Nature of Science Case Studies

(Last updated 4/04/2011, cjw)

Background readings: To help the student better prepare for these Case Study of the Day discussions, they should be familiar with suitable resources such as the following:

No. 1 - The Problem of Demarcation - Is astrology a science?

Tammy and Terry are walking down the hall in high school between classes. As they arrive at their side-by-side lockers, Tammy remarks to Terry, "My horoscope in the paper said that I shouldn't trust even my closest friend today. So, I've decided not to loan you that $10 you asked me about yesterday." Terry in disbelief responds, "You've got to be kidding me! You believe that stuff? An now you're not going to trust me? You promised!" Tammy replies, I'm sorry, but I trust my horoscope. Last week it said that I would be mistreated by someone I knew, and it was right! That's happened lots of times before. I know that I can trust my horoscope. I'm sorry, but I believe that if I loan you the $10, you won't pay me back." "That's absolutely ridiculous," cried Terry. "Astrology is a bunch of bunk. Astrologers assume that the planets emit some sort of power that can have an influence on you. What is the nature of that power? Why should a planet's position in the sky have any influence at all?" Tammy is quick to retort, "Think about it! The sun produces the seasons, the moon creates tides, and people are more crazy under the full moon than at any other time according to my aunt who works in the hospital emergency room. And, look, it's common knowledge that fewer houses are burglarized under a full moon than a new moon. I don't know what the nature of the power or influence is, but I know it works." In disbelief Terry reacts, "You believe more in that astrology stuff than you do in our friendship! If that's the way you feel about it, fine! Just don't think about me as your friend any more." Terry walks off in a huff, with Tammy running behind her.

Is Tammy correct in her assertion that the sun, moon, and planets have an influence on life on earth?

What, if anything, is wrong with Tammy's world view?

Isn't Terry being hyper skeptical? Is she justified in her claims?

Don't Tammy's experiences with astrology justify her belief in astrology? Why or why not?

Is it true that science can't provide complete answers to all questions?

N.B. The focus of this case is on distinguishing between science, non-science, and pseudoscience. Philosophers of science have struggled for centuries to create necessary and sufficient conditions (those conditions that rule in and rule out various cases) for such discernment, and have yet to come to a complete resolution for this problem. It would be great if we had an authentic definition of science, but even that doesn't exist. Karl Popper suggested the tests of fatigability and riskiness. That is, something can be said to be scientific if it passes these tests. Unfortunately, these conditions are not sufficient because even astrology can sometimes make correct predictions. Other conditions that subsequently have been set forth are the following: pseudosciences tend not to make much progress, pseudosciences lack a clear mechanism, pseudosciences are associated with undesirable social practices, pseudoscience often has epistemologically dubious origins, and pseudoscience has questionable forms of reasoning. Examples can be found from among the traditional sciences to show that even these criteria are not definitive.

No. 2 - It’s Just a Theory

Malinda Tinnerman walks in the front door after school to see her mother sitting briefly in her favorite chair. “Hello, Malinda,” said her mother. “Hi, mom. Smells good! What’s for supper?” “Just leftovers. So, what did you learn in school today?” asks Mrs. Tinnerman. “Well, let’s see, we learned how to solve equations using the quadratic formula; history was the usual boring stuff – something about Roosevelt; Mr. Ambruster spoke about evolution in Biology.” “What did he say?” asks her mother. “Well, he told us about this guy named Darren something or other…” “You mean Darwin, D A R W I N.” “Oh, yeah, Darwin. Darwin supposedly invented evolution.” “And what about it?” asked Mrs. Tinnerman. “Mr. Ambruster said that humans evolved from lower species, or at least that’s what scientist believe. That’s not what scripture teaches, does it Mom?” “Heavens no! We all know that evolution is just a theory, and not even a law. You don’t have to ‘obey’ something that’s not a law. We know that God created the heavens and earth in six days, and on the seventh day he rested. You don’t have to believe what Mr. Ambruster said about evolution. We must always trust in the Word of the Lord.” “But isn’t the scientific method supposed to lead to truth?” “Yes, but not in this case, honey. Come on, time to eat your supper.”

What does Mrs. Tinnerman mean when she says that evolution is “just a theory”?

What do scientist mean when they say that evolution is a theory?

What is a ‘law of science,” and do people have to ‘obey’ such laws?

