TRC #264: Super Size Me + Skeptical Activism: Nosodes + Superman Coins and Catching Lois

supermancoinEpisode 264 has arrived.   First, Elan turns a critical eye to the documentary film “Super Size Me”.  Next Pat interviews Jamie Williams of Bad Science Watch about a recent activism win for the skeptic community, and lastly Darren asks if Superman coins from the mint are legal tender and could Superman catch Lois falling from a building?

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Super Size Me

Cracked – Documentaries that were full of crap

The Guardian – Only another 5,500 calories to go

Skeptoid – Super Sized Fast Food Phobia

EIU Prof’s ‘Portion Size Me’ Says Bring on the Fast Food — In Moderation

Wikipedia – Super Size Me

McDonalds nutrition center

Fast Food vs. Sit Down Restaurants

Telegraph – McDouble is ‘cheapest and most nutritious food in human history’


Bad Science Watch

Stop Nosodes Campaign

Superman Coins and Catching Lois

Canadian Mint: Superman Coins

Speed isn’t the issue acceleration and deceleration is

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5 Responses to TRC #264: Super Size Me + Skeptical Activism: Nosodes + Superman Coins and Catching Lois

  1. DeeT says:

    Just a random thought: anyone who believes that extremely diluted homeopathic preparations are effective should be very enamored of tap water. Our water treatment facilities take water that has been contaminated with about every disease or poison imaginable, then dilutes it over and over again so that few or none of the original contaminants remain.

    • Pat says:

      I had this thought when I did a segment on Avogadro’s number back on episode 212. I seem to recall this gets explained away with the succession part of the preparation being necessary in order to “potenize” it. Nonsense but, that’s their explanation.

  2. Teddi says:

    Yikes. As much as I love listening to this show, I have to say that Elan’s critique of the documentary Super Size Me documentary was lame, lame, lame. Just one example, when a panelist questioned him about something in the film relating to comparison with a Swedish study and exercise, Elan said he hadn’t actually watched the documentary in a awhile -and then dismissed the question as if it wasn’t relevant anyway. By the way, maybe this explains how he missed the core theme of the documentary (hint, it’s in the title!) which was McDonald’s “Super-Size it” campaign. Each time a McDonalds employee asked, “would you like to supersize that?,” he had to say yes and then eat the enlarged portion size. (btw, he did restrict exercise to a certain number of steps per day to simulate a sedentary lifestyle. If you are going to make comparisons with another study, at least make an effort to get the facts straight. ) The whole piece was sloppy and full of false assumptions and bias – the very oposite of critical thinking. arrrgh…

    • Elan Dubrofsky says:

      Hey Teddi,

      Thanks for writing in. Sorry you didn’t like the segment. I’ll try to respond at least to the examples you have brought up:

      With regards to the Swedish study and the exercise, I agree that I would have been better served to have re-watched the documentary to make sure I had everything exactly correct. I based what I said on research I had done on the web; specifically the links I posted in the show notes.

      That being said, I don’t think I was wrong in saying that he did more exercise in his film than the participants in the Swedish study. I recall reading that the main thing the subjects complained about was that they weren’t allowed to exercise (sorry I’m at work and don’t have time to find the source at the moment; if you’d like me to I can look later).

      Also you make a good point that I should have brought up the whole “super size” thing. I was thinking about it and decided not to just based on having to consider time. But yeah I guess since it’s in the name of the movie it was worth mentioning. In the end I didn’t really see a need to bring up how he supersized whenever he was asked since it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the results. In the end he ate his 5000 calories a day on average and the results were what they were.

      I did dedicate a chunk of my segment to portion sizes though, which does kind of encompass the whole supersize idea. I tried to make the point that if you eat a normal amount of McDonalds food then that’s not going to hurt you. For sure if you drink an extra large coke at every meal then that’s going to be a problem. But after reading your email I definitely see how I could have tied that specifically to his experiment of always accepting the super sizing.

      Please let me know if you can think of any other examples of me making “false assumptions” or demonstrating bias. I tried to accurately reflect what the scientific opinion is on the subject, and if you think I got something wrong then I would definitely like to know so I can improve my methods going forward.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment.


      • I disagree with Teddi that the segment was lame, overall, though he does make a good point that Elan confesses that he hasn’t watched the movie in a while.

        Whether Morgan Spurlock had to eat the super-sized portion is irrelevant because it’s the calorie count that matters in the end (though again, Teddi makes a valid point that it would have been good to mention that Spurlock was urged to super-size).

        That said, the main problem with the documentary is brought out ably by pointing out that it’s completely uncontrolled: Who was counting Spurlock’s steps? How do we know that Spurlock’s negative physical reactions weren’t just psychogenic effects…like the person who’s convinced that there are electrical demons in the air caused by WiFi and copier paper and consequently comes down with appropriate symptoms?

        The beauty of the Swedish study is that it at least tried to control for variables and didn’t rely on a sample size of….one.

        So, the core theme of the documentary, “super-size me,” is more of a marketing theme and doesn’t have any relevance to actual living conditions. I wonder how many people would develop a variety of ailments and symptoms if they ate super-sized portions of something as innocuous as celery every day and limited their exercise to reaching for the salt shaker.

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