Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Water memory" - a myth that wouldn't die

Holy pseudoscience, Batman!

Homeopathy websites (too many to list; I found the material for this post here) are all gleefully abuzz today** with the following factoid - New Research From Aerospace Institute of the University of Stuttgart Scientifically Proves Water Memory and Homeopathy.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

et tu...? Acupuncture and pain in Nature

Physician and blogger Harriet Hall, MD, once coined an exceptionally apt phrase to describe research in many alternative medicine modalities - "Tooth Fairy Science"; it refers to research undertakings into a phenomenon whose existence is yet to be established. In a post in her blog Science-based Medicine, she explained:
You could measure how much money the Tooth Fairy leaves under the pillow, whether she leaves more cash for the first or last tooth, whether the payoff is greater if you leave the tooth in a plastic baggie versus wrapped in Kleenex. You can get all kinds of good data that is reproducible and statistically significant. Yes, you have learned something. But you haven't learned what you think you've learned, because you haven't bothered to establish whether the Tooth Fairy really exists.
Priceless. And of all the modalities championed by modern peddlers of pseudoscience, acupuncture most certainly qualifies as a prime example of Tooth Fairy Science.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Glad Venture with Tintin

Stealing from our busy professional lives a couple of hours in a rather buccaneer fashion (Red Rackham would have approved!), my good wife and I - ever the partners in crime - went to watch the newly released (in the US; the world - alas! - has watched it much before us) Spielberg movie, "The Adventures of Tintin".

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Au contraire, Religion IS the problem

Philosopher and author Ophelia Benson shared on Twitter today an article about Ms. Sahar Taman, a founder of Journeys to understanding, a non-profit organization trying to open up the understanding of the Arab world amongst the rest of the world, especially the US. The article reported on an interview of Ms. Taman taken by the Connection Point blog of a non-profit organization, Peace X Peace; Ms. Taman talked about her work in Egypt, trying to promote what she terms as "interfaith dialog". According to her, this is about bringing a reconciliation amongst the practitioners of various faiths - Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist or any other - so that everyone can realize their essential humanity, and find common ground that way.

No doubt, a noble goal. But will this enlightened end justify the means Ms. Taman embraces, with her inordinate insistence on faith as the panacea? Ever curious, I left a few questions after the blog post, but it is caught in moderation for the past several hours. I don't have much hope of having it live, and so I decided to go ahead and ask the same questions in my post. The quotes in italic are from Ms. Taman, based on her interview.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Man Whose Name Boson Honors

In the past several days, the world was waiting agog for the news: is it there or is it not? As the Honorable Beeb reported:
The most coveted prize in particle physics - the Higgs boson - may have been glimpsed, say researchers reporting at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva... Scientists say that two experiments at the LHC see hints of the Higgs at the same mass, fuelling huge excitement. But the LHC does not yet have enough data to claim a discovery.
Although we may have to wait another year, the BBC article and the one on CNN, both highly informative, explain the excitement around the possible discovery of the Higgs Boson, a currently-theoretical, elementary subatomic particle that is purported to provide mass to matter, and is the integral part of the theoretical Higgs mechanism by which mass is proposed to be generated.

I, sadly, don't understand enough of quantam mechanics or mathematics to launch into an extensive discussion of the properties of the elusive Higgs Boson particle. A nice Q&A at the BBC Science & Environment website explains a lot of the concepts. I, on the other hand, want to briefly focus on the person, who introduced the principles of Statistical Mechanics guiding photons in 1924 and after whom physicist/mathematician Paul Dirac named the one of the most elementary of subatomic particles, Bosons. That person is Satyendra Nath Bose, the Indian physicist who made significant advances in the studies of Statistical Mechanics and Quantam Statistics.