Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Among the Living: Update 2

Here is another entry in the Dead Pool Competition. This one from TomC..
1) Fidel Castro: I WILL prove it. One way or another.
2) Charlton Heston. The son of God will not save him again.
3) Ariel Sharon. Possibly already dead but not certified yet.
4) Tony Bullimore. Not the sharpest tool in the shed that one.
5) Diego Maradona.
6) Hermann Maier. Austrian Ski Ace-rides his motorcycle and his skis too fast
7) Tony Curtis. Just because you would be devastated that your hero passed on.
8) Little Richard. The king of rock n roll.
9) Pavarotti. Would be a tragedy.
10) B.B. King.

Come on peoples.... there are some of you out there who said that they have done a list. Where is it???????

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The knack

Sorry if I haven't put together all the entries for the dead pool competition yet. I'm extending the deadline till the end of the week. I've been occupying myself building a stompbox. I'm trying to recreate the Ibanez PT909 phaser and I'm nearly there. I've been using parts from old computer screens, videos, etc. On hearing this, someone sent me this clip. The clip seems strangely familiar.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Among the Living: Update

Regarding the dead pool competition that I am running. There has been questioning about betting on this. After much consideration (5 seconds) I think that $10 per entry (one entry per person) winner takes all sounds OK. Last entries on monday.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Letters to the editor

Sometimes newspapers get swamped by special interest groups. Here are two such letters from the Sunday Age from the anti-fluoridation camp. Let's analyse these letters scientifically since their claims are supposedly based on science. My comments are in italics.

Letter 1: The facts on fluoride
Once again, John Howard is at his narrow-minded best. As many have said: "My mind is made up, so don't confuse me with facts." This accurately sums up John Howard. Facts are only facts if he can see a political advantage in taking them on board.

This paragraph contains the 'Ad hominem' logical fallacy. It attacks the person rather than the evidence or argument. I may not like the person in question but it's the logic and evidence that must be attacked. So this paragraph must be deleted if we are to argue just on the science.

There is a lot of scientific evidence available now that shows the shortcomings and danger of fluoride in the water supply. One wonders how many scientists with a pro-fluoride view are paid by companies that benefit from it.

Give us the evidence. Don't just say 'a lot'. State where this evidence can be found. I remember being marked down in my year 10 english class because of such statements. The second line commits the 'guilt by association' fallacy which is a subset of the 'red herring' fallacies. Delete paragraph.

It is fair to say that the increase in tooth decay has probably more to do with today's diets (too much junk food and soft drinks) than not drinking tap water. No matter who is right or wrong, we should have the choice when it comes to the intake of fluoride. There is enough information available these days to make informed decisions about most things.

The logical fallacy committed is the 'non-sequitur'. The first sentence has nothing to do with whether fluoridation is healthy or not. It is a completely separate issue. The second sentence is a political statement, not a scientific one. It also does not address the issue at hand. I agree with the third sentence. It can stay even though it has not direct bearing on the argument. Whether people are actually scientifically educated enough to make informed decisions is another story.

Politicians (especially if their name is John Howard) can't be trusted. The only thing they're interested in is clinging to power for as long as possible and they lie and cheat to achieve it. Admittedly, John Howard is very good at it.

Logical fallacies are 'ad hominem' and 'guilt by association'. I wonder if they would say the same thing about a polititian who supports their point of view. Delete paragraph.

Conclusion: The letter has a title, one sentence and the name. And that's it. I'll let you count the number of facts contained in the letter.

Letter2: Once bitten ...

When did our Prime Minister become such a chemicals expert? He urges greater consumption of chemical fluoride by all Australians, regardless of age and medical status (31/12). That is what it means when he announces support of water fluoridation and a desire for us all to swallow more of it.

The paragraph contains the'Ad hominem' fallacy. It also misrepsents the statement made by the Prime Minister. This is the 'strawman' fallacy. This is where you create a position that you can argue against rather than the position held by your opponent.

He may mean well, but he is badly misled by his advisers. Only a handful of countries still practise water fluoridation and recent scientific studies have confirmed some serious health hazards that were suspected for decades.

Here we have the 'Ad populum' fallacy. Just because a lot of people do or don't adhere to a claim doesn't mean that the claim is true. And again, you need to tell me where these studies can be found. And who were these people that suspected such hazards.

The moderate levels of fluoride previously thought to be safe are now known to be harmful for children and adults.

The recent discovery of the bone cancer, osteosarcoma, in males was related to fluoridated water. This alone should be enough to ensure that the practice be seriously reconsidered.

How about the American Dental Association's recent announcement that it is dangerous for young children to use fluoridated water in their formula drinks? How will that message get across to everyone? It cannot.

Now we can have some scientific debate. This is the research paper on fluoride, oseosarcoma and males that the letter writer may be talking about. Here is the response by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA. Firstly, oseosarcoma affects about 400 of the 300,000,000 people in the US. The paper suggests that there may be a slight increase in osteosarcoma due to fluoridation. Note that the letter written implies that fluoridation causes the cancer. This is not the case. Both links say that these are preliminary results and more studies have to be done.
The claim about the American Dental Association's recent announcement is grossly mistrepresented. Read here. Firstly, the 'danger' is fluorosis, which is a yellowing of the teeth. Secondly, it occurs before the teeth have erupted so it affects mainly infants. Thirdly, fluorosis has been shown to occur in water with very high levels of fluoride. Fourthly, the ADA have put forward an interim guideline until further data is gathered because the evidence isn't conclusive for the levels of fluoride found in drinking water.

Finally, the role of fluoride water in the global reduction in tooth decay referred to by Howard has been greatly exaggerated.

Where is the evidence to support this claim?

Conclusion: This letter mention the American Dental Association. From the letter the reader may think that they are against fluoridation. But they are not. Read here for their opinion. As the first letter writer wrote, it is up to you to make an informed decision.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Among the Living

On the way up to the Hanging Rock races I was telling Miss Jade about the Dead Pool competition. I've seen different point scoring systems and I've decide to come up with my own and run a dead pool competition. So if you are interested here are the rules:
1. Pick 10 people who you think will die in 2007. You have until 14th January to put up your names.
2. The point scoring system is based on life expectancy data from the Human Mortality Database. I've looked at the data and come up with a scoring system based on your life expectancy at a certain age and how far short of it that person falls when they die. The scoring system is as follows:

For example: if the person dies at age 39 and is female, you get 45 points.

3. Who ever ends up with the most points wins.
4. Age is rounded down. So if a person is 43 years and 230 days, their age is taken as 43.

I'll think about my 10 names and put them up soon.