Wednesday, January 23, 2008

all my clothes fell off!

Don't you just hate it when you don't get the whole story? Let me give you a couple of examples.

This story was featured prominently on the BBC website a while back: Woman jailed for testicle attack. Have a read; you'll like it. While you're admiring the unruffled insouciance of the mutual friend who just handed the unfortunate victim his own testicle back with a cheery "that's yours", ponder what the story doesn't tell us, which is: where were his trousers? Or indeed the rest of his clothes? The victim's statement says:
That caused my underpants to come off and I found I was completely naked and in excruciating pain.
Hmm.....OK. So you were just wearing underpants at the time? There's a whole story here we're not being told.

Strangely similar is this testicle-related story from 2001 (in fact you might say there's not a vas deferens between the stories, if you were inclined to that sort of humour). The sentence that invites a whole world of intrigue and conjecture is this one:
Mr Hutchinson's testicle was later found by police under a picture frame.
Well....if he was wearing trousers, as he allegedly was (frankly I'm not entirely convinced), then the only way that could have happened is if his detached (and slightly chewed) testicle had slid down his trouser leg and out over his sock and shoe onto the floor. You'd think you'd notice, wouldn't you? No, again, there's more to this than meets the eye.

In slightly different vein, I watched the BBC Horizon programme about sensory deprivation last night - it was moderately interesting, though my usual complaints about recent Horizon programmes apply, i.e. not enough actual science. More specifically, though, we were invited to believe that a group of half a dozen or so people were confined in various ways for 48 hours with no input from or interaction with the outside world. Yeah? Well, how did they go to the toilet, then? Either we have to choose to believe that they just, erm, "held on" for 48 hours, or we choose to believe that some facilities were provided, and that the programme-makers chose to cut all reference to it out because it would have broken up the narrative flow, and, more importantly, diluted the drama by revealing that the participants weren't, in fact, cut off completely for 48 hours at all. I strongly suspect that there would have been a legal requirement to provide drinks as well, which again we weren't shown.

The point is if you focus on the "how did you feel about that?" aspects at the expense of telling us what actually happened, then people expecting some actual science come away feeling somewhat frustrated. Well, I did, anyway. The main conclusion seemed to be that if this technique was used to try and extract information from prisoners then the information extracted wouldn't be very reliable, which is lesson #1 in why torture is pointless as well as immoral, though the ongoing saga of Guantánamo Bay (where sensory deprivation treatment has apparently been used) and the recent furore over "waterboarding" shows a great many people haven't grasped this yet.

No comments: