My Photo


  • Jen-Luc Piquant sez: "They like us! They really like us!"

    "Explains physics to the layperson and specialist alike with abundant historical and cultural references."
    -- Exploratorium ("10 Cool Sites")

    "... polished and humorous..."
    -- Physics World

    "Takes 1 part pop culture, 1 part science, and mixes vigorously with a shakerful of passion."
    -- Typepad (Featured Blog)

    "In this elegantly written blog, stories about science and technology come to life as effortlessly as everyday chatter about politics, celebrities, and vacations."
    -- Fast Company ("The Top 10 Websites You've Never Heard Of")
Blog powered by Typepad
Bookmark and Share

« it really is a small world | Main | Meanwhile, back at the ranch... »


@Mike B: "I think we're in the dawn age here."

Hey, like, dude, it's the Age of Aquarius innit? ;-)

Maybe after the ancient Persians' Mithras cult of Taurus (whom Europa tamed) and whatever the previous silliness has for a sign, the time is now at last getting ripe for some sound scepticism?

Agree, nice post! Thank god I'm neither superstitious nor religious, touch wood.

Many years ago, I came up with an answer that always works when talking with someone one-on-one. My sign? "Pavement ends." That immediately intrigues people and we go on to discuss living in the country, which I do.
I've never had anyone try to steer things back to astrology, and I've never had anyone get offended.
Don't know if it'd work in a group -- I suspect not.

Depending on the kind of party you go to, your best answer to "What's your sign?" might be "Slippery When Wet."

I totally go for #4. Whenever the conversation touches upon reincarnation, I go off on a rant about all my past lives: "So bloody frustrating! This is the first time EVER that I survived past childhood. Dead at 2 of the measles. Died in childbirth. Dead of chickenpox. Every bloody time, if it's not one thing it was another. Dysentery. Starvation. War. Always poor peasant parents in some g-dforsaken farming community or nomadic desert tribe, no health care, no clean water. I never survived long enough to learn to walk, much less talk or love. Sheesh! You have no idea how lucky you are to have had these romantic blessed lives or rich adventure behind you. For me it's been one infectious disease after another. Enough to make me want to give up on this whole wheel of karma altogether!" Somehow, though, it doesn't ever endear me to the true believers. ;)

I generally ask them to work it out. Star signs determine personality (among other things), right? So a skilled astrologer should be able to get to know me and from that work back to the star sign. My favorite is the 'witch' that took eleven tries and followed by "Oh yes, I thought you were a Libra". If people didn't actually make life-changing decisions based on it it would be funny.

I get into a lot of these arguments. Mostly, I try to focus on the ones that really matter: vaccines aren't a conspiracy, climate change is real and dangerous, etc.

I guess I'm in the wrong place here, cause I do believe that there is something else out there. Why? because so many weird things happen to me that the chances of it being random are so small as to be nonexistent. For example, you used the word 'Whackaloon' in your blog post, I have never even heard this word before, but today twice, once here and once on a TV show I had Tivo'd 'Eli Stone', weird. Another example, a while back I was walking into a hotel (on business - I was doing some balloon decor), it was the fist time in that hotel in over 6 months. On the way through the door I bumped into a guy coming out, he turned out to be on his mobile, listening to the engaged tone on my office phone, as I bumped into him, that kinda freaked me out.

And don't get me started on accupuncture :-)

Good Luck


>>“DUDE! Something like SEVENTY BILLION PEOPLE died since the dawn of humanity. An OLD LADY DIED EVERYWHERE!” I holler.
>really? wouldn't that be a lot closer to 7 than 70?

Another estimate, from about 106 billion.

Sometimes the simplest and most straightforward answer works the best. Whenever I'm asked my sign, I simply say, "Skeptic."

You're very funny. :-)

My response to "What's your sign?": "The seventies called and they want their line back."

Try "I'm a Scorpio, so you know I think astrology is bulls--t."

-mike shupp

On the question of "my sign" I usually respond "you know me well enough, you tell me what sign I am". It usually takes around seven guesses before they guess it at which point they say "I knew it".

My main mission as a skeptic is to ensure my kids think about things as rationally as possible. If I can achieve that (so far, so good) then anyone else I "infect" is a bonus.

FWIW, the estimate is that almost 120 Billion people have lived on the planet at some point.

