Archive for category Pseudoscience

Are Chiropractors For Real?

Posted by on Saturday, 1 March, 2014


Cartoon about science



You’ve been to a chiropractor, right? Everyone has.

They’re doctors. More or less. They take the sting out of a backache and they do other stuff too like headaches and such.

Nothing wrong with it.

Here’s the thing though.

They’re not really doctors. They don’t even like doctors. In fact, mostly they’re  not big fans of the scientific method that underlies medicine.

Still. They do something, right?

Paul Ingraham, Assistant Editor of Science Based Medicine, at, looks at this. He examines the history and the literature of chiropractic; he also looks at what users have to say about their experiences including a Gallup poll.

His conclusion?

Chiropractic techniques may make some people feel better for a little while but the evidence for long term benefits is pretty sketchy. The studies that appear to support chiropractic aren’t scientifically sound.Even the members of the profession seem to be locked into some kind of ideological dispute about what chiropractors are good for.

Ingraham is perfect for this role. He’s not a hater. He sometimes uses chiropractors himself and refers others for treatment. He modestly insists that he isn’t qualified to sit in judgment. He’s sharing what he has dug up from his own careful research of the literature. Which is why its harder to dismiss what he has to say.

Ingrham lays out the five “big” questions about spinal manipulation: 1) Do chiropractors oversell their services with distateful and overly agressive tactics? 2) Is the historical idea behind “spinal subluxations” as the cure all for countless disorders and diseases faintly ridiculous in a modern scientific era? 3) Are the possible risks of injury or death from spinal manipulations justified by the insufficient evidence for its efficacy? 4) Now that a major scientific review (2014) has failed to demonstrate a good case for chiropractic treatment of low back pain, does this weaken its most basic appeal? and 5) Should chiropractors be allowed to continue treating children and babies where, say some, the chances for harm to the patient are greatest?

Ingraham says the profession, itself, is divided by its response to these basic questions.

The idea  of “subluxations”, so basic to chiropractic treatments since its very beginnings,  is rejected, Ingraham says, by many chiropractors as unsupported by science. (If MISTER ScienceAintSoBad gets to chime in here – It sure is!!) In fact, chiropractors fall into categories. The “straight” chiropractors still cling to the original theory of subluxations. If I understand this right, they wouldn’t be shy about fixing gout and liver disease with spinal manipulation therapy.

The “progressives” are called “mixers”. They focus mainly on the spine where even some medical doctors concede that it might at least make sense to find a beneficial effect from SMT.

Ingraham says there’s very little high quality research that supports the idea that chiropractic spinal manipulation therapy works better than other treatments. But, he says, for some people the “joint popping” effect is pleasurable and may even temporarily relieve pain. For others – not so much. He calls attention to a 7 year old Gallup poll that rates chiropractors at the very bottom of the medical profession for honesty and ethics. Considering how unrealistic people are about their expectations for their doctors – how tough they are on them- patients must really think chiropractors are dirt bags! However, I should caution that medicine isn’t all about popular opinion. A single poll shouldn’t be taken out of context.

Paul Ingraham makes a strong case. He’s probably right. Yet chiropractors continue to have their defenders. Many of them.

Who knows?

Maybe a better study will come along. That’s what makes science fun, right?

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The drawing is mine.



Posted by on Sunday, 26 January, 2014
Cartoon about a world where geeks are cool




You come back time and time again to read about the latest stuff in science and technology.

And it’s  much appreciated.

You really never know what I am going to be talking about.  How could you? I don’t myself.

Some of my articles deal with medical” advances” and some deal with physics or  chemistry or astronomy. Sometimes it’s economics. Sometimes it’s the IPhone. Or Google’s Android products. When I write about abstract stuff – string theory, fusion power, or firewalls in black holes, you’re like “I would love to catch up with you and read that latest blog post but, thing is, I have to visit my aunt” .

I really don’t think you have an aunt. Am I right?

I love all that stuff about the beginning of the universe. What could be more fascinating then that tender moment when out of nothing – or almost nothing  –  an early universe appeared? In that first incredibly small fraction of a second, out of about a gram of matter, a process (inflation) began and ended much faster than the flicker of an eye and kicked off what we call the ‘Big Bang” expansion of the universe. There are mysteries within mysteries there. Where did that gram of matter come from? What was happening in the sliver of time just before that moment? What is the role of so called dark energy and dark matter? Is there more? Something out beyond the universe we can see? More universe? Other universes?

