I don’t mean to be the asshole even though I am probably being that person. I have been super impressed with the scientific breakthroughs and vaccines that have been made for the SARS-Cov-2 virus. The whole effort by governments and private enterprise to secure a hopeful future for the world is certainly worth celebrating. I also do not mean to slag off the NHS. I have never cared more abut the state of this country’s health service than now but I have always been a defender of the public health system we have in the UK. I don’t mean to have a moan at the BBC and while there are many communications in these pages which moan about news and headlines from the BBC I chose to moan about them because they hold the highest standards of journalism in this country [just look at how shit the print media are].
This was the headline yesterday. The NHS is delivering 140 part one vaccines a minute which sounds very fucking impressive. As a mild aside, who the fuck calls these things “jabs”? They are inoculations or at least the first part of it, can’t we use grown up language to describe the things that matter? FFS. Back to the numbers because that’s what we should be looking at and bear in mind that I will defend the NHS and science – I am not having a moan about them.
140 Vaccinations [part 1] per minute.
Assuming there are twenty million people who really need to have vaccinations before we can get back to something that resembles normal and feel safe again that is going to require:
2,380 hours of constant vaccinations or just about 100 days -that’s THREE months – assuming twenty four hour access and every appointment filled.
Even if we manage to keep the centres open for 18 hours a day it will require 132 days to vaccinate twenty million people.
I have spent the last few days angry and I expect it will continue. This government was, until yesterday, insisting that schools return for education and school stuff in the new year. This is while this country is ravaged by Covid-19. The numbers do not look good. The virus is rampant and the spike after christmas jollities will occur in a week when, once again, the government will act as though they don’t understand a two week delay to everything they introduce. They are incompetent and have always been. They lack the balls and empathy to do the right thing. I hear people say it must be difficult for people in charge and while I agree with that sentiment I feel those people are largely trying to find an excuse to forgive the tories from their utter ineptitude. The current bunch of politicians in charge of this country – and voted for by most of the country – are selfish pricks who don’t care about anything other than themselves.
There has been an insistence that schools must stay open whatever is happening and that education is really important. Wow. Given the lack of investment in schools and education over the last twelve years I’m surprised at this attitude. Maybe tories just don’t like their children and do everything they can to get them out of the house. I haven’t had a real term pay rise for over twelve years. Education has been underfunded for over twelve years. Just like the NHS the tories haven’t invested because of their policy of austerity over the last fucking decade.
So we should keep schools open but we don’t get the funding to do so. It’s like there is a belief that we should teach a fixed amount to the children and then test that “learning” or the whole system will fail. I don’t understand this rigid thought process. I can solve this now. Let teachers grade their pupils over the next two years. Cancel public examinations. Remove all forms of accountability by exam results. Let teachers give realistic grades to their students as a measure of how they have progressed and learnt over the last while. This removes the need for examinations, removes the need for all pupils to have learnt the same things and removes the need for keeping schools “open”. To be clear, when schools are closed the education is still happening. Teachers have upskilled immensely over the last year to do their best to deliver their passions and subjects online. Pupils motivation and parental support are always the biggest inhibitors to education – not what the schools or teachers do.
So, I’ve “fixed” education for you. Now you can put in policy to maintain the health of the nation and ensure that we work together to end this pandemic and get the disease under control. It is criminal that the number of deaths is as high as it is. The sheer ineptitude of the government should be enough to cause a revolution but that won’t happen in this country and that makes me sad. I don’t think there will be any accountability of this government for the deaths and illness. I think in four years when we have the next election there will be enough selfish people in this country to vote the tories back in. I am largely ashamed to live in such a selfish and racist country.
So, to testing. That is the point of this communication. I’ve read about testing for covid and I’ve decided to write this to get some handle on what it all means. This writing in my way of processing the information. So, some things to say first. There are different types of test and they aren’t all the same. If you test and get a positive it is likely you have the disease. If you test negative though it does not mean you are clear. Let’s see why. Testing relies on the virus replicating in your body enough so that there is lots of it in your saliva or snot. When you breathe or cough you expel tiny droplets and these are then absorbed by someone else, this is how this virus transmits. Also, we could leave virus particles on surfaces and other people then touch those surfaces and their mucus membranes. The current tests rely on either swabbing to see if your viral load is high or blood tests to see if you have developed blood cells that fight the disease.
The PCR test is the most accurate but takes time and money. They are almost 100% accurate if you have the disease. The false negative rate is low as long as you have some symptoms. It could be that you are infected but in the early stages and we know that it can take UP TO fourteen days for symptoms to first show. Therefore any negative doesn’t mean you are clear. All other types of Covid test are compared to PCR testing as it is highly accurate.
The Lateral Flow quick test has been hailed by the government and I suspect is the one being rolled out to schools for some fucking reason. Let’s look at the numbers involved with this test. Because it all comes down to probability and getting the numbers correct. The sensitivity [detecting the virus if you have it] ranges from 79% to 49% when those administering the tests range from laboratory scientists to tests performed by self-administration. We will use these numbers shortly.
The specificity of the lateral flow test [telling you that you are infected when you aren’t] runs at 0.4%. More accurately the specificity of the lateral flow test is 99.6%, it is a measure of how accurate the test is at being doubly wrong. So, if you aren’t infected there is a very good chance that you will get a negative result and only 0.4% of people who aren’t infected will be told they have the disease.
However, if you do have the ‘rona then the probabilities look far worse. The lateral flow test will miss around 50% of those people and declare them negative. This quite clearly shows that a negative result doesn’t mean you are negative. It doesn’t mean you can go visit grandma and it doesn’t mean you can go out. I’ve just read from UCL that up to 86% of carriers of SARS-Cov-2 virus might be asymptomatic. You need to have symptoms for the lateral flow test to work (ish), the lateral flow test will miss half of those infected and the rate is even worse if they are self-administered. This is not good news.
