Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Homeopathy: Modern Day Snake Oil

August 27, 2009

08-27-09 imageThis blog has been up for nearly a month and I have yet to weigh in on homeopathy (minus a couple of linked videos).  The homeopaths have been quiet as of late.  Or at least they had been at the time I started writing this.  I didn’t finish the post (it’s quite difficult to fit the amount of stupid inherent in homeopathy into one little article) and left town for a few days.  By the time I got back, homeopathy was very much in the public eye.  The World Health Organization came out against the use of homeopathy for treating HIV, TB, and other diseases.  I’ve come across multiple articles and blog posts advocating the efficacy of homeopathy in preventing and treating swine flu.  Oh, and this nutbag was on TV in Australia.  Sadly, the video has been taken down (here’s a transcript of the interview).  I suspect the backlash against the television station that aired the interview led them to file the copyright claim to try and save themselves future embarrassment.  But I’m going to tackle homeopathy anyway.  We’ll briefly explore its history and why its practice is complete and utter idiocy.

In the late 18th century, conventional medical treatment was unquestionably dicey.  Common treatments of the time included bloodletting and purging.  Unsurprisingly in this age of medical ignorance, the treatment was often worse than the disease.  Enter Samuel Hahnemann.

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The Most Important Image Ever Taken

August 18, 2009

I’ve been meaning to share this for a while.  Have you ever really tried to wrap your mind around how big the universe really is?  Most of us probably lack the ability to do that, but this short video should help.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field


An explanation of how the image was taken


The most recent video: Hubble Ultra Deep Field in 3D

Quack Chiropractic: Addendum

August 18, 2009

Ugh.  This one is painful.  In the comments to yesterday’s post about chiropractic, drlisamarie was kind enough to provide me with a link to an article (the abstract for the original paper can be found here) discussing the apparent benefits of chiropractic adjustment for sufferers of dyslexia and other learning disorders.  While it appears this article was meant as an ‘in your face’ to yours truly, it is little more than another sad example of what passes for evidence in chiropractic.  With apologies to Orac: The stupid.  It burns.

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Quack Chiropractic

August 17, 2009

Can chiropractic really get rid of with [sic] earaches and ear infections?  That was the title to an article posted on an alternative medicine blog last week.  The answer is, of course an emphatic  NO! Unfortunately, the author of the article didn’t consult me (or any credible scientific evidence) prior to submission and went on to answer the question in the affirmative, providing evidence that the title to this post may be redundant.  Oh boy.

I understand that this is just one junk article on one alternative medicine blog.  I don’t even know if it’s a well known alternative medicine blog.  This is more a situation of just one ridiculous claim too many that finally sent me to the keyboard.  Claims like this are, unfortunately, not sparse in the chiropractic community, and I feel like I’ve been coming across them way too often recently.  It is depressingly easy to find a practitioner that will claim to treat ear infections, colic, and asthma.  Look a little harder, and it’s not much more difficult to find individuals who will treat autism, infertility, ADHD, Parkinson’s, etc.  There was a chiropractor in my hometown (population: a paltry 25,000) that publicly asserted he could treat pancreatic cancer.  As you might have guessed, there is absolutely zero credible scientific evidence to back up these claims.

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Faux Outrage From The Discovery Institute

August 13, 2009

“It’s a strange scientific revolution that seeks to establish its position in secondary school curricula before the research itself has been accomplished. But this obvious impediment is removed if the revolution is based on a redefinition of science rather than on new research.”1

America’s favorite Intelligent Design cranks are at it again.  Admittedly, this most recent release from the DI is somewhat tame.  It is, however, just the latest in an incredibly long line of deliberate misinformation being spouted by the leading propagandists of modern creationism (read: Intelligent Design).  Today, they’re unhappy about a paper published by members of the National Center for Science Education.  However, a quick examination of past and current tactics of the Discovery Institute and its predecessors quickly illuminates why those seemingly innocuous words the DI is so up in arms about really are troubling.

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More Of The Same From The Intelligent Design Camp

August 10, 2009

08-10-09 imageThe ID blog Uncommon Descent recently reproduced a section of an article from the journal Nature Physics.  As I have not read the full article myself (and don’t plan on paying the $32 necessary to purchase it), I can’t comment on how the quoted passage fits into the author’s overall thesis.  His intentions are not the focus of this entry.  Instead, I will occupy myself with addressing the claim* being made by the luminaries at Uncommon Descent through usage of the excerpt.

Let’s get this out of the way early.  The idea that the existence of horizontal gene transfer will somehow tear down and render useless the theory of Darwinian evolution is patently ridiculous.  HGT refers to the ability of an organism to exchange genetic material with another organism and incorporate this material into its own genome.  Most of the research on HGT has dealt with bacteria, though studies do indicate this process is also important in the other prokaryotes and even single-celled eukaryotes.  The mechanism was first described 50 years ago and is among the best understood means by which organisms increase both genetic and phenotypic variation.  Despite the wealth of information that has been uncovered about HGT, the apparent Darwin killer, the past half century has not been witness to any kind of decrease in the confidence in or acceptance of evolutionary theory in the scientific community.

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Beautiful Science

August 5, 2009

Sometimes science is just gorgeous.  Case in point, this image taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope.

DR22

The picture shows a star forming region known as DR22.  Visit Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy website to hear the details from an actual astronomer.  I’m mostly just good for staring at the pretty lights.

Zombie Ants

August 3, 2009

Yes, you read that correctly.  Zombie ants.  In addition to my regular ranting and raving about all things pseudoscientific, I hope to also point out some of the cool/weird/fascinating science stories I come across.  And I couldn’t pass this one up.  Parasitic organisms that alter the behavior of their hosts for their own gain are not unknown.  However, I’m not aware of anything that exhibits this much specificity in the relationship.  Read a summary of the to be published article here.