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Thread: Conference on Evidence for Astrology

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    Conference on Evidence for Astrology

    The Kepler Conference on Research into Evidence-Based Astrology is an online event from January 25-28. A range of claims about statistical data will be presented.
    Recognising that the usual practice of astrology is pseudo-science, the presentations at this event are meant to adhere to scientific standards of evidence. It will be interesting to see if anything comes of it that convinces skeptics.

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    This is the second one! I'm having trouble finding any results from the first one ( not just because some of the search results include Kepler space program, or the Kepler college astrology degrees).

    Also, the usual practice of astrology doesn't even come up to pseudoscientific standards, but I grant that there are people trying.

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    No joy here either.
    A link in the OP would be appreciated.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Squink View Post
    No joy here either.
    A link in the OP would be appreciated.
    Maybe this as a start?
    https://canaveralresearchcenter.com/...program-day-1/

    And...when I select Canaveral Research Projects on that page I get an "Under Construction" result. Make of that what you will.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Squink View Post
    A link in the OP would be appreciated.
    Thanks. Here is the summary program, with more details at links.

    Second Kepler Conference on Evidence Based Astrology, 25-28 January 2018

    Program
    Day 1 https://canaveralresearchcenter.com/...program-day-1/
    1. Seven Decades of Research: A Memoir of Bradley, Addey, Gauquelin & Ertel
    2. Research Fundamentals and the Chi-Square Test
    3. Introduction to Research Methodologies
    4. Qualitative Research: Paradigms and Methods
    5. Research Update: Astrology in Education and Adolescent Development
    6. Canaveral Astrology Research Center Open House

    Day 2 https://canaveralresearchcenter.com/...program-day-2/
    1. Statistical analysis of fatal aircraft incidents astrological factors
    2. Violent Incidents: Astrological Midpoints in Mundane and Personal Events
    3. Earthquake Prediction Model
    4. Astrological Factors Associated with Mass Shootings
    5. Mercury Retrograde and Communications Disruptions
    6. Astrology Software Showcase

    Day 3 https://canaveralresearchcenter.com/...program-day-3/
    1. Nano Gold Experiment
    2. Research in Vedic Astrology
    3. A Matching Protocol: Can a computer program match astrology charts to personality descriptions?
    4. Research in Harmonics and Harmonic Patterns
    5. Latest Trends in Astrological Medical Research
    6. Vibrational Astrology Workshop

    Day 4 https://canaveralresearchcenter.com/...program-day-4/
    1. Planetary Influence on the Success of NFL & NBA Head Coaches – A Replication
    2. Exploring Astrological Patterns in Recovery & Astrological Signatures of Psychic Mediums
    3. Rectification by Personality Traits
    4. Correlation – the astrological research peer-reviewed journal.
    5. Planetary Signals in Daily Weather Records
    6. The Precessional Structure of Time

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    Still, nothing from the first year?

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    wouldn't evidence for astrology be confounded by the fact that enough people follow it to act like a placebo/nocebo and act accordingly, eg by feeling jinxed..?
    Formerly Frog march..............

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    Quote Originally Posted by WaxRubiks View Post
    wouldn't evidence for astrology be confounded by the fact that enough people follow it to act like a placebo/nocebo and act accordingly, eg by feeling jinxed..?
    What? I find your post most unclear.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Mendenhall View Post
    What? I find your post most unclear.
    I read the mention of plane crash statistics. If a pilot reads in his horoscope that he is in for bad luck, maybe this will have an influence on his flying ability and so be more likely to crash his plane, as an example, of how astrology might statistically appear to have some connection to events.
    Formerly Frog march..............

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    One opportunity they should not miss is to compare their results when they use "newspaper-type" astrology, i.e. your life is affected by the position the Sun would have been in on the day of your birth thousands of years ago when the astrological signs were originally matched up with dates of the year, versus using the position of the Sun when you were actually born. This is different by about 1 1/2 zodiacal signs, due to the precession of the Earth's axis. So if as many datasets seem to work better for one interpretation as for the other, that's important. If someone wants to test the "validity of astrology," one has to show one form is more valid than the other. My prediction: the resulting validity will correlate with the version of astrology favored by the researcher, where favoritism is indicated simply by the form the researcher seems more interested in testing.

