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Inside Google

by Brian Dunning, Jun 16 2011

Skeptoid @ Google

Google has a reputation for hiring really smart people. (I will burst your bubble on one small point: the urban legend that all prospective hires have to take a really hard test is untrue.) So I was pretty excited to give a talk there through their Authors@Google program. It’s always fun to have a really challenging audience. The San Francisco bay area is one of the world’s Woo Central headquarters too; it’s the home of alternative everything, and the all-natural fallacy is nowhere more deeply embedded. Combine that with a super-smart audience, and a skeptical speaker is sure to have a wild time. Continue reading…

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Trip Report – Woo in my hometown

by Yau-Man Chan, Apr 05 2009

I just came back from a 10-day trip to my home town of Kota Kinabalu, capital of the State of Sabah (formerly North Borneo) in East Malaysia. It was a wonderful vacation.

Troupe of Proboscis monkeys

Troupe of Proboscis monkeys

The purpose of the trip was to attend my high-school class of 1969 40th reunion. In addition to meeting up with classmates who stayed and made their lives in Malaysia, I met up with classmates from Canada, Australia, Singapore and the U.S.  A few of us made our way (45 min. flight, 5 hr. drive and 45 min. up river by boat) to the interior of Borneo and spend a few nights in the Kinabatangan valley to see for ourselves what was left of the virgin primary forest – and communed with orangutans, horn bills, proboscis monkeys and even a pygmy Borneo elephant.
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An unvaccinated child has died from a preventable disease

by Phil Plait, Jan 28 2009

This story is so sad, and what makes it worse is that it was preventable.

The Centers for Disease Control has put out an alert: in Minnesota in 2008, there were five confirmed cases of Haemophilus influenzae type b (or Hib) among children younger than five years old. Of these five cases, three of the children were unvaccinated, one had started the series of vaccines but did not complete the series due to shortages, and the fifth — who had been fully vaccinated — had an immune deficiency.

Continue reading…

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More MonaVie Than I Can Swallow

by Brian Dunning, Nov 27 2008

MonaVie

MonaVie

If you follow my Skeptoid podcast at all, you probably know that my all-time leading episode, by number of comments posted to the web site, is the one about MonaVie. It was actually about “superfruit” juices in general, but MonaVie distributors are the ones who have been pounding the site like a horde of Mongols and posting their comments. I graciously call it “posting comments”, it’s really more like harling. Harling, for those perhaps unfamiliar with the term, is the process of refinishing the walls of a Scottish castle by harling, or throwing, a handful of plastery weatherproofing (called harl) at the wall. Manure was a prominent ingredient in some harl. So I like to describe what the MonaVie distributors do as “harling” their comments at my site.

And, for some reason, I’m still constantly amazed at how many people in my neighborhood buy into MonaVie, both literally and figuratively. Without exception they parrot what they’ve been told; that it gives them more energy, it prevents illness, and generally promotes better health. How does it do this? If pressed for an explanation, they best they can come up with is that the açai from which it’s made (in part) is high in antioxidants and/or vitamins. Thus MonaVie’s comically high price is justified (a variety of similar juices are available in supermarkets at about a tenth the price, just without the fancy wine bottle and high school dropout pyramid business model). Continue reading…

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Kombucha – Healthy Elixer Or Not?

by Kirsten Sanford, Nov 14 2008

I’ve watched over the past year as a drink called Kombucha has become more and more popular within my group of friends. Most of them drink it because the bottle tells a story that all but promises freedom from sickness of any kind. They also say that it makes them feel better.

From the GTS Kombucha website:

“In 1995, founder GT Dave’s mom, Laraine Dave, had been diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer with a trajectory of illness known to move quickly to the lymph and bones. When she was diagnosed, doctors held out little hope for her given the aggressive type of cancer and its advanced stage. But to the surprise of everyone, her cancerous cells were found to be dormant with no metastasis. Her physicians were baffled and asked what she was doing that others in her situation were perhaps not doing. The only thing she could think of was that she had been drinking homemade Kombucha every day for the last couple of years.”

Anecdotal evidence is never convincing to a skeptic, so I’ve remained skeptical about Kombucha’s health providing properties even though several of them profess its wonders.

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