Number of the Month

January 2014

A picture is worth a thousand words

A modicum of data is worth a thousand models.


You are ill! By definition.

 All professions are conspiracies against the laity.

 I don’t know how I missed this one. It is a list of the ways that the major health crises of our modern hysterical times were manufactured. I found it in the contribution from a respondent to Frank Davis, quoting an original piece by Sturman. It comprises a few examples of how and when these epidemics were created simply by changing definitions:


Old Definition: Blood sugar > 140 mg/dl
People under old definition: 11.7 million
New Definition: Blood sugar > 126 mg/dl
People added under new definition: 1.7 million
Percent increase: 15%

The definition was changed in 1997 by the American Diabetes Association and WHO Expert Committee on the Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus.


High blood pressure is reported as two numbers, systolic or peak pressure and diastolic pressure when heart is at rest) in mm Hg.

Old Definition: cutoff Blood Pressure > 160/100
People under old definition: 38.7 million
New Definition: Blood Pressure > 140/90
People added under new definition: 13.5 million
Percent Increase: 35%

The definition was changed in 1997 by U.S. Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure.

Prehypertension, a new category created in 2003: blood pressure from 120/80 to 138/89 includes 45 million additional people! If one includes this category, we have a grand total of 97.2 million total numbers of hypertensives and prehypertensives (whatever that is).

High (Total) Cholesterol:

Old Definition: Cholesterol > 240 mg/dl total cholesterol
People under old definition: 49.5 million
New Definition: Cholesterol > 200 mg/dl total cholesterol
People added under new definition: 42.6 million
Percent increase: 86%

The definition was changed in 1998 by U.S. Air Force/Texas Coronary Atherosclerosis Prevention Study.


Body Mass Index (BMI) is defined as the ratio of weight (in kg) to height (in meters) squared and is an inexact measure of body fat, though it supposedly establishes cutoff points of normal weight, overweight, and obesity.

Old definition: BMI > 28 (men), BMI > 27 (women)
People under old definition: 70.6 million
New definition: BMI > 25
People added under new definition: 30.5 million
Percent Increase: 43%

The definition was changed in 1998 by U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

"The new definitions ultimately label 75 percent of the adult U.S. population as diseased," conclude the two researchers. They add cautiously that "...the extent to which new 'patients' would ultimately benefit from early detection and treatment of these conditions is unknown. Whether they would experience important physical or psychological harm is an open question."

That is all in addition to the much greater number of scares that have been created by the irresponsible statistical standards of the epidemiologists. They incorporate such excrescences as the cholesterol myth and BMI, one of the most stupid measures ever proposed. They have all been taken up by politicians and bureaucrats as excuses for draconian legislation; mainly, for the purposes of misdirection from their failure to deal with life’s real problems. As a convenient side product they provide a nice little earner for the medical professions and the vast industries that feed off them. And the new Lords of Misrule said “Let there be no pleasure”.

In my personal experience the height of pleasure is the combination of the ingredients of a pint of good ale, a pipe good tobacco and the company of good conversationalists. Heresy! Pleasure is not the same as satisfaction, which is in the main assuagement of urges imposed by the needs of genetic evolution.


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I’m a celebrity! Get me out of here!

So, the passengers on the Ship of Fools have been rescued, leaving the hapless crews of various vessels and many others to cope with the chaos they have created. Now we are given an opportunity to see, hear and judge the mastermind behind the venture.

In another place, His Grace gives an ecclesiastically understated opinion on the persona of the Fool in Chief on the basis of a celebratory pre-expeditionary video. From the moment he opens his mouth he (the latter) is clearly the human embodiment of the cliché “an accident waiting to happen”. Tales of fantasists coming into disastrous collision with reality are not unusual, but one with the capacity to involve so many others of that ilk is a collectors’ item. On the other hand, like your bending author, you might just click off prematurely out of sheer irritation.



Out of control

True to form, the media are obediently following the diktats of the new boys on the zealotry block and they are full of scary headlines about the deadly scourge that is sugar. A new bunch of professors are getting their fifteen minutes of fame and the consequent preferment that it endows in the modern, hysterical university system.

In an attempt to get this development into perspective, let us lay down some laws of human consumption.

 The first general law of human consumption

It is bad for you to have too much of X: where X is, for example, oxygen, water, vitamin A, salt, sugar etc.

 The second general law of human consumption

It is bad for you to have too little of X: where X is, for example, oxygen, water, vitamin A, salt, sugar etc.

