June 24, 2005

How do you lose a solar sail?

And I thought finding a pair of clean socks was hard.

June 13, 2005

Earth microbes may survive on Mars

Terrestrial microbes that hitch a ride to Mars on spacecraft may be able to survive under special circumstances, according to a new laboratory study.

Article at New Scientist

I've read before that microbes from Earth could survive in space. It's a good thing that NASA is taking care not to contaminate Mars with Earth organisms. After all, we're not absolutely sure that life doesn't exist somewhere on Mars.

June 09, 2005

The pseudo-science of Chiropractic

It amazes me how common chiropractic is in Western society. Yet few people seem to actually know on what basis it is built. A building is only as good as its foundation and chiropractic is built upon a flimsy one indeed.

The practice of Chiropractic originated with Daniel D. Palmer in the late 19th century, a self-taught healer who was seeking a treatment that didn't use drugs.

In his research, D.D. Palmer made the profoundly significant discovery that individual vertebrae could become subluxated, producing improper nerve function, irritation and dysfunction in the body. Palmer’s development of the method for the adjustment of specific vertebrae in a systematic fashion is what distinguishes scientific chiropractic from the gross manipulations of earlier days, and chiropractic as advocated by the founder, even though narrow in focus, has broad body effects because of the relief of interference in the nervous system.
(From Become Healthy Now - What is Chiropractic?)

It certainly sounds scientific, doesn't it? What this site doesn't mention is that Palmer also believed 95% of diseases were as a result of these subluxationsin the spine. The other 5% were as a result of problems in other joints. This should be obviously ludicrous today. What about bacteria, viruses, genetics? Palmer believed that improper nerve function essentially cut off the "soul, spirit or spark of life" from healing the body. These very terms suggest chiropractic developed from religion, not science.

Though most chiropractics wouldn't use these terms anymore, one is often still used - subluxations, though sometimes even this is referred to as "bones out of place" or "pinched nerves". Only a rare few chiropractics renounce Palmer's beliefs entirely. Regardless of what you call them, they don't exist.

Even if these subluxations could be found, the vertabrae can't pinch nerves in any position and if they were totally out of place, the unfortunate victim would probably be paralyzed from that point up since the spinal cord would suffer damage.

That brings up another point. If having nerves pinched, obviously having spinal cord damage should lead to a great host of diseases according to Palmer's theories. But that's not what happens at all. True, paraplegics can have other health issues but these usually have to do with limited mobility.

It seems that when talking about back pain, everyone thinks of a chiropractic. But chiropractic is not part of mainstream medicine. It's part of what is usually referred to as "natural" or "alternative" health. Quite simply, it has little basis in medical fact. Note I said "little". Some chiropractics confine their practices to only the back and can help relieve joint pain. Above all, do not send children to chiropractics. Children have a much higher chance of being injured and "good" chiropractics know this and won't treat children.

There are alternatives to going to a chiropractic. Talk to your family doctor about these.

June 05, 2005

The Neanderthal Parallax

Neanderthal Man existed before us but most scientists believe that our two species (or sub-species) co-existed for a few thousands years. Eventually, Neanderthal Man became extinct, one theory being that we destroyed them entirely, another being that we interbred. In any case, we became the dominate lifeform. What would our world be like if Neanderthal Man had dominated instead?

Robert Sawyer, a Canadian science fiction writer, looks at the concept of a Neanderthal-dominated Earth in his trilogy, The Neanderthal Parallax. In the book, a gateway opens between two parallel Earths and members of both races experience the others way of life in startling ways. I'm on the second book now and it's fascinating. Sawyer is a fantastic writer, the only one I've seen since Carl Sagan to write books that entertain and educate. Bravo!