All posts by Steven Novella

Founder and currently Executive Editor of Science-Based Medicine Steven Novella, MD is an academic clinical neurologist at the Yale University School of Medicine. He is also the president and co-founder of the New England Skeptical Society, the host and producer of the popular weekly science podcast, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, and the author of the NeuroLogicaBlog, a daily blog that covers news and issues in neuroscience, but also general science, scientific skepticism, philosophy of science, critical thinking, and the intersection of science with the media and society. Dr. Novella also contributes every Sunday to The Rogues Gallery, the official blog of the SGU.

Human_brain_in_a_vat

Bad Reporting about Uploading Memories

The Mirror declares, ‘Scientists develop Matrix-style technique of ‘feeding’ information directly into your brain.’ Discovery News went with, “Novices ‘Download’ Pilots’ Brainwaves, Learn To Fly.” Most other outlets spoke of ‘uploading’ information to the brain, and learning in seconds. The one thing I was certain of from reading these headlines is that this was not what was happening. Brain-machine interface technology is...

/ March 2, 2016

Air Pollution and Public Health

Public health measures are those not aimed at individuals but at society as a whole, or subgroups within society. Physicians are charged not only with promoting the health of their own patients, but as a profession we (and health care professions in general) are charged with promoting the public health. Public health measures, however, are highly likely to cross into politically charged...

/ February 24, 2016
cows

Organic vs Conventional Meat and Milk

Two recently published meta-analyses, one on meat and another on milk, conclude that levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and omega-3 fatty acids are higher in the organic versions of both. This is being widely reported as evidence that organic meat and milk is healthier, but a closer look at these two studies shows a different picture. The organic false dichotomy I...

/ February 17, 2016

Update on the Zika Virus

A new word has been added to the public’s vocabulary – the Zika virus. It seems we have one more infectious agent to worry about. Here are the facts as we currently understand them regarding the recent Zika epidemic, and also some rumors and conspiracy theories that need debunking. Zika virus The Zika virus (of the viral family Flaviviridae, an Arthropod-Borne or...

/ February 10, 2016

Laws Limiting Vaccine Exemptions Work

It’s nice when a question can be resolved with objective numbers of unequivocal outcomes. Subjective outcomes give scientists a headache. In this case we are talking about the effect of vaccine exemption laws on vaccine compliance rates. The question here is not the ethical one, the rights of parents to determine the fate of their children vs the right of the state...

/ February 3, 2016

More Trouble for Antioxidants

Antioxidants are now an iconic example of premature hype making its way into marketing and the public consciousness long before the science is adequately understood. There are multiple lessons to be learned in this story, and a new study just emphasizes those lessons further. A brief history of antioxidants One of the unavoidable consequences of metabolism (burning food for energy) is the...

/ January 27, 2016
Red apple

The Clean Eating Delusion

While some parts of the world are concerned with eating, because of food insecurity, the “worried and well-fed well” are increasingly obsessed with so-called “clean eating.” This is nothing new, but like every cultural phenomenon, it seems, has increased partly due to the easy spread of misinformation over the internet. If you are anxious about your health, and who isn’t to some...

/ January 20, 2016
A vaccine to prevent cancer

HPV Vaccine Safety and Acceptance

The public fight over the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is still raging. The debate partly reflects the underlying logic of health prevention measures, which is essentially a statistical game of risk vs benefit. Unfortunately thrown into the mix are ideological opponents to vaccines who are distorting the facts at every turn. Notice that I said this was a “public” fight, because it...

/ January 13, 2016
The Brain

FTC Slaps Down “Brain Training” Claims

Lumosity is a company that provides online and mobile games that it claimed are scientifically designed to enhance memory, focus, mental flexibility, and even stave off dementia. In a recent decision, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concluded that Luminosity’s claims are not based on adequate scientific evidence. They imposed a $50 million judgement against Lumos Labs, the company who sells Lumosity, and...

/ January 6, 2016

Continued Battle over Homeopathy

The battle to rid modern scientific societies from the blatant and harmful pseudoscience of homeopathy continues. This past year has been overall a good one – in the US both the FDA and FTC decided to review their regulation of homeopathy. They have gathered their testimony and are now apparently reviewing everything. Their decisions on this topic are eagerly anticipated and could...

/ December 23, 2015