No shit Sherlock, acid dissolves stuff

The highly outrageous, and not very scientific, Natural News Forensic Food Lab, have just conducted a study in which they bathed animal teeth in acid for twelve hours and observed the results. They came to this highly shocking conclusion:

Phosphoric acid dissolves teeth.

I think Natural News deserves a good round of applause for conducting a high-school level chemistry experiment and confirming a basic chemical reaction we’ve already known about for a very long time. Scientists have been dunking all kinds of stuff in all kinds of acid for years, and have a pretty good idea of what reacts to what. In fact, chemists and biochemists already understand the fundamentals of these reactions as well! Isn’t it wonderful? I think NN are a bit behind the lab-coats on this one.

Of course, this investigation, is centered around popular soft-drinks (Coke, Sprite, 7-Up, etc) containing phosphoric acid as a “key ingredient”. Yeah, it’s a key ingredient, so what? I’m not entirely sure what they’re trying to prove with this article. It starts off by stating basic details about the “forensic” investigation they’ve conducted, then goes on to a disclaimer saying that any critics of the article will all be working for and endorsed by the soft-drink industry, and that all us skeptics of their crappy science are just butthurt, closed-minded crazy people.

I guess that makes me a butthurt, closed-minded crazy person.

Lets roll off some already well know common knowledge about popular carbonated soft-drinks:

  • They’re not particularly good for you, but delicious, so moderate your intake
  • They can corrode your teeth, so moderate your intake
  • They’re packed full of sugar, so moderate your intake

There is almost zero harm to enjoying a couple of cans of soft-drinks every week. I drink more of the stuff than the average person and every time I visit the dentist I’m told that I have incredibly strong, healthy teeth if not a little stained from black coffee and cigarettes (quit yesterday, woo, go me!). If you moderate your intake you will suffer no health impact whatsoever. It’s common sense. About a gazillion people a year (wow, gazillion is a word?) drink carbonated soft drinks filled with phosphoric acid and shit loads of sugar. As far as I’m aware, inside my skeptical bubble, there isn’t an epidemic of soft-drink related death or instant loss of dental integrity similar to the effect of being hit in the face repeatedly with a cricket bat.

The guys over at NN seem to want to prove that putting phosphoric acid in soft drinks is highly dangerous. They set out to do this by finding some dead wild boar somewhere in the Texas outback, remove their teeth and return them to “the lab”. During this highly scientific procedure – in which the teeth weren’t weighed before or after, because that’s going to be for another experiment – the teeth were soaked in 85% phosphoric acid for twelve hours, photographed using the wonders of ‘microscopy’, and are then subject to a lot of “ooo’s”, and “aah’s” when the teeth had pretty much become useless at being teeth.

What a load of absolute nonsense. While these drinks do contain phosphoric acid, and are acidic, what NN doesn’t tell you is that a glass of orange juice can weigh in as more acidic on the good ol’ PH scale than your classic glass of sweet, sweet Coca Cola. I smell fear mongering. The phosphoric acid, at the levels present, in coke poses no major health risk to a human being unless you drink five gallons a day. And, if you’re doing that, it’s not the Coke – there’s already something seriously wrong with you.

Then, to add insult to injury: “Phosphoric acid damages your teeth as much as using meth” – because drinking a sugary drink is about as unhealthy as using a psychoactive drug, isn’t it? No. Like I said earlier, in moderation it won’t do anything serious to your health at all.

It’s unclear just why Natural News have decided to launch this random attack against phosphoric acid. The use of it in soft drinks has been tested and approved by food regulators around the world for a very long time. It would be near impossible to hide any serious negative results for so long. Big-Sugary-Soft-Drink-Makers-That-Want-To-Kill-Everyone don’t have their fingers in every pie in the world. Again, near impossible, and laughably absurd.

And, to cap all of this off is the most depressing statement I’ve heard all day: “More forensic food investigations coming soon from Natural News”. I’d really rather they just didn’t. Though, the article did make me chuckle, so for that I raise a glass of Coke in spirit of good times.

Natural News just doesn’t get it

You know people don’t have a grasp on science when they rely on a couple of shaky court rulings to inform them of what is ‘accepted’ within the science-based medical community. They take these far and few between cases, exaggerate the details, misrepresent the facts and present it all as evidence to support a ridiculous claim that has been debunked time, and time again.

Natural News seems to be really good at this, or rather really bad at it. They draw conclusions from things that didn’t actually happen. It’s a classic case of coincidental based reasoning that is so flawed and fallacious, it’s not worth the disk space it’s stored on; let alone published as a ‘breaking news’ article.

They recently posted a story titled, Breaking: Courts discreetly confirm MMR vaccine causes autism. Of course they didn’t, it’s all speculative and if one delves into research the cases a little more, and critically examines the wording of the article itself, we see that the claims are actually untrue.

First of all, I’m going to ignore the inflammatory rhetoric and just hit the hard facts of the article. If they want to present information in such a way that doesn’t criticize a particular system, but insults it, that’s their prerogative, though I don’t agree with it.

In a recently published ruling, part of which was censored from public view, a young boy was awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars after it was determined that the MMR vaccine led to a confirmed diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

This is a pretty straightforward claim: the court awarded damages to this young boy because the administered MMR vaccine caused his autism. The article continues to explain this by saying that the vaccine caused encephalopathy, which is a syndrome of global brain dysfunction that can have many different organic or inorganic causes [1].

