Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.


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Skeptoid just ran an article about how MSG became a ‘tainted’ seasoning, for lack of a better word. Tainted as in people ‘think’ they react badly to MSG in food. I’ve known a few such people myself, most of us have I suspect. ‘Think’ as in 40 years of research has not uncovered a single individual who reacts to MSG in their food in double blind studies. If someone thinks they react badly to it, and thinks there is MSG in their food, they will have a reaction. Even if there was no  MSG in the food. The converse is true as well. It’s what’s called a nocebo effect, a bad reaction to something that didn’t happen. An interesting topic in and of itself, but how did we get here?

Short version, MSG was one of the first casualties of the natural foods craze that took off in the 1960s. I mean, monosodium glutamate, that just sounds all chemically and shit. MSG is a type of glutamic acid, which is an amino acid. And the astute reader is thinking, wait, aren’t amino acids an important part of the human body? Exactly, our bodies and food are steeped in MSG. The typical person eats about 13 grams a day. IE more than 3 teaspoons. It’s a natural part of our diet, like salt. So WTF happened?

Basically a Chinese doctor wrote a letter to some medical journal claiming MSG gave him some sort of symptoms. People reading the letter (people are so freaking suggestable it’s scary) chimed on their own, a perfectly natural chemical was tarred as being hurtful in some way and a myth was born. Interestly enough, this is similar to the origin of the  whole ‘vaccines cause autism’ myth. In that case a single small and terribly flawed study was mistakenly published by a major medical journal, and off the idea went. In both cases there was never any actual evidence in support of the myth, and tons of follow-up research confirmed that in spades, but it didn’t matter. I guess when a myth hits some sort of critical mass, evidence no longer matters. Another one for the sociologists to explain, I got nothing.

So I liked the Skeptoid article. Then I read an article by the good Dr Novella that I didn’t like. It was about the possibility of nuclear fusion as the energy source of the future. Energy source as in big power plants. He posits they will be an improvement over nuclear plants. Free power, easily fuelled, no long term radioactive waste. Decades away at least. I agree with that last part. I usually agree with Dr Novella. This time, I think he is glossing over the problems with fusion power. It’s not the clean green solution to our power plant issue.

Why? We’re talking power plants bigger and more complicated than current nuclear power, with huge waste and ultimately plant disposal problems. IE a fusion plant as a byproduct produces a vast amount of neutrons, which irradiate everything around them. And can also be used to turn depleted Uranium back into nuclear bomb making Uranium. This link by bulletin of the atomic scientists goes into it in detail: Fusion reactors: Not what they’re cracked up to be. We don’t need fusion, modern fission reactors work just fine.

I thought about leaving a comment with that atomic scientists link on his blog, but previous comments have been unfruitful. In the sense that Dr Novella doubles down on his position. And since he’s more learned and smarter than me, it goes badly. That’s the biggest problem with being smart, it’s easy to use those brains to reinforce one’s own world view. No matter how factually and logically flawed such a world view is. Granted in the good doctor’s case I think he’s usually right on the money, I just think he glosses over a number of the issues nuclear fusion has.

It’s gotten harder to blog since I started nearly two decades ago. I’ve always tried to write so that there was little ideological bent and people of all philosophies could comment. And that used to happen commonly. Now opposing philosophies have become so far apart on matters of simple fact that almost everyone is sure to be triggered by something they don’t believe. Sigh. Gotta keep trying, even if just for my own edification. And my loyal readers, there are a few and they are appreciated.

So today’s summary.  MSG is a safe seasoning to use and consume. Fusion power is a dangerous pipe dream at the moment. Always rethink your own position when challenged by logical argument. Change my mind.

PS. The House just voted to impeach Trump, sending him to a trial in the Senate. There he will be acquitted, since the Senate is controlled by the GOP. And then both parties head into this election hoping this shitshow supercharges their base. In other words, no matter what happens, the American people lose.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Edwardian cat with friend. It was the picture I used for my Christmas dinner invite and I liked it, so I’m sharing.  Credit: Unknown, as it’s a 19th century photograph it’s public domain under US copyright law.)


Written by unitedcats

December 18, 2019 at 8:03 pm

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