VOODOO SCIENCE and Public Ignorance

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Long before there was the Y2k Scare Scam there was the Power Line Scare. SOME PEOPLE HAVE LEARNED FROM THAT ONE EITHER.

Have the journalists who propagated this senseless scare recanted? Scarcely. Louis Slesin still publishes Microwave News. Paul Brodeur never admitted that his book was fundamentally wrong. He says he doesn't write about public health matters these days; he's turned to fiction.

This excerpt is adapted from Voodoo Science,by Robert L. Park. Copyright 2000 by Robert L. Park. Used by permission of Oxford University Press

Science And The Power-Line Panic By Robert L. Park


The American public's feeble grasp of science and statistics makes it easy prey for scaremongers. Robert L. Park, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, documents the phenomenon in the upcoming Voodoo Science (Oxford University Press) from which this article is adapted.

Voodoo Science And The Power-Line Panic by Robert L. Park

IN 1990, 3-YEAR-OLD MALLORY ZUIDEMA WAS SUFFERING from Wilms' tumor, a rare kidney cancer. Her mother, Michelle, was tormented, as parents of children stricken by cancer must always be, by the question: "Why my child?" She sought out Paul Brodeur, an investigative reporter who the year before had written of a connection between power-line fields and cancer for The New Yorker, a series that was then published as a book, Currents of Death.

Brodeur had earned a degree in English from Harvard and served a stint in the Army Counterintelligence Corps in Germany in the 1950s before joining The New Yorker. Lacking any technical background, Brodeur approached environmental issues with a Cold War mind-set: Who had something to gain? And what were they hiding? The widespread consensus among scientists that power-line fields posed no health risk became for Brodeur evidence of a massive cover-up.

The cause of little Mallory's tumor, he suggested to Michelle, might well be the electromagnetic fields (EMF) emanating from the nearby transmission lines of San Diego Gas & Electric. He told her about Michael Withey, a Seattle lawyer who had handled previous EMF cases. A year later Michelle and her husband, Ted, filed a lawsuit against SDG&E alleging that EMF was the cause of Mallory's cancer.

EMF seemed to be a tort lawyer's dream. Withey saw the potential for a mass tort blitz. If hundreds or thousands of frightened clients across the country could be persuaded to file lawsuits, scientific evidence would become almost irrelevant. The prospect of simultaneously defending themselves from thousands of lawsuits would force power companies to reach a settlement. The same tactic had worked against other industries; the asbestos onslaught a decade earlier had produced more than 200,000 lawsuits.

A front-page story in the Wall Street Journal quoted Withey as boasting that the case of little Mallory was "a slam dunk." He predicted it would trigger an avalanche of claims, and most legal experts agreed. "Public concern over EMF is rising irrespective of its validity," a cover story in the ABA Journal, the organ of the American Bar Association, coolly observed. It was now a race between science and the fearmongers.

The scientific community began to speak up. Most scientists were highly skeptical of the purported EMF-cancer connection. The effect of all known cancer-inducing agents--ionizing radiation such as X rays, chemical carcinogens such as tobacco smoke, and certain viruses--is to break the chemical bonds that make up DNA, creating mutations. But to break bonds you need very high frequency waves, and EMF fields that cycle only 60 times a second don't have anywhere near enough energy. Besides this theoretical consideration, there is the epidemiological fact that life expectancy in the U.S. has almost doubled in the past hundred years, most of the increase coming since the advent of electricity.

In a series of sequels for The New Yorker, Brodeur relied on selected anecdotes to create a menacing atmosphere of silent, invisible fields invading homes and schools--and a conspiracy to hide the truth from the public. He went into great detail about all the health problems suffered by folks living on Meadow Street in Guilford, Conn. They were coming down with everything from brain cancer to Osgood's knee--and there was an electric substation on Meadow Street.

Such anecdotes have a powerful emotional impact. For every Meadow Street, however, there may be a Forest Street, also with a substation, where no one seems to get sick--but Brodeur wasn't interested in Forest Street. His focus on cancer clusters is called the "Texas sharpshooter fallacy" by statisticians: You empty your revolver into the side of a barn, then walk over and draw a bull's-eye around each hole. Anecdotal evidence surrounds us--in newspaper headlines, in gossip among neighbors, in the courtroom. It doesn't carry much weight with statisticians--if you are going to argue from statistics, they will tell you, you must use all the statistics. Few of us are statisticians, however, and the story of Meadow Street was convincing to many New Yorker readers.

