Sunday 15 July 2012

The Round-up w/e 15/7/12

Hello and welcome to the latest Round-Up. A reminder that the very first Skeptics in the Pub quiz is on Thursday (19th July) at our usual venue. You can make up teams amongst yourselves but it's not mandatory and personally I'll be turning up to see what's happening and who's there.

Firstly here's a quick plug for a new UK based skepticism website as pictured above that has sprung up. It's from the people behind the @UKSKEPTICS twitter feed and contains forums blogs and much more. Go check it out.

We had a cracking talk from Danny Strickland on Wednesday but what you might not know is that when he's not giving SitP talks he's a bit of a wiz with Fishbarrel, the simplest way to report the idiocies of dodgy alt-med to the ASA (and other organisations). The complaint which was submitted a year ago (no idea why it took them so long) was against the claims made for Kinesio Tape. If you've seen athletes wearing what seems to be bits of coloured Gaffer Tape stuck to them you're aware of it already even if you didn't know it. The ASA's adjudication is fairly damning with all aspects upheld and it looks like the Gaffer wouldn't be a bad option. Unfortunately two days before the judgement was released a completely uncritical 'advertorial' was broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Live (Mon, 9 Jul 12 from 24m15s) on Shelagh Fogarty's Sports programme. (25 days left to download). This despite the fact that if you search for “Kinesio Tape” on the BBC website it gives just one result in which the creator of the tape “admits there have been too few studies to prove these scientific claims“. They really should know better and perhaps need reminding of their own Trust's review of impartiality and accuracy of the BBC’s coverage of science (pdf) authored by Professor Steve Jones.

On a similar note here's the latest set of bogus claims to hit my radar. Anyone fancy reporting Mojo Wristbands?

After the recent furore over the discovery of a particle that may well be the Higgs Boson (see last Round-Up), one physics story that hasn't had as much attention as it might is that a ‘finger’ of the Universe’s dark-matter skeleton, which ultimately dictates where galaxies form, has been observed for the first time. Advances in dark matter are few and far between so further news is awaited with anticipation.

A bit of fun physics can be found thanks to xkcd who tell us what would happen if you pitched a baseball at nine tenths the speed of light. It doesn't say your arm would hurt. That would be the least of your worries.

The Higgs gets the last word though as the work of one of the people, a Nobel Laureate, who helped develop the theoretical framework that led to its discover is being wiped from history in his native Pakistan because he belonged to a religious minority.

Ah, religion. They make it so easy to research these Round-Ups.

New Humanist details how creationists are still claiming a victory over the placement of their particular conspiracy theory at the Giant's Causeway. Unfortunately they probably can rejoice in that the government has approved the formation of a creationist free school. Also a Steiner school has been approved in Exeter meaning the country now will have three (aren't we lucky). At least no Maharishi schools slipped through the net but in total a third of the new free schools are religious. This will suit the Bishop of Oxford who is very keen to indoctrinate at an early age.

After the recent furore over Tom Cruise's marriage break-up there has been an increase in the flow of web traffic regarding the church of scientology but for those who are old school here's a handy list of longreads on the subject from the Daily Beast. Let's hope Katie doesn't experience the same treatment as Nicole got. You can also take a quick tour of some of their real estate via the Business Insider. They're not short of a bob or two.

One last piece of religious nastiness, this time much closer to home where four members of a Birmingham family have been found guilty of murdering a pregnant woman they believed was possessed by a djinn, or evil spirit.

A significant win for rational thought here as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that there is no evidence for a coming Zombie Apocalypse. That's a relief.

Some more good news in that the fake bomb detectors that Professor Bruce Hood and many others have been shouting about for years have been banned. No-one seems to know why it has taken so long but action against the sellers is being taken.

It also seems so long since it was announced that the Nature journal and author Quirin Schiermeier were being sued for libel by an Egypt-born engineer-turned-physicist. In fact it's been four years but they finally won. By won I mean it cost them hundreds of thousands of pounds which is probably not recoverable. Such are our libel laws. Here's the author's take on it.

It's not just a UK problem (although we have it worse than almost all others) as German magazine Titanic is being prosecuted by Pope Benny and a diet pill company is suing an Australian medical expert for having the effrontery to suggest that some pills won't negate your last cheeseburger.

There is also a threat to one of our previous speakers David Colquohon from people connected with “Britain´s Number 1 holistic cancer charity”,  CANCERactive. The post that was objected to has been taken down on legal advice but as usual there are no specifics as to what was libellous on it nor do the points made by the litigant bear resemblance to the post's content. As often the complaint is such a mess that it's best to hand over to those who've had time to pick over the dungheap. Some impact is lost due to the lack of context but @jdc325's post is still worth a read. Josephine Jones goes through the claims made on their website and @SkeptiGuy is delving into the inner workings of the net to find out who's who and what's what.

Ever wondered what's behind the doors of your local Traditional Chinese Medicine shop? Fortunately Michael Marshall has so you don't have too (unless you really want).

Further afield in alt-med nuttiness, have you got a branch of Holland and Barrett near you? They seem to have forgotten that they are not allowed to advertise homeopathic remedies for the treatment of any illness or condition (because they don't work). The Nightingale Collaboration would like you to go and have a look.

In India 100,000 (one lakh) homoeopathy, ayurveda and unani “doctors” are demanding rights to prescribe effective (and therefore potentially dangerous) medicines. This update suggests they think they have found a way around this by taking a single year-long course. I hope not.

The woo that keeps on giving, this time in the form of the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths, are extolling the virtues of sugar pills to “help” our Olympians (pdf). I hope no-one tells LOCOG they're using their branding. Finally somebody thinks they've created a homeopathic remedy prepared from the “Annihilation Radiation of Positronium”.

That last one's almost as funny as Mitchell and Webb's Homeopathic Hospital.

Actually it's not, but hey – Mitchell and Webb!

This week's Round-Up was compiled by @christheneck.

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