Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Whilst I'm talking about Prof. Brian Cox... Astrology

He and Dara O'Briain rubbished astrology on Stargazing Live, and the Astrological Association of Great Britain is irate, and have a petition, which in addition to apologies etc says "We also request that the BBC will commit to making a fair and balanced representation of astrology when aired in the future."

Whilst I echo Martin Robbin's sentiments:
On the second sentence at least I think we can all agree. I'd love to see the BBC give a fair and balanced representation of astrology. In fact sod it, let's extend that to all newspapers as well.

Such a representation would depict astrology as a pseudoscience with no real basis in evidence that was already being ridiculed in the Dark Ages, and note that after thousands of years astrologers still can't produce statistically meaningful results.

I'd like to add that currently astrology gets free reign on Steve Wright's BBC Radio 2 Show, just the other day I had to turn over when astrologer Sara Delphi came on (six days left to listen, if you want to waste your time).

"Sara Delphi is a leading clairvoyant, astrologer and expert in Tarot and Palm reading. For the past two years Sara has been one of the team of astrologists on the Steve Wright in the Afternoon Show BBC Radio 2."

So, I put it to you Astrological Association, exactly what do you mean by balance? On the one hand we have a BBC show that highlights the fact that astrology is bunk, and on the other a show that says it isn't and has, if Sara's website is to be believed (though she does make her money by either being deluded or a fraud) a team of astrologers astrologists. Isn't that balanced?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Homeopathy overdose half way mark

Well, my homeopathy overdose is two months in now.

I must confess that last week I didn't get enough sleep. However, this was because I was reading "Why Does E=MC2 (and why should we care?)" by Professors Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. It was excellent, and I couldn't put it down, even when it was time for me to get some sleep.

I've nothing against physics, but found biological sciences more interesting, and so, haven't done physics past GCSE, as I chose biology, chemistry and maths for A Level. Consequently, my knowledge of physics, whilst probably a little above average, isn't as strong, and it was great to read and learn something entirely new.

I enjoyed the way the book was written, and now have a clearer understanding of Einstein's theories of Special Relativity and General Relativity. It was also really good to get a bit more knowledge about the Higgs boson, and a bit of deeper understanding of the LHC.
 My friend Chris did say he spotted a couple of wee errors in the book, but I don't think these get in the way of the points they are trying to make.  

It would be interesting to see what university level physicists make of the book, but I'd give it a 10/10, and will read it again, as I'd like to get a firmer grip in my head of the contents of the book. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Blue Monday

Blue Monday's bull. My friend Tom and I had a short lived science vlog, and here's my contribution from then:

Ben Goldacre's got a good little summary.

So instead of PR BS, let's have a bit of New Order:

Friday, January 14, 2011

A thought about homeopaths

The great Rhys Morgan tweeted the 10:23 campaign to 360homeopathy, who I'd not seen before, so I checked out her website, and saw this emphasis mine):

I stumbled upon Homeopathy many years ago when I had a colicky baby and a co-worker suggested these white little pills to put under her tongue. I didn't think much about it as I wasn't really that interested in what it was but more that I wanted to give my baby some relief.

My initial thought was "Wooah, how could you not care what was going into your child?" I'm fortunate enough to have some very good friends. I'm not a father now (but hopefully in the future), but I'm fairly sure that even if my Hypothetical Partner (let alone any of my friends) had white pills to give to my Hypothetical Child, whilst I'd trust her completely, I'd still very much want to know what it was that was being given.

It made me wonder if this is one of the differences between supporters of alternative medicine, and skeptical types like me. Even if I trust someone *a lot* I still want to know the whys and wherefores. I guess "Why?" is just a big part of my life, and less so for others...

(I don't know why this is though, ha ha)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Kenneth Tong

From Natalie Onions:

If you're unfamiliar with Kenneth Tong, this is good.

If you have heard of him, or wish to discover more abut this odious being, read Johann Hari's interview with him, you can get the full transcript or the write up.

PS Regular readers might remember, he was one half of what made me angry the other night.

UPDATE: @DavidAllenGreen tweets: A footnote to the @MrKennethTong affair. The charity Beat confirms he has not actually given or offered any donation, sizable or otherwise.

Cough up Tong!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

ANGRY! Don't check twitter before bed

Well, dang, there I was just tweeting my blog post and ready to go to sleep, then I see these two tweets:

Firstly, from @timminchin
Fury rating: 5. Lucy Johnston should (but won't) be fired for this story. Incompetent, immoral, shit journalism.

