Carl Sagan: Life Looks for Life

The Sagan Series is an educational project working in the hopes of promoting scientific literacy in the general population. Created by @ReidGower

CREDITS (Used with permission wherever possible)
Thomas Newman – Any Other Name –…
Carl Sagan – The Pale Blue Dot –…
BBC Wonders of the Solar System –…
When We Left Earth –…
Vimeo “Timescapes Timelapse: Mountain Light” by Tom Lowe –
Microcosmos –
BBC Planet Earth –…)
Vimeo “Low/Available light test for Canon 7D” by Jim Forrest –
National Geographic – Inside the Milky Way –…
BBC The Secret Life of Chaos –
Baraka –…)
Vimeo “Time-Lapse Reel 2” by Spencer Black –
YouTube “Nuclear Weapon Test Atomic Nuke Bomb Explosion” by newworldterror –…
Hubble IMAX 3D –

Spirit photography: William Hope Cashed in on Grief

By Gretchen Mullen, Skeptic Review

Spirit photography, or photos claiming to document ghosts of loved ones, became popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries as hope rose that photography could finally provide scientific proof of the afterlife.

The impetus behind the proliferation of these highly sought after photos was three-fold:

  1. The photographer mastering this technique could get rich quick, often hanging out with some of the upper echelon of society.
  2. Subjects were anxious to believe their dearly departed loved ones were now heavenly spirits. Too often, subjects photographed were in the throes of a recent loss and were easily exploited. Post-war eras were particularly fruitful.
  3. Cameras were viewed as documenting truth; public knowledge about photographic manipulation was limited.

As early as 1869, American William Mumler, spirit photographer to the stars–not the least of whom was Mary Todd Lincoln–was tried for fraud, but was ultimately acquitted because the prosecutor simply couldn’t quite figure out how the photographs were fraudulently made.

    • Mary Todd Lincoln and the ghost of Abraham Lincoln as photographed by William Mumler, ca.1869.

Enter English spirit photographer William Hope (1863-1933) who garnered a prestigious clientele including an enthusiastic endorsement from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Below is a mere sampling of spirit photos produced by William Hope courtesy National Science and Media Museum:


Despite being labeled a “common cheat” by Scientific American, support for Hope persisted. William Hope was also the subject of a sting operation conducted by “paranormal investigator” Harry Price (Harry Price merits his own story, to be discussed in a separate article coming soon).

Price’s investigation prompted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to publish The Case for Spirit Photography in 1922 “to show the overpowering weight of evidence which exists as to the reality of Mr. Hope’s most remarkable gift.”


Richard Feynman: Curiosity: Four minutes of wonder

Created by Reid Gower

MUSIC : Ludovico Einaudi – Primavera –…
NARRATION: Richard Feynman – Take The World From Another Point Of View
BBC The Great Rift –
Koyaanisqatsi –
Microcosmos –
BBC Life –…)
Chronos –
BBC Planet Earth –…
BBC The Secret Life of Chaos –
Wonders of the Universe –…
Trinity and Beyond –

Copyright Tamiko Thiel 1984

Allegory of the Cave: A Visual Primer

By Gretchen Mullen, Skeptic Review

My recent review of Reasons to Believe, a new film by Ben Fama Jr., prompted me to refresh my understanding of “The Allegory of the Cave,” also known as “Plato’s Cave.” Fama opens Reasons to Believe with his own depiction of this famous parable, endowing the allegory with tremendous significance as a precursor to a most serious discussion on the nature of belief and its real world consequences, carried out by modern scholars Michael Shermer, Peter Boghossian, Caleb Lack, Jennifer Whitson and Chad Woodruff. (To read my full summary and review of “Reasons to Believe,” click here.…m-by-ben-fama-jr/)

Neither Socrates nor Plato would want me to give you my interpretation of the allegory. That is for you decide on your own. I must say, however, that a few key concepts stood out to me:

Enlightened vs. Unenlightened                         Light vs. Shadows

Upper World vs. Underground Cave                 Reality vs. Illusion            

Do yourself a favor and please spend a few moments of your day on these three delightful renditions of “The Allegory of the Cave.” Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments in the section below, or just thank me for making your day.

DEPICTION ONE: The Cave: A Parable Told by Orson Welles (1975)

Full citation:  Welles, Orson, 1915-1985, Wismer, C. B, Wolff, Larry, Oden, Dick, Bosustow, Nick et al. The Cave : a parable told by Orson Welles. CRM/McGraw Hill Films, [Del Mar, Calif.], 1975.

DEPICTION TWO: The Cave: An Adaptation of Plato’s Allegory in Clay (2008)

Bullhead Entertainment presents the award-winning animation film featured in over 100 film festivals worldwide. This 3-minute film took first place in animation at the USA Film Festival Short Film and Video Competition.