I’ve done some number crunching and it looks as though the probability of you testing negative even though you have the ‘rona could be as high as 25% [50% in some cases]. Oddly, maybe, this is an example of probability I teach sixth formers although I have to say I normally use the concept of a “terrorist detector” to show how immigration policies are bullshit. So, this all means that the government policy of using Lateral FLow Tests in large scale population preemptive testing is bollocks and won’t work. Just like everything else they have done this virus reaction won’t do what they think it will and be a waste of time and money and lives. If only they had paid attention to the Italians, Koreans and such like in the early days.
We all have a right to be very angry about the government’s response to this pandemic. We can acknowledge that it must be tough at the top but we can also acknowledge that they are doing an amazingly shit job of it. We are suffering and people are dying [500 a day] because the British public voted in a bunch of self-obsessed selfish losers who think it is their right to govern when, in reality, they are the worst possible group of people to lead us through this crisis. Fuck them.
I read a few articles to get this information but these were the main ones. Horizon Magazine of the EU research centre and also this one from UK Patient Site along with this one from the BMJ.
I guess I feel slightly bad as over the last four months I have added 8.5kg of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. I did this by mostly eating less and exercising. I also added 1.5kg of water into the world’s system. Both of these measures should be carbon neutral I think. The carbon I ate over the last few years and the water was drunk – I mean how else is that stuff going to get into my system? The tricky thing now is to maintain my input-output balance and get clothes that fit me, once we are out of lockdown.
Every now and then I go through the process of making sure that all the devices in the house are up-to-date and running the latest software. It takes a while, especially some of the more esoteric devices I have, but by the end of it I am happy in the knowledge that everything should be working on the latest standards.
I recently did this with the two Raspberry Pis that I have in the house. One is in the loft and it runs a simple ADS-B receiver sending data to an aggregation site where I am able to track aircraft. The other Pi is in the dining room and was running some Magic Mirror software which took a long time to sort out. I wrote some communications about it. It was good fun doing that coding and trying to get it working how I wanted.
The update I performed on the Pi in the dining room failed. I don’t know why. When I performed a restart the Pi gave me its equivalent of the Blue Screen Of Death and then asked which version of OS I would like to install. Somehow the update screwed up the Pi enough for it to decide to reinstall its OS. This wiped out all the MagicMirror programming I had completed and now I’m lost.
Do I go through the process of the MM again? Do I try to search for a back-up [which I can’t remember doing] and then just install that again or should I start from scratch? Maybe I should try to find something else for the Pi to do? The MM project was fun but not something that I really used a lot. The TV in the dining room is rarely turned on. Maybe I’ll try and find another data aggregation program to install. I don’t know. I just know I want to do something.
People like simple answers to complicated questions, it’s part of how our brains work. We would much rather be told one thing rather than having to learn about a multitude of different things. For example, as I’ve been reading in The Angry Chef book recently, a diet where you cut out carbohydrates is a simple answer to a simple question. The real answer of eat everything in moderation and exercise is harder and less simple. A simple answer, even when it is wrong, will stick in your heads more than any nuanced argument which takes everything into account. It’s a bit like the world at the moment. Economies around the globe are crashing due to lockdowns and so governments are trying to open up the economies again. This means encouraging people to do normal things, go shopping, eat out, go away on holiday, buy houses etc. But, governments also know that this will lead to an increase in the infection rate and people’s deaths. Every government is now weighing up the balance between deaths and poverty due to economic collapse and deaths from this disease. The infection factors are going to be quite complex but the UK government keeps coming out with short phrases designed to confuse, sorry help, us remember what to do. There are no guarantees that will stop us getting ill. All we can do is minimise risk. Wash your hands, wear a face mask so you don’t infect others, keep your distance etc. Because humans like simple answers products which make stupid claims exist and make money for their lying owners.
So we come on to Bioresonance Therapy. Or rather the claims made by a UK website about the product that they sell. I’ve printed out their homepage and have it here, just in case one day the website goes away and I can’t get links to their pages and comments. I can’t remember how I found this page, this has been a draft on this site for about two years and the website still exists so let’s go through the text shall we? I shall be referring to SCAM quite a bit and you should know this stands for Supplements, Complimentary and Alternative Medicines [thanks to Dr M Crislip for the term].
“Bioresonance” – a term that sounds sciency and you know the word bio and you know the word resonance. You probably have some vague recollection of these terms in school or people using them to describe proper science effects.
“Therapy” – SCAM artists love the word therapy because it sounds like something real is happening and they won’t use the term medicine because it’s regulated and if you claim to have a medical benefit then you have to prove it properly.
“Energy medicine” – what? This is a nonsensical term which isn’t protected by law and can be applied to anything. It’s also vague enough that people will interpret it and use their own definitions. If you want energy then you eat food. There isn’t any other way you can get energy into your body. Unless you are thinking radiation energy which is likely dangerous.
The first paragraph on this page says that you should have normal medicine as well as getting treated by this thing, whatever it is. Apparently bioresonance has benefits and the device has been used since the 1970s. I do think that if it worked then it would be available in doctor surgeries and maybe even in hospitals but I must be mistaken in thinking that those places want the best for their patients. We are then told that this device was featured in a documentary with Ty Bolinger. The documentary was called “The Truth about Cancer” – I can assure you without even looking that this is a dangerous claim to make and the documentary probably goes on to explain that you can help improve your condition with lots of bullshit stuff that doesn’t work. I’ve looked at two things; their website and their twitter feed. The website is horrific and I didn’t even scroll all the way down to bottom of the home page. Search for Ty Bolinger for yourself and see. The following tweet is on the timeline and if you want to take medical advice from a company that doesn’t understand medicine then it’s up to you I guess. They are killing people. This endorsement isn’t the best, I’m surprised that Bioresonance mention it on their homepage.