I imagine writing the  ultimate article about “The Beginning”. There’s a  nice cartoon with it. I’m thinking “They’re gonna love this!”

“Honestly?”, you say.  “If I don’t change the air filter in the car today, when will I get another chance? How about I skip that little universie deal and check in with your blog later in the week? Maybe you’ll have something to say about self driving cars.”

Recently, I wrote an article about Prince Charles and how he’d gotten himself into the middle of the homeopathy controversy. When the article went live, to my surprise, I was swamped with readers! Was it the mention of the ever popular Prince Charles? Or was it your fascination with the wackier kinds of “alternative” medicine?

It’s hard to guess what you will find interesting because, after all, “you” is a mysterious amalgam of individuals who come and go. Some of “you” write textbooks on astronomy and some of you read science fiction while you’re waiting in your beat  up taxi for a fare. There’s only one me but – when I’m lucky, anyway – there are many of you. Sometimes I get it right. Sometimes I drop a bomb and nobody – well almost – comes.

Bill and Marion and Danny come but I sorta take them for granted.

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad writes because – actually? I’m not sure why I write. I just do. The size of my audience doesn’t change anything. I’m not poorer if you don’t come and I’m not richer if you do.

That  “counter” I mentioned? The one that tells me how many readers I get? And how many articles they read? It keeps me aligned with my readers and their interests.  Maybe it’s vanity but I feel bad when you would rather check your air filter than read my latest article.

My point (if any)?

You read medical articles. If there’s a way to beat rheumatoid arthritis or hodgkin’s lymphoma or migraine headaches, you’re interested. Something for a bad back and you’ll read me for sure. Same for hearing loss.

Balding? Heck. A guy will ignore the love of his life for a few minutes and read every word of a new and promising drug that made a mouse look like Liberace.

Where medicine is concerned, I try as hard as I can to be a good partner. I know that being sick sucks; I do what I can to call your attention to important new developments and to steer clear of the blood suckers out there. For the “business of life”, I write about electronics and computers and refrigerators, and vacuum cleaners. I should do it more often but I’m no flipping Consumer’s Union. When I do, I try to sprinkle a little scientific sauce around. Nothing wrong with that, right? It’s my job.

Here’s the thing.

I won’t stop writing about  how life began or even how the  universe  got going/will end. Or whether quarks are  the smallest form of matter or are made of even smaller things. Or whether there’s evidence for life somewhere. I know I have to work harder to pull an audience with those blog posts.  And I’m not mad at you for choosing a spaghetti dinner over me. If I lose out to good food on a science article, it’s not your fault. I didn’t use enough seasoning. I’ll do better next time, okay? You’re not obligated.

We’ll work on that bad back of yours. But stay open. I’ll hook you on cosmology yet.





Posted by on Saturday, 28 December, 2013
Cute cartoon about the search for a soul.



Dr. Duncan MacDougall weighed his patients just before they died. After they died, he did it again.

If the soul had slipped quietly away, there would have been a very slight difference. Which is exactly what he found. A few grams . The average weight of the human soul. The soul was the spiritual heart of “man”. Everyone had one. Everyone knew it was there. Even now in the 21st century, most people believe there is a soul. The body dies. The soul doesn’t.

Why don’t surgeons ever see souls during an abdominal operation?

Well MacDougall was wrong apparently. When others tried to get the same results, they couldn’t . MacDougall got fooled by the fact that his equipment simply wasn’t accurate enough to measure such a small difference in weight.


MacDougall took an idea that lots of people believed and then he tried, scientifically, to prove it. That’s a good thing.


Maybe it sounds that way to you, okay? But he was trying to use the best tools he had to collect evidence about something that was poorly understood.

We like that.

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad has talked about faith in the past.

Faith is faith. It isn’t scientific. But it means so much to so many that MISTER ScienceAintSoBad keeps his head down. Most people manage to have room for discordant ideas about religion and science. Maybe it’s crazy. But we’re the planet’s humans, right? We get to do things our way. We’re inconsistent but that’s who we are.

