Perisher: The Trip There

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Mandy’s birthday was on Thursday, and while a chunk was spent packing, the majority was spent driving south-west. For her birthday, we took a trip to Perisher, a Ski Resort nestled amongst the Snowy Mountains about 5.5hrs outside Sydney.

On the way to our Accommodation in Cooma we passed a number of dead animals, surprisingly more wombats were sighted than Kangaroos, with some of the wombats being some impressively massive blocks of meat.

We drove right through the Australian Capital Territory without having to get out of the car, and was surprised at just how populated the ACT actually is.

A few more hours driving in the dark (while listening to Episode 6 of Carl Sagan’s COSMOS streamed over YouTube) and we made it to Cooma.

We stayed at a nice little place – the Cooma Motor Lodge, the first accommodation on the left when entering Cooma. Rates were cheap – and even cheaper because I got them from wotif.com.au – the only downside was the fact there is was no cooking allowed in our room, there’s a kettle, just no toaster or microwave.

The Cooma Motor Lodge has central heating – non adjustable, a decent HD Widescreen TV with Digital and Austar, and was clean and comfortable.

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I would however suggest bringing along a small heater .. The temperature was bearable, but can get chilly!

Interesting headlines for July 26, 2011

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Google+ on iPhone

Earlier this evening I tried the recently released Google+ App for iPhone… And, nothing works.

It may be the fact I’m using the iOS5 Beta, but in any case I wanted a work around.

It’s an easy fix using a feature you MAY not have even used before – Throwing Bookmarks up on a Home Screen isn’t exactly something everyone needs to do; so let’s get to it.

Start by going to Google+ on your iPhone, at http://plus.google.com.

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Tap the Menu (Centre Icon).

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Tap “Add to Home Screen”. When this comes up let it load a while. It will initially show a “preview” of Google+, but a few seconds wait will score you a sexy Google+ Icon.

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Tap “Add” and you’re done!

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Drag your new Google+ Shortcut where you like. .. I put mine in the Dock.

Enjoy!

Rubbish Reasoning: Appeals to Popularity

This is part of a series on Logical Fallacies.

It’s clearly wrong to accept the majority’s approval as evidence for the truth of a claim, but advertising is often successful in persuading us to do just that. You may know it as the Bandwagon Effect.

Thankfully, the erroneous nature of the Appeal to Popularity is one of the easiest to explain and demonstrate.

Pro Tip:

An Appeal to Popularity argues the existence of a MAJORITY as evidence for a claim.

Appeals to popularity have the following form:

  1. Most people love X.
  2. Therefore X is true.
Example:

  1. There is a consensus about X
  2. Therefore X is true
Example:

  1. 90% of those surveyed recommend X
  2. Therefore X is true

We tend to seek assurances that our acceptance of a new belief or even of the ones we currently hold conforms with the views held by the majority. This is known as communal reinforcement.

Appeals to Popularity are similar to three other logical fallacies, but should not be confused:

  • Appeal to Belief – Argues because most people believe a claim, it is true.
  • Appeal to Common Practice – Argues because most people do a claimed action, it is valid.
  • Appeal to Emotion – Argues because a claim has favourable emotions associated with it, it is true.

References:

  1. Nikzor Project – Fallacy: Appeal to Popularity
  2. Wikipedia – Argumentum ad Populum

Stabbing out neighbours’ eyes fails to solve money problems

Looks like it’s official: Stabbing your neighbours eyes out with scissors won’t fix your money problems.

Whodathunkit?

A family in the central Indian Village of Khaira, in the Chhattisgarh State had been having money and health problems. The culprit was obvious. A 45-year-old woman, S.S. Baghel – who they claimed was practicing witchcraft.

Stab your worries away

Brutalities, mainly against women are usually related to witchcraft and are not new for the illiterate and tribal areas Chhattisgarh. Women accused of witchcraft are often killed or paraded naked.

Eleven people stormed the home of the women, where they proceeded to beat her up, held her hands up, and blind her by stabbing their eyes out with scissors. When he husband tried to intervene, the group turned on him and stabbed his eyes out as well.

10 suspects have arrested, police said.

The doctor at the local hospital confirmed that would probably never be able to see again; lest they use witchcraft to restore their eyesight.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/strangebuttrue/gang-blinds-husband-and-wife-with-scissors-20110523-1ezd2.html#ixzz1SmCSR9L1

My 348 cannabis plants are Legal; It’s not against God’s Law!

Derp Cat.

A New Zealand man is defending charges of cultivating 348 cannabis plants on the grounds that he does not recognise the law and the only law is God’s law.

