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What is your favorite antivaccine myth?

There hasn’t been a poll here for awhile. Let’s have a fun one.

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Hey antivaccination gang–it’s really really simple math

©2014, Amazon.com

©2014, Amazon.com

Yesterday, I tried to show in the most simple mathematical terms that the risk of contracting measles, in the New York City outbreak, was 30X higher in unvaccinated children than it was for vaccinated. I knew I vastly underestimated the actual rate because I used a larger population than I should, because I lacked the more specific geographic spread of the disease. I’ll leave that to a peer-reveiwed paper that I’m sure will be published in the next few months that will accurately describe everything about the outbreak. Don’t hold your breath vaccine deniers–their conclusions will only vary from mine because they’ll present a much higher risk of contracting measles amongst non-vaccinated children.

Someone suggested that I discuss another article that analyzed a measles outbreak in Corpus Christi, TX, which compared those who were vaccinated with the MMR vaccine to those weren’t. The results are clear and relatively straightforward:

  • 1732 children were seropositive (meaning they had antibodies to measles) and over 99% of them were vaccinated. None, and not close to none, but absolutely 0 of these children did not contract measles.
  • 74 children were seronegative (they lacked measles antibodies). Fourteen (14) of these children contracted measles.

So, let’s look at the math. All of the kids who had measles antibodies (presumably as a result of the MMR vaccine, since 99% were vaccinated) avoided the disease and its consequences. On the other hand, 18.9% of the children who lacked antibodies got sick.

Again, if this isn’t clear…0% contracted the disease if they had antibodies from vaccines, 18.9% contracted the disease if they didn’t have antibodies.

Now, the 74 children who were seronegative also were vaccinated (though the paper did not tell us how many vaccines were given, it takes at least 2 to confer full immunity). If there are no other issues (and again, the article didn’t report that) like some type of compromised immune systems in some of the 74 children), the vaccine was 96% effective in seroconverting and preventing measles.

This story is rather basic. The MMR vaccine is extremely effective in boosting the immune system to produce anti-measles anti-bodies. A small group seems to have not seroconverted for unknown reasons. But even though most of the population in this study were protected against measles, the disease is so pervasive, so pathogenic, even a small group of susceptible individuals can catch it. But because the vast majority, 96% were protected against the disease, this measles outbreak didn’t spread further.

But think about this. If the number isn’t 96%, but 70% because parents refuse to vaccinate. What happens is that the random chance that an infected child encounters an unvaccinated child increases dramatically, increasing the risk of a much larger outbreak. With all of the consequences of measles.

As I said before, it really is simple math. So simple that a vaccine denier could do it.

Use the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.

Key citation:

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Hey antivaccination gang–it’s really simple math

As you may be aware, there is a relatively large measles outbreak in New York City, hitting 26 individuals according to the most recent report (pdf) from the New York City Department of Health. An outbreak of 26 cases of measles may seem small, but compared to the historical average of around 60 measles cases per year for the whole United States, it really is a relatively large outbreak.

A child with measles. Vaccines can stop this.

A child with measles. Vaccines can stop this.

According to the most recent data, 12 of the cases are children and 14 are adults, and nine of 12 children were unvaccinated (2 were because parents got an exemption, and the other 7 because they were too young to be vaccinated with the MMR vaccine). In addition, it was difficult to determine the vaccination status of the adults, but we’ll focus on the children.

If you read the most obnoxious antivaccination websites (and I did it for you), you’d see claims that only 2 of the 26 were unvaccinated (simply not true or an ignorant misreading of the actual data), implying that 90% of those who caught measles were vaccinated. In fact, it’s at least 9 who were unvaccinated.

So let’s go with some simple math, just based on this small sample. But if the antivaccination lunatics are going to invent numbers, it is my job to obtain real numbers that show factually what is happening.

The outbreak is centered in Upper Manhattan and The Bronx areas of Manhattan, a total population of just under 2 million individuals. Now the outbreak is actually more focused than those areas, but it makes the math easier for the anti-science crowd.

I’m going to vastly oversimplify the risk of the measles outbreak, because I am aware that the antivaccine crowd is math challenged. If I used real epidemiological data, measure the risk in the exact geographical areas of the outbreak, data that I don’t have, the incidence rate would be much higher. If I did this by actual age, say 0-18 months, the risk would absolutely frighten you. But we’ll keep it simple.

  • Total risk for measles for vaccinated children, 3/496,850 or 6 out of one million
  • Total risk for measles for unvaccinated children, 9/53,372 or  169 out of one million

So, despite what you’ve heard from the antivaccination squad, the risk for contracting measles in an outbreak is nearly 30X higher in the unvaccinated group. Again, my numbers here vastly underestimate the risk, because the actual calculation would be done using data from the small area that this outbreak occurred, with the risk for the unvaccinated group probably being 10,000X higher than stated here. And I’m not even getting to risk reducing strategies like increasing the vaccination uptake rate to 95 or 96%, and the herd effect would have stopped this outbreak in its tracks.

It really is simple math. So simple that a caveman could do it.

Use the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.

Key citation:

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Celebrating a hero

Today, 67 years ago, Jackie Robinson took the field with the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the color barrier in sports–he was the first black to integrate professional sports in the USA. Many of you probably don’t know anything about baseball. Many of you probably don’t know who Jackie was. Most of you probably don’t know that this was the probably the most important event in America’s, if not the world’s, racial relations.

Jackie Robinson playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954. Copyright held by United State Library of Congress, freely licensed.

Jackie Robinson playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954. Copyright held by United State Library of Congress, freely licensed.

Jackie Robinson was an incredible man by any measure. He went to UCLA, even though few blacks went to university, even in mostly integrated California. He joined the United States Army during World War II, and because one of the few blacks who were able to get into Officer Candidate School, which trains new commissioned officers in the Army. Even though he couldn’t deploy with his battalion to Europe during the war because of racism in the Army, he served until he was honorably discharged.

When Jackie played baseball,  he was assaulted by more hatred and bigotry than any normal person probably could endure. When the Dodgers would go to southern cities like St. Louis or Atlanta, he was treated horribly by the racists of the time. In fact, his treatment in presumably more liberal cities in the north was hardly different from what he experienced in the racially segregated South.

Jackie Robinson handled the racism, the taunts, and the hatred with a dignity and grace cannot be describe in words. And he lived through all of this, while being one of the stars of baseball, one of the greatest who ever played the game. 

But, it was just sports. How could that be so important? Because I can draw a straight line from Jackie breaking the race barrier of baseball directly to electing Barack Obama as President. The racism that we read on the back roads of the internet against President Obama is probably the same that Jackie heard. And both men stood above it.

I personally have lived in a glorious time in the world. Where science has begun to conquer ignorance, despite my most cynical moments. Where we can conquer diseases that used to kill. Where we can dream of putting men on Mars. And where a person’s color means nothing, and they can be president.

No, I am not naive. I don’t think the world of race is filled with rainbows and unicorns. I still hear overt racism amongst whites. I still run into horrifying anti-Semitism amongst people who should have learned their lesson of the destructive power of racial hatred in World War II. 

But today, I watch sports, and I don’t care if someone is African-American or Hispanic or Asian or Jewish or a good old white Euro-American. Frankly, I want my team to win. When I was in the corporate world, I only cared if a person was ambitious and intelligent and demanding of success. Your skin color mattered not. I wanted to win market share and increase profits, and a person’s color was irrelevant to my desire to win.

And my attitude, my feelings toward my fellow man, are in a direct line from a man who played baseball well before I was born, or even had any interest in the sport. And every person of color in sport today, whether its baseball, football (American or otherwise), hockey, basketball owes their livelihood to Jackie Robinson. I can even draw a line from Jackie Robinson starting in the game of baseball to Neil deGrasse Tyson teaching us all about the universe. And we’re all better for this.

So even if you don’t like baseball, or don’t even know anything about the sport. Or if you don’t like sports in general. We should all honor Jackie Robinson for his courage, dignity, and perseverance–he gave us a slightly more wonderful world.

