Friday, December 30, 2011

GRAIL - Almost There

Earlier this year I participated in a NASA Tweetup during the launch of the twin GRAIL probes on their way to the moon.
I blogged about the event here, here, here and here...
Now, after more than three months in flight, the space crafts are getting to their destination. GRAIL-A will be reaching the moon's orbit tomorrow (December 31st) and GRAIL-B will get there on January 1st. What a way to ring in the New Year for the GRAIL team.
Read more about the mission at the NASA site.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 - Summary

2011 was a fun year...
First of all because Andrew Wakefield, the infamous MMR scare "doctor", got taken down after all those years of spreading misinformation, and pure lies. Unfortunately, the results of his dubious work will be felt across the globe for years to come, as we can see when childhood diseases come back in places they should have been gone forever.
2011 also marked the beginning of the presidential elections season in the US, and the "right side" (the Republicans) has a strong bunch of contenders going into the primaries. The problem is that they are not too handy with their brains, using them in ways that make it hard to believe we are members of the same species. James Carville summed it up the best earlier this year, when he said:
As I watch the Republican debates, I realize that we are on the brink of a crazy person running our nation. I sit in front of the television and shudder at the thought of one of these creationism-loving, global-warming-denying, immigration-bashing, Social-Security-cutting, clean-air-hating, mortality-fascinated, Wall-Street-protecting Republicans running my country.

As our national political stage appears to be open to almost anyone, smart, or not, the same seems to be happening locally, where I can see another "America-loving" candidate running for the local school board:
"I do have some concerns about the curriculum," he said. "I would like to do what I can as a School Board member ... to focus on maybe a little bit more of a traditional curriculum." He mentioned specifically social studies lessons, and suggested that International Baccalaureate is "anti-American" and might be replaced.
Ad executive announces bid for Pasco School Board 
Is International Baccalaureate anti-American?

While, it is too early to see what this new candidate brings to the table, I'm always very suspicious when the essence of any political campaign is focused around "patriotism" and flag waving. It usually turns out that there is not much more there to be found. In this case, we'll need to watch Mr. Stevenson's campaign very closely to make sure it's not about taking people's freedoms, instead of guarding them.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wasting Your Tax Dollars In The Name of Science

Our governments on all levels have an incredible ability to waste our tax dollars, especially when ideology and plain stupidity get mixed up. This is exactly what happened with The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which was created out of someone "beliefs" and not a sound science. The center continues to waste our money on studies and alternative therapies that have no basis in reality and keep returning negative results.
It is nice to see that a respected journalist Trine Tsouderos, in a major news outlet such as Chicago Tribune, takes a hard and critical look at the Center:
Thanks to a $374,000 taxpayer-funded grant, we now know that inhaling lemon and lavender scents doesn't do a lot for our ability to heal a wound. With $666,000 in federal research money, scientists examined whether distant prayer could heal AIDS. It could not.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine also helped pay scientists to study whether squirting brewed coffee into someone's intestines can help treat pancreatic cancer (a $406,000 grant) and whether massage makes people with advanced cancer feel better ($1.25 million). The coffee enemas did not help. The massage did.
Federal center pays good money for suspect medicine

This is our tax dollars at work, and while the amount might be insignificant in a large scheme of things, this money would be better used for a real research that could, one day, help someone live a little bit longer. David Gorski of Science-Based Medicine put it nicely:
"We have to be good stewards of public money for science," said Gorski, the cancer researcher. "I don't view NCCAM as being a good steward of our public money at the moment. Even if they are doing rigorous science, they are still looking at incredibly implausible things."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Burzynski Clinic: More Data, Less Confidence

Following up on my last post, and the "uncertainty" about Burzynski's cancer cure, which I expressed in it, I find it refreshing to know that real experts are analyzing the data (or lack of thereof), separating facts and fiction.

Also, it is definitely not wise to try silencing your critics by threatening them, as the Burzynski Clinic attracted more scrutiny and attention than they probably ever wished for.
Orac presents a very in-depth analysis of the "proofs" and data in his excellent article Burzynski The Movie: Hitting you over the head with pseudoscience, just like Burzynski the man, which is a good primer on how to approach this controversy.

Some other articles worth reading:
Stanislaw Burzynski: Bad medicine, a bad movie, and bad P.R.
Burzynski Clinic? Meet the Streisand Effect

There is no conspiracy here, just a general lack of good data and what seems to be pure greed.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Burzynski Clinic: Truth or Fiction

There is an interesting piece of news making its way around the blogosphere: The Burzynski Clinic – Another Crank Tries to Intimidate a Blogger.

First and foremost, I'm appealed that anyone, especially a scientist (and I assume Burzynski wants to call himself that), would resort to intimidating anyone who voices his or her opinion on the Internet, especially when such an opinion is backed by rather solid facts. In case of a scientist, and a medical doctor, who wants to promote modern and possibly radically game changing therapies that could cure cancer, such an intimidation is not only out of place, but it is unthinkable.

I am somehow familiar with Burzynski's claims, even though I have not been following his progress for many years. As a person born and raised in the same country as him, I was "bombarded" with news of his amazing and revolutionary therapies, by the New York City's Polish community grapevine in the early 1990s. At that time it appeared that our war with cancer had just been won, and Burzynski had been the general who'd taken the final stronghold of the enemy. And then, slowly, it faded away. People kept dying of cancer and new, amazing discoveries were made, promising new cures for cancer (vilcacora comes to my mind, which hasn't cured anyone I know so far either).

So, going back to the news, I find it shocking that Burzynski and his people would go after those who question their ideas, data and methods. If you are a real scientist, who has solid data and believes in his or her outcomes, you should publish it, let the peer review scrutinize it, and reap the benefits, if there are any. From my previous experience with this topic, and from some of the more recent articles (The Burzynski Clinic – Another Crank Tries to Intimidate a Blogger, The False Hope of the Burzynski Clinic, Harnessing the generosity of kind-hearted strangers to pay for woo, Stanislaw Burzynski and "Antineoplastons") I remain very skeptical of his claims. I hope Burzynski can change my mind, but I would not bet my life on it.

In the meantime, trying to scare bloggers with some vague legal actions is not the way to win you supporters. It is also very educational to read comments under any of the negative articles on Burzynski's clinic. The "big pharma" conspiracy hounds come out not realizing that the clinic/research institute makes tons of money too.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chickenpox! Parents... Are You Really That Crazy?!

This probably speaks for itself:

The stupidity of some is beyond my understanding.
However, this news item shows how much damage the anti-vaccine movement has done in some circles. The childhood diseases are coming back, kids are really dying, and some parents rather risk their children's lives than give them a simple shot which saves them.

Monday, November 7, 2011

It's Getting Hotter...

