Tag Archives: pseudoscience

The Law of Attraction – Debunked (The Secret – Refuted)

1. Pseudoscience:

So the first thing to be said, in my opinion, is that the Law of Attraction, and, to be blunt, New Age Thought altogether, is entirely predicated on dispensing meaningless drivel masqueraded as profound truth and wisdom… it is, to paraphrase Michael Shermer, the combination of scientific sounding words with New Age words to create the illusion that they’re somehow related…

For example, the term ‘Law of Attraction’ deliberately implies that it is a scientific law, just like the ‘Law of Conservation of Energy’ etc., and yet, science regards the Law of Attraction as pure nonsense and pseudoscience, and puts it in the same bin as creationism, homeopathy, climate change denial and tin foil hats!

2. Argument from Ignorance:

Anyhow, with that said, the first question to be asked is if the first premise is true – is everything really comprised of energy vibrating at different frequencies? Is the Law of Vibration true? Well, while it is true that everything so far appears to be an expression of matter and energy, and while matter and energy are indeed different states of the same thing (energy)… the only way someone can say that everything “vibrates” is by defining ‘vibration’ to be “energy in motion” – which only serves to confuse people.

What’s more is that if the proponents of this argument go a step further and assert that we know for sure that everything is vibrating energy, they’re actually committing an Argument from Ignorance, because absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Continue Reading the video description – – –

Myles Reviews: Geller’s Mind-Power Kit

Uri Geller is an Israeli illusionist, magician, television personality, and self-proclaimed psychic. He is known for his trademark television performances of spoon bending and other illusions. In his Mind-Power Kit he claims to to share with the reader the secrets of his extraordinary powers. The kit also contains a crystal that Uri was personally empowered and a tape with instructions.

Celebrity Pseudoscience: 2017 Edition

by Brian Dunning via skeptoid

Hollywood celebrities have a reputation for espousing a sort of prepackaged, fast-food version of politically correct “liberal” issues, as if they buy a kit of personal convictions off the shelf at Whole Foods. It includes environmental concerns, usually exaggerated and often wrong; rejection of “all things corporate” including pharmaceuticals and biotech, with a corresponding embrace of alternative medicine, organic agriculture, and “empowered individual” philosophies like home birth. Then there are the outliers who go the other way toward full alt-right with an imagined superior insight into world affairs. They tend to reject history and science in favor of conspiracy mongering and alternative science, be it the young Earth, the flat Earth, or calling us all sheeple for believing in the standard model of the universe.

Interestingly, anti-vaccination is found in both camps. Left-leaning antivaxxers tend to reject it because it’s not a natural healing method, and right-leaning antivaxxers think it’s an evil government program of enforced mercury poisoning. It increasingly seems that a rational, level-headed, science-literate Hollywood celebrity is as rare as a truly good movie.

So here my list of top 10 celebrities, 2017 edition, who contribute to the Endarkenment by abusing their notoriety to spread misinformation far and wide:

#10 – Shaq and the NBA Flat Earthers

Former player Shaquille O’Neal and current NBA basketball players Kyrie Irving, Wilson Chandler, and Draymond Green have all expressed their belief that the Earth is flat, but I put them all the way down at #10 because it’s not clear that all four literally believe this. They may just be trolling. But whether they are or not, they do genuinely influence a huge number of young people, including some demographics where education is not necessarily a life priority. Guys, if you want to inspire kids to achieve and succeed, you’re doing it wrong.

#9 – Michael Phelps

I include him as a representative of the many athletes and celebrities who loudly and proudly promote cupping, the overtly pseudoscientific technique of suctioning great round hickeys into the skin by rupturing capillaries. A lot of trainers sell this because it costs nothing to administer, requires no training, and they can charge whatever they want for it; and since it’s unregulated, they make a vast array of claims for whatever workout benefits they say it confers. Usually, it just happens to solve whatever that athlete’s complaint of the day is. Phelps proudly shows off these ugly bruises, as do many other athletes and celebrities, and has even posted pictures of himself getting it done on his Instagram. Sellers have even come up with a sciencey-sounding name for it to impress the scientifically illiterate: “myofascial decompression”.

Continue Reading @ skeptoid – – –

Principles of Curiosity

Personally, I would give this video 3.5 out of 5 stars. It felt too lengthy (40 minutes) for the amount of information presented, but still very enjoyable.

