So apparently, the dinosaurs are extinct. That’s not really news of course (time to let it go, Nessie fans). But what is making the news is some new research about how those terrible lizards ended up shuffling off this mortal coil en masse.
There is quite good geological evidence that some kind of massive catastrophic event occurred around 65 million years ago, pretty much around about the same time that dinosaurs stopped appearing in the fossil record. Most kids today will tell you that this was caused by a large asteroid (a theory known as the Alvarez impact hypothesis), but some scientists argue with these kids and believe instead that those geological remnants are not inconsistent with multiple asteroidal impacts, or perhaps with the world’s biggest volcano going ‘pop’ (or something).
A dinosaur earlier this year. Obviously.
But today we saw reports offering an alternative theory. Continue reading “Headline-spectrum of the day: Dino-apocalypse by ‘wind’”
Reiki is a complementary therapy in which a therapist’s hands are placed on — or simply near — a patient’s body, with the intention of redirecting what are purported to be vital energy flows in order to enhance the patient’s physical health and well-being. The main problem with Reiki is that no evidence for the existence of such energy flows has ever been found, rendering claims that therapists can redirect them using their hands (without even touching the patient) immediately implausible. Unsurprisingly, the evidence for any medicinal effect for Reiki is sorely lacking. In reality, Reiki involves a lot of lying down, relaxation, and nice interactions with a Reiki practitioner, and as such has acquired a reputation for making people feel pleasant (as would any regime of rest, relaxation, and gentle social interaction). So what’s the problem? Well, the problem is that proponents also claim that Reiki should have a role in cancer treatment. Yes, cancer treatment. Continue reading “Reiki, cancer, and the problem of informed consent”
Last week, the news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) issued a press release with the title, “Rightwing candidates are better looking, says study”. The item described a study conducted by Swedish and Finnish economists in which 2,500 non-Finns rated 1,357 Finnish election candidates for attractiveness. The authors identified two main conclusions. Firstly, right-wing candidates were rated as being more attractive than left-wing candidates. And secondly, candidates rated as more attractive (who were mainly right-wing) were found to have received more votes. The press release was picked up and reported by a wide range of news outlets, including the Independent (London), the Daily Mail, the Wall Street Journal, Discovery News, the Albuquerque Express, The National (Abu Dhabi), the Times of Malta, the Ottawa Sun, and many more. It’s too bad then that: (a) the study has not been published in a peer-reviewed academic journal; and (b) its main findings are almost certainly unreliable. Continue reading “Right-wingers are better looking, study doesn’t show”