Audiophiles: £1,500 for the a mains power cord?

March 19, 2007

Some people worship a God, others claim to see the future in the stars or banish evil with crystals. Even worse, some audiophiles claim to understand electronics while wasting their money on the audio equivalent of Kabbalah Water.

This is a regular look at some of the crazy audophile products available to people with little sense but a lot of money.

Product: The Russ Andrews Silver Signature PowerKord™.

Price: £1,500 (approximately US$2,889.35) or £2,550.00 for the 2 metre version.

Claims: A mains power cord designed to provide a high level of insulation and low resistance. Presumably your hi-fi is supposed to benefit from having better quality electricity, not the cheap nasty electricity that the rest of us use.

Cold reality: This product is no better than a 5 dollar power lead from Radio Shack and here’s why. The electricity that comes in to your house has already travelled many miles through regular copper cable. Is it likely that having super cable for it to travel the final metre is going to make a difference? Peter Aczel, writing for The Audio Critic, put it best when he asked the question “Does your car care about the hose you filled the tank with?”

Besides, the voltage is going to be converted to DC before it reaches the components that create the sound. If you believe that this power cable will improve your sound quality then you should buy one to use on your PC. The power cable will probably make Windows run faster.

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The fatal power of alternative medicine

March 10, 2007

‘Alternative’ medicine has too often been afforded a status it does not deserve. Consider the following terms

Alternative medicine
Complementary medicine

Alternative medicine is the original name for pseudo-scientific junk like homeopathy. The word alternative suggests that it is something else to try instead of the regular choice. This is dangerous since it suggests that the alternative treatment is actually something you can use instead of the orthodox treatments. This is why the word alternative has fallen out of favour since it has a habit of getting people killed when they forsake conventional treatment for voodoo.

Complementary is a safer word to use since it doesn’t exclude the use of conventional medicine. This is more sustainable since patients can take both convention medicine and complementary medicine yet still get better. Of course, when they get better they can attribute their recovery to rosemary rather than the conventional remedy that their doctor prescribed.

Gambia is unfortunate but their misfortune helps me illustrate a point. Have you noticed that complementary practitioners don’t like being measured? They believe that their cures can’t be tested by conventional methods.

In Gambia, there is a healer who finds himself in the same situation. He claims to have a cure for AIDS yet he is widely derided. When asked to provide an sample of his remedy, his response was “Not in a million years”.

This is the president of Gambia who believes that he can cure AIDS on Thursdays.

In principle he is little different to those practising homeopathy in the west. We have an advantage though, we have education and a functioning health-system. This is why homeopaths tend to moderate their claims since they can be proven wrong when their patients die. In Gambia, they do not have this safety net. People are desperate and will clutch at any straws they are offered.

President Jammeh is falsely claiming to cure AIDS. By doing this, he condemns people to death since he requires them to give up their conventional drugs as part of his treatment regime. As well as the original victims, he leaves more open to infection since his patients believe themselves to be cured and so resume normal sex-lives – thus opening more to infection.

Compare Jammeh to your homeopath. I’m sure neither wish you harm but if Jammeh can take good intentions and use them to cause so much death and misery, ask yourself whether your homeopath would do the same under similar circumstances.

4head – Medical quackery or scientifically proven?

March 5, 2007

I’ve been trying to find out more about a product by the name of 4head that is being sold in the UK.

http://www.4headaches.co.uk/

It’s a stick you rub on your head that is supposed to cure headaches. The main ingredient seems to be levomenthol – a synthetic type of menthol.

So far I’ve found nothing but flawed studies and anecdotal evidence – claims like ‘85% of people tested said that they felt better after using it”. In all the cases where studies have been cited, there are no indications as to who conducted the studies or the methods they used.

Could anyone shed light on this for me? Is it a placebo or does it look like there could actually be a sound scientific basis for this product? I’m really interesting in links to properly conducted studies.

Why should I want my doctor to have studied evolution?

March 5, 2007

Skepchick mention a competition being organised for high-school (US only I presume) students. To win, you will have to write an essay entitled Why should I want my doctor to have studied evolution?

There are some pretty decent prizes on offer and it’s great opportunity for kids to learn more about evolution. Visit Alliance for Science for more details.

