Trust in science

As with every other week, the last 10 days has brought a slew of tabloid stories, linking various things with causing or curing cancer:

GOOD: antacids, Chinese herbal remedy, berries and teaanthrax, frying food

BAD: being tall, tonsils, artificial football pitches, The RAF, oral sex

As always, these stories are largely nonsense, suitable only for the bin. Unfortunately, they are reported credulously and are widely read, and this saturation of health-related articles has several negative consequences.

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The dangers of anecdotal evidence

Occasionally (too often) a newspaper publishes a story that is just downright irresponsible. This story from the Daily Express fits into this category.

‘I beat cancer by eating pineapples’ Brave woman, 31, shuns chemotherapy to self-medicate

Daily Express – 30/03/15

Any reader of this blog will understand that this is rubbish, but it’s worth looking at why anecdotal stories like this are useless as evidence for therapy. Continue reading

Does the “Mozart Effect” exist in adults?

It used to be thought that listening to Mozart when pregnant or when a child was under three made for smarter babies. This has been thoroughly disproven A4MBDCand explained by the fact that children from houses where classical music is played tend to be better educated. However, people keep jumping on the bandwagon every time a study about classical music is published. This article was published in the Daily Mail on the 15th of March:

Classical music can help slow down the onset of dementia say researchers after discovering Mozart excerpts enhanced gene activity in patients

Daily Mail (15/03/15)

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Best (worst) tabloid story of the week – 12/05/15

MailOnline: Incredible moment baby shocks his parents by saying ‘hello’ at just SEVEN WEEKS old

According to the MailOnline, a baby was filmed saying hello to his parents (video below). While undeniably cute, this isn’t a genius child, mastering language at 7 weeks. It is, however, an example of pareidolia. Pareidolia is the effect of seeing patterns in random things, and is a fascinating quirk of the brain. Continue reading