Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Friday, 10 January 2020

How to avoid chuggers (aka "charity muggers" or face to face fundraisers)

This post is not intended to be snarky at people who work to raise money for charity by face to face engagement and fundraising. I'm sure they are all nice people doing a worthwhile job that is actually successful at raising money. Good luck to them.

I'm still not a fan though (I find being interrupted while out shopping very annoying) and while I can fairly easily brush off anyone who wants to chat to me in the street I'm aware that others find it harder (they used to be a lot more persistent and would follow you down the street but they seem to have stopped doing that at least) so this post is really for those people. I've been inspired by reading Dr Vicky Forster's thread about a recent annoying encounter she had, some of the replies too - eech.

There's rarely* a good reason to be rude to face to face fundraisers, they are just doing a job and you can say no - but in the unlikely event that they up the ante a bit here are some things you might like to have tucked away in your bag of ready-made responses. *OK if they become a bit too persistent then I might get a bit snippy. I was also pretty blunt to (and reported him) the one who told me to cheer up.

If a firm "no, thank you" doesn't suffice, feel free to be creative. Here are some suggestions which can be adapted to suit, depending on how irritated you're feeling.

• "I never hand over my bank details to strangers" (what happens if their clipboard or tablet is mislaid or stolen, why can't they give me their charity's bank details)?
• "I'm not interested, thanks"
• "I don't do direct debits" (this is really true, I don't)
• "I'd need to take some information so that I can do my 'due diligence'" (how much is the CEO paid, what proportion of income is spent on research etc, look at their page on the charity commission website, view their company filings and reports).
• "I'm recovering from an illness and really need / want to keep moving"
• "I have not been authorised to discuss [charitable giving] with you" or "I am not at liberty to discuss the matter" - worth a shot ;)
• "I'd need to check with my [partner]" (imaginary or otherwise) - not everyone is in a position to donate money and may want to check with someone first
• "I'd need to discuss with my [accountant / financial advisor] whether this is an effective / appropriate way for me to donate"

I would be happy for the chugger to give me the charity's bank details and if I want to set up a donation I could do that quite easily myself as a one-off or a standing order.




Thursday, 9 January 2020

Much missed - Speechification, curated radio documentaries

2008 was a happy year. I seem to have discovered the world of podcasts and listened to loads of them via a tiny mp3 player to which I saved downloaded programmes via a USB cable. Radiolab has been a long-term favourite since then and I discovered the Speechification podcast and blog probably towards the end of its runtime. I'm not sure how I came across it but I've mentioned it in 30 tweets since 23 September 2008, generally pointing out a particular programme I'd heard there.

Speechification was run by Steve Bowbrick, Roo Reynolds, Russell Davies and others and its aim was to curate English-language speech-based programmes from radio and help people hear a wide range of stuff. There was plenty from BBC Radio 2, 3 and 4. I can't remember the exact history of the BBC's Listen Again service aka iPlayer at that time but I think that it wasn't always so straightforward to hear a programme if you'd missed it. Even now programmes have a shelf-life (often 29 days to listen) before quietly sinking back into the archives to be released at a future date (often after two years have elapsed). So programmes oscillate between being briefly available and then having "This programme is not currently available" added to their landing page. Speechification let you listen a little longer.

So when it closed in late 2010 and took down its archives there was a bit of an audio gap for some of these programmes, but audio-only things have started popping up every so often on YouTube (admittedly probably a bit dodgy from a copyright point of view). Here are some things I've discovered through Speechification and loved, with their YouTube or other links if they're available to listen.