Concern over power-line fields started in 1979 with the report of a Denver epidemiologist that children from homes with "high" magnetic fields from power lines were three times as likely to develop leukemia as children from homes with "low" fields. But the study was not blind, that is, the epidemiologist knew in advance which were the homes of leukemia victims. Consciously or unconsciously, researchers testing a daring hypothesis like this want it to be true, and that bias can distort the data. For that reason careful scientists in such a test arrange to have the purported cause (in this case, electromagnetic field strength) measured by testers who don't know anything about the purported result (cancer incidence).

The Denver study, moreover, did not try to establish a "dose-response relationship," because it did not measure the relative strengths of the power-line fields. It merely estimated them based on the size and proximity of the power lines. Childhood leukemia is a rare disease, and a reclassification of only a few victims' homes from "high-field" to "low-field" would be sufficient to change the conclusion.

Nevertheless, the report triggered the usual rash of "confirmations." There were reports that electrical workers suffered high cancer rates. Women using electric blankets or working at computer terminals were said to suffer frequent miscarriages. Suicides were supposed to be occurring at an alarming rate among people living under power lines; farmers complained that the proximity of power lines made their cows stop giving milk and their chickens stop laying eggs. Although none of these stories were backed up by reliable statistical evidence, each new anecdote reported in the media added to a growing panic.

But as results began to come in from larger and more sophisticated studies in which the fields were carefully measured, the EMF-cancer connection grew weaker. Paul Brodeur was not there in 1996 when the National Academy of Sciences released the results of an exhaustive three-year review of possible health effects from exposure to residential electromagnetic fields. That year he left the staff of The New Yorker.

The large conference room in the Academy building on Constitution Avenue in Washington was crowded with reporters, TV cameras and a few scientists. The head of the review panel, Charles Stevens, a distinguished neurobiologist with the Salk Institute, summed up the results: "Our committee evaluated over 500 studies, and in the end all we can say is that the evidence doesn't point to these fields as being a health risk."

There were reporters in the room who had been writing stories about the dangers of power-line fields for years. For Louis Slesin, the editor of Microwave News, an influential newsletter devoted entirely to the EMF health issue, the controversy was his livelihood. For these reporters to now write that it had all been a false alarm would have been miraculous. They would scour the report looking for soft spots. But the evidence against a connection between electricity and cancer was getting harder to ignore.

The following year the National Cancer Institute released an exhaustive seven-year epidemiological study of EMF and childhood leukemia, the disease that started it all. As is so often the case with voodoo science, the effect had gotten smaller with each improved study. Now, after 18 years, it was gone completely. Similar studies in Canada and Britain have since reached the same conclusion.

Of the multitude of problems that daily vex society, few can sensibly be resolved without recourse to the knowledge of science. But society cannot always wait for the scientists. Courts must resolve disputes, laws must be enacted, regulations imposed, all on the basis of the best scientific information available.

Preposterous claims are no great threat to science. They are merely background noise, annoying but rarely rising to a level that seriously interferes with genuine scientific discourse. The real threat is to the public, which is not in a position to judge which claims are real and which are voodoo.

All too often the media come down on the side of voodoo and against science. It is an understandable, if inexcusable, bias; Paul Brodeur would have had a hard time making a bestseller out of a book entitled Innocuous Currents.
The EMF controversy has faded from view. But think of the damage done in the meantime. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent in litigation between electric utilities and tort lawyers; homeowners near power lines saw a collapse in property values; municipalities had to pay for new electrical work in schools. The real cost, though, is human--millions of parents were terrified to no purpose.

The Zuidemas lost their case claiming that electricity sickened Mallory.

Have the journalists who propagated this senseless scare recanted? Scarcely. Louis Slesin still publishes Microwave News. Paul Brodeur never admitted that his book was fundamentally wrong. He says he doesn't write about public health matters these days; he's turned to fiction.

This excerpt is adapted from Voodoo Science,by Robert L. Park. Copyright 2000 by Robert L. Park. Used by permission of Oxford University Press

This excerpt is adapted from Voodoo Science, by Robert L. Park. Copyright 2000 by Robert L. Park. Used by permission of Oxford University Press

-- cpr (buytexas@swbell.net), June 21, 2000


cpr, a serious question. If the idea of elecromagnetic fields CAUSING cancer is voodoo, do you immediately say that the idea of electromagnetic fields CURING cancer is also voodoo; latter-day Mesmerism?