 The third general law of human consumption

It is better to have a little too much than much too little of X: where X is, for example, oxygen, water, vitamin A, salt, sugar etc.


Your body has mechanisms for eliminating excess of substances that are found in the normal intake, mainly through excretion. They are kept at a safe level by a system of negative feedback control, known in the medical jargon as homeostasis. Sometimes that system breaks down owing to disease (such as diabetes). It can also be overwhelmed by a grossly excessive dose. Insufficiencies of vital substances, however, cannot be controlled by natural homeostasis and require careful dietary or intravenous supplementation.

The corrective system can only exist, furthermore, where there has been sufficiently long historical exposure to the substance to allow the mechanisms of genetic evolution to operate in its development. Substances to which the internal body has not been normally historically exposed (the heavy metals, for example) are not subject to such control. Hence the Russian assassins found that polonium was a better bet than dioxins.

To take a currently conspicuous example, the natural control of blood salt is very efficient and it is continuously excreted in urine, sweat and tears. Low blood salt (hyponatraemia) can be a serious condition, with painful and damaging (even lethal) consequences. It is common among such groups as marathon runners, those who do physical work in tropical climes and hospital patients (particularly geriatrics).

Unfortunately, salt has become the target of one of the most vocal gangs of zealots who, in the nature of things modern, find obedient servants among politicians and journalists. The natural instinct of people (and animals) is to adhere to the third law above, which allows homeostasis to operate correctly. Branding a vital component of life as deadly poison lures people into risky avoidance strategies. Now the latest target of zealotry is sugar, the second stage of the whole food chain after carbon dioxide and water.

As with all successful lies, the sugar campaign is based on an element of truth. Some manufactured food products are grotesquely over-sweetened and are worthy of avoidance, if on the grounds of taste alone. But that is not what the new zealots are saying. Their cry is sugar is poison; a dangerous untruth that betrays a lamentable ignorance of the first law of toxicology that the poison is in the dose, which in fact neatly summarises the above three laws.


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The cliché of our age –

Worse than previously thought

One of the established techniques of modern propaganda is recycling: see for example our discussion of Trojan Numbers. Now is once again the season of diets and exercise regimes. It all derives from the hereditary instinct, driven by evolution since the human race struck out from its subtropical cradle in Africa, to store up fat and hibernate as a survival strategy. Now that we luxuriate in the copious provision of heating energy and food supply, those instincts are no longer relevant. Thus it is the obesity freaks’ turn on stage in the rolling variety show that is modern zealotry.

They have nothing new to say, no data to add, so they fall back on the vague recycler, or as the BBC presents it Estimates underestimated. Even more than usually, their case rests on ignoring copious inconvenient data, such as what they used to call the obesity paradox. This in addition to the facts that, not only do they rely on one of the most stupid measures invented by man (BMI),  but they have adjusted the definition of excess to magnify their scare.

They utilise, of course, the current tendency to “medicalise behaviour of which we do not approve” and admittedly the sight of so many fatties waddling down our high streets does little to add to the gaiety of nations. On the other hand the saturation of our media with pictures of anorexic fashion models is equally depressing for some of us, and poses a potentially lethal danger to impressionable pubescent girls.

The principal principle of zealotry, however, is that it is the duty of governments to interfere in the minutiae of human behaviour, which adherents of human liberty are obliged to oppose.


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It takes but a year

 January 2013 – the sugar is poison slogan arrives in the British Media from California

January 2014 – Stuntman Dave announces one no sugar day

 Wow! A whole day! That certainly puts husky-hugging in its place.

Yes, it is that most predictable phenomenon in the media calendar, the diet season. The man who has taken on the onerous task of parroting the demands of the new zealots on the block before the British Parliament and people is Keith Vaz and he is properly celebrated by the great leader himself. How much longer can the State dilly dally about seizing absolute control over the personal choices of its inhabitants? Do the experts have to change all the definitions yet again?


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Sugar is the new tobacco

A simple five word slogan; yet it is so redolent of the state of our hysterical society. Suddenly, you can rarely pick up a newspaper without a sugar article on the front page. That headline came from the Daily Mail, but they all had it. Reluctant as we might be to trawl through garbage, it is interesting to examine its significance.

