Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mukluks and short shorts -- just a fashion statement

In the people-making-up-stuff department there is news about losing heat through your head and about vaccines causing autism. According to an article in the Guardian, the original study that established the idea that a lot of heat is lost through the head was based on a fundamentally flawed US military experiment in the 1950s. Hatless volunteers in warm cozy Arctic survival gear were put out in the cold. Lo and behold they lost more heat through their uncovered head than the rest of their well insulated body. According to the scientists debunking this myth, only 10% of body heat would be lost through the head if a person were evenly exposed. But a 1970 Army survival manual said wear a hat when it's cold and gave the statistic that up to 45% of body heat is lost from the head and the confusion escalated from there.

I've always instinctively known this -- that covering up evenly is the trick to staying warm. That's why it used to bug me so much to see girls at FSU in short shorts and tank tops with fur covered boots. Or the opposite, puffy coats with furry hoods with flip flops. I suppose they thought they looked cool, but to me they just looked cold.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who initiated the idea that the combined Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism, has been found guilty of acting unethically during the time of that study. (ABC News, NPR) This is unrelated to the fact that no other studies has been able to find a link between autism and MMR. The conclusions of his study were proved false long ago. But now it's being revealed that he lied about his methods for the original test. He paid his kid's friends for blood samples at a birthday party rather than getting the samples the way he claimed. So it wasn't just that he got erroneous results, he was a creep all the way. Yet a lot of people still believe autism is linked to vaccines. Once these ideas get out there and it suits people to believe them it's hard to take them back.

If there was as much money in hats as there is in medicine would the hat story have gotten more coverage?

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