I ask because there is some research data that shows this might be true.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), June 22, 2000.


Read the article and get the book.

Better yet, get a Ph. D. in Medical Bio Physics and then you will be able to read what you think is "evidence".


-- cpr (buytexas@swbell.net), June 22, 2000.

I already have a PhD in medical bio-physics from Johns Hopkins, 1992.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), June 22, 2000.

Point, Lars.

-- (Line Judge@center.court), June 22, 2000.


cpr, a serious question. If the idea of elecromagnetic fields CAUSING cancer is voodoo, do you immediately say that the idea of electromagnetic fields CURING cancer is also voodoo; latter-day Mesmerism?

I don't get your point. Just because one piece of research on a subject is clearly open to question, doesn't mean that every piece of research on the subject is open to question. CPR is correct about the general public knowledge concerning statistics based, clinical studies.

Hey, I spent my early years working in the area; we have something in common. My lab worked on the thermodynamics of phase transitions in membranes relative to trans-membrane water flow. Very interesting work. Computers weren't so good then. Spending all night nursing a mainframe was no fun. I learned that the fact I knew how to clone genes offered a better opportunity. The rest is history.

Are you in circle city or Bloomington; or maybe at Eli?

Best wis

-- Z1X4Y7 (Z1X4Y7@aol.com), June 22, 2000.


I wasn't making a point, I was asking a question. I wanted to get the opinion of a serious skeptic on a potential medical application of EMF that at first glance appears flakey. Indeed, quacks haved pushed electro-magnetism and permanent magnetism as cure-all medical therapies for a 100 years. But, just as EMF isn't deadly (at safe levels), magnetic therapy might ultimately prove of value in some cases. There is some university research data to substantiate this. But the notion continues that this is quackery. Maybe, but maybe not---Tesla's ideas weren't mainstream either. (Edison opposed the notion of A/C electrical transmission). IBM sneered at the PC untill Steve Jobs stuck it up their arse.

So I asked the question for 3 reasons:

1)-To see if a debunker would categorically rule out a non-mainstream idea. Or would he at least entertain its possibility until proven otherwise.

2)-I have a personal interest in alternate medical therapies.

3)-I own a small amount of a penny stock in a company in FL that is researching low-intensity oscillating magnetic fields as therapy for many medical applications including pain management in osteo-arthritis, nerve regeneration and cancer treatment.

One kind of skeptic can sneer at this sort of thing as money grubbing quackery; another kind of skeptic can sneer at mainstrean medicine and the pharmaceutical industry as money grubbing vested interests. And then there are always the lawyers, who don't care which side they're on.

I fibbed a little about having a PhD in bio-physics--just a small shot at cpr's careless answer. Actually I have an MS in mechanical engineering. I took early retirement from GM. I live in a suburb of Indy.


-- Lars (lars@indy.net), June 22, 2000.

Lars, I suspect that you might know where Broad Ripple is located. I have some great stories of growing up on Keystone Avenue and playing hooky at Little America.

-- The (fact@fan.attic), June 22, 2000.


Did you know David Letterman at BRHS?

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), June 22, 2000.


magnetic therapy might ultimately prove of value in some cases. There is some university research data to substantiate this.

It sure is possible; we will need to wait and see.

Darn, I had hoped that someone else here had spent all of those grad hours in thermodynamics [reversible and irr], statistical mechanics, quantum theory, crystal theory, chemical physics, and such stuff.

Best wishes,,,,,

-- Z1X4Y7 (Z1X4Y7@aol.com), June 22, 2000.

Lars, we lived in BR from 1957-59 and I never saw the inside of a HS during those years. I was not aware that DL went to school there. Back then, Keystone was a two-lane road with homes on one side and a big open field on the other. After we left they built a big LS Ayres (SP?) shopping center across the street, near Keystone and 59th (Kessler Blvd). I used to work at the Speedway sweeping up in the concession stand area and those were the best weeks of the year as you might imagine. The old timers will tell you about Little America, a small amusement park at the corner of Keystone and 58th. There was a driving range that bordered the backyards in our neighborhood and we would collect the stray balls and return them for free rides and time at the duck shooting booth. The memories are washing over me as I write this, a special time in my life.

