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busy, busy, busy

Sunday, January 02, 2005

I'm going to try hard to post more often, perhaps even daily. Look! I'm already at three days in a row--I'm on a helluva roll.

I came across the Guardian's 2004 Bad Science Awards a short while back. Some highlights:

Durex Performa were in a slightly different category of bad, meaning "evil": a new condom with a special cream in the teat "to help control climax and prolong sexual excitement for longer lasting lovemaking". The magic ingredient was benzocaine, a local anaesthetic, which made the judges' tongues go numb. We didn't even think about trying it on our genitals. Persil Aloe Vera also received a special mention for totemic and pointless use of a herbal ingredient by a biotech firm.

Then there's Cussons' Carex, a soap that "effectively removes bad bacteria on hands, whilst gently protecting the good". It was never made entirely clear how it was supposed to do this in the company's evidence to the ASA for a complaint which they lost on. "Carex knows the difference." ...

PO2 Contour Cream from Laboratoires Herzog is a "patented stabilisation of oxygen within a cream" that "puts oxygen back into the skin, reoxygenates skin cells, encourages natural rejuvenation". It sounds like bollocks; but it smells like peroxide. Especially since Laboratoires Herzog point out, in the small print, that you will want to keep the stuff away from your eyebrows.

But the winner was a hair-straightening treatment by Bioionic, called Ionic Hair Retexturizing: "Water molecules are broken down to a fraction of their previous size ... diminutive enough to penetrate through the cuticle, and eventually into the core of each hair". Shrinking molecules caused some concern among the physicists at the ceremony, since IHR was available just 200 yards away, and the only other groups who have managed to create superdense quark-gluon plasma used a relativistic heavy ion collider. The prospect of such equipment being used by hairdressers was deemed worthy of further investigation.

That last one just kills me. I often wonder what it must be like to be a person who could see something advertised as being able to break water molecules "down to a fraction of their previous size" and think to themselves: this sure will make my hair look really nice! I have no doubt they know exactly what a cuticle is while having only the vaguest of notions of the nature of molecules. And as to why water molecules penetrating to the core of a hair would make said hair straight, well, I'm sure it doesn't even register so much as a nanosecond of skepticism.

I don't know who I am more ashamed of, the people who sell the stuff making such claims, or the people who buy into those claims. Compressed molecules, in a hair-care treatment? "Patented stabilisation of oxygen within a cream"? Soap that removes "bad" bacteria while leaving the "good" kind? Good god, people.

I'm happy that someone is out there pointing this stuff out, though I'm sure the only ones paying attention are the ones who already know.


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