It’s hard to say what people mean when they talk about the soul. On what level do they believe in this elusive unfleshy thing? Are they being metaphorical? Are they being completely literal? Do they think it’s in there under the spleen? Could trauma, like  a crushing injury to the abdomen in a car accident, do something bad to the soul?

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad has come to appreciate the exquisite and beautiful contradictions in our world. We don’t necessarily shed all of our old ideas; we just add a layer of new stuff. Most Americans believe in the existence of a “Higher Being”. And pray at least occasionally. And believe there’s a “better place” to pass on to. But most also believe the evidence of their own eyes and respect scientific achievements.

Is this bad?

In this country where approximately 85% of the people believe in “something or other”, rapid developments in science and technology are the norm and – you know what? – us poor bloggers can’t even keep up with the flow of new stuff.

If this is how religion impedes science, I would hate to see the unimpeded version.

– – – – –

The drawing is mine.

To leave a comment, click “comments” which can be found at the top right of each article just beneath the headline.


Posted by on Wednesday, 4 September, 2013


Diluting a substance


Crown Prince Interfering With The Health Service?

‘If he wishes to lobby ministers, he should stand for Parliament or join a lobbying firm, but he should not be using his position as heir to the throne to do it.” — – – Paul Flynn, Labor MP

Prince Charles has pissed off some of the big guns in the UK who are responsible for national health policy. They say he has been  meeting privately with  the UK’s Health Minister to get a more liberal policy on drugs. Specifically he wants them to keep  “homeopathic remedies” on the menu even though there’s no evidence that they work. According to the Mail, the prince’s active lobbying is wrong.


What the prince is into is strange stuff.   Homeopathic organizations are generally hostile to  regular doctors, regular hospitals, and regular drugs. Homeopaths excuse themselves from the need for all the usual scientific testing of their “elixirs”.  You either believe or you don’t. If you don’t it’s probably because you’ve been influenced by the “medical establishment”.

Here, in the US, homeopathic remedies are available all over the place. Look on the shelves of your drugstore. They look authentic but, if you inspect the package carefully, you will see that there probably aren’t any active ingredients. There’s  just water or just alcohol (sometime there is a faint amount of something else but nothing a doctor would ever think of as medicine).

The American Medical Association says these guys are  quacks.


Well, Prince Charles isn’t our problem. Years ago, Americans made it pretty clear how we feel about the monarchy. No need to rehash.


We’ve got our own issues with homeopathy.


A 1938 US law requires homeopathic stuff to be treated like any other over the counter medications.  This “allows” you to be  buying homeopathic remedies when you really thought  you were buying something that would cure your headache. The packages have an air of authenticity. You might need a magnifying glass to see that this  is a homeopathic “remedy”.

Maybe you think that drugstores have a duty to educate their customers about  products that lack any active ingredients or any proof of efficacy  but I guess  that’s not how the boss at the store  sees it. Drugstores “appreciate the business” and “respect consumer choice”.

Don’t get hoodwinked.  Water doesn’t fix headaches.


What is homeopathy? It seems to have originated  in 1796. Samuel Hahnemann had the idea that he should be able to cure a disease by a) figuring out what its symptoms are b) finding a  substance that caused “similar” symptoms (cinchona bark, for example, makes you feel woozy with symptoms similar to malaria) 3) weakening (diluting) the substance until it is basically gone 4) Giving what’s left of the original substance (or isn’t left) to the patient.

That’s it.

No seriously. That it. That’s the cure.

The odds are that, after the repeated dilutions,  there’s nothing left in the bottle but water or alcohol.  You spoon it out to the patient and he.she quickly recovers from vapours, consumption or, I suppose, prostate cancer.



Here’s how a homeopathic remedy is usually made. First you dilute the solution. Then, you knock the container against something a few times (succussion).  You do that over and over again. How many times seems to vary, depending on the recipe. Some practitioners don’t give the actual potion  to the patient. Instead they pin a piece of paper with the name of the active ingredient to the patient’s clothes, place it in the patient’s pocket, or position it under a glass of water which the patient than drinks.

You don’t believe me, right?  How could something like that work? Especially since the “cure” has nothing curative in it, Luckily, Hahnemann, the father of homeopathy, had the answer for that one too. The water (or alcohol)  “remembers” the substance that used to be in it. Even though it is now gone completely.