The Red Flags of Quackery

Click Image for larger view.

Debunked: Ozone Therapy  – Part 1

Critical thinking is one for the history books

A critical analysis of archeology leads to rejection of astrology, conspiracies, etc.

By via Ars Technica

The world as a whole has become increasingly reliant on science to provide its technology and inform its policy. But rampant conspiracy theories, fake news, and pseudoscience like homeopathy show that the world could use a bit more of the organized skepticism that provides the foundation of science. For that reason, it has often been suggested that an expanded science education program would help cut down on the acceptance of nonsense.

But a study done with undergrads at North Carolina State University suggests that a class on scientific research methods doesn’t do much good. Instead, a class dedicated to critical analysis of nonsense in archeology was far more effective at getting students to reject a variety of pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. And it worked even better when the students got their own debunking project.

The study, done by Anne Collins McLaughlin and Alicia McGill, lumps together things like belief in astrology, conspiracy theories, and ancient aliens, calling them “epistemically unwarranted.” Surveys show they’re widely popular; nearly half the US population thinks astrology is either somewhat or very scientific, and the number has gone up over time.

You might think that education, especially in the sciences, could help reverse this trend, but McLaughlin and McGill have some depressing news for you. Rejection of epistemically unwarranted ideas doesn’t correlate with scientific knowledge, and college students tend to have as much trouble coming to grips with reality as anyone else.

Continue Reading @ Ars Technica – – –

Here Be Dragons (Brian Dunning)

Here Be Dragons is a 40 minute video introduction to critical thinking. This video is on my “must watch” list for skeptics and critical thinkers 🙂

Most people fully accept paranormal and pseudoscientific claims without critique as they are promoted by the mass media. Here Be Dragons offers a toolbox for recognizing and understanding the dangers of pseudoscience, and appreciation for the reality-based benefits offered by real science.

Here Be Dragons is written and presented by Brian Dunning, host and producer of the Skeptoid podcast and author of the Skeptoid book series.

Source: Here Be Dragons – YouTube.

Top 5 Chemistry Fails by the Food Babe

The Case of the Ancient Astronauts – Erich von Däniken

This Nova documentary The Case of the Ancient Astronauts destroys the claims made by Erich von Däniken and his looney ancient astronauts (alien) theory. Read more about von Däniken below the video.

Enjoy 🙂

MIB

From Wikipedia:

Erich Anton Paul von Däniken (/ˈɛrk fɒn ˈdɛnkn/; German: [ˈeːrɪç fɔn ˈdɛːnɪkən]; born 14 April 1935) is a Swiss author of several books which make claims about extraterrestrial influences on early human culture, including the best-selling Chariots of the Gods?, published in 1968. Däniken is one of the main figures responsible for popularizing the “paleo-contact” and ancient astronauts hypotheses. The ideas put forth in his books are rejected by a majority of scientists and academics, who categorize his work as pseudohistory, pseudoarchaeology and pseudoscience.[1][2][3]

The Nova documentary The Case of the Ancient Astronauts shows that all the claims made by von Däniken about the Pyramid of Cheops were wrong in all accounts. The technique of construction is well understood, scholars know perfectly what tools were used, the marks of those tools in the quarries are still visible, and there are many tools preserved in museums. Däniken claims that it would have taken them too long to cut all the blocks necessary and drag them to the construction site in time to build the Great Pyramid in only 20 years, but Nova shows how easy and fast it is to cut a block of stone, and shows the rollers used in transportation. He also claims that Egyptians suddenly started making pyramids out of nowhere, but there are several pyramids that show the progress made by Egyptian architects while they were perfecting the technique from simple mastabas to later pyramids. Däniken claims that the height of the pyramid multiplied by one million was the distance to the Sun, but the number falls too short. If it were true, it would make the pyramid 93 miles high… He also claims that Egyptians could not align the edges so perfectly to true North without advanced technology that only aliens could give them, but Egyptians knew of very simple methods to find North via star observation, and it is trivial to make straight edges.[36]

Continue reading @ Wikipedia  –  –  –

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Ancient Astronauts – Erich Anton Paul von Däniken

From The Skeptic’s Dictionary

Chariots of the GodsThe term ‘ancient astronauts’ designates the speculative notion that aliens are responsible for the most ancient civilizations on earth. The most notorious proponent of this idea is Erich von Däniken, author of several popular books on the subject. His Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past, for example, is a sweeping attack on the memories and abilities of ancient peoples. Von Däniken claims that the myths, arts, social organizations, etc., of ancient cultures were introduced by astronauts from another world. He questions not just the capacity for memory, but the capacity for culture and civilization itself, in ancient peoples. Prehistoric humans did not develop their own arts and technologies, but rather were taught art and science by visitors from outer space.

