Here at DISCOVER, we do our best to keep you informed of all the crap scientific advice that celebrities dispense, be it Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaxxer yarns, Oprah providing a platform for new-age nonsense, or soccer star Robin Van Persie’s praise of placenta massage to heal injuries. But with so many celebrities and so much bad advice, it can be hard to catch it all—TMZ might catalog the whereabouts and philandering of the rich and moderately famous, but not necessarily their quackery.
Never fear, though, because once again the British organization Sense About Science has pulled many of the year’s worst offenses together in a handy compendium. The charity’s annual review pairs celebrity claims with reality-based quotes from doctors and scientists.
Here’s one choice gem: Heather Mills, the animal rights activist and former wife to Paul McCartney, claimed that when you eat meat “[it] sits in your colon for 40 years and putrefies, and eventually gives you the illness you die of. And that is a fact.” Thanks for the info, Heather!
Swine flu has returned, just as predicted, and is getting the better of us—46 states have reported cases of the flu already. And even if you want to take precautions by getting vaccinated, there aren’t enough vaccines to go around.
In any case, when you take sick days to recover, the last thing you’d want to do is be at home without access to the Internet. The Washington Post brings up a good point: If the flu truly becomes a pandemic, then the sick will begin accessing their Internet from home en masse. Such an increase in traffic might overwhelm the system and clog networks run by Comcast, AT&T, Cox, and Verizon. The Post reports:
The Department of Homeland Security is in charge of communications networks during times of national emergency. But it doesn’t have a strategy to deal with overloaded Internet networks—an essential resource to keep the economy humming, and residents informed and connected during a pandemic, the GAO said. Furthermore, the DHS hasn’t coordinated with agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission to create guidelines for how telecom, cable and satellite providers can minimize congestion.
There are solutions, but each has its downsides. Adding bandwidth capacity would be a little too late, and cost too much. Slowing connections to some ‘hoods would violate service agreements to those customers. And blocking traffic to Web sites would require government approval.
Image: flickr/ hitthatswitch
After a year of designing and testing, Haruyama Trading Co. is now selling a line of 50,000 “swine-flu-proof suits” at $580 a piece. The suit is coated in titanium dioxide (a chemical used in toothpaste and cosmetics). The idea behind it is simple: When the virus lands on your clothing and is hit by light, the coating will kill any virus particles. (Titanium dioxide behaves like a photocatalyst, which needs light before it can destroy a virus.) The company claims the suit can still flight the flu even after it has gone through the wash.
We’re not sure how the suit is selling so far, but we do know that swine flu is spreading in Japan: 18 people have died so far and 23,275 cases of flu have been reported.
DISCOVER: Swine Flu Was a Warning Shot
Discoblog: Swine Flu v. Idiocy: Inmates Drink Anti-Flu Gel to Get Drunk
Discoblog: Gupta Gets Swine Flu, Blogs About It
Discoblog: Fuzzy, Cuddly Swine Flu: The Next Big Holiday Toy?
In case you haven’t heard, malaria is kind of a big deal. It’s the third-deadliest infectious disease in the world, kills about a million people a year, and has a frustratingly ingenious way of becoming resistant to anti-malarial treatments. Now scientists are trying out a rather counter-intuitive method of preventing malaria cases: Using malaria-infected mosquitoes to boost immunity.
It’s a crazy idea that just might work. That’s because people can become immune to malaria if they contract it multiple times, and because the drug chloroquine kills malaria parasites when they’re in the bloodstream.
Scientists tried to take advantage of these two factors, by using chloroquine to protect people while gradually exposing them to malaria parasites and letting immunity develop.
They assigned 10 volunteers to a “vaccine” group and five others to a comparison group. All were given chloroquine for three months, and exposed once a month to about a dozen mosquitoes — malaria-infected ones in the vaccine group and non-infected mosquitoes in the comparison group.
That was to allow the “vaccine” effect to develop.
The next task, of course, was to see if the vaccine actually worked. When the study’s subjects stopped taking chloroquine and were bitten by mosquitoes carrying the malaria parasite, subjects in the control group developed malaria, while none in the vaccine group did.
Malaria’s increasing resistance to the strongest drugs may make a vaccine our only hope for fighting the parasite. So if a few itchy mosquito bites could put an end to this pervasive disease, we’ll gladly leave our bug spray at home.
DISCOVER: Vaccine Production is Horribly Outdated. Here Are Three Ways to Fix It
80beats: Drug-Resistant Malaria in Cambodia Raises Fears of a Super Parasite
Discoblog: If You’re Looking for New Drugs, Follow the Bright Bugs
Image: flickr / James Jordan