Other places to find interesting audio include the Internet Archive https://archive.org/details/audio, Box of Broadcasts https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand and for sonic snippets of old tech try the Museum of Endangered Sounds (eg ) http://savethesounds.info/

Josie Long's "All of the Planet's Wonders" on Plants



Stephen Fry - Third Reich and Roll
"Stephen Fry tells the story of how Hitler's huge financial investment in recording for propaganda purposes gave rise to modern recording techniques"
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00j6qh3 - not available at time of this blog post

Spoon, Jar, Jar, Spoon - The Two Sides of Tommy Cooper
"Rob Brydon explores two sides to comedian Tommy Cooper - his humour and his love of magic. On stage, Cooper assumed a manic and bumbling persona, but behind this was a man with a genuine talent for magic, as revealed by contributions from magicans Paul Daniels, Alan Alan and Ali Bongo."
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00jm66h - not available at time of this blog post

The Archive Hour: Putting it Simply
"Kathy Sykes charts the way that science has been seen and heard on radio and television, from postwar lectures to modern animations."
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0076zc6 - "Sorry, this episode is not currently available"

Simon Fanshawe's Tracking the Lincolnshire Poacher



also available at https://archive.org/details/TrackingTheLincolnshirePoacherRadioProgram

Mark Miodownik's How to Write an Instruction Manual
https://archive.org/details/HowToWriteAnInstructionManual - available
BBC page https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00m4470 - not available

Fifteen Inches Per Second - 2004
A brief guide to the history and use of 1/4 inch magnetic tape.
https://archive.org/details/FIFTEENINCHESPERSECOND - available
BBC page - couldn't find it! Found its info in BBC Genome (Radio Times listing).

Jarvis Cocker's Musical Map of Sheffield


Rainer Hersch's Gershwin's Horns
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00bc2r4 - not available on BBC at time of writing but if you work at a UK university or other HE institution you may be able to access it via the Box of Broadcasts (BoB) which is a MASSIVE collection of audio for educational use. Shame it's not public though, sorry https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/prog/0091F4CC?bcast=127759481 - actually starts at 6m 30s in.

Other posts in the Much missed 'series'
Much missed - MOMI, London's Museum of the Moving Image
Much missed - The National Geographic shop on Regent Street, London 




Tuesday, 7 January 2020

How do biologists use computers / programming and computer science skills?



http://www.cs4fn.org/biologybook

Biology Loves Technology - a small booklet from CS4FN and Centre of the Cell which shows some links between biology and computing (though doesn't look at career options which is what I'm looking at now, for a new series of publications)

tl;dr - Biology and Computing - careers options and considerations for young people and advisors. Help by suggesting links between biology and computing here (click to edit it).

For work^ I'm hoping to put together a series of documents / booklets (well, we'll see how the first goes!) for careers advisors and young people about computer science and how having computing skills can be useful when merged with other disciplines. There are obvious parallels with computing and maths, but depending on your definition computing can be linked in some way with pretty much every subject - almost everyone, whatever job they have, uses a computer in some way. 

The first on my list is Biology and Computing and I want the document to include stories about how biologists use computing / computers along with examples of topic areas (eg 'bioinformatics'). I'd also quite like (if room, and if not vetoed) to create some 'fake' (illustrative) job ads to illustrate the sorts of skills people might need (that'll take some thought however). 

Because it's aimed ultimately at young people I'd also like to think about what things they're interested in too (eg possibly environmental stuff).

The magazine I publish* for schools, CS4FN (Computer Science For Fun), already has lots of articles on research relating to biology, chemistry, physics, maths, health/medicine and so on so I've been winnowing my way through our back issues and articles to pick out ones that are most relevant to the topic of biology (and plenty overlap with medicine too). Since the CS4FN project has been running for 15 years there'll be a bit of updating involved too!

We also have a dedicated site ('Teaching London Computing') for computer science teachers that has a microsite on interdisciplinary 'mix' subjects - it's basically killing two birds with one stone: teach a concept about a particular subject and sneak in a bit of computing teaching too. There's stuff in there for English, Maths, Biology, Physics, History, Philosophy, Language, Music, Interaction Design, Art, Dance/PE and Craft.