Well that’s the theory.

Real stuff?


Scientifically, it’s nuts, right? But- you know what? If it works, it works.

Look,  if I didn’t know better,  I wouldn’t have seen the point of zapping a cancer patient with radiation. Or giving chemo which, after all, is pretty toxic. But it’s been shown that those things  can help – shown scientifically, that is.

I’m a pragmatist. If homeopathy works, all good then.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t! There is no evidence that would convince anyone but a crazy person (or a prince) that it does.

Here. Read this.

If that doesn’t convince you. Read this, okay?

The top doctor at England’s National Health Service has stated that homeopathy  is “rubbish”.

It is.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The two drawings are mine. The photo was snapped in a chain drugstore.  I won’t name the store as I don’t imagine the owners would appreciate the publicity.


Posted by on Monday, 30 April, 2012




It’s named after Ernst Grafenberg, a German gynecologist. The g is for Grafenberg. (not Germany or gynecologist) and the big thing about the g-spot is whether it’s imaginary or not.

Is there really an interior place where “stuff happens”? Or is that a myth?

How come nobody’s ever seen it?

Well guess what? Adam Ostrzenski, M.D., Ph.D., of the Institute of Gynecology in St. Petersburg, FL seems to have found something. After dissecting the heck out of the vaginal walls of a cadaver, he found a “well-delineated sac structure” on the back wall about 15 mm down from the urethral opening. It’s small. About 8 mm in the longest dimension.

Exciting, right?

Yes and no. The discovery is interesting and provocative. But it would be nice to see confirmation that this organ is present in others. And – not to be a scientific fanatic – but it might also be nice to show that the little whatzit  in there serves the presumed stimulatory function and isn’t part of the immune system or isn’t the long sought seat of common sense which is clearly lacking in males of the species.

Now. Why is a semi-respectable blog such as this wasting it’s time on the g-spot? Human sexuality deserves respectful mention in ScienceAintSoBad just like anything else. And deepening our understanding of the female response could – who knows? – make life better for people.

Speaking of which.


If you get off on rope climbing, spinning (biking), or weight lifting, maybe there’s a reason for that. An article in Sex Therapy and Sexual Health (Debby Herbenick, J. Dennis Fortenberry, MD) describes a study of 370 women who experienced orgasms. When they exercise.

Almost half of them, oops-ed at least 10 times while working out. About 20% said they really couldn’t control it. It just happens when it wants to. The “captains chair” is the worst. It’s a thing with padded arm rests and back support.

DON’T – do NOT – get into this thing if your business associates are around.

The women reported on in this study weren’t fantasizing or having sexy thoughts. This was a purely physical thing. And – yes – it was a little creepy. A lot of the women were at least a little uncomfortable about it. You would be too. Right?

Well now you know. Just physiology. Like a little sneeze. You didn’t do anything wrong.

And you have an extra motivator for upping the exercise plan.


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Image credits: Regular readers will immediately recognize the crude drawing technique as, unmistakably, those of the author. Nobody else to blame. :)



Posted by on Saturday, 10 September, 2011


Dear MisterScienceAintSoBad, My sister’s mad at me because she says I pick pick pick. Can’t help it though. She’s like my grandmother. God this and God that.Don’t I have a right to challenge her dopey ideas?- A-Boy.

A-Boy: (I’m hoping the A stands for atheist and not a certain orifice.) Religious people aren’t idiots. They just believe in God

It’s not a sin.

It doesn’t mean they DENY reality. They just have an extra one that you don’t see. The majority of educated believers aren’t trying to prove Darwin wrong. Mostly, they know about fossils and other stuff that show how life evolved. Maybe they even know how the earth was formed out of cosmic dust over millions of years.

What about God? What about Genesis?

That too.

Believe it or not, it is perfectly possible for an educated person to “get” the Big Bang – even string theory – and still open a bible once-in-a-while. The interior of the human brain isn’t made for consistency.

Prayer and plain geometry. They can get along. Ask Isaac Newton. Hey. Ask his spirit.

Most people believe in God or something like. Even in Europe. Why is that hard? People believe.  Maybe they can’t explain why but it has a great explanatory force for them. Besides. It’s a layer of comfort. I were you, I wouldn’t mess with it.