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Antivaccine lies–peanut oil and vaccines

The lying liars who lie, also known as antivaccine websites, have one goal in mind: say anything about anything that makes it appear that vaccines are dangerous, repeat it over and over, and then hope that other websites pick it up. Eventually, some people will think it’s a fact, and when you Google this “fact,” there will be so many websites that repeat the same lie (and some innocently, without really critically analyzing it), even a somewhat impartial observer will think that it’s the TRUTH.

About as close as peanuts will come to vaccines.

About as close as peanuts will come to vaccines.

Now, they can’t make obnoxiously obvious lies, because there are lines that one can’t cross before everyone can see it’s a lie or the product of insanity. If an antivaccine website says that aliens from Klingon manufacture the vaccines so that humans will grow a ridge on their forehead, well that would be ridiculous. Cool, but ridiculous. Yes, I know there would be some small number of people who say, “I knew it!” 
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Notice about this website

At 2000 PDT (you can convert that here), my website will be offline for a few hours. I’m upgrading security with a built-in anti-hacking virus, that causes the attacking computer to just hit Justin Bieber arrest sites. You’ve been warned.

Plum hamantaschen. Slurp.

Plum hamantaschen. Slurp.

Yes, I get several hundred hack attempts per day. I automatically trace every hack attempt, and it’s rather amusing how dumb people are. Like I’m going to use a simple password here. Or keep server backdoors open. Vaccine refuser cult members should get a job sweeping floors. Seriously.

Also, I’m moving to another data center for my server, so that’s going to happen. And we’re going to get fully vaccinated. 

While doing this, I’m going eat some GMO filled hamantaschen. And you should be envious.

OK, see you in a few hours. 

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Trying to save lives with the Frankensquito

giant-mosquitoFour hundred years ago, the world was so afraid of Galileo’s scientific ideas that the Catholic Church put him under house arrest for the rest of his life. And he was just describing heliocentrism, the astronomical model where the earth revolves around the sun. Very important to our understanding of the universe, but it was not a life or death matter. You would assume that if a new scientific idea that would help people live longer and healthier, then there would be no fear. However, that assumption is disproven again and again with the antivaccine gang and the Big Pharma ad hominems that we hear frequently.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written about an innovative an small UK based biotech firm, Oxitec, which has developed genetically modified male mosquitos, sometimes referred to as  Frankensquitos (at term I fully embrace as being both ironic and descriptive) that would mate with wild females. Those females would produce offspring that would not survive to adults, because they require an antibiotic, tetracycline, in their diet, something that isn’t usually available in the the wild. Over time, with multiple releases of males, the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is the vector for transmitting Dengue fever. would fall to such a level that transmission of the the disease would be significantly reduced, if not completely stopped.
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Jenny McCarthy lies about vaccines. Surprise.

Jenny McCarthy is the erstwhile MTV drunk college dating game hostess, and current “journalist” on The View, an American daytime talk show on the ABC television network (owned by Disney). This transformation, of sorts, occurred despite widespread condemnation from scientists, journalists, and yours truly about her loud and annoying antivaccine rhetoric. Clearly, no one of any note supported her being hired on the View, except for websites like the Age of Pushing Nonsense To Harm Children.

This is old news. If you didn’t know, Jenny also has a newspaper column at the Chicago Sun-Times, where, I suppose, she can comment on anything she likes. I have never read it. Until I did. In her column of 12 April 2014, she wrote:

I am not “anti-vaccine.” This is not a change in my stance nor is it a new position that I have recently adopted. For years, I have repeatedly stated that I am, in fact, “pro-vaccine” and for years I have been wrongly branded as “anti-vaccine.”

Wait! What? She said she is not anti-vaccine?

Again. Again. And again. Thanks Bill Nye.

Again. Again. And again. Thanks Bill Nye.

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Mammoth created on sixth day–according to South Carolina

Ah, South Carolina. The Palmetto State. A lovely state, with beautiful beaches and forests. 

But also known as the Whoopee Cushion of the Nation. And they’ve blown up the cushion again, and the rest of the country is snickering.

south-carolina-mammoth

Through the persistence of an eight-year old third grade student, Olivia McConnell, the South Carolina House voted 94-3 on HB 4482 in February to specify that the Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) as the official state fossil. Olivia wanted the mammoth as the state fossil because its teeth were one of the first vertebrate fossils found in North America, dug up by slaves on a South Carolina plantation in 1725. 