Does the scientific method, whatever that may be, invariably lead to “truth”? What is truth?

How might this “conflict” between science and religion be resolved, or might that be impossible?

No. 3 - The Best Hypothesis

A student is living in a residence hall on a university campus. The dorm room is on the fourth floor, and there is no elevator. All movement into and out of the building is up and down flights of stairs. The walls of the dorm are "paper thin." On the first day of autumn classes the student, while still buried beneath the bed's blankets, hears an occupant in the adjoining room making noises. The student evidently rises at 6:00 a.m. and then returns out of breath at 7:00 a.m. After "observing" this "behavior" for several days, the student formulates a descriptive generalization to account for the behavior.

Imagine that you are the student awoken daily by the neighboring occupant; formulate as many tentative explanations (hypotheses) as you can to account for the occupant's noise making behaviors.

Which is the most probable explanation of the sounds heard from the room next door?

On what basis did you make the above decision?

What sort of auditory evidence might be used to distinguish between more probable and less probable hypotheses?

N.B. Is the argument from "simplicity" genuinely supportable? Are the simplest explanations that account for all the evidence necessarily to be preferred? (Ockham's or Occam's razor) How do you know?

No. 4 - Is the Process of Induction Scientific?

Induction is the process of making broad generalization based on several specific instances. Let's say that you have a deck of 52 playing cards of unknown character face down on a table. That is, while it is a deck of 52 cards, the cards in that deck might have been assembled from among any number of sources and you know nothing about the numbers, suites, or face cards. All cards have an identical surface appearance. From the top of the deck you draw a queen of spades. Would you be justified in claiming that all the cards in the deck are queens of spades? Why or why not? Let's say you draw a second card from lower down in the deck and it's the 9 of spades. Would you be justified in claiming that all the cards in the deck are spades? Why or why not? Let's say you draw a third card from lower in the deck still and it is a 7 of clubs. Would you be justified in claiming that all the cards in the deck are black cards and not a combination of red and black? Why or why not? You next draw a 2 of harts from the bottom of the deck. Would you be justified in claiming that the cards are rank ordered from highest on top to lowest on the bottom? Why or why not?

Consider the statement, "All copper conducts electricity." Is this statement "scientific" in the sense of Popper's principle of falsifiability? Similarly, is the statement "The moon is made of cheese scientific?"

Is "All copper conducts electricity" a legitimate induction given that the Earth and universe are full of copper? Why or why not? Is this statement "scientific" in the Popperian sense of the word?

If one is to accept the claim that "All copper conducts electricity" is correct, what assumptions or presumptions does this require? What sort of evidence can be brought in to support such assumptions or presumptions?

No. 5 - Just the fact, ma'am. Just the facts.

Kai, an immigrant from Korea, has been working at a convenience store in a run-down big-city neighborhood for the past 3 years. Ariel has just started working at the store after graduating from a local high school. One evening, after midnight, two men enter the store brandishing weapons. They demand all the money in the cash register. Kai yells at the assailants, and tells them "get out, get out!" Ariel screams, "No give them the money; let them go!" After hesitating a moment, and nearly paralyzed with fear, Kai opens the cash register. The bandits reach in, take the money, and run. Under extreme duress, Kai calls 911 and asks that the police be sent. Ariel breaks down in tears. Within about 10 minutes a patrol car pulls into the parking lot with lights flashing and siren blaring. Two peace officers enter the store and begin taking a report.

You are the police officer, and you note that Kai and Ariel are reporting different things. It is up to you to decide, "What are the facts of this case?"

How do you define a "fact"?

On what basis did you distinguish fact from fiction?

On what basis can one assess the credibility of a supposed fact?

N.B. Just about any sort of fact can support any sort of hypothesis or principle. Consider the following statement, "All ravens are black." Another entirely logical way of stating this conclusion is, "All non-black things are non-ravens." This is entirely consistent with the initial statement. The phrase "A swan is white" is evidence to support the latter of the two consistent statements. As such, "A swan is white" becomes evidence supporting the claim that "All ravens are black." What do you think about this line of argumentation? (Hempel's paradox of the ravens.)

No. 6 - Generalizing from the Data

An astute observer of human behavior recently reported hearing the following statements made by certain individuals:

What, if anything, is wrong with each of these statements?