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    We can even go back to the 4th century, noting that St. Augustine opposed astrology by using the empirical evidence derived from twins, for instance.
    We know time flies, we just can't see its wings.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    One opportunity they should not miss is to compare their results when they use "newspaper-type" astrology, i.e. your life is affected by the position the Sun would have been in on the day of your birth thousands of years ago when the astrological signs were originally matched up with dates of the year, versus using the position of the Sun when you were actually born.
    Yes that is a great point. The usual answer from Western astrology is that sun position is calculated relative to the solstices and equinoxes, not to the distant stars, which are just background markers. There is a conflict between tropical and sidereal methods. Western traditions using the tropical signs governed by the seasons and Indian traditions using the fixed stars.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    This is different by about 1 1/2 zodiacal signs, due to the precession of the Earth's axis.
    This difference gets measured in various ways. The precession period of one zodiac sign is 2148 years, based on one twelfth of the precession speed, so 1.5 signs dates back to around 1200 BC. Using the traditional star groups available to ancient visual astronomy, Pisces has two main visible lines of stars, called the first and second fishes. The equinox crossed the first fish in 21 AD, which puts the shift since the seasons were lined up to the stars at 95% of one sign. Other zodiac constellations occupy varying amounts of sky, so other markers for precession are also possible. If you use right ascension of Alpha Piscium (Alrischa) as the marker, the equinox reached Pisces in about 400 BC, and the precession since then is 1.13 signs.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    So if as many datasets seem to work better for one interpretation as for the other, that's important.
    That problem of what “seems to work” reflects the subjective anecdotal unsystematic methods that prevail in astrology. Evidence based methods are quite different. The researcher Michel Gauquelin found no statistical correlations between personality traits and sun signs, which indicates that if there is any physical effect of sun signs it is extremely weak.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    If someone wants to test the "validity of astrology," one has to show one form is more valid than the other. My prediction: the resulting validity will correlate with the version of astrology favored by the researcher, where favoritism is indicated simply by the form the researcher seems more interested in testing.
    Gauquelin found correlations between rising and culminating planets and professional eminence. That does not look like an arbitrary favouritism result, although his critics questioned his selection of data.

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    I product whatever sign you are that your wallet will get lighter. Looked at there website it seems pretty hefty fees to view something on the internet.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Tulip View Post
    Gauquelin found correlations between rising and culminating planets and professional eminence. That does not look like an arbitrary favouritism result, although his critics questioned his selection of data.
    What I'd like to see is taking the dataset, dividing it in half at random, and farm it out to two independent investigators. If they come back noting the same correlation, without any contact with each other, then let's talk. If the signal is in the whole dataset, it should be in half the data also, and the independence would be the gold standard.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    What I'd like to see is taking the dataset, dividing it in half at random, and farm it out to two independent investigators. If they come back noting the same correlation, without any contact with each other, then let's talk. If the signal is in the whole dataset, it should be in half the data also, and the independence would be the gold standard.
    Twins.
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    Oddly enough, according to two different types of widely used forms of Asian Astrology, that have a large dose of reincarnation in it, I'm a very rare, newly minted human soul on his first incarnation.

    Both astrologers stated I was the first one they had ever seen personally.

    (I do actively work to not become a "hungry ghost" after this run is over.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hungry_ghost

    According to the Hua-yen Sutra evil deeds will cause a soul to be reborn in one of six different realms.[5] The highest degree of evil deed will cause a soul to be reborn as a denizen of hell, a lower degree of evil will cause a soul to be reborn as an animal, and the lowest degree will cause a soul to be reborn as a hungry ghost.[6] According to the tradition, evil deeds that lead to becoming a hungry ghost are killing, stealing and sexual misconduct. Desire, greed, anger and ignorance are all factors in causing a soul to be reborn as a hungry ghost because they are motives for people to perform evil deeds.
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    Out of interest in myths I attended several mundane astrology seminars at Oxford, and if you work historically there are loads of correlations to be found because many human activities are cyclic. However if you are critical there are missing events, so to speak in the cyclic repast and when you try prediction, the scientific test, it fails. If you assume the astrological predictions only work for some people , you can get a really nice data set !

    What I found was a richness of language for analysing events that is interesting, and I met a few billionaires who were very secretive about their moon and retrograde tools, but as they say in astrology, millionaires laugh at astrology, billionaires swear by it.!

