Weird facts about placebos

June 16, 2011

The Value of Vaccines | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

April 29, 2011

News From Around The Blogosphere 4.21.11

April 22, 2011
Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

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1. Andrew Wakefield, the new Jesus? – I’ve often argued that the anti-vaccine movement worships Andrew Wakefield like a religious prophet, but now J.B. Handley has said as much to the NY Times:

“To our community, Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one,” says J. B. Handley, co-founder of Generation Rescue, a group that disputes vaccine safety. “He’s a symbol of how all of us feel.”

2. Studies suggest atheist OUT Campaign works

Although prejudice is typically positively related to relative outgroup size, four studies found converging evidence that perceived atheist prevalence reduces anti-atheist prejudice. Study 1 demonstrated that anti-atheist prejudice among religious believers is reduced in countries in which atheists are especially prevalent. Study 2 demonstrated that perceived atheist prevalence is negatively associated with anti-atheist prejudice. Study 3 demonstrated a causal relationship: Reminders of atheist prevalence reduced explicit distrust of atheists. These results appeared distinct from intergroup contact effects. Study 4 demonstrated that prevalence information decreased implicit atheist distrust. The latter two experiments provide the first evidence that mere prevalence information can reduce prejudice against any outgroup. These findings offer insights about anti-atheist prejudice, a poorly understood phenomenon. Furthermore, they suggest both novel directions for future prejudice research and potential interventions that could reduce a variety of prejudices.

3. GM mosquitoes to fight malaria – Scientists believe they’re getting close to being able to modify wild mosquito DNA as a weapon against malaria…using evolution:

In the laboratory, they made a gene spread from a handful of mosquitoes to most of the population in just a few generations, according to a report in Nature.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 3.22.11

March 23, 2011

1. New BBC report shows further decline in religion – In the past few years, a number of polls have shown religion is declining as increasingly more people identify themselves as not belonging to any religion. And now yet another poll shows this trend based on the census data of nine countries.

2. 70-year-old Philadelphia man stoned to death for Jesus – The killer has directly stated that the act was inspired by the Bible:

According to this report, John Thomas, 28, of Upper Darby, a Philadelphia suburb, told police he killed Murray Seidman of nearby Lansdowne because the Bible refers to stoning homosexuals.

3. Piggyback virus could thwart HIV

Rather than destroying HIV, a proposed treatment would embrace its infectious abilities, sending the virus into competition with a harmless, stripped-down version of itself.

Dubbed therapeutic interfering particles, or TIPs, these engineered viral scraps would ride with HIV as it spreads from person to person. By out-competing HIV for cellular resources, the TIPs might slow its progression and lower infection rates.

4. Nine cases of measles in Minneapolis

The likely source is an infant who traveled to Kenya and returned in the beginning of February. Cases have ranged in age from 4 months to 4 years. Four of the cases were too young to receive vaccine, four were of age but were not vaccinated, and one has unknown vaccine status. There have been five hospitalizations and no deaths.

On a related note, if you happen to run into Andrew Wakefield or Jenny McCarthy, please punch them in the face for me.

5. 60 Minutes turns Catholic child rape scandal into a fluff piece – This week’s 60 Minutes featured an embarrassingly piece on New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, whose making it his mission to restore the Church’s reputation after that pesky mass child rape conspiracy thing. In the piece, Dolan expressed little interest in helping to bring child rapists and their accomplices to justice or declaring specific changes to ensure it never happens again, and showed that his primary purpose is spin control. And 60 Minutes, like all the mainstream media, found that entirely satisfactory. I wonder if Scott Pelley would still be satisfied if his own child were raped by priests and committed suicide because of the psychological scars while the perpetrators were given full immunity from justice because instead of working for Starbucks, the organization they happen to work for is named the Catholic Church. Though I am happy to see that the commenters on 60 Minutes webpage are really letting them have it. And here’s a great piece on how out of touch with reality the Catholic Church is.

6. Nantucket child killed in exorcism

The woman accused of killing her 3-year-old daughter earlier this week believed God had instructed her to stick a rose in the young girl’s throat to ward off the devil, according to documents filed in Nantucket District Court.

So next time someone suggests religion is harmless, remind them of 3-year-old Nicole Garcia Pleitez.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 3.11.11

March 12, 2011

"That's no moon."

1. Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! No, it’s a plane! No, it’s Supermoon! – If you’re Bill O’Reilly, I know what you’re thinking. Supermoon comes in,earthquake comes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that. But no, Bill, the coming Supermoon is not in any way responsible for the Japanese earthquake. Nor was Godzilla…probably.

2. Oregon House ends ‘Faith Healing’ exemption – Oregon had a law on the books that gave religious parents carte blanche in the event that they killed their sick children by choosing to treat them with prayer in lieu of getting them proper medical care. But now House Bill 2721, “eliminates reliance on spiritual treatment as defense to certain crimes in which victim is under 18 years of age.”

