Category Archives: Science

Sexy Alternative Medicine

Why waste your money on medical insurance when a new-age dork and a Russian hottie have the answers? Massage your problems away.

A member of my family was recently diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, a condition involving the esophagus, stomach, and diaphragm. He spent two nights in a real hospital where he was examined by actual doctors. He received a blood transfusion and underwent a battery of unpleasant tests. His initial symptoms were¬† severe fatigue and a persistent dry cough. An abnormality in a blood test, found during a routine checkup, is what got the whole process rolling. He was found to be dangerously anemic –his red blood cell count was way too low. He’d been slowly bleeding for months from stomach ulcers caused by the hernia. And his body no longer had enough iron to make up for the loss. He’ll be fine thanks to science-based medicine.

Now, the alternative as found on YouTube: Holding up a person’s arm and poking them in various abdominal locations is somehow supposed to diagnose a hiatal hernia. And a gentle and arousing stomach massage is in some way going to correct it. Most everything the man in the video said about this type of hernia is incorrect. Many of the symptoms associated with hiatal hernias are actually nonspecific and could be caused by more serious conditions like cancer. That’s why my family member had an array of intrusive tests, to check for all the possibilities, and to rule out the worst.

The vagueness of “alternative” medicine lends it perfectly to fraud and disastrous outcomes. All you have to do is perform a useless examination, then provide the patient with a bogus untestable (by alternative means) diagnosis. Finally, recommend an innocuous treatment (like massage) and hand over the bill. You’re done, unless you’ve mistakenly lulled the patient into thinking they have a mild ailment, when in fact they have a deadly disease; then you’re a menace to society.

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Filed under Science, Skepticism

CNN Fails, Yet Again

CNN has put up a poll asking readers if they think time travel will one day be possible. And they qualify the results by stating that “this is not a scientific poll.” And here I was thinking the interns at CNN were all part-time physicists. Boy, do I feel ignorant. For tomorrow’s poll, I suggest the question – Will broadcast news ever recruit talent directly from high-school newspapers? But I’m also left wondering what would have happened if the readers had mistaken it for a ‘real’ scientific poll. Pandemonium, perhaps? I guess we’ll never know.

Will time travel be possible some day?

This is not a scientific poll
No 70% 21922
Yes 30% 9214
Total votes: 31136
This is not a scientific poll

//

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Filed under Science

Flu Vaccination – Free Medical Advice On The Street

I think this is the type of socialized medicine the GOP will accept wholeheartedly, because it’s absolutely free, with no cost to the taxpayer. What better place is there to gain solid medical advice than from the street. Forget those egg-head doctors and their years of training and their access to the greatest data bases of knowledge in the world. I want the dumbo brunette on the corner who passes out pamphlets, and her gibbering throng of morons who can’t help but play to a camera, to determine whether or not I get the flu shot. Would you ask any of these halfwits to do your taxes? I think not.

 

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Filed under Culture Warfare, Science

Dandelion Sex, Or The Lack Thereof

Dandelion (From Wikipedia)

Dandelion (From Wikipedia)

I’ve just finished reading Frogs, Flies, & Dandelions: the making of species by biologist Menno Schilthuizen –an engaging and informative book on species formation. Here’s a little taste of what I learned; it illustrates that genetics isn’t perfect, and evolution is beautifully adaptive.

Historically, the common dandelion, that ubiquitous and irritating weed found in gardens and fields throughout North America and Europe, has been a puzzle to botanists. For a long time, no one was sure how many species existed. In the 1700’s, Carolus Linnaeus said only one; in the 20th century, Scandinavian botanists claimed more than two-thousands existed. But with DNA testing, came the answer. Many dandelions are, in fact, clones. In place of normal sexual reproduction with two sets of chromosomes being divided into sex cells, the ovules and pollen, some dandelions reproduce by parthenogenesis, or virgin birth, because at one point in their history they mutated into having three sets of chromosomes, a number which is sexually indivisible. The mutant dandelions instead produce unfertilized –but still viable– seeds, each with a triple set of chromosomes –in other words, a clone.

What’s most illuminating is that the same mutation has popped up several times. So there are several strains with triple chromosomes, all sexually isolated from one another because they can only reproduce by cloning themselves. But it gets better; the clones still produce pollen, except it is completely sterile. Only in the light of evolution does this sordid asexual tale make sense. Why waste the time and energy producing “irregular pollen” if it’s never going to be used? Perhaps god takes a sadistic pleasure in irritating people’s allergies. Or he’s invested heavily in big pharmaceuticals. If so, I hope he had Bernie Madoff sitting on his nest egg.

