Random musings on whatever subject strikes my fancy, published every other day.

Category: Pseudoscience and other BS Page 1 of 2

Viral Phenom

By Headlines for The Nib

I would have no problem with anti-vaxxers if they only harmed themselves. Even, maybe if it were only their children who were at risk. Stupidity should have consequences and it should not be passed on to another generation.

The problem comes in when these mucking forons actively harm others who do not ignore reality, who behave reasonably, and who just have the misfortune to find themselves in said forons’ proximity.

I could see proposing that anti-vaxxers all be sequestered somewhere reserved for them, where they can see how their take on imaginary medical wisdom will play out.

Congratulations Astros!

By now you know the Houston Astros won the World Series.  I didn’t have a big rooting interest in this one.  My favorite teams are, the Orioles, the Cubs, and whoever’s playing the Yankees that day.  The Dodgers knocked off the Cubs, the Astros did the honors for the Yankees, and the Orioles were really not in this year’s post-season conversation.  So I’m OK with how the Series turned out.

But the funny thing now is how everyone is swooning over a Sports Illustrated cover from June 30, 2014.  Yes, 40 months ago:

This was widely mocked at the time


Many people appear to be unaware that sports-writing is basically a business of ignoring yesterday’s predictions that were proven wrong today while making more predictions for tomorrow.

Venturing over three years into the future with your predictions, especially as visibly as a cover story in SI, just gives other sports-writers ammunition to make fun of you.  Check out the sneering tone of the USA Today story at that time.

Obviously the magazine isn’t actually declaring the Astros the 2017 World Series champs, just making an audacious point about a perennially bottom-dwelling club that is, by almost all accounts, moving in the right direction. . . .

And the heroics of coverboy George Springer aside, most of the Astros’ ballyhooed prospects remain only prospects. Of the players currently on their roster that are under team control through 2017, only Jose Altuve has really established himself as a good Major League player. Springer has been great for his 225 at-bats, and starters Dallas Keuchel, Jarred Cosart and Collin McHugh have all had success this season.

Even if all those guys maintain their success, that’s five pieces of a 25-man roster.

So here’s the thing about predictions: they are mostly BS.  People tend to forget the ones that were wrong and focus on the ones that turned out right.  A comparison of most predictive techniques with coin-flipping would make coin-flipping look like a map of the future.   Here’s a fun exercise: track a week’s worth of predictions from your favorite sports media and compare them to random chance.  You’ll never read a sports page the same way again.

Pharma Ads

Here’s the best Pharma Ad ever

This is a marvelously succinct send-up of two terrible aspects of health care “marketing”.  Pseudoscience garbage is bad enough.  But legitimate medications are being pushed at the uneducated, who are being told to ask for specific drugs by name for diagnoses they are instructed carefully how to imagine.

A responsible FDA would ban all that advertising outright, but “responsible” is not a word that can be associated with our executive branch this year.  Except in the negative sense similar to “guilty.”

Red Circles in Rio

Well, here we go with another installment in the long, proud tradition of athletes’ superstitions.


What’s that in the intersection of Quackery and Pseudoscience, just below Anti-vax?  Why, it’s a particularly ugly specimen of magical thinking called, Cupping.  The Skeptic’s Dictionary is way nicer about it than I am inclined to be.  Here is what I am inclined to say about it: Cupping is bullshit.

But in what is sure to be a Jenny McCarthy effect, the American Swim and Gymnastics teams (at least) in Rio are displaying marks of this practice, born in superstition and nurtured for the profit of the unscrupulous at the expense of the uneducated.  Our swimmers and gymnasts are far less qualified to be medical theorists than I am to take on their events.  At least I probably wouldn’t drown.

Professor Edzard Ernst of the department of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter says that cupping could cause burns. “There is no evidence for its efficacy,” according to Ernst. “It has not been submitted to clinical trials, but there have certainly been satisfied customers for 3,000 years.”*

No clinical trials, no evidence, no safety standards.  No standards at all.  But a 16-year old swimmer will sell a lot of Wheaties, and sadly, she will also sell a lot of bullshit.  This run of it may have a lower death-toll than anti-vax, but that’s small consolation.


SHAME on his trainer, and his coach.





America continues to be the runt of the litter when it comes to science literacy.  This sad example of our athletes just reinforces that fact.


Hers, too.


Social shaming should by now be swinging the vax/anti-vax fray in the right direction.

But just in case it’s not, here’s a fun explanation.

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