Unscientific Nonsense on ‘Shark Tank’

This article was originally published on RealClearScience.

Shark Tank is one of my favorite television shows. Though its depiction of the angel investor/venture capital world is a bit skewed, it provides an amazing insight into the heart of American capitalism. Indeed, the show easily disproves the myth oft-repeated by certain politicians that “rich people don’t create jobs.” Yes, they do. Start-ups, which directly create jobs, often rely on the beneficence of monumentally rich investors to get their businesses off the ground. Shark Tank, therefore, provides Americans with a basic, 101-level course in entrepreneurialism.

Unfortunately, one of the lessons of entrepreneurialism is that “money matters more than science.” If a buck can be made, few business owners care if their products make a mockery of science. Businesses that peddle unscientific organic food regularly appear on Shark Tank. The owners proudly proclaim that their product has been selling well at Whole Foods — a business that blatantly lies to its customers — after which they often walk away with a sizable investment from the sharks. As a scientist, I am appalled by this. Continue reading

Genes and the Placebo Effect: Are You Easily Pleased?

GIVE someone who is sick a sugar pill that you have told him is a powerful drug, and it will often make him feel better. Even if you tell him what it really is, he may still feel better. The placebo effect, as this phenomenon is known—from the Latin for “I shall please”—is one of the strangest things in medical science. It is a boon to doctors and a bane of those running clinical trials, who must take account of it in their designs. But how it works is obscure. Read the rest at The Economist.

A Letter to Dr. Oz from a PhD Microbiologist

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Dear Dr. Oz,

As a TV host, book author, and “America’s Doctor,” you hold a powerful and privileged position to which few people inside or outside your profession could ever aspire. I must admit to being envious of your influence. I wish that more Americans were fascinated by the complicated nuance of biomedical research than are fascinated by miracle cures. Alas, they are not (yet). I’m working on it, though.

I am writing to you because I was deeply troubled by your rebuttal to the letter signed by ten medical doctors seeking your termination from Columbia University. Continue reading

Beware of Possible Cuisine-Drug Interactions

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Taking drugs, whether legal or illegal, creates problems. One of them is that drugs can interact with each other, often in bad ways. Frustratingly, some drugs are known to interact even with the various foods we like to eat. From the viewpoint of food-drug interactions, the most problematic food may be the humble grapefruit, which is known to interact with about 85 drugs, ranging from antidepressants and statins to clot-busters and Viagra. Continue reading

What the Gases You Emit Say About You

This article was originally published on RealClearScience.

You emit gas. The most obvious and offensive comes from your posterior, but that’s not the only gas you emit. Your body is constantly oozing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — small molecules that easily enter a gaseous state due to their high vapor pressure — in breath, sweat, urine, feces, and even saliva. VOCs are responsible, for instance, for the similar aromas that emanate from dairy farms and men’s restrooms. Continue reading

Literature Review Links Coffee & Bladder Cancer

This article was originally published on RealClearScience.

The most interesting man in the world has nothing on coffee, which is the most interesting beverage in the world. Coffee continues to be the subject of countless studies, some more serious than others. Thanks both to science and intrepid entrepreneurs, for instance, we have learned the chemistry of perfect coffee, thebest time of day to partake, and why drip coffee is likelier to spill than a latte. You may think that coffee and pooping have nothing in common, but you would be wrong. Again, thanks to science, we know why it is worthwhile to pluck beans out of elephant dung, why coffee makes you poop, and why coffee should go in your mouth, not your butt. If all of that isn’t enough, you can now take coffee classes at some universities. Continue reading

Anti-Vax Parents Face Jail in Europe, Africa

This article was originally posted at RealClearScience.

In late January, I wrote a controversial op-ed for USA Today on how jail should be an option for parents who endanger their children and society at large by refusing vaccines. I received plenty of hate mail for that — mostly in the form of four-letter words, Nazi comparisons, and vague death threats. However, before you turn your keyboard into an instrument of revenge, I would like to further elaborate on what I feel is a very, very important issue — perhaps the most important issue we have ever discussed at RealClearScience. Continue reading

Tilapia: A Fish that Will Heal Your Wounds

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience. [NOTE: THE RESEARCH PAPER UPON WHICH THIS ARTICLE WAS BASED WAS RETRACTED ON AUGUST 27, 2015]

The other use for tilapia.

Tilapia is best served with a side of French fries and cabbage, but scientists from Shanghai believe they have discovered an even better use: Collagen extracted from tilapia can be applied as a wound dressing that helps accelerate healing. Continue reading

Transplants: First Facial, Now Anorectal

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

“Defecation is a major activity of daily living.” Thus begins a new paper in the journal Scientific Reports, and truer words have rarely been written.

Most humans who are physically unable to drop a deuce, perhaps from cancer or an anatomical anomaly, must undergo a colostomy. In this medical procedure, the large intestine is diverted via a surgically created opening (called a stoma) to an external bag that collects feces, which must be emptied regularly. Many people who wear such devices suffer from psychological problems and a lower quality of life. An alternative — any alternative — is preferable. Continue reading