Skepticism, Medicine and Science News

Back From The Dead

Ok, so it has been a while since I last posted, but there was the Christmas holiday, and the beginning of a new term etc. But never mind that, the important thing is that the blog is back! Or rather, I’m back! 

Since I last posted there has been some cool news items, so I thought I should start this years blogging by bringing up a few of them.

Well, first of all, the voting for this years Weblog Awards just closed, and I am appalled by who won in the science category. There were some great nominees there, like Bad Astronomy, Pharyngula and Neurologica. These are all fantastic science blogs, but do you think any of them won? Oh no, the winner this year was this horrible, horrible global warming denial blog. That is just sad… 

Just today I read about a cool study in the Journal of Proteome Research. Some scientists in Italy have found abnormal proteins in the saliva of autistic patients, and the hope is that this will eventually give us some clue about the pathological biochemical processes of autism. Also, it could potentially be used as a biomarker in saliva-based autism tests. 

Now, this next one is a sad story, but it is a good example of why evidence-based medicine really should be the only kind of medicine. Russel Jenkins is, or rather was, a healer in Australia. One day, he stepped on an electrical plug in his house, and the small resulting wound later became infected. Even worse, the infection then turned gangrenous. Gangrene is a horrible condition of necrosis of body tissue. It looks really bad, and smells even worse. Instead of seeking medical help, Russel, being a healer, decided he would treat his condition by applying honey to the affected area. Naturally, this did not work out so well, and he later died from the gangrenous infection. 

This is of course an extremely sad story, but I think it is important to emphasize the importance of evidence-based medicine. I really don’t care much for the term Complementary and Alternative Modalities (CAM), because then it sounds like it is a scientific alternative to conventional medicine, which it isn’t. I can not stress this fact enough, that alternative medicine really is just a collection of inadequately tested and unproven drugs. And calling it complementary? A lot of people fail to tell their doctors that they are using these alternative remedies, and a result of that could be that they interfere with their conventional treatments. Because, as I said, they are drugs. Calling them natural is just a sales pitch. 

Ok, so the first post of 2009 turned out to be somewhat of a downer. But the next one will be positive! Promise.


January 13, 2009 Posted by | General Science, General Skepticism, Medicine | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Peridotite may help soak up CO2

CO2 in the atmosphere is the main contributor to human-forced global warming, and finding novel ways to remove/reduce CO2 emissions is therefore an important area of research. A recent study found that the rock peridotite may help reduce CO2 in the atmosphere by solidifying it. When CO2 in its gaseous state comes in contact with peridotite, it is converted into solid minerals such as calcite. This is a naturally occurring process, but the scientist say it can be sped up about 1 million times. 

Peridotite is the most common rock found in the earth’s mantle, but it is mostly below the upper crust. Oman, in particular, have a reasonable amount of exposed peridotite, and would therefore be well suited for this kind of CO2 storage. The process of artificially accelerating the carbonation rate is not thoroughly described in the referenced article, but I will try to explain it based on what I understood from the original paper. First they propose drilling and hydrofracture the rock at depth, and then inject a hot liquid at about 185 degrees Celsius. Pure CO2 is the injected at 25 degrees, and this would overall achieve a 1 million times increase in the carbonation rate. Estimates show that this would enable Oman alone to permanently store 2 billion of the 30 billion tons of CO2 annually released by burning of fossil fuels. By using this technique together with another technique developed at Columbia University that uses synthetic “trees” which suck carbon dioxide out of the air, the researchers even estimate that as much as 4-5 billion tons of CO2 could potentially be stored annually in and near Oman. 

The research was done by Peter Kelemen and Juerg Matter at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York. 

A peridotite rock

November 10, 2008 Posted by | Chemistry, Geology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment