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Hank CampbellRSS Feed of this column.

I founded Science 2.0® in 2006 and since then it has become the world's largest independent science communications site, with over 300,000,000 direct readers and reach approaching one billion. Read More »

In December 1979, smallpox was officially declared eradicated but it had already happened by then, thanks to the efforts of giants like Drs. Don Henderson and Bill Foege, not to mention 150,000 international workers pushing the disease first out of Europe and Asia, then to the Horn of Africa, and finally out of existence.

The last case was known in 1977 but no one was willing to raise any glasses, yet by early 1979 everyone knew the clocking was ticking. Finally, by the end of the year it was official. Smallpox was gone, and vaccines had done it. But not without help from those 150,000 pairs of boots on the ground and ... math.
If we want to understand why one political group denies vaccines and another that pollution is bad, we need look no farther than press releases touting mouse studies or statistical correlation as having human relevance, when they are only exploratory.

Everyone sees this stuff gets promoted in mainstream media, they know it is fake, and it becomes impossible for people to trust anything. Even their own political side or field. People assume everyone is hyping results for attention if even their own side is.
In 1227, Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol Empire, died, leaving 129,000 soldiers to carry on his war of conquest. But they didn't do it in one unit, his sons and brothers were all given troops. One of the deceased sons, Jochi, had a son named Batu, and after all of his uncles died as well, Batu, founder of the Golden Horde in the western part of the empire, became the most feared Mongol of his generation.
String Theory, stem cells, epigenetics, antioxidants, they've all been important basic research that got exaggerated beyond recognition, which got media attention, which got people rushing into the fields and led to even more papers making increasingly cosmic claims until the public stopped believing any of the hype, which is where they should have been all along.

Make way for the microbiome. What was once a goofy yogurt claim - as if your trillions of bacteria were going to be impacted by a half cup of overpriced dairy goop - became mainstream supplement gold.

Though "medical" marijuana has long been available to much of the public, to the medical community it's been a joke. For example, over 60 percent of pain patients are older women, but the majority of medical marijuana users who got it for pain were young men. It's a nice non-specific system on a subjective scale so it became an easy route to get legal access to a drug.

And it is a drug, it does things to receptors, but what they are really accomplishing is unclear.
Urban beards are all the rage this decade, often worn by men in Euroweenie tight suits who want to hearken back to older times, when men were manly and not afraid of science.

Not so today. If you wear a beard now, it means you want to look masculine while virtue signaling that removing certain chemicals in soap will prevent your erectile dysfunction.

In reality, such men probably needn't worry, women are swiping left because most don't want to date someone who looks ready for a Civil War re-enactment but they suspect has a bathroom filled with vegan skin care goop.

Not a Dr.