I never answer questions like the astrology ones directly. I'll point them to something else that contradicts their belief and ask them to reconcile it. Like:
So how is it that a planet billions of miles away influences you more than the magnetic and electrical energy from the high-tension lines (that you believe cause cancer)? And why does my Western astrological chart tell me that I'm a completely different person than my Vedic or Chinese or Kabbalistic chart?

Silly humans.

I love this post. I have trouble like this all the time because my family is very religious. Most of the time I try not to step on their toes about it, but this article gives me encouragement and a few rounds of snark to use next time.

Thank you. :)

My partner ( ) tells people who ask him what his sign is that he had it surgically removed at birth. I just tell people I don't have one, and usually they just shrug and move on.

I usually respond, "Uranus. Do you know there's a ring around Uranus? It's true, it was discovered back in the 1960s, you know, the Age of Aquarius?"
Jeff Corey

Thanks for posting on this topic. Several years ago after finding that I was having trouble staying friends with most people I met, I finally and belatedly decided that I'm not morally obligated to tell anyone my opinion about anything. It's the other side of freedom of speech -- not only do I have the right to speak, but I also have the right to shut the f*** up if I choose to do so. And so that's what I do.

I may nod, say "uh huh" or at most "that's interesting" if absolutely necessary in order to be minimally polite, but otherwise I say nothing. Most people who know me well have figured out that when I say nothing, it's usually because I think the person I'm speaking to is nuts. But since I do listen politely, they can't claim that I'm being rude. It's surprising -- and wonderful -- how quickly even the most enthusiastic promoters loose steam once they realize that you are absolutely not going to engage them in anything resembling a real conversation. Most people change the subject within 5 minutes or so.

Every now and then I run into someone so self-centered that he/she doesn't notice that I haven't said anything in 30 minutes. When I discover someone like this, I make a mental note to avoid him/her in future. Trust me on this one -- you do not need "friends" who can talk for 30 minutes straight without noticing that you haven't said anything. Not unless you really want to spend the rest of your life giving free psychoanalysis to people who don't know you exist, anyway.

My usual response to the "What sign are you?" is,

"I'm a Pyrex"

"A Pyrex??"

"Yes, I was a test tube baby"

Funny stuff! My, we are surrounded by dolts.
"The best way to predict the future is to create it," according to Peter Drucker. I just ran across a strange quirky bit of data involving astrology and Google.
Do you know that one particular zodiac horoscope sign is almost twice as likely to be searched as another. I'd value your input on this.

I always opt for another option - call it Option 5.

5. Calmly say you don't really believe in astrology. If they pursue the topic further, explain politely, in a non-preachy way, why there just isn't evidence to support astrological claims. Don't try to convert them to your Grand Theory of Skepticism. Just respond to their questions. If they're not interested, or it gets awkward - fine! Just change the subject.

Admittedly, this mostly works for New Age-y claims - I feel more comfortable dismissing astrology or feng shui than, say, Christianity. When it comes to religion, I mostly remain quiet, unless I know the person really well.

I never came up with anything beyond a grimace for the astrology question, but I can recommend something for the magic-crystal stuff; as posted here:

Brilliant. Loved it!

Badly need your help. I love being married. It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.
I am from Verde and learning to read in English, give please true I wrote the following sentence: "Employers match your sum; against their job openings to discover if you be a good fit."

Regards :-( Bill. response was, “Sweetie, you had a hallucination. You paid a ridiculous sum of money to have a hallucination. You can get a bag of ‘shrooms for a tenth of what you just spent, and had enough cash left over to buy new shoes, too!”

A better response would have been, "How do you know it was real?" The spirit of scientific inquiry is driven by curiosity and observation. Skepticism means evaluating evidence on it's merit. By making an assertion about hallucinations, you're exhibiting as much "faith" as any faith healer.

If you are curious, there is indeed objective evidence supporting the validity of out-of-body experiences. Look it up. If you want to keep an open mind...well, that's the tricky part. Because frankly, no matter how skeptical you try to be, you're subject to the same biases, irrational beliefs and assumptions that all humans are...including your loopy friends.

If you and I both conduct rigorous experiments, and both get the same consistent results, we have not necessarily proven anything objectively -- except that we both share a common, equally subjective frame of reference.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter

    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.