6.14.2015

Quick Skeptoid News: 18-Month Old Dies When Parents Refuse To “Use Chemicals”

Thanks to “the Skeptical Beard” for bringing attention to this story.

An 18-Month Old girl in Pennsylvania died after what was likely a painful final couple weeks. The girl was brought to a local ER in cardiac arrest and later pronounced dead. The cause of death was “streptococcus pneumoniae meningitis” which originated as an ear infection. When the parents arrived at the ER, they told the nurse they had been treating her fever, headache, and earache with homeopathic and herbal treatments, because they didn’t believe in using “chemicals.”

If anyone asks why I react so strongly to stories of people using homeopathy, essential oils, or any other nonsense, especially on kids, I can just point them to this story as an example.

Read more at the Rocket Courier website.

Via Quackwatch, more quotes from the parents.

 

6.9.2015

The Truth About Waco Biker Shooting Truthers

May 17, 2015 saw a tense but regularly scheduled meeting at a Waco restaurant between members of rival motorcycle clubs the Bandidos, the Cossacks and smaller support clubs explode into a bloody shootout. When it was all over, nine people had been killed, 18 others shot and hundreds arrested, held on one million dollars bail each. The scene of the crime was chaos, with bodies and bullet casings everywhere, hundreds of police officers and SWAT members on the scene and bikers sitting under guard.

Naturally, any event that causes as much damage and carnage as the Waco Biker Shooting is going to have a number of inconsistencies in early reporting, and questions that remain unanswered even after those inconsistencies have been cleared up. Even now, nearly a month after the shootout, we don’t have a clear idea of who shot first, who shot whom, and which victims were shot by other bikers and which by the police. Some witness accounts have the brawl beginning in the parking lot when a Cossack ran over a Bandido’s foot, while others claim the shooting started on the restaurant’s patio. At first, reports said four bikers were killed by police gunfire, then that was retracted as further ballistics testing was required. / read more…

Who Killed the Pig?

How do you train an archaeologist? Sure, you can teach all the methods and precautions in a classroom, using books, photographs, and videos. But at a certain point in a time you need to get hands-on experience, preferably in the field. This raises two potential issues. The first is how to get lucky as an exercise. You might get an entire class to sift through a site and just get nothing at all. It sure makes for an interesting couple of days of sifting sand and going through the motions, but as a teacher you are still not certain that your students have learned something. And, secondly, you can’t be sure about the quality of work your students will deliver.

/ read more…

5.29.2015

Does A New Test Accurately Diagnose Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

National news media outlets are reporting a breakthrough in the diagnosis and treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Dr. Mark Pimentel, from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of Los Angeles, believes he has discovered a method to diagnose the disease using a pair of blood tests that he has developed. These tests are a creative attempt to streamline the diagnostic process for IBS and provide clinicians with a new tool to help treat the disease. This sounds like a perfect medical solution, but is it?

A simple laboratory blood test is the holy grail for most disease diagnosis. Very few medical problems actually offer such a simple diagnostic tool. Since irritable bowel syndrome is a complicated and controversial diagnosis of exclusion I was rather surprised to see a blood test as the answer. Let’s take a close look at this exciting research and parse out the facts.

A sick man stranded on the toilet after taking a laxative. Colored etching after J. Sneyd after J. Gillray. Via Wikimedia.

/ read more…

5.26.2015

Lost Treasures of the 20th Century

Today we’re going to put on our best pith helmet, grab a metal detector and go in search of great lost treasures of the recent past. Contrary to urban legend, not all hidden stacks of cash and gold are 17th century buried pirate chests or great old Viking hordes found in the peat bogs of England. There are countless cases of stolen cash, plundered war loot, lost heists and treasures that have simply disappeared – and they’re all in the recent past.

Please note that many of these are legendary and probably don’t exist. Some others are lost for a good reason – they’re in incredibly inhospitable environments, and searching for them has claimed lives in a few cases. So please don’t go looking for them.

We’ll start with some lost treasures that were plundered during World War II. / read more…

An Awkward History of Kissing

kiss-225402_1280

A drawing of pursed lips in the quintessential kiss shape.

Psychology Today is a magazine and website that aims to popularize psychology. It’s a good thing, too, as the more people get interested in this science topic, the better. The website also hosts a blog, where this article written by Neel Burton, caught my interest. It’s titled “The History of Kissing.” As a history enthusiast, that sounded right up my alley.

Sadly, I was disappointed. The subtitle hinted at a discussion between learned and natural behavior, with surprising evidence. Now to cut a long story short, no such evidence is presented or discussed in this article. It starts with a paragraph about some cultures not kissing, and refers to a scientific discussion about where kissing might have come from. It sounds a lot like a rehash of the opening paragraphs from Wikipedia’s kiss article, but there are no references to it (though other references are provided).

/ read more…

5.12.2015

Myths and Facts About Uber

I recently had the chance to take my first ride with Uber, the ride-sharing app that’s gone from completely unknown to a valuation of over $40 billion in less than six years. While I’d heard quite a bit about the company and its business model, I found that when it came time to decide whether to take a cab or try my hand at Uber, the information I had wasn’t enough to make a decision. So I went by the one thing I knew to be true – Uber is a hell of a lot cheaper than a taxi.

uber-logo

But what do you really need to know about the company that promises to change the way we move through our cities? What’s myth and what’s reality? / read more…

“Furthermore, I am of the opinion that Carthage should be destroyed”

Recently, at work, we were discussing some changes that really needed to be made to our IT architectural landscape (decommissioning of old spaghetti-like applications and implementing more modern tools). One of the biggest challenges would be to convince senior management that the changes actually needed to be made, and we agreed during that discussion that we would need to repeat that message several times in the months to come. As a history buff, I gave as an example of such tenacity Cato the Elder, the Roman statesman who lived from 234 BCE to 149 BCE. Towards the end of his life he kept on insisting that Carthage (Rome’s archenemy), after two previous conflicts, was still a danger to the Republic and needed to be destroyed in a Third Punic War. Most famously, he was known to add as a closing remark to any speech he made, whatever the topic, “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam” (meaning, “furthermore, I am of the opinion that Carthage should be destroyed”).

Cato the Elder. Source: Wikimedia

Cato the Elder. Source: Wikimedia

/ read more…

5.9.2015

How Michelle Obama Helped Promote Anti-Science Sentiment

In February, Michelle Obama made news when she was featured in an article in Cooking Light magazine. In the article, the First Lady tells a story of her daughter Malia and an interaction with White House Chef Sam Kass, wherein he gave Malia a block of cheese and told her if she could turn it into the powder from a box of mac and cheese, then he would make the boxed kind.

Real food: a plate of macaroni and cheese, probably from a box. Via Wikimedia.

Real food: a plate of macaroni and cheese, probably from a box. Via Wikimedia.

/ read more…

5.7.2015

When a Drone is Not a Drone

It’s unfortunate that language is often used carelessly. We frequently react to news emotionally rather than analytically; and when imprecise language elicits groundless fear, our reaction can be the same as if the fear were justified. The current popular trend of referring to recreational quadcopters as “drones” is a glaring example, having inspired legislation against threats that exist only in the vacuum left by the lack of aviation literacy.

The quintessential drone: an MQ-9 Reaper, which is used by the military and can fly autonomously. Via Wikimedia.

The quintessential drone: an MQ-9 Reaper, which is used by the military and can fly autonomously. Via Wikimedia.

/ read more…