Wednesday, February 3, 2016

No They Didn't Find Marijuana On A Meteorite and A Reverse Image Search Is Your Friend

Making a buzz on the interwebs is the story of NASA finding THC on a meteorite found in a Nevada desert in 2010.   Probably near some top secret military black ops skunkworks facility...or near a broken down RV that didn't quite make it to that year's Burning Man gathering. 
Articles detailing the story imagine that if a component of the sticky icky can be found on a meteorite then what sort of effects would all of the other dank space rocks that have fallen to Earth have on Earth's lifeforms.  Only a passing mention of NASA and no links to NASA press releases of course but plenty of bad puns about "getting high".  Nor is there any explanation of how a complex molecule formed in the harsh cold of space or how the THC survived the searing heat of entering Earth's atmosphere. Details, shmetails, Planet Weed is out there and we need to give NASA more funding to find it!
Luckily the articles tell us that James Han and his team at the University of Hawaii are on the case, studying the meteorite. 
Unnnnnfortunately...the man in the picture is not James Han, that's not the University of Hawaii and they're not studying a meteorite that had THC on it. 

How do we know?  Well we didn't know at first but the lack of pertinent details along with the fact that unscrupulous click bait websites routinely use stock or misappropriated pictures left me skeptical and curious. 
A simple web search offers lots of retellings of the story but no links to any credible sources, including NASA.  So let's dig deeper.  Let's do a reverse image search!
There we find the usual suspects. Satire sites, Marijuana blogs and UFO pages.  Also on the list...a link to the original article about a research team at University of Wisconsin-Madison studying meteorites found in Wisconsin, not Nevada and no mention of THC. 

So, sorry you Frisbee chucking cheeba monkeys, Planet Weed did not explode sending marijuana filled meteors hurtling through space towards Earth to give us super stoney powers.  

Because no one found THC on a meteorite and a reverse image search is your friend. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Here's Why You Look Stupid When You Post Links From Natural News

Many of you have seen shocking headlines from Web pages like Natural News.  Maybe you've even clicked on the link to read the details of the claims being made. You may have noticed the sources for their information are provided at the end of each article.  So where's the problem?  Natural News is citing their sources and passing on information that may be useful to us all, right?

Well, yes and no.  Yes they cite their sources, but no its not often useful information and you probably shouldn't be passing it on to others.  There's an old saying amongst computer programmers: "Garbage in, garbage out", in other words, poor input will always produce poor output. And when you share a link from Natural News you are perpetuating the cycle of nonsensical garbage information that litters the interwebs.

Like many of you who have shared posts stating that Halloween will fall on Friday the 13th for the first time in 666 years

or the various "super moon" memes

folks see provocative headlines and almost immediately make assumptions based on their own beliefs and biases.  All the while information that might lead one to a more logical conclusion is right under our noses, or right under the articles as the case may be with Natural News.

Take a recent post for example. On August 31st Natural News posted an article entitled "Monsanto Wants to Replace the Bees They Are Killing With Flying Ants"  Now without getting into everything that is wrong about that statement, let's suspend disbelief for a moment. The article includes data from the USDA, mentions of the EPA, an apparent mea culpa from Monsatan.....and a link from World News Daily Report.

Yes Virginia, that World News Daily Report. The website that offers headlines such as "FDA Approves Viagra For Dogs" and "Woman Sues For Divorce After Spouse Has An Affair With Dishwasher".  Now before anyone accuses me of using a logical fallacy and "poisoning the well" in regards to this source, it should be noted that in their legal disclaimer, easily found on their website, World News Daily Report fully admits that their articles are for "entertainment purposes only" and satirical. 

But let's do what skeptics are supposed to do and scrutinize the information they've provided.  To find these little truth nuggets in the sea of nonsense one needs only to click the World News Daily Report link at the bottom of the Natural News article.  There we find the original article, published over a month ago complete with a convincing picture that seeks to add to the authenticity.   And that's where it all falls apart.  It's easy enough to seach for the various quotes contained in the article.  It's also pretty simple to search for the specific entities cited in the article.  

The article offers us this lone image of what appears to be a scientist doing the devilish bidding of Monsatan. 

If we dig a little deeper we find that in reality the scientist in the picture is actually Dr Robert L Harrod an Associate Professor conducting Cancer and AIDS research at Southern Methodist University and he has no connection at all to Monsanto or genetically modified flying ants. 

How do we know this?  Well because the picture used in the Weekly News Daily Report article was misappropriated from the SMU blog detailing Dr Harrod's work. 

So what does this all tell us and why do you look stupid when you post links from Natural News?

Well it tells us that the editors at Natural News are so inept that they either don't know that their main source for this particular article is a satire website or they just don't care because the unsubstantiated claims confirm their beliefs and biases. Like most things in life, I'm going to say it's a little of both and frankly either possibility should be disheartening to anyone who claims to be seeking truths. 

So remember next time you feel the need to post a Natural News link or you see one of your friends posting a Natural News link, it's probably complete and utter garbage. Inform your gullible friends and stop the cycle of nonsense.