Friday, 29 October 2010

Chapter 6: There ain't no party like a stag club party: Delusions of Grand Deer.

Darwin has interested us in the history of nature's technology. 
Karl Marx, Capital, 1867

I don’t trust technology. It’s not natural. This message is very important. I’d drive anywhere to get it across.
Allen A. Alan, Quotation: The Placebologists Guide to Onions and Verse Podcast, 2009

Illness: Delusions of Grand Deer
Discovered by: This reasonably common disease, primarily affecting the alternative endocrine system, was first observed by Dr Alan on 25th October 2010 after he read some unrelated news about something or other. It has yet to be formally described in any journal of placebology or otherwise but it can be safely assumed that the placebology community will take his word for it. Placebologists by nature are refreshingly trusting. Some scientists did try to criticise this approach but were not believed and assumed to be part of a conspiracy to discredit the placebologists.
Epidemiology: Delusions of Grand Deer by definition can only affect the manliest men, women and children. These men are so manly that the merest glance at a tree will cause it to become a shelf. The simplest wink from them would cause anything female to fall instantly pregnant. In fact there is one documented case of an e-mail becoming pregnant after a manly man walked past. Machismo needs no spelling! Anyone that thinks the measures of manliness are outdated is probably being some sort of woman. Everyone knows that women are the worst kind of men. Of course in these modern times both women and children can attain magnificent levels of manliness. Anyone that says otherwise is going to get punched in the face which will prove it. Machismo needs no evidence! Not every tremendously manly person will develop this condition. Estimates of its prevalence range from anywhere between a set of two percentage points.  It has been suggested that there is a correlation between those suffering from these delusions and the manly refusal to use any sort of artificial means to create fire. Machismo needs no matches! Reesurch haz showed no evidence of dis.
Aetiology: The epidemiology of this conditions hints at the cause. Delusions of Grand Deer can primarily be thought of as being a result of excess alternative testosterone. However it is not the excess alternative testosterone which causes the gargantuan levels of manliness but rather the other way round. The mighty alternative testicles which produce the alternative testosterone notice the massive amounts of manliness and produce high levels of alternative testosterone to live-up to expectations. The alternative testosterone then proceeds to hang around the body intimidating the other alternative hormones with induced belching, heaving lifting and the reading of that week’s Stupid Stereotypes Magazine. Or FHM.
The manliness-induced excess alternative testosterone for the most part is harmless. However in some individuals it results in Delusions of Grand Deer. At risk individuals include those with more money than they know what to do with and also lords. It is thought by people who engage in thinking that the combination of excess wealth and excess alternative testosterone combine in the bloodstream to form clarksonxinol. Clarksonxinol is toxic to the brain reducing the capacity for logic, empathy and not punching things until they bleed out of their stupid, reprehensible faces. Other sources of clarksonxinol poisoning include rubbing yourself softly against any fast car and Die Hard 4.
Symptoms: The overriding symptom is the fixed belief that the world is overrun with giant deer and that only killing the deer and putting their heads on the wall will prevent them from taking over the world. For some reason the delusion demands that the wall the deer’s head be placed on is wallpapered with velvet. Any attempt to convince the sufferer that this is not true will result in the patient calling the enquirer “gay”. With further questioning it appears that the sufferer does not know what this means and are neither referring to sexuality or happiness. A typical quote from an individual with Delusions of Grand Deer is included below.
“The country is riddled with deer. Riddled I tell you!  Some of them are 50ft high. Massive they are. And they can’t be trusted. They’re up to something. Have you ever spoken to a stag? They’re all French you know. But not from France, that’s a lovely country. Dirty, proper French. I’ll stop them though. And the fox they rode in on. The only language those antler-endowed fiends understand is the bitter taste of lead. And fists. And grass probably.  The only thing worse than those giant deer is badgers. Coming over here. Stealing our jobs. Marrying our foreigners!”
Anton St Gontschlager. (Names have been changed for the sake of it)
It is a reasonably common sight to see individuals with this unfortunate condition trawling across the countryside with a gun in one hand, a fistful of sweaty money in the other and more than a glint of congealed madness in their eyes. Many secondary injuries occur when patients are unlucky enough to actually come across a stag and get stuck in a rut.
Treatment: If levels of clarksonxinol in the blood can be reduced then the symptoms of Delusions of Grand Deer will slowly subside over the course of approximately a period of time. This can either be accomplished by either reducing the patient’s wealth or their level of alternative testosterone.
1.      Testosterone Reduction: Much care has to be taken in this area of treatment. Early experiments where subjects were exposed to Sex and the City: The Movie resulted in 99% of those involved clawing their own souls out. This included the people conducting the experiment. 1% was Simon Cowell.