Shane Taoho, 44, told a jury he’s a sovereign being and that the Bible’s book of Genesis says a person can grow seeds and plants.

TruthAboutGardasil.org: Willful Ignorance or Sick Scam?

The access to the internet has meant that any poorly, educated dropkick can write about whatever they like;  such as me for example. While it may seem like there is little harm in it, the fact is there is a LOT of harm the misinformation people post on the internet, can do.

The effects of the spread of information can be seen both locally and overseas, such as the measles outbreaks in the US.

Often, it makes me pause to think whether these people are they serious in their belief, or if are they are simply preying on people – unfortunately, it frequently is the former.

This post is going to focus on just one website, for no other reason than at at 2:30am this morning the anonymous @Gardasil_Truth insisted on being wilfully ignorant, which I’ll be honest – pissed me off.

@Gardasil_Truth pushes a website run by @mariangreene04 (@TrthabtGardasil) which is supported by Jeffery Norris. As it stands, WHOIS indicates the website is registered in his name.

Marian, Mistress of Misinformation

Marian is going to be particularly angry at me for posting this; but it’s a point that needs to be made. The people that hold these erroneous beliefs are everyday people – People who make the mistake of thinking someone has posted all their “personal info” for all to see, when what you see above is all that was available. They THINK their information is posted for all to see because they were logged in at the time – Marian will know what I’m talking about.

More often than not, the internets’ anti something-or-other are everyday citizens like Marian Greene. You would unlikely know it (aside from the great big URL on her Facebook profile), but it’s people who like this that think they know what they are talking about, when they so frequently don’t. They don’t know what they don’t know.

It’s the average person walking along in the street, driving in the car next to you, or riding the coin-operated horse, who places themselves at the pinnacle of knowledge and wisdom, proclaiming that they are the only ones that need be convinced, and through their incompetence, ignorance, and arrogance, fail to understand that it is we uneducated dropkicks who know fuck-all about clinical research, which is why it is so important to get over our personal experience and look at the body of evidence – not cherry-pick the bits we want because it confirms our preconceived ideas.

But – to an extent, it’s not their fault. Most hold these erroneous beliefs simply as a result of only being exposed to one side of an issue; where the only information they are aware of is that which is provided to them within their ideological bubble of sycophants – There comes a point however, after years of not just being told they are wrong, but of years of evidence being provided that directly contradict their claims, that we can no longer say, it’s not their fault.

After a point, it is willful ignorance.

It is a desire to cling to their convictions, to hold the fort no matter what – in the face of everything –  They will forsake EVERYTHING to hold on to their last bastion of bullshit belief.

Marian made it clear: she said she had “all the evidence” she needed, that she was convinced, and that’s all that matters.

.. Sorry, but no.

This is not about your belief or opinion, Marian. This is about your sensationalist spin of HPV Vaccines, the implicit suggestion that there is a cover up, and the impact your campaigning has on impeding the health of young women world wide.

This is about your concerted effort to have governments PULL a vaccine off the shelves that can prevent hundreds of thousands of women around the world from getting Cervical Cancer, a vaccine which has had over 35,000,000 dosages issue, and of which only 0.2% reported a reaction.

Any why? Why do you want it pulled? Not because of a high rate of death. Not because of possible contamination of the batches. NO – because of her personal experience.

It is evident, that to Marian, the personal experience of others doesn’t count when they have to endure Cervical Cancer because a HPV Vaccine was no longer available.

By the start of 2010 she had made up her mind to fight against Gardasil, regardless of the facts; or the statistics – which she makes up on a whim. She has no doubt since that moment been provided encouragement and attention from various anti-vaccination nutjobs and groups who have less of a clue than she does about clinical research. See previous post – The Dunning Kruger Effect.

A strong motivation to Help

When presented with the assertion that the stats she uses are incorrect, rather than asking why, or how, she dismisses it as an “opinion”. With a resounding “I know what I know, and you won’t change that” mentality, she is a crusader of the most dangerous type – one that has faith in what she knows because of “personal experience”, rather than because of any statistical information that demonstrates the facts. She is a danger because she doesn’t campaign on what she KNOWS, but what she BELIEVES.

In one of her conversations for instance, @mariangreene04 attempted to tell @ratbagsdotcom that because HPV is a Virus, it could not cause cervical cancer; and as such, Gardisal was not preventing cervical cancer. Perhaps Marian was being particularily lazy when she decided to ignore the fact that HPV 16 & HPV18 leads to 70% of cervical cancer cases.