The bill was sent to the South Carolina Senate, where it got quick treatment from the Senate Judiciary committee, and sent to the full Senate for a vote in late March. 

So far, this is a great story. Young child, interested in fossils and history, trying to honor the fossil for her state. The bill to make this happens sails through the state House, and quickly moves through initial review in the Senate.

But this is South Carolina, and here comes that whoopee cushion.

On 25 March 2014, while HB 4482 was under discussion in the Senate, Kevin L. Bryant (R-District 3) sought to amend the bill to acknowledge Genesis 1:24-25, which describes the sixth day of creation, to recognize that some “god” was responsible for creating the Animal Kingdom. It was reported that Bryant explained on his website, “I attempted to recognize the creator.” Bryant’s amendment was ruled out of order based on parliamentary rules.

So did Bryant give up? Not when you have a whoopee cushion to make a great sound. So he doubled-down on his effort, and he sought to amend the bill to add “as created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field” after each instance of “mammoth.” This amended bill passed the South Carolina Senate by a vote of 35-0 (so that means progressive Democrats voted for it), and was sent back to the Senate, where they could change the Senate wording.

There you go. The South Carolina whoopee cushion just let out the best flatulence sound ever

Note. for those of you who actually accept science as the most accurate description of the age of the planet and evolution of organisms. The earth is 4.5 billion years old, and we have no evidence that it was created by anything other than the accretion of material from the early Solar System. Life on Earth arose 3.7 billion years and is described by the theory of abiogenesis, that is that life arose from organic compounds. The Columbian mammoth appears to evolved in North America around 126,000 years ago, dying out at the end of the last ice age, around 10,000 years ago. There are some unreliable information about Columbian mammoth remains dating to around 7600 years ago. In other words, the mammoth died out before it was even created in Christian religious myths.

A second note. See, no vaccines. Or Chili’s. But if Chili’s is making chili with vaccinated mammoth meat, I will certainly discuss it here. It would be an awesome story.

A third note. Because I was spending so much time on vaccines and Chili’s, I didn’t get to this article earlier. I’m like a week late, and on the internet that’s like 5 years late.

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Chili’s and the National Autism Association–one more thing

I promised myself that I wouldn’t write anything more about Chili’s and their outstanding decision to back away from providing a donation to the antivaccination front group called the National Autism Association (NAA). Since I made that promise to me, and not to my readers, I get to write about Chili’s again with few consequences. Well, other than spending some time this evening in writing this last post, I promise, about Chili’s. I might choose to write something about the NAA again in the future, because they are kind of reprehensible, as you will soon see.

As I pointed out yesterday, the NAA is much more than just an autism advocacy group that lies about vaccines. It also promotes horrifying treatments for autism such as chelation, which has shown to not be effective. And many of the practitioners of chelation therapy are miscreants and other kinds of low lives. As I’ve mentioned previously, simple math, at the level a third grader would understand, indicates that it make take millions of doses of vaccines to be toxic, and only then if the patients kidneys had failed so nothing would be cleared from the blood. So, NAA is encouraging the use of chelation therapy, which does have risks, to fix a problem that we KNOW doesn’t cause autism, and, in fact, doesn’t even exist in the first place.

They could have just made the same claim that magical water cures autism. Oh I forgot, they are sponsored by Boiron, a homeopathy manufacturer.

© 2014, Skeptical Raptor, LLC. Yeah, I went here for lunch in Los Angeles.

© 2014, Skeptical Raptor, LLC. Yeah, I went here for lunch in Los Angeles.

 

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Chili’s makes the right choice–the wrap-up

Updated with more good quotes.

Over this past weekend, a social media protest on Twitter, Facebook, reddit and various blogs created an atmosphere where Chili’s, who was planning to contribute 10% of each guest’s check to an organization whose mission is to support the needs of the autism community, was getting stuck in a tight corner. Although the National Autism Association (NAA) appeared to be a fine charity, helping autistic children in numerous ways, their explicit statement that “Vaccinations can trigger or exacerbate autism in some, if not many, children, especially those who are genetically predisposed to immune, autoimmune or inflammatory conditions,” contradicts the vast mountain of evidence that explicitly and clearly refutes any connection between vaccines, vaccine ingredients, and the number of vaccines with autism.