More recent innovations in alternative testosterone induction involve the use of Messy Divorce Leeches. When applied to the patient’s skin they are able to emasculate the blood successfully. They also remove the patient’s wealth by at least 50%, attacking the disease on two fronts. Side effects may include excess blood loss and feeling a bit icky.

2.      Wealth Reduction: A much simpler treatment and one utilised by most practicing placebologists. A hefty enough bill for consultation is successful in some percentage of cases. As mentioned previously Messy Divorce Leeches are helpful if the patient is stubborn enough to request treatment. Finally in a minority of cases the disease is self-curing as sufferers may become deluded enough to pay thousands of pounds for the head of a stag for their velvet walls.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Chapter 5: Experimental method in the madness: Miss Sci-Gone.

There is something fascinating about science.  One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi, 1883

Is there anymore of this trifle left?
Allen A. Alan, Why I Love Cottage Pie, 1999.

Illness: Miss Sci-Gone
Discovered by: The Miss Sci-Gone phenomenon was first haphazardly noticed by Dr Dean Burnett during his misguided attempts to administer scientific reasoning to homeopathic practitioners. As Dr Burnett is a neuroscientist, only aware of the simple workings of the actual human nervous system rather than a definitely properly trained placebologist with a full assumed understanding of alternative biology, he was ignorant of the devastating reaction they would exhibit. To this day these homeopathic practitioners wander the streets, clutching at any pseudoscience they can cram into their gibbering mouths. If you see them step away and watch in horror as they shamble past; throwing tarot cards at pigeons they consider insolent, rubbing their grimy bodies with the shattered remains of crystal skulls and reading Dan Brown novels.
Epidemiology: The exact nature of the spread of Miss Sci-Gone in the population is difficult to determine as the symptoms of the early stages of the syndrome are often similar to the normal behaviours of amateur practitioners of alternative medicine. Those in the advanced stages of Miss Sci-Gone are more easily recognised but are rendered impossible to study as scientific scrutiny of their symptoms further exacerbates them. Fortunately placebologists as alternative scientists have more sophisticated methods of analysis at their disposal. They do not apply science to these unfortunate individuals and thus can avoid making their condition worse. More advanced research methods place the proportion of the population afflicted with Miss Sci-Gone as, “Signs point to yes” and in extreme cases, “Outlook not so good”.
Aetiology: The symptoms of Miss Sci-Gone all result from an allergic reaction to scientific analysis. As scientific analysis is required to diagnose the syndrome an attempt at diagnosis can make the sufferer much worse. In fact even if someone doesn’t have Miss Sci-Gone and someone tries to diagnose them they may suddenly develop the allergy and get Miss Sci-Gone. Miss-Sci-Gone is therefore a fairly unusual disease in that it can be caused by itself.
In actual biology an allergy occurs when the immune system overreacts to a normally benign stimulus. The alternative immune system is in many ways a more sophisticated construct in that while capable of protecting the alternative body from alternative disease it can also protect the alternative body from bad vibes and from feeling a bit iffy. Science being a method of developing and testing models that approximate the truth can make those with a highly developed alternative immune system feel a bit ill at ease as it exposes the alternative body to bad vibes and facts that conflict with what it might want to be true.  Exposure to the truth can be harmful to the alternative body and when the alternative immune system overreacts to this exposure then the symptoms of Miss Sci-Gone occur.
Symptoms: All of the symptoms are produced as a result of the alternative body’s rejection of all things scientific. On initial exposure to science a sufferer of Miss Sci-Gone will initially feel a general state of poor health and feeling ill at ease. At this point the alternative immune system is halting the entry of the potentially damaging truth by blocking the mind-pipes. As the mind-pipes fully contract and close completely the alternative body starts to accumulate damage, clogging with data. Only self-generated inaccuracies prevail. Individuals may start making ridiculous claims about the world like “rain doesn’t fall, it’s the earth jumping to catch clouds”, “biscuits are just cakes that got a bit sad” or “only science that works should receive funding”. If the abnormality is not corrected then sufferers can enter a terminal stage of Miss Sci-Gone where they start to exhibit truly bizarre ideas. They may start to form links with Washington neo-conservatives, try to flip their second homes, steal money from children and to not even recognise or understand the concept of science. At this stage the sufferer is described as being a bit Osborney. Following this there is no hope for the unfortunate individual and their days are numbered as soon as they start to think puns about musicals are funny. It is a truly wicked illness.  Less miserable than many but still so awful that not even cats could find it amusing. Grease is the word.
Treatment: Despite the best efforts of research placebologists there is currently no cure for Miss Sci-Gone. As such if individuals have to be treated symptomatically. Obviously nothing scientific can be used or the patient’s suffering would be exacerbated. Bulk standard homeopathy with or without chiropractic manipulation are often highly successful at symptom control and many people with Miss Sci-Gone can go on to lead literally lives. This is aided if they try to avoid all forms of science, a task made difficult by its impossibility.
This Dr Alan’s Alternative Illness was “thought up” in tribute to the Science is Vital Campaign. Please go to the website, sign the petition and write to your MP. Cuts to science funding in the UK would be disastrous and Science is Vital is doing something about it. Now have at it!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Chapter 4: A real dead ringer for burning love: Ploughman's Apple.

