Welcome to Interesting If True, the podcast that will eventually be recorded in the annals of history, sorry I said that wrong, the anals of history.
I’m your host this week, Shea, and with me are:
I’m Aaron, and this week I learned cleaning the floor is routine, but cleaning the ceiling means that something disastrous has happened… Like bottle-bombs or a defective O-ring on your keg…
I’m Steve and I’ve not been sleeping well lately on top of that it’s been really busy at work, so I’m having a hard time forming a complete sentence without stumbling over my dick. So, please bear with me.
This Week’s Drinks
Steve: I’m drinking the Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze IPA this week. Brewed in lovely Ft. Collins, CO at 7.5% abv. This is a spiced IPA, which honestly isn’t my favorite, but it’s a nice change of pace. 7 of 10
I am finishing a bottle of Cabernet that I opened to make… Au Jus, maybe, or a schezwan sauce, who remembers.
Shea: I’m drinking a smorgasbord of beer from the back of the fridge, right now it’s another Alaskan midnight haze IPA.
From Patreon with Love commented on your post.
The measurement of one billion trillion would be represented in factors, not with zero’s. it would be 10 to the power of 12 to the power of 9.
Kevin Rowlands commented on your post.
Love the predictions but the best Nostradamus show was The First Wave filmed in Vancouver from 1998 to 2001
Pensions At Bernie’s
So far, our headlines have been largely science-based. But what is science really if not testing a theory?
Theories like listener Louise’s “can Irish Post Offices tell the difference between some dude, and some dude’s corpse?”
The answer is, it seems, yes.
Last week, as of recording anyway, an Irish man stopped by the County Carlow post office to collect a pension. Not his pension mind you. The office staff of course refused him, stating that only the pension holder could collect it.
So our enterprising hero returned later that day with a friend… and the pension holder. Problem is, he’s dead.
The man and his friend fully Weekend At Burney’s’ed him. According to witnesses, they entered the Post Office with the man “propped up” between them, an arm over each shoulder, feet dragging lifelessly behind them. From a woman who didn’t want to be named, “she was leaving my house at the time and said the man looked unwell as his feet were dragging [along] the ground,” which was because he was a corpse.
The mayor of Carlow, Fianna Fáil councilor Ken Murnane said “I was absolutely shocked to hear about what happened. I cannot believe anyone would do something like that. It beggars belief, I’m just shocked.”
For their part, they got arrested and the local constabulary, called Gardaí, was investigating the nature of the man’s death.
Local Fine Gael councilor Fergal Byrne said: “The staff in the shop are very shook up from it. I’d like to offer my sympathies to the man’s family also. It’s a bizarre and upsetting situation.”
Five Letter Words
Or, the ones we don’t have to bleep in the public story.
And yeah, that’s correct, the Patreon segment and outtakes are not censored for language and such! Yeah, you know you want to hear Jenn say bad words.
Speaking of words, like the rest of the world it seems, Steve and I have been pretty into Wordle. Today’s was nearly a 2 row for me, but there are a lot of words that start with “S”,“H”, “A”, “R”, and “_” — fun fact, Wordle does not think “Shart” is a real word.
Like most players, I have a default starting word that I use nearly every game: Adieu. It’s vowelly. However, according to Dr. Danny Heiber, a research linguist at the University of Alberta Language Technology Lab has a different theory.
“If you want the highest probability of getting the first word right or the second word right in Wordle, then you need to take into account the frequency of letters in English,”
Said the adult linguist with a doctorate who still goes by Danny.
“I’ve seen ‘tears’, that’s pretty good. I’ve seen ‘stare’, that’s also another good one. But my professional recommendation as a linguist is that your first word in Wordle should be ‘irate’”.
Apparently, it’s simply a numbers game. E, A, and I are the most common vowels in English, paired with the most common consonants, T and R, you should hit a few oranges, if not a green.
But that’s alls words isn’t it? So we need to look closer, much more closelier.
Redditor adeadhead analyzed letter occurrences from Stanford’s Graphbase five-letter word list and found That you’re likely better off using some combination of S, E, A, O, and R. Given that, “arose”, “raise”, or “arise” seem to have the highest potential word score.
And in case you’re wondering, the worst words are “fuffy” and “xylyl” because we’re not playing Scrabble.