No. 7 - The Limits of Science

Billybob is a science major at a local university. He’s been enamored of science his whole life long. His parents are both scientists, and they clearly influenced him in his choice of science as a future career. One of Billybob’s parents works at the university, and the other at the nationally recognized Research Triangle Park not far from home. Billybob is having lunch with his friend Cassandra. She is taking an ethics course on the same campus that Billybob attends, and seeks advice from him. “My sociology professor wants us to answer a question for homework, and said it would be okay to seek advice from a science professional. You are about as close to being a science professional as anyone I know. Are you ready?” Billybob nods his approval being somewhat flattered by Cassandra’s statement. “Sure. Give it a shot.” Cassandra reads from a sheet of paper, “How far can science go in helping society make decisions about issues such as overpopulation, poverty, education, war, and even love?” She looks up from her paper and states, “What do you think the answer is?” Billybob pauses for a second then forcefully states, “Scientific knowledge really is the foundation of all wisdom. So, I think that scientific arguments should always be weighted more heavily than other forms of wisdom so called. When confronted with problems, hard scientists tend to solve them and (somewhat under his breath) that’s not like those social scientists who don’t seem to be able to solve any socially significant problems.” He energetically continues, “Really, now, all fields of inquiry can ultimately be understood by science and, therefore, should be subject to and rely upon scientific methods of investigation. Science can provide all the answers we need.”

Do you agree or disagree with Billybob’s statement about weighting scientific arguments more heavily than other forms of wisdom? Why or why not?

Can scientists provide “wise” answers to all social questions on the basis of science alone? If you believe so, provide an example. If you believe not, explain why.

Is Billybob’s claim that social scientists can’t solve big social problems fundamentally true or false?

If you believe Billybob’s claim to be true, what is the problem with social scientists? If false, what big problems have social scientists solved?

Is Billybob’s belief in any way analogous to having a religious faith in science?

No. 8 - Are All Scientists Godless Atheists?

“Your dad doesn’t believe in God,” said Jerromy to Jessica. “Why do you say that?” “Because your dad is a scientist and scientists don’t believe in God, that’s why.” “That’s not so,” replied Jessica. “Is so,” retorted Jerromy. “Your dad is an astronomer, right?” “Yes.” “And he believes in the Big Bang and evolution, too, right?” “He does, but that doesn’t make him an atheist. My dad says that scientists don’t talk about God when doing science. It’s not right. He says that it has something to do with scientific ethics, whatever that is.” “So, scientists do reject God? That makes your dad an atheist. See, I told you!” Jerromy responded with delight. “No,” replied Jessica, “that’s not what I mean.”

Are scientists who believe in the Big Bang and evolution necessarily godless atheists?

Must people reject god and religion in order to become scientists?

Is it possible for scientists to have religious faith and at the same time refuse to include a god or gods in their scientific thinking and work? Explain how this works.

Are science and religion fundamentally at odds with one another?

How can science and religion co-exist, or is this simply not possible?

No. 9 - Bigfoot?

(AP, November 4, 2006, POCATELLO, Idaho) The professors talking over coffee in the life sciences building at Idaho State University don't include Jeffrey Meldrum. As usual, the scientist is alone in his laboratory, weaving past jars of yellow liquid and plaster molds of giant, dinosaur-like footprints. He opens a thin, metal filing drawer. "These are the first ones I collected," he says, "of Bigfoot." Meldrum has collected more than 200 Bigfoot prints. He says he believes in the principles of science and in Bigfoot. His colleagues at Idaho State University are hostile, some even calling for the school to revoke his tenure. One physics professor, D. P. Wells, wondered if Meldrum also planned to research Santa Claus. Read the whole story....

Is the collection of supposed Big Foot footprints appropriate scientific research or not?

On what basis does one decide to include or exclude subject matter from scientific consideration?

How does one distinguish authentic science from pseudo-science say, for instance, in the cases of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, and UFOs?

Has Meldrum done anything scientifically inappropriate to the point that he deserves the derision of his teaching colleagues?

