Archive for June, 2011


Posted by on Friday, 24 June, 2011



Extrasensory perception is “thought talk”. With ESP you can toss your ideas to someone like a Nerf Ball. Mind-to-mind. No talking needed.


But, according to Jeffrey Rouder and Richard Morey (Psychonomic Bulletin & Review) ESP’s not happenin’. They didn’t like the claim by a rival scientist (Daryl Bem of Cornell) that he’d nailed the case for ESP with all kinds of seemingly scientific experiments. Rouder and Morey were “Right back at you” with all kinds of advanced statistical methods.

It’s like Law And Order. Competing experts. Blizzards of papers.

Who’s right?

Look at it this way. If ESP abilities exist, wouldn’t natural selection pressures enhance them? ESP would get better and better, right? Very refined.

By now, ESPers would be getting all the poker chips. Literally.  They would have such an edge that the rest of us would be standing around looking stupid – well, let’s face it, BEING stupid – while THEY would be trading stock secrets, doing espionage, and telling jokes at our expense. We’d never even know they were making fun of us.

Darwinian selection would pop us mouth-talkers down the stack so low we couldn’t see sunlight.  Maybe, with luck, we would live in “Homes For The ESP Blind” till the last of our kind were gone.

Luckily for us, MISTERScienceAintSoBad knows of no superior ESP race and poker cheats are still doing it the old fashioned way. This makes me think Rouder and Morey are on the right track and Dr. Bem’s deluding himself. Maybe others.

Sorry to be a moist blanket.

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Posted by on Thursday, 9 June, 2011



Chloe Sohl was a happy kid, hanging with friends, worrying about her looks, and trying to stay awake in stupid math class, when something really, really, surprising happened to her.

She went deaf.

Is there a good time to go deaf?

If it happens at the EXACT second when the kid who’s thumpin’ your seat back starts screaming? Yeah. That’s OK.

Long as you get yer hearing back after you land.

But forever? And  in high school when you, seriously, NEED to  jabber all day and all night with other kids to keep SANE? And be hooked up to  music when, THEORETICALLY, you should be studying? Ugh!


Chloe wasn’t completely deaf yet but it was bad and getting worse. Hearing aids helped a little. Maybe drugs would slow things down. Eventually, though, Chloe’s ears were over.

Some say deafness isn’t bad. Kinda cool, actually. Maybe you’ve seen young people  talking in sign. Their fingers dance, their eyes gleam, and their faces are animated. It’s amazing and it is beautiful to watch. This isn’t a disability, it’s a gift. Cochlear implants are for slugs.

But Chloe wasn’t trying to make a political statement. She just wanted her life back.


Her folks (both doctors)   explored all the “safe” possibilities and came up dry. Should they go the  edge? Should they gamble or should they accept a life of silence for their daughter? They had heard about a Korean company, RNL Bio, that offers stem cell cures. After talking to the docs there, they decided to take a chance.

“ We only did it, once we were convinced it would be safe for our daughter to have this treatment. Among the things that were reassuring about the treatment were the fact that the cells are coming from her own body .. That decreases, a great deal, chances of a mishap,“ says her dad. (Video below.)


Chloe became a “medical tourist”.  After sending off some tissue samples to RNL Bio, she traveled to Japan where stem cells were infused into her body. MISTER ScienceAintSoBad doesn’t know what she was thinking when they hooked her to the IV; HE would have been thinking “Time to kiss my butt goodbye”.

Luckily, nothing terrible happened to Chloe. She returned to the U. S. and, eventually, got back all the hearing in one ear and most  in the other. She could hear again. The first American – the first earthling, as far as we know – to have been thus “cured” of deafness by stem cells.




Uh. Yeah, yeah, and I’ll put quotes anywhere I want to. My blog.

Here’s the thing.

Stefan Heller (Stanford University School of Medicine) knows about  hearing loss. He’s a revered pioneer in this field. His remarks to MISTER ScienceAintSoBad were short and clear. He  isn’t a fan of this kind of thing.

We’ll leave it at that.

Research into hearing loss is going great guns, but it’ll be a long time till you see cures announced.  The researchers are careful. They don’t want to risk hurting as many people as they help. Or taking money under false pretexts.

The burden is heavy. It’s how we do science.

Dull, huh?

So what do these magicians at RNL Bio  know that the rest of the world doesn’t?

Maybe it’s WHO they know. According to an article in Korea Times (November 15, 2010), the company gave breaks to lawmakers in return for favors. An investigation was launched into its practices this year.


