Lucy: Sci-fi without the sci

 

lucy eyes

This movie was like a tsunami of woo. A woonami. La Femme Nikita with a lobotomy. What’s wrong with it? Well, I’ll wait for one of those “Everything That’s Wrong With This Movie in 5 Minutes” videos to come out, but in the meantime…

  • The obvious. 
  • Srsly, it’s like basing an entire movie on the premise that your body takes 7 years to digest chewing gum.
  • Villain washing blood off his hands with Evian: Worst product placement ever.
  • If you use 10% of your brain, you can defy gravity.
  • If you use 70% of your brain, you can turn people into mimes.
  • “I know Chinese now.” = “I know Kung Fu.”
  • Stock footage nature montages in a movie with a $40 million budget. Not even narrated by Richard Kiley.
  • Excuse me, a club drug?
  • By the movie’s own logic, Lucy should have looked like the Elephant Man. But then she wouldn’t fit into a little Gaultier dress, so….
  • Moms: If your hard-partying daughter starts to talk about feeling her brain and seeing energy, go ahead and freak out.
  • Can read minds and manipulate most forms of energy. Still needs to use a phone.
  • How did she get out of that hospital after shooting a guy on an operating table?
  • Can levitate, move anything, and transport herself across space and time. Still needs to use a car.
  • Why would your pupils change? Why?!
  • The French version of the Winky’s Guy served absolutely no purpose in this film.
  • Every Asian actor was wasted on Generic Asian Gang characters.
  • Adding dinosaurs will not save your sucky movie. (See also: Tree of Life)
  • An astrochicken computer will not save your sucky movie.
  • If you use 100% of your brain, you can dematerialize and rematerialize as a flash drive.
  • But the astrochicken computer also dematerializes, so where are they going to put this amazing flash drive?
  • Congratulations, Lucy. You were the first human to use 100% of her brain, and now you are the world’s most useless flash drive.
  • “Eat organic.”

 

so dumb for real

The Health Ranger Might Want to Kill You

 

zyklon        potato

 

Mike “Health Ranger” Adams is on the warpath. The frequent guest host of The Alex Jones Show has enjoyed an unprecedented amount of mainstream attention this year, even appearing on Dr. Oz’s TV show in May to discuss his shiny new “food lab” (where he diligently searches for trace amounts of heavy metals in processed foods and beverages). But Adams has a deeply paranoid side, and that side came out roaring last week. On Monday, July 21, he published a glorious example of Godwin’s Law on his Natural News website: “Biotech genocide, Monsanto collaborators and the Nazi legacy of ‘science’ as justification for murder.”
In the tradition of Ben Stein’s “science leads to killing people“, this piece argues that biotech in the food industry is analogous to the (pseudo)science used to justify the Holocaust. Publications that support GMOs, then, are every bit as bad as the German institutions that funded Nazi medical experiments – they are “Monsanto collaborators”, in Adams’ words. Journalists who criticize the Food Babe, Dr. Mercola, or Adams himself are members of a “radical cult”, enablers of “GMO genocide.”

As always, Adams’ evidence that GMOs are deadly is absurdly thin. He cites the Seralini rat study as proof that GMOs cause cancer, and that’s basically it. This article isn’t any different from all his other anti-GMO rants, until he gets to the part about a recent speech by German President Joachim Gauck, in which Gauck commended the key players in Operation Valkyrie (the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler in 1944). Adams interprets Gauck’s central message thusly:

it is the moral right — and even the obligation — of human beings everywhere to actively plan and carry out the killing of those engaged in heinous crimes against humanity.” (emphasis in original)

He goes on to list some Monsanto collaborators (wiki editors, leftist publications, food companies, etc.) before issuing a call to arms, encouraging someone to

“create a website listing all the publishers, scientists and journalists who are now Monsanto propaganda collaborators. I have no doubt such a website would be wildly popular and receive a huge influx of visitors, and it would help preserve the historical record of exactly which people contributed to the mass starvation and death which will inevitably be unleashed by GMO agriculture (which is already causing mass suicides in India and crop failures worldwide).”

Someone heeded that call almost instantly. Just as Tea Party websites popped up within 24 hours of Rick Santelli’s CNBC rant back in 2009, a Monsanto Collaborators site manifested just days after the Health Ranger’s creepy Nazi article was posted. It features an image of Auschwitz, superimposed with the names of several journalists and science writers who have criticized anti-GMO activism, defended GMOs, or questioned the Seralini study. There are links to stories about the “GMO” suicides among Indian farmers (a myth that has been debunked here, here, and here), and an ominous declaration that “responsibility for these deaths falls upon those individuals and organizations shown on this site.”