No. 10 - The Case of the Weeping Madonna

Bobbi relates this story to a group of friends: "My aunt came home last night from church and she reported that the statue of Mother with Child was weeping tears of what looked like blood. She said at the beginning of the service that the statue was reported to be in a 'normal' condition, but by the time the service was over there were two streams of what looked like blood were running down the face of the Madonna. People were crowding around crying and weeping, and saying, 'It's a miracle. The Lady is displeased. Great disasters are before us.' Did you guys hear about this?" Li-Yang said, "No, I didn't hear about until just now from you, and I don't believe it. Statues don't cry, and miracles don't really occur. It's just people lying to themselves. Most observers are not at all objective in these cases, but believe what they want to believe. Their's is not an objective, scientific viewpoint." Bobbi was shocked at this response from Li-Yang. "You say that you are objective. That might be true, but aren't you science types also supposed to be curious? Don't you want to find out more?" Li-Yang retorts, "The first job of a scientist is to be skeptical, and I am skeptical." Harold joins in stating, "So, how can we figure this thing out? Whether or not it's a miracle, I mean?"

Should scientists investigate such claims of the miraculous? Why or why not?

Can scientists even pass a judgment on the claim of a miracle?

If an investigation were to be conducted, how would it work?

Can scientists prove the occurrence of a miracle?

No. 11 - Chupacabra: An Escaped Alien Pet?

"Chupacabra! Did you see what it did?", screamed Maria as she ran into her house from the back yard. "It killed all the chickens!" Maria's mother was horrified, "Killed all the chickens? Oh, for the love of God, no!" Maria and her mother ran behind the house and saw the carnage. All their chickens kept for meat and eggs had been killed. The early morning sun glistened off the droplets of blood that covered the ground. The bodies of hapless chickens were scattered all about. Feathers were rolling across the grass with the morning breeze, picking up droplets of blood as they went and adding to the horror of the situation. "See mama, I told you. The chupacabra is here! I told you about it the other day. It's name means 'goat sucker' and drains animals of their blood. It was here last night and killed all our chickens. Will we be next?" "Now stop it, Maria, it was no chupacabra. It must have been a dog." "Yes, yes, it was the chupacabra" cried Maria. "A dog would have made noise when it killed the chickens. We heard nothing at all last night. The other kids at school told me that the chupacabra was a alien's vampire pet that escaped from a flying saucer. It flies and drops down from the sky without anyone hearing it, and now it's come to get us!" Maria began to cry uncontrollably. Her mother could not stop her from trembling.

Which is more likely to be the cause of the carnage, a dog or a chupacabra? Why do you think so?

What sort of case could a scientist make against the existence of a chupacabra?

What evidence from the scene suggests that a "goat sucker" had not caused the carnage?

No. 12 - Is Planet Earth Being Visited by Aliens?

Tom is a planetarium director. As such he gets lots of UFO reports. When asked if he believes in UFO’s Tom responds, “Yes, I most certainly do.” When pursued further, planetarium visitors are disappointed to learn that Tom believes that anything that flies and is unidentified is a UFO – Unidentified Flying Object. An unknown bird or airplane passing through the air is a UFO according to Tom. When pressed about whether or not he believes in extraterrestrials visiting earth, Tom says that it’s possible, but he’s not optimistic despite what people claim to see. Even Tom has seen some pretty strange things. He reports, “Once when I was a kid I saw three silvery flying objects. They appeared large and quite, and seemed to have a disk-like structure. They were weaving in and out and around each other ‘in a pretzel-shaped pattern.’ Then, two shot up into the sky and disappeared. The remaining disk appeared to approach, paused momentarily, and then shot off into the sky and likewise disappeared. It was perfectly quiet; the objects made no noise.” When pressed that he HAD to believe in alien life forms visiting Earth given what he had seen, Tom would not relent. He states, “What I saw were UFO’s – nothing more, nothing less.” His listeners are incredulous.

Are Tom’s listeners correct in telling him that he should believe in alien life forms visiting Earth given his experiences?

Is Tom wrong for not trusting his own senses?

What logical basis might Tom have for rejecting a belief in “alien visits”?

Is Tom biased against a belief in “alien visits” as his listeners understand them?

Under what conditions will it be possible for Tom to change his position?

Do Tom's visual observations constitute scientific evidence?

When is evidence considered science; when is it considered merely anecdotal?

No. 13 - A Matter of Ethics

Bob and Rob are in a lab. They are completing a step-by-step verification lab dealing with the principle known as the conservation of linear momentum. They believe they are following the provided guidelines, but are getting inconsistent results and are running out of time. Bob mentions to Rob, “We can’t prove the law right unless we have the proper data. I think that we should eliminate the data points we don’t like, and add a few extra just to make things look good.” Rob replies, “Yeah, we can just create the data we need. Mrs. D’Elia says we must have the data necessary to draw our conclusion. Since there’s error in observation anyway, this will just be one more error.” “Right on, dude!” responds Bob. They laugh, give one another the “high five,” and head back to work.