  1. A nutty professor in California invents a totally unscientific three word slogan (sugar is poison) that betrays complete ignorance of the first law of toxicology, to say nothing of a lack of knowledge of the basic building block for all life on earth and the main product of photosynthesis. This process not only fixates solar energy to fuel all of life, but also releases oxygen, the enabler of the living planet, by which that stored energy can be recovered to build and mobilise living things. Incidentally the inputs for photosynthesis are water and carbon dioxide, the concentration of the latter (now fashionably vilified) rare gas being at present sub-optimal for maximum output.
  2. That trivial piece of verbiage “is the new” is taken from the frivolous world of fashion. It is utilised by superficial writers, such as sports journalists, as a lazy way of describing something by reference to something familiar. The implication of using it is that the subject of the verb is a mere fad.
  3. Sugar is not the “new” anything. It goes back almost to the very beginning of life itself, when the cyanobacteria appeared and began to oxygenate the planet. Flowering plants evolved to produce nectar, a complex sugar-rich solution necessary to the nectarivores that facilitate their sexual reproduction. Some even develop nectaries on their leaves, to attract insects that will combat predators.
  4. Over the aeons hunter-gatherer human beings, like many other animals, have developed taste buds to detect sweet sugars as well as four other classes of substance (sour, bitter, umami and the newly demonised salt). These ensure that as omnivores they are driven seek a balanced diet. Fruiting plants exploit this to ensure distribution of their seeds.
  5. The inclusion of tobacco is an example of a common practice among new groups of zealots. It serves three purposes: first, to pay due obeisance to the originators and vanguard of the new wave of zealotry, the tobacco haters; second, to reinforce that message; third, and foremost, to hitch a ride on the extraordinary influence and power that the anti-tobacco fanatics have achieved. A measure of that achievement is that some who have read thus far will recoil in a conditioned reflex at such a sacrilegious observation.
  6. It takes but a year, from one diet season (January) to the next, for that foolish pronouncement to lead to a scramble among professors, journalists, politicians and “health tsars” to clamber upon the resultant bandwagon.

When those of us Britons who are now ancient were children, sugar was strictly rationed. We used to pick honeysuckle flowers from the shrub clambering over a garden wall and suck them for the tiny quantum of sweetness. We were not (as the new self-promoting authoritarians would have you believe) addicts. We were innocently responding to the urge developed over aeons of evolution to balance our diets. We were then officially dosed with orange juice to supplement our diets; now, suddenly, it is officially deadly according to a Government “Tsar”. Fashion is all.

Of course, as with all the best scares, there is an element of truth behind this one. We are prone to overindulge in almost anything. Times of plenty have been few during our evolution and they do not promote competition for survival, but we are fortunate to living in a warm period, though some zealots try to persuade us that this is disastrous, and technology has promoted an indolent life style. Some of the products of the food industry are grossly over-sugared; that infamous cream of tomato soup to the point of being quite revolting (in my humble opinion). A significant proportion of adults seem to be gastronomically still stuck in their childhoods. It is, of course, possible to fool the taste buds with alternative chemicals, but all forms of artificial sweetener have come under attack from wild epidemiologists: after all, that is what they do. Fame is the spur.

There is nothing wrong with government agencies offering health advice (but not compulsion) to the population, so long as it is based on sound science, which alas is not always the case. What is wrong is for governments to react robotically to lynch mobs of fame-seeking junk scientists and desperate journalists, who lurch from one hate object to the next on the whim of the moment. For a time some foodstuff is arbitrarily pilloried all over the media, then dropped (remember trans fats?) in favour of the next craze.

Funny old world.


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Nothing left to say

Your author has been bending under the pressure to comment on increasingly petty disputes in the field of climate. Having contributed many thousands of words on the topic, I am not inspired to keep retreading the same ground over and over again. As a former teacher, I appreciate the importance and value of repetition, but there are limits. True scientists do not believe, but below are some of the conclusions I have come to on the balance of probabilities (as they say in civil law). I now beg leave to be left alone to grumble away on the general abuse of science without being dragooned into single issue fanaticism.


