Lame Science #11: Insights into the Origins of Life Facilitated by Computer Models

The origins of life (OOL) is one of most perplexing, speculative, and controversial topics in all of biology, but it has always been one of my favorite issues to read about, discuss, and even debate. There are a variety of OOL scenarios hypothesized by researchers, each of which is fraught with its own specific and particular set of difficulties. Most people that have taken a biology class are familiar with the Miller-Urey experiment, wherein what was at the time believed to be the Earth’s early atmosphere was simulated, electricity pulsed through the “primordial atmosphere,” and the resulting compounds were analyzed. Produced in the experiment were a variety of biologically relevant compounds, including some of the alpha amino acids used in biological systems.

Considered to the be the quintessential OOL experiment, Miller-Urey initiated more than 60 years of research into the chemical origins of life, also known as abiogenesis. Any given abiogenesis scenario will have to account for a number of specific things in order to address the question adequately. These include, but are not necessarily limited to:
Continue reading “Lame Science #11: Insights into the Origins of Life Facilitated by Computer Models”

Lame Science #10: Pilot comparative study on the health of vaccinated and unvaccinated 6- to 12-year-old U.S. children

Given that I teach a course on Immunology, and frequently discuss the unscientific nature of things such as homeopathy, acupuncture, and yes, vaccines-cause-autism-and-a-variety-of-other-disorders, I was intrigued when a student of mine asked if I had seen the new “study” purporting to show a link between vaccines, allergies, pneumonia, ear infections, and autism.

I told her that I had not, but committed myself to having a look at the study as soon as my exam was finished.

You may have noted that I placed the words study in quotations, as this particular article does not report on a study in any meaningful scientific context. Given that the data represent an internet survey of 666 homeschooled mothers, from this point on, the article referenced above, will be referred to as the “survey.”
Continue reading “Lame Science #10: Pilot comparative study on the health of vaccinated and unvaccinated 6- to 12-year-old U.S. children”

Lame Science #9: Paper on Dangers of Microplastics to Developing Fish Retracted.

A little more than 10 months ago, the highly respected journal Science published an article detailing the dangers of environmentally derived microplastic particles on European perch (Perca fluviatilis) larvae. The study reported that ingestion of microplastic particles inhibited hatching, decreased growth rate, and altered feeding preferences and innate behaviors perch larvae. The study further reports that those individuals exposed to microplastics did not respond to olfactory threat cues, greatly increasing their mortality rates.

A perch larva’s stomach is filled with microplastics.

Continue reading “Lame Science #9: Paper on Dangers of Microplastics to Developing Fish Retracted.”

Lame Science #8: Caramel Color in Soft Drinks and Exposure to 4-Methylimidazole: A Quantitative Risk Assessment

Science journalism has latched onto a recently published study led by researchers associated with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), and published in the open access journal PLOS One that purports to demonstrate a link between consumption of certain soft drinks and an elevated risk of some cancers. Hysterical headlines such as “Popular Soda Ingredient Poses Cancer Risk to Consumers,” “Caramel Coloring In Soda May Increase Cancer Risk; Regulations Fail To Protect Consumers,” and “Daily cola ‘raises cancer risk’ due to caramel coloring” state that consumers of soft drinks colored with a specific type of caramel color (type III & IV), are exposed to elevated levels of 4-Methylimidazole (4-MEI), a compound that has been described in both the study cited above and elsewhere as a potential carcinogen. 4-MEI is formed during the browning of foods via a chemical reaction (Maillard reaction) between carbohydrates and compounds that contain an amine (NH2) group, such as proteins.

Continue reading “Lame Science #8: Caramel Color in Soft Drinks and Exposure to 4-Methylimidazole: A Quantitative Risk Assessment”

Lame Science #7: Seeing the Unseen: Attention to Daily Encounters With Sexism as Way to Reduce Sexist Beliefs

According to a new study published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly, while most people can quite easily identify stereotypical incidents of sexual harassment, both men and women have a tendency to overlook more subtle daily acts of sexism they encounter. The primary purpose of this study is alleged to be to investigate sexism that emerges in everyday life, yet might go unnoticed as it exists in the form of Modern Sexist, Neosexist, and Benevolent Sexist beliefs. Prior to reading this particular study, The Reactionary Researcher (TRR) was not familiar with Modern Sexist, Neosexist, or Benevolent Sexist beliefs. This particular article did not explicitly define these terms; they probably assume that anyone reading this study would be familiar with these ideas. According to the “study” both Modern Sexist and Neosexist beliefs are primarily motivated by:

  • Beliefs in the rarity of discrimination against women
  • Antagonism toward women’s demands
  • Resentment of efforts to address gender inequality.