Global warming is an issue that has become controversial, not because of the science behind it, but because of politics. More than almost any other issue, it can be used as a litmus test of your political affiliations and beliefs. And yet, like many other scientific problems (take evolution as an example), it is fairly easy to settle, even if the science behind it is complex and difficult to understand. The data supporting the theory that our planet is getting warmer, and that we are largely responsible for it, hes been around for many years. The climate models agreed with observations, yet a small, but vocal minority kept distorting reality, making large portions of our society very confused in the process. This was an orchestrated and very deliberate process, not much different from the efforts of tobacco companies years ago, trying to squelch data showing how bad smoking was for your health (see "Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming").

But data does not lie, no matter what kind of ideological glasses you are sporting.

In a recent study, led by anthropogenic climate change "skeptic" Richard Muller, data collected from over 39,000 measuring stations was re-analyzed again to ensure that some of the "biases" alleged previously were correctly taken into consideration.

The findings are, unfortunately for our children, not good: it's getting warmer and it's getting warmer fast.
While there is always additional research that can add to our current knowledge, this study is just another nail in the coffin of the global warming deniers.

At this point, with all the data available and analyzed, and with 99% of climate scientist agreeing, you have to either be dumb, uneducated, or a hard-core republican (or still watching Hannity of Fox) not be believe.

This illustrated a larger principle: Our world is increasingly complex and the issues we face require more and more expertise to understand. Therefore, always trust the experts, not a single one, but a consensus of many experts, experts in a given field of knowledge. This ensures that you get real, unfiltered knowledge and not some ideological woo-woo, paid by a corporation or a political figure.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Book Review: The Believing Brain

Traveling long distance by plane gives you plenty of time to do some reading and, recently, I was able to get my hands on the latest book from Michael Shermer "The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies - How We Construct Beliefe and Reinforce Them as Thruts".
This is one of those books that take you to the very bottom of an interesting topic. You can read about pseudoscience, alternative medicine, UFOs, strange political views, etc, and you'll find plenty of reasons to see why believing in those things just does not make sense. However, Shermer's book shows how we come to those beliefs, how we cultivate them, seeing ourselves as the most reasonable people on the face of the Earth, and finally how we discard any information that goes contrary to our convictions.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Morality From Religion - Part 3

The heartbreaking stories just keep coming (Morality From Religion and Morality From Religion - Part 2), and you wouldn't t think this could happen in a civilised country like the US.
However, this should serve as a warning, over and over again, that when you loose the ability to think critically and you fall into a world of fantasy, bad things happen.

Monday, October 24, 2011

End of the World - October 21, 2011

Oooops... didn't we have The Armageddon last Friday (at least according to Harold Camping)?

More: Harold Camping, Again, Preps for World’s End
How come we are still here? Or are we...? More to come? We can be sure of that. There will always be someone, who makes money on other people gullibility. There is always 2012...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

R.I.P. Steve Jobs

We will miss the genius, the innovation, the vision! The future would not be the same without him.

Monday, September 26, 2011

GRAIL Tweetup - Geeks in Paradise - The Meeting

NASA knows how important public relations are to an organization funded by tax dollars. They also know and remember how much they had inspired generations of engineers and scientists in the 1950s and 1960s, during the "space race" and the Apollo missions that culminated in the Moon landings.
NASA knows that this enthusiasm has to be rekindled in the nation more preoccupied with reality shows and flaky entertainment, the nation that's slowly loosing its spirit of exploration and reaching for the stars (in this case literally).
Thankfully, NASA also knows that the new social media, like Facebook and Twitter can be used very effectively to spread the news, ideas and enthusiasm across the globe, with very little effort on their side.
That's the idea behind NASA Tweetups, and the GRAIL Tweetup I attended a few weeks ago was the best example of this brilliant idea.
The initial part of the first Tweetup day was filled by a tour of the Kennedy Space Center facilities, with a real insider's look at the operations of the launch teams and various support facilities. The afternoon was filled with presentations and meetings with interesting people connected to the various aspects of the GRAIL mission itself and to the popularization of science and space exploration in general.
While the main theme was the mission itself and its details, the first to speak was NASA administrator Charles Bolden.

Bolden's main message was that of popularization of science and math in American schools. He stressed that the spirit of early space age needs to be rekindled to ensure that America remains relevant in the global technological race, and that we lead the space exploration that had put us on the edge in the first place.

The details of the GRAIL mission were explained with passion by the principal investigator, Maria Zuber.

All of the complex intricacies and information can be found at the mission home page.

After hearing from the United Launch Alliance engineers, and other scientists, we were treated to a brief, but to-the-point lecture by Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium, and one of the greatest advocates of science in popular media today. As he described the GRAIL mission and its main objective of "seeing" into the Moon, by measuring small gravitational anomalies, he steered our attention to one of the main ideas of modern science: our senses can't be trusted, they fail us daily, just because they evolved to do so to make us survive in a complex world. However, science gives us tools to probe the world around us and to see it as it really is: complex, not always agreeing with our expectations and hopes, and yet amazing and beautiful.
The lecture proved yet again that Neil DeGrasse Tyson is a great communicator of science and can keep his audience engaged and interested. Rightly so, he is planning on making a sequel to the groundbreaking Carl Sagan's TV series Cosmos.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dr. Oz - You Have a Degree in Baloney

So, Dr. Oz dropped a bomb on his program, stating that children apple juices have dangerous levels of ARSENIC!!!
It would be scary, except it is not... at least, not as much as he would like to see it to bump his ratings and bring more people to watch his show that mostly peddles unproven, crappy and unresearched (if not plainly crappy) therapies and medical myths.

FDA has something to say about it, and they have some sound science behind:
There is no evidence of any public health risk from drinking these juices. And FDA has been testing them for years.
Here is the consumer update: FDA: Apple Juice is Safe To Drink (make sure to check other links at the bottom of that page).

Also, worth reading:
Letter from FDA to The Dr. Oz Show Regarding Apple Juice and Arsenic (09/09/2011)

Second Letter from the FDA to The Dr. Oz Show Regarding Apple Juice and Arsenic (09/13/2011)

That proves once again that Dr. Oz can't be trusted as a source of any kind of medical advice, not only for his meddling with bogus treatments (Reiki, therapeutic touch), but also for doing crappy research.

UPDATE: Dr. Oz gets shredded to pieces on ABC News: Dr. Besser vs. Dr. Oz: Apple Juice Showdown on ‘GMA’

Dr. Oz is a quack, not to be trusted... plain and simple. He'll do anything to boost his rating and he'll sell you just about anything to accomplish that. I guess he learned well from his mentor.

Quote of the Day

I could not help myself:
As I watch the Republican debates, I realize that we are on the brink of a crazy person running our nation. I sit in front of the television and shudder at the thought of one of these creationism-loving, global-warming-denying, immigration-bashing, Social-Security-cutting, clean-air-hating, mortality-fascinated, Wall-Street-protecting Republicans running my country.