Then there is a claim that 18,000 BICOM devices have been sold worldwide. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t really seem that many for a product that is meant to work. Unless they are super expensive. This is an appeal to popularity. The idea that lots of people use these things and so it must work or be useful. This is bullshit. Here are some handy little reminders for you: some people are stupid, Mr Blobby was a Christmas number one – never trust popularity.
And we are on to paragraph two. There’s some general stuff about bad things like disease and parasites. Apparently parasites are a large cause of many conditions that people suffer. I honestly wasn’t aware of this. It’s bullshit. But the words PATHOGEN and PARASITE sound super scary don’t they. The BICOM device uses “energy medicine”, literally not a thing, to eliminate these invaders [another scary word] without the use of drugs – now I’m curious what other claims they are going to make. Apparently these devices have been around for over 35 years [appeal to longevity] and so they must work. The devices are made by Regumed???? I think this is a contraction of Regulated and Medicine but I prefer to pronounce it to rhyme with legume.
Paragraph Three doesn’t really say much. It just says that we will learn more by looking through the website. And that is what we shall do. Next is the video which I broke down in March.
I just looked at the product page for this website and I am in shock. A quick glance down the rest of this front page shows me that all the language is vague. There are no concrete claims within and saying things like “help the body help itself” is literally meaningless. It sounds as though it’s a good thing but it doesn’t mean anything from a marketing point of view and so we could say that eating an apple with help the body help itself. Just breathing does the same thing. The page goes on to say that we feel run-down or tired or suffer from electrosmog [whatever the fuck that is]. Everyone feels like that sometimes and it’s a natural part of life. The causes are going to be very vague and there’s not a lot we can do about it. I am actually overcome but the sheer amount of crap on the homepage of this product. When you have a homoeopath inventing new stuff you just know it’s bullshit. I honestly feel sorry for people who read this page and think that they will benefit from the information within. This is a SCAM product.
Now, here’s the thing that shocked me. The “product” page. There are four “popular” products. I’ll list the first and the last.
What the fucking fuck. This is a lot of money for something that doesn’t work. No wonder they’ve only sold 18,000 around the world. I guess you also get training in the bullshit. You get to understand how it all works and then I suppose you have to charge the people you want to treat. It’s going to take quite a bit to make this money back. If you are willing to spend this much money on a device that doesn’t work then you are going to be bought into everything it has to offer. I like to think my home cinema kit sounds nice, but I don’t really know, I just know how much I spent on the amplifier and so I do my best to think it sounds better than it possibly is. I also do the same with wine. If I spend a lot of money on a bottle of wine then I believe it tastes better – it doesn’t, there are plenty of studies that show that wine tasting is bullshit – it’s best to buy a cheap bottle and get drunk.
For £15,000 you can have a B32 Bicom Prevent! The very first sentence on this product description says it uses the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. You can see what I know about TCM in this communication. You don’t need to read any further, you already know that this is a crock of shit.
As a device it looks nice but I can assure you it doesn’t do anything real. For GBP27,000 you can have the following device of gizmos that doesn’t actually do anything for your “patients” or for you and is based purely on un-scientific principles. I give you the “BB324/B32 BICOM optima® Therapy Device with EAP Test Part”. I am seriously in shock at how much this stuff costs and I worry about all those people who have bought into this crap.
Click on the image to see what conditions they aim to improve. Number 469 is “nose bleed”. FFS. This device can help you if you have a nose bleed. I think I need to get out and go for a run. There’s only so much of this horrifying quackery I can take. I am terrified that people make money out of this. I can’t stand the idea of people using this device to take advantage of the ill. The problems with this particular website are legion. I’ve just thought about sending information about the claims on this website to the Advertising Standards Authority but using a Whois service this website is run in Germany and so the ASA have no power over this site. Now, they do have a UK address so I might see what recourse I have to get them to prove any claims. I have to look for specific claims on the site. These might not exist. There are certain phrases that don’t really mean much and so a carefully written website can imply a lot of things but be legally acceptable. I’ll look into this later. I need a break from this SCAM. I had hoped to discuss more of their claims and pages I am honestly still in shock at the cost of the devices.
Since the end of May I have been trying to lose weight [more formally – mass] and I’ve been doing this using methods which have worked in the past. Namely, logging all my food and doing plenty of exercise. It’s the only way I am able to do this, by keeping to a decent calorie limit and burning the fat by exercise. Reducing my food intake will only lose so much weight. I think the body gets used to the reduction in food and so initially there will be mass-loss but over time this effect dies down and I’m in the stage now where the reduced calorific diet maintains me but exercise is the only way to burn the fat. I’m doing my best to do this in a healthy way. I’m eating a decent mixture of foods, some fruit and lots of fibre. I understand that if there’s one thing everyone could eat more of to improve health it’s fibre. Yes, I get bored and some days I hate it. Sometimes I cheat and order pizza or kebab but I accept that and know that I can get going again and be on my way to my goal in a week or so.
I have met a friend and eaten out, I have also been quite drunk and done all the normal things I would do in my life. The main thing is to try and keep going. Losing mass is a mental battle and not really a physical one. I know. When I’m feeling unhealthy I try to feel better by eating, which makes me feel more unhealthy and so on. If losing weight was easy then everyone would be doing it all the time. There wouldn’t be any obesity. But, to coin the Ben Goldacre phrase, I think you’ll find it’s more complicated than that. I’ve been lucky that the lockdown has happened and by the end of May I had reached a rock-bottom level and was willing to try and change my habits. I have no idea how long this will last. It’s a mental health issue more than anything else. I have lost 7KG since the beginning of June. So, roughly a stone for you Daily Mail readers. It’s taken three months to lose that. Three months of mostly boring food and being good, three months of plenty of exercise, three months of not having to be at work. I don’t know where the motivation came from. I don’t know how to keep it.