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Filed under Biology, Evolution, Science

Watch Out For Bird Brains

I’ve always thought that the observational powers of birds could be harnessed for good or evil. Perhaps the nuthatch republicans would like to place a tiny camera on a yellow-shouldered Amazon parrot’s head to spy on Venezuela’s leader, Hugo Chavez. They’re obsessed with his socialist activities, for some reason. Or the paparazzi would like to use little Tits to spy on bigger tits.

There are so many birds around us on a daily basis, we most often tune out their chatter. What a shame. I’ve noticed over twenty-five bird species in my own backyard while paying a minimum of attention over the years. On any given day there must be at least a dozen. I just hope none of them have been watching me too closely. Sometimes I have their cousins over for dinner.

Check out David Attenborough on YouTube. His series on the Life of Birds is brilliant and educational. The Bowerbirds are my favorite.

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Filed under Biology, Science

The Big Bang: Something From Something

I find that this snippet from the debate between atheist Christopher Hitchens and grouchy Christian, Frank Turek gets me all riled up. (The entire debate can be seen here.) The reason is that author Frank Turek falsely characterizes the Big Bang as “something out of nothing” and as a “state of existence from a state of non-existence”, and Hitchens doesn’t exactly correct him on his bad science. Here in the video we have what Turek says scientists say, and over there somewhere in reality, where creationists don’t want us to look, we have what scientists actually say.

I don’t know about you, but what I’ve heard cosmologists say is that the Big Bang was the expansion of a spacetime singularity –a state of infinite density. A singularity is not nothing; it is very much something. I guess you could say it’s everything.

But Turek slyly conflates the terms creation and design, and jumps between them like a drunken ballet-dancer. But I think they are distinct. Creation can indeed be defined as something from nothing. But design is the planning of something from something else. For example, a ceramic smoking monkey can be designed, but it cannot be constructed, or created, from nothing. A ceramic smoking monkey must be transformed from a raw material which already exists –clay. I can name plenty of designed things, but I cannot think of a single material object that has been created from nothing. All the events in universe are examples of transformation, not creation.

So, the argument of “something out of nothing” is irrelevant to the discussion since no examples can actually be found in nature. The only one Turek could possible point to is the one he’s attempting to prove.

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Filed under Atheism, Christianity, Science

The Universe, Religion, and Radio Signals

If you haven’t heard Paul Harvey or Paul Harvey Jr. on the radio, then I envy you your ignorant bliss, for they both sound like a drunken Jimmy Stewart from the movie Harvey. The father and son “newsmen” do a short, cornball show covering the gamut, from world politics to folksy stories of small town America. The Harvey’s “reporting” style is reminiscent of old-time radio; imagine a man wearing a fedora, with one hand clasped over an ear, speaking into a enormous, chrome plated microphone. During their syndicated broadcast they shift seamlessly from important news stories to sales pitches for delicious buttery spreads to tales of conservative family values. I think Dude Lebowski might say the Harvey’s are out of their element, by about five decades.

Well, Thursday morning I woke up to Paul Harvey Jr. talking complete gobbledygook about the latest astrophysics and why it reestablishes the earth as unique in the universe. Have a listen, at least to the first 3 minutes.

Science texts for four centuries have insisted that the earth is nothing special in the universe“. No. Copernicus’ heliocentric model was just a technical detail about earth’s position in the solar system. It didn’t say anything about its status or importance in the universe. Although, based on a lack of distinguishing features, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that our solar system isn’t particularly special. After all, there are billions of galaxies each with billions of stars, as Carl Sagan might point out. But that’s not going to stop a theist from grasping at straws.

Inexplicable phenomenon“, “Dark energy“, “Dark matter“, “Dark flow“, and “Confounded. Leave it to a gullible fool like Harvey Jr. to invoke the god-of-the- gaps argument; if scientists don’t understand something then it must be supernatural. i.e. I don’t know how David Copperfield did an illusion, therefore it’s must be real magic.

Those dark forces… the infinitely vast reality that exists beyond it [the universe]“. Harvey Jr. thinks dark energy and dark matter exist beyond the universe. I didn’t know science could see that far.

Accepted without question“. Scientists interrogate each other into submission because science is a method of investigation, which cannot be done without asking questions. Religious faith is loyalty to an idea regardless of the evidence. Don’t theists typically balk at Q&A sessions?

The earth alone exists in a cosmic bubble“. Give a layman a little physics and he’ll twist and turn it into an Easter pretzel. It’s Harvey Jr. who exists in a intellectual bubble.

My advice is not to get your science news from giant invisible white rabbits named Harvey or credulous radio personalities.

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Filed under Religion, Science