It’s information this was easily obtainable through a search, which would have lead her to this page and statement:

Persistent HPV infections are now recognized as the cause of essentially all cervical cancers. It was estimated that, in 2010, about 12,000 women in the United States would be diagnosed with this type of cancer and more than 4,000 would die from it. Cervical cancer is diagnosed in nearly half a million women each year worldwide, claiming a quarter of a million lives annually.

Needless to say, the statistics are supported by various lines of evidence on the page.

Nirvana: Just a Band

One of arguments from @Gardisal_Truth was that “100 people have died”. Despite this being factually incorrect, it is of course a logical fallacy – an Appeal to the Perfect Solution. (A Nirvana Fallacy). The argument is one of black and white thinking and can come from an incompetence in understanding complex problems and the interplay between multiple individual elements of a problem.

That sounds resoundingly similar to this situation.

While it’s a virtue to believe that a single death is one too many, we live in reality – not utopia. While not using Gardasil would mean no would die from Gardasil, it would mean many, many more would die from cervical cancer.

By June 21, 2010 the total number of deaths reported to VEARS was 68. Of the 68, only 32 have been confirmed, and of those no unusual pattern or clustering of the deaths were reported that would suggest that they were caused by the vaccine.

Additionally, Curtis L. Allen, a spokesman for the CDC, said such reports should not be taken as proof that the vaccine is responsible for an individual case.

“It’s not quite as cut and dried as many people would think it would be,” he said. “VAERS is an early warning system — what it does is, it points you towards dangerous signals. It doesn’t say, ‘OK, this is a cause.'”

When I first questioned @Gardasil_Truth on Twitter about the claims, it’s very likely that I received their PRATT (Points Raised a Thousand Times) treatment.

Like a checklist to be ticked off before ignoring the answer, @Gardasil_Truth listed “facts” about Gadasil, and about the website:

  • Their website is just about “getting the word out”, and
  • “asking that people research Gardasil” before making a decision.

This is interesting, given that their websites’ introduction contains no such statement, nor is there a disclaimer that Marian has no formal qualifications and that medical expertise should be consultated rather than accepting the enduring rants at face value.

A search for “PubMed” on their website revealed one hit. This one: Quantifying the possible cross-reactivity risk of an HPV16 Vaccine

The study looked to quantify the actual and theoretical risks involved. The results stated that side-effects were almost completely unavoidable and concluded that any such HPV16 vaccine be thoroughly tested. DUH.

But ONE? Just ONE?!

ONE PubMed results on a website whose advocates claim they are “getting the word out”, the same people that insinuate that side effects were a secret?!

Even a simple bloody Google search would have given them the data the CDC has on Gardasil; though, I suppose when you’re on a misinformed vendetta, it’s far better to simply espouse laden bullshit than engage in a in-depth attempt at research.

So no, while I don’t think “TruthAboutGardasil” is a scam, what it is, is the crafty work of a concerned mother who lacks a grounded and unbiased knowledge of vaccines, a basic understanding of know to review scientific literature, and who refuses to see the benefits that can come from the HPV Vaccine far out way the risks involved.

Interesting headlines for July 21, 2011

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Chiro Survey reveals it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be!

A survey from the Palmer College of Chiropractic reveals some interesting results about Chiropractic and student abilities to understand basic research concepts that provide the foundation of an Evidence-Based practice. The study invited Fourteen institutions (two of which could not provide exact numbers of students) from Australia, Canada, US, Denmark and New Zealand participated, and of those invited over 650 responded.

Research of Relax?
The background of the survey pointed to research demonstrating Chiropractic students received little formal instruction to generate searchable questions, conduct literature searches, critically appraise the literature or apply evidence to patient management.

The survey noted that while vast majority of respondents reported having access to medical/healthcare literature through the internet, only 11% read literature every week; even more striking is that 21% did not read literature at all.

When it came to research evidence being used, 13% said that Research Evidence had LITTLE impact in chiropractic care. Approximately the same number of respondents felt that Evidence-based practice was a “temporary fad”.

Of their facilitators, a fifth felt that their institution did not incorporate research evidence into chiropractic education well. This was reflected in the data Knowledge Question tables that demonstrated:

  • About 60% reported confidence in assessing study design, but 48% failed to evaluate when critical analysis of information is needed.
  • More than 53% believed that randomization in clinical trials was for the purpose of selecting a representative sample of patients for study, rather than obtaining treatment groups with comparable baseline prognoses.
  • Only 27% were able to identify when to use a case-control study.

