9.19.2016

Zika: Truth, Rumors and Misconceptions

 

Marvin Recinos-Getty Images

Marvin Recinos-Getty Images

The Zika virus is very serious business, but am I the only person who when they hear the word “Zika” think of the vile tasting clear adult beverage “Zima” that was popular during the wine cooler craze of the 80’s? Perhaps I’m just old.

Be that as it may, one thing is for certain.  For pregnant females, being infected with the Zika virus does  run a serious risk of causing birth defects of very specific types.  Microcephaly, a neurological condition in which the head of an infant is significantly smaller than what is expected of children of the same age and sex, is perhaps the most serious of these.  There is no specific treatment for this condition, but early intervention with speech and occupational therapies may help increase quality of life for the patient. / read more…

9.19.2016

Giving the TV thing another go

It seems a surprising number of years ago now, but a while ago, Skeptoid Media partnered with New Rule Productions to form Skeptologist Partners. We shot a 1-hour TV pilot called The Skeptologists with an all-star cast of the top personalities in scientific skepticism. We had a great agent and partnered with one of TV Land’s top production companies, and got very close to a network deal. But the concept wasn’t quite right. We wanted to be too skeptical, and the networks wanted a paranormal explanation to turn out to be the true one — at least some of the time. That wasn’t the show we brought them, so as close as we got, we never sealed a deal (our slot was ultimately taken by Hairy Bikers, and I wish I was kidding). We went back to the drawing board. / read more…

Far from Bulletproof Science

Like a lot of people in the Western world, I used to be a bit overweight—you know, a spare tire, nothing special. But in one of those classic New Year resolutions last year, I decided enough is enough and started going on a diet. Scientifically backed, of course! / read more…

8.31.2016

Alternative Medicine and the Post-Hoc Rationalization

If you follow me on the Skeptoid blog you’ll find that I take a dim view of complementary and alternative medicine. My opinion is based primarily on a rational evaluation of the research. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), as a whole, is chock full of poor studies, index studies and weak correlational studies. There is a minority of well done positive research that subsequently fails to show any benefits and goes unreplicated. Alternative medicine as a whole has all the failings of an old west medicine show plagued by scam artists and ideologues. Scammers and ideologues use the freedom that discarding the scientific method offers to reinforce an emotional response. This summer, BioMed Central, a peer-reviewed open-access journal, published an overview of alternative medicine treatments and the benefit in getting injured or sick people back to work, undertaken by researchers at Columbia University. This study, titled “Complementary and alternative medicine use and absenteeism among individuals with chronic disease,” was a retrospective correlational review of data collected from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey data. / read more…

Theranos: Marketing Trumps Science

When I first heard of Theranos and its diagnostic testing breakthrough there were no immediate alarm bells or red flags that caused me to look closely. I was impressed. It appeared to be a elegant incremental improvement to diagnostic testing. I assumed, wrongly, that because of high plausibility it was unlikely to be hogwash. For the most part, current diagnostic blood testing is antiquated and long overdue for improvement; it was likely that someone could easily improve the current equipment. In the end it all turned out to be a lie. It’s a good lesson that one should always be skeptical of groundbreaking changes.

/ read more…

8.1.2016

Introducing the Premium edition of the Skeptoid Podcast

Skeptoid is growing!

So we’re changing things around a bit. And when I saw “we” I mean myself (Brian) and Skeptoid Media’s board of directors, for whom I work, strictly speaking. The basic change is that there will now be two editions of the Skeptoid podcast: the free version, which will be ad-supported and will now be limited to the 50 newest shows; and the premium version, always ad-free and provides access to the entire catalog of shows, and is available to all financial supporters of the show at $5/mo or more. Here’s a bit more info on each: / read more…

First-Night Effect: A Well-Known Nuisance for Humans Abroad

Holidays! Time to get away from school or work and leave the daily grind behind oneself when you part on a holiday trip. Sounds great, right?

Sure it does—but there is a catch for many people, including me. I seem to sleep less well when I’m not in my bed. For a couple of months now I’ve tracked my sleep using an app on my smartphone. It gives me a scoring per night, but it also analyzes trends. So for instance, when I’m not at home (checked via GPS), I sleep less well, especially on the first few nights. I travel for family and work reasons, which didn’t make a difference; I lost about 10% of sleep quality overall.

Tossing and turning in a hotel ... you now know that's "FNE"!

Tossing and turning in a hotel? That might be the “First-Night Effect”!

/ read more…

6.30.2016

A Jug of Atomized Aluminum, A Loaf of Ammonium Perchlorate, and Thou Beside Me

This week, I was invited by NASA to join them at a static firing test for the motor to power the SLS (Space Launch System), NASA’s next-generation heavy-lift rocket system, intended for a first flight in 2018. Enjoy this 2-minute video of a great big giant kablooey:

Spoiler: the test was a success. / read more…

Scoring a Goal Just Before the Break: A Myth That Doesn’t Score

The European Football Championship is currently running in France. This has occasioned, of course, multiple self-declared experts and whatnots to discuss various aspects of the game (sometimes called “soccer”): how the players, the fields, or the coach’s tie color might be influential to the match’s outcome.

image by freeimageslive.co.uk - gratuit

Image by freeimageslive.co.uk – gratuit

/ read more…

6.7.2016

Are People Who Swear More Intelligent?

sample2

Found on Facebook, 2016

Recently, I’ve been seeing variations on a meme floating around my social media feeds. The most common version says something to the effect of “Science says that intelligent people swear more than stupid motherfuckers” (see image) or some variation thereof.  The meme is meant to be a counter claim to the conventional belief about swearing that was voiced by so many of our parents, teachers, and religious leaders whenever we mistakenly uttered a shit! in front of them. “Only dumb people swear,” they’d admonish, or “Smart people know better ways to express themselves than by swearing.” If you were a child like me, such comments were met with an internal eye-roll and a quiet note to self to avoid swearing again when Mom was in earshot.

If it were true — if swearing really was a marker of intelligence — then it would be a wonderful vindication of my ten-year-old potty mouth. But if you’re a regular reader of Skeptoid, I’m sure you already see where this is going. / read more…