Train Track Therapy

There seems to be many uses for the trains in Indonesia. Shown above, the over-crowded locomotive is taken on by “surfers”. I am constantly amazed by the ingenuity of humans in coming up with weird and funny treatments for real and imagined illnesses. One of my favorites is train track therapy. People in Indonesia lie

Book about Quackery Is a Hoot!

Lydia Kang, MD, and Nate Pedersen have written a delightful new book, Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything. Histories can sometimes be a bit dry and boring; this is anything but. It’s a page-turner. The authors ferreted out some of the most disgusting and ridiculous things people have subjected themselves

Pulseras de cobre y cócteles: ¿el cobre te curará o te matará?

Las pulseras de cobre se usaron durante siglos en la medicina folcórica. Supuestamente reducen el dolor de las articulaciones y la rigidez asociada a la artritis, y usando cobre en la muñeca presuntamente beneficia a todas las articulaciones en el cuerpo. Existen afirmaciones que el cobre tiene propiedades anti-inflamatorias y anti-oxidantes. Se dice que las

Copper bracelets and Moscow mules: Will copper heal you or kill you?

Copper bracelets have been used for centuries in folk medicine. They allegedly reduce the joint pain and stiffness associated with arthritis, and wearing copper on the wrist supposedly benefits all joints in the body. There are claims that copper has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The copper from the bracelets is said to be absorbed through the

Recent Developments in “Eastern” Science

An email correspondent occasionally sends me items of interest from the Indian press. He recently sent me two clippings about initiatives to solve all of India’s problems by studying the Vedas (for Hindus) and the Qu’ran (for Muslims). The Vedas The headline read, “For diabetes, cancer cure, Raj institute to study the Vedas.” The article

Ayurveda: Ancient Superstition, Not Ancient Wisdom

I frequently get emails asking whether I think a certain treatment is supported by evidence or is quackery. I recently got one from an elderly man who was wondering whether he should take a friend’s advice to consult an Ayurvedic doctor. That was the first time I’d ever been asked about Ayurveda. I knew it

Would You Drill Holes in Your Head for Science?

How do we know whether a treatment is effective? It is only natural to assume a treatment works if: There is a good rationale as to why it should work Lots of patients got better with the treatment But assumptions can be wrong. Remember the old saying that assumptions make an ASS out of U

The Riddle of Consciousness

For most of human history, people have assumed that some kind of vitalistic essence had to be added to matter to produce life. The belief in an immaterial soul was pervasive. At one point, scientists even tried to weigh the soul by weighing a body right before and after death, expecting to find a decrease

Testosterone Rex

When a man does something silly, my daughters and I like to joke, “Testosterone poisoning strikes again!” Everybody knows women and men are different, not just anatomically but psychologically and behaviorally. That common knowledge is epitomized in the book title Men Are from Mars; Women Are from Venus. Sometimes common knowledge turns out to be

The Incorrigible Dr. Oz

Dr. Mehmet Oz, the cardiothoracic surgeon who became a media star thanks to Oprah, has been widely criticized by physicians and others for giving non-scientific medical advice. The James Randi Educational Foundation dishonored him with three Pigasus awards, more than any other recipient. A study in the British Medical Journal found that evidence only supported