News From Around The Blogosphere 8.3.10

August 3, 2010

Yup, I’m very behind again, so bare with me.

1. Former writers for ScienceBlogs find a new home – I’ve written already about “PepsiGate,” the controversy that led to many of the leading science bloggers on the web to leave their home at Scienceblogs. Well, now at least many of the bloggers who left, including one of my favorites, PalMD, have moved to Scientopia. And their joining other bloggers who had no previous connection to ScienceBlogs, so hopefully this will become yet another hub for amazing science coverage that the mainstream media is failing to cover. And PZ Myers, Orac, and Abbie Smith are all remaining at ScienceBlogs.  I personally don’t really care where they’re posting their material just as long as this incident hasn’t deprived the internet of great science bloggers.

2. New study again proves the Earth is warming

The 2009 State of the Climate report released today draws on data for 10 key climate indicators that all point to the same finding: the scientific evidence that our world is warming is unmistakable. More than 300 scientists from 160 research groups in 48 countries contributed to the report, which confirms that the past decade was the warmest on record and that the Earth has been growing warmer over the last 50 years.

Oh great! Now even Earth is falling for Al Gore’s evil liberal agenda.

3. Monkeys hate flying squirrels – C’mon, who doesn’t hate flying squirrels. Fuckin’ rodents think they’re so clever because they got built-in hang gliders. Humans had to actually build our flying technology; they were just born with it. That takes no great accomplishment. I’d like to see a flying squirrel build a 747. But maybe that’s just me. So why do monkeys hate them?

This riled-up response is probably just a false alarm, with the monkeys mistaking the squirrel for a predatory bird. On the other hand, male macaques – some of whom give chase and even attack a harmless rodent – might be trying to impress females in their troop.

Although this tough-guy motive was not proved in a new study, “it is possible that adult or sub-adult male monkeys may be ‘showing off’ their fitness” as potential mates, said Kenji Onishi, an assistant professor of behavioral sciences at Osaka University and lead author of the paper being published in the current issue of the journal Primate Research.

I like my reason better.

4. How high can Virgin Galactic take you? – Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic now has two fully operational private spacecraft: SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo (aka Enterprise). And for the low, low price of $200,000, they’ll take you about 68 miles above the Earth’s surface, or 6.2 miles above  the Kármán line, the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. Now’s the time for Captain Kirk to start offering cheaper flights with Priceline.

5, Mind reading machines are science reality

It is possible to read someone’s mind by remotely measuring their brain activity, researchers have shown. The technique can even extract information from subjects that they are not aware of themselves.

So far, it has only been used to identify visual patterns a subject can see or has chosen to focus on. But the researchers speculate the approach might be extended to probe a person’s awareness, focus of attention, memory and movement intention. In the meantime, it could help doctors work out if patients apparently in a coma are actually conscious.

I can't handle the truth!

6. Anti-vaxxer Meryl Dorey is a lying bitch – The other day, Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN – [snicker] ) responded to the accusations made against her that her organization misinforms parents and that they’ve harassed the McCaffery family, whose 4-week-old baby Dana died of pertussis because she was too young to be safely vaccinated and those around hadn’t been vaccinated either. Of course, she denied any wrongdoing of any kind. But now the McCaffery’s have responded to her response. And big surprise. She lied…a lot.

7. Self-sustaining robot has artificial gut – I do love my robot news. A robot, Ecobot III, eats dead flies for sustenance. It’s pretty inefficient now but it’s hard to imagine the possibilities for how far this research could take robot technology in the future.

8. Supplements found to be unsafe – I know it sounded like a great idea for supplements to not be regulated to confirm they are safe and effective but it turns out that, shockingly, not verifying these products are actually safe is a really, really bad idea. I know. Who knew?

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News From Around The Blogosphere 5.26.10

May 27, 2010

1. Oh, the irony! – For a long time now “alternative” “medicine” fans have decried the wonders of supplements while condemning real medicine such as vaccines because of the evil toxins in the form of trace amounts of lead, mercury, and other heavy metals. Turns out though that these very same “toxins” they’ve been complaining about can be found in many, if not all, supplements!

Nearly all of the herbal dietary supplements tested in a Congressional investigation contained trace amounts of lead and other contaminants, and some supplement sellers made illegal claims that their products can cure cancer and other diseases, investigators found.