This is precisely what Adams wanted to see. In his July 21st article, he expressed the hope that the anti-GMO community will spawn a few Simon Wiesenthals, willing to track down Monsanto collaborators so they can be brought to justice. It should be noted that he attempted to soften his Valkyrie analogy by stating that he does not condone vigilante action, and would simply like to see Nuremberg-style trials for cereal manufacturers and science reporters.
Adams warned that anyone who becomes a Monsanto hunter should hide behind total anonymity, for his very life will be in danger. And that’s exactly what the creator of the Monsanto Collaborators site tried to do.

Here’s where things get a little weird. Adams, in an update to his article, stridently denies that he played any part in the website’s creation, and even urges his fellow activists to avoid it. Being a seasoned conspiracy theorist, he reasons that Monsanto Collaborators was put up by the “biotech mafia” to discredit anti-GMO activists (he also believes the biotech industry ensnares journalists and activists in elaborate sexual blackmail schemes, in order to turn them into shills). However, the Genetic Literary Project claims it has confirmed that Adams is the financial backer of the new website. Sadly, they haven’t provided any evidence of that to date.
UPDATE: As I was writing this post yesterday, This Week in Pseudoscience posted the results of their examination of MonsantoCollaborators.org, and there are strong indications that the site was put up by someone in the Health Ranger’s inner circle. The most compelling indicator is that Adams’ article didn’t appear anywhere online until after 11:00 PM (GMT) on July 21. It was posted to Facebook at 11:05 (GMT), and the first comment on the Natural News article was made 10 minutes later. However, MonsantoCollaborators.org was registered earlier in the day, at 4:21 (GMT) in the afternoon.
(thanks to David)

To my knowledge, this is the first time that one of Alex Jones’ most popular guests has made implied threats of violent retribution against a perceived enemy. His bizarre outburst comes at a time when he is struggling to put his conspiracy-mongering behind him and rebrand himself as a saner, calmer health activist. It also comes at a time when the anti-Monsanto, anti-GMO movement is at peak strength, gaining thousands of new supporters by the second. Boycotts, petitions, and protest rallies are sprouting all over the planet and garnering serious attention from mainstream media outlets. And now, at this pivotal moment, Adams decides to unleash subtle threats of violence and false accusations of genocide? It seems that if anyone is inflicting severe damage to the anti-GMO cause, it’s Adams himself. If he keeps this up, he’ll become a very different kind of ranger…

Lone_ranger_silver_1965

Flim-Flam Friday: Chlorella

flimflam1

Chlorella

Last week I glimpsed a Facebook ad for “nature’s perfect superfood”, Chlorella, a freshwater green algae that grows naturally in certain parts of Asia.
Every single time I hear the term “superfood”, this happens:

redalert.gif

There are two reasons for that.
1. Sure, certain foods are nutrient-dense, but foods slapped with the prefix “super” usually turn out to be plain old food, neither  more nor less healthful than other foods in the same category. For instance, acai berries were hailed as a superfood and an anti-aging aid due to their high levels of antioxidants, but researchers have pointed out the berries contain about the same amount of antioxidants as other (far less expensive) fruits like blueberries and grapes. (1) Thanks to the trendiness of acai products, rural Brazilians who rely upon the berries as a staple food find their stomachs grumbling. (2)
2. You probably don’t need dietary supplements if you are healthy and have a varied, nutrient-rich diet. Certain foods or supplements might be beneficial when you have a deficiency, but if you don’t have a deficiency, you will get little to no benefit from them. (3)

Superfood

Looks even sillier than it sounds.


What does Chlorella supposedly do?

An incredibly broad range of claims has been made about the health benefits of Chlorella. In addition to being hailed as a nutrient-dense superfood (example), a detoxifying agent, and an energy booster, one Japanese study suggests it can:

– reduce body-fat percentage
– alleviate Type 2 diabetes by reducing blood-glucose levels
– help reduce cholesterol (4)

Many, many scientifically unsupported claims are being made about Chlorella. It can supposedly aid digestion by stimulating the growth of probiotic bacteria, treat ulcers, alleviate depression, increase “liver energy”, prevent or even cure cancer, and “boost immunity” (which would be a bad thing, if your immunity is normal).

Does it work?

