What’s your pseudoscience dirty secret?

I’m pretty sure, I moaned to someone next to me during the marathon last weekend, that the mile has got longer since we started running.

I’m fully aware that the scientific bounds of distance do not suddenly alter, at least not under the day-to-day conditions of space and time in which I live. But thinking about it reminded me of this post on pseudoscience I’ve been meaning to write for a while.

Pseudoscience is taking something that has not yet been proven by rigorous scientific method and presenting it as scientific fact or in a scientific manner. At its darkest, allegations of pseudoscience are at the centre of debates such as climate change and religion. But let’s not concentrate on deep south religion or climate politics, but the more humorous side of pseudoscience.

Pseudoscience invades our daily lives, its one of the marketing industry’s favourite toys, and it’s used to sell everything from shampoo and margarine to election campaigns and policy. Guardian columnist Ben Goldacre, often picks up and pulls apart pseudoscience on his blog Bad Science. It’s a brilliant and witty read if you want to know more. Whether these pseudoscience marketing tools are dangerous is a matter of opinion and circumstance; in some instances involving health scares they may be, in others they may just lead people into costly and ineffective decisions.

As a scientist I’m hopefully well placed to avoid these pseudoscience traps. I’m well aware that my hair is dead, and that no amount of Q10-enzyme-protein-pearl-silk-molecule-fancy-copyright-term is going to solve what, in the end, is a genetic preposition to frizz. But even so, I know plenty of scientists with a pseudoscience dirty secret. Perhaps you’ll pay extra for that probiotic chocolate (does that work???), only bake bread by the light of the full moon or totally fall for the latest Pantene. If you’ve got any funny pseudoscience examples, weaknesses or funny stories, I’d love to hear them.

And finally, they may not be doing any serious pseudoscience but who doesn’t wish their research involved a giant waterfight? Perhaps not, on a day like today…


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