Saturday, August 16, 2014


I am being held captive in Winchester and made to work on maximum-likelihood multidimensional scaling algorithms!

Posting will be light, so here is a photograph of feral babies claiming another victim.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

We are not monsters, we're moral people: Chairman of the Bored edition

Helpful commentatoriser Helmut Monotreme was wondering the other day:
Really? Scientifically dubious, unethical stem cell therapy as a treatment for autism. Dare I ask if that particular treatment has passed a review board?
Now here at Riddled Research we are keenly attuned to the ethical issues of experimenting on unwitting or often unwilling human subjects, and we are scrupulous about swinging each proposal past the Independent Review Board -- they have their own rubber-stamp! -- before warming up the Evolvamat.
Behold our IRB. Despite the geometrical blocks and the matching holes in the ground, and the black-clad ninja figures concealing themselves behind one of the blocks, the scene is not from Andrew Lloyd Webber's new stage production consisting of a dramatised and musically-enhanced game of Tetris. Though anyone who chose that answer when we used the picture in last week's quiz need feel no shame for it an easy mistake to make. Better luck next week, Thundra!

Now a great boon to mad scientists is the Clinical Trials database, which provides a window into what other mad scientists are doing and whence they are sourcing their IRB advice. And here is an interesting entry for a study that finished in April, with results due real soon now:
The purpose of this study is to show that a magnetic field applied to the front part of the brain of children suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD) can improve function and ameliorate symptoms.
What happens, wondered researcher Jeff Bradstreet, when you take TMS a.k.a. transcranial magnetic stimulation -- a well-established method of rebooting parts of the brain -- and rebrand it as "magnetic resonance therapy™ ", with a trademark as a signifier of seriousness? As any fule kno, in TMS you whack the subject on the noggin with a clock-key winder a transient magnietic pulse from a butterfly coil induces an electric current through part of the cortex [blame those bleeding-heart interfering liberals for banning small nuclear explosions, the obvious way of producing a cerebral EMP].

Bradstreet credits one Yi Jin as the pioneer of MRT™:
Professor Yi Jin of the Newport Brain Research Laboratory and the Brain Treatment Center in Newport Beach, California, developed a different theory about the way the brain functions and how it uses harmonic energy to synchronize its communications. That led him to develop a new system of transcranial magnetic stimulation now known as MRT™.
"Harmonic energy"? Faith in the competence and credibility of all involved remains uninspired. The reported price of $11,500 for a month's treatment does not help.

Bradstreet -- biomedical envelope-pusher extraordinaire and erstwhile exorcist -- has also run trials on hyperbaric oxygen (in our own experience, litotic oxygen is no worse than the hyperbolic kind). No trials are recorded for his other autism treatments -- with secretin, industrial chelators, injections of cells from Ukrainian embryos, and now magic Guernsey-Island yogurt -- so they must have been insufficiently invasive or experimental to warrant the oversight of an IRB.

Meanwhile back at Riddled HQ, the most recent experiment was almost a success, spoiled only by the subject's failure to raise the hands fast enough in a gesture of abject surrender.

Stereo-fusion pair FAIL

Hoicked from here

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

One Unpleasaunce is much like another: they differ only in the number and variety of Depressing Things they harbour

When it is Spring in your part of the world and you saunter out blinking into the unfamiliar experience of 'sunlight', only to discover that the garden has run somewhat to seed, we cannot recommend the horticultural services of W. Blake & Sons, Landscapes & Gardening.

1. There seem to be any number of unfamiliar subcontractors wandering around in the undergrowth, and those do not look like OSH-approved protective anti-owwie garments they are wearing. Have I signed a liability waiver? HAVE I BOGROLL.

2. The rose bushes are in a state of desuetude. Mr Blake proposes to treat them with a homeopathic remedy, a 30C dilution of Worm, rather than with suet as I would have expected. "What?" sez I.

"O Rose thou are sick," Mr Blake declaims.
"The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm..."