About six years ago I found myself back in Indy and went to seek out the old house. I was amazed to discover that only four of those homes on Keystone had survived and ours was one of them. They had been converted into little businesses and our old home had a travel agency on one side and a private detective on the other. The folks at both companies shared my joy as I toured the place and traveled down memory lane. The original art deco look from the fifties had been preserved and it was wonderful to go back into that house after 35 years. My, where did the time go?

-- The (fact@fan.attic), June 22, 2000.


I think DL graduated BRHS in 65. Then he went BSU. Then he was a nutty weatherman on Ch 8. The rest is history. I am not an Indy native. Been here 20 years. BR is quite the trendy neighborhood now. The Monon RR is a bike/jogging path, small restaurants, galleries, etc. Yuppy heaven.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), June 22, 2000.

I bring keyboard to font, to answer those before me, who did not know would not answer. I bring your ass forward, for an answer.

-- My Story (andi@sticking.com), June 22, 2000.

Lars, you said,

If the idea of elecromagnetic fields CAUSING cancer is voodoo, do you immediately say that the idea of electromagnetic fields CURING cancer is also voodoo; latter-day Mesmerism?

I ask because there is some research data that shows this might be true.

I think curing cancer with EM fields is voodoo, but would be *very* interested to pull any articles (from peer-reviewed journals) that you have that indicate to the contrary.

My reason for saying it's "voodoo" is that for an LD50 of 4Gy of ionizing radiation, the energy absorbed by the body is ~67 calories! I think Hall says that this is the equivalent of drinking ~1 sip of hot coffee, pointing out that it is not the *amount* of energy absorbed, but the *type* of energy absorbed that causes damage. I personally haven't heard of magnets helping anyone in a randomized trial, although I *have* seen people hawking them to cancer patients.

Thanks in advance if you've got some articles, and thanks for reading if you don't! :-)


-- Someone (ChimingIn@twocents.cam), June 23, 2000.


This is hardly a peer-reviewed journal. Just a press release but, maybe something, I hope.


-- Lars (lars@indy.net), June 23, 2000.


Call me very cynical, but if that's the best they can do *in the lab*, it won't work in vivo. But again, if anything turns up, please post it here, as I at least would be very interested.


-- Someone (ChimingIn@twocents.cam), June 23, 2000.

Here are some abstracts from Medline by someone named Reuven Sandyk who has studied the treatment of neurological disorders (especially MS and Parkinson's). I didn't check for cancer.

-- Lars (
lars@indy.net), June 23, 2000.


Sorry, the link did not come thru. Try a copy N paste


-- Lars (lars@indy.net), June 23, 2000.


I don't know what the problem is. Go to the above URL and search on sandyk. That will get you to his abstacts.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), June 23, 2000.

Lets get to the "nitty gritty" right away. CDC is sponsoring a most rigorous cell level study of biological effects of constant exposure to various levels of "EMFs" at assorted frequencies. The experiments were designed to flush out the "there" in the reports that "there is an HV-EMF effect". So far, "no one" has found a thing. The only "reports" come from the ones who started the debate and sell something based on their own "work" and use terms like "the biggest coverup in human history". The Chair of the Physics Dept. (Dr. Adair) at Yale has used a few four letter words to describe their "work". He calls the "effect" ......."Scientifically impossible". It is not. Scientifically, it is most "improbable". Impossible should be reserved for Theories about Tooth Fairies and one must carefully define what is meant by "Tooth Fairy" lest a bunch of parents stand up and ID themselves as members of the Set(Tooth Fairy).

To ask what "Lars" asked, is to ask any number of questions and one of the current ones that resurfaced again is "Does the wearing of a copper bracelet prevent some medical problems or help with others?"

Answer, it does and it doesn't. Correllation is not causation we know and Placebos often give false positives and false negatives for reasons of "If you feel better, you believe you feel better."

However, correllation CAN be causation and we have Dr. Linus Pauling's last effort in Vitamin C as a display item for that. It is still not clear what is "there" with "mega-Vitamins" but it IS clear "something" is "there". So as a valid "phenomena" it is worthy of study until proven or beaten to death as a dead pony.

No one trained in Science or Engineering rejects out of hand the possibility of "anything". Establishing that "anything" is possible or exists is an entirely different matter. Lay people do not understand that because they do not understand the Scientific Method. Charletans like North dismiss it as "secular humanism" that started with Isaac Newton (Brer Duct Tape was wrong as usual, it was Bacon). But just because they choose to reject SCIENCE, Science doesn't much care. Science goes on and changes when new data suggests "Update time again" and a paradigm shift.