Conservapedia – I reject your reality and substitute my own

March 2, 2007

Tired of Wikipedia’s liberal bias? How about the newly launched Conservapedia. The Conservapedia complains about the liberal bias of wikipedia and to combat this they have created their own biased encyclopaedia. Interesting idea.

The site has a set of rules known as The Commandments (seriously, I’m not joking).

1. Everything you post must be true and verifiable.
2. Always cite and give credit to your sources, even if in the public domain.
3. Edits/new pages must be family-friendly, clean, concise, and without gossip or foul language.
4. When referencing dates based on the approximate birth of Jesus, give appropriate credit for the basis of the date (B.C. or A.D.). “BCE” and “CE” are unacceptable substitutes because they deny the historical basis. See CE.
5. As much as is possible, American spelling of words must be used.[1]
6. Do not post personal opinion on an encyclopedia entry. Opinions can be posted on Talk:pages or on debate or discussion pages.

Most of the Ten Commandments, sorry, The Commandments are pretty sensible. Number four is a bit strange and as you read more of the Conservapedia, you’ll see that they are absolutely obsessed with the usage of BCE and CE as being a terrible threat to Jesus.

Before I go any further, I should point out that I don’t consider Wikipedia to be perfect. I’ve personally contributed to a few articles and made some corrections. I may well have introduced errors of my own which someone else must fix. Most wikipedia articles do show a decent level of balance.

Since Conservapedia is simply a vehicle for the dissemination of extremist right-wing views, let’s start with a topic close to the conservative heart. Creationism.

Wikipedia – Creationism

You’ll notice several differences.

1) The Conservapedia version is remarkably short considering the complexity of the subject.

2) There is no criticism of Creationism, none at all. No mention of the fact that evolutionary theory, geology and physics all provide strong evidence against young earth creationism in particular. Wikipedia provides both sides.

3) A lack of references. While Wikipedia includes an impressive list of sites to visit, from both sides of the debate, Conservapedia provides five links, four of which are pro-creationism.

4) No analysis of the politics of creationism. No mention of the push to have creationism taught in US schools – a deliberate attempt to breach the separation of church and state.

The Conservapedia is going to achieve what it set out to do. It will provide a warm and fuzzy feeling for the fundamentalists who feel that their way of life is being threatened by the liberal conspiracy.

It is true that bias exists in the media but this ‘liberal conspiracy’ simply doesn’t exist. Couid anyone honestly claim that the Guardian and Fox News are pursuing the same agenda?

The reason why there appears to be a liberal bias is because the fundamentalists see their cherished yet irrational and dangerous beliefs being challenged by cold facts and this scares them. When a magazine prints an article about evolution, a theory that is almost universally accepted and proven within the scientific community, it is seen as an attack on their sky god. The conservative Christians will come out in their droves to denounce this shameless un-American atheism.

Conservapedia is aimed at conservatives, with an emphasis on the millions of children who are being home-schooled. I pity these poor sods and moments like this make me understand why Richard Dawkins considers the indoctrination of children to be a form of child abuse. If the deliberate stunting of the intellectual of children and the perpetuation of bronze-age myths as fact isn’t child abuse, I don’t know what is.

For further reading, I suggest you visit the following Conservapedia links. Compare them to their counterparts on Wikipedia and note the Conservapedia’s abuse of hearsay, selective evidence and the assumption that the Christian God of The American People is the one true god.

Democrats
Republicans
Evolution
CE (Enjoy the paranoia)

My apologies to Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame for abusing his quote in the title of this post.

Radiation shields for your face

March 2, 2007

I am worried because my skin is constantly exposed to electromagnetic waves. I don’t want to live in a faraday cage, what can I do?

There is an answer:

Clarin’s Expertise 3P

Clarins have produced a spray that you can just ‘spritz’ on your skin to protect it from pollution and ‘artificial electromagnetic waves’. I’m assuming that natural electromagnetic waves are perfectly healthy, it’s just artificial stuff that’s bad for us.

This is bullshit of the highest order. This spray cannot specifically block ‘artificial electromagnetic waves’, in fact based on the ingredients they listed, this product cannot provide any significant protection from EM radiation. You’d get a similar level of protection if you wore a jumper – i.e. not very much at all.