©2014, Wikipedia Commons
©2014, Wikipedia Commons

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Chili’s does the right thing–severs ties with vaccine refuser group

After an uproar on social media, including Twitter, Facebook, and numerous blog posts (including three from me), Chili’s decided that they would suspend their program to contribute 10% of sales to an antivaccination front group, the National Autism Association, a group that states unequivocally that vaccines cause autism, despite the vast amount of evidence that it’s completely unrelated.

©2014, Wikipedia Commons

©2014, Wikipedia Commons

In a statement on Facebook, Chili’s said:

Chili’s is committed to giving back to the communities in which our guests live and work through local and national Give Back Events. While we remain committed to supporting the children and families affected by autism, we are canceling Monday’s Give Back Event based on the feedback we heard from our guests.

We believe autism awareness continues to be an important cause to our guests and team members, and we will find another way to support this worthy effort in the future with again our sole intention being to help families affected by autism. At Chili’s, we want to make every guest feel special and we thank all of our loyal guests for your thoughtful questions and comments.

I presume that antivaccination lunatics, who lead to more children’s deaths, aren’t a worthy charitable cause for Chili’s. As it should be.

For once, science and rational thinking win. I’d be lying if I didn’t say there’s a big smile on my face.

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Chili’s kind of, sort of revises support for an antivaccination group

As reported earlier today and yesterday that on April 7, Chili’s, a chain of sit-down restaurants, is planning to contribute 10% of each guest’s check, across the USA, to an organization whose mission is to support the needs of the autism community. The reasons that Chili’s has chosen to do this are both noble and heartfelt, based on a viral story involving one of their restaurants. On the surface, it appears that this is a great example of being a good corporate citizen, and though I have never eaten at Chili’s, I considered doing so because I strongly support autism advocacy and research. 

©2014, Autism Science Foundation. This group accepts the scientific facts that vaccines do not cause autism, and states it explicitly on their web page.

©2014, Autism Science Foundation. This group accepts the scientific facts that vaccines do not cause autism, and states it explicitly on their web page.

 

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Chili’s stubbornly sticks with its support of an antivaccination group

Yesterday I reported that on April 7, Chili’s, a chain of sit-down restaurants, is planning to contribute 10% of each guest’s check, across the USA, to an organization whose mission is to support the needs of the autism community. The reasons that Chili’s has chosen to do this are both noble and heartfelt, based on a viral story involving one of their restaurants. On the surface, it appears that this is a great example of being a good corporate citizen, and though I have never eaten at Chili’s, I considered doing so because I strongly support autism advocacy and research. 

And never caused by vaccines.

And never caused by vaccines.

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Don’t unintentionally fund an antivaccination front organization

Sometimes large corporations try to do the right thing, and I’m willing to give them credit for the good works. Many companies contribute to charities and organizations for which executives or employees have a special feeling.

Not an adverse event from vaccines.

Not an adverse event from vaccines.

But sometimes that doesn’t turn out so well. Last year, the fast food restaurant chain, Chick-fil-A got into hot water when it was found contributing to same-sex marriage hate groups. Although it caused a firestorm amongst progressives and decent people, the right-wing religious types flocked to the restaurants to show their support. Eventually the CEO of the chain, S. Truett Cathy, decided to “shut up” about same-sex marriage, he still thinks it’s wrong. I’m not sure any of the kerfuffle about Chick-fil-A had a lasting effect, but people tried.

Recently, it has come to my attention that another restaurant chain is going to make a rather large donation to another group. It actually seemed like a laudable effort, but several people dug down below the surface, and found the effort a lot less praiseworthy.
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Hey vaccine deniers–it’s just simple math. Part deux.

A few days ago, I wrote an article discussing how antivaccination trope inventors could not understand the most basic elements of mathematics in reading a vaccine label. They misinterpreted some simple math like that the toxic level of a substance is several million times higher than what is injected. I suppose in the minds of vaccine deniers, 1=1 billion. Or 1 trillion. Or 4783.2226. It just depends. 