Where is the proof for von Däniken’s claims? Some of it was fraudulent. For example, he produced photographs of pottery that  he claimed had been found in an archaeological dig. The pottery depicts flying saucers and was said to have been dated from Biblical times. However, investigators from Nova (the fine public-television science program) found the potter who had made the allegedly ancient pots. They confronted von Däniken with evidence of his fraud. His reply was that his deception was justified because some people would only believe if they saw proof (“The Case of the Ancient Astronauts,” first aired 3/8/78, done in conjunction with BBC’s Horizon and Peter Spry-Leverton)!

Most of von Däniken’s evidence is in the form of specious and fallacious arguments . . .

Continue Reading @ The Skeptic’s Dictionary – – –

Rule No. 1 for being Internet-smart: Never read NaturalNews

NATURAL NEWS BS 737
Natural News is the worst of the internet.

Sharon_hill_80pxBy Sharon A. Hill via  Doubtful

Would you get your medical advice from a non-medical doctor with inadequate training? How about one investigated by the FBI for supporting killing of scientists? Would you get your news from a site that denies the basic tenets of science and how the universe works? How about a site that promotes policies that can result in death (AIDS denialism, anti-vaccine, homeopathic remedies for deadly diseases such as Ebola)? Is a site led by a alt med salesman that pushes baseless conspiracy theories and calls respected doctors and scientists names (or worse) a reputable source of information?

No. And this is really serious. NO.

natural news mike adamsLearn the name NATURALNEWS.COM and avoid it entirely. They call themselves “The world’s top news source on natural health”. They are the top source for health misinformation and pseudoscience. This is not in doubt:

Natural News: A Truly Deadly Brand of Pseudoscience (Big Think)

Why are so many Facebook friends sharing preposterous stories from Natural News? (Salon)

Don’t believe anything you read at Natural News (Grist)

Mike Adams, a.k.a. the Health Ranger, a health scamster profiled (ScienceBlogs)

Natural News’ Mike Adams libelously attacks Science-Based Medicine’s David Gorski

NN also publishes this disclaimer:

The information on this site is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice of any kind. Truth Publishing assumes no responsibility for the use or misuse of this material.

In other words, treat this site as a joke because it’s not a science, news, or medical site. And, if you do follow the terrible advice or take our word for it and then hurt yourself, we absolve ourselves of everything.

How noble, eh? Sadly, some people really do believe this stuff.

If you read NN, which is possible because the damn thing is very popular, you are indulging in the wrongness; please go prepared for massive doses of nonsense and delusional commentary. If you share any of these stories as useful or true, you need an immediate intervention. Every time you share one of their links, even to make fun of it, you add to their Google search ranking. So don’t do that. Just don’t ever click on that site for anything.

Skeptoid twice named NN the #1 Worst Anti-Science website:

Continue Reading @ Doubtful – – –

Debunking the chemtrail conspiracy theory

By Dennis Mersereau via Cyprus Mail

In 2003, Barbra Streisand frantically tried to censor pictures of her home in Malibu after someone posted them online. In 2003, millions of people saw pictures of Barbra Streisand’s home in Malibu. In what became known as the Streisand effect, attempts to suppress information about something usually backfires and leads to even more publicity for the supposedly secret thing.

False evidence of chemtrails

False evidence of chemtrails

There is a strong argument in the weather community that we should ignore the growing number of people who sincerely believe that there is a worldwide governmental conspiracy to control the weather through, among other means, “chemtrails”. Bringing attention to their cause, one may argue, only helps to attract more attention and thereby more adherents to this particular brand of anti-science.

While that is probably true for a small number of people, ignoring the conspiracy theorists only makes them scream louder for attention through the Streisand Effect. The best way to remedy a situation isn’t to bottle it up and pretend that it isn’t happening, but rather to shine light on it and expose the silliness for what it really is.