The levels of heavy metals — including mercury, cadmium and arsenic — did not exceed thresholds considered dangerous, the investigators found. However, 16 of the 40 supplements tested contained pesticide residues that appeared to exceed legal limits, the investigators found. In some cases, the government has not set allowable levels of these pesticides because of a paucity of scientific research.

Investigators found at least nine products that made apparently illegal health claims, including a product containing ginkgo biloba that was labeled as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and a product containing ginseng labeled as a treatment to prevent diabetes and cancer. They also described a salesperson at a supplement specialty store who claimed that a garlic supplement could be taken instead of blood pressure medication.

Any product that claims to treat, cure, prevent or mitigate a disease is considered a drug and must go through strict regulatory reviews.

Ooh, busted!

2. Illinois tax dollars going towards giant Christian phallus – Though Illinois is refusing to pay the money they owe to public schools, that didn’t stop them from paying $20,000 to Friends of the Cross to fix their giant crucifix. Ya think they’re overcompensating for something? Local atheists are looking to sue.

3. Spitzer Science Center’s IRrelevant astronomy videos continue to earn serious geek cred – They already did a funny video featuring Felicia Day from The Guild and various Joss Whedon projects. And now here’s a video featuring Wil Wheaton and Amy Okuda (Tinkerballa from The Guild). Wil Wheaton plays both Wil Wheaton and the voice of the robot:

News From Around The Blogosphere 5.7.10

May 7, 2010

1. Congressman Henry Waxman fights to keep out quackery – Waxman introduced a bill proposing a rather novel idea, actually holding vitamin sellers accountable for the health claims that they make. Senator McCain tried to introduce a similar bill not long ago to protect consumers, but it was defeated by Tom Harkin and the supplement industry.

2. Researchers find more evidence that your ancestors fucked Neanderthals – Apparently they weren’t too choosy back then.

3. Research turns up new insights into natural HIV immunity

In the late 1990s, researchers showed that a very high percentage of those naturally HIV-immune people, who represent about one in 200 infected individuals, carry a gene called HLA B57. Now a team of researchers from the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT and Harvard has revealed a new effect that contributes to this gene’s ability to confer immunity.

4. Mohammed Image Archive – He wasn’t always this camera shy. He used to be a model.

Mohammed from 13th-century Persian manuscript (most likely from al-Biruni's The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries)

5. Comedy Central exposes hypocrisy with new Jesus show – So South Park wasn’t allowed to ridicule Mohammed, but Central Central is now considering a half-hour animated show about Jesus called JC. I hate when I’m forced to agree with Fox News:

Gary Null gets a taste of his own bad medicine

April 29, 2010

With my products, you'll be pissing blood in no time!

Gary Null, who’s been described on as “one of the nation’s leading promoters of dubious treatment for serious disease, ” has overdosed on his own shitty health product. He’s literally had a taste of his own medicine and it didn’t agree with him.

He’s now suing the manufacturer of his own product, a product that literally has his name on it because taking Gary Null’s Ultimate Power Meal led to a Vitamin D overdose from the supplements it contained.

The buff “Joy of Juicing” author, whose products include Red Stuff Powder and Gary Null’s Heavenly Hair Cleaner, claims he suffered kidney damage and was left bloodied and in intense pain from two daily servings of the supplement.

“Null continued to take the Ultimate Power Meal, all the while thinking that it would help him, and relieve his condition; instead, it made him worse,” the suit says.

No, seriously. He really has products called Red Stuff Powder and Gary Null’s Heavenly Hair Cleaner, and people never suspected they were buying potentially dangerous crap. Of course, it will be fun to see how this all plays out because just about every quack on Earth touts the miraculous healing properties of Vitamin D. It’s been said to cure everything from AIDS to cancer to autism.

Well what can I say? It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving individual. Of course Null’s claiming that the manufacturer botched the supplements, and so he’s filed a suit in Manhattan Supreme Court against the manufacturer, Triarco Industries.

“Null would later be told that if he had not flown back to New York and seen his doctor, then he could have died within a short period of time,” the suit says.

