The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'pseudoscience'
The Beatles may have helped bring down the USSR, but in the West, they helped usher in an age of endarkenment by making mysticism fashionable and opening the door to an assortment of crackpots and frauds, according to debunker of “alternative medicine” and miscellaneous quackery, Professor David Colquhoun:
At the same time, he hopes that the "fashion for irrationality", which he dates back to the Beatles going to India "when flower power stopped being fun and started being mystical bollocks", may be fading. His abiding hero is Bertrand Russell, and he laces his conversation with favourite quotes, including Russell's maxim that "it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true".Professor Colquhoun has a blog, DC's Improbable Science, in which he debunks things from tabloid cancer scares to alternative therapies; see, for example, his Guide to Magic Medicine, which is handed out to medical students when discussing alternative medicine.
Prince Charles, the future head of state of the UK, has been giving his subjects the benefit of his wisdom again; this time, he has used his royal powers to have medical advice critical of homeopathy removed from the NHS Choices website, or rather diluted to homeopathic proportions, where nothing of substance remains:
Homeopathy, which involves the use of remedies so heavily diluted with water that they no longer contain any active substance, is "rubbish", said chief medical officer Sally Davies in January to the House of Commons science and technology committee. She added that she was "perpetually surprised" that homeopathy was available in some places on the NHS.
But the government's NHS Choices website, which is intended to offer evidence-based information and advice to the public on treatments, does not reflect her view. A draft page that spelled out the scientific implausibility of homeopathic remedies was neutered by Department of Health officials. It is now uncritical, with just links to reports on the lack of evidence.
Mattin's original draft said: "There is no good quality clinical evidence to show that homeopathy is more successful than placebo in the treatment of any condition … Furthermore, if the principles of homeopathy were true it would violate all the existing theories of science that we make use of today; not just our theory of medicine, but also chemistry, biology and physics."I dread to think of the counter-enlightenment Charles III will drag the UK towards when he ultimately becomes king. It is clear that the existing firewalls between Britain's (ostensibly decorative) monarchy and its democratic government are insufficient to contain his meddling even now.
A primer in the rhetoric of pseudoscience advocates in the form of a dialogue about football:
SCENARIO: PERSON 1 (a scientist) is at the bar in a pub. He orders two drinks and a bag of crisps. He takes these and sits down. He is alone, but clearly waiting for someone. PERSON 2 (a stranger) enters. He sits in the vacant seat at PERSON 1's table, uninvited. The following conversation occurs.
PERSON 2: Do you know who the best football team from the Manchester area are?
PERSON 1: Well, I'm not exactly a football fan, but given what I know, it's probably Manchester United.
PERSON 2: Wrong! Open your eyes!
PERSON 1: Sorry, what?
PERSON 2: The best football team in Manchester are the PPs.
PERSON 1: …the what?
PERSON 2: The PPs! It stands for Plough and Potato. It's a pub. They're a brilliant Sunday League side from the Plough and Potato pub, on the outskirts.
Common characteristics of bad books, in this case popular pseudohistory/woo (think The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, Chariots Of The Gods, and anything else conjuring up a sweepingly epic, hitherto hidden and irresistibly compelling secret history of the world out of fragments of anecdote, conjecture and hand-waving:
The Second Characteristic of Bad Books: overenthusiastic prefaces by autodidacts. The front matter in bad books usually includes a preface with the following characteristics: the author has had his eyes suddenly opened to the existence of a mystery in a field in which he is not an expert (although he may be an expert in other fields) and the author has discovered the key to unravelling this mystery, a key that has been overlooked, disregarded or suppressed by experts. The introduction to Gavin Menzies' 1421: The Year China Discovered America (2002) opens with the sentence, "Over ten years ago I stumbled upon an incredible discovery, a clue hidden in an ancient map which, though it did not lead to buried treasure, suggested that the history of the world as it has been known and handed down for centuries would have to be radically revised." Menzies, by the way, is a retired naval officer.
A persistent rhetorical sequence in bad books is "assumption creep". Things described in early chapters as speculation or conjecture soon become likely, and are then taken as established facts. The question "Could the Cathar 'treasure' like the 'treasure' Sauniere discovered, have consisted primarily of a secret? Could that secret have been related in some unimaginable way to something that became known as the Holy Grail?" in chapter two has become by chapter nine "For if the Templars are indeed guardians of the Grail...the Grail existed not only in Arthurian times, but also during the Crusades."
