Thursday May 15, 2003
Talk about bad science
Â· A reader reminds me of the classic tale of Nathan Zohner, a teenager from Eagle Rock Junior High in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He, the story goes, interviewed 50 people about their opinions on stricter control of the dangerous chemical “dihydrogen monoxide”. And he had plenty of good reasons: it can cause excessive sweating or vomiting; it is a major component in acid rain; it can cause severe burns in its gaseous state; accidental inhalation can kill you; it contributes to erosion; it decreases the effectiveness of car brakes; and it has been found in the tumours of terminal cancer patients. After all that, it’s no wonder 43 out of 50 people supported a ban of the chemical, and good luck to them: dihydrogen monoxide, or H2O, is more commonly known as water.
Â· Tim Blackwell writes in to tell us about EnergeticMatrix, who have taken new age moron-fleecing to new heights with their e-dispenser programme which “works like an electronic medicine cabinet”, producing irritating flashing fractal patterns and bleepy noises, which frankly gave me a headache. You provide a hair sample or Polaroid picture for analysis on their “electro kinesiological reaction plate”. Somehow “powerful treatments” made up of “medicinal information, color, sound, frequency and geometry” are tailored “to the healing needs of the individual”. They say: “We must recalibrate our notions of what is possible in terms of alternative therapies when using this powerful new instrument.” But then if EnergeticMatrix can get Â£3,500 out of people for it then anything is possible.
Â· Calling all Steves: the National Centre for Science Education in America has concocted an excellent retort to those creationist lists of “scientists who doubt evolution”. After receiving too many emails asking if they could produce a list of scientists who do believe in evolution, they flinched, and decided to honour the late great Stephen Jay Gould by producing one consisting entirely of scientists called Steve. Or Stephan. Or Stephany if you’re a woman. Or Etienne if you’re French. The link is coming very soon…
Â· It was clash of the pop science titans again this week, as newsdesks around the world struggled to interpret a simple American Psychological Association press release. “Personality continues to change after 30,” announced the Washington Post. “Personality traits stick for life,” countered the Australian.