Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pseudoscience that makes scientists want to pay pseudoscientists a retirement pension

The folks at ion are feeding us more material. Hurrah! This tim, they are mankind things a bit more obvious with "10 Pseudo-Science Theories We'd Like to See Retired Forever" also by Annalee Newitz. Today you get a few spoilers! But please read the article on Io9 (They still seem to be coming from the future, which also means that pseudoscience is still alive and kicking at some non-specific futuristic blog website).

Below are the ten. Sadly many of our favorites are missing, but we are willing to take a scientists pension and retire from our pseudoscientific ways for these gems. We have added our thoughts on the selections, which as you can see, is selected with the scientific rigor of a blogger using a key word search and an ax to grind (what are so many grinding axes and not cutting down trees).

  1. "Toxins" - How does this make #1? Everybody knows that the "toxins" are just the tip of the iceberg for a host of hokum.
  2. Intelligent Design - Oh, oh, pick on our buddy Ken Ham. To top it all off, I.D. is hardly a Pseudoscience  but actually a plot by Karl 'The Atheist" Rove to get George Bush elected. 
  3. Quantum Mysticism - Also known as Quantum Woo, this should have been the top of the list. It is the best of out-there theories. The question is, are our friends at the new age book store both alive and dead before we open the store door and ring the little bell?
  4. Homeopathy - This is a good choice too. Especially since it is modern medicine (invented before surgeons washed their hands, germ theory, or penicillin).
  5. Polygraphy - Ok, maybe it is steaming pie in a field of boy cows, but the criminals don't know that. Polygraphy is the placebo of crime fighting. Imagine Batman giving homeopathic batarangs! 
  6. Baby Genius Programs - This had not occurred to us that someone would put it on their top ten. Yes, perhaps out on a limb unable to hold our weight, but there is a lot of other fruit that is so low hanging, it is in a deep and dark hole in the ground of crazy. Imagine the possibilities of teaching your child to believe in crystal healing or perpetual motion before they are potty trained!
  7. Genetic Memory - Scrapping the barrel! The author is obviously confusing this with reincarnation. Speaking of reincarnation, want to go get a burger?
  8. The Vaccinations and Autism Hoax - First, anti-vaxers don't think it is a hoax and it cannot be classified as a hoax anyway because incompetent doctors are not purposefully lying to us. The politicians... Well, this is another Republican cause like I.D. isn't it? Besides, the anti-vaxer movement is as dead as the people dying from the diseases that are now spreading through the communities that are not vaccinating.
  9. Aliens Built the Ancient World - Everybody knows that aliens didn't build the ancient world. They enslaved the humans to build things like the pyramids and gave us secret knowledge like rope.
  10. Phrenology - Who believes in Phrenology? Sure there are a lot of Phrenology heads at Restoration Hardware, but not one psychic that we have ever met practices this ancient art. The last time we heard it mentioned was on the Three Stooges.
Please comment below on your ideas for the pseudoscientist's toolbox. We need more material for the book and maybe a plot suitable for a movies that Oprah is willing to star in.

10 ideas that psuedoscientists wish you would use more

Here at Boys Book of Pseudoscience, we get great ideas from those silly scientists. Scientists are very fond of telling us about how pseudoscientists are perverting science. Case in point is my new source of ideas to help the budding pseudoscience is Io9.

We just found "10 Scientific Ideas That Scientists Wish You Would Stop Misusing" by Annalee Newitz. No spoilers! Go read the article on Io9 (We come from the future).

More on these 10 gems soon(er or later).  Until then, please comment below on your ideas for the pseudoscientist's toolbox. We need more material for the book and maybe a plot suitable for a movies that Oprah is willing to star in.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Quantum Stupidity

Quantum Holography

I was reminded today of two theories of the brain that burgle from two sciences, quantum theory and holography. Let's start with quantum.

The theory goes that conciseness arrises from quantum computers in our cells. Further the theory goes, not only are we super computers, but also our brain cells talk to each other via quantum entanglement.

Supposedly there are little tubes in our neurons that act as the quantum computers. A quantum computer does the computation by computing all possible answers at once. Sort of cool. Why add 2+2=4 when it is much faster to add all possible numbers and just pick 4. Strange but true.

Here is the problem: Quantum computing is really quantum stupidity. Our wonderful brains do not compute all possible answers and then pick the result that seems true. On the other hand, we do tend to select the first answer which is likely the silly answer.