But why do people seem to prefer books peddling snake oil to books peddling antibiotics? My guess is that it is exactly those rhetorical features signalling the books' "badness" that account for their popularity. Copious bibliographies and footnotes provide credentials for the author's gravitas. Breathlessly enthusiastic prefaces and claims of unveiling secrets make the reader look for further exciting revelations; and "outsider" status, somewhat paradoxically, can be taken as evidence of the writer's lack of bias. Assumption creep seems to be understood as the writer's growing confidence in his conclusions rather than as the definitional sleight of hand it actually is. Unfulfilled promises of information-to-come in later chapters move the narrative forward while obscuring weaknesses in data, although half-comparisons and the failure to apply Occam's razor probably ought to be red flags to almost anybody.
With the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan having begun, some Islamic scholars are pushing to replace Greenwich Mean Time with a new standard based on Mecca time, at least in the Islamic world. The scholars assure us that the choice of Mecca as a global meridian has a sound scientific basis:
According to Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian cleric known around the Muslim world for his popular television show "Sharia and Life", Mecca has a greater claim to being the prime meridian because it is "in perfect alignment with the magnetic north."
This claim that the holy city is a "zero magnetism zone" has won support from some Arab scientists like Abdel-Baset al-Sayyed of the Egyptian National Research Centre who says that there is no magnetic force in Mecca.Not surprisingly, these "scientific" claims have not met with universal acceptance. In any case, magnetism or not, it'll be interesting to see whether Mecca Time makes inroads into replacing GMT in the Islamic world. I imagine it'll have an easier time of gaining acceptance than other proposed time standards (such as, say, Swatch's so-called "Internet Time", a weird form of metric time proposed in the 1990s and not actually connected to any internet standards), given that the conversion is merely a matter of adding a few hours.
(via Boing Boing)
A South Korean man calling himself Profesor Kim is facing fraud charges after selling devices that he claimed transformed tapwater into "holy water", having "digitally captured" what it is that makes holy water from Lourdes holy. The devices, of course, did not work.
As absurd as the idea of holy water is (that an almighty deity has specifically blessed a location—a French town or an Indian river or similar—with magical healing properties), the idea of knockoff holy water takes it one step further. Surely in the sort of universe which features omniscient and omnipotent (not to mention judgmental) deities bestowing boons, actually pirating these boons and passing them onto the unworthy would be impossible, or at least ill-advised. But Kim cherry-picks the most convenient bits of two types of universes—the rational, technological one we live in and the mystical, demon-haunted one in which our fates are controlled by ineffable forces and holy water could be considered to work—and mashes them together like P.T. Barnum's mermaid, hoping that his marks don't notice the seams before parting with their cash.
Christopher Hitchens reports on Prince Charles' increasingly ominous anti-science pronouncements, and his even more sinister fellow travellers:
Discussing one of his favorite topics, the "environment," he announced that the main problem arose from a "deep, inner crisis of the soul" and that the "de-souling" of humanity probably went back as far as Galileo. In his view, materialism and consumerism represented an imbalance, "where mechanistic thinking is so predominant," and which "goes back at least to Galileo's assertion that there is nothing in nature but quantity and motion." He described the scientific worldview as an affront to all the world's "sacred traditions." Then for the climax: "As a result, Nature has been completely objectified—She has become an it—and we are persuaded to concentrate on the material aspect of reality that fits within Galileo's scheme."
So this is where all the vapid talk about the "soul" of the universe is actually headed. Once the hard-won principles of reason and science have been discredited, the world will not pass into the hands of credulous herbivores who keep crystals by their sides and swoon over the poems of Khalil Gibran. The "vacuum" will be invaded instead by determined fundamentalists of every stripe who already know the truth by means of revelation and who actually seek real and serious power in the here and now. One thinks of the painstaking, cloud-dispelling labor of British scientists from Isaac Newton to Joseph Priestley to Charles Darwin to Ernest Rutherford to Alan Turing and Francis Crick, much of it built upon the shoulders of Galileo and Copernicus, only to see it casually slandered by a moral and intellectual weakling from the usurping House of Hanover.
New Age terrorists develop homeopathic bomb; terror alert level raised from "lilac" to "purple":
Homeopathic bombs are comprised of 99.9% water but contain the merest trace element of explosive. The solution is then repeatedly diluted so as to leave only the memory of the explosive in the water molecules. According to the laws of homeopathy, the more that the water is diluted, the more powerful the bomb becomes.