The court conceded that the MMR vaccine had caused the infection, and awarded the compensation on those grounds. However, the encephalitis/MMR link has been controversial. The FDA website states:

Encephalitis has been reported approximately once for every 3 million doses of MMR vaccine. Post-marketing surveillance of more than 400 million doses distributed worldwide (1978 to 2003) indicates that encephalitis is rarely reported after MMR vaccination. In no case has it been shown conclusively that encephalitis was caused by a vaccine virus infection of the central nervous system.

However, it would be silly to try and argue against this, since the court ruled in the complainant’s favor. The Natural News article continues:

And in the end, the federal government agreed that Ryan’s encephalopathy had been caused by the MMR vaccine, a landmark ruling that confirms what Dr. Andrew Wakefield found more than 15 years ago when studying gut disorders in children given the MMR vaccine.

Firstly, it does not confirm this one bit. A single court ruling is not sufficient grounds to confirm a medical study that was debunked and retracted fifteen years ago.

While the court and the government at large openly admitted that the MMR vaccine caused Ryan’s encephalitis, it did not make public its opinion on whether or not that encephalitis led to Ryan’s other injuries, including those that fall into the category of ASD. But the fact that these documents remain censored shows that the government is hiding something of importance from the public, which most definitely has to do with the connection between the MMR vaccine and autism.

So the court did not admit that the child’s autism was caused by the MMR vaccine, and Natural News concedes this and then covers it up with a conspiracy style statement that the government is hiding information from the public. The title of the article is misleading, and in no way shows that an apparent link between the MMR vaccine and autism has been concluded.

The only ‘evidence’ they have to back this up is a statement from the boy’s parents:

According to Ryan’s parents, the MMR vaccine caused their son’s encephalopathy, which manifested as “neuroimmunologically mediated dysfunctions in the form of asthma and ASD.”

‘According’ to their parents is not causal evidence. They could be holding this belief personally without the agreement or consensus of a medical doctor (i.e., licensed pediatrician). However,  whether or not encephalitis causes autism is simply inconclusive. Scientists are currently of the opinion that encephalitis may cause autism, but there are no peer-reviewed studies that prove it does. In fact, the Science Based Medicine blog cited this study on the vaccine/autism link:

Mäkëla et al. Neurologic disorders after measles-mumps-rubella vaccination. Pediatrics 2002; 110:957-63.

Summary: A further study was published in the journal Pediatrics. The aim of this study was to assess whether there was an association between MMR vaccination and encephalitis, aseptic meningitis, and autism. This retrospective record linkage study in Finland looked at over 500,000 children aged between 1 and 7 years of age vaccinated during November 1982 and June 1986. This study did not identify any association between MMR vaccination and encephalitis, aseptic meningitis or autism.

So how exactly did this court case provide the MMR/autism link? It didn’t. It’s misleading, scare mongering and unethical. Natural News doesn’t present all the facts. They offer a one-sided, biased view in which most of the information is twisted and skewed in such a way that is sensationalizes a false-truth.

I’ll cover the second court case in a separate article, but for now, reflect on just how bad Natural News’ reporting skills really are.

[1] Encephalopathy – Wikipedia

Footprints proof of alien gods

News.com.au recently ran a story entitled, Footprints in rock ‘sign from Gods‘, where geologist Nitish Priyadarshi claims that engravings of footprints and a ‘mysterious flying object’ are indicators that gods from outer space actually visited the Earth thousands of years ago. The carvings were found in a village on the outstkirts of Ranchi City. Original story reported at the Epoch Times.

The article claims that the geologist has identified the footprint carvings as ‘sandals’ known to be worn at the time, estimated at ‘thousands of years’ ago, and that they’re placed next to the larger shape of what is claimed to be a UFO. According to local folklore, flying gods visited the people of the area some thousands of years in the past.

He believes that the carvings were the locals paying tribute to the extraterrestrial visitors and may serve as proof to the local legend. The carvings have yet to be dated, but Priyadarshi says that our world is surrounded by ‘mystery’, ‘mysterious beings’, ‘sunken worlds’, ‘unexplained apparitions’ and ‘landscapes imbued with symbolism’.

The conclusion that the Indian geologist has come to is highly speculative, of course. The carvings themselves are merely indicative of the beliefs of the people living there at the time, and serve no actual proof to the visitation of gods even if the dating shows the carvings to be from that particular era. Imagery of sandals carved into rock could mean an absolute variety of things that don’t necessarily symbolize the presence of gods.

The other carving of the strange object is, however, a little more intriguing. Though, again, the comparison from weird shape to extraterrestrial spaceship is highly speculative, and has been compared with nothing more than a word of mouth local legend and mythology.

To me, the ‘flying object’ appears to be of an animal rather than a futuristic flying machine. It has a head, wings with a pattern and a tail. To jump to the arbitrary conclusion that it is in fact an archaic depiction of a craft flown by gods is astonishing. I’m not even sure News.com.au took it too seriously either, since the covering piece was fairly brief and no hype was introduced.

There Epoch Times article seems to be suggesting to the reader that the engravings of the footprints were to be depicted as the footprints of the gods, rather than of the local people. Whether or not the carvings were devoted to the ‘gods’ is in no way indicative that the gods had arrived there themselves. I also find it strange that beings with such technology as space flight would be wearing sandals, rather than some kind of strange boot.

Whatever this turns out to be, it will never be offered as solid proof that sky gods visited the Earth, and only serves to prove that folklore and myth span back a very long time into India’s history.