So at the moment I'm at the 'blast' stage of thinking up all the ways in which computers and biology might have a link and I'm looking at this from a wide-angle (themes) and narrower-view (individual projects) while I get a sense of what's what. 

To that end I thought I'd create a public Google Doc where others can say "you've forgotten this" and tell me about other interesting things I'd not come across. (click to edit it)

I've already got over 20 ways in which computers meet biology and obviously I can't include all of them, and I still need to convert that into what job is being done but it's a promising start.

^QMUL overall but this particular project is Institute of Coding, and CS4FN.

*My boss Prof Paul Curzon writes the majority of the magazine articles and those on the website with other colleagues. I mostly edit (I've written a few articles too) and sort out the distribution to subscribing UK schools. This means I can legitimately tell people at parties that I work in publishing ;)




Saturday, 4 January 2020

Much missed - The National Geographic shop on Regent Street, London

 Globes

Admittedly I probably didn't spend enough money in the Nat Geo shop at 83-87 Regent Street (National Geographic London or NGL) to help it stay open. It was absolutely my favourite shop while it was open and although I get a similar vibe from aspects of Anthropologie (also on Regent Street) it's not really the same thing. They once had the most amazing wooden bookshelf for sale, made from an old oxen-led wagon from India (it had been turned on its side and shelves added), which I stared at intently over several visits until someone bought it and it disappeared. It cost £1,000 so I wasn't in much danger of buying it myself. Also I have nowhere to put it.

Driftwood horses

The shop was already 'there' when I first noticed it - sometimes you're aware that a shop is about to open, sometimes it just happens and this was one of those 'walking past and then backtracking'. I was entranced. Full of all manner of stuff including photography exhibitions, stuffed toys, a cold room downstairs where you could try on clothing suitable for arctic conditions. All manner of books, cameras (and other ocular equipment on the top floor), luggage, magazines (obviously), DVDs and a really lovely cafe on the ground floor. I bought presents in the shop there for my friends' young children.

I love the cafe inside the National Geographic store

It was interestingly decorated - I remember a massive lamp near the front of the shop. It always looked like the sort of place that might hold interesting events but I could never find out about any in advance despite signing up to their mailing list. I missed all of these.

National Geographic Photos

It opened in mid-November 2008 and closed in May 2011 with a smaller store opening briefly at 102 Brompton Road (I never knew about it sadly so didn't visit) in December 2011 which closed somewhere between Aug 2014 and Oct 2015 (judging from Google Street View). There was also a shop in Singapore which opened in 2008 and closed in 2013, it looked pretty similar to the Regent Street one. As far as I'm aware there is no National Geographic Store anywhere in the world, which is a sad thing, but they are very expensive to run.

National Geographic London Store

TripAdvisor has some nice pictures and there are more on Flickr.

If you walk from where the shop was back down to Piccadilly then the 9 bus will take you to the Royal Geographical Society (no relation) where you can attend fascinating lectures about our planet, I certainly recommend that. There's a travel-writing workshop (panel discussion) coming up on 22 Jan (£8).

NGL in the news
National Geographic opens up a new world of shopping on Regent Street 2 November 2008 The Guardian

National Geographic store: Catch this 21 November 2008 The Telegraph
"There hasn’t been anything like it since colonels in Poona wrote to the Army & Navy Stores in Victoria for cabin trunks and tropical-weight dinner jackets. National Geographic opened its first global store last week on Regent Street, London: three floors of black interiors and polished concrete floors that are part souk, part outfitters, part travel agency, part antique shop, part gallery and part café."

Inside the National Geographic London Store 4 February 2009 National Geographic

Other posts (admittedly this is only the second) in the Much missed 'series'
Much missed - MOMI, London's Museum of the Moving Image




Friday, 3 January 2020

Art and medicine: visual literacy and things faithfully (though unwittingly) recorded in art and spotted later by medically trained people

"In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind" - Louis Pasteur
tl;dr
  • Art might help to teach medical students to 'see' more in their observations
  • Drawing is useful to surgeons in quickly explaining concepts to patients and peers and is a useful way to filter out extraneous info (that would still be present in photos)
  • Artists faithfully recording people in their paintings can show medical features that may need to wait for people with the relevant medical knowledge to make sense of. Another example is in botany where a variation in flowers was painted about a century before it was observed and explained by science.

See also this abstract "The Use of Visual Arts as a Window to Diagnosing Medical Pathologies" (2016)




Artists and doctors both observe, but where humans are the observed subject then knowledge about the meaning of what is being observed may be very different between those two groups. I've been delighted and fascinated to discover this facet of art and medicine. At the end of this post there's a sort of 'annotated reading list'.

Probably my first introduction to this idea was Robin McKie's article, "The fine art of medical diagnosis", in The Observer in 2011. Prof Michael Baum had been getting his medical students to become familiar with various works of art as part of their training and the article includes some observations on famous paintings.

In A Satyr Mourning over a Nymph a satyr crouches over the dead body of a woman (Procris) who, in the story, has been killed by a spear thrown (accidentally during a hunt) by her husband Cephalus. However the pose adopted by the female model doesn't match what would be expected and what's on the painting seems to be much darker.

It appears that the artist, Piero de Cosimo, may have visited a mortuary for his female subject. The body of the woman in the painting shows signs that she'd tried to fight a knife-wielding attacker and has suffered a spinal cord injury at the top of the neck resulting in a particular hand position, known as the waiter's tip, which is apparent in the painting. The artist could not have known any of this but it seems likely that the 'model' was a woman who'd died under violent circumstances before the artist used her for the painting.


"Seen through Baum's eyes, the entire National Gallery looks more like a doctor's waiting room: Monet's paintings, which grew darker and darker until his cataracts were operated on and his works brightened again." - of course we can also tell something about the artist, not just the art he or she has produced. See also Famous paintings can reveal visual disorders (2015)

--oo--     --oo--     --oo--     --oo--     --oo--     --oo--     --oo--     --oo--    


Inspiration for this post
When I read the article above it inspired me to start a collection of articles and papers that touch on the same topic - medical students learning about observing patients by observing art. I was prompted to write this blog post after reading two unrelated tweets on Wednesday. The first was a thread about the botanical accuracy of plants drawn in art from the 1700s, the second on an observation made about Michelangelo's David.

Botanical art spots something, later explained by Darwin
"Quite amazing that this detail of the structural polymorphism in Primulas / auriculas flowers is depicted in the painting" from Graham Coop's tweet shows that the artist has observed and reproduced two flowers which have different middles (styles) - one's a 'pin' form, one's a 'thrum'. His thread led me to "On the origins of observations of heterostyly in Primula" article in New Phytologist.


"One day, while appreciating a print of Primula vulgaris from William Curtis’ Flora Londinensis, I was struck by the fact that I was looking at images of dimorphic Primula flowers captured in a late‐1700s copper‐plate engraving that predated Darwin's observations by over 70 yr. This realization triggered a journey into archives of botanical texts, herbals and florilegia from the 16th to 19th Centuries, and correspondence archives, in search of earlier documents that could have influenced Darwin and the origins of an idea."

Visual literacy in medicine
A tweet from Trisha Greenhalgh alerted me to a paper on "the David sign" which is a new observation about Michelangelo's David statue. The short paper discusses the distension of his jugular vein and how this can relate to heart failure, or to a state of excitement in an otherwise healthy person.

So it's clear that different 'pre-knowledge' can help subject experts pick out things that are already in a painting, 'hiding in plain sight', that others without that knowledge might miss, but can 'visual literacy' improve medical students' and doctors skills? Possibly yes, though the studies are fairly small. I suppose that doctors with particular knowledge may see something in a painting, but medical students trained to see / notice something about a painting may better primed to spot something in a patient. And of course just being good at observing things doesn't necessarily mean you'll be good at solving other problems.

