An oldie, but a goody. Better to start the new year smiling.
I’m winging my way—squeezed into a seat the size of shoebox—to the Far East. Taiwan, specifically; Formosa as was.
My mission there is highly classified and secret. I’ll be on EVA airlines, arriving at the Taoyuan International Airport on 2 January at 7:05 am, traveling by taxi to Taipei central city where the Rich Powerful People Big Hotel is. Don’t tell anybody.
Taiwan is famous for its cuisine; truly one of the world’s best: pork balls, fish balls, beef balls, and if you like the feel of small sticky balls in your mouth, there’s bubble tea galore. The street food alone is cheap, plentiful, and amazing: stinky tofu, green onion pancakes, fresh-dead chicken steak, beef noodle soup, oyster omelets, louro fan (pig meat and fat over rice), and sticks with small tomatoes and plums on them coated with sugar—they are astonishingly good. I expect to come back 5.2% fatter.
To take up the time while I’m away, I scheduled a five-part series on a psychic test I designed and proctored for three Korean children trained in the art of Dahn Yoga and something called brain respiration. The test took place at MIT in 2004. It is a story of what happens when people want to believe and what happens when things go wrong.
I’ll have other posts from time to time, and I might be a little slow in responding, but please do leave your comments. I will get to them all eventually.
See you when I get back!
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The Sense about Science report looks at the dumbest things celebrities have said over the past year—on the subjects of physics, medicine, and so on. Medicine is the one area in which it is easiest to make a fool of oneself.
For the top example, we have the world’s biggest celebrity saying something stupid about autism. Ladies and gentlemen, our very own Barack Obama:
We’ve seen just skyrocketing autism rates. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it.
John McCain backs Obama up, so this is not a “D” versus “R” thing.
Contrast what the big boys are saying with the statement by actress Amanda Peet, who showed us her awe-inspiring talents in The Whole Nine Yards:
Fourteen studies have been conducted (both here in the US and abroad), and these tests are reproducible; no matter where they are administered, or who is funding them, the conclusion is the same: there is no association between autism and vaccines.
Wait…an actress knowing more than about-to-be and an almost-was president? Strange world.
The real reason autism rates are rising is that people are more aware of the disease and so it is diagnosed more often. According to Michael Fitzpatrick, a guy who actually studies this stuff:
The presidential candidates are correct in that there is an apparent increase in the number of cases of autism. However, authoritative studies confirm that the apparent rise is attributable to increased public and professional awareness of the condition and to widening definitions of autistic spectrum disorders.
So how about my Nobel prize?
Well, we’d all like to see the rates of diseases decrease, right? One sure fire, guaranteed method to accomplish this is to ban all advertising, public service announcements, and public discussions of health problems!
Yes! Once people don’t know what they might have, they’ll cease going to the doctor to find out if they really do have it. It’s sublime! It’s genius!
No other medical treatment or public health measure will ever have the effect my scheme will. Disease rates will plummet across the board; every major and minor disease will show tremendous drop offs.
My brilliant idea, developed using the same logic as our esteemed leaders, since it will cause disease rates to fall to all time lows, will surely win me the prize.
See you in Oslo (or wherever it is they hand those things out).
Universities have are a long way from what Aristotle had in mind.
Full documentation here. At least download and read the letters the University sent to Sampson. Just hilarious.