Under the circumstances, "flying-by-night" was probably not the most elegant choice of words.
Also what about the sick worms? No-one ever thinks of them -- but a worm with a bad case of Rose is a pitiable sight. Even worse than 'waterlily sign'.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Skull-blogging: face changing now, guernsey cow edition

Here at Riddled Research Laboratory we are punctilious to the point of pedantry about mad-science ethics. We cannot countenance any violation of the three Golden Rules of Research:

1. Photoshopped image manipulation of results has no place in scientific publication, other than to embellish photographs of cats with agrammatical observations with droll misspellings.

2. Never promise curative benefits from fermented dairy products, for this will only inspire skeptical bloggers to respond with post titles like "Yogurt to be Kidding".
Worst protective gear EVAH
3. We brook no replacement for the time-honoured white lab-coat -- signifier of tradition and of scholarly probity. Particularly not the post-modern travesty which the McGravitas Laboratory has tried to foist on the mad-scientist world.

Then there is that talk of "Not to go on all-fours" and "Not to suck up Drink", but those are more like loose guidelines, whatever some may say about "The Law".

So it was a disappointment to find Dr Marco Ruggiero (of Florence) transgressing not one, not three, but two of these rules. First there was his pro-biotic yogurt from Guernsey, promoted as a floor-wax and a topping a cure for cancers... for chronic fatigue syndrome... and for viral infections, up to and including HIV. It appears that all these conditions elevate blood levels of an enzyme called 'nagalase' (presumably named after the Nāga ophidian spirits and denoting some form of 'snake oil'), while the yogurt -- or one ingredient thereof, with the camel-case codename GcMAF -- lowers these levels. I am just surprised that Lyme Disease and Morgellons were omitted from the lists of conditions responding to GcMAF.

One of the papers reporting cancer cures from GcMAF has just been depublished, for making everything up (it turns out that the secret of making cancer go away is to be the person who determines whether cancer was present in the first place, by looking for nagalase in a client's blood). This has not deterred Dr Ruggiero and his chain of Swiss clinics from advertising for the terminal-cancer medical-tourism trade. He knows that his own triumphant publications will not disappear from the literature, for they were squeezed out through a mockademic vanity press which only retracts papers if the cheques don't clear.

The 'curing AIDS' aspect is ferrous, or ferric, or some other form of ironic... for Ruggiero first came to the attention of the mad-science world by denying that AIDS is viral in nature. He and Stefania Pacini attained the rare accolade of having an AIDS-denialist paper yanked for excessive flakiness from that wretched hive of scum and villainy, Medical Hypotheses. Subsequent repercussions included the even more difficult feat of having his tenure reviewed by an Italian university.

The thing about GMO dairy medicine is that it's a gateway drug. Start meddling with Kumis, and before you know it you're bio-engineering a nanny-goat / drinking-horn combination for drinking the fermented milk straight from the source.

Moving right along... here is Offense #2, published in a Frontiers journal:

Bradstreet, Pacini and Ruggiero are all about using transcranial ultrasound scans to diagnose autism.
Photoshop processing is a crucial part of the process, to control lightness and contrast in scans of the subjects' cortices (i.e. the level of mottling), and to add circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each 8×10 B&W glossy picture.
Apparently the autistic subjects displayed a particular level of mottling in their adjusted scans compared to their neurotypical siblings, as scored totes objectively on a 4-point Cortical Dysplasia scale.
[for definitions of the criteria for locating an image along this scale, see "Underpants Gnomes, Phase 2"]

Now the first author here, Jeff Bradstreet, has been a serial recipient of skepticism from Respectful Insolence. His day job consists of curing autism. To that effect he has variously sold secretin, chelation therapy, "magnetoresonant therapy", intravenous immunogoblin, and several forms of shonky stem-cell treatment. Some would find it ironic for him to be ascribing the condition he cures to a hard-wired hardware feature of neural architecture (there are no "after cure" sonograms in the paper), but this seems to be Irony Day.

Sadly, the website for Emcell -- Bradstreet's Ukraine-based supplier of embryonic stem-cell injections -- is currently in abeyance. But no matter, he has moved on to a new infallible therapy for autism. If you are all agog to learn the details, then bate your breath no longer, for it is Ruggiero's GcMAF yogurt smoothies. And thus the circle closes!!