By James Carville

Tagged as "funny", but I'm not so sure about that.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

10 Most Important Vaccines in Human History - Quick Overview

The site Top Online Colleges has a quick, short, and to-the-point overview of the most important vaccines in human history:

10 Most Important Vaccines in Human History

If you like "info in a pill" on this topic, the site gives you a good start.

While we are talking "vaccines", there is a great article on the "Scientific American" portal about 6 Common Misconceptions about the Flu–and Flu Shots. Since the flu season is upon us, it's worth reading as a remainder to protect ourselves.

Monday, September 12, 2011

GRAIL Tweetup - Geeks in Paradise - The Tour

Yes, that's right, last week's GRAIL tweetup was a paradise for geeks, science aficionados and all kinds of "rocket scientists" (including the real ones).
It was a great opportunity to see the workings of NASA and many people involved around every space mission. And NASA delivered, packing the first day of the event with an amazing program.

It started early Wednesday, September 7th, with the event registration in front of the Kennedy Space Center's Visitor Complex:

After a brief, but multiplied by 150 participants, introductions, we were off to a special tour of the facilities.

As this was my first tweetup, I did not realize how good the tour was. I was prepared to visit some of the regular sites, maybe with an extra guide. This part turned out to be much, much better.

First, we were taken the the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Normally, the KSC tour just passes by the gigantic building, but we were taken right to it. As we entered its enormous interior, we could hardly contain our awe: the VAB is big.

So big in fact, that you only realize it when you have something seemingly large inside to compare it to. Like... hmm, I don't know... Space Shuttle Endeavour:

Yes, the real thing...

Our next stop was the press site at the Launch Complex 39, the one used for the Apollo missions (Saturn rockets) and, more recently, for the Space Shuttle launches. We were able to see the press building and the famous launch clock:

After the press site, we were off to see some real rocket launch sites. First on the list was the famous Complex 39, most recently used for the Space Shuttle program:

It was very interesting not only to see it up close, but also to hear some amazing facts about space shuttle launches from our tour guide, who was extremely knowledgeable.
After a quick visit to the Launch Complex 17, which included an overview of the operations by the employees of the United Launch Alliance, and a peek at this bumper sticker that made me very jealous,

we finally arrived at the Launch Complex 41. The main attraction there was a fully stacked Delta II rocket, with GRAIL twin probes on top, ready and mostly fueled for the first launch attempt. We received an in-depth explanation of the actual Delta II stacking process, as well as numerous details on the countdown and launch process. All of them equally fascinating!

Visiting the Launch Complex 41 was the last step of our tour as our buses returned to the KSC's Visitor Complex for an afternoon of meetings with GRAIL mission scientists and other interesting guests. But that's a story for another blog post...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

GRAIL Tweetup Pictures

Before I share the whole, awesome experience of the NASA GRAIL Tweetup, I thought I post some pictures from the event.

The pictures I took can be found on my photo site: Pete's Wicked Photography - NASA GRAIL Tweetup

The organizers had all of the tweetup participants in a nice group photo:

GRAIL Tweetup (201109070005HQ)

The full size version is here.

Friday, September 9, 2011


The GRAIL NASA Tweetup I participated in on September 7th and 8th is going on strong, since the Delta II rocket that's to lift up the two twin probes on their way to the Moon is still sitting on the launch pad at the Complex 17 of the Kennedy Space Center.
Due to mainly weather issues, it did not launch as scheduled on September 8th, nor it did on September 9th.
However, the chances for the upcoming Saturday are much better, so the hope is the probes will finally begin their long voyage to our closest neighbour.
In the meantime, stay tuned for the details of the two day tweetup event, as I gather all my materials and find time to write.

Friday, September 2, 2011

What's The Harm?

Believing in supernatural seems harmless, and most of the time it probably is. However, it can turn ugly, even deadly at times, and our daily tolerance of it makes it possible.
We pass by roadside psychics every day and most of us pay no attention to their shady business, but the harm, usually financial, but sometimes physical, they extend to gullible and needy people is real and can have devastating effects on individuals and families.
As an example, check this story from St. Petersburg Times:
The Florida family claimed to confer with gods, spirits and even Michael the Archangel to cure diseases and break curses, asking for and accepting jewelry, gold coins and luxury cars in return.
Whole story: Fortune-telling Florida family scammed victims out of $40 million, prosecutors charge

Thursday, September 1, 2011

GRAIL!!! Here I come

The details are in and they are awesome...

NASA has some really cool things in store for their GRAIL Tweetup participants next week.

Here is their press release: NASA Invites 150 Lucky Twitter Followers to Launch of Lunar Spacecraft

Holy Grail!!!

NASA is planning an interesting mission that's lifting off in a week or so, called GRAIL which stands for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory.

More details (very technical) can be found in the presentation: GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory), on the NASA Portal, and on the GRAIL mission site.

The fun part for me is that I was lucky enough to be picked for a NASA Tweetup for the mission launch and for some additional PR activities.

An interesting and fun part of the mission is a public and educational outreach from NASA, called the MoonKAM, which will allow students request pictures of specific spots on the Moon for further discussion in the classroom. Very cool!

I will be twitting and blogging next week about the Tweetup and all the related activities if everything goes well and as planned. More to come...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Musings

A few interesting links popped up today on my radar.

The first one is the challenge issued by JREF (The James Randi Educational Foundation) to the psychics who took part in a recent Nightline TV program about psychic celebrities. As always, they BS-ed their way around the gullible, showing no real "powers". And we all know they are not showing up to claim the prize (as Sylvia Browne never did), because they know they don't have any special psychic powers, just the power to scam some people out of their money.
But to win $1 million, you better have the real deal psychic power in your back pocket. Participants must prove their worth on randomly chosen strangers in controlled environments, two conditions that take all the fun—and likelihood—out of pocketing people's money.
I like what JREF says:
“James Van Praagh and Allison DuBois have turned the huckster art of ‘cold reading' into a multi-million-dollar industry, preying on families' deepest fears and regrets,” he says in a statement announcing the challenge. “They should be embarrassed by the transparent performances.”

More from Time: Calling All Psychics: Prove Your Worth for $1 Million

Now, on to the second one... the scary prospect of an dumb a#$ running this country after the next presidential elections:
...the odds are that one of these years the world’s greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges — environmental, economic, and more — that’s a terrifying prospect.
Republicans Against Science

I think Paul Krugman's analysis is dead-on. The disconnect from reality that is not only rampant and accepted, but that has become a virtue on the American right (a.k.a. G.O.P.) is frightening and could lead us into a future that's bleak. And when we get there, no amount of prayer will help us.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Vaccines Cleared - Yet Again... And Again...

