Skeptics with a K: Episode #094


Heretics, redox signalling, anti-retroviral therapy and General Health. Plus native water, Aubrey de Gray, quacking videos and Richard Dawkins. Challenging the men of steel, it’s Skeptics with a K.

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  1. #1 by Rupert on March 21, 2013 - 13:27

    Item 1) I remember the Bad Influence Databurst! Good times.

    Item 2) On the topic of steel man arguments, I always thought that the correct way to consider any argument was put very eloquently by Bertrand Russell in A History of Western Philosophy, even if what he was actually saying was pretty obvious:

    “In studying a philosopher, the right attitude is nether reverence nor contempt, but first a kind of hypothetical sympathy, until it is possible to know what it feels like to believe in his theories, and only then a revival of the critical attitude, which should resemble, as far as possible, the state of mind of a person abandoning opinions which he has hitherto held. Contempt interferes with the first part of this process, and reverence with the second.”

  2. #2 by simon on March 21, 2013 - 18:42

    Reverse osmosis is a membrane filtration technique where the solution is pumped under pressure past a selective membrane which allows the solvent to pass but not large molecules. It is often used in the dairy industry and in water purification :o)

  3. #3 by Wesley Harding on March 21, 2013 - 18:55

    I’m no expert, but off the top of my head, reverse osmosis is a membrane-technology filtration method that removes many types of large molecules and ions from solutions by applying pressure to the solution when it is on one side of a selective membrane. The result is that the solute is retained on the pressurized side of the membrane and the pure solvent is allowed to pass to the other side. To be “selective,” this membrane should not allow large molecules or ions through the pores (holes), but should allow smaller components of the solution (such as the solvent) to pass freely. Or something like that…

  4. #4 by Wesley Harding on March 21, 2013 - 19:02

    Wesley Harding :
    I’m no expert, but off the top of my head, reverse osmosis is a membrane-technology filtration method that removes many types of large molecules and ions from solutions by applying pressure to the solution when it is on one side of a selective membrane. The result is that the solute is retained on the pressurized side of the membrane and the pure solvent is allowed to pass to the other side. To be “selective,” this membrane should not allow large molecules or ions through the pores (holes), but should allow smaller components of the solution (such as the solvent) to pass freely. Or something like that…

    Sorry. I couldn’t resist. Reminded me of when Alan Partridge claims to give a rough definition of Amplitude Modulation in his book, but has clearly copied and pasted the technical description from Wiki.

  5. #5 by Daniel on March 21, 2013 - 23:13

    Osmosis isn’t about pressure – it’s about concentration. Osmosis is the diffusion of water across a semi-permeable membrane from where the water is of higher concentration (such as pure water) to the place where it’s of lower concentration (such as salt water) – there’s more molecules of water on one side, so they move to equalise this (yay for entropy). This is how plants move the water – the water is evaporating from the leaves, so the concentration of the water in the leaves is lower (compared to the other stuff in the water).

    Reverse osmosis applies pressure on the side which has a lower concentration of water to force the water through the membrane to remove impurities. Used for cleaning water in places where fresh water isn’t available (along with UV treatment).

  6. #6 by JC on March 21, 2013 - 23:35

    Regards from a big fan from Costa. Rica (Central America). What Wesley said is correct. I’m a chemist and I have used reverse osmosis equipment to convert sea water into drinkable water.

  7. #7 by xtaldave on March 22, 2013 - 08:56

    I wish Will Storr (sp?) had approached me at QEDcon 1 – I’d have pointed him at this:

    http://xtaldave.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/scientific-evidence-for-homeopathy-2/

    I had to read loads of shitty homeopathy trials for that. Still haunts me to this day.

  8. #8 by Steve Andrew on March 22, 2013 - 08:57

    Steelmanning – what a great concept, I’d never heard the term before. Internet arguments would depress me a lot less if more people engaged in steelmanning.

    And I totally recommend Robert Llewellyn’s Electric Car talk. He was just at Coventry Skeptics (in the Bistro as it turned out) and it was a really good evening, extremely informative and very funny. No spoilers, but his story is a perfect example of skepticism – he had one view on the subject and after further investigation, changed his mind.

    We even got to see his Nissan Leaf, which was nice.

  9. #9 by Yves Dubois on March 22, 2013 - 15:03

    Wesley Harding :
    I’m no expert, but off the top of my head, reverse osmosis is a membrane-technology filtration method that removes many types of large molecules and ions from solutions by applying pressure to the solution when it is on one side of a selective membrane. The result is that the solute is retained on the pressurized side of the membrane and the pure solvent is allowed to pass to the other side. To be “selective,” this membrane should not allow large molecules or ions through the pores (holes), but should allow smaller components of the solution (such as the solvent) to pass freely. Or something like that…

    So… It’s basically a fancy term for filtering.

  10. #10 by Carl F on March 22, 2013 - 16:27

    Redox molecules is just a needlessly vague description of the molecules of salt in the salt water itself (Na+ Cl-).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redox

  11. #11 by Julia on March 22, 2013 - 22:00

    Ah, the FDA supplement warning. I did a school presentation on health fraud so I know something about this. Basically any product that is categorized as “dietary supplement” doesn’t have to prove efficacy or safety (unless someone files a complaint or something), but they have to put that disclaimer about “not evaluated by the FDA and not intended to actually do anything” on the product and advertisements. By law, the disclaimer is supposed to be prominently displayed and in bold type, so if they’re trying to hide it against a similarly-colored background that could actually be illegal.

  12. #12 by Emanuel Landeholm on March 22, 2013 - 23:32

    Another name for the FDA disclaimer is the “quack miranda warning”.

  13. #13 by Claude on March 24, 2013 - 12:47

    When two solutions of different concentrations are separated by a semi-permeable membrane, the solvent will flow from the low concentration solution to the high concentration one, until equilibrium is reached (the two solutions have the same concentration). This is known as osmosis. To reduce the concentration of a solution, for instance to purify the solvent (water), a pressure differential must be applied to the two solutions. Since the solvent then flows from high concentration to low concentration, this is known as reverse osmosis.

    P.-S.: I would be willing to serve as a science consultant for your show. I imagine that you have access to my e-mail, so write me if you’re interested.

  14. #14 by Tom Williamson on March 24, 2013 - 19:16

    Quick primer on “redox” reactions: they involve the transfer of electrons. Reduction is the gain of electrons, and oxidation is loss. Confusingly, oxidation does not necesssarily involve oxygen! You can remember which way round they are with the mnemonic OILRIG

    Oxidation Is Loss
    Reduction Is Gain

    Usually, if a reaction involves the transfer of electrons, then something has lost them and something else has gained them. Reduction and oxidation are usually involved in the same reaction, hence “redox” reactions.

    I think quacks like the term redox because it sounds a bit like “radox” and “detox”.

  15. #15 by B. Root on March 26, 2013 - 05:58

    Having been out of the skeptical loop for a while, I didn’t know what it was that Randy has done or said. Tried googling but soon got lost. Anyone know where to get an update on this?

  16. #16 by Olov L on April 5, 2013 - 11:23

    B. Root: have a look at Hayley Stevens’ blogpost about it, which links to relevant websites, including her own early comments. http://hayleyisaghost.co.uk/james-randi-social-darwinism-revisited/

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