So, at the end of May the NHS was encouraging me to lose 4.6kg. This isn’t something I looked at then, I’ve just used the site now as I wanted to know what my BMI is. I do understand that BMI is an imperfect measure but it’ll will do. Now, at the end of August, the NHS is still wanting me to lose 4kg, even though I have lost the original 4kg. Maybe they are using sensible targets which are achievable for people?
So, the purpose of this communication isn’t to brag or go on about mass-loss. It’s more about this next level of bullshit I’m about to discuss. I’ve been using MyFitnessPal to record my food intake and keep my food energy to a sensible level over the last three months. Now, I don’t pay for the extra version of this app, I use it for what I want and I don’t need other features, much like the Strava app that I use to record my exercise. The MFP app has adverts on the “front page” and also what it calls blog posts. These are mostly easy to ignore but every now and then something will catch my eye and I can’t help giving it a read. The advert that prompted this communication was about some form of bullshit but my interest was piqued.
I have been and looked at this website. The above image is just that, an image and so if you want to watch the video you’ll have to go to the website. As you can see I’ve watched 55 seconds and I nearly punched the monitor when he said that his name was Eli rather than pronouncing it Eeeli. So, there are red flags without having to go too far into this bullshit.
Red Flag – Qi. Sometimes called Chi. This is a massive red flag. Qi is meant to be the flow of energy around the human body. When this energy flow gets interrupted you will get ill. To know where this energy flows is important and balancing your energy will mean making sure that your energy flows correctly around your body. The important thing here is that Qi doesn’t exist. There aren’t secret channels of energy flowing around your body. This is an entirely made up mode of biology from a time when the human body was a mystery. If you have any form of literature or people talking about Qi the safest thing to do is to throw it in the bin or walk away like Homer hiding in a hedge.
Red Flag – Immune Health. You can’t boost your immune system and generally it works without any external interference. If your immune system doesn’t work properly then it is quite likely you will already be in hospital and undergoing amazing treatment from proper sciency stuff.
Red Flag – protect against COVID. Fuck this site for using this to make you think you can protect yourself using “ancient” wisdom. The best thing you can do is wash your hands, wear a mask and stay away from other people.
Red Flag – supercharge your immune system. Literally not a thing you can do. We don’t have any real control over our immune system. It is just there. This is a wank statement.
Red Flag – ancient wisdom. This is the best of all. Ancient Wisdom is not a thing at all. Things were not better in the old days. People died all the time of curable diseases. Here’s some things we’ve done recently; germ theory is about 150 years old, immunisation is about the same age, antibiotics are about 80 years old, small pox is eliminated, leprosy can be cured. Science bitches – it works.
Slightly further down the page I can sign up for acupressure hints and tips. Acupuncture is based on the understanding that sticking needles into your skin and help unblock the flow of Qi and help you recover to full health again. What mechanism does this use? It doesn’t. Acupuncture doesn’t work. It doesn’t do what it says.
Having dismissed this site as utter bullshit in the first few lines I then went to the home page to see what claims there are. I was interested to see what else this person thinks they can help you with. I wanted to know how much money it costs.
There is a claim that a newspaper declared Eli the Qi Gong teacher of the year. I mean, sure. If you are the best of the nothing that you teach then I am not impressed. Also, you’ve been named by a local newspaper. I don’t think that counts as anything special.
Through my online Qi Breaks™ Online platform you’ll learn the secrets to self-healing, pain management, stress reduction and higher energy levels with simple, easy-to-follow practices designed for everyone regardless of experience and age.
This on the site made me curious. I think much of the site does. There is so much bullshit here that I keep being reminded of the Apocalypse Now! quotation:
Willard: Oh man, the shit piled up so fast in Vietnam you needed wings to stay above it.
I clicked through to the Qi Breaks minisite and was confronted with a lot of stuff about ancient wisdom. I will tell you that some people in the ancient times were clever but then again, some people were stupid. There isn’t really a thing of ancient wisdom. It’s just a clever marketing ploy to make you think that this stuff has been around for so long so it must be correct. In the previous video Eli claims that there is documented evidence that some people lived to be 80 or even 100. I mean, there probably were. But it doesn’t seem to be that great since we live that long nowadays. Some people even live to 120. It would be interesting to chat with this person about life expectancy and explain that it has been generally going up over the last two hundred years as we learn more science. If Eli wants documented evidence why doesn’t he use the bible? It’s got stories of people living a long time. Maybe we should do what they did?
So, Qi Breaks looks like an online video thing that you pay for. It’s meant to help you do lots of non-specific things that are self-reported and not really measurable. This means that it will probably “work” for you. You spend the money. Do as you are told and then you will say that you feel better. If you don’t think it works then you just quit and so the testimonials will always come from people with positive reviews. Are they really any better or have they really boosted their immune system? Unlikely.
Eli claims to have a “deep healing Qi Gong” method that you can pay extra for. Here’s what he says:
“Deep Healing Qi Gong™ uses practices known to have specific impacts on the emotional, physical and mental levels – the integrated body’s Qi (life-force energy). It is rooted both in ancient Bhuddist and Taoist systems as well as in modern energy healing methods and supported by science. I helped heal many from chronic health conditions western medicine does not have answer to. This method not only works to help you heal yourself by clearing Qi blockages and restoring the natural flow of Qi in the body, it also helps youmanifest exactly what you want to have in your life. I developed this method over the last 10 years through my own personal journey, working with many individuals over the years and studied with teachers in the US, Europe and Asia.”