Here we go again. Another, very comprehensive study finds that the MMR vaccine does not bring any significant risks, especially that it does not increase a risk of autism in children.
“The M.M.R. vaccine doesn’t cause autism, and the evidence is overwhelming that it doesn’t,” Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton, the chairwoman of the panel, assembled by the Institute of Medicine, said in an interview. She was referring to a combination against measles, mumps and rubella that has long been a focus of concern from some parents’ groups.
Yet, the crazy crowd screams again:
“I think this report says that the science is inadequate, and yet we’re giving more and more vaccines to our kids, and we really don’t know what their safety profile is,” Ms. Bernard said. “I think that’s alarming.”
It's not alarming. The question has been answered and that horse is dead!!! We need to stop wasting money on studying problems that have been answered long time ago and spend our resources on research that can actually help us.

Read more: Vaccine Cleared Again as Autism Culprit

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dumb Politicians

It appears that a large portion of our society here in the USA tends to prefer and vote for not-so-bright politicians. The current flock of the right wing candidates for the highest office in the land is the best example of this frightening trend.
Sarah Palin is a poster child of this group, but the rest of them are not better at all, and don't get me even started on Christine "I'm not a witch" O'Donnell.
The scary thing is that they are a legitimate candidates in this country, where, apparently stupidity rules.
It is always encouraging to see that someone is bringing up this issue openly in the media, without sugarcoating:
In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today’s Republican Party ‘in spite of’ is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory. Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.
The whole article can be found here, and I have nothing but highest respect for Richard Dawkins for calling it what it is: stupidity and willful ignorance.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What Is Chiropractic?

Check out this great comic from Darryl Cunningham about history and principles of chiropractic:
Here is the beta version of my strip on chiropractic therapy. It's a little rough and will need proofreading from those of you with eyes sharper than mine. All comments welcome.
See the comic strip here: Chiropractic

It's interesting and worth looking at, because most of the people I know think chiropractic is just a form of massage and spine manipulation, very similar to physical therapy. However, physical therapy is based on real science, studies and knowledge of human anatomy, and chiropractic is, well... mostly unscientific wishful thinking and semi-magical approach to healing. Such is the case with most (if not all) of "alternative medicine".

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Homeopathy - Bullying Again

I do not like homeopathy. I made it clear a number of times on this blog. I don't like it because homeopathy is pure magic, wishful thinking at its best. There is nothing but sugar (or water) in those homeopathic mixtures, since by simple math there can't be anything there at all.
Worst of all, people pay real money for this nonsense and put their trust in individuals and companies that sell them nothing but fake hope.
It is sad to see when companies that make homeopathic products (read: sugar pills), threaten those who are willing to expose them with aptly named "corporate legal thuggery". Such is the case with Boiron, a company which was nicely exposed in a CBC documentary earlier this year. They complained about the TV documentary, hoping to shut up the media; now they seem to be going after a lonely blogger:

Homoeopathy multinational Boiron threatens amateur Italian blogger

A letter sent by the Italian arm of multinational company Boiron, threatening to sue an amateur blogger over remarks he made about homoeopathy, has sparked a strong internet reaction in defence of freedom of speech.

Samuele Riva posted two articles on his blog, , on 13 and 27 July,which included pictures of Boiron’s blockbuster homoeopathic product Oscillococcinum, marketed as a remedy against flu symptoms. The pictures were accompanied by captions, which joked about the total absence of any active molecules in homoeopathic preparations.
More can be found here: Homeopathic Thuggery

In order to sell this stuff, you have to be either one:
- pretty clueless on how homeopathy works (or doesn't), or
- scamming people into believing that it works

I wonder which one it is in case of Boiron?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Morality From Religion?

It's heartbreaking, but unfortunately true way too often.
This is what happens when you stop thinking for yourself and let your imagination take over your brain:

You can't argue that religion and morality go together and you need one to have another. The video speaks for itself.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Vaccines Save Lives

As we watch terrible tragedy unfolding in Somalia, it is important to notice how simple things could save thousands of children. I was watching CNN's report last night and it struck me how many times Sanjay Gupta repeated the simple statement: so many of the dying children could be saved by vaccines. His report, along with some other ones, can be found here:

Burying a child: A mother's unending grief

Misery in world's largest refugee camp

Saving Ahmed from starvation

Finally, there are many places, where we can all help, listed here: Famine in East Africa: How you can help

The Bill and Mellinda Gates Foundation is also a great place to see how we can all help, as they have been trying to spread the news that vaccines are simple and effective way to save thousands, especially in the developing countries.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dinosaur World: Science of Fiction?

I was going over my daily reading list and found an interesting piece of information pointed out by PZ Myers on his Pharyngula blog:
You can imagine how some people who had no idea felt; they'd been reading the articles to their kids, who are enthusiastic about dinosaurs, and suddenly, boom, they discover that the authors are idiots. And idiots with a religious agenda. There is nothing about any of this nonsense in their About page; similarly, Wikipedia and none of the other reviews on the web mention that this is a creationist attraction. Sneaky!

Since my son has been to this place with his school at least once (it was a while ago, but still), I felt I needed to do some quick research. I do want to make sure that he gets the best education possible, and not some one's ideological version of how the World goes around.
The announcement from July 25th seems to be gone from their Web site, or I just can't locate it. Browsing around, most of the information appears to be factual to a layman in a field of paleontology, like myself. However, poking deeper and downloading some of the educational materials for parents and teachers, I did find it interesting that you can't find any information about how old all those dinosaurs are. The only exception, where I actually saw a date was from the Kentucky Field Trip Curriculum, which states:
One exhibit in the museum is of a fossilized turtle. Turtles are the oldest living group of reptiles, first appearing about 200 million years ago. The first known turtles appeared on Earth in the late Triassic Period, so they are older than many of the well known great dinosaurs! Turtles have evolved into more than 250 species, including about 180 species of freshwater turtles, 60 species of tortoises, and 8 species of sea turtles, with new species still being discovered.
This was also the only place I could find the word "evolved", but maybe I did not look hard enough. There is plenty of "adaptation", and "change", but "evolution" seems to be absent in most of the materials.
However, in the same document I also found this little tidbit:
There are many theories regarding why dinosaurs became extinct. One includes a catastrophic event such as a meteor or a flood that would have instantly changed the world.
A flood? I do not remember that theory, but maybe I have to brush up on my paleontology.

Finally, in "A TEACHER’S GUIDE TO DINOSAUR WORLD", the last paragraph states:
Dinosaur World hosts field trips for groups of homeschoolers and students from church schools that teach a literal interpretation of the biblical account of creation. The informative plaques in the park present general facts about the dinosaurs. There are very few “millions of years ago” references.
For more information about creation science, see Science Partners (consultants for home-school and other education programs)
So, in my opinion, this place is NOT about teaching, but about business, and business only. They are trying to make sure that everyone is happy, without pretending it is real science. I wonder how they reconcile facts with "very few references" to the real time scales. It is probably a good place to skip when you driving by on I-4 in Florida (or any of their other locations). Much better to head down to MOSI in Tampa, where you and your kids will most likely get the real science and facts behind our natural world.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Science? We Don't Need No Stinking Science...