‘A homeopathic attack could bring entire cities to a standstill,’ said BBC Security Correspondent, Frank Gardner, ‘Large numbers of people could easily become convinced that they have been killed and hospitals would be unable to cope with the massive influx of the ‘walking suggestible’.’
An aide in Prince Charles's campaign to get homeopathy on the NHS has been arrested on suspicion of fraud and money laundering. Sadly, the fraud charges do not relate to the practice of selling water and claiming that it has medicinal properties, but to an irregularity in the accounts of Prince Charles' "Foundation for Integrated Health":
Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, last year described a detox tincture made by the prince's Duchy Originals company as "outright quackery". Profits from Duchy Originals have helped to fund the foundation. It has also received more than £1m in public funds, mainly from the Department of Health since its launch in 1993, and almost £3m from the Prince's Charities Foundation, which handles his personal giving.Given Prince Charles' willingness to use his clout to stamp his views on the country he was, constitutionally, born to rule over (such as, for example, by using his influence with Arabian royalty to get modernist architects sacked from development projects and replaced by Charles-approved purveyors of traditionalist kitsch), the prospect of the future king's influence diverting any money from Britain's health budget (which, as we know, is not bursting with cash) from, say, underequipped ambulances or cancer drugs to the pockets of hucksters and charlatans is a grim one to contemplate.
In the UK, homeopathy has, until now, been funded by the National Health Service. All of this may change soon, though; a parliamentary committee has delivered a scathing condemnation of homeopathy, and called for all NHS funding to be withdrawn and homeopathic practices to be subjected to the same licensing and regulation as actual effective medical treatments are.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who witnessed the almost farcical nature of the proceedings, with the elite of homeopathy mocked by their own testimony. Peter Fisher, director of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, spewed forth the sort of dialogue that wouldn't look out of place in a Terry Pratchett novel ... The select committee report has brutally inflicted the 21st, 20th and 19th centuries on this 18th century magic ritual, and under inspection it has fallen apart.
Sadly, the criticism is likely to fall on deaf ears. Rather than take the opportunity to reassess their approach, homeopaths are filling blogs and tweets with dark imaginings of vast, Big Pharma-controlled conspiracies against their noble art, painting a vivid picture of the fantasy world that they appear to inhabit. Of course, as Peter Fisher's comments reveal, a grand conspiracy is not neccesary to discredit homeopathy. The most effective way to do that is simply to let a homeopath speak.The report is linked to from here, and doesn't mince words. Prince Charles, an avid supporter of fusty anachronisms including homeopathy, could not be reached for comment.
On 30 January, sceptics in the UK are planning to stage a mass overdose on homeopathic products in protest against the promotion of homeopathy as a remedy:
Sceptics and consumer rights activists will publicly swallow an entire bottle of homeopathic 'pillules' to demonstrate that these 'remedies', prepared according to a long-discredited 18th century ritual, are nothing but sugar pills.
The protest will raise public awareness about the reality of homeopathy, and put further pressure on Boots to live up to its responsibilites as the 'scientist on the high street' and stop selling treatments which do not work.
In South Africa, a group of self-described "electrosensitives" living near a packet radio tower have been demanding that the tower be moved, and claiming that the radio transmissions were causing health problems, including headaches, rashes, insomnia and nausea. Some of the residents reported the health effects subsiding whenever they left the vicinity of the tower, and recurring when they returned, seemingly proving that the tower was the cause of their health problems. The company's claims that the tower emitted less electromagnetic radiation than (less obtrusive-looking) mobile phone cell towers did nothing to sway them. In fact, the residents continued reporting the ill health effects for more than six weeks after the company secretly switched off the transmitter.
At the meeting Van Zyl agreed to turn off the tower with immediate effect to assess whether the health problems described by some of the residents subsided. What Craigavon residents were unaware of is that the tower had already been switched off in early October – six weeks before the November meeting where residents confirmed the continued ailments they experienced.
