Bad Science: Say That Twice, With A Straight Face

Some bad science writers just make it too easy.

The other day, I come across an article that someone posted on Facebook. It was entitled Science Finally Confirms That People Absorb Energy From Others!

Of course you do not have to be a scientist to know that is complete bullshit. Oh dear, I thought, this is one of those rabbit holes that I cannot resist falling into. What new study has been twisted and perverted to fit this narrative today, I wonder? Will they name the scientist that “made the discovery”? Will they just give the name of an institute, and I’ll have to comb through their publications to find the culprit? Or perhaps is the aforementioned “science” performed by just some quack in a yurt in Arizona somewhere?

Where is this article going to fall on my 1-10 Bad Science Bullshit-o-Meter? So, I clicked on it. Of course I did.

If you don’t want to click on it I get it, so let me just quote the first two lines, because that’s the absolute best part.

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I Need This In My Life

When I was younger and visited the States, there was a lot of junk food that I found fascinating. In the beginning I liked most of it as it was so novel, but then over the years I started losing my taste for almost all of it as my taste buds matured and I started to dislike the fake flavor of most of those junky foods. One thing however, which I will always love and adore them for inventing is cookie dough ice cream.

Raw American cookie dough is one of the most delicious things I have ever encountered in my entire life. While it is really bad for you to eat a lot of real raw cookie dough, to this day I have to admit that licking the bowl whenever I make cookies is the single best part of the entire process. That’s why, when I saw this video, I couldn’t help but share it here.

 

 

This is pure food porn for me, so much so that my brain does not want to admit to itself that it exists beyond the realm of fantasy. This is something I really need in my life.

Cookie dough is, I think, my ultimate guilty pleasure, the one I’m most embarrassed to admit to but one that I will never stop loving. Do you have any that you find hard to admit, but can’t kick?

Healthy Sunday Cooking With Crys: Tortini di Verdure

While Italians are not exactly known for their vegetarian dishes, they do eat a lot of vegetables compared to many other cultures. Because of this, you can come across dishes that are vegetarian by accident.

I tend to prefer these “accidentally” vegetarian or vegan recipes to ones that I will often see on veggie/vegan blogs, simply because they are not designed to imitate non-vegetarian dishes. I don’t want to eat a vegan steak, because it is never going to taste anywhere near as good as a real steak, and distantly reminding me of real steak on my plate just makes me frustrated and craving for the real thing. Dishes that happen to be vegetarian or vegan, on the other hand (like those vegan cookies I’ve told you about), were designed to be perfectly delicious all on their own, rather than pale imitations of something else, so I find them much more appealing for it.

Today, I’ll be giving you two tortino recipes, which is literally translated to “small cake”. However this is something of a bad translation, as cake implies flour. When we say tortino, we really mean something in the shape of a cake, but they often more closely resemble souffle, or flan.

Tortino recipes can be either salty or sweet, but today I’m going to talk about two recipes that are salty, and made with vegetables. These make filling and low- calorie snacks, but also good and different appetizers for vegetarian guests (neither of these are vegan though, vegan tortini are coming in another post).

Here, I’ll give you the recipe for a zucchini tortino, and for a cauliflower one.

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Sunday Cooking With Crys: Lamb Korma

It’s the season of lamb, so I decided to make a great korma recipe that I came across and modified over the years. It’s a recipe I enjoy also making for others because, while you can still taste the lamb nicely, the spices and sauce also mitigate the gamey flavor that lamb can have, so it’s great for guests who do not particularly like that flavor.

While I have modified it to make it a little less fatty though no less flavorful, one thing I strongly suggest against is messing with the spice combination. There is an art to combining spices in Indian cooking, one that I have not get managed to learn, so that the spices come together and taste like something different, and more, than their individual components.

So, having said that, here is my recipe for lamb korma.

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This Week In Zoology: What Causes Irukandji Syndrome?

For decades, a mysterious illness cropped up in the Australian summer months. People would fall prey to Nature’s Cruciatus Curse, an indescribable pain, a feeling like you are burning from the inside out and, at times, a conviction that you’re going to die that is so strong that you beg those around you to just kill you. This syndrome would last anywhere between 12 hours and 3 days, and then it would pass. While Irukandji syndrome was very rarely fatal, it was still scary enough that no one much wanted to have to go through it.

This mystery persisted until the 1960s, when physician and toxinocologist Jack Barnes told the world that this devastating syndrome was caused by the sting of a tiny, barely noticeable jellyfish.

