Superstific (v.)

etymology: scientifically superstitious ; to use dodgy science to support your superstitions.

usage: This news item is superstific.

It is funny how now-a-days everything is scientifically true as long as you use modern technology.  All you need is one positive image and your case is made. And because your study uses modern technology it is all of a sudden “scientific”. It doesn’t matter if you break all the canons of a truly scientific study. Dont bother with controls, or replicates.  But make sure you have hyperbolic extrapolation. If you manage to get a “medical doctor” a “teacher” and “a Yale neurobiologist*” you are good to go.

Take the instance of this “Super Brain Yoga”. See the pretty, bright brain images. Dont ask how lighting up brain hemispheres actually improves brain function. These people tell you it does, so of course it has to be true. Placebo effect is over-rated anyway. Blind study is for the hidebound and controls for the wusses. 

I know you think I am just being nit-picky and incurably skeptic. But actually I have the perfect experiment to make this an actual scientific inquiry.

Here is how I would design this experiment:

1. Placebo:  Tell a bunch of people they have a new exercise that is supposed to increase brain function. Ask them to perform it as you take images of their brains. You can try this one for size:

a. bend your left knee until it reaches the floor.

b. now putting weight on that knee, lower your right knee until it is also on the floor parallel to the left one. Make sure your calves are aligned to each other and your toes are facing down.

c. Now tuck your tail bone in as you straighten your back d. stay like this for a whole half hour .

It is called the kneeling exercise.

2. Blind trial: Get people to do the “Super Brain Yoga” and the Kneeling exercise and take a full body scan (so they are not aware of which organ you are interested in and why.

3. Positive Control: Take brain images of people eating okra

4. Negative Control: Take brain images of people eating curd rice.

Question the appropriateness of my controls? Ask my mom (or for that matter any one from India). We have been told to eat okra to improve our math ability and curd rice for the opposite effect. You think that is just some third world superstition? We have also been told to do “thoppukkaranams” for turning smart. In fact we do it to our “God of Knowledge” which is how the smartness is effected. Make a mistake in a math problem and your teacher would ask you to get up and give her 10 (thoppukkaranams, that is) and for talking too much in class you are sent out to kneel on the floor (hence the placebo)

* his name is Eugenius Ang Jr. . He was a researcher at Yale university school of medicine (around 2009-ish). Google him and you will get a lot of hits about this SBY, even stuff about patents. But not a single scientific article. Also Yale website has no mention of him (alumni or otherwise). Suspect much?



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