The suit says Null, 65, is still suffering the effects of too much Vitamin D.
. . .
“Even now, Null’s condition is questionable as he continues to occasionally urinate blood,” the suit says.
Well at least there’s that to smile about. Also, a bunch of people have declared that they’d never buy any of Null’s shitty quack products again:
“Null, in the midst of all this, while he was suffering in bed, had dozens of his customers calling him, along with condemning and threatening him,” the suit says. “In fact, they threatened that they would never buy any product of his ever again.”
That may be the single best decision they ever make.

Alt. Med. suffering from epic fails

June 10, 2009

alternative-medicine-for-dummiesOkay, I’ve got a whole bunch of material today that suggests the “Alternative” “Medicine” industry is in dire straits.

1. First up, the AP reported yesterday about the many dangerous toxins found in “natural” products. This is kinda hilarious because of course one of the chief selling points Alt. Med. practitioners make is that their products are toxin-free. Just about every altie plays the toxin gambit, insisting how real medicine is full of evil, dangerous toxins, but not their products. And of course, the accusations of dangerous toxins in real medicine are a crock of shit. So now it seems their projecting the problems with their own products onto others.

One quarter of supplements tested by an independent company over the last decade have had some sort of problem. Some contained contaminants. Others had contents that did not match label claims. Some had ingredients that exceeded safe limits. Some contained real drugs masquerading as natural supplements.

This underlines another flaw in the whole Alt Med system. Unlike real medicine, there’s no oversight protocols to properly regulate products to ensure they are safe and that people are actually getting what they pay for. System Fail.

2. Next up, a government study has determined that–wait for it, wait for it–almost no alternative medicines actually work:

“Echinacea for colds. Ginkgo biloba for memory. Glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis. Black cohosh for menopausal hot flashes. Saw palmetto for prostate problems. Shark cartilage for cancer. All proved no better than dummy pills in big studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The lone exception: ginger capsules may help chemotherapy nausea.”

Ultimately, this is what inevitably happens almost every time carefully done tests are conducted on Alt Med treatments. The quality of the test protocols have a direct inverse relationship to how effective the treatments turn out to be. The better the study, the smaller the effect size of the “treatment.” Test Fail.

3. Next up, after the British Chiropractic Association won their libel case against Simon Singh (though he’s fighting the decision), the chiropractors are suddenly running scared:

. . .the McTimoney Chiropractic Association has strongly warned its practitioners to take down their websites and replace any information on their techniques with just brief contact information. Why would they do that?

Because of what we consider to be a witch hunt against chiropractors, we are now issuing the following advice:

The target of the campaigners is now any claims for treatment that cannot be substantiated with chiropractic research. The safest thing for everyone to do is […] [i]f you have a website, take it down NOW.

Ya gotta laugh at the absurdity of this. If the chiropractors are as upstanding as they claim to be, what do they have to be afraid of? Shouldn’t the chiropractors have been sure to not put unsubstantiated claims on their websites from the start?

It’s very telling, isn’t it, that the McTimoney group isn’t telling its people to only stick with proven methods, but instead to take down any claims that might get them sued.


If you go to the McTimoney website, all it has now is a terse note with contact information, with no other information on the technique at all.

Of course, if they do have unsubstantiated claims on their website, they can’t hide it now because the internet remembers all and erases nothing. C’mon chiropractors, what do you have to hide? Evasive Action Fail.

4. Next, a cancer patient learns that herbals can interfere with proper treatment:

When Palella learned he had cancer, he added the chiropractor’s “prostate cancer protocol” to the other combos he was taking. They had names ending in “plex” and he had no idea what they contained. He swallowed more than three dozen pills each day, and was thrilled to learn that his ex-wife, also a chiropractor, could get them for half price instead of the $700 they would have cost him.

chiropractor-kittyUh oh! I see where this is going:

“I didn’t think they were medications. They’re not prescription, they’re not drugs. This is all natural substances, made from natural products,” he explained.

But he told the dietitian the truth. She was alarmed, and at his next visit, “She had a file ready for me,” Palella said. She said that some of his herbal pills could interfere with hormone treatments for his cancer, and showed him a recent medical study raising concern about that.

. . .

“I thought I was really doing a great thing and strengthening my immune system,” he said. “I feel so stupid.”

That’s why they publish Alternative Medicine For Dummies. Because that’s what you feel like after you realize that there is no alternative to real medicine. Diagnosis Fail.

