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I’m Sorry You Didn’t Win

How often have you seen a pop up stating something like this:

 

CONGRATULATIONS YOU’RE OUR 999,999,999,999,998th VISITOR CLICK HERE TO CLAIM YOUR PRIZE

Probably more times than you’ve watched that video of the sneezing baby panda.  Well I hate to be the barer of bad news but you didn’t win. Anytime that they have told that you’ve won a new smartphone or a holiday or cold hard cash money. It’s a scam, a trick. (Apologies for the redundant statement but it’s pretty important that everyone understands what I mean here.)   How can we know this? How do we know that every time it is a scam? How can we know that the Prince of Nigeria doesn’t want to send you money or that you haven’t somehow won the Spanish lottery?

The answer is Critical Thinking.

Firstly, ask questions.

In the case of the pop up; one could argue that the website does indeed have a viewing counter. They may even know, through the use of cookies, the IP address of their one millionth customer. But wouldn’t they advertise this all over their site if it was a real competition? The purpose of such a competition would be to promote how popular the website is along with trying to increase the traffic to the website. So you’d think there would a big title on the web page stating that this would be a thing. Even if there is a banner stating this on the site you should still be skeptical. This isn’t something that is very common for websites to actually do. The chances that it is an actual competition and you have just stumbled onto the website at the right time are very small. In the case of the email asking for your assistance or investment; consider the question of why such an individual would be asking for your assistance. For the target audience here I’m guessing you don’t know too many people in Uganda or overseas generally. Just take the old ‘Stranger Danger’ one on this.

Secondly, use Occam’s Razor.

I’ll probably write a blog discussing Occam’s Razor in more detail later but for now a quick summery. Ockam’s Razor tells us that the most simplest explanation is usually the correct one… Amongst other things …  and with caveats… but again that’s for another post. As stated above how likely is it that you have just happened to have stumbled into a competition and won? Is it not way more likely that it is just a scam. How likely is it that a wealthy relative that you never knew you had has died leaving you millions? Is it not way more probably that this is spam. How likely is it that you have won the British lottery? Given that the probability of winning the actual lottery is one in several hundred million and given the fact that you are not British (if you are then ignore this sentence but there is more to come anyway) and given that you are likely underage at any rate (if you’re not then ignore.) How probable is it that you have actually won. If you are an adult aged British person it’s still highly unlikely that the British lottery would contact you via email or internet pop-up. And why are you reading this blog? Don’t stop by any means I’m just asking. But getting back to it… It is way way more likely in most cases where you are informed of having won a competition without an application that this is a trick and/or scam and you should not click the link.

Thirdly, do research.

Look into the company name or website or persons name if they have given you one. See if they even exist. In some cases the companies won’t exist at all. The best case will be that you find out that the person is a known criminal. The unlikely best case is that it turns out that you have actually won a new computer, if that does happen please let us know that would be a massive beating of the odds and I say good for you.  (It has to be unsolicited, you didn’t know about it before hand, and that there were no later requirements for getting the prize. Such as having to sell or promote several of their products.) Doing your own research is always going to be the best way to find the truth.

Fourthly, seek advice.

This is a bit redundant at this point but if you really are worried that you may be missing out on a new video game machine or a million billion Pounds Stirling then you should ask a parent or your friends what they think. Admittedly this is a bit of a argument from authority and argument from popularity but that’s why I am putting this as a fourth and final step that in time you will realize is unnecessary because you’re own experience will tell you that you haven’t won. More than likely your parents have been using the internet a lot longer than you and they will have seen these scams several times before.

Finally always remember that it may be hard to close that pop-up or delete that email because you feel as if you are losing something. Think of it like this, the odds are that you aren’t losing a prize but losing an annoying computer virus that could be potentially very harmful to your computer.

Unless you have been living in a distant galaxy, I suppose you know the 21st of December 2012 is the “end of the world”, according to the Mayan calendar.

This prediction is false, for the following reasons:

  1. There has been at least 183 ‘official’ so-called “end of the world” events in the last 2,000 years. And you know what? If you’re reading this, none of them have been true.
  2. In the mayan calendar, they had an “origin” date. Most specialists on this matter agree that it was (approximately) in August 3114 B.C., so we’re not even sure of that one. And every few thousand years, they had the end of a ‘cycle’. Taking the origin date and adding the number of years in a cycle, specialists found out that the date of the end of the cycle was…the 21st of December 2012. But like I said, it’s only the end of a cycle, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. Just like we know that every 31st December, it’s the end of the year. Not the apocalypse.
  3. The Mayans never left any trace of what would happen at the end of the cycle, but they were great astronomers.

Here are a few common situations considered:

  • A planetary alignment: There is no special event with the solar system’s planets (see photo). Uranus and Neptune were unknown to the Mayas, so they are not represented (if it can make you sleep better at night, Uranus is long way up from the sun and Neptune also a long way up but a little more on the right).
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  • Solar Flares: Every 11 years, our Sun is more active than usual. When there are solar flares, a bunch of particles are ejected in space, but the magnetic field of our planet protects us. The worst that can happen is a disturbance of artificial satellites, radio transmissions or electric disturbances.( polar auroras are evidence of these particles, see photo)
  • Image
  • An Alignment with the center of the galaxy: There is an alignment with the center of the galaxy, BUT this happens every single year in the month of December. And it’s not even exact; there is a difference of 5° between the galactic center and the direction of the sun. ( see photo)
  • Image
  • A planet or meteroite crashing down on us: If there was ever an astral object to come crashing down on us to make the end of the world, we would’ve simply seen it a long time ago, with all our super-telescopes.

4. The dangers of these kind of alerts aren’t even direct consequences. Like you may have noticed, everyone is talking about it, so the most sensible people will probably be faced with suicide, the fear of something happening to them.

5. CONCLUSION The Mayan calendar is unreliable. Nothing extraordinary will happen that day, there is as much chances that the 21st December 2012 is the end of the world than the 7th of May 2025, the 28th of October 2074, and so on. Nothing extraordinary, really.

So you’re going to have to buy those Christmas presents because there will be a 25th December 2012.

:)

Dots and Lines of Evidence

This illustrates the process of gathering evidence from experimentation, to creating theories that explain the evidence, refining the evidence through more experimentation, and through the process of elimination, focus on a theory that best explains the evidence.

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