Tuesday, November 30, 2010

all these death rays are affecting my poo

Strange goings-on in today's Daily Mail, you'll be not at all surprised to hear. This article tells us that after years of speculation the conclusive scientific evidence is finally in, and we are ALL GOING TO DIE OF HEAD CANCER if we keep up our oh-so-convenient wi-fi internet-browsing ways. Yes, the magic radiation wave thingies get into our heads and suck our brains out in a mysterious yet profoundly evil way not shared (for some unspecified reason) by other very similar forms of radiation like radio waves and, well, light and stuff like that.

You might at this point smell a rat, particularly at the journalist's regular protestations of being a Proper Scientist (actually he's an electronics engineer) and click on his name; if you do you'll find that the only other Mail article under his by-line is this very similar one from almost exactly a year ago. Interestingly this one carries a footnote that's absent from today's article:
Alasdair Philips is the director of Powerwatch, an independent organisation researching electromagnetic fields and health.
Riiiiight, OK. That'll be this Powerwatch, then - purveyors of electrosmog scaremongering and misinformation to the masses since, well, a while back. There's a whole slew of entertaining articles about them over at Bad Science, including details of some of the hilarious products they sell, including shirts made from "cotton electrocloth" and the fantastic BlocSock which is a sort of miniature sleeping bag you can put around your mobile phone to achieve the twin goals of shielding your brain from those nasty mobile phone death rays (that can penetrate bone but not cloth, apparently) and making whoever you're talking to sound like they're shouting at you from inside a sleeping bag. You can also get death-ray-proof window covering and paint, apparently. No tinfoil hats, unfortunately, but you can probably make your own.

That's all well and good, you may say, but what about a sober assessment of all the evidence for phone masts, wi-fi tower thingies etc. causing actual physical ailments in people. Well, OK, here it is: there isn't any. Nada. Zilch. Let's move on.

More interesting is how this reveals how some people's brains are just differently wired than others' - I'm not sure whether it's being conditioned by upbringing and education (or lack thereof) never to question any of your own assumptions, or being surrounded by people who just agree with you all the time (probably at least partly because it's in their financial and career interests to do so), but some people do genuinely seem to believe they can make things true just by really really believing in them, or by asserting them enough times, and seem to be genuinely baffled when reality (usually in the form of other people) intervenes.

As luck would have it the media spotlight (or at least a bit of it) is currently illuminating a perfect example of this: Gillian McKeith. Or, to give her her full medical title (and to resurrect a very old joke), Gillian McKeith. I haven't seen much of I'm A Celebrity 2010, but her behaviour on the show does seem to be that of someone whose perception of reality has been gradually corroded and eroded by choosing to lie to people, constantly, for a living. Needless to say she has some previous on Bad Science as well, and this most recent episode illustrates perfectly the failure of this type of person to grasp that they don't have the power to shape reality (even retrospectively) to suit their own agenda.

Lastly I point out with a certain degree of relish (and no particular originality; the Indy article linked above mentions it as well) the relative proximity in dates of birth of Gillian McKeith and Nigella Lawson (September 1959 and January 1960 respectively) and their sharply diverging views on what constitues a sensible dietary regimen. Now I'm not one of those who comes over all unnecessary about Nigella Lawson, and I've always thought those who did were exhibiting an unintentionally revealing desire to regress back to infancy and be smothered by mama's (or possibly nanny's) giant and comforting bosom, possibly while being fed treacle pudding and custard or something, in some disturbingly Freudian way. But it must be said that Nigella looks better on the sausages and cheesecake than McKeith does on the pumpkin seeds and alfalfa juice. Then again looking at Tupperware boxes full of other people's faeces would probably be a bit of an appetite-suppressant. You'd certainly skip the chocolate mousse afterwards.

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