I’ve sent the following message to Clarins.

Hi,

The following product claims to be able to protect the skin from ‘Artificial Electromagnetic Waves’.

http://uk.clarins.com/main.cfm?prodID=826

This is a very broad claim. Can you answer the following questions please?

1) Which frequencies are blocked by this product? How does the product differentiate between artificial and natural waves. Would this product protect against the EM radiation from a UV lamp while allowing natural UV radiation from the sun to pass through?

2) How was this product or its ingredients tested? Since none of the listed ingredients in its ‘magentic defence’ have a history of protecting against EM radiation.

Since the ingredients listed on the page seem to have no known application in EM shielding, can you provide a link to some reputable research that backs up your claims?

Thanks in advance,

Sean.

Chris. Heir to the power of Sylvia Browne

February 17, 2007

Since Sylvia is getting bad press at the moment, I’d like to help her out by telling you a bit about her services, her son in particular. I visited her web site to do some research.

Few people know that Sylvia is an amazing scientist, seriously. We know this she has managed to locate the psychic gene. See this text from her site.

“Chris is an authentic psychic from birth. Being Sylvia’s son he shares in her genetic predisposition to psychic excellence. Chris is the only other psychic recommended by Sylvia.”

Wow, she has isolated the genetic explanation for psychic power! Assuming she published a paper, I did some searching. I haven’t found the paper but It must be there somewhere. I wonder why these so called scientists have ignore her amazing find; probably because they aren’t proper scientists.

I’m sure that the genetic psychic powers of Chris, her son, are the only reason why Sylvia chose to recommend him, her son. She must have reviewed the work of many other psychics before deciding to recommend Chris, her son, as the only psychic she will recommend.

Sylvia’s site goes on to explain how her powers work.

“Sylvia brings into your life a little part of the Other Side. She reminds you that your soul is glorious, exalted, and very precious to God. The Holy Spirit works through Sylvia to emanate God’s love, grace, and blessings.”

As someone who is acting as a conduit, Sylvia only charges a tiny fee for her services.

Phone reading with Sylvia – $750
Phone reading with Chris (her son) – $450

A bargain indeed. I would like to personally thank Sylvia and Chris for sacrificing their time to share the power of God with us all. Well, not all us but at least the ones who can afford $450 upwards for a 20-30 minute telephone consultation. Randi commented that one of the most expensive lawyers in the US charges $1000 dollars for an hour-long consultation. We know that lawyers have a reputation for being expensive but Syvlia’s charge would be around $1500 per-hour.

I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t work for free either, they just edited the haggling out of the Bible. Here’s a price list found in St. Peter’s Gospel. I’ve converted the prices in to a modern form.

Jesus’ Price List
Leprosy cure: $300
Walking on water at parties: $800 (including travel costs)
Raising from dead: $700
Smiting fortune tellers and mediums: free

Personally I’d recommend Jesus since he can offer some pretty decent services, not just vague ficticious babble.

Boots on the radio

February 6, 2007

There’s an interesting BBC Radio show discussing the Snoring remedies being peddled by Boots.

Click here to listen. You’ll need RealPlayer installed.

David Colquhoun is among the contributors to the show.

Although my site isn’t mentioned by name, they did quote from the text of the piss-poor response I received from Boots when I asked for evidence of the fantastical claims they make for their homeopathic snoring remedy.

During the show, you’ll hear that I’m not the only one to be brushed-off by Boots.

A replacement for Sylvia Browne

February 5, 2007

Over at smugbaldy.com, you’ll find an analysis of Sylvia Browne’s predictions for 2006. Silvia didn’t do too well, resulting in an accuracy rate of around 3%.

Since her psychic powers are waning, we need to find a replacement for her. We need a powerful psychic device that can part the veil of time and provide an insight in to what would otherwise be unknown.

I am proud to announce the invention of the Predictor Disc. It’s a simple metal disc that has the power to predict the future with an accuracy rate of around 50% – far higher than Sylvia’s woeful attempts at divination.

The discs are made all the more effective since they are inscribed with numbers, thus harnessing the power of numerology. Here is a list of the numbers chosen and explanations for their significance.