DEPICTION THREE: Allegory of the Cave (2014)

The product of an Advance Placement Language Class,  high school students move the allegory into today’s modern world. This short film would be an ideal and relatable teaching tool targeted to young adults.


FACTITIOUS: Game helps users learn to spot fake news

Real or fake? At a time when the reading public daily grapples with the question of fake news, the American University Game Lab/JOLT has created an accessible, easy-to-play game that helps you sort fake news from real.

The brainchild of former AU JOLT Fellow Maggie Farley, she pitched the concept more than a year ago, before the 2016 presidential campaign brought the challenges of fake news to the spotlight. For purposes of the game, “fake news” is defined as stories fabricated for fun, influence or profit, as well as satire, opinion and spin.

“Fake news is impossible to stop, so we wanted to playfully teach people how to recognize it,” said Farley. “But the game is fun to play in itself.”

The game engine in the next phase should also be available to newsrooms, schools, or groups that want to adapt a version for their own use.

PS: My first crack at the game yielded 93%. Second crack, not so much. I highly recommend you try this game! It’s fun, enlightening and horrifying. I am especially excited to hear it will be available as a teaching tool. My nephew asked me this week if I had read the warning that “people are injecting the AIDS virus into bananas.”–Gretchen Mullen, Editor, Skeptic Review

Edvard Munch




News: Godless Billboards Return to Sioux Falls, South Dakota

News: David Silverman: 2017 Recipient of The Richard Dawkins Award

David Silverman Courtesy Atheist Alliance of America
David Silverman Courtesy Atheist Alliance of America

Atheist Alliance of America and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science are pleased to announce David Silverman as the 2017 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award. Silverman is President of American Atheists and was the creator and executive producer of the 2012 Reason Rally.

The award will be presented to David Silverman at Atheist Alliance of America’s convention in Atlanta, September 1-4, 2017, which will be held at Dragon*Con’s Skeptrack, where Atheist Alliance of America will be celebrating its 25th-year anniversary.

The Atheist Alliance of America celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2017.

AAoA 25th Anniversary Convention at DragonCon

Courtesy Atheist Alliance of America. Photographer: Mark W. Gura.

Previous winners of the Richard Dawkins Award:

2003: James Randi

2004: Ann Druyan

2005: Penn & Teller

2006: Julia Sweeney

2007: Daniel Dennett

2008: Ayaan Hirsi Ali

2009: Bill Maher

2010: Susan Jacoby

2011: Christopher Hitchens

2012: Eugenie Scott

2013: Steven Pinker

2014: Rebecca Goldstein

2015: Jerry Coyne

2016: Lawrence Krauss

Richard Dawkins announces Evolution video game

Britsoft game developer Gordie Ross plans on teaching America a lesson

On March 10, 2017, Richard Dawkins and EvoRevo Ltd, the video game team founded by veteran Britsoft game developer Gordie Ross, launched a Kickstarter campaign for their new entertainment product Richard Dawkins: Evolution. The Kickstarter campaign failed to meet its goal of £50K ($62.5K US dollars) by the deadline, April 10, 2017.

Gordie Ross made the following announcements to his backers via Kickstarter:

April 5, 2017: “It looks of course like we will not meet the Kickstarter target, but we are very happy to have received everyone´s good wishes, support and feedback for the project. Your enthusiasm will drive us to make a game full of fun learning going forward.”

April 11, 2017: “Thank you again to everyone, I bear the responsibility for not getting the word spread far and wide enough.

For those who would like a few stats:

We had tremendous support with 1 in 46 video views resulting in a backer… final total of video views was around 6200, most of which came from the early activity and the average pledge was 57 pounds.

We shall press on now with the game and look forward to staying in touch as we get the job done.”

View the game trailer here:

More about the game:

The video game is set in a solar system similar to the newly charted Trappis 1 where 7 Earth-sized planets were recently discovered by NASA. The game relies on cutting-edge cloud technology to simulate a population of hundreds of thousands of lifeforms as they evolve in wonderful ways.

Richard Dawkins said, “Evolution is happening all the time; however in most cases, the rate of change is so small that it is difficult for a human to come to terms with the length of time involved. Our goal is to strike a balance between explaining that it is a gradual process and showing it happening at a rate that is entertaining to our audience.”

Like The Oregon Trail, an entertaining yet brilliantly educational video game which blazed its own trail in the classrooms of the 1980s, Gordie Ross (the game´s creator) envisions the Richard Dawkins: Evolution video game will ultimately make its way out of the home and into the classroom alongside exciting and entertaining learning resources.

Gordie Ross said, “Ultimately we see America as the greatest challenge where roughly 40% of the population believes the Earth is less than 10 thousand years old. Using a video game, we hope to additionally talk to this different audience who generally do not read science books. It´s Richard and I´s hope to trigger a curiosity about Evolution and Science that sets a new generation on an amazing journey of discovery.”

We will update you as we learn future plans on the development of this game.