Eat a cookie or a carrot, what is better? Cookie!

With quantum computing, you should be able to see all possible futures that can result from either the cookie or the carrot. The cookie of course is governed by quantum mechanics and only has mass when the mass is observed–assuming that when not observed, it is a wave–therefore the cookie is does not exist once it passes your nose. Or, as Richard Feynman put it:

“If you think you understand quantum theory, you don't understand Mrs. Field's Cookies.”

Holographic Cookies

The standard process for creating a hologram imprints the light of each part of an object an all parts of the surface of the holographic surface. Combined with a reference beam, the result is that depending on the angle of your view, the diffraction of  In other words, all the information of a 3D object's picture exists within the pieces of the hologram. If you create a hologram of a cookie and then cut out 1/10th of the hologram and you will still see the cookie in the smaller piece. The smaller piece might be a little fuzzier, but it will still look like the cookie.

If the universe is just a hologram, every piece of the hologram has a piece of cookie in it. Again, eating the cookie or not, you always are eating a cookie–even when eating a carrot.

Ipso Facto Delirium

As the facts show, cookies are a) not really here, and b) everywhere in the universe. So, go ahead and eat that cookie and read another book from Deepak Chopra who is fond of both concepts and cookies.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Pseudoscience is on Fire, Run!

If you yell fire in a theater, you're are going to get a lot of folks running for the exits.

If the fire alarm goes off in your building, people will finish their coffee first.

If you are in a temporary building, also known as a 'trailer', and there is a tornado siren, you look around for a second or two to see if you have your car keys and then run like a scared little girl for the nearest tornado shelter.

The key reason for the difference between the three different reactions is the context. Context plays a roll in many aspects of life. Context can also lead to misinterpretations of facts and lead to pseudoscience.

In your office, there is always a drill or false alarm due to poor microwave use. We are used to the fire alarm being a cry of wolf. We also don't expect a modern building to really burn very fast. 

In the safety zone of your workplace, we also don't panic very easily. But think back. The first time a fire alarm went off at a 'new' job when someone overcooked the popcorn, you were ready to run out the door! But I am sure you looked around and saw your calm fellow employees drinking their coffee. Their actions may have felt a little odd, but your heart slowed it's pace. Now for any new alarm, you are just as likely to get a fresh cup of coffee for the trip to your fire safety meeting point or muster station.

Context can backfire. Think New Orleans and the hurricane. Too many calm people mucking about, taking their time to get out of town. Nobody panicking means nobody in a hurry and finding reasons not to go at all. Hurricane warnings are like fire alarms in buildings. There are a lot of false alarms or storms that are not as powerful as the warnings. Plus most are in the safety of their homes, increasing their comfort of literally weathering the storm.

Context is another coping mechanism of our lazy brains. We gauge our need for fight or flight from the group we trust and personal experience. Unless you have almost died in a hurricane you are not going to go running out of town. Most would have stayed except for the need for some compliance to authority. 

Think tribes of people and prairie dogs. In either case the members depend on the skills of the watchful or experienced. Why waste your time looking for a hawk when their are others that will spot it first? Imagine looking for a fires, hawks, or other threats all the time? We can only hold a couple of concepts in out head at one time. Some people need to be looking for and gauging the threats so that the rest of us can get on with the other jobs. 

The police are the prairie dogs that spot the hawk. Your fellow workers sipping coffee as the alarm goes off are also hawk watchers. With the coworkers, they haven't really seen a lot of hawks other than a fire marshal or two, but they are part of the collective watchfulness of the tribe. 

We listen when the ones we trust start raising the alarm. This is as dangerous as the possible problem. Sometimes the people you trust are not trustworthy.

Comfort and experience can short circuit the authority figure. You can imagine that the police are not seen as authorities in New Orleans. Fear of looting may even be the bigger motivator of some. If police are seen as ineffective, believing them about evacuation and trusting them to safeguard your possessions, however meager, will fall on the side of self protection.

Where is the pseudoscience? Hold on, I'm thinking.

Oh yeah, the problem is that yelling fire is the same a yelling global warming or financial meltdown. It does not matter how true it is. What causes you to believe is the context and the authority. 

You will not believe much in global warming if you are watching the Discovery Channel while socked in with six feet of snow. You will believe if you are experiencing 101 degrees in December. Context! 

