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Medicine Idle Science

Bad Science Writer Talks About the Placebo Effect *NSFW* 131 131

The Guardian newspaper's Bad Science columnist Dr. Ben Goldacre does a stand-up routine about medicine, the placebo effect, and the mysteries of the human body at Nerdstock. From a scientific standpoint, I can't accurately say how funny it is because I was told it was great before I saw it.

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Bad Science Writer Talks About the Placebo Effect *NSFW*

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  • And now... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sconeu (64226) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @02:30PM (#34918618) Homepage Journal

    I can't accurately say how funny it is because I was told it was great before I saw it.

    And now, neither can the rest of us.

  • by northernfrights (1653323) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @03:14PM (#34919104)
    All I know is that the speed of his mouth and the speed of my brain were neck and neck the whole time.
  • Re:In review - Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zzatz (965857) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @05:17PM (#34920354)

    The influence of the mind on the body is interesting, and well worth studying. What's not worth studying are the bullshit explanations that people come up with to psychically move money from the gullible to the promoters.

    Here are examples from a more easily studied area: perception of sound. The placebo effect is easily demonstrated with various audiophile gadgets and gimmicks. Make a change and it really does sound better. Or, more accurately, you perceive that it sounds better, because you expected it to sound better. But when blind tests are done, the difference can't be detected. Except when it is, which is why the change has to be hidden not only from the subject, but from the experimenter, to prevent the experimenter from unknowingly influencing the subject. It's amazing how people can no longer tell the difference between two devices when the tests are double-blind.

    Some differences are real, that is, can be reliably detected using double blind tests. But the explanations may be nonsense. Some people prefer vinyl to digital, or vacuum tubes to solid state. There's nothing wrong with preferences. But to claim that one is more accurate than the other is not preference, that's a claim that can be measured. Vinyl has limited accuracy, easily exceeded by inexpensive digital audio devices. It's OK to prefer the sound of LPs, it's not OK to claim that they are more accurate. It is well known that some sounds may be more pleasing with certain changes made; boost the mid-bass, add a little second harmonic, and so forth.

    The placebo effect is real. Homeopathy is a scam that uses the placebo effect. We can have the benefits of the placebo effect without rip-offs and mumbo-jumbo.

Frankly, Scarlett, I don't have a fix. -- Rhett Buggler

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