5. And the final story is Deepak Chopra’s pathetic attempt to stick up for Oprah after Newsweek heavily criticized her for her promotion of pseudoscientific medicine. I addressed Oprah’s own poor attempt to justify her nonsense here. Chopra goes for the Sarah Palin defense:  dodge the issues by attacking the “gotcha media.” Well as Julia Sweeney says, “Deepack Chopra is full of shit!” Defense Fail.

Vitamins useless in preventing common cancers or heart disease

February 10, 2009

The largest study ever of multivitamin use in older women found they were utterly useless in preventing common cancers or heart disease:

The eight-year study in 161,808 postmenopausal women echoes recent disappointing vitamin studies in men. Americans spend billions of dollars on vitamins to boost their health.

The study’s lead author, researcher Marian Neuhouser of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, offered this advice: “Get nutrients from food. Whole foods are better than dietary supplements.”

But what do they know, right? They’re only an expert. I’m skeptical that those obsessed with food supplements will continue to believe they provide health benefits far beyond what they actually do.

News From Around The Blogosphere 10.1.08

October 2, 2008


Atheists in Foxholes – Another soldier, Spc. Dustin Chalker, has charged the U.S. military with discriminating against him for being an atheist.

Not that this idiotic hate-mongering comes as a surprise from the mouth of Bill O’Reilly but Bill-O had this to say:

“Next time you meet an atheist, tell him or her that you know a bold, fresh guy, a barbarian who was raised in a working-class home and retains the lessons he learned there.

“Then mention to that atheist that this guy is now watched and listened to, on a daily basis, by millions of people all over the world and, to boot, sells millions of books.

“Then, while the non-believer is digesting all that, ask him or her if they still don’t believe there’s a God!”

Process of gradual change over time–hmm, sounds a lot like Evolution to me. But yeah, Bill, I still don’t believe there’s a god. Try presenting some evidence next time. Thanks. But what bothers me about this really comes down to the total double standard in our society. If Bill had said something like this bigoted about women, blacks, gays, Jews, Muslims, or any minority group it would be followed by a major media and public out lash. Remember Mel Gibson? Don Imus? But because Bill’s despicable and hateful rhetoric happens to be towards the least respected minority group in the country (correction: now the second least respected minority in the country–thanks Scientology), it goes unacknowledged in the media. Though this isn’t nearly as bad as Paula Zahn’s infamous panel on atheism last year on CNN:


Speaking of CNN and stupidity, guess who paid CNN a little visit? Yup, the woman who is single-handedly keeping the dumb blonde stereotype alive: Jenny McCarthy – What really irks me about this the most is that whenever a skeptical voice gets heard the media feels compelled to invite a pseudo-scientist on as well in a misguided attempt to seem “fair and balanced” when it’s really a false balance given that the evidence is clearly far on more on the side of the skeptic than the true believer who’s got nothing but anecdotes. And yet, when they invite on cranks like McCarthy, the media’s “need” for balance is suddenly non-existent. Like with the panel on atheism embedded above where Paula Zahn didn’t see the need to invite an actual atheist on to contribute to the discussion, here CNN seems to have made no attempt to invite, say, Dr. Paul Offit on even though they’re discussing his book. How do I know they didn’t contact Offit? Cause if they had he’d certainly be there given that he’d get to promote his new book on CNN while getting a rare opportunity to demolish antivaccination claims in front of the entire CNN audience.

And of course this segment brings up another issue I have with the current state of mainstream news media: where are the hardball questions?! What happened to the days of Edward R. Murrow, Woodward, and Burnstein when reporters would actually INVESTIGATE and ask tough questions. Jenny says her son is cured of a disorder with no known cure and this dumbass reporter doesn’t think to inquire further about it?? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?! I took some reporting and journalism classes at NYU and I happen to know for a fact that they teach this shit in the most basic Journalism classes. Where did this moron get her degree? Liberty University? If Jenny’s kid is cured why’d she say she was considering chelation therapy only a few months ago? And if as she says, she’s not antivaccine then why does she say that if she had another kid she would never get them vaccinated? And why won’t she explain exactly what needs to be done to convince her vaccines are safe? These are basic questions!

