Miscellaneous science items

A few stories that caught my eye.

  • Professor Edzard Ernst at Exeter University has offered £10,000 to anyone who can demonstrate that homeopathy has any effect beyond placebo. This appears to have angered homeopaths, rather than start a stampede for the money. What does that tell you? Although Ernst calls himself a professor of complementary medicine, he believes that means being objective and investigating whether such methods work, not blindly advocating them. He’s done hundreds of trials and years of investigation and is now rightfully merciless about so-called Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). It’s a hard fight, though, when people like Prince Charles advocate homeopathy or whenmy tax dollars are paying for people to receive it on the NHS. [viaRespectful Insolence]
  • An Ontario school authourity told the mother of an autistic child thatthey had reason to suspect the child was being sexually abused, and had reported the case to child services authourities. Their reason? A psychic had told the child’s teacher that the abuse was happening. Luckily, the mother had a GPS and audio-recording device on the child to disprove it. That’s pretty good evidence of how belief in nonsense isn’t harmless. [via Pharyngula, with more detail at Respectful Insolence]
  • Late last week I was lucky enough to see the Gilboa Fossils. These fossilised plant trunks are thought to comprise the oldest remains of “forest” known; at around 380 million years old, they lived and died more than 130 million years before the dinosaurs even poked their heads up above the foliage. I was initially a bit disappointed by the scale of the fossil remnants, but once I saw the vascular trunk patterns and started thinking about how old they are it got pretty cool. Here are some pics (with pixellation to protect innocent tourists) – click to enlarge.