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Bad Medicine: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Distance Healing to Vitamin O

ISBN: 978-0-471-43499-3
288 pages
October 2002
Bad Medicine: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Distance Healing to Vitamin O (047143499X) cover image
"Christopher Wanjek uses a take-no-prisoners approach in debunking the outrageous nonsense being heaped on a gullible public in the name of science and medicine. Wanjek writes with clarity, humor, and humanity, and simultaneously informs and entertains."
-Dr. Michael Shermer, Publisher, Skeptic magazine; monthly columnist,
Scientific American; author of Why People Believe Weird Things

Prehistoric humans believed cedar ashes and incantations could cure a head injury. Ancient Egyptians believed the heart was the center of thought, the liver produced blood, and the brain cooled the body. The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates was a big fan of bloodletting. Today, we are still plagued by countless medical myths and misconceptions. Bad Medicine sets the record straight by debunking widely held yet incorrect notions of how the body works, from cold cures to vaccination fears.

Clear, accessible, and highly entertaining, Bad Medicine dispels such medical convictions as:
* You only use 10% of your brain: CAT, PET, and MRI scans all prove that there are no inactive regions of the brain . . . not even during sleep.
* Sitting too close to the TV causes nearsightedness: Your mother was wrong. Most likely, an already nearsighted child sits close to see better.
* Eating junk food will make your face break out: Acne is caused by dead skin cells, hormones, and bacteria, not from a pizza with everything on it.
* If you don't dress warmly, you'll catch a cold: Cold viruses are the true and only cause of colds.

Protect yourself and the ones you love from bad medicine-the brain you save may be your own.
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Introduction: The Roots of Bad Medicine.


10 Percent Misconception, 90 Percent Misdirection: The Brain at Work.

Big Brain, Little Smarts: Brain Size and Intelligence.

Blinded by Lies: The Eyes Have It.

All in Good Taste: How the Tongue Works.

Scrubbing Your Liver: The Demystification of Detoxification.

Refer to the Appendix: Useless Organ or Helpful Player?

Going Gray? Not Today: White Hair and Its Causes.

Samson's Delight: Baldness Cures.

The Race Is Off: Race Defined.


Losing One's Mind: Memory Loss and Aging.

Getting Stiffed: Vitality and Aging.

Illness Gets Old: Aging and Disease.

See You in 2150: The Long and Short of Life Span.

On and On: Longevity and Genetics.


The Plague Lives! The Black Plague in the Modern Age.

Cold Comfort: How to Catch a Cold.

The Ill-Advised War on Bacteria: Are All Bacteria Bad?

Radiating Misperception: Radiation, Pro and Con.

Swimming with Sharks: Sharks and Cancer.

Mutating Misconceptions: What Your Genes Say about Your Future Health.


Learning Your Alpha-Beta-Carotenes: Antioxidants, Pro and Con.

The Unbearable Heaviness of Being: Fat People and Food.

Not Milk? Milk and Your Health.

Organic Reasoning: The Benefits of Organic Food.

Water, Water Everywhere: Bottled Water vs. Tap Water.

The Whole Grain Truth: Are Whole Grains Healthier?


The Delusion of Dilution: Homeopathy X 50.

Magnetic Charm: Magnets and Your Health.

Reversal of Fortune: The Viability of Ayurveda.

Something Smells Funny: Aromatherapy As a Cure.

Suffocating Trends: Oxygen--How Much Is Too Much?

The Ultimate Hands-Off Approach: Touch Therapy, Qigong, and Falun Gong.

Getting to the Root of the Problem: Herbs As Alternative Medicine.

A Shot in the Arm: The True Dangers of Vaccines.


Toxic Avenger: The Science of Toxicity.

Peer-Reviewed for Your Pleasure: How Health Studies Work.

Candy Adds Years to Your Life: And Other Important Health Study Findings.

We're #1: Rating America's Health.


I'm Not a Reporter, but I Play One on TV: The Accuracy of Television Medical News.

Rambo VI: The Quest for Hearing: Guns and Their Aftereffects.

Knocked Out, Loaded: Imagined Violence and Real Problems.

Heartbreaker: Hollywood Style.

Epilogue: Tomorrow's Promise: Bad Medicine on the Horizon.

Appendix: More Bad Medicine.

Recommended Reading.


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CHRISTOPHER WANJEK is a frequent contributor to the Washington Post; he has also written for Smithsonian and Forbes, among other publications. He writes jokes for The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live. Wanjek is also a senior writer for NASA. He has previously worked as an in-house science writer at MIT and the NIH.
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For skeptics, always fans of science: The first two books in a series devoted to "bad science," Bad Astronomy by Philip Plait and Bad Medicine (Wiley, $15.95) by Christopher Wanjek, may warm even a Scrooge's heart. In short chapters, Plait tackles misperceptions about why the moon looks larger on the horizon and why stars twinkle before moving on, dismantling conspiracy kooks who doubt the moon landing and offering a top 10 list of bad science moments in movie history. Wanjek, a science writer who has also written jokes for The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live, takes an edgy and funny tack in debunking myths such as humans using only 10% of their brains, the utility of "anti-bacterial" toys and the safety of "natural" herbal remedies, ones often loaded with powerful chemicals. (USA TODAY, December 3, 2002)

"...Bad Medicine is an enjoyable romp through a host of biomedical misconceptions..." (New Scientist, 21 December 2002)

"...Wanjek shoots and scores when he tackles the major myths of medicine..." (Focus, February 2003)

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