If you’re not familiar with the chemtrail conspiracy theory, let me fill you in real quick. The thin, wispy clouds left behind by high-flying aircraft are known as contrails, short for condensation trails. These clouds are left behind as a result of the warm, moist exhaust of the plane’s engines meeting the extremely cold temperatures of the upper atmosphere. It’s a similar principle behind why you can see your breath on cold mornings.

chemtrail dog_300pxContrails appear and disappear based on the moisture content of the air through which the plane is passing. If the upper atmospheric air is moist, the plane will leave a contrail that could last hours and spread out into a deck of cirrus. If the air is extremely dry, it might not leave a contrail at all.

Since about the mid-1990s, there’s a subset of people who believe that these contrails are really chemtrails, or trails of vaporised chemicals being sprayed into the atmosphere by aircraft that are really flying around with with tanks full of chemicals rather than passengers. These alleged chemtrails are the work of any number of groups: governments, companies, Jews, you name it. The ultimate goal differs depending on whom you ask, but the two biggest strains of thought are that the chemtrails exist to control the weather or make the populace sick.

For most people with a basic level of science education, the idea is absurd, but the conspiracy theorists truly believe that these chemicals are being sprayed to control the weather, make the population sick, or partake in other “geoengineering” activities.

Back to the theorists themselves.

Continue Reading @ Cyprus Mail – – –

chemtrail pilot cartoon 338

Lumosity to Pay $2 Million to Settle FTC Deceptive Advertising Charges for Its “Brain Training” Program

ftc_logo_430Via Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

The creators and marketers of the Lumosity “brain training” program have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges alleging that they deceived consumers with unfounded claims that Lumosity games can help users perform better at work and in school, and reduce or delay cognitive impairment associated with age and other serious health conditions.

lumosity-logoAs part of the settlement, Lumos Labs, the company behind Lumosity, will pay $2 million in redress and will notify subscribers of the FTC action and provide them with an easy way to cancel their auto-renewal to avoid future billing.

“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, the Lumosity program consists of 40 games purportedly designed to target and train specific areas of the brain. The company advertised that training on these games for 10 to 15 minutes three or four times a week could help users achieve their “full potential in every aspect of life.” The company sold both online and mobile app subscriptions, with options ranging from monthly ($14.95) to lifetime ($299.95) memberships.

Continue Reading @ Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – – –

Ten Facebook Pages You Need to Stop Sharing From

By via dawnsbrain.com

A friend of mine shared an eyebrow-raising article on Facebook. The linked story was along the lines of “private planes stolen by terrorists in the Middle East, and an attack is imminent”. youtube graduate_250pxThe sensible people among his friends good-naturedly mocked him. They ribbed him about how ridiculous the prediction was. And all you had to do was consider the source.

My friend had shared the story from a notoriously crackpot Facebook page. The post lacked any merit, save a few tenuous and unrelated pieces of actual news. This behavior was typical of this particular page. Often, these types of pages hook you with a kernel of truth, and then wrap it in layers of idiocy.

When confronted, this friend said, “well, we’ll see who’s right in time.” The prediction by Natural News has failed to become reality almost a year later.

The Facebook fan pages below have a habit of spitting scientific inquiry and reason in the eye. They also have an unreasonably high number of fans who share their inanity. Shares from the following pages deserve a serious eye roll and shaking of one’s head.


alex-jones-cover_500px

#10 Alex Jones

Facebook fans: 856K

What He Says About Himself

“Documentary Filmmaker, Nationally Syndicated Radio Talkshow & Prisonplanet.tv Host – Free video/audio stream”

What He Really Does

Mr. Jones uses a ton of hyperbole, conspiracy theories, and a loose connection to reality, to whip up fear and loathing in his audience.

Recent Ridiculousness

alex-jones-post
Whatever your feelings are on using legislation to increase vaccination rates, you won’t find any legitimate support for implications that vaccines contain toxic doses of chemical. Nor that there are aborted fetal cells in any of the shots we get.

