Skeptic News:  UFO Mystery, essential oils, psychic car crashes

NZ Skeptics Newsletter

Welcome to the NZ Skeptics newsletter.

The COVID-19 pandemic marches on throughout the world, and this week we’re seeing tragic increases in deaths in India. Unfortunately it seems that the Indian government was premature in announcing victory over COVID back in January. 

While many first world countries are making great progress in rolling out vaccines it seems that the poorer countries are struggling. There’s potential long-term consequences for letting the pandemic run out-of-control as the massive number of cases allow for mutations to create new, potentially deadlier or more infectious strains of the virus. 

It’s clearly in all our best interests to support the whole of humanity to deal with the pandemic, though there seems little that individuals in our isolated part of the world can do to help. 

Being lucky to live in NZ where we’ve managed to isolate ourselves effectively I was able to socialise this weekend, attending a friend’s 40th birthday. There’s strong social norms associated with meeting socially with people, from hugging friends to shaking hands with new acquaintances. And wouldn’t you know it, I’ve got a cold! I’m hoping it will be over with quickly!

Wishing you a great week...
Craig Shearer


Triangular UFO “mystery” solved

An interesting video has appeared on YouTube which gives a rational explanation for a UFO video taken by US Navy personnel.

The UFO video, promoted by Jeremy Corbell who runs a website called, features supposedly triangle-shaped UFOs. The site feels more like a throwback to The X Files, but I guess it’s targeting a specific demographic that is into that sort of thing.

The “take down” video, by Mick West shows exactly how the triangular images were produced - they’re an effect of the iris in the lens of the camera used - for any readers who are photographers, they’re just weird-shaped bokeh.

It turns out that the UFO in the video was actually likely to be a commercial airliner as the ship from which the video was taken was on the Los Angeles International Airport flight path. 

Mick West comments on his video:

“New reference footage from night vision monoculars (including the military standard PVS-14) demonstrates pretty conclusively that the supposed flying pyramid UFO actually looks exactly like a slightly out of focus light in the sky - quite possibly just a plane, as the ship was right under a flight path for LAX. 

Some of the other lights are identified as Jupiter and some stars. 

I don't think that means the Navy got it terribly wrong. This was initially unidentified (with the UAP Task Force Investigates), and they maybe even thought it was a triangle for a few minutes. But it's not. It's just some lights in the sky. “

So, it would seem that the more prosaic explanation that the images are the result of easily replicable camera effects is much more likely than alien spacecraft. That won’t likely stop the believers though!

Essential Oils causing seizures

Essential oils are one of those trendy products that seem to be very popular at the moment, and they seem to be a great money-maker for their manufacturers and retailers, with the estimated market size of over $17 Billion dollars globally in 2017. 

Essential Oils are derived from plant matter, and are claimed to contain the “essence” of the plant, whatever that is. They’re typically used in Aromatherapy, via a diffuser, which puts the molecules into the air. Who doesn’t like an attractive smell in the air which may have some positive mental effects, but as far as providing actual proven benefits studies are usually small. 

One downside to using essential oils could be that they can potentially trigger convulsive seizures in some people according to a study in India, written up in The Academic Times. The study determined a correlation between the use of camphor and eucalyptus essential oils and seizures. While proving causation requires further research it seems there’s certainly an association, and it’s not implausible that inhaling these molecules might well have neurological effects. 

TV Psychic to pay £100,000 legal costs in failed case

TV psychic Maurice Amdur, star of UK TV shows Maurice’s Psychic World and Four Rooms has been left to pay £100,000 in legal costs after attempting to sue an insurance company for his loss of his psychic powers after a car crash. 

The psychic, who claims to have done readings for royalty, heads of state and movie stars, claimed that a car crash, where his car was shunted from behind at a roundabout in London, caused him to be so racked by pain for years afterwards that he “struggled with the intense concentration required to predict the future”.

Mr Amdur was suing for £250,000 in compensation, but the judge threw out the claim saying it had been undermined by fundamental dishonesty. He claimed that he was unable to do readings for two years, but in fact had done readings during the period.

It seems the judge was onto Amdur, stating:

‘I am prepared to accept that Mr Amdur does believe that he has a “gift” and that he considers that he behaves with integrity when working as a clairvoyant, unlike others in the field who are “charlatans” as he called them.’

Amdur would have been awarded over £10,000 for his crash injuries, but instead the judge dismissed the claim and so he must now pick up the legal costs for the case. Clearly he didn’t see that coming!


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