Lifestyles of the Rich and the Genius
I was sitting in a space science class this week with one of my students and we were talking about the history of astronomy. I have always loved space so I was excited to listen in on this lesson. The teacher introduced us to Tycho Brahe. A Danish astronomer whose work in developing astronomical instruments and in measuring and fixing the positions of stars paved the way for future discoveries. His observations—the most accurate possible before the invention of the telescope—included a comprehensive study of the solar system and accurate positions of more than 777 fixed stars. This dude was a big deal but more importantly, he was a bit mad. In today’s episode, I’m going to reintroduce you to a couple of big hitters in the science community and maybe shine a new light on some of their proclivities.
So back to my man Tycho, his upbringing was pretty normal, well, if you consider he was abducted by his uncle and spirited away to a castle in Scania where he was taught the ways of science. At 14 he was completely enthralled with a predicted eclipse of the sun for August 21, 1560. His spark for astronomy was lit and this event would be referenced many times later in his works. Tycho was educated at the University of Leipzig in his 20’s he then moved to study in Rostock where he got into an argument over a mathematical formula, and this was no normal argument it devolved into a full-on brawl and in those times brawls typically ended in a duel. As did this one… I should mention that the argument was with a cousin but that didn’t stop the ensuing fight where Tycho managed to lose his nose, the whole thing, chopped right off. This only sets the stage for our famous scientist who then went on to wear a prosthetic brass nose for the rest of his life.
Now our story doesn’t stop there as a brass-nosed man is interesting but not inherently mad. Brahe inherited a great deal of wealth from his foster father Jørgen, who died in 1565 when saving the King of Denmark from drowning… What the hell? Every part of this guy’s life was crazy. Brahe is thought to have possessed as much as 1% of the entire wealth of Denmark, and five times that much was spent by the Danish government on Brahe’s astronomical research. So now we have a metal nose, rich, scientist, nothing could go wrong.
He lived in a castle, where he kept a rather strange group of regular entertainers. He employed a little person called Jepp, who Brahe believed possessed psychic powers and the ability to see the future. Jepp was his court jester and spent most dinners under the table. I have no idea why and I don’t really want to think too much about it… For years, Brahe also kept a beer-chugging pet elk or moose in his castle. I have read a few conflicting articles that say elk or moose. One night the elk/moose drank too much beer, fell down a staircase, and died. I have searched high and low for the name of the elk moose but I have come up dry, I just hope he had a cool name like Mortimer or maybe Chocolate.
At the time, noble banquets offered delicious food, fine wine, beautiful music, beautifully adorned tables, and fascinating conversation not about new Netflix shows. But there was one downside. They went on for hours, during which time guests were expected to eat and drink until they were close to exploding. But it was also looked at as rude if you left to relieve yourself.
As the party continued and laughter hung around him, Brahe felt increasing pain in his nether regions. He must have thought he would be fine once he got home, which was just across the street. After all, the 54-year-old Dane had never known any serious illness in his life. By the time he arrived home, the need to relieve his bladder was agonizing. Grunting with relief, he dropped his britches and … nothing. Not a drop. And so began a 400-year-old mystery of jealousy, theft, and possible poison. Now stay with me here. I need to give you a bit more information so you can see where I’m going with this.
In 1563, he observed a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn and realized that the astronomical tables used to predict the event were incorrect. By the time he was in his twenties, his observations had shattered two thousand years of astronomical theory. Probably making some people pretty unhappy though not the church because he was appointed Imperial Court Astronomer to Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II. Soon after, he hired a new assistant, a 28-year-old German named Johannes Kepler. You should recognize this guy who created the 3 laws of planetary motion. Though he was an excellent mathematician, Kepler suffered severe hypochondria and violent mood swings. He took the position with Brahe to obtain access to his employer’s 40 years of observations to prove his own astronomical theories—that the universe itself was an image of God, with the Sun corresponding to the Father, the stellar sphere to the Son, and the intervening space to the Holy Ghost. But Brahe, whose work had been plagiarized years earlier by a visitor to his home, refused to give Kepler more than a few observations at a time. Kepler began throwing temper tantrums so epic that Brahe described him as “a rabid dog.” But he didn’t fire him. He definitely needed his mathematical abilities.