As a food source? Yes (see “The Bottom Line” at the end of this post). As a cure-all pill, diet aid, or detoxifying agent? Probably not.
The problem with the bulk of the recent research involving Chlorella is that the results have not yet been replicated. When the Telegraph breathlessly tells you Chlorella can “reduce body-fat percentage”, they’re not telling you that this was found in just one study. (4)

At one time, Dr. Joseph Mercola claimed Chlorella could “fight cancer”. As absolutely zero evidence supports this, and federal law prohibits supplement suppliers from making health-related claims for their products, the FDA ordered Mercola to stop making that claim (and several others) on his website. So then he switched to saying Chlorella could eliminate your risk of getting cancer. The FDA ordered him to stop saying that, as well. Has this prevented Mercola from making extravagant claims about the curative properties of Chlorella? Nope. These days, he declares it can “prevent or ease” everything from stress to liver cancer. (5)

A lot of woo has attached itself to Chlorella over the years. Erich Von Däniken of “ancient astronauts” fame proposed in his 1980 book Signs of the Gods that maybe the Ark of the Covenant was a miniature nuclear reactor and manna machine. According to this theory, the “ark machine” absorbed and stored dew, to which green algae (Chlorella) was added, and poof! Delicious manna came out of the machine. It would have been radioactive as hell, but meh. Logic is for the unimaginative.
Not that Von Däniken was being particularly imaginative; he borrowed the entire “alien manna machine” concept from an April Fool’s article in New Scientist, which later became a book.

moses_speaks

“We have reached the Promised Land!
Sadly, you all have cancer.”

One health blogger says she’s taking Chlorella to “detox heavy metals” that supposedly remain in her body from chemotherapy she received some time ago. This is not a sound decision. First of all, heavy metals can be eliminated from the body only if treatment is administered immediately after exposure. Secondly, nothing in Chlorella has been shown to remove metals from the body. Thirdly, there is only one heavy metal involved with chemo (platinum, found in the chemo drugs Carboplatin and cisplatin). The platinum from both drugs generally remains in cells for up to 180 days. (6) Even if Chlorella could bind heavy metals, it would be incapable of removing them from the tissues and bloodstream without  the aid of chelation. (5)

The Bottom Line

So, Chlorella manna and Chlorella “metal detox” are bunk. But is Chlorella a superfood? In the ’50s and ’60s, scientists thought it could be. After WWII, the Baby Boom led governments around the world to study Chlorella in the hope it could be used to feed the masses cheaply and efficiently in the event of food shortages. NASA studied it with a view to feeding it to astronauts, and perhaps growing it on space stations. But processing Chlorella for consumption turned out to be too costly and time-consuming for either purpose, and it was relegated to the dietary supplement shelves of health food stores. It is an excellent food source. In its dried form, Chlorella is 45% protein, 20% carbohydrate, 20% fat, 5% fibre, and 10% vitamins and minerals. It contains nine essential amino acids. (7)
But according to an article on Chlorella at WebMD, the quality of the Chlorella found in supplements can vary wildly. The Chlorella in some products may contain only 7% protein, for instance.
To become a supplement, Chlorella is dried , crushed to a powder, and converted to small emerald tablets, which are vaguely reminiscent of Soylent Green. If the cell walls remain intact – and there are indications that this is the case with some Chlorella supplements – the Chlorella will be of no benefit to humans.
The recommended daily dosage for one of the most popular brands of Chlorella tablet is 15 tablets per day, at about $34US per 300 tablets. Perhaps this makes sense if you don’t have access to fresh, inexpensive greens like kale, but for the average consumer this is a pretty penny to spend on what are essentially veggie pills. A diet with sufficient carbs, protein, and vitamins will not require Chlorella.


Sources:

1. – Kuskoski EM, Asuero AG, Morales MT, Fett R, et al. “Wild fruits and pulps of frozen fruits: antioxidant activity, polyphenols and anthocyanins”. Cienc Rural 36 (July/August 2006)
– Seeram NP, Aviram M, Zhang Y, et al. “Comparison of antioxidant potency of commonly consumed polyphenol-rich beverages in the United States”. Journal of Agriculutral Food Chemicals 56 (February 2008). (abstract)
2.‘Superfood’ Promoted on Oprah’s Site Robs Amazon Poor of Staple” by Adriana Brasileiro, Bloomberg, May 14/09
3. Brown University’s page on nutrition supplements
4. T Mizoguchi, I Takehara, T Masuzawa. “Nutrigenomic studies of effects of Chlorella on subjects with high-risk factors for lifestyle-related disease“. Journal of Medicinal Food 11:3 (Sept. 2008)
5.Dr. Oz Revisited” by David Gorski, Science Based Medicine blog, Feb. 7/12.
6. Elke EM Brouwers, Alwin DR Huitema, Jos H Beijnen, Jan HM Schellens. “Long-term platinum retention after treatment with cisplatin and oxaliplatin“. Clinical Pharmacology 2008, 8:7.
7. Belasco, Warren. “Algae Burgers for a Hungry World? The Rise and Fall of Chlorella Cuisine”. Technology and Culture 38:3 (July 1997). Available from Jstor.