3. Pro-Choice student suspended by public Catholic School

Some students at St. Patrick High School in Ontario, Canada recently participated in the Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity. They wore red tape with the word “LIFE” written on it and “didn’t talk for the day to display their belief in the injustice of abortion.”

Sophomore Alexandria Szeglet wasn’t a fan of that message, though, so she decided to do something about it.

She got some green tape and wrote the word “CHOICE” on it.

And then she passed along the green tape to several other students so they could join her in silent protest.

So the school told her to take off her green tape or go home. So she did…go home, that is. But she was not alone. The media was contacted and told up to 35 students were given 2-day suspensions, not to mention a 100 more who were sent home for the day. I’m tellin’ ya, these kids today and they’re principles…and their self-respect…and their rap music…

4. Smartphones that detect cancer in under an hour – We’re finally arrived at a point where our phones are smarter than our doctors. Very soon we’ll be able to integrate a microNMR device that accurately detects cancer cells to a smartphone:

Though just a prototype, this device enables a clinician to extract small amounts of cells from a mass inside of a patient, analyze the sample on the spot, acquire the results in an hour, and pass the results to other clinicians and into medical records rapidly. How much does the device cost to make? $200.

This is much more efficient than modern biopsy analysis, which only has an 84 percent accuracy rate, can take three to four days to produce results, and runs the risk of the tissue degrading during transport to an external testing site.

5. And in honor of Pi Day coming up, the sound of Pi:

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News From Around The Blogosphere 3.7.11

March 8, 2011

1. 40-million-year-old mites caught fucking – It’s not uncommon to find ancient animals preserved in amber. What’s far less common is finding ancient animals preserved in middle of doing it as in a recent find where two mites were found mating. Another interesting fact about these mites are that the traditional sex roles were reversed:

“In this species, it is the female who has partial or complete control of mating,” explained Klimov, an associate research scientist at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. “This is in contrast to the present-day reproductive behavior of many mite species where almost all aspects of copulation are controlled by males.”

I think that settles it for me. When I die, I insist that I’m preserved forever in amber during sex.

2. Nano vaccines in our future

MIT engineers have designed a new type of nanoparticle that could safely and effectively deliver vaccines for diseases such as HIV and malaria.

Once again, science delivers the goods.

3. Lawsuit claims Scientology violated child labor and wage laws – If you haven’t yet read the recent 30-page New Yorker expose on Scientology, you owe it to yourself to take the time to do so. It is almost certainly the single most damning piece of literature compiled on the cult and every word of it is backed by a copious amount of evidence. I truly believe that nobody can read that article and still choose to join Scientology. According to that article, there is a federal investigation into possible human trafficking charges, relating to accusations of child labor and nearly non-existent wages for adult labor.

Now two lawsuits have been filed by former Scientologist Daniel Montalvo, who “contends his parents, who remain in the Sea Org, neglected him and breached their duty to protect him from harm by ceding his care to the church.” And like with every former member/critic, church Spokesmen Tommy Davis is retaliating with sudden criminal accusations against Montalvo that the church remarkably never mentioned to anyone until just now when he sued them first. What a coinkidink! Given all the former members that Davis and past spokesmen (who incidentally are now also harsh critics of the cult) have accused of serious and often violent crimes, I’m left to wonder if everyone in Scientology is a violent thug.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 2.23.11

February 24, 2011

1. Creationists defeated in Oklahoma – Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern tried to pass a bill that would bar teachers from grading students down on science tests because of that student’s particular belief. This was the latest attempt by creationists to force their way into science classrooms. Fortunately, it didn’t work and the bill was defeated. Sadly though, it was only defeated by a 7-9 vote.

2. Watson moving to Columbia Medical Center – The computer that brutally defeated Jeopardy‘s two greatest champs is being taken to the Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan where it will be used to help doctors evaluate patients.

“Watson has the potential to help doctors reduce the time needed to evaluate and determine the correct diagnosis for a patient,” said Dr. Herbert Chase, professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, in a public statement.

Chase also said that the super genius would lend doctors a hand when it comes to developing more “personalized treatment options” for patients’ needs through use of the Watson software.

3. Bible Fail – When a gay man was attacked, a news crew interviewed one of the attackers’ friends, a wrestler who proudly brandished a tattoo featuring the entire Leviticus 18:22 verse in the Bible, which infamously condemns homosexuality as an abomination. Sadly, this wrestler didn’t keep reading as in the very next chapter, Leviticus 19:28, the Bible condemns tattoos.

4. There’s no such thing as a lie detector

A new report in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, discusses some of the common misconceptions about those proficient in the art of deception, reviews the shortcomings of commonly used lie-detection techniques, and presents new empirically supported methods for telling liars from truth-tellers with greater accuracy.

Lie detectors routinely make the common mistakes of overemphasizing nonverbal cues, neglecting intrapersonal variations (i.e., how a person acts when they are telling the truth versus when they are lying), and being overly confident in their lie-detection skills