There are a number of things about this that strike me: Life-force energy – isn’t a thing. Ancient – who cares? This says nothing about whether it works or is real. Supported by science – OK, show me the fucking science. Heal chronic health – unlikely. I would like to see proper documented evidence for this. Western medicine – this is used to dismiss modern medicine or “medicine”. I’ll take my chances with things that really work thank you. Qi blockages – not a real thing. Manifest exactly what you want – this is concerting. Is Eli saying that if you “want” hard enough you can have? Is he using hints of “the secret” here? Is he doing that “ask the universe” bullshit? I’m amazed at this. There’s a real issue with people thinking that illness and other outcomes in life are their fault. Or they think that the universe has it in for them. This isn’t true. What is true is that illness is random and society is actually built to stop you doing the things you want. Unfortunately many people can’t accept that some outcomes in life are just random and they believe it must be the fault of the person.
This whole website is a way of removing you from some of your money. If Eli really has mastered or created Deep Healing Qi Gong then wouldn’t the best thing for him be to give it away to the world for nothing? Shouldn’t he be working in hospitals to help cure everyone? If this stuff works then why isn’t he being hailed in the New England Journal of Medicine? If all these things he says are real then why isn’t everyone using them? If these things really worked then your GP would get you to do them. But, these things don’t work. I’m going to leave Eli and his bullshit for now. But I haven’t quite finished. I want to explain where Traditional Chinese Medicine comes from. The quick answer is China. But the real story is a little more interesting.
In the 1950s China was struggling with population and Communism. Not much different from today really. Medicine was improving in the country and so doctors were issued with a book that gave them treatments and drug listings for specific diseases etc. Because there were problems with the availability of real drugs the back of this book had a load of bullshit cures but ones that were traditional in the countryside. So, when a doctor had no hope of helping someone and the drugs weren’t available they could “prescribe” some bullshit stuff that would keep the population happy and subdued. Nothing was really known about this outside of China.
Then, in the early 1970s there was a US diplomatic mission to China and one of the people got ill. There were operated on but also had some bullshit TCM applied to them and when the western media heard about this they completely overlooked the actual medicine and focused solely on the TCM that this person received. They then claimed it was a miracle and maybe this ancient wisdom has something behind it. Before this time there wasn’t much in the western consciousness about TCM. After this time it exploded and has been here since. TCM doesn’t work and was rooted in a government lying to their own people to cover up the lack of real medicine. Amazing that we have so much of this is western culture now.
You can check this story yourself from the place I got my information. I first heard about this on Skeptoid. A short podcast that looks at things that aren’t real. It covers lots of different topics. I would encourage you to listen to the podcast or read the transcript. It’s worth knowing where this bullshit TCM comes from. Also, there is, of course, a Wikipedia page that covers the Barefoot Doctor.
This communication follows Odd in a view of what’s going on with my website. This isn’t an interesting place, as I wrote on the home page nine years ago it is just a place for my ego and my thoughts which mostly aren’t pretty! I have found that trying to construct arguments for this site has helped me elucidate my reasoning where my “in head” arguments tend to be more: well, that seems the right thing to do. Why someone would try to login to my website is beyond me, maybe they want control to direct all my readers to spam or to be able to inject some ransomware? Who knows.
This IP address has tried to enter the control area of this website 21 times in the last week. It’s interesting, but I don’t know why. Maybe I’m in the wrong business? This is all I know about them using my limited resources. No doubt there’s much more out there somewhere and if I could be bothered.
City: Delhi Region name: Delhi Country name: India ◉ Latitude: 28.650406 ◎ Longitude: 77.23721 org: Excitel isp: Excitel
I wonder where this one comes from? City: Tallinn Region name: Harjumaa Country name: Estonia ◉ Latitude: 59.433 ◎ Longitude: 24.7323 org: Elisa Eesti isp: Elisa Eesti
This one tried to login 19 times in a two minute window sometime last week.
IP address: 188.8.131.52 City: Ningbo Region name: Zhejiang Country name: China ◉ Latitude: 29.878204 ◎ Longitude: 121.5495 org: Alibaba isp: Alibaba
It would appear that these bots try to login using common login names a few times and when they get refused they move on to another poor soul who runs WordPress. I do wonder if I’ll get properly hacked soon. Time to run some back up software.
The last few times I’ve been to the Amazon homepage there’s been an image by the Launchpad section that intrigued me as I didn’t know what the object was and it looked as though it was cool tech. I was initially quite excited when the launchpad started because it seemed a good thing – plenty of tech solutions to mundane problems – but now it just seems to be an area of the store for products which don’t really do anything different to the items elsewhere. The early excitement left me pretty quickly as the Launchpad filled with the mundane.
Clicking on this image just took me to the Launchpad homepage which I then browsed but found nothing interesting. Maybe that is the purpose of the image. Getting people like me to browse new areas of the website so that I end up buying something. It’s been about a week of seeing this image and so I have finally given a little more effort into browsing to see what it is.
It turns out this thing is a sleep aid device. I will try and avoid using brand names but I will link to the product website once. According to the Amazon information this device has a metronome light that will help you fall asleep naturally 2.5 times faster than normal [average]. Apparently lots of people use it. Other information on the product description has science words with a photograph of a doctor and a description that you align your breathing with the light emitted and this will bring your body into a natural sleep condition. My interest was piqued. My default mode is scepticism and while I’m not dismissing their claims I am going to cover some of the red flags. I hope that towards the end of this article I will find evidence that the product works well.
Listing the claims made on their website with comment.
76% positive reviews – those who thought this product worked bothered to let the company know that this product worked in their opinion.
2.5 x faster – people claim that the time taken to fall asleep has dropped by 61%. People are terrible judges at what really happens. That’s why we have developed the scientific method. I will look for a published peer reviewed paper to see if the claims can be backed up.