When Brahe came home from his last banquet, he was in agony, unable to urinate, his belly distended, and feverish. For the next 10 days, pain radiated throughout his body. At times, he was delirious. He died on October 24, 1601.
The strange death of this renowned astronomer caused many to suspect poison. And if Brahe had been poisoned, it must have been the jealous, vicious Kepler, who had carted the 40 years of observations out of Brahe’s house while the grieving family was making funeral arrangements. Smooth move…
Indeed, freed from Brahe’s shadow and armed with his records, Kepler finally achieved the fame he had always desired. He theorized that the planets’ orbits were elliptical, not circular, as had always been believed. He also developed the notion that the sun pulled the planets around by something like magnetic tendrils, a force growing stronger as the planets got closer and weaker as they moved away—breathtakingly close to the theory of gravitational attraction, which Isaac Newton would formulate in 1687 using Kepler’s work.
In 1901, researchers in Prague opened up Tycho’s tomb as part of their celebrations commemorating the 300th anniversary of his death. They found a 5-foot-6-inch skeleton in a fine silk shirt, wool stockings, silk shoes, a hat, and a crescent-shaped injury on the bridge of the nose, the exact same place where Brahe had been maimed in his youthful duel. Researchers removed hairs from the mustache. In 1991, tests conducted on the hair by the University of Copenhagen’s Institute of Forensic Medicine indicated he had, indeed, been poisoned by mercury, which can shut down the kidneys.
But even science is fallible. Given the sensational stories of Tycho Brahe’s poisoning, a team of Danish and Czech scientists exhumed him again in 2010 and took hair directly from his remains. In a stunning reversal of the 1990s findings, the new results showed that Tycho had not consumed excessive amounts of mercury.
So what did kill him? I dunno, I’m a podcaster, not a doctor. Many theories have been floated from an enlarged prostate to a ruptured bladder; the only thing we know for sure is that Kepler is off the hook. He did steal and was kind of a douche after his mentor died but he was no murderer.
Today, “rocket scientist” is often a shorthand for “genius” and those select few who work in the industry are well respected, even revered. But it wasn’t so long ago that rocket science was considered to be strictly in the realm of science fiction and the people who studied it were thought of as kooky rather than brilliant. In steps, Jack Parsons is one of the most influential figures in the history of the American space program. Born in LA, Parsons was raised by a wealthy family in Pasadena. Inspired by science fiction literature, he developed an interest in rocketry in his childhood and in 1928 began amateur rocket experiments with school friend Edward S. Forman. He dropped out of Junior College and Stanford University due to financial difficulties during the Great Depression, and in 1934 he united with Forman and graduate Frank Malina to form the Caltech-affiliated Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory Rocket Research Group, though between themselves they called it the “Suicide Squad” due to the dangerous nature of the work. In 1939 the Group gained funding from the National Academy of Sciences to work on Jet-Assisted Take Off for the U.S. military. Parsons developed a solid rocket fuel that was stable enough to be stored indefinitely. The engine technology and fuel were commercialized through Aerojet, where Parsons became a project engineer. Versions of this fuel were eventually used by Nasa in the Space Shuttle as well as in military ballistic missiles. Think of Jack like Tony Stark but, as we will find out, with more magic.
Let’s start with a small fact. According to The Los Angeles Times, he was born Marvel Whiteside Parsons in 1914 and named after his father — but when Marvel Sr. left the family, his mother took to calling him John. Then, after an out-of-body experience well into his occult days, he was called “Belarion Armiluss Al Dajjal, antichrist.” More on that in a sec.
At the same time that Jack Parsons was pioneering scientific developments that would eventually help put men on the moon, he was also engaging in activities that had newspapers referring to him as a madman. While developing rocket science itself, Parsons had been attending meetings of the Ordo Templi Orientis, led by notorious British occultist Aleister Crowley.
Known as “the wickedest man in the world,” Crowley encouraged his acolytes to follow his one commandment: “Do What Thou Wilt.” Although many of the creeds were based more around fulfilling individual desires (particularly sexual ones) than, for example, communing with the devil, Parsons and other members did partake in some strange rituals, including eating cakes made of menstrual blood… Yum. Parsons’ interest in the occult did not slow as his career, quite literally, took off. He was appointed the West Coast leader of the OTO in the early 1940s and corresponded with Crowley.
