Thursday, 29 January 2009

Tim Minchin's "Storm" - So F**cking Rock

Tim Minchin has finally put up a decent quality version of Storm on Youtube, after somebody leaked a poor quality version in December.

This 9 minute beat poem is awesome. I'm sure some readers of this blog (if I have any!) will appreciate the situation in this poem. I'd love to think I could one day respond to Woo's as wittily and eloquently as Tim.


Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Prince Charles: Nice biscuits, shame about the woo!

You may, or may not have heard of Duchy Originals, the company Prince Charles set up in 1990 to produce and promote organic food. Say what you like about organic farming, I personally think it's expensive nonsense (more on that another time!), but his biscuits are bloody nice!

It seems Charlie is diversifying. We've always known he's prone to a bit of woolly thinking and like's his alternative therapies, but it now seems he's started selling them. He's just launched a range of herbal tinctures , encouraging us to try them if we're "suffering from the sniffles".

What's most interesting about this is that he's claiming the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have assessed them and approved them for "safety, quality and efficacy" (my emphasis).

What's interesting about this is that they claim that this was done under the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Product Directive. A little digging by Rob Hinkley at found that this directive doesn't guarantee that remedies are assessed for efficacy, and more importantly that the specific licensing decisions for Charlie's tinctures:

"is based exclusively upon evidence of traditional use as herbal medicine [and] There is no requirement under the Traditional Herbal Registration scheme to prove scientifically that the product works."

It seems therefore that Duchy's originals have been telling (presumably organic!) porkie pies.

Their error has of course been pointed out to them on their blog, though the comment is still "awaiting moderation".

What is this blog about?

I've finally decided to start a blog, having wanted to do so for a while and having admired the work of other bloggers such as Gimpy, David Colquhoun, Le Canard Noir, JDC, Holfordwatch, DrT, and of course Ben Goldacre

You'll notice something that these blogs all have in common. They're aimed at examing and taking apart the false claims of quacks and cranks around the world, from alternative therapists, through nutritionists to religious nuts... the generally hard of thinking.

This blog will be along similar lines, perhaps picking up the odd story the others don't and adding a different perspective to them.

Oh, and why the name "Cargo Cult Science"? Well, if you haven't come across that term before it comes from one of my scientific heroes - the physicist Richard Feynman. He coined the term at his commencement speech at Caltech in 1974:

There is one feature I notice that is generally missing in "cargo cult science"... It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty — a kind of leaning over backwards... For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid — not only what you think is right about it... Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them.