Swine Flu versus Media woo:

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Doubt Break ’09
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In other news, Bill Maher finally expressed his true opinions of vaccines while interviewing Bill Frist. After being told he was crazy by a doctor, he followed up with being told he was crazy by three non-doctors the following week. Antiscience comes in many strains and Maher’s got a bad case of the Doubtbreak.

Ladies and gentlemen, don’t wait, inoculate!

P.S. I love how Jon Stewart worked in a joke about being a “Pasteurized Milk Drinker!” Take that, Raw Milkers!


The anti-HFCS campaign in Slate

(Hat tip to the Ethicurean.)

Daniel Engber writes in Slate about the campaign against High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Delving deep into not only the science of sweeteners, but also the sociology of foodies, he concludes that HFCS is on the decline not because of what it is, but what meanings are imparted upon it.

Read Dark Sugar.

Here are some of my favorite parts:

There may be other reasons to blame obesity in the United States on high-fructose corn syrup. According to a critique popularized by Michael Pollan, the development of HFCS allowed cheap, subsidized corn to be converted into cheap, subsidized sugar. Food processors plumped up with empty calories, and America got fat. But it’s not clear we’d be consuming any less sweetener if corn weren’t so cheap and plentiful. Since the corn content of HFCS contributes less than 2 percent (PDF) to the cost of producing a can of soda, the effect of the subsidies amounts to just a few pennies in the retail price. And while the price of corn syrup is kept artificially low by farm subsidies, the prices of other sweeteners are artificially inflated by tariffs and quotas on imported raw cane sugar and refined sugar. In other words, if we wiped out all of our subsidies and trade restrictions, we’d still have plenty of cheap sugar around, and processed foods would be just as caloric. As Tom Philpott points out in Grist, you don’t need high-fructose corn syrup to rack up American-style obesity rates: Australia manages similar numbers with a food industry based largely on cane sugar.

And the following paragraph:

The unwholesome reputation of HFCS has no doubt been exacerbated by the general view that it’s less “natural” than other forms of sugar. The notion that anything natural is healthy—and anything artificial is not—seems especially silly when it comes to added sweeteners. If fructose is indeed the problem, we’d do well to avoid the all-natural sweeteners in health-food products and fruit drinks, which often include concentrated apple or pear juices. These are almost two-thirds fructose—and might be significantly worse for your health than HFCS. (Organic, raw agave nectar could be even more dangerous, containing 90 percent fructose.)

That’s one of the things that I’ve been telling people – if the fructose content of HFCS is a problem, then look out for the fruit juices sweetened by concentrates made from apple, grape, and apparently pear. Continue reading The anti-HFCS campaign in Slate

Go Download This

Recently radio host Jeni Barnett went on the attack against vaccinations, revealing her utter ignorance of the relevent facts, and the logic required to analyze the issue. It would have gone unnoticed for me, and probably the rest of the internet, except when Ben Goldacre of Bad Science posted an mp3 of the show to display the wonton idiocy, Jeni’s radio station went after him, threatening to sue over copyright infringement. Jeni herself attempted to defend herself on her own site, admitting that she did not know her facts, and calling a nurse who corrected her on the air “vicious” while playing the victim.

As a result of this whole affair over the last couple days, a group of science bloggers got together, passed around the mp3, and transcribed the WHOLE THING. Take a look, but before you do, you have to hear how it sounds, so Get the mp3 from WikiLeaks while you still can!

My favorite part: Continue reading Go Download This

Michael Pollan in Milwaukee

Last Monday, Ariela and I went to see Michael Pollan present his new book, In Defense of Food, in Milwaukee. I brought along my handy-dandy iRiver mp3 recorder, and for your enjoyment, here’s his talk. Funny and interesting, passionate and accusatory, that’s Michael Pollan.

Milwaukee Talk

I’ve only taken a look at a few snippets of In Defense of Food, Ariela’s reading it right now. I’ll read it when I’m finished reviewing Hugh Ross’s book here. There’s no rush, because it won’t be until March that I’ll be interviewing him on the Mindcast. Yep, I renewed our previous interview agreement, so you can look to a fun-filled interview right here in a couple months. Continue reading Michael Pollan in Milwaukee

Tangled Bank 97: The Frozen Bank

It is interesting to contemplate a frozen bank, clothed with ice of many kinds, with birds not singing on the bushes, with various insects nowhere to be seen, and with worms crawling under the earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have… aw hell, it’s fricken freezing and there’s nothing but ice, snow, and cold air on the banks of Madison, Wisconsin. What am I to do to keep warm? Thankfully, a whole host of science bloggers sent me their best posts from the last few weeks – let’s see if we can warm up together in this cold northern weather to the 97th edition of the Tangled Bank. Continue reading Tangled Bank 97: The Frozen Bank

Science Based Medicine Blog

(via Bad Astronomy)

There’s a new blog I’d like everyone to check out, the first few posts are really good. Homeopathy, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), Plants versus Pharmaceuticals. There are many problems with medicine, you see, many things we don’t yet know how to treat, or what is the underlying cause, but there are also countless problems with how some people view medicine. As something to replace with a vacuous would-be infallible philosophy (Homeopathy). As something that needs additions that aren’t backed up by evidence, and rely on mere “belief” to promote themselves. (CAM) Or what about how people often hold up plants and put down pharmaceuticals, when many pharmaceuticals come from plants, but have been purified, studied, and have been shown to help in fighting disease or alleviating suffering.

There are only two kinds of medicines. Those that work and those that don’t. Science is the way to discovering those things that work, and knowing how they work. And this new blog, written by several MDs, looks to be a great way to find out those crucial details about a field that is crucial to survival, and has some very culturally intriguing issues. Check out Science Based Medicine.

It’s on my blogroll.

Biotechnology and religious beliefs

I just came across a fascinating article in the New York Times about biotechnology and religion. (via onegoodmove) Are Scientists playing God? It Depends on your Religion. What Princeton University’s Dr. Lee Silver found was that cultural perspectives on plant, animal, and human biotechnology varied from country to country, and correlated with religious beliefs. (Human biotechnology being primarily stem cell research.)
Here’s the breakdown: Continue reading Biotechnology and religious beliefs


Last week, when I went to the Speaking Science 2.0 talk in Minneapolis, I skipped the after party to go see Quynh Nguyen. She’s a friend of mine from Davis, who I met through the Chemistry Club @ UC Davis, and who also wrote for The Aggie for a year. While I was watching one of PZ eight arms getting hacked off by Matt Nisbet, and Greg Laden drilling holes in Chris Mooney’s head (and other mayhem – post coming soon), Ariela was hanging out with Quynh and her boyfriend Jeff, and they swung by to pick me up afterwards. Continue reading Quynh!