Is it wrong for Bob and Rob to generate data to verify a well-established law? Why or why not?

Is it proper in science to make selective use of data, rejecting what you don’t like while retaining that which you do like?

It is proper in science to draw a conclusion or formulate an explanation, and then search for evidence that supports that assertion?

Is it wrong in science to believe anything without sufficient evidence?

No. 14 - The Mystery of Acámbaro

An anthropology class is confronted by their teacher with the following true story…. In 1945 Waldemar Julsrud, a German immigrant and amateur archeologist, discovered clay ceramic figurines buried at the foot of El Toro Mountain on the outskirts of Acámbaro, Guanajuato, Mexico. Eventually over 33,000 figurines were found near El Toro. Similar artifacts found in the area were identified with the Pre-classical Chupicuaro Culture (800 BC to 200 AD). Among the many ceramic figurines were humans, face masks, pipes, and even dinosaur-like animals. In fact, there were a number of figurines that look very much like dinosaurs – brontosaurus, ankylosaurus, iguanadon, and stegosaurus. Many figurines have no known counterparts in the animal kingdom. Some of the human figurines were shown “interacting” with dinosaur-like figures – riding them or embracing them! This seems quite curious in light of the fact that the figures appear to be quite old, much older than human knowledge of dinosaurs that didn’t come about until around 1800. How is it possible that the creators of these figurines could have known about “dinosaurs” some say as much as 2,500 years ago? Some creation scientists claim that these figures are evidence that dinosaurs didn’t go extinct 65 million years ago, and that they provide evidence of humans living concurrently with dinosaurs as late as 2,500 years ago! You can see these claims as well as images of the figurines at What do you make of this?

How does the creation scientist claim that dinosaurs and humans lived contemporaneously “fit” with current understanding about the death of the dinosaurs?

Does the evidence cited by the creationist necessarily support the belief that humans and dinosaurs lived concurrently? Why or why not?

Are the 75 or so human-dinosaur figures sufficient evidence to support claim that dinosaurs and humans lived contemporaneously?

Does the creationist claim of humans living contemporaneously with humans have the same validity or legitimacy as the claim by mainstream scientists? Why or why not?

How might data from the figurine collection be used to refute the claim that dinosaurs and humans lived contemporaneously?

No. 15 - The Case of the Crop Circle

Tim rushed into school and into his first-hour classroom after being dropped off by the bus. He was excited and frantic at the same time. “You’ve got to see it,” he shouted. “See what?” several of his friends replied. “A crop circle; it appeared at home in the wheat field behind our house last night. It’s huge, and has the most amazing pattern!” Surprised, a few classmates overhearing the conversation call out, “What’s crop circle?” Somewhat flustered, Tim notes that a crop “circle” is a geometric pattern that appears in fields, usually wheat fields. He remarked that crop circles are a real mystery, and that no one knows how they are made. They are often amazing complex, and hard to conceive of as human creations. He points out that some believe crop designs to be messages from aliens visiting the Earth in spacecraft. Tim is correct about crop circles being a mystery – at least to some. Many people think that crop circles are hoaxes. Nonetheless, scientifically minded people have entered the fray over the origin of crop circles. Nonetheless, they have wisely avoided the claim that aliens have been writing pictographic messages in crop fields. How exactly crop circles are produced – if they are not hoaxes – has stretched their imaginations to come up with theories of vortexes, ball lightning, plasma and other non-occult explanations involving natural forces such as wind, heat, or animals that many scientists cannot “swallow.”

How would you initially react to Tim if you were one of the students in this classroom?

Could large, complex and beautiful crop circles really be the product of hoaxers, or are aliens needed to explain these phenomena?

Are claims that naturalistic phenomena create large, complex and beautiful crop circles reasonable?

How can this issue best be resolved, or can it be resolved at all given the current state of our knowledge?

No. 16 - Natural Cures?