    All those topics at the conference were the same decades ago when I attended Oxford.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    What I found was a richness of language for analysing events that is interesting, and I met a few billionaires who were very secretive about their moon and retrograde tools, but as they say in astrology, millionaires laugh at astrology, billionaires swear by it.!
    And of course the explanation is simple, it's called observational selection. If you have a lot of people using astrology to map their financial decisions, the ones for whom it did not serve will be skeptical of it, though they may still be millionaires. The ones who got lucky using it will swear by it, and will of course be the richer ones. I'm sure you'll see the same effect if you look at winners of lotteries, or people who have beaten cancer with alternative medicine. Nothing to it at all, beyond a possible placebo effect of having an optimistic attitude. Of course the people who've won the lottery don't have to care about the difference, the question is for those who wish to think scientifically about the matter. The classic example of observational selection is the old joke, "Whether or not you will have children is determined by your genetics. If your parents didn't have any, you won't either."
    Last edited by Ken G; 2018-Jan-29 at 03:12 PM.

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    What I want to hear about is a plausible causal theory about how the heck astrology works. Gravitational forces affecting fetal development seems rather far fetched. Psychic forces?

    I knew a guy in college that speculated it might be due to weather at the time of birth: e.g., Capricorns born during cold weather would be more bundled up by their parents, and this might affect their future personality. But that wouldn't work for the southern hemisphere or tropics.

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    I think WaxRubiks is close to the mark for many "newspaper" astrology adherents. If you model your life off the advice given to your sign, and believe the traits associated with your sign apply to you, you will mold your attitude and decisions, to varying extents per individual, on that sign. I did a (very) unscientific test years ago, where I "took the advice" of a different sign than my birth sign out of the local paper. After a few months, some of the "predictions" and trends seemed to fit more and more. It was hard to do, being skeptical of it, and I don't know how much of my "results" were colored by my expectations. Take from that what you will. I see the same thing happen with people I know who are into various personality tests. They obsess on the qualities of their "type" and months or years down the road, they are so prototypical of that type that it's almost pathological.

    You are what you believe you are.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Platts View Post
    I knew a guy in college that speculated it might be due to weather at the time of birth: e.g., Capricorns born during cold weather would be more bundled up by their parents, and this might affect their future personality. But that wouldn't work for the southern hemisphere or tropics.
    This is a mechanism that I could vaguely imagine might work. The time of year that you were born could in principle have some effect on your personality. You could could even test that it had to do with the weather by comparing personality types of people born in the opposite hemisphere, but six months apart.

    But of course first you'd have to show that there is a correlation between when people are born and what they are like, even just in one hemisphere. I don't think any such correlation has been demonstrated, and I'd frankly suspect that any such birth-season dependent personality traits would likely be very hard to find, given all the other factors that can influence someone's personality.
    Conserve energy. Commute with the Hamiltonian.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CJSF View Post
    I see the same thing happen with people I know who are into various personality tests. They obsess on the qualities of their "type" and months or years down the road, they are so prototypical of that type that it's almost pathological.
    This seems like a pretty plausible mechanism as well.
    Conserve energy. Commute with the Hamiltonian.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Platts View Post
    What I want to hear about is a plausible causal theory about how the heck astrology works. Gravitational forces affecting fetal development seems rather far fetched. Psychic forces?

    I knew a guy in college that speculated it might be due to weather at the time of birth: e.g., Capricorns born during cold weather would be more bundled up by their parents, and this might affect their future personality. But that wouldn't work for the southern hemisphere or tropics.
    Of course a physicist, of all people should be cautious about asking for cause and effect answers! in astrology there is correlation, it is a lesson in how far you can go with correlation with no plausible cause and effect. Weather might work for sun signs but that is really the tip of an iceberg in say mundane astrology, ie events, the sun is not considered but the slower influences count for a lot, like the Jupiter Saturn cycle for the stock market. Now Jupiter is close to the sunspot cycle and The latter does affect rainfall and there is a strong correlation with crop cycles, hunting success cycles ( pelts registered) and so on. So Jupiter can be called up but frustratingly Jupiter orbits go out of phase with sunspots over a long period. The Venus cycle is close to human gestation, the Neptune cycle can be squeezed into epochs of dominant civilisations and so on. But causation ?? It can be a lot of fun, but prediction seems to fail every time. The mon s different, many organisms use th moon for timing purposes, coral for one good example.
    ,
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    My view on testing a possible causal mechanism for astrology is as follows.