In "Formal Art Observation Training Improves Medical Students’ Visual Diagnostic Skills" (2008) the authors gave a group of pre-clinical medical students (with a control group who didn't do the course) lessons in art observation and linked this to clinical observation. They then showed the students some artwork that hadn't been on the course, and some images of patients displaying clinical features and asked them to make some observations about them. Those who'd undergone the training made 'more' observations than the control group, they also referenced more fine arts terms in their clinical observations (referencing colour, shadow, light, symmetry and balance).

In "More than visual literacy: art and the enhancement of tolerance for ambiguity and empathy" (2017) researchers used 'Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS)', a "...pedagogic approach involving discussions of art works and deciphering the different possible meanings entailed in them" to foster tolerance for ambiguity ("in the sense of accepting multiple interpretations.") among medical students. Seemed to work (though a small study) and it also seemed to help with empathy. "The art of medicine: arts-based training in observation and mindfulness for fostering the empathic response in medical residents" (2017) explored empathy in more depth with visual literacy training and the ever-ambiguous mindfulness training though I think the study was too small to draw many conclusions (apparently empathy tends to drop among medical students after a few years of study, despite a fairly high-empathy start).

Presumably it is deemed to have some value (intuitively it seems that it would but that's rarely a good basis for determining whether to do something, particularly if it takes time away from other clinical studies) as there seems to have been a bit of a flurry for medical schools to run parallel art appreciation classes. "Why Med Schools Are Requiring Art Classes" (2017) reports on Penn State Medical College's seminar "Impressionism and the Art of Communication" which aims to help students communicate better with patients "by developing insights on subjects like mental illness and cognitive bias".

It seems to be part of a trend with professors arguing "that engaging in the arts during medical school, ... is valuable in developing essential skills that doctors need, like critical thinking and observational and communication skills, as well as bias awareness and empathy." The 'Why Med Schools...' article also references Robert Rock's course and his view that museums and art galleries can be more neutral territories for medical students to feel they can ask questions without the more hierarchical experience on wards (also they're not dealing with life and death situations).

My favourite example of getting trainee doctors to try and make sense of something with incomplete information is where they're paired up with another student who has a postcard of a famous painting. They must describe the contents of the postcard to the other student who has to try and paint a copy of the painting by asking the postcard-holder questions about it in order to build up a picture, so to speak


"... paying attention to self-awareness is a form of self-care ..."

"Looking at Art Could Help Med Students Become Better Doctors" (2018) looks at Anna Willieme's six-week course "Observation and Uncertainty in Art and Medicine" which includes having students draw a copy of a piece of art for two minutes at a notebook then move to the next students' notebook and continue what they'd been drawing of the same piece. In this way the students are exposed to how other students are seeing the same thing, and what they've focused on first. This was part of a study and again, small numbers of participants involved, but it certainly indicated that this sort of training could help people see things from different points of view. Plenty of the students also found the course pleasant and relaxing, which if nothing else, is probably fairly helpful during medical school.

"Is drawing a valuable skill for surgeons? I asked 100..." (2019) talks about the use of drawings during ordinary medical practice, where surgeons annotate patient notes as part of the handover, or want to illustrate something quickly and simply. Surgeons use drawings to explain things to patients or colleagues, also as a record of what's been planned for an operation or what's been done (can be useful in a legal setting), it's also used to clarify written or spoken information.

"The 21st century has brought photography and medical imaging technology to medicine, which are routinely used to create detailed pictures. Despite availability of these modalities, the author noted many surgeons would draw routinely in practice" - photography captures everything whereas a drawing can highlight only the salient points so may actually be more useful - "Schematic diagrams were praised for lack of detail, which made them easier to assimilate." (emphasis added). Filtering can simplify things allowing "the non-expert (such as a patient or trainee), to have an ‘experts view’, where only the relevant structures are apparent." Also, a photograph is just a snapshot in time but a drawing can also be used to show features that aren't currently visible (hidden behind an organ for example), or highlighting changing features before and after an intervention.