1 (As in Highlander, there can be only 1)
2 (2 is an even number, thus balanced)
5 (As in high 5. A high-powered number)
10 (As in the 10-commandments. A number sacred to God)
20 (Twice as much as 10, therefore twice as sacred to God)
50 (The average age of 50-year-old people)

The discs are also enscribed with symbols. A head equals yes and tails equals no.

Okay, that’s the science out of the way. Let’s see the results.

1) The weather this year will be worse than last year.
correct
Silvia predicted that the weather would be worse and so was wrong. I activated the disc and it showed tails (no). Sylvia failed but I was correct.

Scores: Disc = 1/9 Syvlia = 0/9

2) Hurricanes will hit in the north east US.
wrong
Sylvia was wrong. I flipped the disc and it answered with heads. I was also wrong but this was probably due to sunspots.

Scores: Disc = 1/9 Syvlia = 0/9

3) Floods in the midwest as usual.

Syvlia was wrong, there were no significant flood events. My disc answered with heads (yes) and so it was wrong. This failure was most likely due to bad vibes from a person who was walking past my house.

Scores: Disc = 1/9 Syvlia = 0/9

4) There will be advancements in treatments for plaque in the heart valves.

Syvia was wrong. The disc showed heads and was also wrong. This miss can be explained by the ghost of Julias Caesar interfering with the ecto-probability field.

Scores: Disc = 1/9 Syvlia = 0/9

5) A vaccine that blocks the need for nicotine.

Syvlia was wrong. The magical disc (peace and blessings be upon it) answered with heads. This incorrect answer is explained by something.

Scores: Disc = 1/9 Syvlia = 0/9

6) Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt will marry.

Syvlia was wrong. The disc of divination showed tails (yes). The disc has opened my third eye and given me a glimpse at the past future.

Scores: Disc = 2/9 Syvlia = 0/9

7) Jennifer Aniston will also marry.

Syvlia was wrong but the disc correctly answered tails (no).

Scores: Disc = 3/9 Syvlia = 0/9

8 ) Nicole Kidman will marry a producer and she have a baby girl.

Syvlia and the disc were both wrong. However, the disc must have failed because Mars is in retrograde, probably.

Scores: Disc = 3/9 Syvlia = 0/9

9) Gov. Schwarzenegger will lose popularity. He will run again because his ego will make him. He will be defeated if he runs.

Sylvia was wrong, the disc showed tails (no). Disc be praised, it has directed the powers of a ley-line in to my chakras and done exactly what it says on the tin.

Scores: Disc = 4/9 Syvlia = 0/9

Conclusion:

Sylvia failed in all 9 of these questions and the disc was correct just under 50% of the time. This cannot be due to chance. Chance is dishonest, hence the slang term “Chancer”. The disc is honest and scientifically proven in testing by the Harare Institute for Psychic-karmic-numerologist-creationist Research. I have been assured that the person leading the study has a PHd, complete with a diploma wrapped in ribbon.

Although I know these discs work, I won’t be taking the James Randi challenge. He will cheat and besides, he doesn’t have the money anyway. Even if we have a fair test, his bad vibes and beard will interfere with the delicate quantum field of the disc. I have it on reliable authority that Randi is the devil.

Protecting religious views

February 5, 2007

Normally I tend to believe that religious symbols have no place in schools but here is a cause worth fighting for.

Gillard’s diver

This concerns the tale of a classroom assistant who was given a terrible decision to make. Either he abandons his heart-felt religious convictions or he loses his job.

As a staunch member of The Fraternity of Neptune, he must wear full diving gear and oppose the heretical notion of fishing. Just as Christians leaders in the UK are currently fighting hard for their right to consider gays to be abominations, he cannot in good conscience participate in a classroom containing children of fishing families.

As Ruth Kelly, the staunch Catholic and government minister for Women and Equality, is arguing that Catholics should be allowed to send gays to the back of the bus, I hope she intervenes on behalf of this man.

What kind of society are we living in that allows such terrible discrimination to continue? I personally lost my job as a teacher when I refused to teach Dalits. I mean, how can I teach them when there is a serious danger of their shadows falling on and contaminating me?

Well, I wasn’t really a teacher but it was a very vivid dream.