Dore – The Miracle Cure For Dyslexia

November 4th, 2006 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, brain gym, dore, mail, mirror, references, space | 71 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday November 4, 2006
The Guardian

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 »

Spinning around

March 31st, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, bbc, space, very basic science | 4 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday March 31, 2005
The Guardian

· You know that kid who spoils everyone else’s enjoyment of sci-fi movies by sitting there in his glasses saying things like: “Well I don’t see how that force field can stop those laser beams from getting through because you can still see the spaceship on the other side of it, and they’re both just electromagnetic radiation with very similar wavelengths ie the visual range known to earthlings as light …”? That’s you, that is. And we love you for it.

· So a special geeky thanks goes to Steven Wallbridge for his heads up about some Bad Science that even appeared in the trailers for the new Dr Who. And lo, on Saturday, in the first episode of the new series, after a big long speech banging on about that sudden moment of enlightenment when you’re a kid and you realise that the natural world isn’t quite how it seems on the surface, and how he can feel things moving that we can’t, Dr Who announces with an air of wonder and awe: “The ground beneath our feet … is moving at a thousand miles an hour!”

· Now, putting our spectacles on and preparing for a well-deserved kicking from the other people on the sofa, I can vaguely remember that the Earth is about 8,000 miles across. Multiply that by pi, which is about 3.14, and you get about 25,000 miles for the circumference of the Earth, which just about makes sense when you think about how far away Australia is and stuff like that. Anyway, the Earth rotates through 25,000 miles once in every 24 hours, and that’s what gives us day and night. Isn’t the Bible fascinating? Oh sorry, that wasn’t in the Bible. Anyway, divide 25,000 by 24 and you get 1,041 miles an hour.

· You don’t need to be a Timelord to work that out. Except that Dr Who was in Britain when he said it, and the Earth rotates at different speeds at different latitudes: 1,000mph at the equator, but a whole lot slower than that in Shepherd’s Bush, as the average 14-year-old could have told you. In fact, with a quick bit of trig, I make it around 650mph. If I cocked up, I hope I at least get marks for showing my working out. Reader Steven Wallbridge goes on: “I note that Sylvester McCoy has much enjoyed the new Dr Who, and has reacted happily to a return to its ‘Reithian’ ideals of educating as well as entertaining.” Oh yes. I’d like to be educated about science by a bunch of humanities graduates in the BBC Drama Department, please.

Atomic tomatoes are not the only fruit

December 16th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in africa, alternative medicine, bad science, celebs, channel 4, channel five, cosmetics, dna, express, gillian mckeith, herbal remedies, independent, letters, mail, MMR, nutritionists, oxygen, penises, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, quantum physics, references, space, statistics, telegraph, times, very basic science, water | 9 Comments »

This article is a rough transcript of the most excellent Bad Science Awards 2004 that were held in the Asylum Club on Rathbone St W1, a tiny basement club with a fire safety license for 150. We were expecting 20 people but to general astonishment there were queues down the street, and an unruly crowd who were drunkenly, loudly, and at one point quite violently baying for Gillian McKeith’s blood. Also performing were the excellently frightening and dangerous Disinformation presents “National Grid”, performance terrorism with victorian electrical equipment and rubber gloves, featuring Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor and Guardian Far Out fame.

Thursday December 16, 2004
The Guardian

Ben Goldacre on the gongs nobody wants to win…

Andrew Wakefield prize for preposterous extrapolation from a single unconvincing piece of scientific data

With its place at the kernel of Bad Science reporting in the news media, this was bound to be a hotly contested category. Were there any Read the rest of this entry »

Attack of the killer tomatoes?

October 23rd, 2003 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, nutritionists, space, very basic science | 3 Comments »

Attack of the killer tomatoes?

Ben Goldacre
Thursday October 23, 2003
The Guardian

Talk bad science

· I was excited to hear about the Chinese space programme’s exotic sounding “space breeding” project. In most other nations this means studying how plants grow in space, and producing food for orbiting astronauts: but in China, it means using radiation to breed giant space tomatoes. Seriously. According to Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, China’s Shenzhou manned capsule, launched last November, carried seeds of various vegetables and 30 types of herbal medicine. Scientists from the Space Breeding Research Centre claim that rice seeds returned from space have a 10-15% greater yield but, most excitingly, report on a new strain of tomato, called “Space Tomato No 1”, which can grow to be as heavy as 800 grams. That’s 800 grams each. And China Today says that “in Daxing, a suburban county of Beijing, many farmers have become interested in a new kind of large pepper, which they call “space pepper”. Each space pepper weighs 350 to 500 grams, and has a high vitamin C content. Its yield has increased by some 30% over ordinary peppers, and it has proved to have good marketability. The space pepper was shown on TV not long ago as a symbol of changing Chinese society.

· Chinese scientists, it is reported, explain that these comic book mutations take place because of the radiation in space and the decreased gravity. Meanwhile, western commentators have expressed surprise at all the fuss since you can easily stick a radioactive source next to your seeds without going into space, and, much like nuclear fallout, the vast majority of mutations would be harmful anyway.

· The American Physical Society claim that when they contacted Xinhua they were assured that “in China the radiation effect is always positive, leading to bigger and better vegetables that will revolutionise agriculture”. So maybe if I tip a load of radioactive material on to my testicles in China, I’ll impregnate my girlfriend with giant space babies.

· Meanwhile, more peddlers of the obvious: researchers at Harvard University have found that when beer is cheaper, and readily available in large quantities, students drink more…