14 April 2008

21st Century Faith-Healing

By now, many of you may have heard that Airborne doesn't work... unless you believe.

This morning I found myself in a paradoxical situation. I had both "the first signs of a cold" namely, a mild sore throat, and half a container of the useless vitamin effervescent, Airborne. I say "useless" because I don't believe in it. I wish I did!

I don't believe because I read the article which exposes Airborne's "double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study" as a shame 2-man operation by an Airborne subsidiary created for the sole purpose of conducting the study. Before I learned of its baseless science, I believed Airborne might just work based on some cloudy notion that things like high doses of Vitamin C and Zinc reduce the duration and severity of colds (probably a rumor started by the supplement companies themselves).

In any event, I had half a container of what might as well have been drink flavoring. So did I take it? Darn right I did. Why? Because I wanted to see if I could will myself to believe in the health benefits of a placebo.

Did it work?

Um... all I can say is I'm feeling pretty good. Of course that isn't saying much. Isn't it convenient that they say it is "most effective" if taken at the first signs of a cold. They are the "first signs" because you don't know if it will turn into a cold or not. If it was a false alarm, but you took Airborne, you may be inclined to believe the magic little pill made you all better. If you get sick, you might be inclined to ponder how sick YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN if you hadn't taken the little guys.

10 April 2008

Why Should Marijuana be Illegal?

Type the title into Google and prepare to be underwhelmed.

In fact, there was so few search results with content on why marijuana should be illegal, I half expected Google to come back with Did you mean: why marijuana should be legal?

I intend to start a mini-series of posts on why marijuana should be illegal. I'll get into the statistics and explore hypotheticals, but first let me lay down a foundation for my analysis and commentary. In my mind, the most obvious question which must be addressed is "why should any activity be illegal?"

Nearly every law is justified by claiming that the activity either causes (or risks) harm to the participant or to others (non-participants). This harm can be physical, monetary, or emotional. I'll address all three in subsequent posts. As we'll see, drug legislation is full of contradictions, so how do we find out what is dank and what is swag? Stay tuned!

03 April 2008

The Perfect Temperature for Disaster

I just realized how we drink from a mug (or cup) without looking at the liquid it contains. We use the temperature differential of the liquid and our mouth to feel when it has reached our mouth and thus, when we should cease tilting the mug upward.

This all came to me as I found myself with a nice splash of green tea on my pants after taking a sip while reading an e-mail. Having let the tea cool, it had reached the temperature of my mouth and thus I just kept tilting upward until... disaster.

FAQ: Didn't I feel the pressure of the liquid as it entered my mouth?
A: No, I was distracted.

02 April 2008

CNN -- Not my source for math

I found what I think is an error in this CNN article on jet fuel prices. The article makes the following two claims:

1. "Jet fuel, which the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration tracked at $3.17 per gallon in New York on Tuesday, has doubled since the beginning of 2007."
2. "Jet fuel is at $3.17 per gallon, according to the Energy Department, up 200 percent from 2007."

My complaint is that "doubled" is not the same as "up 200 percent," because the latter sounds like "200% more than." If you said that jet fuel is up 100 percent from 2007, would you think that the price had stayed the same!!!

I'm operating under the following assumptions:

Given X is Fuel Prices in 2007
"Double X" = 2X
"Up 200 percent" = X + 2.00*X = 3X
"200 percent of X" = 2.00*X = 2X

Accordingly, I think CNN should have said, "Jet fuel is at... 200 percent of its 2007 level," or alternatively, "up 100 percent from 2007."

What do you think?! By the way I did check the underlying numbers and verified that the fuel levels today are 2X. Also, I have a little evidence from the site (taken 31 Mar 08):