He even used the money from his rocketry business to buy a mansion in Pasadena, which he turned into a den of hedonism that allowed him to explore sexual adventures like bedding his wife’s 17-year-old sister and holding cult-like orgies. The U.S. government, however, was not able to so easily dismiss Parsons’ nocturnal activities. The FBI began to surveil Parsons more closely and suddenly the quirks and behaviors that had always marked his life became a liability to national security. In 1943, he was paid off for his shares in Aerojet and essentially expelled from the field that he had helped develop.
Without work to keep his mind busy and occupied he fell deeper into the occult. He became acquainted with the science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, who would go on to found Scientology. Together they attempted to summon an actual goddess to Earth in an outlandish ritual that involved “ritual chanting, drawing occult symbols in the air with swords, dripping animal blood on runes, and masturbating in order to ‘impregnate’ magical tablets.” However, Hubbard soon vanished with Parsons’ girlfriend, Sara Northrup (who he eventually married), and a significant sum of his money. No, seriously, this is exactly what happened.
Due to his weird sexual proclivities and the Red Scare, the FBI once again started to keep a closer eye on him. The fact that he’d sought work with foreign governments because the U.S. government had shut him out also helped make authorities suspicious of him. With US contracts forever out of reach, he decided to turn to the world of film, specifically special effects, and explosions. Makes sense with his background in all things explody.
An expert though he was, Parsons never ceased the reckless backyard rocketry experiments he’d been carrying out since he was young. And in the end, that’s what finally did him in. On June 17, 1952, Jack Parsons was working on explosives for a film project in his home laboratory when an unplanned detonation destroyed the lab and killed him. The 37-year-old was found with broken bones, a missing right forearm, and half of his face nearly ripped off.
Authorities ruled the death an accident, theorizing that Parsons had simply slipped up with his chemicals and things got out of hand. However, that hasn’t stopped some of Parsons’ friends and plenty of amateur theorists from suggesting that Parsons would have never made a deadly mistake and that the U.S. government may have just wanted to get rid of this now-embarrassing icon of American scientific history for good.
So if we have learned one thing today is that brilliant minds and money shouldn’t really be allowed to mix unchecked. I mean, look at good Ol Musky and his craziness and he isn’t even that big of a genius.
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Acupuncture is bullshit.
Like all TCM really.
Though it’s old, real old, it’s not medicine or any kind of agreed-upon tradition. It is entirely a holdover from a time when doctors were people who decided what evil blood spirits were giving you the schlits — which is also not a word Wordle accepts.
Recently, in a community newsletter called Colorado Serenity, not to be confused with Serenity valley, though if this newsletter’s medical advice is any indication, they’re both bloody messes that have condemned thousands to a painful death.
The article, written by acupuncturist Christina Fuck… I mean Fick, who calls herself a doctor but is, in fact, about as qualified as I am to practice medicine… no, you know what, less so — at least I accept the germ theory of disease. Acupuncturists, as a general rule, don’t. After all, to their practice, it’s the randomly inserted foreign objects that are meant to do the healing.
And yes, randomly. Sure, there are acupuncture maps, and little mannequins covered in dots, but I challenge you to find any two that agree on all the acupoints, never mind what each is meant to do.
Fick’s article, titled “Give Your Immune System Some Love!” is a mess of pseudoscience, nonsense, and TCM which, if you’ll recall, was created to distract the people of China from the Great Push Forward and the horrible famine, disease, and you know, light cannibalism. It was not, and I mean explicitly so, created to actually provide anyone with any help. TCM was created to keep dying people from bitching about how much dying sucks. The end.
What TCM generally, and acupuncture specifically, will not do — like ever — is “increase your red, white, and T-cell counts.”
Harriet Hall from Science-Based Medicine looked at an article in US Pharmacist which asked if acupuncture could help alleviate Chemotherapy-Induced Leukopenia. That is, the lowered white blood cell count that can come from myelosuppressives like taxanes or cyclophosphamide which are used in treating breast cancer.
