Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 28 May 2011
If you can tear yourself away from Ryan Giggs’ penis for just one moment, I have a different censorship story.
Newsnight do Brain Gym, and Paxman interviews the man who invented it.
Saturday February 16 2008
As time passes, largely against my will, I have become a student of nonsense. More importantly, I’ve become interested in why some forms of nonsense can lucratively persist, where others quietly fail. Brain Gym continues to produce more email than almost any other subject: usually it is from teachers, eager to defend the practice, but also from children, astonished at the sheer stupidity of what they are being taught.
As you will remember, Brain Gym is a set of perfectly good fun exercise break ideas for kids, which costs a packet and comes attached to a bizarre and entirely bogus pseudoscientific explanatory framework. They tell you to rub either side of your breast bone, in a special Brain Gym way called Brain Buttons: “This exercise stimulates the flow of oxygen-carrying blood through the carotid arteries to the brain to awaken it and increase concentration and relaxation. Brain buttons lie directly over and stimulate the carotid arteries.” Through your ribcage. Without using scissors. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday November 4, 2006
Wouldn’t it be great if there really was an expensive proprietary cure for dyslexia? Oh hang on, there is: paint tycoon Wynford Dore has developed one, with NASA space technology. It’s only £1700, it has celebrity endorsements, it involves some special exercises, but it has been proven with experts. “A revolutionary drug-free dyslexia remedy has been hailed a wonder cure by experts,” said the Mirror on Monday, in fact. And in the Mail: “Millions of people with dyslexia have been given hope by a set of simple exercises that experts say can cure the disorder.”
This most recent wave of publicity was prompted by a paper on Dore’s miracle cure published in the academic journal Dyslexia. The story of why they should publish such a flawed study is, perhaps, for another day. But what Read the rest of this entry »
Some of you will notice I’ve just gone into stealth mode briefly on a couple of previous articles. Shhh, there is no cause for alarm, more fun to come.
In the meantime, here is a Brain Gym article in The Guardian, by someone who’s not me.
Mercifully it’s critical. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday March 25, 2006
Nothing prepared me for the outpouring of jaw-dropping stupidity that vomited forth from teachers when I wrote about Brain Gym last week. To recap: Brain Gym is an incredibly popular technique, in at least hundreds of British state schools, promoted all over government websites, and with Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday March 18, 2006
While all the proper grown up public intellectuals like Rod Liddle were getting a bee in their bonnet about Creationism being taught in a handful of British schools, I’ve accidentally stumbled upon a vast empire of pseudoscience being peddled in hundreds of everyday state schools up and down the country.
I’ll lower you in gently. It’s called Brain Gym, and it’s a string of very Read the rest of this entry »
I wonder if anybody remembers Brain Gym? I wrote about them a couple of times in 2003 (links below). They’re a strange bunch who seem to get into lots of UK state schools at the taxpayers expense, where they share pearls of wisdom such as: â€œFocus is the ability to coordinate the back and front areas of the brainâ€¦Centering is the ability to coordinate the top and Read the rest of this entry »
Alternative medicine on the NHS?
Thursday February 12, 2004
Â· Well, last week’s chemicals with rude names certainly tapped a rich seam. There are some species names that Carl Linnaeus would have been proud of. So, it’s hard to imagine the story behind how we ended up with a leiodid beetle “Colon rectum”, let alone the scarab “Enema pan”. Linnaeus himself named a pink-flowered butterfly pea “Clitoria mariana”, presumably after a special friend, as well as calling a stinkhorn “Phallus”. Someone somewhere is a big fan of the Sex Pistols, as well as trilobytes, calling a group of them Arcticalymene viciousi, A rotteni, A jonesi, A cooki & A matlocki, Agra vation (beetle), Lalapa lusa (tiphiid wasp), and back to the 80s with Aha ha (sphecid wasp). Whoever said scientists were boring?
Â· Meanwhile, the Sunday Express continues fearlessly to rewrite the science books. “Disogenine is an element,” Hilary Douglas says, “that can be turned into cortisone, oestrogen, or progesterone.” You can get it from dried yams. Bear with me. Synthetic chemicals, apparently, are “invasive”, not half as good for you as “natural” progesterone, which she seems to imagine your body could distinguish from the effectively identical progesterone in HRT pills. Vegetables are “very alkali”, which is apparently a good thing because acid sounds bad, I guess. Apparently, these “very alkali” vegetables will have some kind of beneficial effect on the movement of calcium across bone cell membrane. Oestrogen will weaken bones, rather than the other way round…and why do I care? Because this newspaper hangs its lead editorial, demanding funding for expensive alternative therapies on the NHS, on this meandering litany of half-truths and fantastical misunderstandings. The day that serious government health policy is influenced by such works of fantasy…Blair guru Carole Caplin in the Mail on Sunday continues her campaign against EU plans to force alternative therapy peddlers to put proper ingredients labels on its products and get licences for the dangerous ones. Be afraid.
Â· But, the smiling face of a cheeky kid shines like a ray of sunshine into these dark days: “I’d like to submit the revision advice of my teacher. She claims that because the brain works by transmitting electricity through water, drinking more water will improve mental performance.” Sounds like those www.braingym.org pseudoscientists are taking in gullible teachers again. The joy of science: you don’t have to be big to be clever.
Setting up camp in the healing field
Thursday July 3, 2003
Â· Doing a New Age Bad Science Glastonbury Special is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. Which is not to say I’ve had a change of heart: within five minutes of entering the Healing Field last weekend, I was handed a copy of the “Avalon Rising” leaflet. Pay close attention: “Celtic in your DNA? Cutting edge information has established the possibility that a substrand in our DNA connects us through the energy grid to one of 12 sacred sites, stargates or electromagnetic vortexes to enable the vibrational rate of Mother Earth to be energetically stabilised. Glastonbury is one such site. Its guardians are the time travelling grail lines of Celtic/Gaelic Britain: you!” Pseudoscientists everywhere, please note how easy it is to come across like a white hippy racial supremacist when you splash around with big words you don’t understand.
Â· Brain Gym has struck a chord with many of you since we covered it last month. You might remember the jargon-heavy “educational kinesiologists” from California, with no peer-reviewed data to back up their grand claims for improving academic performance, who were being employed at considerable expense by UK local education authorities. I was moaning that teachers should be teaching our children how to spot this kind of pseudoscience, rather than peddling it. So I was heartened to receive frontline reports from science teachers of the fun they have teasing Brain Gym tutors visiting their schools.
Â· One was told that after watching telly your brain goes to sleep for eight hours: “Very precise about that, she was. But don’t worry, as long as you sit with your ankles crossed and make a funny shape with your hands this will ‘protect you from the electro-magnetic rays’. She was even kind enough to post me the handouts detailing the Pace [positive-active-clear-energetic] which ‘increases and balances electrical energy to the neocortex _ allowing reason rather than reaction (choice)’ and ‘increases polarity across cell membranes for more efficient thought processing’,” our source reports. My favourite exercise is Brain Buttons: “While holding the navel area with one hand, rub with the thumb and finger of other on hollow areas just below the collar bone on each side of the sternum.” Why? Because, you heartless cynics, “buttons above carotid artery supply fresh oxygenated blood to brain, helps lung/brain function … and brings attention to gravitational centre of body.”