... says Jonathan Saenz of the Liberty Institute:
“We don’t need some liberal California group coming into Texas telling us how to do our science and our teaching when they have their own problems.”

Continue reading: SMU professor: Science doesn’t choose between Christians and non-believers

Fortunately, this battle ended well for Texas (and the rest of us in the U.S.), but we need to keep an eye on the crazy ones, as they tend to pop up all over the place. We have our own fair share in Florida.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thanks Sue Carlton

It's nice to see some brains put to good use in this day and age.
A few days ago I wrote about our local teabaggers getting upset at some poor manatees, so it makes me feel much better when I can report that they are getting some well deserved ridicule (the teabaggers, not the manatees) in the press:
And can't you just see the bumper sticker already?

Read it all, and laugh:  Pass the tea and stop the manatee insanity!

As Thomas Jefferson once said:
Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tea Party Against Reason

We all know that the Tea Party does not have the highest intellectual standards for its agenda, or its members. No matter how hard you try to look intelligent, at the end it comes down to: "Stupid is as Stupid does".
When it happens in my own backyard I would just laugh, except that it is scary to know those people want to run the country.
As St. Petersburg Times is reporting:
A Citrus County tea party group has announced that it's fighting new restrictions on boating and other human activities in Kings Bay that have been proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"We cannot elevate nature above people," explained Edna Mattos, 63, leader of the Citrus County Tea Party Patriots, in an interview. "That's against the Bible and the Bill of Rights."
More: Tea party members tackle a new issue: manatees

If you want to fight for issues you believe in, use some brains, come up with some reasonable (and factual) explanations. The Bible does not cut it!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Slump

It's summer time and vacation time for me at the same time. Blogging gets pushed down low on my priority list, but there is some interesting news around.
You can feel the election cycle coming back in the U.S., and with it all the stupidity of some of the candidates for the highest office in the nation in 2012.
Sara Palin has been giving us a steady stream of her brilliant views for a while now, but we have a new contender to the throne: Michele Bachmann. Before even announcing officially her bid for the 2012 presidential elections, she gave us this:
"I support intelligent design," Bachmann told reporters in New Orleans following her speech to the Republican Leadership Conference. "What I support is putting all science on the table and then letting students decide. I don't think it's a good idea for government to come down on one side of scientific issue or another, when there is reasonable doubt on both sides."
See more on CNN: Bachmann: Schools should teach intelligent design

Good start Michele. You are correct. The government should not be deciding on scientific issues. Intelligent Design was put firmly in the realm of religion long time ago, and as such should remain in religion classes, not in public schools' science classes. I think Dover gave us an excellent explanation for that.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Education in Florida: Where Are We Heading?

Is this where our education in Florida is heading, under the brilliant leadership of our current governor?
Eight days and $399 in cash later, at the school's Doral "campus" — a cramped third-floor office next door to US Lubricant LLC and across the hall from a hair extensions company — I was grinning widely, accepting a framed diploma and an official transcript sporting a 3.41 GPA.

More here: We don't need no education: How to get a diploma in eight days for $399 and here: Doral school awards dubious diplomas

Not only one has to watch out for fake college diplomas (or worthless ones from various Bible colleges), but now we have to be careful with high school graduates too??? Crazy!!!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Homeopathy - Purveyors of Magic Complain

A while ago (January) I saw a great TV program on homeopathy that aired on the Canadian CBC station. I wrote about it in the Homeopathy on CBC post.
I'm no friend to homeopathy, not only because it is basically magic and wishful thinking, but also because it scams real people out of real money and, what's far worse, it gives them false hope that does not materialize at the end.
A few years ago, I had a personal brush with a homeopathic practitioner, who offered her services to a friend of mine. The diagnosis was laughable, the outcome was predictable (no help), and the price tag was very high.
So, today, browsing the Web, I found out that there were complaints from the proponents of homeopathy after the CBC piece aired. I'm not surprised, as this is a typical strategy of the alt-med crowd. It is also great to see that CBC reviewed the complaints, performed their own, internal "investigation" and found the report sound, well balanced and fair. Maybe it's high time to admit that homeopathy is just magic (or scam if you prefer to see it that way).

Thanks to Neurologica Blog for the news.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

2000 Years... Still Counting

So, we got lucky last Saturday, but don't fear, the wackos have a backup date: October 21st, 2011:
"We've always said October 21 was the day," Camping said during his show. "The only thing we didn't understand was the spirituality of May 21. We're seeing this as a spiritual thing happening rather than a physical thing happening. The timing, the structure, the proofs, none of that has changed at all."

More: Preacher now says end of the world will happen in 5 months

I bet there will be enough crazies, who will not only pour more money into this enterprise, but they'll completely destroy their own lives. This is the best example of what can happen when you don't keep the distance from cults... Like someone smart said: "2000 years of any day now..."

Friday, May 20, 2011

What Are Your Plans For Tomorrow?

May 21st is almost here, but the real question for tomorrow is "which local party to pick: The Best Damned Party, or The Left Behind Party?"...

If you want your daily dose of news high tomorrow, make sure you check for the latest unusual and violent weather, and the Unites States Geological Survey for earthquake activity.

Have a great Saturday... let's wait for 2012.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The End of the World: A Better Perspective

Here is a much better take on the upcoming "end of the world" from Richard Dawkins:
However it happens, the end of the world will be a parochial little affair, unnoticed in the universe at large. The end of the universe itself is a matter of current debate among physicists, a debate that I recommend as providing a salutary, long-term, humbling perspective on human preoccupations and follies.
More: Science explains the end of the world

I tend to agree with Dawkins. We are probably on the way to do away with ourselves nicely, as we have more and more power in our hands, with less and less reason to guide us. Let's hope he's wrong on this one.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pack Your Bags: The End Is Near

Hooray! This "no-good", sinful, third rock from the Sun, is about to be done with!
The end is almost here. As a matter of fact, it's only a bit more than a week away: the World will end on May 21st (or at least it will begin to end). This is what a bunch of real nutcases from the Family Radio claim.
They even got a story on CNN (Road trip to 'doomsday') and MSNBC (Billboards Announcing Doomsday Pop Up On Triad Highways).
The reasons for this date are "convincing":
1. Exactly 7000 years from Noah's Flood (May 21, 4999 BC). I wonder if they took all the calendar changes into consideration?
2. Some really weird anniversary of Creation. Play with the numbers enough and you can get any date you wish for.
3. Even more elaborate math connected to Jesus' death (April 1st??? Really???).
Info above from: Why the world might end next Saturday (

I guess it's time to pack our bags... If I don't blog after May 21, you know were I am... otherwise we'll all continue to have fun (for another six months at least).