“At the meeting in mid-November residents claimed that full recovery of skin conditions could take as long as 6 weeks. Yet, the tower was switched off for more than 6 weeks by this time,” said Van Zyl. “At this point it became apparent that the tower can, in no way, be the cause of the symptoms, as it was already switched off for many weeks, yet the residents still saw symptoms that come and go according to their proximity to the area.”It appears that some of the residents were adversely affected by the sight of a large, imposing, potentially radiation-emitting tower, and others swayed by the corroborating evidence of their reactions, became convinced that they were affected as well, triggering an epidemic of psychosomatic illness. In any case, the residents' groups, unswayed by anything as mundane as reason, have vowed to continue their legal action.
eBay bargain of the day: GREAT GIFT WHICH MAKE U FEEL GOOD ALL OVER THE WORLD !. This is, apparently, a prototype for a world-changing invention which has something to do with mobile phones, and can do anything, from detecting volcanic activity to finding gold in the sea to automatically calling the vet when your horse gets swine flu.
The editor-in-chief of a commercial academic journal has resigned after the journal accepted for publication a nonsensical, computer-generated article:
Bentham confirmed receipt of my submission the very next day (January 30, 2009). Nearly four months later, I received a response — the article was accepted. The acceptance letter read:The journal, "The Open Information Science Journal", is published by a company named Bentham, out of an office in a tax-free zone in the United Arab Emirates, and charges authors to publish papers, whilst making the journals freely available. The ostensible difference between this and a vanity publisher is that TOISCIJ ostensibly subjects its submissions to a peer review process, thus ensuring that, for example, a charlatan couldn't burnish their credentials merely by writing a cheque. Unfortunately, it appears that the peer review process seems to resemble the papers sitting in a pile for a few months; consequently, those who have had papers published in the journal have probably wasted US$800 in doing so.
"This is to inform you that your submitted article has been accepted for publication after peer-reviewing process in TOISCIJ. I would be highly grateful to you if you please fill and sign the attached fee form and covering letter and send them back via email as soon as possible to avoid further delay in publication."
The letter was written by a Ms. Sana Mokarram, the Assistant Manager of Publication. She included a fee schedule and confirmation that I would pay US$800, to be sent to a post office box in the SAIF Zone, a tax-free complex in the United Arab Emirates.
The paper in question ("Deconstructing Access Points", by "David Phillips" and "Andrew Kent" of the "Center for Research in Applied Phrenology"), incidentally, may be downloaded here. It contains howlers such as:
Our implementation of our methodology is pseudorandom, wearable, and collaborative. We have not yet implemented the centralized logging facility, as this is the least private component of our method.
Gaussian electromagnetic disturbances in our mobile telephones caused unstable experimental results. Note that vacuum tubes have less jagged effective floppy disk throughput curves than do autogenerated robots.
The Guardian invite people to put questions to alternative health product chain (or perhaps "snake oil peddlers") Neal's Yard Remedies, and get more than they probably bargained for:
"Influenza Ainsworth Homoeopathic Remedy": Your website sells this product. What evidence do you have that this product is of any benefit whatsoever? Did you know people die of flu?
Does your part in the MMR scare make you feel guilty? Do you feel bad when you think of the children who have suffered measles and possibly even had brain damage or died because of the scare which you promote?
Could you please explain how the 'correct homoeopathic remedy' is decided on and describe the qualifications of the people who make these decisions?
I'd also be grateful for a biological definition of 'healing energy' and an indication of where I can find the scientific evidence for its existence.
Finally, would Neal's Yard like to dispute the claim that they are using "sciencey" language in the wrong context to provide a smokescreen of credibility and, some would say unethically, lure people into purchasing "medicines" which are known by the company to be ineffective?
What is the ethical difference betweenThree pages into this, The Graun's moderator chimes in, announcing that Neal's Yard Remedies have decided that they won't be participating in this discussion. (They didn't give a reason; I'm guessing that all those peer-reviewed double-blind tests validating homeopathy are proving harder to track down than they anticipated.) Anyway, in lieu of their reply, here is a transcript of an 2008 interview with their "Medicines Director" Susan Curtis, arguing that their homeopathic "anti-malaria medicine" is legitimate despite the lack of any clinical tests.
a) company x selling "remedies" for which it has no empirical evidence of efficiency, and can lead to the death of adherents in extreme cases, and excusing it with anecdotal evidence from its customers, and
b) company y selling tobacco products, which can lead to severe health problems, challenging any empirical evidence of harm, and justifying its self on the basis of the enjoyment of its customers?
A pub in Barnsley is using a trick borrowed from the Japanese whaling fleet to flout England's indoor smoking ban. The Cutting Edge has set up a "smoking research centre" in a room at the pub, and requires punters wishing to smoke in this room to fill in a survey.
