Free Speech Zone

Since this holiday season America is caught in the midst of a cultural miasma, where people are confused about what is acceptable sexual harassment and what is not, along with the usual recurring concerns about commercialization, I am compiling some practical guidance. I want to wish you a Ron Swanson Christmas.

Swanson, a character on the television show "Parks and Recreation", is a staunch libertarian, which sounds counter-intuitive for someone in city government but that is why he is there; he wants to keep spending low and he knows if he is in a job someone who might want to make government bigger cannot be.

In his role he makes sure government does nothing, so that it stays out of the way...

I've written recently about nitrogen-infused coffee (and also beer) and why the chemistry of adding nitrogen makes sense. (See: Nitro-Coffee: Good Science Or Nitrogenous Waste?). The following, helium-infused beer makes far less sense, but good luck not laughing during the four minutes of the video.

The screwballs in the following YouTube video are apparently astounded that when they try the same experiment five times that they get the same result every time. 

The video starts with beer critics about to drink helium beer. At first, they are skeptical. Will drinking helium beer make them sound like little girls when they speak the way a helium balloon does? Aren't we all...

I cannot say enough how important it is for physicians to have a working knowledge of junk science. While it sometimes can be difficult to not get snarky when patients claim they have nonsense diagnoses, it behooves the clinician to approach this type of situation with extreme diplomacy.  We cannot do this if we are not equipped with the knowledge to combat the plague which is medical quackery. 

The really sexy word around town, as I have noticed, is "wellness." Empires are built on the notion that we are, at baseline, not well.  And unless we buy what they sell, we will not attain both inner and outer beauty. What I did not know is how pervasive these wellness "clinics" are and the plethora of websites touting benefits that have no real foundation in evidence based medicine...

Netflix has declined to carry the agriculture documentary called "Food Evolution", for reasons they refused to specify. Like all documentaries, it is clearly a passion project so when disappointments like that happen, passions run high as well, and lots of speculation occurs among the fans. Some believe it's a conspiracy against science, that Netflix is politically aligned with the groups who make their money scaring people about food. (1) Others give them a pass and say science documentaries are probably just not a draw for their audience.

Is the Netflix audience not a science audience? Maybe not. In a poll of our office few people had it, which was a surprise to me. Netflix clearly dominates the home streaming market so they must know what they are doing, but they won't appeal...

As a native Midwesterner who made the move across the country to Seattle for graduate school, I have grown accustomed to very pleasant summers. Apparently, I have grown soft as well. When I got on the plane at SeaTac, it was about 75 degrees. When the plane landed on Venus in Kansas City, it was nearly 100 degrees. I guess I just never noticed how miserably hot Midwestern summers are. And the cicadas? Goodness. Shut up already.

Coming back to the Midwest -- which I don't do often since most of my family has left -- creates in me a weird mix of nostalgia and déjà vu. But it's definitely not as weird as these stories from the past week:

1. Mice fall from the ceiling of Chipotle. The PR team at Chipotle just can't catch a break. In 2015, you were...

There has rightfully been much public discussion on how to fight back against the scourge of fake news. We at ACSH attempted to shed some light on the issue by publishing a guide to detecting fake science news.

Perhaps just as troubling as the spread of fake news is the proliferation of non-news; that is, fluff pieces with little to no news value that seem aimed at generating clicks. The worthwhile goal of informing the public about relevant global events, which is presumably the entire point of journalism, has been replaced by entertainment.

Obviously, this isn't a new development, but it seems to have gone into overdrive in recent years. To stay in business, media...

1. Pregnant women can no longer just kill people in New Hampshire. Most states have fetal homicide laws. Fetuses that have reached 20 weeks after conception can be considered victims of murder, manslaughter, negligent homicide or assisted suicide. New Hampshire wanted to exempt women having an abortion from that, but their wording allowed pregnant women to legally be able to kill pretty much anyone. Republicans fixed it using a provision that allows the legislature to correct spelling errors.

...

We get email.

Liar. Jerk. Sock puppet. Propagandist. Criminal. Corporate slut. Satan's minion1. These are just a few of the names Dr. Josh Bloom and I have been called -- and that was just last week.  

What did we do to earn such reprobation? Were we cavorting with Gordon Gekko? Lobotomizing patients with Nurse Ratched? Sacrificing goats? Nope. In an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun, we explained why Wi-Fi is safe. And that's when the pitchforks came out.

The smartest reader2 commented:

Microwave ovens use 2.45 GHz to cook food. Most wi-fi also uses 2.45 GHz microwaves. So what is the difference between the...

We all remember Rebecca Black. Oh, do we remember. She sang "Friday," that awful but irresistibly catchy tune (viewed 105 million+ times on YouTube!!), which will forever be a part of our culture. Had she sung about Pi Day, however, perhaps the song would have had a more positive reception.

Today, March 14th (3/14), is Pi Day, because the mathematical number pi is rounded off to 3.14. Pi is an irrational number (meaning it cannot be adequately expressed as a fraction of two whole numbers) that is derived by dividing the circumference of a circle by its diameter. 

Pi: Not Just Another Number

Pi is much more than a mathematical curiosity. The number comes up over and over again...

It is now impossible not to see that a revolution of awareness is underway in America: awareness of pain; and that the US government is lying to its own citizens by claiming a greatly exaggerated relationship between pain and prescription opioid addiction.  Sadly, there are far too many examples of the damage done. Let’s look at an especially poignant one—a recent article in STAT (an online medical newsletter produced by Boston Globe Media), which informs us that “a ‘civil war’ over painkillers rips apart the medical community — and leaves patients in fear”

As interesting as the article itself are comments from readers, many of whom are pain patients.  The majority can be characterized as “…mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more…”  (to quote from the 1976 movie ...