    Postulating that the stability of earth’s orbital framework over the last four billion years has provided enough time for genes to develop attunement to weak planetary influences, the absence of accepted statistical proof beyond Gauquelin’s contested results shows that any such influences are extremely weak, if they exist at all.

    It involves postulating energies of life that biology has not yet detected, seeing the whole solar system as a fragile energy field which all life naturally reflects. There is no scientific evidence to support this claim. However, noting how astronomy has developed extremely sensitive tests to support theorised claims, such tests may be possible for this claim.

    We could compare it to detecting an AM radio station signal from the other side of the planet. The signal exists, but is completely swamped by noise. However, to bring in another analogy, if you know the combination of a safe you can open it. Astrology sees the birth chart as analogous to the combination, revealing our true personal character. But all the noise of nurture swamps this weak stamp of nature, making statistical detection very difficult.

    As to star signs, Western tropical astrology, as distinct from the Indian Vedic tradition of sidereal astrology, uses the solstices and equinoxes as its framework for defining the zodiac signs. That means that its claimed framework is a wave function of the relation between the earth and the sun. The stars are only markers, like the hands on a clock face. The twelve signs are formed by the interaction of two overlapping wave functions, three and four times the frequency of the year. The triple frequency, one wave per four months, produces what astrology calls the elements, fire, earth, air and water, while the quadruple frequency, one wave per three months, produces what astrology calls the qualities, cardinal, fixed and mutable. Their twelve combinations form the characters of the zodiac signs. I hasten to note that is just the actual theory of astrology put in mathematical terms, and I am not making any claims of its efficacy.

    How could efficacy be tested? My view is that past negative tests have generally suffered from weak methods and assumptions. What I would like to do is test the astrological theory of planetary transits. That is the claim that the current positions of planets on the ecliptic affect a person, and this effect has consistent repeatable nature that can be seen by measuring transits against the positions of the planets at the time of birth.

    The hypothesis is that each planet and each angle has distinct claimed effects. Given that such weak effects are swamped by terrestrial factors, they could only be tested by epidemiology, with a very large data set. A birth and death dataset containing about ten million records could be mined to test for any correlations in date of death against transit predictions.

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    The important thing to realize is that people will believe that something has a demonstrably true character when it fact it has never been found to have that at all. This is the thing we already know, it doesn't need to be tested-- it is a fact. The simple truth is, no one who believes in astrology ever tests it. I once was told by an astrology believer that machinery tends to break more when Mercury is in retrograde. I never asked that person, "have you tested that claim?" I didn't need to-- I already know the answer, the claim was not tested, it was merely believed. Of course this is the fact here. Perhaps there was some kind of anecdotal test (something broke, and sure enough Mercury was in retrograde, etc.), or perhaps there wasn't even that, but there's no difference between them-- what is not a test is not a test.

    So, when something is believed without ever having been tested, is there any need to test it, just to see if it might be true? Of course not, the only things that need to be tested are claims that could reasonably be true, and are thus worth testing, or have no reason to be true yet have passed tests already. Astrology is neither of those, it is a classic example of that which is believed expressly because it is not tested. There is never any need to test claims like that, they are simply bogus by their very nature. It is certainly a fallacy to claim "it must have some predictive power, because otherwise so many people wouldn't believe it does." Counterexamples abound, and indeed, the falsity of the quoted statement is the only thing worthy of testing here.

    Indeed, one might even say there are two types of beliefs, one is that which is believed because it has passed tests, and the other is that which is believed because it has never been tested. So different are these two types that I would prefer if different words were used, so that's what I do-- to me, only the latter should be called "belief," the former should be called a well-tested hypothesis. With the former, there is never any need for belief, there is only a need for expectation. One might even define a kind of belief that refers to things that by their nature cannot be tested, but that isn't astrology either.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2018-Jan-31 at 02:32 PM.