bulletGlobal Warming was a scientific hypothesis, but it has been thoroughly tested and falsified. It is now a dead theory. [Insert Monty Python parrot sketch here].
bulletThere is no scientific theory of Climate Change. It is just a political and commercial slogan. It means bad weather.
bulletThe baseless demonization of that stuff of life, carbon, and its wholly benign dioxide is one of the most destructive perversions in the history of human thought. It has brought Europe, for example, to the edge of the economic abyss.
bulletThe theory and models for global warming rested almost solely on putative positive feedback mechanisms.
bulletThere is evidence that the modellers searched almost exclusively for potential positive feedback mechanisms.
bulletPositive feedback makes models unstable, so that the outputs always ramp up regardless of inputs. The unscientific secrecy surrounding the modelling programs makes this impossible to investigate.
bulletThe primary input to the weather system, the Sun, is routinely ignored.
bulletThe observed stability of the climate indicates that actual feedback mechanisms are negative and that Le Chatelier-Braun Principle applies.
bulletThe claimed temperature rise over years is very small and inconsequential, also probably below the practicable level of detectability.
bulletSmoothing processes, such as averaging, preserve low frequency noise, which is often mistaken for trends.
bulletThe attempts to measure and calculate global temperatures have been fraught with dubiety; including ramshackle instrumentation systems, unexplained data adjustments and, frankly, downright fraud.
bulletThe history of the subject  closely follows Langmuir’s laws of bad science (more accurately symptoms of pathological science, I originally wrote “laws” as I did not have a section on symptoms).
bulletThe debate has now reached Langmuir’s symptom number 5. (Criticisms are met by ad hoc excuses thought up on the spur of the moment). Searching for the “lost” heat in the deep oceans, for example, is nothing more than a pathetic joke.
bulletClimate change was symptomatic of the gross intrusion into science by politics. The grotesquely corrupt practices revealed by Climategate, for example, were only exceeded in sleaze by the crudity of the subsequent political whitewash of that sordid episode.
bulletIt has all become extremely boring.


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Curiouser and curiouser

Browsing through my usual venues on the internet, as you do, I came across an observation that was described as “curious” by its author, Willis Eschenbach, of due fame. I looked at the graph supplied and what I saw immediately was two periodic signals corrupted by amplitude and phase noise. The question that immediately leapt to my mind was Why should they be of virtually the same frequency? I did not find the subsequent statistical analysis convincing or relevant. Admittedly there is an element of Chartmanship in adopting vertical scales that optimise the apparent match, but what stood out for me was the unlikely coincidence.

(Privately, I call it the Ricky Blaine dilemma: “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”)

I make no claims about the validity of any physical interpretation of the signals, of which I am entirely ignorant. As an instrumentation man, I would be inclined to go back and check for any spurious influences in the measurement system. Fractions of a millimetre of difference in sea levels seem to me, as an outsider, a bit tight, but who am I to say?


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What an embarrassing, ignorant oaf!

So, according to His Royal Highness The Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, Knight of the Garter, Knight of the Thistle, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Bath, Member of the Order of Merit, Knight of the Order of Australia, Companion of the Queen's Service Order, Privy Counsellor, Aide-de-Camp, Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, some of the world’s most distinguished thinkers of our time are headless chickens. He makes his ex cathedra pronouncements and hurls insults from an unearned position of privilege, which he debases by so doing. He talks of having faith in science. The last thing real scientists want from him is blind faith (which, after T H Huxley, is their one unpardonable sin). They do not ask for faith; they ask for reason: of which he is manifestly incapable.

He lives in an enclosed fantasy world of self indulgence, quack medicine and junk science into which reality is never allowed to intrude. He surrounds himself with sycophantic courtiers, who tell him he can hold back the tide and that his invisible clothes are exquisitely elegant; and he believes them.

It is clear that he has not looked at the evidence and if he did he lacks the intellect and fundamental knowledge to evaluate it. His use of the term “blindingly obvious” calls to mind a paragraph in Global Warming as Religion (2007):

People who have never heard of Wien or Planck confidently assert that it is “obvious” that man-made CO2 will cause runaway warming of the planet, when it is not at all obvious to many who are familiar with the works of those gentlemen. It is obvious in the sense that it is obvious that believers will have everlasting life or that a senseless act of self-immolation will earn the eternal attentions of 72 virgins in Paradise. The capacity to believe six impossible things before breakfast has been restored from fantasy to accepted normality.

He is an illustration of the one unavoidable flaw in the hereditary principle. People do not necessarily take after their parents.

His mother is an admirable person, whose dignity, serenity and grace have seen her subjects through the pains of despoliation of their country by generations of political incompetents. The advantages of having a non-political head of state are many, but they could all be so easily lost in short shrift.

Long ago, I was privileged to have a long conversation with his father at an early stage in my career. It had a profound influence on me. He was surprisingly well-informed on scientific matters and, when at one point I boldly contradicted him, he reacted with evident enjoyment and continued with the debate, until he was dragged away to attend an official dinner, for which he was by then late. He was modest, highly intelligent and eager to learn. As he left, I said to myself “Now, there goes a man!”

So we have:

Number of the month – one

This is the one and only “Prinny”, self appointed spokesman of the lunatic fringe, champion of blind prejudice and (heaven help us) heir to the throne.


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