Monday, January 04, 2016

Newly expanded and updated Power Balance lesson

When transforming all my curriculum documents from Canvas to Keynote, my Skepticism in the Classroom Power Balance lesson was missed.

So over the break, I fired up the 2008 MacBook Pro running Snow Leopard, and rectified the situation.

The original was done before I came across ESPN's Outside The Lines exposé. And Power Balance has collapsed is meteorically as they rose, so I added a section on the still-in-business-for-now Phiten Company.

The assignment works nicely for flipped classrooms. It can be an in-class assignment if laptops and headphones (and splitters) are deployed.

YouTube Skepticism: Power Balance & Mylar Technology (2016 edition)

The lesson draws upon multiple videoclips. My favorite is a follow-up to a puff piece, wherein skeptic Richard Saunders has a Power Balance promoter do the debunking work on his behalf.

Here's an earlier version featuring James Randi similarly using a believer to debunk the charade. Make a note to yourself that promoter-administered strength/balance tests (applied kinesiology) are the calling card of many modern-day snake-oil salespeople. Fellow physics teacher and skeptic, Matt Lowry, and I encountered such a salesman at the National Science Teachers' Association national meeting in Chicago last year. We tried to be civil to the poor guy, but he really picked the wrong two conferees to prey on. The guy didn't appreciate it when I turned the tables and ran his own tests on him. My buddy, Matt, was so bent over with laughter, I thought he was going to lose continence.

Anyway, back to Classic Randi.

Did you see it? The instructive moment? It's actually a standard moment in nearly every public debunking storyboard:

1. Challenger makes extraordinary claim.
2. Challenger and skeptic agree on a testing protocol. This is a very important step. Very important.
3. Challenger fails test. Utterly and completely.
4. Challenger insists the extraordinary claim is valid, but the testing protocol was somehow "rigged".

How could Randi have preemptively robbed the claimant of her post-failure excuse?

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