1200px-Irukandji-jellyfish-queensland-australia

 

As you can imagine, this was a tough sell. How do you convince the country and the world that this incredibly painful day from Hell could come from a little creature that you barely even notice when it stings you? So, how do you prove this far-fetched theory?

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Kids Who Die For Ignorance

There has been another deadly outbreak of a preventable disease in Europe. This time, it is the measles which is spreading rapidly across Romania, and so far, 17 children have died.

Romania has seen nearly 2,000 cases of measles since February 2016, World Health Organization data shows.

The country’s vaccination rate is 86 per cent, well below the 95 per cent recommended for “herd immunity” against infectious disease.

Romania’s measles outbreak has killed 17 children there, none of whom were vaccinated.

Romania’s vaccination rate has fallen sharply over the last decade, driven in part by a vocal anti-vaccination movement there. The country now has Europe’s highest measles infection rate, and its fifth-lowest vaccination rate.

These stories are becoming more and more frequent, and I cannot stand it when another one comes out. When people spew this anti-vaccination nonsense on social media, I can’t let it go. I will engage that person and explain why they are wrong, and how their beliefs are destroying lives. It is not the same as when someone posts a quote from Mother Teresa, or a belief that nature is sacred and spiritual or what have you. Those are personal, relatively benign opinions. The anti-vaxx movement, on the other hand, is one of the most dangerous campaigns of misinformation in existence.

If you’re not yet convinced, the article goes on to explain how Europe’s protection against preventable disease is falling rapidly.

Of 32 European countries that have had measles cases since February 2016, 22 had measles vaccination rates below 95 per cent.

In January, 84 per cent of Europe’s measles cases happened in seven countries, all of which had vaccination rates under 95 per cent.

About 10 per cent of children with measles get ear infections, which can lead to hearing loss, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control warns. About five per cent will get pneumonia, and one in 1,000 will die.

When I talk about these stories, I usually get two main questions.

  1. Why do you bother engaging with anti-vaxx people? Don’t you know that you will never convince them?
  2. Why do you keep bringing these stories up? Aren’t you preaching to the choir? We all agree here that vaccinations are important.

So, let me answer those questions.

  1. I engage with people who post anti-vaxx beliefs on social media because allowing this misinformation to go unchallenged is precisely what has gotten us into this mess. While I understand that someone firm in their beliefs is very unlikely to change their mind, perhaps people who are on the fence and see the post will be less persuaded to become an anti-vaxxer if they see a reasonable exchange, rather than a one-sided pile of bad science and lies. Also, even if it is extremely hard to change someone’s firm belief, they are endangering innocent children with their ignorance, and so I have to at least try.
  2. I bring these stories up for one simple reason. A study was conducted on people who were “skeptical” of vaccine safety. This study, and many others, found that reiterating the science behind why anti-vaxx is bullshit did nothing to change their beliefs, if anything it made things worse. The only thing that made the slightest impact was to show them how bad these diseases can be. In other words, reminding people of the real risks of not vaccinating their children is the only thing that has a hope of bringing those numbers of vaccinations back up.

So, please, share this story. You don’t need to share this post, but share that article, and every other article that you come across which talks about the children that are getting sick and dying because of this nonsense. Maybe, just maybe, you know a new parent who is being swayed by the anti-vaxx argument, and that parent might see those images of those sick kids and think better of it.

It is important to remember that not everyone is iron clad in their convictions, nor is anyone born convinced of anything. You can persuade people if you share information before they become absolutely convinced of falsehoods. You could save a life.

 

 

 

Flat is the New Black

You may recall the excellent face-off between rapper B.o.B. and Neil DeGrasse Tyson over B.o.B’s insistence that the Earth is flat. It was fun, partially because it was hilarious that we are still having this conversation, and partly because it caused Neil DeGrasse Tyson to make this video

I did not react to the feud in the same way that I did when Creationists get into it with popular scientists, mostly because flat-Earthers are extremely rare and do not try to teach their “alternative theory” in public schools. They are so rare, in fact, that I was partly convinced that B.o.B. had simply picked the most ridiculous thing he could think of and said it on Twitter in order to get his name on TV for a few days, rather than because he actually believed it.

Even if he did believe it, I thought, I’m not going to lose my shit because one rapper slept his way through elementary school science and now thinks he’s being clever. I can just enjoy these short clips, and move on with my life.