And if they can’t understand the simplest of math principles, assuming that they would understand population level statistics might be a really bad assumption. 

Recently, I was pointed to an antivaccination article, on the Political Blindspot website, which is dedicated to finding news articles swept under the rug by mainstream media. My skeptical radar always goes into full energy mode whenever I see the word “mainstream.”
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Pertussis vaccine reduced length and severity of whooping cough

Except for the evidence that says it's not a failure.

Except for the evidence that says it’s not a failure.

I know, there are just so many tropes and outright lies pushed by the vaccine deniers, it’s really hard for this writer to keep up with it all. But there’s one that has always bothered me, but I didn’t have quite enough evidence to lustfully debunk in my usual manner.

As has been shown in few studies, the vaccine against whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis), either  DTaP or Tdap (which also protect against tetanus and diphtheria), isn’t as effective in providing long-term protection as our expectations, based on other vaccines. Although the antivaccination cult has misinterpreted and misstated the actual numbers, an analysis of the data from the Washington State pertussis epidemic in 2011-2012 provided us with the following information:

  • Ages 5-9 unvaccinated or under vaccinated children are 6 times more likely to become infected with pertussis than fully vaccinated. 
  • Ages 10-13 unvaccinated or under vaccinated are 25 times more likely to become infected with pertussis than fully vaccinated. 
  • Ages 14-18 unvaccinated or under vaccinated  are 6 times more likely to become infected with pertussis than fully vaccinated.

In other words, not getting the vaccine made it easier to get infected with whooping cough.
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One hour of research on Google–obviously all science is wrong

I’ve been told that I need to quit relying on the peer-reviewed journals for my scientific knowledge, because they are paid for by Big Government, Big Pharma, Big Agra, Big Hebrew and Big Whatever. They’re all just big with every single person involved dedicated to providing information to fool the people of earth. 

Science is obviously wrong about everything. Including unicorns. Obviously wrong about unicorns.

Science is obviously wrong about everything. Including unicorns. Obviously wrong about unicorns.

Apparently, the only acceptable type of research is doing it yourself using Google. Or in a pinch, Bing. 

Because I wanted to be more open-minded and to learn the Truth™ about everything. And here’s what I found.
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Yes, the autism rate is rising–vaccines aren’t the cause

On 28 March 2014, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that new data show that the estimated number of children identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a disorder of neural development, usually appearing before the age of 3 years, characterized by impaired social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication, and by restricted, repetitive or stereotyped behavior, continues to rise.  The picture of ASD in US communities is changing.

Vaccines don't cause autism. And that syringe is too large to ever be used for immunizations. Except for horses. Maybe.

Vaccines don’t cause autism. And that syringe is too large to ever be used for immunizations. Except for horses. Maybe.


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Amy Farrah Fowler is going to talk to teachers about science

Next week, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), an organization devoted “to promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all,” is having their annual meeting in Boston, MA. Normally, I would not write much about this group, because they do good stuff for science, and I tend to focus on those individuals and groups that do bad stuff for science. 

One of the guest speakers at this year’s NSTA conference is Mayim Bialik, who plays a neuroscientist on CBS-TV’s The Big Bang Theory (TBBT). In case you’re not a fan of the show, it is one of the better written shows on TV (a moderate standard, indeed). It follows the lives of four main male characters, who are all researchers at the California Institute of Technology, Cal Tech, one of the premier science institutions in the USA. The show continues to make obscure, but funny, references to scientific ideas, Star Trek, comics, and just about anything geeky. 

Bialik plays not only a neuroscientist by the name of Amy Farrah Fowler, but the girlfriend (kind of, sort of, who knows) of one the main characters, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, a quirky theoretical physicist. But what is particularly amazing is that Bialik actually does have a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from UCLA (as does the famous atheist and science philosopher, Sam Harris), and wrote her doctoral dissertation about a rare genetic disease, Prader-Willi Syndrome, which manifests itself with various neurological and neuromuscular deficits. Frankly, it’s brilliant work.
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