It is in that very shift that Lay people get frustrated with Science, Medicine and Engineering. If they understood what the Paradigm Shifts and how Science moves on, they would "understand" far more. To do so only requires High School Science and Math but that would be too much to ask.

I suggested that "Lars" get a Ph.D (or MD) in the field because that is the level of education and training one needs to be able to make "judgements" about what Lay people or lesser trained individuals offer as a "phenomena" to be studied. I did not respond to his comment of his John Hopkins Doctoral work (later recanted) because I knew he would never phrase his first post as he did if he were that advanced in the field. I do know something about Bio-Physics and have the deepest respect for the very few "laborers" in that field. I *almost* went for a Ph.D. in the field but the reality of raising the money for 7 years of slave labor starting at 40 set in. I took a Masters in Math instead.

One can not dismiss "out of hand" reports from Lay people. Acedemia does so at its own peril. Science and Engineering though, have most rigorous procedures for shifting through the maze of reported "phenomena" from UFO to High Voltage EMFs to "Comtrails" to the more valid reports of oil spill effects and toxic waste effects upon humans.

I spent years accumulating reports and studies on the HV EMF "danger". I have Brodeur's 30 page "study" from the New Yorker in my desk along side the PBS Frontline effort to sort through the entire matter. The term used above "Texas Sharp Shooter Effect" accurately describes what was *foisted* on the public. Fire the shot gun first, circle the greatest cluster of pellets and "viola" : Bulls Eye (Bull shit actually).

Curiously, the same "scholarship" was used by one Gary North who equated the Historian's ability to mound up "citations" for "documents" with the Scientific Process. That later is driven by standards that would dismiss most of his "documents" as press reports based on interviews and second and third hand information. The *inablility* to sift through that dung pile lead to TB I and the cult of Doom Coming Soon.

With respect to HV-EMFs, the same "documents" could be used to prove that HV-EMFs **PREVENT** cancer. The argument is simplicity itself. Using the same standards that Brodeur and "Microwave News" used, one could find enough sub-divisions (they had less than 10 and curiously the "type" of cancers changed from one to another((GGGG)))) under High Voltage Trans wires with LOWER rates of cancer and thus it would be clear that "EMFs prevent Cancer". PSUEDO-SCIENCE long ago de- bunked. For in the analysis of data, the statistical work done *could* make a valid case for both "theories" ONLY by saying "it falls within the realm of 1 or 2 st.dev. etc.". So does the odds of stepping on the very needle in a haystack that one is searching for. It means nothing. We know at even on 100 F days, a certain amount of H 2 0 molecules exist in solid state (ICE). Some exist as gas and probably more so than ice for one can see dark clouds that deposit a thing called rain sooner or later. It is not so easy to find the ICE molecules but STATISTICS say they could be there and "phase work" (remember those wonderful phase diagrams?) support the existance of ICE during 100 F days.

That was the case with the High Voltage EMF studies provoked by Brodeur and that Primo "Scientific" Journal, "The New Yorker" (a better arbitrator of what is considered "IN" in the Sin City on the Hudson.

HV-EMFs become a watershed to study because the work was forced by the Public arosed by lay people (both of whom made a buck from their "work").

-- cpr (buytexas@swbell.net), June 24, 2000.


Thanks, I think. You needn't put quotes around "Lars". That is my real name altho around here you never know. I'd settle for a one-sigma limit anytime.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), June 24, 2000.


I am more of a skeptic than you. I remember spending an afternoon with Pauling in the early 70's and getting the whole vitamin C lecture. After all of these years, I am still more skeptical than you. But you did identify and important problem. The general population doesn't understand the difference between correlation and causation.

Best wishes,,,,

-- Z1X4Y7 (Z1X4Y7@aol.com), June 24, 2000.

Does cpr understand the difference between cynicism and skepticism?

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), June 24, 2000.

The general population doesn't understand the difference between correlation and causation.

I might add that "Lars" :^) does, because we have had this discussion before.

Best wishes,,,,


-- Z1X4Y7 (Z1X4Y7@aol.com), June 24, 2000.

CPR - thank you for this analysis. I followed this EMF thing over the past several years not real closely, it was confusing and I kept going hmmmmmm.... ; thanks for the update.

