Sunday, 19 August 2012

Pseudoscience stuff from the week 13-19/8/12

Good on 'ya, mates - the 200th episode of the Skeptic Zone is here - a great Aussie podcast "for Science and Reason"

Simon Singh's written another article about Psychic Sally, who's continuing to make dangerous claims, and her cult followers are continuing to insist that it's 'just entertainment'. Which it isn't. It's dangerous advice. And that's why skeptical people feel disgust at the things so-called 'psychics' do. They're targeting society's most desperate people, and taking them for a ride.

'Anti-vaccine proponent fined for practicing without a license'
"Geier has an arts degree, never attended medical school, but was busy diagnosing and counseling people with autism spectrum disorder and other chronic diseases."
$10,000 is not enough, though -- pedalling quackery for years is a far more major crime than this paltry fine suggests.

'U.K. man dead after choosing homeopathy over heart meds'
A Respect Party member with heart arrhythmia (they're all moronic nationalists, so i'm really not surprised) has died, after an argument, because he took shaken water instead of *actual medicine*.
What's the harm? Can it be more obvious? Really??

Turmeric as a virus fighter? Potentially, but there's no real evidence yet.

It's much easier to find positive results for things in vitro, than in vivo ("in vitro" is literally latin for "in glass" - a petri dish)
A brilliant case study of the difference between the two is the case of the 'vitamin C cures cancer' study, which found that squirting ascorbic acid into some cells in a petri dish killed tumours.

This doesn't necessary mean you can do the same with living human beings.
I am reminded of a story from a few years back, during the MRSA and SARS scares, in the UK, when Dr. Phil Hammond reminded everyone that it's really easy to kill viruses - we have a cure that works every time - it's called soapy water. unfortunately, you can't inject soapy water into patients, because then you kill the patients too. In vivo experiments often reveal in vitro ones to be insufficient in practice, and so it is the in vivo section of this study that intrigues me:

The proof-of-concept experiment involved ten 6-to-8 week old mice, 5 receiving DMSO solvent as a control; and 5 receiving DMSO and curcummin, subcutaneously, every day, including the day before infection, and for four days after.
All of the un-curcuminned mice were dead after three days; 3 of the 5 curcuminned mice were dead after four days. There was a 90% reduction in liver plaques, in the circuminned mice, compared to the controls.
60mg/Kg curcummin was injected (equivalent to a tablespoonful for an adult human (pure) which is contained in 30 tablespoonfuls of turmeric).
This sounds a bit like the Tamiflu story - whack 'em chock full of it, and they'll experience fewer symptoms, but only live a day longer. Does that really count as an effective medicine?

If curcummin can really work in practice, then it'll have to do better than this. But it was only a proof-of-principle, so we'll have to see.
At this point, i must note that Indian medical superstition (ayurvedic 'medicine') proffers turmeric as a cure, but remember that injecting things will always have a much bigger impact than ingesting (eating) them, so you'd have to eat a lot more than 30 tablespoonfuls of turmeric to even have a chance of it effecting you for the better. Do you really want to eat that much?

Absurd legal claim of the day: $1.7 billion for Wi-Fi health damage.
It's bunk -- Wi-Fi is just low-power microwaves - all it can do is slightly warm you up a bit. There is no evidence that it has any negative health consequences.

What's the harm in believing in demons? Kids found tied up & blindfolded at Walmart.

Fanciful news item of the week:

'Study: Eating egg yolks almost as dangerous as smoking' (Fox News' wording)

Here's the original article:

'Egg yolk consumption almost as bad as smoking when it comes to atherosclerosis'

It's so easy to see how this stuff happens -- Fox News churnalist sees title; copies and pastes into own article; extrapolates a heap of shit without ever trying to understand *anything*.

And here's what the real story is:

Smoking increases incidence of carotid plaques - fatty deposits on arterial walls.
Egg yolk eating (apparently) also increases incidence of carotid plaques.
Quantity of cigarette-smoking and egg-yolk-eating were compared using units of 'packs per day x years smoked', and 'egg yolks per week x years eaten'
The respondents were already attending clinics for vascular difficulty, and so one of many variables could be responsible for the correlation.

I want to know how they isolated egg yolks from the ocean of covariant factors. If they're eating more eggs, are they eating more of everything else?
"eating three or more yolks a week had significantly more plaque area than those who ate two or fewer yolks per week"
So eat one fewer egg yolk per week? Is that the advice?

And now back to the sham press' title: 'Eating egg yolks almost as dangerous as smoking'

What about all the other things that smoking causes, eh? Egg yolks have been implicated in atherosclerosis, but inhaling tobaccco leaves has beens hown to be pretty much holistically bad for health!
Almost as dangerous as smoking? Puh-lease...

Now let's see what the professionals have to say:

Well, apparently, egg yolks increase carotid plaques without actually influencing cholestorol, triglycerides, HDL, or LDL. How's that happen, then, huh?
I can understand a churnalist hack not noticing that one -- but that is exactly why press releases should be written by scientifically literate people who actually know the subject matter at hand!

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