100 days money back guarantee – This, may at first, seem like an honest option for a company to offer. If this doesn’t work then send it back. In reality this is using a human memory trick to appear honest but people forget that they bought something or have the chance to send it back. This is common among devices that don’t work. How often have you bought a TV and Sony say, hey if you don’t like it return it after three months and we’ll refund you.
Testimonials – user testimonials are a problem, especially for medical / health devices. People don’t know what works. We need a scientific method to investigate these things. Just think how many people you know who use acupuncture / chiropractic / osteopathy when all the science evidence is none of them work. User testimonials are a problem.
Already in excess of 500,000 users – this is an appeal to popularity. If we’ve sold this many then it must work. This is not true. If you remember Mr Blobby was the Christmas number one a while ago and that song was utter shit.
This is an amazing graphic. Look at all the details. Sleeping pills cause death. Yoga costs money. Therapy is good but expensive. This product is the best, natural and cheap, doesn’t take much time and green which is definitely the best. Also, the number of stars increases to the best product which is the breathing light. This is amazing. Such balls to design this.
The whole front page of their website is full of lovely modern graphics with plenty of advice and explanation. Whether this is true or works is something I will investigate but it’s worth noting that so far nothing I have seen really strikes me as anything other than “all the comments on our website are this works”.
Who Is This For?
The page on the website which covers who can use the device mentions almost everyone. Therefore everyone is free to buy this product with the knowledge that it will help to improve their sleep patterns. The list is:
Thoughts running through your head
Daily or one-off troubles
Insomnia and pregnancy
So, as you see. It works for everyone. We all have times when sleeping is difficult. We all have lives that seem stressful. We all struggle at times. In part, that is the human condition. So, this product could help everyone.
The science page is pretty well written compared to many such sites I have seen. They make claims along the way. At the beginning the company explains that sleep deprivation can be caused by autonomic nervous system disorders and there’s a link to a published academic paper. This study was performed on 11 insomniacs, not a great number of people. There was a control group which is a good thing. The outcome of this is that to help insomniacs there should be an aim to reduce emotional arousal along with methods for improving sleep. Nothing about how to do that yet.
The next linked study performed on just 8 people seems to suggest the same thing: “These results support the aetiological hypothesis of physiological hyperarousal underlying primary insomnia.” So far these two studies don’t really say anything about this product. All they say is that being stressed/emotional could lead to insomnia. There are three more studies link on the “why” section of the science page and my favourite is the last one which tries to link acupuncture as a treatment for insomnia: “Our review indicates the necessity for further research in the relationship between the effects of acupuncture on insomnia and autonomic regulation, which might guide better selective use of this treatment modality for insomnia.” What this study doesn’t do is say it works. What the study says is that more study is needed. This is precisely the method used by TCM proponents when they find no link in their results. They just say that more study is needed.
The next few parts on the science page try to link breathing to emotional state, which seems fair. They then take the view that this will help sleep, which initially seems fair. There’s a link to a study which has around 40 participants, which is still pretty low, especially once you split them into different treatment wings. So, they asked people to breath at a rate of six breathes per minute and then recorded they blood pressure after five minutes. Would you believe it? After five minutes of being told to relax the participants were relaxed. Wow! How this links to a stressful life I’m not sure yet. All we’ve established is that slowing your breathing can help you feel relaxed. We’ve also established with some poor quality studies that being relaxed helps you sleep.
Next is a link to a study that says concentration can help you sleep. This study is from 1974. I’m not saying it’s wrong but when the last sleep/concentration study you can find is from nearly fifty years ago then maybe you need some more investigative work. Science has moved on since then and we have corrected a lot of the early work. There are a few more links to different studies through the last few paragraphs and there are some amazing charts but none of this so far has convinced me. The science page concludes:
Dodow tackles one of the main obstacles to achieving a sound sleep. It is easy to use, harmless, non-addictive, affordable at can be used at any time of night. Our goal is to democratize its use and create a solution referenced by physicians.
“Easy to use, harmless, non-addictive, affordable at can be used at any time of night” all these are red flags. These are warnings that it’s possible it doesn’t work. Do you know what sort of things have zero side effects? Things that don’t work. “Affordable” is relative. £50 seems like quite a bit of money to me. But if I was struggling to sleep then I would probably think it’s worth it. Sleep deprivation is a terrible thing. I was suffering from poor sleep last November. This device wouldn’t have helped because my sleep issues were caused by stress. I had to sort out the causes of the stress. This is not easy. A blue light to stare at seems easy.
There are lots of other pages under the heading of “blog” which gives plenty of reasons why certain types of people should buy this product. I’m not going through all of them. But I did see the above graphic which tells us about the people who started this company. Greg is, apparently, rational and studied at Stamford. Nice appeal to authority of education there. Gui is into mystic shit and worked for a massive company and so must be ok. Pierre found that he had trouble sleeping because he was thinking too much, he’s emotionally invested in such a cure for sleep. Alex cured his insomnia with yoga, not this system. Look how “respectable” they appear – young, white, intelligent. There is a problem with society when you look at these people and think “oh, they must know what they are doing”.
Dr. David O’Hare has his picture on the science page and is apparently a specialist in cardiac coherence. Whether this doctor has any financial connections to this company I do not know. I tried to Google this person. There were only responses on the French Wikipedia page about cardiac coherence and so I looked at that. My French isn’t great and so thanks to a live web-page Google translate I was able to read this section. The very first paragraph on this web-page explains that this heart coherence technique is founded on poor studies and is considered pseudoscience. This means there isn’t really any good scientific evidence to back the claims that are made.
the effectiveness of cardiac coherence is not recognized: AFIS, which fights against scientific disinformation, considers it as a pseudo-science among others and denounces its promotion
So, it took a little digging. But we eventually got to the point where we know that the doctor recommending this product on their page promotes a modality considered pseudoscience and shouldn’t be promoted. There isn’t evidence to suggest his area of study is true. When your product is backed by someone who makes money from something that doesn’t work you have to question the validity of all the claims on the website and about the product.