If you are listening to Al Gore, a reasonably respected man, about global warming, you will believe him. He looks like he did his homework. Unless you are a far right republican, his slide show is compelling.  Al Gore is an authority. His slides are also context as they have elements that remind you of your daily experience. You have also heard this before, so add repetition. 

I am not saying yes or no to global warming. I won't say it is pseudoscience. But there are many arguments and out of context facts for and against global warming that are pseudoscience. Even claims of one side or another is practicing pseudoscience, may be just as much pseudoscience. 

Look carefully to avoid the assumptions and not fall for either the context or the authority. Ask yourself why you think something is believable. Does the context influence you? Does the authority influence you?

Imagine you are in your office with the fire alarm blaring. You are grabbing another cup of coffee for the long wait out in the parking lot. Then you see a fireman run past... Will you head to the parking lot a bit faster than normal? Yep, new context and the authority figure in the fireman's attire.

The final word is that many factors cause us to believe in one thing or another. Fires, hurricanes, and even global warming will form beliefs in your mind that depend on their context and authority.

One more thing. First a warning, if you like to read aloud, do not read this in a theater...


Katie Couric the Antivaxer or Telling both sides is great pseudoscience

Katie Couric is a practicing pseudoscientist. As a former morning show mavin, she certainly has the qualifications. Her topic recently was the HPV vaccine.

HPV is a vaccine that prevents the  human papillomavirus. HPV is credited as a source for cancer in women. It is also one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. So, if you are looking for a candidate of vaccine that could benefit mankind (and of course womankind) HPV vaccine is a good one.

Back to Dr Katie. The topic of her December 4th, 2013 show was on the HPV vaccine and as she promised in her tweet the day before, "We're hoping to tell both sides so parents can make informed decision." Of course, "tell both sides" is our secret code for pseudoscience. Usually, especially when it comes to vaccines, there isn't ever a legitimate "other side" that is worth pitting against science.

Not saying there isn't another side. All vaccines have a risk. You could be allergic to something in the vaccine preparation, like eggs. Your body is of course going to react to the vaccine and your body will learn to recognize and fight against the virus you are being exposed to. These effects are mild an risks very very very low. According to the CDC, "mild side effects included pain where the shot was given, fever, headache, and nausea." Of course, most of these could in fact be nocebo affects because these are common side effects of similar vaccines.

According to Dr Katie's guests, the anecdotal claims include death and other slightly less worse outcomes. These guests were of course highly trained non-doctors. 

Why is this pseudoscience? Simply, the antivaxer claims are non-science. Like on Dr Katie's show, the people that are affected are not statistically significant, except to the ratings of the TV show that they are guests on. Their claims are also usually not exposed to the light of deep examination by experts. Instead, Katie's producers are trolling for the 'other side' of the story and find grieving families that blame the 'establishment' for harm and conspiracy to do harm.

To illustrate what is happening, let's look at aspirin. Did you know that aspirin kills people? That's right! If you take an aspirin, you have a 1 in 6 chance of death by heart attack. Of course, if you don't take aspirin, your odds are also 1 in 6 chance of death by heart attack. That is because we all have a 1 in 6 chance of death by heart attack. This is also known as death by statistics. 

Same goes for vaccines. If we all have a 1 in 6 chance of death by heart attack, the odds are quite high that after getting a vaccine that you die of a heart attack. It is also easy to prove that not getting a vaccine might be the culprit as dead people rarely get vaccinated. Q.E.D. vaccines cause heart attacks. They also cause 1 in 7 to die of cancer and 1 in 160 to die in a car accident. Of course there is a 100% chance that you will die after taking a vaccine because their is no vaccine for death.

The "other side" to vaccines is of course science. Ever since they were first created, they have had a pretty good track record. They have also eliminated or almost eliminated diseases like Polio and Smallpox. Vaccines, to be effective, need to be given to most people. Take for instance, measles. If enough people don't take the vaccine, you easily get an epidemic. It is even worse in Texas where folks don't cotton to being told what to do. At a Texas mega church and surrounding area, there was an outbreak caused by these folks not getting their vaccines. Of course, those that did, did not get measles, though are in eminent danger of slipping and falling in the tub.