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    While the correlations are impressive they have big gaps so it is more likely there are sociological cycles which match the orbit and conjunction times, unless you want to believe a supernatural link that is, as we discussed in reality, untestable. I for example found by records of sea ice dates for Signy island Antarctica, a good correlation with the Saturn Neptune cycle with just the right symbolism. It was good enough to publish but I didn't. But do you really, Robert, think there is an energy field from Neptune? I was net rested then n the roots of the symbolism. Neptune rules the sea, where did that idea come from?
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Ah, I'd love to go, but I have to wash my hair that day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    no one who believes in astrology ever tests it. I once was told by an astrology believer that machinery tends to break more when Mercury is in retrograde. I never asked that person, "have you tested that claim?" I didn't need to-- I already know the answer, the claim was not tested, it was merely believed.
    Yes, astrology is among the worst havens of pervasive unscientific mentality. This Mercury retrograde example should be the easiest thing to test. All the hypothesis means is that when Mercury is in between the Earth and the Sun there is some subtle effect. The retrograde period is 19.2% of the time, centred on when Mercury laps the earth three times each year in their orbits.

    Now, if a communications company takes millions of calls to its help desk, you would expect 19.2% of them to be during Mercury retrograde. One study of 34 million calls in a year apparently found 24% were during Mercury retrograde. That is off the chi-squared chart as far as random probability is concerned, but you would need to know many things about this sample to exclude factors such as product launches, and it would need extensive replication before it could be considered as evidence for the hypothesis.

    Other studies have claimed evidence of communication variance during Mercury retrograde like frequency of spelling mistakes in Amazon reviews and Reddit posts. The vast quantities of electronic time stamped data make such data mining very easy if anyone has a mind to do it. This should be an easy scientific study, which would either provide evidence of some unknown energy or vindicate the null hypothesis that it is all just fantasy.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    the only things that need to be tested are claims that could reasonably be true
    You seem to be saying here that Mercury passing between the earth and the sun could not reasonably be imagined to have any possible effect on the earth. Be that as it may, it seems to be a question that should be easy to test.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Tulip View Post
    Now, if a communications company takes millions of calls to its help desk, you would expect 19.2% of them to be during Mercury retrograde. One study of 34 million calls in a year apparently found 24% were during Mercury retrograde. That is off the chi-squared chart as far as random probability is concerned, but you would need to know many things about this sample to exclude factors such as product launches, and it would need extensive replication before it could be considered as evidence for the hypothesis.
    And what's more, the difference between 24% and 19.2% would be completely unnoticeable in an individual's life, it's not the kind of effect they are imagining. When the astrology believer told me that machinery breaks more when Mercury is in retrograde, they didn't mean there is a subtle effect there that can be used to suggest astrology is real, they meant watch out operating machinery when Mercury is in retrograde. Maybe they would be reticent to fly on a plane during that time, or maybe they would get their car serviced. But such a small difference as what you are talking about wouldn't even be worth making decisions based on. (Besides, as you say, results like that can easily be cherry-picked, it is not a test until you see if it repeats in the next set of 34 million calls, and then you have to look at possible other reasons. My expectation is that it would not repeat, if it is even true in the first place rather than an urban legend.)
    Other studies have claimed evidence of communication variance during Mercury retrograde like frequency of spelling mistakes in Amazon reviews and Reddit posts. The vast quantities of electronic time stamped data make such data mining very easy if anyone has a mind to do it. This should be an easy scientific study, which would either provide evidence of some unknown energy or vindicate the null hypothesis that it is all just fantasy.
    Yes, the tests are easy, but as I said, they are also poorly motivated because the claim isn't worthy of testing. Nevertheless, with people who have time and inclination, it's always great to actually have the test done.
    You seem to be saying here that Mercury passing between the earth and the sun could not reasonably be imagined to have any possible effect on the earth.
    No, I'm saying that the simple fact that people claim something to be true, when they have no basis for such a claim and I know they never tested it, and it has no reason to be true, is not sufficient motivation to even call for a test. It does not rise to the level of something that needs to be tested. I would never claim to know it's wrong, only that it needn't be bothered with because it doesn't merit said bother.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Tulip View Post
    You seem to be saying here that Mercury passing between the earth and the sun could not reasonably be imagined to have any possible effect on the earth. Be that as it may, it seems to be a question that should be easy to test.
    You mentioned a few things that seem to have "passed" the test. Apparently, there are people trying to test it. Unfortunately, specific is samples like that are to be expected, based on chance alone, and don't seem to be replicatable. That last is difficult to get around.

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