Sunday, December 29, 2013

GMO nonsense retracted

So the headlines last year claiming that a study showed that “rats fed genetically modified corn grew massive tumours” were nonsense all along.

The article originally published in Food and Chemical Toxicology has now been withdrawn. The publishers, Elsevier, issued a statement saying (and I'm paraphrasing) that the researchers hadn't made anything up but they had been guilty of very dodgy science.

As I wrote last year:
Firstly the researchers from the University of Caen in France neglected to mention that this particular strain of rat (“Sprague-Dawley”) get exactly this sort of tumor at the drop of a hat. They’re known to develop these enormous growths when allowed unlimited food or if they develop a hormone imbalance after consuming maize contaminated with a particular common fungus, or even if they are just allowed to live to old age. Whether or not they were given GM food, they would probably have developed the gruesome growths anyway. The researchers neglected to mention this in their report. Suspicious yet?

Then there was the rather selective report the “scientists” gave of their results. Their report only gave the results of SOME of the test groups of rats, other test groups exposed to GM food actually ended up healthier than the control group who had not received any GM food. They also neglected to publish any actual statistics from these groups so we could see the actual results. Suspicious yet?

Then there’s a technical detail. Generally in tests like this, the test group (that receive the thing being tested) is roughly the same size as the control group (the ones that don’t). It makes the mathematics simpler. In this case the test group was four times larger than the control group. Professor Anthony Trewavas from the University of Edinburgh, was quoted by New Scientist magazine, saying “these results are of no value”. Suspicious yet?

Sorry to be picky but consider one other thing. The researchers didn’t allow reporters to seek comments from other scientists about the “findings” until after the report was published. Did they have something to hide? Like bad science?
This is what happens when "scientists" are motivated by an agenda rather than by a desire to establish facts.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Bigots are stupid?

You can't just assume that someone who is bigoted is stupid. But on average they are.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Herd immunity

Janet D. Stemwedel writing in Scientific American on why we have an obligation to vaccinate our children and if we don't want to, then to keep our kids away from others.
"If you’re not willing to do your part for herd immunity, you need to take responsibility for staying out of the herd."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A hilarious "Motivation Workshop" offer

In comes an email advertising a "Motivation Workshop (including Strategic Laughter)".

You can tell quite quickly that it's hogwash when you see the "Outcomes" they promise.
  • Motivates Employees
  • Reduces Stress
  • Team Building
  • Having Balance in your Life
  • Improves Productivity
  • Attitude
  • The Laws of Attraction (The Power of Thought)
  • Numerology (Character Traits we are born with)
The Law of Attraction is New Age nonsense of the highest order. Numerology is Dark Ages claptrap.

It gets even sillier when they start quoting "research" that they claim supports these ridiculous claims. For instance:
"William Fry M.D. a Stanford University Medical School Professor has studied the effects of laughter upon the human body. He says that laughing 100-200 times a day is the cardiovascular equivalent of rowing for ten minutes."
Let's do the maths. If you laugh 200 times in a 16 hour day that means you laugh once every 4.8 minutes. If you do that in MY office I'll call the Police and a doctor. And isn't it simpler just to row for 10 minutes?

Then they claim that:
"Researchers at Indiana State University studied women who laughed out loud to funny films, as compared to those watching a boring tourism video. They found that when samples of Natural Killer immune cells (which attack cancer cells) were mixed with cancer cells, the immune systems of the people who laughed out loud were BOOSTED BY UP TO 40%"
This is nonsense. This is ONE experiment done in 2003 on a sample of 33 women, divided into two groups that showed an decrease in their self-reported levels of stress if they had been amused by a funny film. An experiment that was undertaken ONCE with a tiny sample group that showed that funny films amuse people and make them feel a bit better. And from that we are meant to believe that laughing in the office will make us more productive?

I've no problem with laughter and happiness, clearly they're both good things in and out of the office. But ascribing all these miracles to laughter is hogwash. Utter hogwash.

And if you want to laugh at something? Just laugh at the claims these people make.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The first death threat of 2013

You know you're doing something right when you get a death threat from a "Prophet".

It began when I saw this posting on Facebook:

I commented as follows:

And then asked this, I think rather simple, question:

When no evidence emerged I then commented:

And finally said:

Then my good friend Profit Bushiri got in touch directly:

I think his threat of imminent death is a good illustration of his nature, don't you?


P.S. A colleague and friend asked me yesterday whether I am "anti Christian" and it's important to know that I'm not. I'm an atheist of course and will happily argue with those of a religious disposition, I mean "argue" in the pleasant, friendly way. I was thinking earlier of a former colleague who was a deeply committed Christian and who was, without doubt, one of the BEST people I've ever met. Generous, charitable, tolerant, open-minded and genuinely committed to his friends, family and neighbours, he spent almost all of his spare time with his wife caring for orphans in Joburg without trying to convert them, just because they needed love, sustenance and entertainment. People like him deserve our respect. But the key thing is that if he'd been brought up a Muslim, a Jew, a Hindu, a Rasta or an atheist he still would have been as good as he is. He's just a very good person.

My contempt is reserved for hypocrites, liars and thieves. Unfortunately much of religion is dominated by such people.