People die from flu, and also from fear of vaccines in general (also see the Jenny McCarthy body count on the bottom right hand side of this blog). I don't like the whole fear mongering in the press, but if you feel the need to whip things up into heightened levels of unnecessary fear, why not go for the "Flu vaccines running out, we're all going to die" approach? You don't even have to start being truthful (I know it's hard for you), and could blame it all on immigrants taking away vaccines from us good, honest, hard working Brits.

Secondly, from @davidallengreen
Jack of Kent blogpost: has @MrKennethTong admitted to a criminal offence?

I haven't got much to add to his blog post, only that it makes me sad to be reminded that people like Kenneth Tong exist.

I'm going to read some Winnie the Pooh before sleep now.

Homeopathy overdose: Second symptom!

The NHS Choices website says the following on warming up before exercise:
Should I warm up before exercise?
Warming up is essential before your training session. “Without a warm-up your workout won't be as efficient as it could be,” says Robin. “Your muscles will be less supple, so you're more likely to injure yourself.”

Given I play capoeira and am training for my sixth marathon, I already know that.

So what you might be thinking?

Well, my house mate has just got an XBox Kinect, and we were playing Fighters Uncaged on it. As my housemates commented I was "proper going for it". Result is, I've pulled something in my neck, and it's really quite painful when I move in certain ways.

Whilst this has nothing to do with my homeopathy overdose, it will quite probably affect my sleep, and even if it doesn't, I'm reporting all adverse aspects of my health.

Of course, my first symptom and this are not really symptoms at all, and (ignoring the butterfly effect and all that) I would have got them whether I was overdosing on homeopathy or not. It does make me wonder how many genuine medical issues have been ignored when someone developed an actual medical condition whilst involved in a proving, and didn't get it seen to, as they put it down to the remedy and not to genuinely being ill.

Time for bed now, it's well past my bed time!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Homeopathy overdose: Frauds and children

Well, it's been over a month since I started my homeopathy overdose, and my sleep is, as yet, undisturbed (apart from being woken towards the end of December by a mouse. I don't think any homeopath is going to claim their insomnia remedy works by bringing mice in to produce disturbed sleep as a symptom to cure disturbed sleep).

What's been most interesting to me is the reactions of homeopaths.

Dana Ullman of Homeopathy Education Services sadly no longer trusts me, and doesn't wish me to quote his emails. Despite seeing my willingness to correct my mistakes and the fact that I was genuinely asking questions about homeopathy, I was told I lacked a spirit of enquiry and had false assumptions. In an email I wrote "Also, I have updated my blog accordingly. I did make a false assumption when you mentioned combination remedies, I also realise that for a proving you'd obviously want just one the one substance, otherwise you couldn't attribute what caused symptoms. However, isn't it time for combination provings? Take two things together, which are known to produce certain symptoms, and see what happens if taken together." Surely this demonstrates both my willingness to enquire, and also demonstrates my ability to correct false assumptions I've previously had.

(Incidentally, in my last email to Dana I said "I will be blogging about this exchange, but will keep it entirely anonymous if you prefer, and refer to you as "a homeopath". Given that I've dealt with people from the USA and the UK, this should be sufficient." As he didn't reply, I've made the assumption that he won't mind my identifying him).

The Society of Homeopaths told me to see a registered homeopath. I got in touch, by email, with six local registered homeopaths. Not one has got back to me. I'm contemplating registering a complaint with them.

The night before last there was also this tweet from @homeopathy info:
Another skeptic being treated for mental health problems [also @tkingdoll @mjrobbins] worries about placebo effects

However, as @mjrobbins tweeted:
The response to @homeopathyinfo 's pathetic use of depression as a smear on me and the others is heart-warming

Ben Goldacre described homeopaths as "hpaths are an angry nasty bunch, which is why ppl write about them so much!"

I tend to agree - I'd like to add thin skinned as well. Also reckless with the health of those that don't beleive in, and question, homeopathy - they quite clearly say that there are risks to a homeopathy overdose (see the article that got this whole thing started), however, if someone goes ahead and (in their eyes) puts their health at risk, they don't care.

In the original article, Martin asked of the homeopathic community: Are you as a community mature and capable enough to look at the evidence and reach a consensus?

Quite clearly the answer is no. The questions that springs to my mind is: How many of them react this way because they are willfully perpetrating a fraud; and how many are essentially children with fingers in their ears going "La la la! Can't hear you! La la la!"?

(I'm aware that the above might be a false dichotomy, but I really can't think of any more than those two ways to describe them, but I'm open to suggestions).
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