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Power of Good Science Reporting

A couple of years ago Chicago Tribune science reporter Trine Tsouderos published an excellent article titled "'Miracle drug' called junk science". Without going into details (read the article, it's excellent), it profiled a duo of "doctors" (Mark Geier and his son David), who went into business of treating autism with a very dangerous and unproven therapy. In a nutshell, it was an example of multi-million dollar businesses built around the "autism community", which feed on mis-information, rumors and unscientific notions about autism's causes and its treatments.
It's good to see when excellent science reporting pays off and helps bring down another source of bad medicine, this one having potential to cause real harm to children. As Chicago Tribune is reporting now, Dr. Mark Geier has had his medical license suspended.
We can only hope that this will send a clear message, not so much to the purveyors of such nonsense (they will always try to make a quick profit), but to the parents, who would be better off pursuing real and proven therapies, instead of wasting their precious resources on stuffing someone's pockets.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why I Do Not Watch Dr. Oz

Why? Reason #1: It's on when I'm still at work. However, I would not watch this quack even if his show were in prime time. That leads to...
Reason #2: He's a quack, promotes nonsense, unrelated (or even worse, contradictory) to the current medical knowledge, and in my opinion is a disgrace to the medical profession. If you ask me, he should be stripped of the M.D. title. At least he would not be going around, pretending to be a doctor and disposing dubious advice (faith healing/reiki, anyone?).
I'm no medical expert, but I want to be able to trust one. That's why I expect those titles to mean something. When I need to see a doctor and get his or her advice, I do not have time to do extensive research on their medical opinions. I have to trust that they follow established facts and current research, not some out-of-this-world fad that just happens to sell well at the moment.
Dr. Oz is the negation of science and reason. He promotes what sells and makes his TV show look good. He can do it as much as he wants, but should not be allowed to do it as a doctor.
Interestingly enough, I might make an exception and DVR his show on Tuesday, April 26. Why? Because he will have Steven Novella (from The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast). As Orac suggests, the editing might change the actual message, but it's good to know that a hard-core skeptic is invited into the "devil's lair".
It should be interesting to watch.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day to all... enjoy it while it's still here:

Connerton Preserve - Florida

See my Gallery for more...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Andrew Wakefield: A Hero?

New York Times has a good article about Andrew Wakefiled, the man behind the MMR vaccine scare 13 years ago, and the main cause of the current anti-vaxx movement, failing vaccine rates and returning preventable diseases.

The Crash and Burn of an Autism Guru

Most of the details are fairly well known, but what strikes me the most in the article is the real face of the anti-vaxxers. From my own experience, I saw people almost religiously following convictions that had no base in reality, but who refused to change their minds no matter what arguments were presented to them. If your arguments were too logical and irrefutable, they would turn to ad hominem attacks (either on myself, doctors, "big pharma", the government, take your pick).
Now, check the article:
She narrowed her eyes when she learned that a writer from The New York Times was there to write about Wakefield.

“Be nice to him,” she said, “or we will hurt you.”
or this:
“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.”
Such is the anti-vax movement: irrational, "religious", and unconvinced despite mountains of evidence.

Friday, April 8, 2011

More On Anti-Vaccine Outcomes

Following my recent post about Seth Mnookin's excellent book "The Panic Virus", and the news about pertussis outbreak in Virginia, here is Mnookin's comment about the outbreak:

Today’s lesson: “Alternative” Virginia school closes after half of its students infected with pertussis. All of them were unvaccinated.

The school's administrator said:
“Many of the families and staff at our school understand that some people choose not to vaccinate their children. We’re not requiring that they do.”

What a way to "protect" your students!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pasco Schools: More Money Wasted

Why do those religious organizations insist on wasting those precious dollars that our local schools so lack?
A Christian group wants to attract more kids to the after-school Bible study programs it runs at several Pasco elementary schools.

But when the Child Evangelism Fellowship Suncoast Chapter asked to send fliers home with every student, school officials balked.
So the fellowship group has called in the Liberty Counsel, a nationally recognized legal organization specializing in religious rights, to push for access.
Story: Liberty Counsel demands Pasco schools distribute fliers for religious clubs

It is so simple: public schools should not be involved with ANY religion. Pick just one, start promoting it, and you are asking for trouble. It all looks rosy when your own religion being promoted, but what if we pick the wrong one: not yours? Isn't it better to just stay away from it all?
It seems like over and over, the religious ones push their agenda and then complain we all don't want to follow them, threatening our schools with lawsuits. Terrible!!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Don't Vaccinate - Make Your Children Suffer

Interesting piece of news on what can happen when you don't vaccinate your children:
A whooping cough outbreak hitting more than half (23 of 45) their pupils has led to the closure of that small private school for a week. The local Health Care Director unambiguously stated that lack of vaccinations caused this outbreak and that the children who were affected were unvaccinated (7 adult contacts also got the disease).
Read more: Pertussis closes Waldorf-based private school in VA

Monday, April 4, 2011

Reading List

It's been a while since my last book related post, but that does not mean I haven't done my regular share of reading. Therefore, it is high time to present some of my 2011, 1st quarter recommendations.
Since we are just getting into April, and April is Autism Awareness Month, the first set of books is related to that topic. Unfortunately, for little more than a decade, autism goes hand in hand with vaccines, especially in the eye of the public. After much good news from the rational side of the "debate" last year, we saw more of the same at the beginning of this year, with the series of articles by Brian Deer in the British Medical Journal.
I mentioned those two books earlier, but now after actually reading both of them, I can safely recommend them.
The first one is Paul Offit's "Deadly Choices":

This is like getting your info from the very best source. Dr Offit's earlier books on the topic were as informative as this one is, and now we have the latest info included. He traces the history of the anti-vax movement in this and other countries, from its beginnings in the mid 19th Century to the latest Wakefield scam-induced craze. He also presents all the scientific, research-based facts about all the possible problems our society (and especially our children) would face, if we failed to contain the unreasonable and plain crazy arguments for the anti-vax side.
A logical follow-up to Offit's book is another one that came out almost at the same time: Seth Mnookin's "The Panic Virus".

While, some of the information in this book is similar to what's covered in the previous one, Mnookin, in addition to showing the history of the anti-vax movement, goes with much more details into specifics of the current autism/vaccine connection controversy and the associated social movements in the USA. It is very informative to see how various "parent" organizations that start off as grassroots movements, end up being a part of much greater industry, industry that makes millions every year selling unproven, costly, and sometimes deadly "medical" interventions. Another part is the "litigation" industry: law firms, lawyers, corrupt scientists, witnesses-for-hire and parents (some of them with good intentions), who are willing to make up facts and research in order to make money trying to prove the links that never existed. It is also heartbreaking to see how parents of autistic children are manipulated and given false hopes, just to drive this multi-million scam.