Here's the annotated reading list, well done if you got this far :-)

I look forward also to hearing about other example of "things spotted later in pieces of art" such as the fact that a depiction of a cockatoo in a 13th century manuscript tells us a little more about trade routes of the time.


Reading list
"Formal Art Observation Training Improves Medical Students’ Visual Diagnostic Skills", several authors, Journal of General Internal Medicine, July 2008 (23:7)p 991-997 - summary only available without subscription - "One method of enhancing inspection skills is teaching “visual literacy,” the ability to reason physiology and pathophysiology from careful and unbiased observation."

"An Allegory with Venus and Cupid: A story of syphilis" by Christopher Cook in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 13 October 2010
- suggests that the painting, typically considered as a bit of erotica, is actually a warning against syphilis. It's quite likely that it was intended as such at the time but that this aspect is less obvious to modern audiences. Mentioned in McKie's Observer article.

"The fine art of medical diagnosis" by Robin McKie in The Observer, 11 September 2011

"Can Studying Art Help Medical Students Become Better Doctors?" by Robert Glatter in Forbes, 20 October 2013
- "...an observation-type program, originally created at Harvard Medical School, and specially designed to enhance visual literacy has now been replicated at many other schools, helping to improve students’ visual-spatial skills, with improved performance noted during their clerkship rotations."

"Famous paintings can reveal visual disorders", Scientific American, 1 March 2015

"On the origins of observations of heterostyly in Primula" by Philip M. Gilmartin in New Phytologist, 10 August 2015

"Reunion 2016: A look at paintings raises awareness in the doctor-patient encounter" by Tiffany Penn, article on Yale Medical school's website, 24 June 2016
- "In medicine, he [Robert Rock, undergrad med student] said, it’s important to understand the power dynamic between patients and providers. “When the stakes are so high, expressing biases—whether unconsciously or consciously—can undermine and really sabotage the therapeutic relationship before it starts and influence the delivery of care,” he said. “It’s heavy stuff. We are going to use the art and the space to discuss a slippery, very difficult topic. We are going to study the expression of bias in Western culture, using works of art to critically assess the skewed lens through which we perceive the world.”"

"The Use of Visual Arts as a Window to Diagnosing Medical Pathologies" by Katrina Bramstedt in AMA J Ethics, 1 August 2016, 18(8): 843-54. (full)

"More than visual literacy: art and the enhancement of tolerance for ambiguity and empathy" by Miriam Bentwich and Peter Gilbey in BMC Medical Education, 2017; 17: 200

"Why Med Schools Are Requiring Art Classes" by Casey Lesser, Artsy, 21 August 2017

"The art of medicine: arts-based training in observation and mindfulness for fostering the empathic response in medical residents" by various authors, in Medical Humanities, 2017 Sep;43(3): 192-198

"Looking at Art Could Help Med Students Become Better Doctors" by Casey Lesser, Artsy, 27 November 2018

"Is drawing a valuable skill for surgeons? I asked 100..." by Ciléin Kearns on the Artibiotics blog on 19 February 2019 (a version of a paper published by Taylor & Francis in The Journal of Visual Communication in Medicine on 18/2/19, available online: https://doi.org/10.1080/17453054.2018.1558996)

"The David Sign" by Daniel Gelfman in JAMA Cardiology, 26 December 2019 

Graham Coop's tweet and thread on differences in types of auriculas, observed by artists, posted 31 December 2019.

Trisha Greenhalgh's tweet on the David sign, posted 1 January 2020

Audio list
"Knife imitates art - how surgeons use creativity" by Peter Curran, BBC Radio 4, 13 June 2019

Misc, on medical illustration
Art and anatomy: the fabric of the human body, a six-week art history and theory course from 2019 (now finished) at the RA.

