Science or fiction?

In the “Science or Fiction” segment of the (then) latest Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast (where host Steven Novella serves up one fake and two real news segment(s) for his panel of skeptics – or “rogues” – to figure out), the one that turned out to be fiction involved the recent approval of a genetically modified potato designed to contain up to 40% less calories than conventional potatoes. One of the rogue’s reasoning as to why this must be fake is that there is so much research going into making foods that are more calorifically dense (think Plumpy’nut, or peanut butter “amplified”) to treat malnutrition that it would make little sense for scientists to be working on something to contain less calories than necessary.

She was right about that potato story being the fiction, but not for that reason, which is a pity, because I like the argument. Some people *actually* don’t have enough to eat, while others clearly have too much, so barring some utopian global redistribution of food, let’s focus on figuring out a way to give undernourished people access to more nutritionally dense food. This makes sense. And as for those who eat too much, maybe we could encourage exercise? Dieting? Straight-jackets? Apples?

Yeah, right. All bound to fail – particularly the last suggestion, because it is well-documented that some people just ‘emotionally …don’t always feel like an apple‘.

Enter the tongue-patch diet. where rather than forego the distress of eating fruit or exercising, people can have a patch of gauze stitched to their tongues to make the act of eating solids extremely painful.  As one of its practitioners put it:

We wanted to offer patients something effective without resorting to the risks of invasive surgery.

Nice. Fortunately the only possible side effects of the patch include ulcers, an infection, an airway obstruction, or, if it isn’t removed within a month, the patch growing into your tongue.

All in all, charming stuff from a race of quite disturbingly resourceful human beings, quite well represented in Morgan Spurlock’s 7 Deadly Sins (which is also the only reason I know about teledildonics, and a company called Exotic Erotics which you should definitely not visit if you only like the idea of sitting on top of a horse).