Though COVID-19 'inspired' much of the year's junk science, there was still plenty of 'normal' nonsense to go around, a sign – perhaps – that we are starting to wriggle free from the pandemic's grasp.
Reason and reality were flouted by all sorts of people all over the world. We now count down six of the worst offenders:
6. Neuroscientist Turned Actress Sells Brain Health Snake Oil.
Actress Mayim Bialik played a scientist on the popular TV comedy The Big Bang Theory, but she also is one. Bialik earned a Ph.D in neuroscience from UCLA. Unfortunately, she's now parlaying that imprimatur of expertise into touting a bogus brain supplement that supposedly supports "six key indicators of brain health".
"Neuriva is backed by real science and vetted by a real neuroscientist: me!" she cheerfully claims on a widely running advertisement. The "real science" she's talking about is pathetically unconvincing – just a couple of small, uncontrolled studies that looked at two of Neuriva's ingredients. Neuriva, itself, has not been clinically studied, probably because if it was, the results wouldn't look too good.
5. Pharmacists in Canada Are Recommending Homeopathy.
Homeopathic remedies are touted to treat everything from the common cold to cancer, even though they are essentially water. The only condition they might have any chance of treating is dehydration. Nevertheless, these nonsensical magic potions are commonly stocked on drug store shelves, with sales in the billions of dollars. This makes the findings of a recent Canadian Broadcasting Corporation investigation particularly concerning. Journalists found that 6 out of 10 pharmacists at four major drug store chains in the Toronto area recommended homeopathy to customers for the treatment of kids' cold and flu symptoms. It seems that these pharmacists either don't know that homeopathy is worthless or lack the expertise necessary to do their jobs.
4. Bogus Magnets Sold to Protect People From Their Phones.
Thanks to the propagation of wireless internet technologies, we are now bathed in non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation. While that might sound alarming, scientific research tells us that this ultra low-power energy is harmless. That hasn't stopped unscrupulous people from trying to capitalize on others' unfounded fears by peddling pseudoscientific protections. Companies are now producing and selling small magnetic stickers to slap on phones that supposedly reduce users' exposure to their smartphones' radiating energy. The University of Surrey investigated one brand – SmartDot – and, unsurprisingly, found that it does nothing of the sort – it was just a sticker. Other similar products are undoubtedly bogus as well.
"This is a scam, pure and simple," Yale neurologist Dr. Steven Novella said of the products.
3. The Return of UFOs.
It was the summer of UFOs, or rather, UAPs (unidentified aerial phenomena), as they are now called. In late June, the U.S. Government released a much-anticipated report on UAPs to Congress, complete with a few videos and details of 144 sightings. The effect was predictable: the mainstream media gleefully posted skepticism-free stories suggesting that aliens are visiting Earth. In reality, almost all of the new UAP 'proof', which is characteristically blurry or ambiguous, can be explained away without invoking extraterrestrials.
2. Sri Lanka Mandates Organic Farming, With Disastrous Results.
In spring of this year, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka banned the import of chemical fertilizers and mandated that all agriculture in his country switch to organic. By early September, Sri Lanka was in disarray, and the economic disruption is ongoing. Crop yields have fallen 19-25% on average, causing the prices of sugar, rice and onions to double. Tea production has fallen by half, singlehandedly erasing 5% of the country's export income. Inflation is skyrocketing.
As studies have shown, organic agriculture requires more land and more labor than conventional agriculture, all while growing crops that are no different in terms of taste and nutrition. Sri Lankans have unfortunately found this out firsthand thanks to their anti-science leaders.
1. The FDA Approves Biogen's Dubious Alzheimer's Drug.
In what Science Magazine's pharmaceutical expert Derek Lowe called "one of the worst FDA decisions I have ever seen", in June, the Food and Drug Administration approved Biogen's antibody drug Aducanumab to treat Alzheimer's disease despite the fact that the agency's science advisory committee reviewed the drug's evidence for efficacy and unanimously voted against its approval. Biogen's own studies found that the drug didn't seem to have any salubrious effect on patients' Alzheimer's symptoms, though it did appear to clear amyloid plaques in their brains. For a long time, these plaques were thought to trigger Alzheimer's, but now scientists are moving away from the theory after numerous failed drug trials.
Biogen set the price of Aducanumab, now under the brand name Aduhelm, at $56,000 per year, an outlandish cost for the unproven drug. Preparing for its widespread use, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced the largest ever Medicare price hike. It remains to be seen if Aduhelm will be broadly prescribed.