New CSIRO head wants to make water divining easier for farmers

The incoming leader of our top scientific research organisation is promoting water-dowsing to Australian farmers.

The CSIRO has a new leader, Dr. Larry Marshall, who will take the reins in 2014-12.

Currently the managing director of the California-based Southern Cross Venture Partners, an outfit specialising in creating and growing Australian technology companies, Dr Marshall holds a doctorate in physics from Macquarie University. He has 20 patents to his name and has co-founded six companies.

The 52-year-old, who admits he hasn’t applied for a job in 25 years, suspects it was this combination of science and business that got him the CSIRO’s top job following a competitive global search.

“I started as a scientist, became an entrepreneur and learnt a lot about business the hard way,” he said.

[…]
Innovation Minister Ian Macfarlane, whose portfolio takes in science, welcomed Dr Marshall’s appointment.

Highlighting his commercial background, Mr Macfarlane said Dr Marshall’s arrival came at a time when the agency was embarking on a “significant new phase” in which the CSIRO would play an increasingly important role in the economy. This included strengthening links between business and science, he said.

The leader of CSIRO is chiefly welcomed by Australia’s Innovation Minister? What about our Science Minister? Oh that’s right, Australia’s current government has scrapped the ministry for science. Instead, our Prime Minister has appointed himself the head of a Science Council, with no minister responsible for science — and CSIRO left to the mercies of the “industry” portfolio.

So our federal government’s appointed head of CSIRO, Larry Marshall, himself seems to place much more emphasis on what is financially profitable than what is scientifically sound. He’s not been working as a scientist for a very long time; the past 25 years was spent as a venture capitalist.

And now, on the basis that charlatans can fool him, he wants to use his new position as head of CSIRO to fund research for water dowsing.

He’d like to see the development of technology that would make it easier for farmers to dowse or divine for water on their properties.

“I’ve seen people do this with close to 80 per cent accuracy and I’ve no idea how they do it,” he said.

“When I see that as a scientist, it makes me question, ‘is there instrumentality that we could create that would enable a machine to find that water?’

“I’ve always wondered whether there’s something in the electromagentic field, or gravitation anomaly.”

Dr Marshall believes the CSIRO can ‘push the envelope’ with such projects and contribute to improving agricultural productivity.

Really? Shouldn’t we reserve funding for technologies whose claimed phenomenon can pass a simple blinded controlled objective study, rather than assuming Larry Marshall has seen it and he can’t be fooled? (The Victorian Skeptics has a guide to dowsing among other educational materials.)

In an age when all of climate science shows that we are in for, among other catastrophic results, devastating drought unless we act now to reverse our damaging activities, Australia’s leading government science body will spend its precious attention on pseudoscience and fakery.

We are under the rule of one of the worst governments in Australian history, in terms of the scientific soundness of policy.

Perth Zoo hosts an “Animal Dreaming” course

Brochure of Animal Dreaming course

If you’ve got a spare thousand dollars, you might like to spend some of it travelling this weekend to attend this AU$660 course in “Animal Dreaming” at the Perth Zoo.

During this event, you can expect to:

  • Look to the Earth Mother for wisdom, guidance and healing and remember the sacred bond you forged with her at the beginning of time
  • Interpret the messages offered by animals encountered during real-life encounters, dreams and vision
  • Learn how to invoke animal spirits to aid in healing, manifestation, protection, fertility and more
  • Enjoy impromptu readings from Scott
  • Learn about ‘stilling the mind’ and finding your very own ‘Power Spot’
  • Participate in a guided meditative journey to find your Totem / Power Animal
  • Reconnection to the heart essence of Earth Mother herself
  • The sacred act of surrendering, offering thanks and showing gratitude
  • Spiritual coaching and intuitive development that ensure a deeper connection to Spirit, the Earth Mother, your Higher Self and the Life Force in all things
  • Ways to develop intuition and inherent psychic abilities
  • Ways to shed and release your old ‘familiar’ self, and heal, rebirth and activate your inherent creative self
  • Ways to turn FEAR into FERTILITY on ALL LEVELS
  • Techniques to ensure spiritual health and psychic protection for the self, the family and the home / office
  • Ways to realise and embrace your Life Purpose and Personal Power

No mention of getting the course fee refunded if one’s expectations are not met — like, say, the expectation of “Reconnection to the heart essence of Earth Mother herself”.

Why is a zoo giving their facilities over to this scam? Maybe our Perth friends – or any Zoo members – can contact their management and express their opinions.

(credit to The Worst of Perth)

Bruno Gröning Circle of Friends: 1950s spiritualist quackery in Melbourne

image of Bruno Gröning

Bruno Gröning (1906–1959)

I received a pamphlet in the mailbox last night, complete with a slip announcing a monthly “information lecture”, for the “Bruno Gröning Circle of Friends”.

What on Earth is a Germany-based group, devoted to the quack claims of a German mystic in the 1950s, doing active in Melbourne?

During the fifties he sparked interest from the public around the world through extraordinary healing successes and he left behind the knowledge about how to take in a spiritual healing power, the “Heilstrom”. Healings occur today as back then, even of incurable diseases. Numerous medically documented success reports demonstrate the current effects of his teaching.

“A Selection of Five Success Reports” is on one page, which are all personal testimonials (not “medically documented”) about angina, depression, asthma, allergies, migraine, and back pain — nothing about “incurable diseases”, and nothing about medical diagnosis or verification.

The insert announces a schedule of lectures, most in months gone by. But one is coming up this month on 2014-06-13, at East Melbourne Library, 122 George Street, East Melbourne (map).

Would there be value in skeptics going along? We might like to ask questions before the assembled audience and have them answered for everyone to hear; but “information lecture” sounds more like preaching with no opportunity for public Q&A.

The harm of “traditional remedies”: Rhino horn for a hangover

A rhinoceros killed by poachers in Karbi hills, near India’s Kaziranga National Park. (AP Photo)

Via MSN, we learn that one of the most iconic African species is under additional threat of extinction, because of uncritical Vietnamese customers purchasing rhinoceros horn for magical cures for anything from cancer to hangovers:

What happened in 2008 to prompt a resurgence in demand? The closest guess is a rumor that swept Vietnam in the mid-2000s that imbibing rhino horn powder had cured a Vietnamese politician’s cancer. That rumor persists to this day. And note that this has nothing to do with traditional Chinese medicine. As Huijun Shen, the president of the UK Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine explained to Nature magazine, there’s no record of using rhino horn to treat cancer in nearly two millennia worth of Chinese medical texts (p.23).

In Vietnam, however, at least some respected doctors vouch for rhino horn’s cancer-curing properties. One woman who purchased $2,000 worth of horn powder on her doctors’ advice.

There will never be a shortage of devastation of our natural world, until the demand for that devastation is ended. Fighting against magical thinking, and marginalising ludicrous “traditional remedy” claims, is a key element and a worthy aim for skeptics.