Unfortunately, B.o.B. seems to have sparked something of a fashion. Not amongst other rappers, but rather amongst American athletes. It seems that being a flat-Earther has become very in.

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The Year of Interesting Times

You may recall that I dubbed last year “April Fool’s Year“, given the series of bizarre global events that made me question the date once every couple of weeks. You may also recall that I suck at life, as this year life seems to be trying to catch me off my guard quite regularly. One commenter said it sounded like “interesting times” and yes, for me, this year is shaping up to be one of interesting times for me.

I have taken another prolonged absence from this blog. I seriously thought it was only a 10 day break, only to realize it was significantly longer than that. Suffice it to say that, in this time, I managed to get sick in 3 different yet contemporary ways, a feat that very nearly landed me in the hospital for the first time in my life. Well I managed to keep my record and stay out of the hospital, which means I also kept coming to work. For an average of 13 hours a day. And yet I am still so behind on my work that I’m starting to panic. I am also getting kicked out of my house, which is fun. This pretty much describes the way my year is going.

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I cannot promise that another break wont happen. I can promise that I wont give up. This blog is a drug for me. It’s an outlet, a way to interact with people and share my views and detach from my life. I can’t give it up.

And I Know It Worries You

The recent comments of a Polish politician on women’s rights has been spread far and wide on the internet today. My favorite format, however, is this video which includes a direct response from a Spanish MEP.

 

I like this video because her response is the thing that you have to keep in mind when confronting someone who is so brazenly, unabashedly misogynistic. It is very similar to those who are brazenly, unabashedly xenophobic. They are the ones that feel small, weak and inadequate. They are the ones that, deep down inside, know that they will not make the cut if they are subjected to fair and open competition with women or immigrants. People who are confident in their abilities and their strengths do not bother arguing against opening up the workplace and giving others opportunities to compete, because they do not fear being out-competed. But people, especially men, who deep down know that they don’t match up reject this feeling, lash out, and reassure themselves that at least the virtue of their body parts from birth puts them above other people, and that they will always be superior to someone.

I say especially men not because I think that men are more likely to be assholes, but because men are also victims of a patriarchal society in this case. There is a lot more pressure put on boys to be strong, to show no fear, to become breadwinners. It is for this reason that I think that men are more likely to lash out in the face of their inner feelings of inadequacy. Luckily fewer and fewer boys are being raised in this antiquated mentality, and hopefully people like this will become an old relic of the past. I simply bring it up because it needs to be repeated: men are hurt by patriarchal societies too, just in different ways. Let’s do away with it then, shall we? And those who bleat be damned.

Memes Corrected

While I have defended some specific memes in the past, the criticism that they are often facile and simplistic is perfectly valid. How much information can you possibly convey in a couple of short sentences and an image?

Given their inherent simplicity, they are one of the favorite vehicles for pseudo-profundities, as they are inherently simplistic and trivial pronouncements. One perfect example of the kind of meme I’m talking about it this one, which seems to be a favorite amongst my New Age-y sort of friends.

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What was the definition of pseudo-profundity according to Jesus and Mo again?

It’s something that sounds clever or wise, but is actually really trivial and obvious

That sounds about right.

But luckily the internet it filled with rational people, and as soon as I clicked on the meme in order to see the comments running alongside it, I saw a number of corrected versions. Including

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and

Perspective-disagreement-six-nine

 

Ahh, that’s better. They may not be as catchy as the original, but I still much prefer these corrected memes.

I will concede that it is important to remember that perspectives can be different. I have talked a lot about perspective here on this blog, and how it can relate to things like privilege. What I can’t stand, however, is when people use differences in perspective as an excuse to pretend that there is no such thing as facts.

The point is facts do not exist in a vacuum. If you come across a shape etched in a stone, which could look like a 6, a 9 or a lower case g, you don’t just declare everyone right and go home. If you actually care about the facts, you try to find other clues as to what the person’s intentions were when they made that carving. Do you have reason to believe that the person in question even uses a Latin alphabet? Is it an ancient carving, before the invention of our 0-10 numbering system?

It is important to remember that your perspective can influence your conclusions, and if you want to be a rational person you should try to take certain steps to counteract your inherent biases. However, that does not mean that everyone’s opinion is created equally. We shouldn’t all just give up on reasoned discussion because your perspective has lead you to believe that fairies are causing your belly to ache and I should just accept that as equally valid to my opinion that you should see a doctor.

Where’s the fun in life being that simplistic, anyway?