It should be noted almost ONE-THIRD did not even bother to answer ANY them. .. There were five.

...

Despite students having quite a positive attitude towards EBP, 71% of participants felt they need more training in EBP, and as part of the conclusion the researchers acknowledged that “based on the knowledge questions they may need further training about basic research concepts.”

The Cult of Chiropractic?

It was noted that in the US the promotion of unsupported beliefs and theories may be due to the deficient nature of the curricula, emphasizing “chiropractic philosophy” over research evidence. This has certainly apparent to myself, where I’ve had a number of Chiropractors (and those in training) go on about being “persecuted for their beliefs”, as if “belief” constituted a justification to perform non-evidence-based practice on people who are incorrectly told it is evidence-based.

You’re not serious, are you?

It has in the past been coupled with the notion that they can be likened to Galileo Galilei, the Physicist/ Mathematician/ Philosopher/ Astronomer who was persecuted by the Catholic Church for advocating the hypothesis that Earth revolved around the Sun. This is hardly the same given the evidence that Galileo was able to produce evidence to support his assertions.

News? No, not really.

To those that have been critical of Chiropractic care, these results are not surprising. Medical Professionals and Skeptics (and I mean capital “s” skeptics) alike have been pointing to evidence that this was the case for years, with some being taken to court about their criticisms (eg. Simon Singh) in an effort to silence them.

The best that can come from this is for Chiropractic practitioners to seek out that training, and I don’t mean in some bullshit context about how it “should apply” to Chiropractic way – That’s pandering to pre-scientific chiropractic philosophy.

I mean the proper “standard by which all other therapies are handled” lessons about Evidence-Based practice.

For those thinking about entering Chiropractic, it will make a world of good; non-sense concepts can be “bred” out of the stubborn old guard opening the doors to greater scrutiny than is currently being applied. Those already doing Chiropractic may be open to this, though it may be hard for hardliners like Australia’s own Anti-Vaccination advocate Warren Sipser (You’re welcome for the SEO) to understand basic research concepts, such as.. oh, I don’t know.. the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

The Dunning-What effect?

Its a psychological phenomena – a cognitive bias. Essentially, when the unskilled make mistakes, their incompetence prevents them from acknowledging them.

How is this relevant?

The study discusses the difference between a similar survey of Allied Healthcare Professionals, and the results generated by this survey:

“our chiropractic student respondents had greater confidence in their ability to assess research study design, generalisability, evaluate bias, sample size and statistical tests. However, student responses to very basic critical appraisal concepts revealed low levels of knowledge that did not match confidence levels.”

The study speaks volumes, really.

Props to whomever made the Memes. Quite helpful.

From Space: Aurora Australis

Image Credit: NASA

This image is of Atlantis and its Orbital Boom Sensor System robot arm extension backdropped against Earth’s horizon and a greenish phenomenon associated with Aurora Australis. One of the station’s solar array panels appears at upper left. Because of the exposure time needed for this type of photography, some of the stars in the background are blurred.

Taken recently by the crew of the NASA STS-135 Atlantis, the aurora is one of the things I really want to see in person – hopefully in Alaska – as I don’t particularly think there is much else to do in Antarctica.

The phenomena is awesome. The Earths magnetosphere protects us from the solar wind (ionized gas) generated by our closest star, the Sun. These winds usually reaches Earth with a velocity around 400 km/s, but as a result of sunspots, this is sometimes several times faster.

11th September 2005 (movie: here)

The ionized gas from solar wind captured and accelerated along the magnetic field lines of the Earth towards either the North or the South Magnetic Poles, as they are accelerated, they interact with the Earths’ Atmosphere, causing oxygen and nitrogen particles to be “excited”. This electron excitement causes light-waves to be emitted, and depending on if they are gaining or losing electrons, emit yellow, red, blue, pink or green light.

Interestingly enough, on 2 September 1859 a strong geomagnetic storm was able to provide free electricity… for some telephone operators. It is also notable for the fact that it is the first time where the phenomena of auroral activity and electricity were unambiguously linked.

While a significant portion of the 201,000 km of telegraph lines then in service was significantly disrupted throughout the storm, some telegraph lines however seem to have been of the appropriate length and orientation to produce a sufficient geomagnetically induced current from the Electromagnetic field to allow for continued communication with the telegraph operators’ power supplies switched off.

The aurora was thought to have been produced by one of the most intense coronal mass ejections in history, very near the maximum intensity that the Sun is thought to be capable of producing.

An artists' rendition of solar wind affecting the magnetosphere