"What do you call a heterocyclic porphyrin ring containing a Fe2+ ion in the centre?" asked Another Kiwi.

"A heme group?" I said.

"A ferrous wheel," AK vouchsafed.
Breaking ground: Linked to
increased risk of pterodactyls
In bonus circle-closing developments, Frontiers recently published a Commentary paper to bring the Transcranial Ultrascan article to the attention of anyone who missed it in January, and lauding the ground-breaking pioneering quality of Bradstreet and Ruggiero. The author, Dario Siniscalco, declared in a Conflict-of-Interest statement that
The research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
Of the Commentary's four reviewers,
Dr Sapone declares that, despite having collaborated with the authors, the review process was handled objectively.
I don’t know what we can infer from the absence of such a declaration from the two other reviewers (Antonucci and Cirillo) who also co-author regularly with Siniscalco (and Bradstreet).

Sadly, Siniscalco neglected to state that he was one of the reviewers of the paper he is now praising; nor that he has collaborated with Bradstreet on numerous studies* with commercial applications (i.e. they relate to Bradstreet’s income stream). Last year he spoke at a GcMAF conference sponsored by one of Ruggiero's companies. Perhaps his construing skills need practice.
* “Mesenchymal stem cells in treating autism”; “Therapeutic role of hematopoietic stem cells in autism spectrum disorder-related inflammation”; “Perspectives on the Use of Stem Cells for Autism Treatment”; “The in vitro GcMAF effects on endocannabinoid system transcriptionomics, receptor formation, and cell activity of autism-derived macrophages”

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Shadows of a Thousand Years

As Gene Wolfe has observed, the workings of Narrativium and the Morphogenetic Field are not limited to the usual constraints of causality:
When Stelarc dons his Laser eyes...
...and his bioengineered ears...
...and his supplementary hands, he is (all unawares) recapitulating the Perseus myth cycle; with its supplementary Fetch Quests where Perseus gallivants around to obtain the trappings of heroism -- the wingèd sandals and the Glove of Power and the Star Wand --

"You seem to be experiencing some cross-talk or bleed-through from Creatures of Light and Darkness", said tigris.

"Did you watch the Lars von Trier adaptation last night on the Riddled Channel?" Another Kiwi wondered. "Eight hours long but he captured Zelazny's aesthetic exactly."

"...Stelarc is also creating ripples in the morphogenetic field," I said, pressing on and undeterred, "which propagate backwards to trouble the dreams of 16th-century engravers. I am not sure where the shaggy trousers with the pelvic-thrusty wings come from. Perhaps they are part of Stelarc's transhumanism performance which he has not yet perfected."
 photo stelarc.gif
Meanwhile AK was calibrating the time-machine extension to the Dream Machine so as to inspect the troubled dreams of those engravers and woodcut artists. "The hero, once suitably attired and armed, is supposed to be slaying Medusa, innee?" he vouchsafed. "That does not look like a Medusa." 
"He's chasing Ann Althouse," I said; "that's good enough for government work."
Commentator ITTDGY argues that "close enough" is preferable to "good enough", and he has the backing of Goofle NGram:
I favour "good enough" because shut up that's why.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask what happens if we subject a sequence of morphed facial expressions to Chronotopic Anamorphosis?

Have you ever noticed how weird and distorted people look when they are underwater, with their faces pressed hard up against the inside of the aquarium glass, pulling expressions and trying to hold their breath at the same time as say something (like "Please let me out of this piranha tank")?
 photo topomorph4.gif photo topomorph3.gif
Um, me neither.
Original inspiration for the Riddled Chronotopic Anamorpher was Rybczynski's short movie which I saw with the Frau Doktorin back in 1988.

You have to imagine a series of two-dimensional images (from here) as if they are stacked up in a three-dimensional block, so each instant is a horizontal slice through the block; and then slice down through that block at a diagonal angle to make a new set of images, in which there are time delays between one horizontal level and another. Video Artist Daniel Crooks has incorporated the concept into his Artistic Practice:

This should not happen normally unless you are trapped in that bright moment where you learned your doom have the Clyde familial brain chemistry.