The brilliant Ben Goldacre explains the placebo effect at lightning speeds
Dr. Ben Goldacre is an NHS GP and writer committed to exposing quacks and pill pedlars; expelling a myriad of medical misconceptions. This video is a super-fast crash course in the wonders of the placebo effect. The genuine scientific phenomenon is simply breathtaking and provides an insight into the healing, and sometimes even destructive powers of the human mind.
I read Dr. Goldacre’s book ‘Bad Science' a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's an accessible and engaging title that equips the reader with the tools necessary to sniff-out pseudoscience (before it has a chance to manipulate your belief system… and subsequently your wallet). It combines some very humorous elements with more serious expositions of the many dangers of people's general misconceptions about medicine and science. Goldacre reveals the lethal ramifications of these misunderstandings. Including the horrifying (sometimes actively deceptive) misinformation that is being disseminated in pursuit of profit.
In the same vein, this TED lecture voices similar concerns:
A different take on sustainability: Let’s get rid of waste altogether!
This interesting documentary expounds a new approach of looking at the largely ignored, yet extremely important, concept of waste. How can we change the way products are made in the light of the disgusting amount of waste that plagues our planet? Unfortunately, the way our monetary system is set up, the environment is not properly factored into the equation. In general, profit goes against sustainability. Nothing can illustrate this more incontrovertibly than the outrageous existence of planned obsolesence. This denotes the conscious restriction of a product’s lifetime, in order to generate future profit from repairs and replacements. The profit vs. sustainability phenomenon extends further, to the deliberate withholding of the latest, and most efficient technology in pursuit of profit. By releasing intermediate products with less efficient and effective technology, companies can thus generate more money. Furthermore, the incompatibility of certain products with peripherals of other brands, also captures the theme at hand.
However, this interesting documentary shows how, with a bit of thought and some brilliant engineering, products can be created that are totally recyclable. But not recyclable in the traditional sense, which when you think about it is more of a downcycling as materials lose their durability and useful properties along the way. Remarkably, Waste = Foode shows how companies can create a much more eco-friendly environment with better products with less expense.
The authors of the book Cradle-to-Cradle are the genuises behind the theory. They want to take the traditional idea of sustainability one step further. Instead of simply patching up the problem by increasing the efficiency of equipment to reduce environmental damage, they want to see a change whereby the waste produced isn’t actually waste at all! Indeed "[o]ne organism’s waste is food for another".
Unfortunately, while I the theory successfully attacks the root of the problem within the current framework, I think the deeper issue lies with the economic structure itself. At present, there is little motivation for corporations to reduce their pollutant footprint. Nonetheless, this is a fantastic set of ideas and perhaps a more realistic approach to the issue at hand, in a system that seems to perpetuates itself regardless of its self-destructive side effects. These ideas presented in the documentary apply whether or not we live in our current system and undoubtedly seem to be the most logical path to environmental sustainability.
It’s snapping claw produces stunning bubbles as hot as the sun (10,000°F)…
Now the first time I watched this video, I initially suspected something a little fishy was at play. However, the seemingly outlandish facts alleged in the BBC documentary clip are confirmed in this brief National Geographic article (in turn based on a publication in the journal Science).
In short, by snapping it’s claws this incredible organism (Alpheus heterochaelis) forms a bubble that on collapsing, expels enough energy to actually stun it’s prey. Furthermore, in addition to the very loud resultant noise, scientists have detected a brief emission of light. Based on the phenomenon of sonoluminiscence, they have predicted that the internal temperature of the bubble very briefly reaches that of the sun!
0870, 0845, 08… What next? The list of chargeable company phone number prefixes in the UK appears to be neverending, and after a while, feels almost satirical of itself. It can be particularly irritating because most mobile phone contracts offer inclusive minutes (I deliberately avoid the word “free” here) to 01 and 02 numbers. This is also the case for some home phone packages. Particularly when the number you are trying to call is actually a government agency!
I’ve been using this website for several years now and almost everytime it has provided me with an alternative landline number to the dreaded 08 prefix. It’s not going to win any prizes for aesthetics! But usually there are plenty of alternative numbers to try; sometimes you might reach a switchboard where you can ask to be put through to the relevant department. You can search by company name or by the number itself. Additionally, mobile phone calls to 0800 numbers are also chargeable, hence this free service (and here I actually mean "free”) is a brilliant tool to save you spending your pennies unecessarily.
There also conveniently a free app available on the Android Market to help you find those alternative digits on the move. Why pay?
At some point or another, most rational people have probably considered the phenomenon of bottled water and its negative environmental impact. However, I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of falling prey to its convenient nature. Indeed, in places where clean tap water is not readily accessible and/or there isn’t a drinking fountain within an equatorial radius, bottled water can provide a very useful and moreover necessary commodity. At the very least, one would hope that most of us would be comfortable with refilling our empty bottles with tap water.
However, unfortunately it seems people have become obssessed with false notions that bottled water is in some way “cleaner" than tap water. Continuing the theme of hand-drawn animated videos, here is an enlightening insight into common misconceptions and the wasteful nature of bottled water.
'The Ultimate Roller Coaster Ride: An Abbreviated History of Fossil Fuels'
People across the world are becoming increasingly aware that our entire international economic infrastructure, is built around a rapidly dwindling form of resources. We must find ways of existing without fossil fuels; for like it or not, we have no other choice. The time to act is now. Whilst some have awoken to this inevitability, there remains a lack of acknowledgement from a significant number, as to the gravity of the future we face.
This video created by the Post Carbon Institute, is a brilliant RSA Animate-style viral that depicts history and potential future of our current situation, in an accessible and compelling format.
I recently entered a graphic design poster competition set up by a Japanese NGO called ‘NO NUKES’. The project strives to raise awareness about the recent disaster in Japan and that nuclear energy is not the way forward…