Libel Reform: A Conversation with Simon Singh

From Open Culture, some background and a Q&A with the man who’s fighting for UK libel reform. An excerpt:

OPEN CULTURE: Why should this concern someone living away from the British Isles?

SIMON SINGH: The issue of libel tourism means that everyone in the world should be scared of the English libel law.  If you write anywhere in the world about a billionaire, then the London court can probably claim jurisdiction because the material can probably be read in England over the internet and billionaires typically have business interests in England so they can claim to have a reputation in England.  There are many cases of libel tourism, such as Saudi billionaires suing an American journalist, a U.S. company suing a Danish researcher, an Israeli technology company threatening to sue a paper written by a Swedish professor, a Tunisian man suing a German newspaper, an Icelandic bank suing a Danish newspaper, and so on – all these cases ended up in London, the libel capital of the world.

Thanks for the heads up from Dan.

Visualization: scientific evidence for popular health supplements

Spotted via Scienceblogs’ Collective Imagination:

Health supplements can be incredibly confusing – not to mention misleading. Many have no proven efficacy, yet they’re touted as miracle cures for everything from weight loss to hot flashes to insomnia. So what’s the scientific consensus – what should you believe, and which supplements should you buy? Who would you even ask?

Enter David McCandless and Andy Perkins of Informationisbeautiful.net: they’ve created a simply wonderful interactive graphic that shows you which dietary supplements have the clinical data to back them up.

The beauty of this graphic (unlike many data visualizations) is that the source data is completely transparent. You can click through from the graphic to a Google Doc which includes all the peer-reviewed research used to make it (plus links). So if you’re skeptical about the creators’ assessment of cinnamon (promising for diabetes), you can always click through to the relevant research paper and skim the clinical results for yourself.

Simon Singh: fighting unfair libel is a full-time job

In May 2009 I blogged about how UK science journalist and personality Simon Singh was being sued by that country’s chiropractic association because he expressed his learned scientific opinion that chiropractic wotsits are bogus.

I followed up with blogs giving my support (for what that’s worth) and celebrating that Singh was fighting back.

Last week Simon wrote a sad column for the Guardian; sad because it was his last. It turns out that fighting this lawsuit is consuming all his spare time and energy, and a lot of his money.

Today, comedian Robin Ince pledged his support for Singh. That’s good. Ince is a (funny) voice of scientific reason. He hosted a gig that finished Libel Reform Week in the UK. That’s similar to his Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People, which Singh also contributed to.

It’s ludicrous that a nation like the United Kingdom has such backwards laws. Obviously people need protection from libel. But to quash what scientists debate in fields of science? You might as well expect the return of the Spanish Inquisition.

Stop homeopathy funding

In December I blogged that a UK parliamentary health committee was looking into whether the National Health Service there should continue to fund homeopathy.

Today that committee gave its report. And – thank god – they said that there is no evidence that homeopathy has anything other than a placebo effect, that manufacturers must no longer be able to make medical claims for homeopathic products, and that the NHS should stop all funding of homeopathy.

Reason prevails.

Now, will the UK government accept the recommendations?

UK Homeopathy overdose: sugar rush

I blogged last week about 10:23, the protest in the UK that say people “overdose” on homeopathy pills to show they have no effect. They can’t, since they are not medicine, and the pharmacies that sell them know this.

You’ll be pleased to know that – to no one’s surprise – all the folks who swallowed all those pills are just fine and dandy. They were perhaps a little rushed on the sugar. And their feeling of rationality.

It doesn’t seem to stop the gullible and desperate from believing in it, though.

Homeopathy: There’s nothing in it

Homeopathy is bollocks. It’s just water, sugar pills. It doesn’t work.

To demonstrate this, hundreds of people in the UK will this weekendsimultaneously take a mass homeopathic ‘overdose’ in what’s being called the10:23 event:

At 10:23am on January 30th, more than three hundred homeopathy sceptics nationwide will be taking part in a mass homeopathic ‘overdose’ in protest at Boots‘ continued endorsement and sale of homeopathic remedies, and to raise public awareness about the fact that homeopathic remedies have nothing in them.

Sceptics and consumer rights activists will publicly swallow an entire bottle of homeopathic ‘pillules’ to demonstrate that these ‘remedies’, prepared according to a long-discredited 18th century ritual, are nothing but sugar pills.

The protest will raise public awareness about the reality of homeopathy, and put further pressure on Boots to live up to its responsibilites as the ‘scientist on the high street’ and stop selling treatments which do not work.

Yay!

Steorn: still a steaming pile of crap

Overnight someone posted a comment on one of my previous posts about Steorn, an Irish company who claim they have a device that can create more energy than it uses, and how they’ve recently released their technology that does this, called Orbo.

Let’s forget that they tried to demonstrate it a few years ago in London, and failed. Or that they attracted a group of independent scientists who said there’s no evidence of what Steorn says.

Now they’ve released Orbo. But “released” means a video on their website, plus some streams of a whirling plastic device. What does that prove? Nothing.

But wait! This device isn’t the same as the one they trumpeted before. Initially they said that Orbo worked with permanent magnets. Now they’re using electromagnets (i.e., magnets powered by electricity) with a battery in the circuit. They claim the device is powering the battery. Who can say?

But wait again! They’re also launching the Steorn Knowledge Development Base (SKDB)! Jut pay 419 Euros and you’re in! Then maybe you’ll see the light.

There’s nothing here that demonstrates Steorn and Orbo and their over-unity claims are anything more than a load of bollocks.