Sample Fan Comment

alex-jones-fan
World government, population control, fluoride hysteria, GMOs, illegal cancer cures, and chemtrails. This comment has it all.


food-babe-cover_500px

#9 Food Babe

Facebook fans: 938K

What She Says About Herself

“Vani Hari started FoodBabe.com in April 2011 to spread information about what is really in the American food supply. She teaches people how to make the right purchasing decisions at the grocery store, how to live an organic lifestyle, and how to travel healthfully around the world. The success in her writing and investigative work can be seen in the way food companies react to her uncanny ability to find and expose the truth.

What She Really Does

Ms. Hari, the “Food Babe”, parrots Dr. Mercola and cobbles together cherry-picked blurbs from questionable studies and Wikipedia. She uses the term “investigation” to excuse the fact that she often gives medical advice without having any education in the life sciences. She picks the weirdest ingredients to go after.

Recent Ridiculousness

food-babe-post
This from the woman who claimed to have cured all her allergies with acupuncture and “clean eating”.

Sample Fan Comment

food-babe-fan
On Facebook, it’s only a matter of time before someone pulls out the EO sales kit.

Continue Reading at DawnsBrain.com – – –

The logical paradox of ghost hunting

Source: The Logic of Science

Many people believe in the paranormal, and a great deal of time and effort is spent searching for evidence of it. Indeed, shows like “Ghost Hunters” are extremely popular, and the notion of using scientific equipment to detect the supernatural is well ingrained into our literature, movies, and culture more generally. The reality is, however, the ghost hunting is a perfect case study in pseudoscience, and it is based on a series of logical fallacies and amusing paradoxes.
ghost ElmerGhost02_350pxMost obviously, ghost hunting (along with related pseudoscientific ventures such as UFO spotting, searches for Big Foot and Nessy, Creation Research, etc.) suffers a serious flaw which automatically removes it from the realm of science. Namely, it starts with a conclusion (i.e., ghosts exist), then tries to prove that conclusion. In contrast, real science always starts with the evidence, then forms a conclusion based on that evidence. This distinction is extremely important, because  if you start with a conclusion, you will inevitably find a way to twist the evidence to fit your preconceived view, even if it results in ad hoc fallacies. For example, suppose that ghost hunters go into an abandoned building and detect electromagnetic energy (EM). They will view that as evidence of a supernatural presence, but to those of us who aren’t already convinced that ghosts exist, that energy could be a bad wire, a faulty transformer outside, the cameras, lights,and other equipment being used by the ghost hunters, etc. You see, the explanation that the energy is coming from a ghost is only convincing if you are already convinced that ghosts exist. This is why real science always has to start with the evidence, then form a conclusion. If you set out to prove something, you will always find a way to do it (at least in your mind).
ghost hunt emf_200pxGhost hunting also suffers a serious paradox which is somewhat unique to it, and which I find highly entertaining. Ghosts are supposed to be paranormal, supernatural, metaphysical, etc. yet ghost hunters try to document their existence by looking for physical clues. This is problematic because, by definition, science is the study of the physical universe. It is inherently incapable of answering questions about the supernatural. So anytime that you are looking for the metaphysical, you are automatically doing pseudoscience, not science.
To put this another way, you cannot prove the existence of the metaphysical by documenting the physical. Let’s say, for example, that a ghost hunter goes  .  .  .

Continue Reading . . .

ghost-hunters

Superbrain Yoga is BS

steven_novellaby via NeuroLogica Blog

Here is the latest fad to make you smarter with one easy trick – Superbrain Yoga. The technique is simple (and worthless, but we’ll get to that).

All you have to do is touch your left hand to your right earlobe, your right hand to your left earlobe, take a deep breath, and do a squat. Who knew it could be so easy to improve your brain function. There are a few more details, helpfully shared by Parenting Special Needs magazine:

– Connect your tongue to your palate.
– Face East
– The left arm must be inside and the right arm must be outside (over the left arm).
– Inhale while squatting down and exhale while standing up.
– You thumbs should be touching the front part of your earlobes, index fingers behind the earlobes.
– Perform the exercise 14-21 times, once or twice a day.

Facing East is very important, because magic.

superbrain-yoga_0450px

When I first heard of Superbrain Yoga I thought it was going to be a neuroscience-based pseudoscience, with some hand-waving explanations about blood flow or something. This one is actually blatantly spiritual magical nonsense.

This practice is based on the principles of subtle energy and ear acupuncture. Basically, SuperBrain Yoga allows energy from your lower chakras–or energy centers–to move up to the forehead and crown chakras. When this happens, this energy is transformed into subtle energy, which is utilized by the brain to enhance its proper functioning.