Z - I am the general public, and while I haven't studied advanced sciences, I do understand very well the difference between correlation and causation. An example is in studying heart disease. Now I may be one of those who "knows just enough to be dangerous"; but I do know that there are VOLUMES of data out there about heart diseases, but trying to figure out what causes what, is baffling to scientists, to say the least. The public has the idea that "eating cholesterol causes heart disease." It is not anywhere near that simple, wouldn't you agree? There are many correlations here (cholesterol is just one example), causes have by no means been nailed down.

I am really not wanting a lengthy discussion about this; what I am getting at is that I'm in somewhat of a dilemma here. I will never be a scientist, yet I am not about to let up in my reading in the fields of nutrition, health, environment, and disease. Now I do not often go to the source studies and read them, I "cheat" by reading others' interpretations for the most part. I hope I make up for this by being cautious, questioning, reading widely of a variety of interpretations, avoiding commercial self-interest. Still, I do have a bias here. I am not willing to wait 30 years until "all the data is in." I probably will go on giving the benefit of the doubt when something (e.g., nutritional supplements) sounds good to me even if there is only "some" data. I have enough "data" in my "study of one" (myself) and quite a few others (friends, loved ones, doctor recommendations) that supplements are a great thing to take, although I'm always refining what I take and don't take, sometimes with a doctor's help. They are safe now, and what I end up with, others may call "expensive urine" but I call it terrific health benefits.

I'm always on the lookout for new things being studied, OTOH I've grown quite skeptical of these medical PR pieces, like that recent Dwyer study about Vitamin C and thickening of the arteries. The apparent intent was to stir about doubt in the public's mind about Vitamin C. It was an unfinished study, not even peer-reviewed, yet presented to the public with all the suggestive hype as if way more could be concluded from it than really could. So if the public is "ignorant," I think sometimes the way that info is fed to the public doesn't exactly help.

(Z- Do you take supplements?) :-)

-- Debbie (dbspence@usa.net), June 24, 2000.


The problem is that the information is fed through journalists. A journalist in science is one who has had an introductory course in chemistry or biology and 3 years in journalism. I know because I am at the University that produces most of them. Your questions are valid. Unfortunately, it would take a book to answer them. You don't read the original literature. Well, the way it stands you don't know what any of this means if you don't. Could the scientists relate this in a meaningful way to the general public. Sure, if they quit doing research.

We find ourselves in an age where technology and understanding of technology is essential to our everyday lives. We live with the fact that the bulk of the population is not educated to understand the technological facts that are presented [that is how we have things like the response to Y2K]. This is not a criticism of the general population; this is an observation of fact.

How do we solve this. The same way we solve the traffic problems in Seattle. A complete reorganization of society. How likely is this? Not very. I take a vitamin pill from time to time. Not much else. Am leaving for DC sometime tomorrow.

Best w

-- Z1X4Y7 (Z1X4Y7@aol.com), June 24, 2000.

I've heard at least 7 Nobel winners speak in person, read and seen many more on TV /radio etc. You really have to read their work to understand what is going on. The most original thinker I ever heard was Dr. C. N. Yang at Stony Brook. 20 years ago, he predicted that no other country had the sociological make up to carry on in Science and that was why he was in the US and would stay. He claimed the "innovation that Science demands was uniquely Western and American". He could have been predicting the fall of the Berlin Wall and the decline of Japan. He also said that there was an "outside chance" that China might "do something good" in Science because of the long traditions of scholarship but the Reds stifled all that. *20 Years Ago he said it* in off the cuff remarks on a panel about the "future of Science".

The most brilliant was Crick and when he was here at UTD I filled up 15 pages of notes in an hour. It was a breathtaking show. Watson was lucky for Francis Crick has a mind that never quits. His latest work on "how we really see things" should get him a Nobel sooner or later and he better stay healthy if its later.

Crick does not "know it all". Rather, he "knows most of it". Truly astonishing for his current work required him to learn Psychiatry from scratch and apply it to Vision and the electro-Chemistry of what is going on when you "see". He stated here 5 years ago that they were up to 38 individual receptors in the brain and that is the "Road Map" for Vision. WHY is it important? "Perception is reality".

Of course, we know that Crick beat out Pauling over DNA structure so for Pauling to rebound with Vit. C. was part of the controversy over his C position. However, it is instructional in "How the Old Guard" of Medicine reacted. WHY? Because it was an attempt at a MAJOR ** Paridigm Shift** about Medicine, Health and.......NUTRITION. Since many of the 1970s Medicine Men were woefully defective in Nutrition, it was a direct challenge to their Empire.