An experiment is a question which science poses to Nature, and a measurement is the recording of Nature's answer.
Max Planck, Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, 1949

As an experiment I sent some photos of my naked science poses to the journal Nature. Nature’s answer was a restraining order and a criminal record.
Allen A. Alan, Scientific Autoeroticism and Awful Papers, 2007

Illness: Ploughman’s Apple
Discovered by: Descriptions of Ploughman’s Apple go back as far as ancient Egypt. Archaeologists have discovered hieroglyphics that look very much like individuals suffering from this condition. It would certainly explain why everyone in ancient Egypt walked sideways. A different alternative illness explains the people with animal heads.  The first formal description of Ploughman’s Apple was by Professor Hubert Massakshun in the definite science section of Heat Magazine, 1999. As it turns out the patient Prof. Massakshun described turned out not to have Ploughman’s Apple but Typist’s Raspberry. However the existence of one disease necessitates the existence of the other because of logic.

Figure 1. One figure. Drawn copy of a description someone once made of an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph while drunk. According to the internet, hieroglyphs are pretty old if drawn by ancient Egyptians which proves it.
Epidemiology: Ploughman’s Apple occurs in males and females equally but is more common in males. It is even more common in females. Adults under the age of 18 (technically known as children) cannot contract this disease with exceptions when they do. It has also been observed in the animal kingdom with Ploughman’s Apple being described in sheep, beetles and fat badgers.
Aetiology: Ploughman’s apple is primarily a sexually transmitted alternative disease. Unusually for a STAD however, sexual intercourse is not required to pass on the illness. It is enough simply for an infected individual to look at another person while thinking about a special hug while a bird, a bee or a stork are in the vicinity. 10 metres is close enough. You can also catch it by sitting on a toilet seat. Any toilet seat. Even one not attached to a toilet. Kissing can pass on the disease but only if it’s a kiss on the cheek used in a greeting and the kiss isn’t really meant. France and Hollywood is riddled. While Ploughman’s Apple is passed on in a manner reminiscent of infection the infectious agent as yet is not known. However it could exist and therefore it has to be assumed it does. The most popular current theory is that it is caused by an alternative bacterium from Atlantis. Bacteria from Atlantis as well as being microscopic are so pink that they become invisible. As such they cannot be seen underneath a standard microscope. Occasionally they can be detected if a tiny divining rod is attached to microscope and an experienced placebographer (proper alternative scientists specialising in the imaging of alternative illnesses, alternative pathogens and paintings of unicorns on black velvet) can think pink enough thoughts.
Symptoms: Sufferers from this condition are often so embarrassed at having it that they are reluctant to describe the symptoms. As such, not much is known about this disease. Some descriptive terms used by the infected include, “Ooh, right in the Ploughman’s Apple”, “My genitals feel right funny and no mistake” and “No, no, no, I’m not ready for the ripping. Not the ripping! Or the screaming slaps. Or the maudlin piano! These are things which I also regret about my condition. Curse those wretched bees!” Individuals who often engage in looking at other individuals in aviaries, near net hats or butter are advised to regularly check themselves for the signs of Ploughman’s Apple described here.
Treatment: As with most disease, prevention is better than cure. Luckily there is a fairly simple way to avoid catching Ploughman’s Apple. Never think about anything ever. Lack of thought deprives the bacteria that probably definitely cause Ploughman’s Apple of a growth medium. Most treatments have side-effects but fortunately the prophylaxis for Ploughman’s Apple has positive gains in addition to those of STAD avoidance. Lack of thought has been shown by several of what came to be known as studies to promote belief in placebology. This is of course progresses to avoidance of even more alternative illnesses. Jackpot!
If you are unlucky enough to contract Ploughman’s Apple, the cure is rather more complex. One week’s course of acupuncture in the Zen Garden is required and in severe cases sufferers have required one week and one hour of this most unpleasant treatment. The Zen Garden is the most painful place to receive acupuncture for reasons. Some patients have even been known to undergo simultaneous moxibustion. Acupuncture repair kits are therefore required during therapy in case emergency intervention is required.