This makes me ScienceIsSoBad? I don’t think so. I’m just saying that it’s possible to be too literal minded. The human brain CAN have two different ideas at the same time. Most minds do. This is what we are and I’m sorry it’s messy.

This isn’t an apologia. There ARE plenty of zealots who say that the bible’s got all the wisdom we need and science just gets in the way. But don’t tell me you don’t know some uber-rationalists who wanna smack bibles out of the hands of the misguided. You think THAT’S a tolerant attitude?

Science-minded folks need to have some respect for the evolutionary process that they defend. We evolved with a strong need to make sense of the world on a personal level. For modern humans, that seems to coexist in a delicate but, often sweet, tension with rational scientific thought. MisterScienceAintSoBad says you shouldn’t pick, pick, pick.

Thanks to Eoin O’Mahony for the image. Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.


Posted by on Sunday, 21 August, 2011




The Governor of Texas just injected himself into a ScienceAintSoBad debate.

Remember The Mystifying Case Of Chloe SohlMove over, Chloe.  Rick Perry (same one as wants to run the United States) just had his own stem cells stuck into his back to “cure” degenerated vertebra.  (Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times) .


You can’t live with it. You can’t get it straight.


Credits for the above image to Robert Scoble and Flickr photostream
Creative Commons License
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Posted by on Saturday, 20 August, 2011



They’re fighting about the best way to fix the economy. I don’t trust the economists on this one. Why not? Because so-called economists – the ones in the nice suits on the tube, anyway – get to pick out their own evidence. And be their own peer reviewers. They ask themselves questions like: Do the American People want corrupt bankers and crud-eating upper crust rich people who fly in corporate jets to get tax breaks?  Then they answer their own questions: Why NO THEY DON’T!!!!

Other scientists – physicists and chemists, biologists, and astronomers are jealous. How come THEY don’t get to make it up as THEY go along?


In Europe, several countries are broke. To fix things, their leaders want to put the brakes on government spending.

Well, old John Maynard Keynes wouldn’t have recommended such a solution. He believed that  in a recession or a depression, the government should spend money like a chimp at the mint. That’s what the Bush administration did when things went woozy; and the Obama administration  continued shoveling wads of money out the window. With a bigger shovel.

By the way, I guess this was the right thing to do since we ducked a depression. Even that recession everyone thinks we’re still in ended a while back in 2010.

Well, you might ask,  if  the pump priming thing works so good, why shut off the water? What’s with austerity? Are Europeans a bunch of half wits?


But maybe they think that spending’s like plastic surgery. It just makes things worse and delays the inevitable. We should “man up”. It’ll hurt –  It’ll hurt bad. But we’ll get past it and the economy will get going again in a healthier way.

That’s what they say.

Anyway,  “austerity” is the hot new idea in Europe. It’s hot with some Americans, too, which is what led to the smooth way Congress handled the debt ceiling business.

Here’s the thing. In 2006, when the economy fritzed out, Europe and the US did pretty much the same thing. There wasn’t a lotta time to  flip through old books and study. We had money to toss . So we tossed . Keynes would of been proud.

Now?We’re in a different place. The recovery hasn’t failed. Not so far. Could be better. But not as awful as the spinners make it sound. (Unless YOU’RE the one selling pencils out of a tin cup. I GET that!) We’re not trying to dodge a depression at the moment. This is “What do you do if the recovery’s losing steam” time. Maybe we COULD have inflation if we overdo. (Hard to believe.) So the austerity stuff isn’t as nuts you think. Maybe stimulating again COULD be overkill. Maybe.

Is it too early to stop spending and tighten up? MISTERScienceAintSoBad won’t say. It takes away the fun.


We kid around about economics being quasi-scientific, but it’s no worse than genetics or medicine or particle physics. If some guy on the tube is using half facts to jerk you around, you can’t blame it on REAL scientists. That’s not fair.

There’s nothing wrong with studying how the top primates (you and me), gyp each other out  of stuff .  How some get richer and others get poorer. As a science, economics is easy to quantify. Theories can be tested.  Very sciency, indeed. Nothing quasi about it.