Entrepreneur Kevin Trudeau is promoting his book called Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About. You can see his infomercials on TV almost any time of night somewhere on cable. The Natural Cures web site ( provides readers “with information about non-drug, non-surgical and all-natural cures for virtually every disease. These are the natural cures the drug companies, the FDA, the FTC, the American Medical Association, and government agencies DO NOT want you to know about because it would cut into the profits of multinational pharmaceutical corporations.” He makes few claims on his web site about the efficacy of his “cures” other than the information here, but it is filled with glowing testimonials about the efficacy of Natural Cures from several anonymous individuals (Tracy V., Kimberly S., S. B. and so on). Referring directly to the book Natural Cures, the following quote appears on the web site:

In promoting his monthly newsletter (“for only $5.95 per month billed annually”) on the Natural Cures web site Trudeau claims, “I sift the fact from the fiction and do the work for you. In a matter of minutes you’ll be able to learn the up-to-date information from an unbiased source. I do not sell supplements, I do not get compensated in any way for any products that I recommend, and accept absolutely no advertisers.”

Can you see any basis for bias or conflicts of interest?

Can claims such as Trudeau’s be trusted without substantial investigation?

Are scientists obliged to investigate Trudeau’s claims and perhaps Trudeau himself?

Can such a book do more harm than good?

No. 17 - A Haunting Experience!

Fourteen-year-old Akimbo is afraid to enter the upper rooms of his 4-level mansion home. The mansion is a former plantation house that has been around since about 1850; the plantation was the site of a bloody 1863 Civil War battle. Many say that the mansion is haunted. Akimbo has been told by house workers that "spirits of dead soldiers" inhabit the upper rooms. According to the house workers, restless spirits move things around the rooms, and at night foot falls and even clashing swords can sometimes be heard from beneath each of the rooms. No one has ever seen these spirits. Still, those who visit the rooms often report having a "creepy" sensation, and feel as though someone is watching.

Are the various claims made by the house workers to be believed? Why or why not?

What might explain the "creepy" sensations and cold spots that visitors to the rooms report?

What other explanations might account for the reports?

What is the best explanation for these supposed phenomena?

On what basis do you accept some explanations and reject others?

No. 18 - Are Animals Self-Aware?

Tabitha is a vegetarian, and urges her friends during lunch to avoid eating meat and using animal products. She argues that animals are self-aware, and that by slaughtering them for food and other items humans are doing something morally wrong. She states, “It’s commonly known that animals recognize both themselves and others as individuals. I have three female cats at home, and it’s clear to me that each has her own personality. They remember who their friends are, and hide from those they don’t know. Even familiar with several different people in my family, they know who can and can’t be trusted. They know their own and everyone else’s place in a social hierarchy that even includes me. They often use sounds and body language to communicate with each other.” She went on to describe other animals. “The evidence that convinces lots of people that animals are self-aware is the mirror experiment. This experiment involves putting a mirror in front of an animal, and checking to see if the animal realizes he is looking at a reflection of himself. Different animals, such as Siamese fighting fish, dolphins, chimpanzees, and some birds pass the mirror test. They go to great lengths to spend time in front of the mirror in order to examine parts of their bodies that they normally cannot see. Other animals such as elephants and apes pass on information and mourn their dead. Some of the great apes can even communicate in complete sentences with humans using sign language. Some African Grey Parrots can clearly speak with humans, having vocabularies of hundreds of words. Trust me, animals are self-aware. Eating them is like murder.”

How would you react to these claims by Tabitha?

Do human possess sufficient knowledge to draw conclusions about animal self-awareness?

Are eating meat and using animal products morally wrong? Ethically wrong? Tantamount to murder?

Could a scientist ethically answer the question of self-awareness?

Is suspending judgment the same thing as avoiding personal opinions?

No. 19 - Weather Forecasting: Science, Art, or Pseudoscience?

Kiki and Paulo are working on a homework project dealing with weather forecasting. One of the questions they have been asked by their teacher to address is whether or not weather forecasting is a science - as compared to a pseudoscience. Kiki says, "Yes, weather forecasting is a science. Weather forecasters collect data and make predictions based on that data. They do lots of research to get things right." Paulo objects, "I disagree. Weather forecasting is a pseudoscience, and should not be confused with the science known as meteorology. Think about it; forecasters often get things wrong. In fact, they are wrong quite a lot, and they can collect all the data they need. At best, they can say something to the effect that you have a 30% chance of rain today. What sort of forecast is that? It's no better or different than astrologers who speak about influences. Though influences exists, they do not control. Astrologers get it wrong a lot, too." Paulo paused, and then started up again, "Astrologers collect data, too. They use planetary charts and signs and houses, and look at relationships like oppositions, conjunctions, and trines. They have a very systematic process, just like weather forecasters. In fact, you can use computer programs to create charts and make forecasts." Kiki demurred in the face of all the overwhelming evidence suggested by Paulo. "Perhaps you are right," responded Kiki. "Weather forecasting really must be a pseudoscience."