Recently, the media (and not only the tabloids, but the Guardian, the BBC and Reuters, to name a few) was full of headlines suggesting that consuming even small amounts of alcohol would significantly increase one's risk of cancer. Now, Charlie Stross tears that report apart, revealing that the paper in question actually said the opposite, even if its abstract, for some unfathomable reason, didn't:
... there was no dose response between the number of drinks the women consumed and their risk for all cancers. Women drinking no alcohol at all had higher incidences for all cancers than 95% of the drinking women.
The actual incidents of all cancers was 5.7% among the nondrinkers. The cancer incidents were lower among the women drinking up to 15 drinks a week: 5.2% among those consuming ≤2 drinks/week; 5.2% of those drinking 3-6 drinks/week; and 5.3% among those drinking 7-14 drinks a week. [Table 1.]Of course, this leads to the question arises of why the abstract of the report contradicted its actual content, instead presenting a message at odds with it. Charlie suggests that it's not a mistake, but rather the result of Bush-era ideology, in which science receiving federal funding had to echo the official ideological line:
"Alcohol is evil. We know this because it is True. And it's especially bad for women because, well, women shouldn't drink. If you run a study to confirm this belief and the facts don't back you up, the facts are wrong. So tell the public the Truth (alcohol is always evil) and bury the facts; the press won't be able to tell the difference because they're (a) lazy (or overworked, take your pick) and (b) statistically innumerate."
This is pernicious fallout from the way the 2000-2008 Bush administration did business. Their contempt for science was so manifest that distortion and suppression of results that undermined a desired political objective became a routine reflex. If the science doesn't back you up, lie about it or suppress it. That administration may have been shown the door (and replaced by one that so far seems to have a pragmatic respect for facts), but the disease has spread internationally, becoming endemic wherever ideologically motivated politicians who hold their electorate in contempt find themselves seeking a stick to beat the public with.
Members of Glastonbury's New Age community are up in arms about the town's free WiFi network, which they say emits "negative energy", disrupting the flow of chakras and ley lines and causing all sorts of ailments from headaches and dizziness to pneumonia. Some are calling for the network to be dismantled, while others are using this as an opportunity to sell "orgone devices" which work, by means conveniently unknown to boring old straight science, to neutralise the bad vibes:
Matt Todd, who campaigns against EMFs, said that residents had complained that chakras and ley lines are being disrupted. "They believe positive energy flows are being disturbed," he said.
Mr Todd has started building small generators which he believes can neutralise the allegedly-harmful radiation using the principles of orgone science. The pyramid-like machines use quartz crystals, selenite (a clear form of the mineral gypsum), semi-precious lapis lazuli stones, gold leaf and copper coil to absorb and recycle the supposedly-negative energy.One does wonder what happened when Glastonbury was first wired for mains electricity.
A group calling itself Sense About Science, and dedicated to combatting scientific illiteracy, has published its review of scientifically illiterate statements made by celebrities in 2008. There were the usual one might expect (Tom Cruise's views on psychiatry, various others' advocacy of dubious "detox diets" and similar quackery), along with some real humdingers:
Sarah Palin, Mr McCain's running mate, waded into the mire with her dismissal of some government research projects. "Sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not," Ms Palin said. But the geneticist Ellen Solomon takes Ms Palin to task for not understanding the importance of studies into fruit flies, which share roughly half their genes with humans. "They have been used for more than a century to understand how genes work, which has implications in, for example, understanding the ageing process," she said.Mind you, even the stupendously awesome Barack Obama (who, it must be said, has been recruiting sound scientific thinkers to his cabinet) is taken to task for suggesting that there may be a link between MMR vaccines and autism, which, according to Ben Goldacre, has been thoroughly discredited.
The Graun has an article outlining how to write a Hollywood disaster movie:
A lot of the best disasters – asteroids, aliens, earthquakes, tsunamis – have already been taken, sometimes twice, as in the embarrassing simultaneous releases of Armageddon/Deep Impact and Volcano/Dante's Peak. So you'll have to be a bit creative. Pick something unusual: what if gravity started going sideways instead of straight down, say?