It’s a TRICKY science.  That’s for sure! Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s going on. Human’s  culture’s so complicated. Plus we lie more than minnows do when questioned about our activities. But, so WHAT?

If you think the other sciences are so simple , why aren’t YOU Sir Isaac Newton?

Excuse me if you happen to be. I meant, in general.

Listen, I’ve defended economics before. It’s a fine kind of science.

Just don’t confuse the scientists with the entertainment.



Credits for the above illustration to myself. It’s not like I can’t draw stick figures.


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.

Credits for above photo: Creative Commons License
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Posted by on Tuesday, 24 May, 2011


Dear Mister SASB: My brother (who is a complete idiot, by the way) says lightning rods don’t work. Do you agree? Cause our house doesn’t have one and I’m thinking maybe it should. – Annie Blister

Annie: I’m sure you won’t feel that way about your brother when you get a little older. (Both of my sisters happen to think I’M a dope but, if you’re a regular reader, you’ll probably think they’re being too kind.)


In Colonial America, lightning rods made people nervous. It was considered an affront to the Lord. Lightning was God’s wrath.

During thunderstorms, churches (which had very tall steeples)  liked to send guys that wouldn’t be missed too much up there to ring the bell. It reminded the storm that this was a holy place. But the bell ringers had a much better record of going UP the stairs than coming back DOWN. While they were up there wackin’ away at the bell, lightning would often strike the bell tower, transforming it into steaming charcoal and molten bell. In fact, lightning seemed to FAVOR houses of worship – a clue, actually, that a different process might be at work than celestial vengeance.

The inventor of lightning rods, a guy named Ben Franklin, said lightning’s not a God thing; it is, he said, a natural phenomenon that  burns down  buildings and scares the goats. Even the old ones.  Certain citizens accused Franklin of irreverence. Blasphemy, actually. Back then, you didn’t want to be a blasphemer.

No you did not.

But Franklin was cool.  A coil of wire and and an iron stick are going to stop The Almighty? He (God) can’t  come up with a work-around? Who’s the blasphemer here?, asked Franklin. You callin’ God incompetent? (I think he also said that most lightning bolts strike trees which are, by and large, innocent of all wrong doing.)

This rebuttal was so effective that it took the thunder out of the opposition and, in no time,  lightning rods became almost as common as door knobs. It wasn’t sacrilegious anymore to use one to protect a powder magazine from being blown up in a storm.

This had a good effect, as you can easily imagine. Even churches got lightning rods. And, as a result, they  burned down less frequently. If the lightning rod business hadn’t been so successful, who’s to say what the state of religion would be in modern America?



Now lets climb back into the modern era.

In 1993, the National Fire Protection Association said the science behind lightning protection sucks. (Not their precise words). May as well rescind the national standard for lightning rods that’s been around for almost a century, they said. The standard is called NFPA 780, in case you want to look it up.

Uh oh, lightning rods!

But, according to Cecil Adams (The Straight Dope), after a thorough review of what’s out there plus a heap of common sense, it was decided that the science, though sucky and pretty much out-of-date, is, nonetheless,  compelling. It would be madness to go back to the pre-lightning rod, buildings-burning-down, days merely because lightning protection has been a settled issue for so long that more recent up-to-scientific-standards studies haven’t been done.

So the NFPA 780 standard still stands. And lightning rods work.


Then, how come you can drive for miles, here in New England and see nary a home with a tell tale rod sticking up to the sky ? I’m sure some are disguised as weather vanes and such, but, overall, this region seems to have entered the “right to strike” era.  We do love a roaring fire up here, but do we love fire THAT much?

Maybe this is just a lack of public awareness. I don’t think there’s  been much discussion about lightning rods. Or, could it be that the concern about protecting high technology devices from lightning initiated VOLTAGE SURGES, has diverted attention away from the basics? Maybe the idea’s too “pre-colonial”, too quaint, to be taken seriously by a guy packing an IPhone.

Another thought? Insurance discounts. Used to be, you could get a little knock off on your premium if you stuck a lightning rod up . These days, however, the companies appear to have abandoned that practice. In a region that doesn’t get THAT much thunder and lightning, maybe the occasional smoking ruin is just  a cost of doing business?

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad, as is so OFTEN the case, doesn’t really have an explanation. Do you?

Credits for above image: Creative Commons License
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