There is another angle to Mnookin's book that I find fascinating. Ever time I speak with someone about the alternative medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, etc, one of the main arguments in their arsenal is the "big pharma" making all the cash from us, pushing the traditional medical treatments, vs. good, alternative modalities and practitioners just caring about our well being. It takes some skillful research, like Mnookin's, to untangle the web of connections in the world of "alternative" autism research and treatments. The parallels are obvious and difficult to miss. The alt-med world is in it for profit as much as the big pharma is, the difference is they do not have to worry about anyone controlling them and they don't have to prove that any of their claims actually work.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oh, No... Could This Be Our Next President?

Hours after declaring Sunday that he expects to be running for president within a month, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he's worried the United States could be “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists,” in the foreseeable future, according to Politico.
Thanks CNN: Gingrich fears 'atheist country ... dominated by radical Islamists'

I certainly hope NOT!
The "dumb" is strong with this one. Unfortunately, such is the case with most of the Republicans nowadays. I fear that no matter who runs in 2012, there will be no choice but to vote against the "lightheaded" ones, instead of actually voting for someone well qualified to be our next fearless leader.
How do you get an "atheist" country, dominated by Islamists? Last time I checked, being an Islamist implied not only being religious, but it meant being CRAZY religious, pretty much at the same level as being an Evangelical Christian in this country. Nice going Mr. Gingrich. You have just proven that you will say anything, no matter how dumb it is, just to get elected. Fear mongering and simple FUD seem to be your political strategy.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Traditional Medicine - Read and Weep

If you are a proponent of some "natural", traditional medicine, if you prefer "natural" cures from what can be produced in a lab, read the article below:

Asian Bear Bile Remedies: Traditional Medicine or Barbarism?

I hope you are as outraged as I am. This is exactly why there should never be a "what's the harm" mentality when dealing with those traditional modalities.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Here We Go Again: Mr. Wise - Not So Wise After All

Yes, he is an embarasment to our state again:
"Why do we still have apes if we came from them?" Wise, a retired educator, said during the interview with the Tampa radio station. "And those are the kind of questions kids need to ask themselves. You know, 'how did we get here?' And, you know, there's more than one theory on this thing. And the theory is evolution, the other one is intelligent design."
More conservative Legislature considers evolution bill

Not so wise and an embarasment to all educators as well. Let's hope the educators of today are wiser, and let's hope this bill dies quickly and we do not have to see another Dover and all the money wasted.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The End Is Near

Almost here...
Judgment Day is coming on May 21. On that day, people who will be saved will be raptured up to heaven. The rest will endure exactly 153 days of death and horror before the world ends on October 21. That message is splashed across their five sleek, vinyl-wrapped RVs, bearing this promise: "The Bible guarantees it!"
Anyone has any money to "invest" with me until then? You will not need it anyway, and you probably can't get raptured with any "earthly" possessions anyway!

More: Road trip to the end of the world

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

More On Vaccines (of course)

The last two months flooded us with good news about vaccines. Good, because after many years of sitting on the fence between science and anti-vaxxers, the mainstream media finally started to realize where the real information and truth is, and began reporting on this issue the way it should have for years. Maybe some of the recent outbreaks of measles or pertussis helped and made everyone realize where we are heading if we don't stop the nonsense anti-vaxxers have been feeding us.

Recently, I found a few good articles discussing this issue on the Time portal, following the Supreme Court decision in the Bruesewitz v. Wyeth case:

Bruesewitz v. Wyeth: What the Supreme Court Decision Means for Vaccines

and their follow up with Dr Paul Offit:

The Dangers of the Antivaccine Movement

However, there is another, potential issue here, an issue that has been overshadowed by the purely scientific debate of the "safe vs. harmful" that we've grown accustomed to. The other issue is: can/should the government mandate vaccines? You can probably tell pretty easily where I and my convictions are. We live in an increasingly "packed" and interactive society. I do feel that individual rights are the most important and should be guarded vigorously. However, there are cases where those individual rights can and do interfere with common good. Common good not so much as some vague communal idea, but with individual rights of others. In case of vaccines the decision is rather simple. The scientific evidence is overwhelming: the harm is minimal (almost zero), the benefits are huge and there is simply no excuse not to vaccinate. It is a requirement of being part of, and reaping benefits of, modern society.
On this topic, The New York Times has an interesting article:

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Vaccines

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mr. Gates, Don't Apologize

I wrote about Bill Gates publicly scorching anti-vaxxers a few weeks ago: Good Going Mr. Gates.
Now, the loons are coming out, trying to make him "apologize" for what he said (as pointed out by Orac).
I hope he will not!
He was 100% correct in his statement (let's post it here again for emphasis):
Well, Dr. Wakefield has been shown to have used absolutely fraudulent data. He had a financial interest in some lawsuits, he created a fake paper, the journal allowed it to run. All the other studies were done, showed no connection whatsoever again and again and again. So it's an absolute lie that has killed thousands of kids. Because the mothers who heard that lie, many of them didn't have their kids take either pertussis or measles vaccine, and their children are dead today. And so the people who go and engage in those anti-vaccine efforts -- you know, they, they kill children. It's a very sad thing, because these vaccines are important.
The truth stings and the anti-vaxxers know it. Spreading nonsense, discredited, false ideas and misinformation does kill, and in this case it kills children.

Stand firm Mr. Gates!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Homeopathy: Put Up Or Shut Up

James Randi has a challenge:
James Randi launched a bold challenge Saturday that aims to debunk so-called homeopathic drugs. The fraud-busting magician even offered $1 million to any manufacturer who could prove they work as directed.
Read more: James Randi's challenge and the search for science in homeopathy

Let's see if they'll do as Sylvia Brown has been doing for years: "I would take the challenge, but I can't seem to figure out how to get in touch with James Randi."
I would not bet they are even going to try.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ph.D. In Magic

Nice... now, you can get your Ph.D. in magic... water magic that is, as in homeopathy:

The American Medical College of Homeopathy's (AMCofH) new four-year doctoral program is the first of its kind in the country and will provide the most comprehensive homeopathic medical training in North America.
Read the whole: Homeopathy College: Now You Can Get a Doctorate in Homeopathic Medicine

While it's not a big deal when one crank gives another crank a stamp of approval, adding letters after your name makes it look legit to some people, especially when those letters resemble real, scientific titles.
How does a regular person, during a regular conversation, distinguish between someone who went to a real college, got a real graduate and post-graduate degree, and can be (to some extend) trusted as an expert is his or her field, from someone who get a degree from this place:
AMCofH first opened its doors in 1998 as the Desert Institute of Classical Homeopathy. It achieved non-profit status in 1999, first obtained Arizona State licensure in 2000, and changed its name to the American Medical College of Homeopathy in 2006. AMCofH first obtained Arizona State licensure for its full-time program in 2007, and its new four-year doctoral program is provisionally licensed by the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education.
Even worse, when you get somebody with letters "Ph.D" after their name on TV, nobody will be able to tell the difference. Instantly, as their "graduates" go out into the world, we'll get some "experts" who specialize in magic. The future is bright indeed... oops, it actually green:
There are a number of contemporary homeopathic medical colleges and hospitals in various countries around the world, including Canada, India, the United Kingdom, and other European countries. Although the U.S. lags behind this trend toward embracing greener forms of medical training and practice, it is very encouraging to see headway being made on this front.
It's good to see we are following the "best" out there.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Good Going Mr. Gates