In this communication I have investigated what looked like a pretty cool product for sale on Amazon launchpad. I wasn’t sure what it was at first but it looked cool, although a dust trap. This device is meant to help you sleep and all the claims it makes are plausible. They have lots of science words and diagrams and seem to be endorsed by a doctor. The content of their claims had red flags, the sort of thing that is common with lots of products that don’t really work. So, I investigated this product. I looked at the red flags and the information on their website. I have concluded that it is unlikely that this device does what it claims. While it seems plausible all the evidence go to show that it is unlikely to do what it says. If I have problems sleeping in the future I won’t be heading to buy this device I will use one of the more proven methods for aiding sleep. These are harder and take more time but will have longer last real effects.
A side discussion would be whether Amazon should stock this product or have it on their website. My initial thought would be that they should not. A company should promote things which do not work. A quick search for homoeopathy on the site provides many results and homoeopathy is the most ridiculous of all bullshit non-medical treatments. Currently Amazon is a platform for people to sell their stuff. It’s almost like eBay in some cases and selling items with vague claims isn’t illegal. I mean there are loads of osteopathic practices around where I live. So, morally, I think Amazon should not have these products. But it is up to them I guess. It’s also impossible to police if they maintain their current model. Much like Twitter and Facebook could not possibly moderate every comment or post I reckon Amazon couldn’t do that without massively impacting their business model. Maybe that is where the problem lies ultimately, societies reliance on capitalism. I’ll leave that for another day.
A reasonable length of time ago I started to learn how to teach mathematics the year was 1995/6. During that academic year I received my second placement at a school in Kingston Upon Thames. I was living in Ealing at the time and my first school was The Featherstone High School in Southall and it was a couple of stops away by train. However, to get from Ealing to Kingston was not the easiest of journeys and meant about an hour on public transport. So, I decided to get a motorbike. That teacher training year was a surprise to me for two main reasons:
I discovered that I really loved teaching and decided to stay in that profession. My plans up to then had been to join the RAF as an educational officer.
I bought a motorbike, which I consider instant death traps, and I loved it.
So, I took my motorbike test in 1996 I think. I couldn’t remember the braking distances for different speeds and so one of my my flatmates, Greg, came up with the formula:
Using this formula gives you the braking distance in feet when x is in miles per hour. Effectively it splits into two parts; the x is the thinking distance which is roughly one foot for each mile per hour and the x^2 is essentially the kinetic energy factor. I actually used this formula to work out the answer to the question in my motorbike driving test and got it correct although the tester was somewhat surprised I was using feet rather than metres even though both were acceptable in those days.
This distance is an estimate and cars nowadays will be able to stop in much shorter distances. The more you pay for your car the shorter the distance to stop [ish]]. Basically it’s one hundred metres to stop from 70 mph. That’s quite a distance and would probably surprise most people to see it laid out. It’s the length of a running track straight. When I try to visualise distances in the hundreds of metres I visualise a running track opening out to a straight line and then going across the school field. Humans are generally rubbish at estimating distances because it’s not something we do that often. Distance estimation is important in application of fire when shooting and you need to estimate distances quickly using visual clues to make sure you aim at the correct stop to hit the target. Bullets fall down to Earth, accelerating at 1g.
Now we get to the main point of this communication. In my experience over the last two months people are either:
Unable to estimate distances
Unable to understand risk
Unable to follow instructions
Think they are indestructible
None of those things is mutually exclusive so maybe it’s all of them. My evidence is purely anecdotal and comes from my experiences of going to the supermarket. I have been to work thrice since the UK lockdown started and the few people there have been good at keeping their distances. My place of work is still open to the children of key workers and there have been some in allowing sections of this country to still function. The only other place I have mixed with the public is at the supermarket. I haven’t really ever had food shopping delivered and decided I wouldn’t start now and take a slot from someone else who needed it. Going to the supermarket is something I normally enjoy. I don’t know why but I like seeing the shop. If you think that is strange then I really love supermarkets abroad, I think they are such an insight into the people and I will happily walk up and down every aisle to see what’s there.
My normal supermarket is a Sainsbury’s nearby. In fact I’ve been using them for a while since my Nectar points balance went negative due to their errors. I’m not sure of the economic implications of a negative Nectar balance but I decided to shop there for a while. The first time I went to the supermarket they had set up a queuing system with lines on the floor where people could stand. I am not convinced these lines are two metres apart because two metres is probably further than you think but they are apart and so I’m not going there to measure them. That first time queuing someone was chatting to the person behind me and had to be asked to move away. I mean, I thought the instructions were pretty clear. Two metres is two metres. It’s more than the height of a standard house door. If you stand there with your arms outstretched you shouldn’t be able to tough another person’s hands with their arms outstretched.
Inside the store my experience was mostly positive. People seemed to be mostly keeping their distance. Most aisles are around two metres in width and so if you go down the sides you are probably a good distance away. I did find that some people weren’t following the instructions and while I waited at “pinch points” other people would go between me and the person I was waiting for. This, I think, is mostly to do with people not having patience or any altruism. I tried to do the right thing by keeping my distance but some people weren’t doing their best. This was a little frustrating. Mostly I found the experience OK and I don’t think I was too worried by the other shoppers, by and large it was OK.
