This post was originally published on September 9, 2010 as a part of our first Week of Ocean Pseudoscience. Enjoy!
Last weekend, longtime SFS reader Suzy sent me an interesting question. Suzy is Asian, and though she is a committed conservationist, several members of her family regularly eat shark fin soup. One relative just sent her a copy of a news article entitled “Shark Fin Soup: Eat it without guilt” (available here). Suzy asked me if the information in this article is correct, and how she should respond to her family members.
Though it is a few years old, I had never seen this article, and it’s a little shocking. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better example of distorting or ignoring science to promote a political agenda outside of Fox News. In short, Suzy, most of the information in here is either false or intentionally misleading.
Continue reading Pseudoscience Redux: Shark Fin propaganda
A non-ethanol gas station in coastal NC. Price per gallon across the street is $3.45. People are willing to pay a premium for their ethanol fears. Photo by Andrew David Thaler
Ethanol. For many boat owners in coastal North Carolina, it’s a dirty word. Since the mid 2000′s, various federal and state regulations have mandated the addition of up to 10% ethanol in gasoline. The reaction has been a combination of legitimate concern and hyperbolic declarations of doom (ecoterrorist have taken over our government and it’s a vast conspiracy to force you to buy a new car every three years – yes, someone said that too me). The rationale for federal mandates come primarily from the Energy Policy Act (2005), the Renewable Fuel Standard Program (2006), and the Energy Independence and Security Act (2007), while state mandates tend to deal with air quality and the recent appearance of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) in the drinking water (ethanol fulfills the same role as MTBE in gasoline). Renewable resources, energy independence, national security, and clean air and water, it would seem that ethanol has a little something for everyone.
Continue reading Ethanol additives will destroy your boat, ruin your marriage, and cause California to calve off into the sea
Image from WholesaleDietarySupplements.com
Last year, we briefly discussed the myth that sharks don’t get cancer. This myth is easy to disprove, since sharks do, in fact, get cancer. The first cancerous tumor was discovered in a shark over 150 years ago and they have been discovered in more than twenty species. This year, I’m returning to the topic of shark medical myths.
Many parts of sharks have been utilized for their supposed medical benefits. Shark cartilage is sold as an over-the-counter alternative treatment for- you guessed it- cancer. One of the most ridiculous names it’s sold under as “BeneFin”. According to HowStuffWorks.com, the shark cartilage industry is worth over $25 million a year. The basic idea behind this is that since sharks don’t get cancer, if you eat ground up shark cartilage, your cancer will be treated.
Continue reading Misunderstood Marine Life # 4 — The healing power of sharks
Last year for our Week of Ocean Pseudoscience, we counted down our top seven marine cryptids. Number seven was the elusive Stellar’s Sea Ape, documented only once by renowned naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller. Even though the Sea Ape has not been seen since, Steller’s deserved reputation as a world class naturalist has kept the Sea Ape story alive. In his journal, he reports that:
During this time we were near land or surrounded by it we saw large numbers of hair seals, sea otters, fur seals, sea lions, and porpoises…. On August 10, we saw a very unusual and unknown sea animal, of which I am going to give a brief account since I observed it for two whole hours. It was about two Russian ells in length, the head was like a dog’s, with pointed, erect ears. From the upper and lower lips on both sides whiskers hung down which made it look almost like a Chinaman, The eyes were large; the body was longish round and thick, tapering gradually towards the tail. The skin seemed thickly covered with hair, of a grey color on the back, but reddish white on the belly; in the water, however, the animal appeared equally reddish and cow colored. The tail was divided into two fins, of which the upper, as in the case of sharks, was twice as large as the lower.
Continue reading Unraveling the mysteries of Stellar’s Sea Ape
As some of you probably remember, there was an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year. You can be forgiven for not remembering it, as our news media hasn’t been talking about it very much lately. In fact, if your only source of oil spill news was the mainstream media, you probably think that the Gulf is doing great! A little over a year ago, CNN ran a story about how the BP oil well that caused the spill was “effectively dead” and was “no longer a threat to the Gulf”. CNBC (and many others) ran stories about how 75 percent of the oil from the spill was gone from the Gulf. Bloomberg reported that the Gulf would recovery completely by 2012. London’s Telegraph celebrated a dramatic recovery after only one year. Whew… things aren’t as bad as we feared, and the Gulf has almost totally recovered! Or has it?
Continue reading The post-oil spill Gulf of Mexico