And, just so we’re all clear, the answer is “no” sticking tiny needles in people is decidedly not good for people undergoing fucking chemotherapy. In addition to doing nothing beneficial it can give people a false sense of treatment, delaying actual treatment, and in a worst-case scenario — because again, germ theory denial — most acupuncturists don’t wear gloves, sterilize acupoints, and often reuse needles, all if which is terrible if you have a compromised and/or suppressed immune system.
The article, which desperately wants to be a study, concludes that their systematic review found “preliminary” information amounting to little more than a “hypothesis-generating” exercise. Or, put plainly, they didn’t find anything worthwhile but really, really want to so they’re going to skew it as much as possible, which in this case is, “hmmm…. Maybe it’s not all 100% bullshit, therefore, hmm maybe?”
Meanwhile, not doctors practicing not medicine often describe results such as these as evidence of efficacy. For example, from acuandherbs.com — second only to the Mayo Clinic I’m sure:
Acupuncture is commonly used for post-chemotherapy cancer patients to help alleviate side effects of chemo such as anemia (low red blood cell count), leukopenia (low white blood cell count). Multiple studies have shown that Acupuncture in form of [audible sic?] Electro-acupuncture and/or acupuncture with Moxa increase leukocytes (White blood cells) and may improve immunity.
As a side note, oncologists don’t mention acupuncture so…
These hosers are quick to mention a 2013 study in the Journal Of Clinical Oncology called “Systemic Review of Acupuncture in Cancer Care: A Synthesis of the Evidence” in Volume 31, Issue 7.
Now, I’m sure there’s a fancy journal definition for “synthesis” that they’re implying here, but I can’t help but wonder if the more accurate interpretation is simply “Synth” — as in, not real. Where’s Harrison Ford when you need him eh?…
From the Systemic Review, the authors conclude that
“Acupuncture is an appropriate adjective treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting, but additional studies are needed”
which is, frankly, journalese for “we didn’t not fail to find no evidence of it not causing no harm never so we should do more credulous, unblinded studies to prove how not good it isn’t.”
They also concluded
For other symptoms, efficacy remains undetermined owing to high ROB among studies. Future research should focus on standardizing comparison groups and treatment methods, be at least single-blinded, assess biologic mechanisms, have adequate statistical power, and involve multiple acupuncturists.”
So… say it with me, this study, and the studies it’s made up of, are shit.
From the Results section, 2151 publications were screened. Of them, 41 met acceptance criteria. Of those 41, 8 had unclear ROBs, 33 had high ROB, and 1, single trial, had an acceptably low ROB.
“ROB”? You ask. That’s the shorthand for the Cochrane risk-of-bias tool for randomized trials, the ROB 2. Basically, all but one study had an insane bias, and the last study standing had just about every other problem instead.
Also, these were mostly animal studies so… yeah.
One study did find that bone marrow-derived helper T cells were activated by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system when acupuncture was applied to mice. Remembering that even the tiniest of acupuncture needles is basically a spear for a 1-ounce creator — so yeah, that’s gonna have an effect.
So in a nutshell, no, acupuncture won’t at all help with anemia, leukopenia, or convince Umbrella Corp. to increase your T-Cell count.
What it will do though is prime you for all the other bullshit not-a-doctor Christina Prick has to sell at Colorado’s Evergreen Acupuncture. Like “holistic” and “functional medicine” treatments including electric dry needling, cupping, Kinesio taping, cosmetic acupuncture, and fertility acupuncture.
Oh, and she’ll cure your Lyme disease. Because nothing cures the ol’ Lyme-y like a Lil prick — right Eli?
Apparently, that’s her claim to fame. She got Lyme Disease and treated herself by learning acupuncture, on herself. She’s since collected a long list of credentials from the kinds of places you have to specifically indicate the accreditation of and a bunch more that, well, aren’t.
So, just to be clear, the “DAOM” after Christina and her two other acupuncturists might stand for “Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine” but racist terms aside, that doesn’t mean shit and it sure as hell doesn’t make her an MD. Nor does it make her, her colleagues, or anyone in her profession, qualified to help with any stage of cancer, at all, ever.
I’m Shea, and this week I learned that bleaching your butt hole is technically changing your ring tone. Before we go I’d like to thank all our listeners, supporters, and my co-hosts.
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Music for this episode was created by Wayne Jones and was used with permission.
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