It’s Eastern mysticism, however, which is a far-off exotic culture, so that makes it OK.

Continue Reading at NeuroLogica Blog – – –

Rumors are that it will be a disastrous week

Source: Doubtful News

end-of-the-world_300pxA Blood Moon prophetic disaster?
The restart of the LHC makes big bang of doom?
Mercury in retrograde? Heaven forfend!
There are all these weird noises too! What does it all mean? The Apocalypse? Well if you buy into tabloids, and religious and conspiracy sites hype (specifically from the WND site), it sounds like the End. But we doubt it. While it may sound sciencey on the surface, such claims are a bunch of pseudoscientific nonsense. So you can stop worrying, really. OK, here’s the reasoning.
End of the world claims are common. Remember, the world was supposed to end in 2011 (twice), in 2012 (multiple dates), 2014, and when Pope Benedict was done with his tenure. See all the dozens of other times that the Apocalypse was predicted. All such predictions failed.
In early September, we told you about reverend John Hagee who was promoting his new book on the end times culminating with the “Blood Moon” concocted scare to happen on September 27-28. As we noted then,
the end is near_225px

  • Prophecy isn’t real.
  • Religion is not science.
  • Hagee is selling a book, encouraging fear to bring people to his brand of religion.
  • There is no natural reason why the end of the world has anything to do with this date.
  • There have been 62 tetrads since the first century, these are natural cycles, nothing special.
A story about the END OF THE WORLD!!! is guaranteed click-bait. Jewish mystics and Christian End Times evangelists promoting this view cite various recent catastrophes (drought, fires, volcanoes and earthquakes), increased murder rates [only in some cities], gay marriage legalization, signs in the sky, and Pope Francis’ visit to the US now as signals of the return of Jesus. Bookies are taking bets; I can’t quite figure how those will pay out.

Continue Reading . . .

Cancer quackery going the distance

by Orac via Respectful Insolence

Don't you wish you could shoot lightning bolds out of your hand, too? Does Emperor Palpatine know about this guy?

Don’t you wish you could shoot lightning bolds out of your hand, too?
Does Emperor Palpatine know about this guy?

You’d think that after all these years combatting quackery and blogging about science in medicine (and, unfortunately, pseudoscience in medicine) it would take a lot to shock me. You’d be right. On the other hand, Even now, 15 years after I discovered quackery in a big way on Usenet and ten years after the inception of this blog, I still have enough hope in humanity that even when I come across men like Jerry Sargeant, a.k.a. The Facilitator I am still capable of utter wonder that someone would advertise something as reprehensible and/or deluded as this. I half wondered if it were performance art, but in reality I don’t think it is. I wanted to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all (and in fact I did), but look at the screenshot from his blog above and the photos on Sargeant’s website. PalpatineWithLightningIt’s as if the dude thinks he’s Doctor Strange, or maybe Harry Potter, or perhaps Gandalf the Grey. I mean, seriously! Emperor Palpatine called, and he wants his lightning bolts back! The guy portrays himself manipulating bolts of electricity, as he makes claims that he can “radically transform your life.”
Of that, I have no doubt, but not in the way Sargeant means. I’m sure patients’ lives are “radically transformed” by wasting huge sums of money on the fantasy magic medicine that is portrayed on that page. Naturally, as is frequently the case for various dubious healers, Sargeant has a “St. Paul on the way to Damascus” moment to relate:
When Jerry Sargeant woke to a loud crash and flying glass in the passenger seat of a taxi cab in Romania, on his way to the airport, he had no idea it would be the birthing process that led him to discover an amazing healing ability.
‘My families safety were all I was thinking about. The taxi was swaying backwards and forwards all over the road. It was crazy. It turned out we had hit two ladies crossing the road and the first lady came through the windscreen, hit me in the head as I was asleep, got sucked back out of the car and landed in the road. I don’t know whether it was the bang in the head or me seeing her soul hovering over her body once I got out of the car that kick started these abilities – maybe it was both’.
This story, of course, tells us very little, other than that Sargeant, assuming he’s telling the truth, was in a cab in Romania when it hit two women. I presume that at least one of them died, given the story about seeing her soul “hovering over her body.” Funny how he doesn’t mention explicitly what happened to them. Did they die? Did they live? Apparently it doesn’t matter; to him they were just a means to his wonderful “powers”! These powers, according to Sargeant, began to manifest  .  .  .

