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A blog about science, medicine, media and the ramblings of Irish hack....

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Detox This!

--A short rant about what a detox is and why detox products do not work--

There used to be a show on Channel 4 in the UK called 'Extreme Celebrity Detox'. What was particularly impressive about this evidently divinely inspired piece of dross was that every word in the title was misleading. For starters, doing Tai Chi and yoga removes bugger all bodily toxins so detox it was not. Then the celebrities were hardly celebrated; the highest profile guests were Jack Osbourne (famous for being the son of the 3rd best vocalist in Black Sabbath) and Rebecca Loos (famous for letting David Beckham play offside on her pitch and injecting herself with more silicon than a PC World) so there's another misnomer. But the word 'extreme' was a super overstatement. You've probably never heard of Harold McCluskey, but he would be crown champion of any extreme detox competition ever held. So who exactly was he ?

This is Harold McCluskey. That probably doesn't really answer the question - bear with me...



Wednesday, February 2, 2011

20 Science and Medical Myths

Assuming you're not a sociopathic hermit with all the social skills of lobotomised hamster, there's a good chance you've been to some form of social engagement in your life. And one great thing about a good gathering is good conversations - sometimes though, you hear something that triggers a distant alarm bell. Is that true ? I must check that. Of course, half the time we forget. And then maybe we hear it again. And again. Then after a while, we tactitly assume it is true and repeat it. But if it is wrong, are we just perpetuating falsehoods? The following is a list in no particular order of things I have either heard at parties, or at some stage, in some form, implictedly assumed to have some merit.  Each of them a juicy tidbit on science, technology or medicine that gets repeated so much it is ingrained in our collective consciousness. They share one thing in common - they are all, without exception, falsehoods. Here's a list of 20 such claims that I have heard at least once in the year. So in no particular order and with no real rhyme or reason....

1. You should never wake a sleepwaker - Sure, waking a sleep walker may result in them being disorientated and confused. But waking anybody can render them a little confused, whether they're idly lying in on a weekend or ambling around in a walking coma. Sleepwalking is a REM sleep disorder and as a parasomnia is damn interesting; there have been cases of sleep walkers writing semi-coherent emails, having sex with strangers and even murdering people (not all at the same time .. yet) so on balance , the disorientation they may feel is somewhat less dangerous than other sleepy stunts they may pull. Even though observing may be much more hilarious as a spectator sport, walking them gently is probably more humane

2. You only use 10% of your brain - Somewhere right now there is a neurologist hearing this and cringing. This little piece of lore is so oft-repeated that it is almost accepted as fact but it does a massive disservice to our brains to accuse them of being so lazy. We use practically all of our brains, but usually not all at once. This can be observed looking at a PET scan or fMRI image. So why has this myth endured so long ? One of the big reasons is that it is constantly trotted out by psychics and those with a vested interest in obscuring rational thought. "The hidden 90%" rubbish serves as a convenient Deus ex machina for those trying to peddle nonsense and they have succeeded admirably.Despite this, one could be forgiven for suspecting that people who part with their hard earned cash for psychics may be using less than their whole mental capacity.


Amazingly, even this man uses most of his brain. Notice how I avoided the juvenile 'bender' joke; it's all class here...

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