In a cave underneath Mount Rushmore, the president should introduce the scientist to a crack team dedicated to fixing the problem – which should turn out to include his attractive ex-wife as well as a droll Englishman. The three of them should come up with a plan to stop the disaster – the more unrealistic the better. A good one in this case would be to have someone jump off the Empire State Building like a diving board in order to activate a nuclear weapon that would destroy the moon and thus reset earth's gravity; anything like that, really. Watching a cable news channel as they discuss who could carry out this dangerous mission, the team sees a report from the devastated New York, where the cat burglar is leaping across sideways skyscrapers to save an old grandmother's life. "By Jove," says the Englishman, "I think we've found our man!"
The cat burglar dives. The scene cuts to outer space as the moon is destroyed. The sun tilts back on its axis, and back on earth gravity swings gradually back to its normal direction. Buildings right themselves and stand up straight again. Foreigners in turbans or Eskimo furs cheer and hug in far-off locations. The scientist reaches out for the hand of his ex-wife. And the little orphan boy runs up to his cat burglar dad for a dramatic hug, the Empire State Building back to normal behind them. He didn't die after all!
Muslim scientists have called for Mecca time to replace Greenwich Mean Time as the international standard. Other than the religious argument (not likely to sway many non-Muslims) and the postcolonial argument, they contend that unlike other longitudes, Mecca's was "in perfect alignment to magnetic north":
He said the English had imposed GMT on the rest of the world by force when Britain was a big colonial power, and it was about time that changed.
A prominent cleric, Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawy, said modern science had at last provided evidence that Mecca was the true centre of the Earth; proof, he said, of the greatness of the Muslim "qibla" - the Arabic word for the direction Muslims turn to when they pray.(Youssef al-Qadarawy? Where have I heard that name before?)
The meeting in Qatar is part of a popular trend in some Muslim societies of seeking to find Koranic precedents for modern science.
Charlie Brooker gets stuck into Brain Gym, a set of alleged brain-enhancing exercises with scant connection to any verifiable reality, which has nonetheless managed to get into the British school system (presumably because the line of bullshit it shills sounds like "fun"):
Brain Gym, y'see, is an "educational kinesiology" programme designed to improve kiddywink performance. It's essentially a series of simple exercises lumbered with names that make you want to steer a barbed wire bus into its creator's face. One manoeuvre, in which you massage the muscles round the jaw, is called the "energy yawn". Another involves activating your "brain buttons" by forming a "C" shape with one hand and pressing it either side of the collarbone while simultaneously touching your stomach with the other hand.
If we mistrust the real world so much that we're prepared to fill the next generation's heads with a load of gibbering crap about "brain buttons", why stop there? Why not spice up maths by telling kids the number five was born in Greece and invented biscuits? Replace history lessons with screenings of the Star Wars trilogy? Teach them how to whistle in French? Let's just issue the kids with blinkers.
Because we, the adults, don't just gleefully pull the wool over our own eyes - we knit permanent blindfolds. We've decided we hate facts. Hate, hate, hate them. Everywhere you look, we're down on our knees, gleefully lapping up neckful after neckful of steaming, cloddish bullshit in all its forms. From crackpot conspiracy theories to fairytale nutritional advice, from alternative medicine to energy yawns - we just can't get enough of that musky, mudlike taste. Brain Gym is just one small tile in an immense and frightening mosaic of fantasy.
It has emerged that L. Ron Hubbard may have lifted parts of Scientology (or at least its title) from a 1934 text. Scientologie: Wissenschaft von der Beschaffenheit und der Tauglichkeit des Wissens ("Science of the Constitution and Usefulness of Knowledge and Knowing"), written by a Dr. A Nordenholz in 1934. Alas, Dr. Nordenholz didn't have the vision to start a religion or establish celebrity centres, and thus vanished into obscurity.
(via Boing Boing)
According to recent research from Bush's America, pornography is not communication but a drug; the technical term for this, according to the California Protective Parents Association, is "erototoxin". The implications of this are that material that induces an erotic response may not be protected under the First Amendment, but may instead come under the jurisdiction of the War On Drugs.
Woolly-headed nonsense about "quantum mechanics" in BBC article about sheep-based random poetry art project. Come on; spraypainting words on the backs of sheep and letting them wander around forming random "poems" is not in any way related to "quantum mechanics". Well, not unless observation of the sheep's locations makes it impossible to measure their velocity or collapses the set of all possible words into one word or something like that, which I gather is not the case. Doesn't the BBC have anyone with a basic grasp of physics looking over their site and weeding out the pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo? (via gimbo)