Won’t somebody, please, think of the children? Three weeks ago I received my favourite email of all time, from a science teacher. “I’ve just had to ask a BBC Panorama film crew not to film in my school or in my class because of the bad science they were trying to carry out,” it began, describing in perfect detail the Panorama which aired this week.
Obviously nobody is more worried than I about the hippie crack epidemic: nitrous oxide â€“ better known as laughing gas – has hitthenews, after the death of a man with a plastic bag over his head, and a cannister of the drug connected to himself.
Now, I will never speak ill of the dead, and I feel very sorry for this poor man, but equally we must all take responsibility for our actions. Plastic carrier bags are a vital feature of Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday January 13, 2007
“Science told: hands off gay sheep.” It’s hard to think of a headline more joyous than this classic from the Sunday Times. Apparently a scientist called Professor Charles Roselli is conducting cruel and gruesome experiments on sheep in the name of eradicating homosexuality. Unfortunately this “news” story, co-written by Isabelle Oakeshott – the Deputy Political Editor no less – is little more than dystopian science fiction fantasy, conjured up to drive a pressure group’s agenda.
We’ll open with their big hitter. “The animals’ skulls are cut open and electronic sensors are attached to their brains.” It sounds gruesome. But this was simply – and rather bizarrely – not true. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday January 27, 2007
I’m not a complicated man – as my girlfriend could happily tell you – but I do get a bit worried about these stories I’ve been emailed, where African people say something stupid about the science of Aids and we all laugh at them. To be fair, the facts don’t make it easy for me to be this sanctimonious. The Gambian president, Yahya Jammeh, has just this week disclosed that he can personally cure HIV, Aids and asthma, using charisma, magic and charms. “The cure is a day’s treatment” he says: “asthma, five minutes”. HIV and Aids cases can be treated on Thursdays, and within three days Read the rest of this entry »
This article was massively cut in the paper at the last minute, below is the last version I touched…
Saturday October 14, 2006
Think back into the mists of MMR: in 2002, Professor John O’Leary’s group in Dublin reported finding measles virus in the intestine of children with autism and bowel problems. The anti-MMR movement were almost delerious with Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday August 26th, 2006
What happens if you transplant western ideas like nutritionism, and anti-vaccination panics, into a developing world context? Unfortunately thatâ€™s not a thought experiment. Between 600 and 800 people die every day in South Africa from HIV/AIDS, and their government was roundly criticised at last weeks International AIDS conference in Toronto.
Everyone knows that the South African government is headed by a longstanding denialist of the link between HIV and AIDS, Thabo Mbeki, who held back anti-retroviral treatment for many years; but less well known is the fact that his health minster, Tshabalala-Msimang, is also a staunch advocate for weekend glossy magazine-style nutritionism, an ardent critic of medical drugs, and a close associate of a controversial vitamin salesman.
South Africaâ€™s stand at the conference was described by delegates as the â€œsalad stallâ€, and consisted of some garlic, some beetroot, the African potato, and other vegetable action. Some boxes of Read the rest of this entry »
One of the reasons why people are so scared of science these days is that technology has become more inexplicable, and somehow more “black box”. Fifty years ago, with a bit of practise and a good grounding in school science, you could fix your car and understand how your radio works. You wouldn’t stand a chance these days, but it was not ever thus: Japanese War Tubas, only a few decades ago, were the very pinnacle of Read the rest of this entry »
When I am finally assassinated by an axe-wielding electrosensitive homeopathic anti-vaccine campaigner – and that day surely cannot be far off now – I should like to be remembered, primarily, for my childishness and immaturity. Occasionally, however, I like to write about serious issues. And I don’t just mean the increase in mumps cases from 94 people in 1996 to 43,322 in 2005. No.
[Mmmm uh-oh I’ve just found out the Guardian newsdesk have cut this by 200 words while I was having an afternoon snooze. I can’t bear to look. Anyway, here’s what I wrote…]
MMR is back. “US scientists back autism link to MMR” squealed the Telegraph. “Scientists fear MMR link to autism” roared the Mail. “US study supports claims of MMR link to autism” croaked The Times, a day later.
Strap me to the rocket and print my home address in the paper, I’m going after them again. So what was this frightening new data? Well it’s hard to tell, since it hasn’t been properly published anywhere yet, so you can’t actually read it and Read the rest of this entry »