Let’s get scientific!And talk about how to do science!
Because there aren’t enough Brazilian models in the world already: Brazilian researchers have discovered that a cream containing a 7% caffeine solution can apparently reduce the circumference of women’s thighs. In this study, 99 women applied the cream twice daily for 30 days, and "more than 80%" experienced slimming of the upper and lower thighs, while "nearly 68%" also had some slimming of the hips.
Unfortunately, there’s no information provided about whether or not this was a proper double-blind study, in which neither the subjects nor the researchers would know which women were using the actual caffeinated cream and which were using a placebo. There are also no details about what the average amount of "slimming" was, whether the women were simultaneously dieting or following an exercise program or anything else that would make this study, y’know, useful. Regardless, though, I think I’m going to up my coffee consumption to 47 cups a day and see what happens. (ScienceDaily)
There’s a tear in my beer and a slug in my mug: Pity the poor country singer. He’s so often left bereft: wifeless, truckless, jobless, dogless ("friendless, helpless, hopeless!"). The litany of his romantic and personal tribulations could be enough to drive anyone to suicide… and, apparently, sometimes it does. An analysis of 49 U.S. metropolitan areas revealed that suicide rates are correlated to the prevalence of country radio stations, and, one assumes, the prevalence of drivin’ and cryin’ while listenin’ to country music.
An amusing sidenote: the researchers did all kinds of fancy statistical backbending to correct for the possible effects of poverty, divorce, gun availability and "Southernness." Heck, those sound like a country song right there! (Disclaimer: I am quite the fan of [old-school] country myself… suicide, not quite so much.) (Frontal Cortex; original paper at University of Texas, Arlington)
So glad to know I’m not the only person who despises Simcha Jacobovici: The great thing about science–and the one that separates it from all those other (lesser) "ways of knowing"–is that you can learn more by being proven completely wrong than you can by having your pre-existing notions confirmed. The most ineffective and damaging way to conduct research is by entering into a project with dogmatic ideas about what your results will be and clinging to those ideas in the face of all the evidence to the contrary. (See creationism, geocentrism, vaccines-cause-autism-ism, et cetera.)
The discipline of archaeology seems especially prone to proliferating crackpots, kooks and the simply misinformed among its ranks. Professional archaeologists operate just as other scientists do, with carefully designed research questions and painstaking collection and analysis of evidence. Yet a number of fringe "archaeologists" persist, twisting the facts and misinterpreting the finds to support their over-imaginative theories. Erich von Daniken, author of Chariots of the Gods?, was one of the earliest and best-known of this group. He hypothesized that everything from the Great Pyramid to Stonehenge was created by godlike space aliens who taught art, science and engineering to those poor hapless underevolved humans, then flew away again on their magical rocketships. (He did not mention whether Tom Cruise’s buddy Xenu was among those aliens.)
Biblical archaeology, because of its close historical ties to religion and religious investigators, is an area of the field similarly filled with incompetence and outright charlatanry. The above-maligned Simcha Jacobovici, a "journalist" with no formal archaeological training, rode the faux-archaeology gravy train to international fame. He helped pimp the "Lost Tomb of Jesus" debacle, then got a job hosting the "Naked Archaeologist" show on the History Channel. (Which immediately supplanted all other real archaeology programming on that channel, thereby making the decision for us to dump cable far easier… so I guess I sorta owe him that much.) Other so-called archaeologists claim to have discovered everything from Noah’s Ark (over and over again!) to Sodom and Gomorrah (buried under a heavy layer of brimstone, one presumes). Yet there’s no scientific validity to any of these discoveries, and the continual stream of discredit is–or should be–an embarrassment to anyone looking to archaeology for validation of the Bible’s historicity.
Anyway. Here’s a great rant from Archaeology magazine on the two concurrent states of Biblical archaeology: Raiders of the Faux Ark.
Cats! Science! Experiments! This is one of Rhys’ Christmas presents. Shhh!
Why science education is important: Because if done properly, it might keep you from falling for this kind of bizarre crap. A Louisiana man convinced his friends and family that his wife was a CIA agent with the ability to use spy satellites to "monitor" their bodies from space and see if they had any health problems. Not only that, this amazing satellite could supposedly remotely administer medicine to them, nipping any health problems in the bud. His take on this scam? Almost $900,000. Damn. I am so in the wrong business. (SFGate)