The universe is an endlessly amazing place and every week newspapers, magazines and science blogs report on remarkable new discoveries in fields as diverse as astronomy, biology and neuroscience that help us understand it a little bit better.
But at the same time we're inundated with all sorts of claims about everything from ''alternative'' medicine to psychic mediums and those magic rubber bracelets that are so popular with footballers. This is where it pays to have a bit of healthy scepticism.
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So what is a sceptic? The usual image is of a humourless, closed-minded cynic who enjoys snorting derisively and saying things such as ''Fiddlesticks! There's no such thing as ghosts!'' But that picture is a bit out of date.
Serious sceptics don't just scoff at unusual beliefs. They know that most people aren't liars or fantasists and that there's often something behind even the strangest beliefs. A good sceptic will examine the evidence for a particular claim and, if it's unconvincing, look for alternative explanations. These often turn out to be fascinating in themselves.
In the case of haunted houses, for instance, people will often report feeling sudden fear or anxiety upon entering a certain room. In some cases, this has turned out simply to be because a ventilation fan is emitting inaudible infrasound, which has been proven in experiments to induce feelings of fear.