A few weeks into the lockdown in the UK I went to a local Tesco store because I needed to buy some clothes. The Tesco has a larger selection of clothing and I honestly didn’t want to go to the Asda at the top of the hill because I was being snobbish. The queuing system outside the Tesco worked well but once inside I found there were problems. Tesco have placed arrows on the floor to try and make their customers move in the same direction and allow more people to browse particular products. That seems perfectly sensible but when a good proportion of the customers decided NOT to follow the one way system – WHICH IS THERE FOR THEIR SAFETY AND HEALTH – then the system fails. I was a good boy and followed the rules in place. That evening I found that a lot of customers either didn’t see the arrows or just ignored them. Too many people passed too close to me. My observances are:
People wearing face masks and gloves seem more likely to pass close.
Younger adults don’t give a shit.
Tesco don’t enforce the system – but how could they?
Kids don’t know better so that’s fine – don’t take kids shopping unless your situation requires it.
I hated the time I spent in this supermarket. It was frustrating and increased my stress levels to very high. I just wanted to get my stuff and get out. I really don’t understand why people won’t follow guidelines in place to keep them safe. I’m pretty sure they haven’t understood the risk assessment of these activities. Let’s look at these problems I saw:
Face masks and gloves – the evidence is that face masks don’t protect you from the virus. What face masks do is reduce the chance of you passing on the virus if you have it. Now, if you have symptoms you shouldn’t be outside at all. But, you could be asymptomatic, or you could be at the infectious stage just before you get symptoms. Wearing a face mask gives you a false sense of security and so you put yourself into more risky situations. I saw this is Tesco, I saw people wearing rushing around and getting close to people and they were the ones wearing face masks. Gloves won’t do shit. Gloves, again, give you a false sense of security and make it more likely that you will touch stuff. The best thing you can do is wash your hands before you go out and then wash your hands as soon as you get back. Do your best to not touch your face in the times inbetween.
Younger people – they have that sense of invulnerability that I once felt and I get it. They are going to do the things they want to do. But it could be that they are a massive vector for the virus because they are more likely to be asymptomatic. In a recent exercise walk around a lake I saw a group of around twenty youths all together. I understand and no one is really going to be able to tell them what to do.
Tesco decided to implement a one way system. I have spent a while thinking about this and my stress levels at Sainsbury’s are less because they don’t have a one way system. Therefore there isn’t a system for people to follow and so I don’t get annoyed when they don’t follow it. I still get annoyed by people passing too close but there isn’t the added issue of those people also blatantly ignoring the safety arrows of directionality.
I haven’t seen many young kids when I’ve been out and about. I understand that there are family situations that would make it hard for people to leave kids at home and I am sympathetic to them. You can only tell youngsters to do so much. This, of all the transgressions, seems the one that’s OK.
I go to Tesco rarely. This is to minimise my annoyance at people not following the system. I don’t wear a mask and I don’t wear gloves. In my head I model the water suspended droplets flowing around people as they move around and I try to avoid those areas. I hold my breath at certain times and I try to minimise the risk to myself. I don’t know if I’ve had the disease and I don’t know if I would be immune. I hope I have had it. I would like to be in the position to know that I don’t have to worry about getting it. I would like to be able to do my work and help others knowing it is unlikely I can pass it on and also unlikely I can catch it again. These are all things I do not know. The most important thing for people to do now is to reduce their own risk of getting the disease or passing it on. Until there is a vaccine available everyone is likely to get this at some point. Everyone is going to get ill and there are going to me many more deaths. What we need to do is minimise the risks to all and keep the health services going by spreading out the infection rate.
A couple more things to mention; the virus is called SARS-CoV-2, that’s the official name, the disease you get from the virus is called COVID-19. The virus belongs to the common cold virus family and not the flu virus family – they are very different shapes. The R value that the media are going on about is really the R0 value. That’s pronounced R Nought or R Zero. I think the media have been a little lazy on this one but that could be just me. There are other R values and it’s important to talk about the one you mean. This one is the only one being talked about in the media so maybe I should be softer on this issue.
Along with my investigation of the SARS-COV 2 Virus and how it infects humans I also need to understand how the current detection tests work. Let’s get a few things straight first though. The current [early May] testing regime in the UK is pathetic and nowhere near enough to be able to track where this virus is going. Also, let’s be clear about this, Covid-19 is not a mild cold or flu. Some people won’t suffer very much with it but others are dying. I read a tweet from a 30-ish year old person saying that it felt like they couldn’t breathe for three days. I don’t want to experience that.
There are two main types of test that can be done for the virus. At the moment, in the UK these are done when you first show symptoms. That way, if you have CV-19 you can isolate and if you haven’t then you can go about your business. This is a method for reducing the transmission of this killer disease.
The first test detects the virus itself. This can be done by taking material from easy to reach places on the human body. For this test to work you need to have been infected for a few days already and for the virus to multiply in your body to get to the nose or throat. As the infection continues this test becomes less effective because the virus stays largely in the lungs and reduces elsewhere. As this virus is RNA only and the test can only detect DNA there is some chemistry magic to be done first to convert the RNA and then all DNA in the sample is copied. Finally more chemistry is done to detect the DNA version of the RNA of the virus. This can take two hours to two days. All it tests if whether you have the virus in your nose or throat at that time. It doesn’t mean you are clear. There can be errors.
The second type of test detects the body’s response to the infection. It detects the cells in our blood that fight the virus. By definition this test needs to be done once the infection is being fought. There are two main types of antibody that can be detected and the amounts of those in the blood vary over time. I found this lovely graphic on Wikipedia:
It’s quite hard in these times to find decent correct information on the web about what is going on. I’ve been avoiding newspapers and other traditional media and mainly sticking with podcasts where the presenter / interviewee is qualified or Wikipedia. The World Health Organisation website is brilliant too and has the level of detail I wanted.
My next communication might be about the UK Govt response to this crisis. But I’m not sure I’m willing to enter that pit of desperation yet.
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