I recently posted about Simon Singh’s kind thanks to me in his latest book, The Simpsons And Their Mathematical Secrets. I saw Simon lecture on his book at The University of Chester last night at 7:30pm, Monday, 21 October 2013.
And here’s a picture of me with him:
And here’s a scan of his autograph in my copy of The Simpsons:
The lecture itself covered many of the points that were in Singh’s book, which I have now finished and highly recommend whether you are a maths PhD or a numerical incompetent like your humble servant.
However, Simon started off with a few nifty observations at the beginning of his talk that were not in the book. The Toblerone logo has a bear hidden in the mountain as the original makers of the chocolate were based in the Germany city of Bern (or Berne) whose symbol is the bear:
Likewise, Parcel delivery company FedEx’s logo has an arrow between the ‘E’ and the ‘X’:
And finally Amazon’s logo has its arrow going from ‘A’ to ‘Z’ to signify that they too are a parcel delivery company:
At the end of the main talk, I asked Simon whether any complimentary alternative medicines (“CAM”) are ever effective at anything beyond the placebo effect and “regression to the mean”; for example, does chiropractic actually do anything to ease back pain?
Simon replied that the majority of the evidence and medical opinion is stacked against CAM, but there is some evidence that they have some effect: meditation can relieve anxiety and chiropractic can be as effective at relieving back pain as other more conventional medical interventions such as physiotherapy. He mentioned that he updated the paperback edition to Trick or Treatment? co-authored with Edzard Ernst to include new research that the Alexander technique has some positive effect in treating and preventing back pain.
Most amusingly, Edzard Ernst is a professor in complimentary alternative medicine; however, he does support it outright. When this stance enraged the CAM community who though he should axiomatically be on their side, Ernst replied that if he was a qualified toxicologist, that would hardly make him obliged to be in favour of toxins!
Simon mentioned that the current bane of his life in this area is the fairly new magazine What Doctors Don’t Tell You. They seem to be the “9/11 Troofers” of the medical profession telling the lay public that medical science is a big conspiracy, that tried and trust remedies are actually killing scores of patients and we would all be better off visiting our homeopaths instead of our GPs.
The writers of this pseudo-scientific rag have already threatened to sue Singh for voicing his concerns. I listened to the opening segment of this edition of Radio 4’s “Inside Health” featuring the magazine’s editor Lynne McTaggart and was pretty appalled by her biased and unsupported claims. This website also has some hilarious photoshopped versions of the magazine’s front cover, which make the skeptic’s point crystal clear such as:
Tags: Alternative Medicine On Trial, British Chiropractic Association, Comment is Free, Defamation, Defamation Act 2013, Edzard Ernst, Fermat’s Last Theorem, Libel, Lynne McTaggart, Mathematics, merseyside skeptics society, Simon Singh, Skeptics In The Pub, The Guardian, The Simpsons, The Simpsons And Their Mathematical Secrets, Trick or Treatment?, University of Chester, Why Doctors Don’t Tell You