It's nice to see more and more of the truth coming out. Especially that when someone like Bill Gates says it, the world takes notice:
Well, Dr. Wakefield has been shown to have used absolutely fraudulent data. He had a financial interest in some lawsuits, he created a fake paper, the journal allowed it to run. All the other studies were done, showed no connection whatsoever again and again and again. So it's an absolute lie that has killed thousands of kids. Because the mothers who heard that lie, many of them didn't have their kids take either pertussis or measles vaccine, and their children are dead today. And so the people who go and engage in those anti-vaccine efforts -- you know, they, they kill children. It's a very sad thing, because these vaccines are important.
More: Bill Gates: Vaccine-autism link 'an absolute lie'

Strong words, but so true.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Anti-vaxxers: Is This The Best You Can Produce?

Whoa... 2011 so far is really all about vaccines. First, there was a whole series of excellent articles in the British Medical Journal on how the whole MMR/vaccines/autism scare was really a big, elaborate fraud by A. Wakefield and a bunch of lawyers, all to make some money (but that was not really a news for most of the educated world).

There are also two outstanding books on the topic that came out in January:


and now, the "debate" is heating up... sort of. There is really nothing credible and intelligent that the anti-vax loonies can come up with at this time. After numerous studies, all around the world, tons of research, thousands of scientists looking into this, and finally more and more data coming in that autism is mostly genetic, the issue is settled. Yet, the wacos are still at it, spreading misinformation, scaring parents, and possibly causing more pain, suffering, and possibly even death. This time, they created another "list", signed mostly by people who have no expertise in immunology, or even medical sciences (take some chiropractors and homeopaths), who say "no" to vaccines. I'm sure this will spread somehow in the Web, going from one mailbox to another, from one mom/dad to the next, causing more confusion.

That's why it is so important to squish this concoction of garbage and stupidity as soon as possible.
There is nobody better to perform this task than Orac:
Upon reading the statement, I was actually surprised by it. No, I wasn't surprised by what it said. Rather, I was surprised at how transparently pathetic it was. The claims made on it were either really easily refuted or trivially true but meaningless.
The whole dissection: The clueless cite the ignorant to argue against vaccines

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dr. Offit on Colbert

Dr. Paul Offit was on The Colbert Report last night:

Interesting conversation (as always) from a great mind.

I already went through his book and I'll write about it shortly.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Homeopathy on CBC

Great documentary on homeopathy from Canadian CBC:

CBC Marketplace - Homeopathy: Cure or Con? Part 1 of 2


CBC Marketplace - Homeopathy: Cure or Con? Part 2 of 2

If you still buy and use them... well, there is no excuse for your brains anymore. Unless you believe in magic and witchcraft.

Want to have some laughs, check my post here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

BMJ Articles - The Links

I just wanted to post links to the original articles from British Medical Journal (BMJ) about Andrew Wakefield fraud. I think it is extremely important to read them and realize how fake news can be manufactured and that nothing and no one can be trusted without verification. That's where peer review and the self-correcting nature of science comes in.

Part 1: How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed

Part 2: How the vaccine crisis was meant to make money

BMJ Editorial: Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent

In a related story, an interview with Seth Mnookin on, about his new book "The Panic Virus" (next on my reading list):

Behind the vaccine panic

and also, removes the dumbest, full of errors article from five years ago:

Correcting our record

Yes... that article that was written by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (yet another example that your social status does not make up for brains) and also published by Rolling Stone magazine. Let's see how they are going to "fix" their credibility.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Call for Prosecution

It's good to hear that someone is calling things as they are in the mainstream media:
Finally, after 13 years of needless controversy, the British Medical Journal determined that Andrew Wakefield's vaccine-autism link constituted an "elaborate fraud."

Having already lost his medical license in the UK for unethical professional conduct, it is now time for him to be prosecuted.
I could not agree more. While, as the author pointed out, prosecuting scientists should not be undertaken lightly, this case is all about fraud, not about a scientist trying to uncover new truths. This is not prosecution of ideas, this is, pure and simple, prosecution of a crook, who designed an elaborate scheme to make money, without considering all of those he was hurting in the process.

Read more: Vaccine-autism researcher should be prosecuted

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gotta Love This - To Vaccinate Or Not

This piece of audio from an Australian radio show has been making its way around the blogosphere, and it's priceless!!!

It's about time for the mainstream media to step in and tell how it really is:

To Vaccinate or Not

It's about time to stop giving the loonies time and place to vent their egos and woo-woo that has no backing in science and research. This anti-vax misinformation has been killing children all over the world and it's time to stop it! It's great to see that journalists are stepping up to the plate.

A few places to go for info:
1. Immunize For Good
2. Science Based Medicine Blog: Vaccines
3. Every Child by Two

Research, research, research... but make sure you pick your experts wisely (Jenny McCarthy, with her Google U degree does not count).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jenny is at it Again

Our favorite Google University-trained, health professional, Jenny McCarthy is at it again, spewing nonsense and false information in her latest contribution to human science at (surprise! surprise!) HuffPo:
For some reason, parents aren't being told that this "new" information about Dr. Wakefield isn't a medical report, but merely the allegations of a single British journalist named Brian Deer. Why does one journalist's accusations against Dr. Wakefield now mean the vaccine-autism debate is over?

In the Vaccine-Autism Debate, What Can Parents Believe?

Maybe the debate is over, because nobody else has been able to repeat what Wakefield did in his "study"? Maybe because numerous other studies did not find any connection between vaccines and autism. Ooops, I was wrong! Jenny does not actually include any false information in her blog post. She does not include ANY information, and her strongest argument is:
This debate won't end because of one dubious reporter's allegations. I have never met stronger women than the moms of children with autism. Last week, this hoopla made us a little stronger, and even more determined to fight for the truth about what's happening to our kids.
I don't really see any good argument there...

Power Balance... and Others

If you sport one of those "fancy" looking bracelets, it'd better be for fashion, not some other, health-related reason:
The Australian manufacturer of Power Balance, the wildly popular rubbery bracelets embedded with holograms claimed to somehow adjust the body’s energy or vibrations, has admitted that there is no proof their product works.

Read more: Power Balance Maker Admits Bands Are Worthless

I actually saw them at a few gas stations along the I75 corridor last week, and just yesterday I noticed a rather lengthy commercial on the Weather Channel for a similar product here in the US from a company called iRenew, with an extensive use of the video of people being thrown out of balance without the bracelet, and standing still with it. Same old trick, and no essence. Don't get fooled! They are pricey for a piece of rubber. One must wonder, how a piece of crap like that would help you "live life to its fullest"?