Continue Reading . . .

The ‘Food Babe’: A Taste of Her Own Medicine

Mark Aaron AlsipBy Mark Aaron Alsip via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – CSI

Vani Hari (the “Food Babe”) has built quite a following for herself since her 2011 debut, with nearly one million followers on Facebook and a new book release in February 2015. While Hari’s pseudoscience has been widely debunked by qualified scientists (e.g., Crislip 2013, Gorski 2014), food babe 10a more sobering fact seems to have escaped everyone’s attention: one of America’s most notorious bloggers is earning sales commissions from products that contain the very same ingredients she says are dangerous. Ironically, for a web activist who seems to do most of her research via Google, the evidence is only a few mouse clicks away. In her article “Throw This Out of Your Bathroom Cabinet Immediately,” Hari links aluminum in modern deodorants to horrific diseases such as breast cancer and Alzheimer’s (Hari 2013b). But in that same piece she recommends—and earns an Amazon.com affiliate commission from—Naturally Fresh deodorant, which contains ammonium alum and potassium alum (Naturally Fresh 2015). It’s perplexing that Hari didn’t take one additional step and look up these two compounds while writing her blog. She would have found they’re better known as ammonium aluminum disulfate dodecahydrate and aluminum potassium sulfate (U.S. National Library of Medicine 2015a; 2015b). Yes, after warning about the dangers of aluminum in deodorants, Ms. Hari earns a commission on a deodorant that contains . . . aluminum.
Is this just a one-off mistake, poor research, or the use of scare tactics to sell competing products? You be the judge: In “The Ingredients in Sunscreen Destroying Your Health,” Food Babe warns that applying vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) to your skin and going out in the sun puts one in danger of skin cancer (Hari 2013a). Yet she brings in affiliate dollars on skin care products that contain vitamin A, such as Tarte Blush. Affiliate links on FoodBabe.com lead the buyer to web pages that proudly proclaim retinyl palmitate among the ingredients (Tarte Cosmetics 2015a).
Screen shot from the "Food Babe" Vani Hari's website.

Screen shot from the “Food Babe” Vani Hari’s website.

The vitamin A/skin cancer scare has already been debunked by experts (e.g., Wang et al. 2010), but that’s beside the point. Hari makes the claim that vitamin A in skin care products is dangerous, yet she’s profiting from the sales of such a product.
On that note . . . what does Food Babe recommend in a sunscreen?

Continue Reading – – –

Galvanic Skin Response Pseudoscience

steven_novellaby via Science-Based Medicine

Selling snake oil is all about marketing, which means that a good snake oil product needs to have a great angle or a hook. Popular snake oil hooks include being “natural,” the product of ancient wisdom, or “holistic.”
Perhaps my favorite snake oil marketing ploy, however, is claiming the product represents the latest cutting-edge technology. This invariably leads to humorous sciencey technobabble. med_xray_specs_300pxThere are also recurrent themes to this technobabble, which often involve “energy,” vibrations and frequencies, or scientific concepts poorly understood by the public, such as magnetism and (of course) quantum effects. Historically, even radioactivity was marketed as a cure-all.
One category of technical pseudoscientific snake oil measures some physiological property of the body and then claims that this measurement can be used for diagnosis and determining optimal treatment. For example, machines might measure brain waves, heart rate variability, thermal energy or (the subject of today’s article) the galvanic skin response.
These are all noisy systems – they are highly variable and produce a lot of random results that can be used to give the impression that something meaningful is being measured. Systems that rely on these measurements to make highly specific determinations are no different than phrenology or reading tea leaves, but they look scientific.

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The galvanic skin response

I was recently asked to look into a product called Zyto technology. This is an electronic device that you place your palm on top of so that it can read your “galvanic skin response” (GSR) to specific stimuli. It then uses your responses to prescribe a specific treatment.

The GSR is actually an older term for what is now called electrodermal activity (EDA), which is simply the electrical conductance of your skin (Harriet Hall has written about such devices before). Skin conductance is primarily affected by sweat, as salty water is an excellent conductor. So essentially the machine is measuring how sweaty your palms are.

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