But then all "Scientific Paradigm Shifts" are (by Thomas Kuhn's definition not that of the Media).

In addition, it was very brave because Pauling the Leftist Peacenik really did not have to do his "science thing" at his age. How much of the opposition was because of his Peace Marches is hard to say. Luckily, "real" Science doesn't care if you are a Nudist or a Priest or a Nuke Protestor.

Heart attacks are a family and far too complicated to discuss. Like Cancer which really should always be "cancers".

The "common cold" is simpler (sort of) and so it was assumed that studying Vit. C could be done. Still waiting. However, along the way, the same results from C seem to come from Aspirin as in "take two and call me in the AM if you don't feel better". That is not so surprising since both are Acids. Aspirins and heart attacks are a bit more "mystical" (really) but its for sure one feels "better" if you do the 2 and don't have to call in the AM.

The Vitamin C work goes on. What matters about what Pauling did was not that he advocated it as proven fact but that he found the "phenomena" to investigate. You get Nobels for "finding the right question" to work on and making a "significant discovery".(plus having the smarts to make certain that everyone know you did it by planting multiple "experiments" in the Journals for all to see as Brown did in Boron.) That also explains why people working on Rose Flowers or day lillies don't get Nobels even though NASA gives them a couple of million a year to study tissue culture with. They breed the flowers and send the tissue culture reports in to get paid. That is life as a Botanist. The tissue culture work is needed to create "Space Farms" for the trip to Mars and has some basis for use on Earth when a good hybrid is found.

Vit. C. may work in several ways to lesson the effects of assorted maladies. I heard a Physical Chemist suggest a very reasonable "Pathway". He thought that C titrated the body by lowering the PH and that is an interesting idea. Since the body is over 70% H20, one may suppose that certain other pathways are effected during a Bacterial or Viral infection (in Aq.) while it might not do a thing in less Aq. cells like "bone". Toss in "feed a cold and starve a fever and you have some basis for a "working hypothesis". A Nobel should follow if you guess correctly. Guess wrong and you will be the Paula Gordon of Biology begging for grant moolah.

Whether the C works on the cause or "greases the skids" by lowering the Ph (increasing acidity) has to be shown. It would take a great deal to move PH down from the usual what? 7.1-7.5 to under 7.0 ? But Pauling stated repeatedly that it was the "massive amounts" 5-10 G. that did the job. AND...you had to maintain at a G /day.

Since that is at least 100 Variables in 10 pathways alone.... that must be controlled, how do you prove such at thing?? You can't raise the PH because that won't "prove anything" unless you could make people "sicker" than they "think" they are (colds are highly subjective/relative).

Vit. E. is even more of a mess to prove any "working hypothesis" about. We also have the real problem that nutritionally, most people are deprived of correct levels of vitamins to begin with so a baseline requires a super computer.

One of the reasons I moved from Biology all the way over to the Stony Brook Math Tower was that in Math and Physics, you can "prove" things. Until you get back into adapting Physical principles in Biology. It should be interesting that the early leaders in Biology and DNA work were rigorously trained. Crick was and is a Mathematical Physicist and Perutz was a Physicist who used X-Ray crystallogaphy to "prove" the way the Hemoglobin function was that the Heme ring itself was .6 of a micron out of the plane of the flat surface. At least, that was what I *heard him say* one after noon in front of 300 working Scientists at Stony Brook.

However, one of the listeners sitting next to me was my X-Ray crystallogaphy Professor, Dr. Sarma who turned to me and "winked". WHY? Because the very day before, Sarma had told us that in working with large molecules making "definitive statements" about anything under the micron level was "not Kosher" which for an Indian was proof he had melted into the Long Island Pot very well((GG).

Perutz had "guessed" and he had guessed well enough to get a Nobel. Pauling guessed wrong along about the time that Crick and Watson guess correctly then proved the Double Helix off the plates of Roslind Franklin, their working Crystallographer. Pauling supposed the Helix was single and coiled. Close but no cigar.

-- cpr (buytexas@swbell.net), June 25, 2000.


Don't have time to read your complete post. I am out of town. One of the advantages to AOL is that it is local; even in a podunk town like DC. We have friends in common. Crick was one of the folks who taught my first molecular biology course in grad school. Watson too. It wasn't that big of a deal then but it is sure impressive on a resume now. Got to go. Will read your stuff later.

Best wishes,,,,

-- Z1X4Y7 (Z1X4Y7@aol.com), June 25, 2000.

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