was injected into Olivia’s brain stem.  I suspect that injecting that large a volume of fluid into the brain stem would be very problematic regardless of what kind of fluid it was.

Potential side Effects of cortexiphan withdrawal include hallucinations, disorientation, and lapses in time. (I am guessing “lapses in time” means actually jumping around through time rather than experiencing blackouts.

Cortexiphan is “burned up” by jumping between universes.

Quote of the Show


“There is no greater danger than that which is unknown.”

Questions About the Alterverse

If they can travel to the Alterverse as easily as they can travel within our universe, why have The Observers generally left the Alterverse alone?  (We know that an Observer observing Walternate in the Alterverse made Walternate not notice discovering the cure for Peter’s malady.)

Does the Alterverse have Observers of its own, or are they observed by Observers from our universe?

Does the Alterverse have a different destiny in which The Observers never develop?

Posted in Dreary Blue Episode, Fringe, Quotes, Science, Television | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Final Fringe Posts Delayed

Posted by Karl Withakay on January 18, 2013

I’ve been dealing with very painful kidney stone and associated bladder infection most of this week, and it’s made me miserable.

I have watched the final 2 episodes of Fringe and made my notes, but I just don’t have enough energy left to write them up in to blog posts, so that will have to wait later.  Hopefully I will feel OK long enough on Sat to crank out the final Fringe Deconstructions.  I appreciate your patience.  See you soon.

Posted in Fringe, This Blog | 3 Comments »

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