Experiment: Cheat Death

Because 1 in 171 people die from falls, you can cheat death. Lie down and stay down. Note: You have a higher chance of death from other sources like diseases caused by a lack of activity.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Scientists Find Gullibility Center

At long last, we have found the Scientists Find Gullibility Center. Guess what, it is in the brain!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Brain wired for creationism?

Brain wired for creationism?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reposting for International Talk Like a Pirate Da

The following is a repost of the last post that has been strung up on the yardarm and translated to Pirate, matey! Translation provided by:

Climate Change verses th' deniers. Evolution "I'll Dance A Jig!" verses creationism an' intelligent design. Why "Empty Hearted French Poodle!" does this have t' be bout denial or scientific understanding? Why be people called salt-blastedly stupid, incompetent, or worse? 

Belief in hooey be just th' tendency fer a social squadron t' hold a common belief even when thar be no verifyable evidence. Ye "Bilge-Sucking Scum!" don't b'lieve in Intelligent Design (ID) cause it makes sense. Ye b'lieve in ID cause your buddies in th' church or Fox News b'lieve it. ID "Hands Orf Me Booty!" came from cognitive dissonance an' a blitheringly little creativity. When "Smoke 'em if yew got 'em, matey!" fairy tales proved too blunderingly difficult t' sell at school board meetings, someth'n had t' give . Smooth sail'n once ye be us'n th' same science speak as th' science squadron. It "Treacherous Grease Wad!" also helps t' vote in your church buckos. Nobody be incompearned people an' salt-blastedly even scientists. They "Blistering Barnacles!" belie 

Why do ye think ye root fer your home town sports team? Why be th' best? Cause it's your team, your town, your people (blunderbustingly even if they were from out o' town an' be paid many more than yee could count t' throw a ball or slap a puck in said town). This "Yo-HO, me hearties!" be our greatest issue wi' pseudoscientific beliefs. They "Somethn's Foul in the Air!" be social an' thus can only be defanged by destroy'n a person's need t' belong t' a social squadron. Cause o' media we have things bigger an' looser than religion. Look "Blow Me Down!" at climate change which creates a debate where people gravitate t' th' side they best identify wi' rather than examin'n th' facts or trust'n a scientist verses other sources. 

Astern "Get My Cat O' Nine Tails!" t' Climate Change an' Evolution. Do ye b'lieve cause o' th' evidence? Or, be it cause ye know a lot o' people that also b'lieve or consider yourself as part o' th' same social group? Ye e'er written a peer reviewed paper on climate change? Odds be ye have just read some articles or maybe heard Al give his talk. Maybe ye be a Democrat? We don't think it be cause ye be an expert. We "Gar, Where can I find a bottle o'rum?" don't just need facts. When "Ye Ugly Old Barnacle!" did we start believ'n th' Earth be lustily round an' revolved 'unseaworthily round th' Sun? Thar be a lot o' socialization an' a few blitheringly dead heretics. Can ye convince someone t' discard a fantasy? Aye, but ye need t' do more than argue facts. 

A "Heave Ho!" deprogrammer be th' best example, though ablunderingly little more mentally violent an application the challenged, nay just th' belief. Deprogramm'n does have its salt-blastedly good points. Th' fact that th' Fly'n Spaghetti Monster doesn't exist be less than th' doctoral priest an' th' henchmen. Easier "Tha Old Sea Dog!" t' poke holes in someth'n blunderbustingly real rather than a belief. This "Ahoy, Me Hearties! " works both ways which be why scientist be demonized by people that b'lieve in demons. Until "I Needs Ya Gold!" th' social squadron can be changed, no argument, no matter how scientific, will sway th' herd. Thar "Parrot Strangling Slops Barrel!" be a tipp'n point that I don't pretend t' understand, but can be s'n wi' th' Copernican Revolution. Sadly "Where's The Grub!" thar be also a revolution in pseudoscience as can be s'n wi' th' resurgence o' fundamentalists an' politics 'unseaworthily round climate change - or be those both politics? Look aloft 'social proof' on wikipedia. Th' problem be that ye need sheep t' make a flock. How do we create sheep that as a squadron don't b'lieve arguments based on logical fallacies?

Be thar an anti-pseudoscience? Arr thar be. Th' "Rotten Friend Of A Gibbet!" proof be that we can say th' Earth revolves 'carbunculously roundth' Sun an' nobody gets tortured. If "Fish Breathed Waster!" ye know th' secret, comment below!