Jenny McCarthyism – Oh, and about that Jenny story I blogged about yesterday where she attacked Amanda Peet again, the antivaccinationists didn’t waste much time before employing their standard McCarthyist (as in Joe McCarthy) tactic of accusing Amanda Peet of being another paid plant by the monolithically, maniacal evil “Big Pharma” that gets applied to EVERYONE who disagrees with them. So yeah, I’m coining the phrase “Jenny McCarthyism” to distinguish the antivaccinationist use of this age-old intimidation tactic.


Pat Condell’s latest video removed from YouTube – Oddly, this particular video was nothing new for Condell. Like so many of his other videos, it featured him intelligently and humorously railing against religion, Islam, and particularly against the UK’s recent adoption of Sharia law. The video was titled Saudi Britain. Condell responded to the censorship by saying:


And speaking of YouTube censorship. . .

Did YouTube attempt to ban the Eucharist desecrating videos? – 2 days ago, I blogged about Catholic outrage over YouTubers making their own videos “desecrating” the Eucharist along with their attempts to pressure YouTube to ban the videos. Well earlier today, PZ Myers posted a blog that indicated that YouTube had removed the offending videos and had suspended the most prominent offender’s account. But now the account and the videos seem to be active. Maybe YouTube came to their senses or maybe PZ’s readers pressured YouTube to restore the account and videos (PZ’s poll-crashing entries tend to show he’s got an enormous like-minded readership) or maybe PZ made a mistake. I think the second option sounds most likely. Either way, last I checked, anyone in the world could still view FSMdude’s cracker “desecration” videos and free speech has won the day.


Vitamin C supplements can actually blunt the effects of chemotherapy drugs by 30-70% – Take that, Tom Cruise! And take that otherwise brilliant multiple-Nobel-Prize-winning Linus Pauling! More details here. And on a related note, you can read about the potential uselessness of vitamin supplements in general right here.

A personal story of alt. med. obsession – If the true believers get to use emotional appeals through personal anecdotes, why can’t we? Especially since we have the evidence as well.

Defining Holistic “Medicine”

On cognitive dissonance & CAM


Bill Donohue & his Catholic League goons compile Bill Maher’s greatest hits – In anticipating for Maher’s film, Religulous, they compiled a list of quotes of Maher’s most strident attacks on irrational thinking, particularly against Catholicism. And once again these guys’ attempts to harm their critics is likely to backfire and draw more attention and publicity to the film. Thanks Catholic League!

Speaking of Bill Maher, he was on The View to discuss his new film Religulous. Hilarity, of a sort, ensued.

The ubiquitousness of the spiritual memoir – Here is a review of Danya Ruttenberg’s “Suprised By God” as well as a comment about the growing number of similar mediocre spiritual memoirs growing in popularity these days.


Why Psi is not recognized by mainstream science – Steve Novella addresses ESP researcher Dean Radin’s response to one of Novella’s earlier blogs. Specifically, he points out that mainstream science’s acceptance of dark matter and dark energy, both phenomena that were once outside of what was known by science and which are still a mysterious, debunks the classic straw man argument from true believers that skeptical scientists just refuse to accept that anything outside of current scientific understanding.

Texan scientists have organized under the banner of The 21st Century Science Coalition to ensure nothing less than the best education for their kids – Hopefully we’ll see this action repeated in the other 49 states as well.


Canada’s Shores Saved Ancient Animals – “The shorelines of ancient Alberta, British Columbia and the Canadian Arctic were an important refuge for some of the world’s earliest animals, most of which were wiped out by a mysterious global extinction event some 252 million years ago.”

Disease Diagnosis In Just 15 Minutes? – “Testing for diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis could soon be as simple as using a pregnancy testing kit.”

‘Hub’ Of Fear Memory Formation In Brain Cells – “A protein required for the earliest steps in embryonic development also plays a key role in solidifying fear memories in the brains of adult animals, scientists have revealed. An apparent “hub” for changes in the connections between brain cells, beta-catenin could be a potential target for drugs to enhance or interfere with memory formation.”

Nanoparticles Can Breech Body’s Skin Barrier – “Scientists are finding that particles that are barely there – tiny objects known as nanoparticles that have found a home in electronics, food containers, sunscreens, and a variety of applications – can breach our most personal protective barrier: The skin.”

Artificial Nose: Engineers Make Smell Receptors – “MIT biological engineers have found a way to mass-produce smell receptors in the laboratory, an advance that paves the way for “artificial noses” to be created and used in a variety of settings.”