"Medical Illustration: Art in Medical Education" by Rachel Hajar in Heart Views, 2011, Apr-Jun; 12(2): 83-91
- on the history of medical illustration

Other articles I didn't make room for in this
"Art courses could help medical students become better clinical observers" Science Daily, 6 September 2017

"A Medical Lesson in Observation and Diagnosis through Art" by Audrey Lee, NICHD, 12 October 2017

"Under the skin: Anatomy, art and identity" - course at Aberdeen Uni

"Doctors Diagnose Diseases of Subjects in Two Famous Paintings" by Jason Daily, Smithsonian, 26 May 2016

Jo's notes for later updates
Something I read (I failed to make proper notes!) discussed medical students being shown paintings with the central portion hidden and asked to focus on what they could observe in the periphery.




Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Homeopathy, pumice stones, magical thinking and flights of fancy

tl;dr - gibberish :)
"S13 felt burning in her chest around the heart chakra towards her throat, also in her sacral chakra and spleen meridian."
All of homeopathy is utterly silly but a particular sort of open-minded* dimwittedness descends on homeopaths when they decide to 'prove' a new 'remedy'. This involves asking a selection of people to try it out and report on every little event, feeling or other whim that occurs to them. Remarkably tenuous explanations for these experiences are offered, relating to some imagined properties of the source material. It's quite astounding.

There are also some very silly remedies indeed, many skeptics have enjoyed the homeopathic antics that have given us remedies made of Berlin wall (for separation anxiety I think, or some such guff) and owl (for sleeping problems probably). Absolute drivel.



Despite being unintentionally very funny it's also rather sad and reading the Proving of the Pumice Stone from Montserrat organised by Leeds Homeopaths throws up the strong impression that homeopaths seem very keen to ascribe external influences (eg the remedy under investigation) to quite ordinary daily annoyances. It is as if they don't believe they have much control over their own lives.

The document begins with the notion that initially set things off, that a pumice stone is vageuly similar to osteoporotic bone and perhaps it could form a remedy for osteoporosis. There's then a treatise on volcanic rock and on Montserrat, pointing out the island had suffered "a traumatic history of hurricane and volcano damage" and that the homeopaths "think there are parallels with this recurring damage and loss with the amount of work done during the proving analysis which was mislaid, lost, redone (and sometimes found again afterwards)". Oh dear.

A couple of the provers suffer accident or injury during the time of the proving - of course this is magically linked to some negative effect of the remedy. Amazingly these injuries are not immediately solved with homeopathy, as you might expect, but seem to cause more lasting problems. Not much of an advert for homeopathy!

"...another prover broke her arm on the way to take the prover's baseline appointmentand had to withdraw from the process as a consequence. (This same lady was then off work for 3 months and only recovered properly a year later)." - gosh, how is such a thing possible when we all know that taking a single pill nearly always solves such problems immediately!

Another homeopath "fell and tore her right Achilles tendon before the closing meeting which then meant she could not attend it as planned. It was a severe injury that took a long time to recover from and she still felt traumatised a year later." - this seems like a fairly straightforward injury for homeopaths to heal, surely.

As well as the injuries there are surprising examples of people getting stuck in traffic - things that hardly ever happen normally, apparently. OK this one is fairly rare but I expect there's a fairly mundane reason: "One prover had a wall socket catch fire for no apparent reason."

Quite a few of the dozen or so homeopaths involved dropped out or didn't complete their assignments but the next few pages of the 16 page PDF are full of a range of their reported irritations, illnesses or then suddenly feeling energised and capable (imagine if you were to write down every event or emotion that happened to you in a week, you might find a bit of variability!). There's even a bit about their dreams in there.

2020 seems like a really good time to put away childish things and give homeopathy up for good.

Their document was published in 2016 under a Creative Commons share alike licence, so I've used the same licence for this post in the unlikely event that you want to re-use it (even commercially). Be my guest (but you must link to this blog).

*as in so opens brains have fallen out

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