What is the difference between science, art, and pseudoscience?

Is weather forecasting all that different from astrology?

Is weather forecasting science or pseudoscience?

No. 20 - Positive Health Effects of Laser Light? suggests that laser therapy can help people stop smoking and lose weight with the projection of laser light to certain points upon the skin. According to a FAQ associated with the Lasersolutions web site, "Pulses of light emitted by the laser are absorbed into the skin when applied to certain acupuncture points on the body. This light is said to stimulate endorphins, which are 'feel good' chemicals naturally found within the brain that increase energy and decrease stress. The release of these endorphins help to eliminate the cravings and withdrawal symptoms that are synonymous with stopping smoking."

What is the logical mechanism of this therapy proposed by Lasersolutions?

Does this mechanism make logical sense?

What evidence is cited by the web site to show its efficacy?

Is this sort of therapy regulated by the US Department of Health and Human Services?

If not, why not?

Does this seem like legitimate science or pseudo science?

How can you tell?

No. 21 - Positive Health Effects of iRenew Bracelets?

iRenew® Bio Energy Solutions LLC claims to posses and promotes a bracelet that can help users "restore balance, regain strength, and renew energy." They tell potential consumers that iRenew can instantly build strength and balance. The promoters claim "a sustainable, preventative healthcare wellness model focused on properly maintaining a body’s subtle energy field more commonly known as the biofield." They state that "iRenew®’s quantum physicist has over 20 years of human energy research yielding a highly effective, 100% safe, holistic energy balancing technology called BioField Technology™." The bracelet, sold for only $19.99 (with a second one free), can supposedly cure sleep problems and much more. View their web site to hear more amazing claims.

How are the "frequencies" mentioned in the commercial supposed to do what is claimed?

What evidence is provided to show that the iRenew bracelet is effective as claimed?

Do either of the above claims make sense from a scientific perspective?

If not, why not?

Does this appear to be a legitimate medical product or are the promoters selling "snake oil"?

What characteristics of scientific fraud (pseudoscience) display?

No. 22. Power Balance™ Wristband

Consumers are now able to purchase Power Balance™ silicone wristbands, bracelets, and amulets that the manufacturer infers can help with strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance. The product is endorsed by a number of prominent athletes. According to the manufacturer, Power Balance is "[m]ade by athletes for athletes. Power Balance™ is a favorite among elite competitors, weekend warriors, and everyday fitness enthusiasts." According to one review, "Power Balance is a relatively recent product on the market. The company sells silicone wristbands and pendant necklaces embedded with a treated hologram. The claim of Power Balance™ products is their ability to increase physical performance and overall quality of life. They utilize holograms which are specifically designed to work with your body's natural energy flow, and in turn increase endurance, balance, strength, and flexibility. The Power Balance technology is worn and endorsed by many famous athletes including professional basketball players Shaquille O'neill and Lamar Odom, professional surfers Bruce and Andy Irons, mixed martial arts fighter Shane Del Rosario, and many others." The arguments for Power Balance run something like this. "The science behind the bracelet relies on the embedded hologram. The hologram has been with treated with energy waves at specific positive frequencies. These frequencies react positively with your body's naturally occurring and ever-flowing energy fields. Once the hologram comes into contact with your body, energy flow is then supposedly improved throughout, thus improving one's balance, flexibility, and strength. Simple enough right? While the idea of a bracelet optimizing your body's performance may be hard to swallow, the general idea behind its technology isn't. Being in touch with our body's natural energy, and working to optimize it, is at the foundation of many ancient Eastern philosophies. Frequencies from items we use daily such as cell phones, radios, televisions, and microwaves can damage the naturally free-flowing energy in our body. Power Balance wristbands claim to be the answer to restoring that energy back to a normal level."

What evidence is there for such energy-related beliefs?

Is it reasonable that holograms can channel and redirect energy?

Explain the basis upon which this device might appear to work?

Critique the purchase and use of such devices.