It clones dogs.

It sell cosmetics (stem cell based).

A couple of patients died. Not saying it’s their fault. You gotta worry a LITTLE though, right?

And its success stories, like the carefully prepared video on YouTube that’s posted below, are more often touted in unchallenged venues then in professional forums.


Medical experiments on human beings is kinda complicated territory. We let cancer patients do “trials”, for example. Usually, this is a last resort. But, still, however tightly controlled,  these are experiments (with strict protocols). Unlike most research facilities, institutions that cater to “medical tourism” aren’t under that much scrutiny. Their published studies and follow-ups are a little sparse. As far as hearing loss goes, we haven’t heard of any other successful stem cell  cures like this one in a human.

Was Chloe Stohl just lucky? Was it the other drug that was in her system at the same time? Was it a rare case of spontaneous recovery  unrelated to the stem cell infusion? Why isn’t her current health status public? Were we all tricked, somehow? Was it a made up story?

This blog’s detective agency is busy with Congressman Wiener, right now. No time to figure what’s behind the curtain in the Sohl case. Probably we’ll never know.

How do we rate this one?

ScienceAintSoBadRating for a good yarn = 10

ScienceAintSoBadRating for good science?  Uh… Jury? Hey. Where’s the jury? Are they still out?

Video Of Chloe Sohl

Credit for the  image of an ear (has nothing to do with stem cells, by the way): Creative Commons License
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Posted by on Wednesday, 1 June, 2011


I try to keep my writing reasonably lively so as to keep my readers awake. This time, however, you’re kinda on your own to keep your head off the pillow. Sorry. My blog, my (sometimes deadly dull) topics.


Dr. Brian Greene:

The Elegant Universe is my favorite book. It describes string theory. My copy’s old and I don’t “get” it all. But each time I read it, I learn something.

Readers of my blog should be as lucky.

Here’s what bothers me, Brian Greene. You say strings are one dimensional . Most of them are so tiny (.000000000000000000000000000000000001 meters) that they’re as small as anything can get – the “Planck length”. Nothing physical gets to be smaller than the Planck length.  Not everyone’s on board with the idea that space is “granular” (things have a minimum size) but it’s gaining acceptance.

Anyway, I’m kinda stumped. I’m a three dimensional guy in a multidimensional world. Strings don’t have width. Or depth. They have a volume of zero, right?  Nothing to grab on to. More like thought experiments. Vibrate them in the right modes, and they “real up”, each becoming a particle or a force. One of these strings accounts for each particle in the universe.

But how does a one dimensional string trick itself out with additional dimensions? Is  it the “moving around” thing?  And aren’t strings long in one dimension and skinny in the others? Isn’t that the idea behind calling them strings? Except they don’t HAVE other dimensions. And if they DID have such things, they wouldn’t be any smaller than the Planck length, right? So a “string” would be a cube?

My poor head!

Another thing. Strings, you say, are being pulled apart by a tension force of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000  tons. As a former structural engineer,  I worry about them breaking.

So, dividing 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons of force by the non existent cross section of a string, I arrive at something more-or-less like an infinite tensile stress.

This is bad.

In The Elegant Universe, you emphasize the superior nature of string theory over the prevailing “Standard Model” of physics which,  you say, suffers from too many infinities (like when the denominator of a fraction is zero?) I realize that strings, which are saved from being infinitely small by the Planck length, are also saved from “midriff bulge” (thickness across the middle) by their one dimensional nature. Maybe this vaccinates them against having to worry about internal stresses. But there’s still a big-force, small-object thing going on here that’s a little confusing, okay?

Elegant Universe

I do think I’ve answered one of my own questions which is how this tension force manages to maintain itself. After all, why doesn’t the string just  shrink till it doesn’t HAVE to shrink anymore, relieving its own internal tension?  It’s not like it’s tied to anything.  However, the string seems to be “Plancked out”. It can’t get smaller than that stupid Planck limit.

What a world!

Strings are distinguished from one another (I gather) by their modes of vibration and the way they wrap (open or closed). Except that 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons isn’t a small  force. It’s what  a rock  with mass equivalent to  hundreds of billions of stars  would weigh here on earth. Those pictures in your book of strings wrapped around things? Or vibrating, away in different “modes”? How do they stay so curvy with that kind of tension trying to snap them straight?

All I’ve got. And thanks for your patience,

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad


Credit, once again, to xkcd, it’s fine and funny drawings (top).
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