Lame Science #6: Acupuncture Effective at Reducing Hot Flashes Resulting from Prostate Cancer Treatment

The Reactionary Researcher (TRR) recently reported the results of two different systematic reviews detailing the inability of acupuncture to alleviate the symptoms of nausea secondary to chemotherapy and pain. The results of both of these reviews suggest that real acupuncture is no more effective than placebo at alleviating either nausea or pain.

Acupuncture meridians
Has acupuncture redeemed itself, at least with respect to its ability to alleviate hot flashes? Has TRR been proven wrong?

Continue reading “Lame Science #6: Acupuncture Effective at Reducing Hot Flashes Resulting from Prostate Cancer Treatment”

Lame Science #5: Discrediting “Dinosaur” Petroglyphs in Southern Utah

In this installment of Lame Science, we’ll be discussing an article recently published that alleges to undermine a piece of “evidence” often cited by Young Earth Creationists as being proof of the coexistence of humans and dinosaurs. Unlike previous installments of Lame Science, it’s not necessarily the conclusions that are invalid, rather, it’s intention behind the science and the shoddy methodology that supports the intention that are the focus of this particular entry.

My biggest complaint about this article is the intention behind it, and what drove the researcher to undertake this particular study. The author/researcher that published this article was not interested in conducting good science and uncovering the true nature of these petroglyphs, rather the author/researcher was interested in supporting one particular ideological perspective while undermining another. This is not an entry devoted to the defense of Young Earth Creationism, which The Reactionary Researcher (TRR) considers to be an unscientific pursuit, ironically for the same reason, that I categorize this article as being “Lame Science”; like the author/researcher who published this article, Young Earth Creationism begins with a preconceived idea that it attempts to defend, as opposed to drawing conclusions from the results generated via the scientific method, and following those data wherever they might lead.
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Lame Science #3: Cleaning Products Increase Breast Cancer Risk

In a tenuous study attempting to link the use of household cleaning products and breast cancer, researchers report that one’s risk of breast cancer increased two-fold in as a function of higher self-reported combined cleaning product use and combined air freshener use. Research was conducted via phone survey of more than 1500 women regarding their use of household cleaning products, insecticides, pesticides, air freshners, products for mold and mildew control, etc. Furthermore, researchers not only questioned women regarding use of these specific products, but also about their beliefs regarding the etiology of breast cancer, as well as some established and suspected risk factors. As stated previously, the study reports that cleaning products, air fresheners, and insect repellents are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, though no significant association was reported for pesticide use. Perhaps most noteworthy, it was reported that those women with breast cancer who believed that chemicals and pollutants contribute substantially (“a lot”) to the risk of developing the breast cancer were more likely to report high product usage.

There are a number of noteworthy details about this study that make it worth discussing. Firstly, despite the fact that they authors report that they “have no competing interests.”, I think it is entirely worth mentioning that three of the authors are affiliated with the The Silent Spring Institute, whose stated mission

Silent Spring Institute builds on a unique partnership of scientists, physicians, public health advocates, and community activists to identify and break the links between the environment and women’s health, especially breast cancer.

as magnanimous as it sounds here, is not likely to be overly friendly to chemicals, etc., that are not naturally part of the environment.

Continue reading “Lame Science #3: Cleaning Products Increase Breast Cancer Risk”

New Answers About the Origins of Life?

Those of you who follow this blog know, or probably could a least imagine, that I’m pretty fond of that site. It’s updated regularly, they cover a wide range of topics; I get great information from that site, and in general I consider it to be a decent resource.

In my opinion, they’re a bit to pro-disastrous climate change, etc., but in general I get some decent information from this site.

This – unfortunately – is not one of those times.

Origins of life, and evolution are one of my main hobby areas. I like to read about it, and I like to consider it, think about it, etc.

I debated about whether or not to label this a lame science post; I initially thought I would NOT in fact label this a lame science post, and thought I would simply chalk it up to lame science reporting.

However, reading through the article, I think the researchers make some bold, but absolutely ludicrous claims. The problem with these OOL experiments is that they generally tackle a single problem, while simultaneously ignoring inconsistencies and difficulties with the experimental setup. A good analogy might be trying to lose weight by decreasing your sugar intake, while simultaneously increasing your fat and calorie intake while decreasing exercise. The problem you’ve solved not only ignores, but completely discounts the role played by these other factors. Despite this, I opted to not label this lame science for some reasons I’ll elaborate on at the close of this post. Continue reading “New Answers About the Origins of Life?”

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