Weird Pseudoscientific Beliefs

By Michael Edmonds 04/10/2012 18


My father told me last week that he woke up in the middle of the night with leg cramps….I’m rather pleased.

I hope that doesn’t make me a terrible son, but about a month ago Dad told me that on the advice of one of his friends he had tied a red piece of wool around his ankle to keep the cramps away. I was kind of shocked, though Dad did describe it half-heartedly, and as someone who also occasionally limps out of bed in the middle of the night with cramps in arch of my foot or in my calf (worst time ever was cramps in both calves and the arch of one foot!) I can sympathise with him for wanting to avoid it, but red wool?

So when he told me last week that it hadn’t worked I was kind of pleased. It is a bit hard to challenge family and friends when they come up with weird treatments for ailments, so what I tend to do now is suggest that they treat it like an experiment and try to be objective about whether they are getting a desirable response.

What weird beliefs have you had to deal with, with friends and family? And by the way, do you have any good suggestions for preventing leg cramps?


18 Responses to “Weird Pseudoscientific Beliefs”

  • Where to start…..Dad wearing copper bracelet around his arm to fix joint pain. ….it didn’t work (touch wood 😉 )

    Dad: Stuffing seat belts under the seat ‘cos belts “hold you into the crash”. Me digging them out.

    Friend: Makes sure the volume control on (any) radio is an even number. But anything with 5 is OK. And all switches have to be off. I pointed out she would have problems in America…..

    Mum: Keeping the same Lotto numbers year in year out. And all family pain comes in threes. And July is really really bad.

  • OMG, thanks for sharing Ross.

    Have a friend who was really into coconut oil for a while as “the healthiest fat”, but couldn’t find any evidence to support this.

    Dad, also mentioned drinking lemon in water and that it had helped heal up a cancer like growth on his ear (note to self, keep an eye on that)

    Then of course my sister reads tarot cards (long story)

  • Mentioning lotto tickets, my parents thought I was nuts putting down numbers 1,2,3,4, 5 and 6 once as they were convinced it was less likely to come up than other random number sequences.

  • Won’t make any difference to your chances of winning lotto Michael, but you will have to share the prize with an awful lot of scientists.

  • “My father told me last week that he woke up in the middle of the night with leg craps….I’m rather pleased.”

    Leg craps! Sounds .. messy.
    One of my immediate family insists that one must wear a woollen vest winter to keep your kidneys warm.
    And then there is wearing magnets in your undies to relieve symptoms of menopause ..

    • Well spotted, Carol, spelling mistake fixed.

      One can only be pleased that magnets are not promoted for prostate or other male related problems – otherwise one can imagine a lot of “instant attractions” occurring at a senior citizens dance 🙂

  • my daughter, on her mother’s advice, insists on putting a teaspoon in the neck of an open bottle of bubbly, to “keep it fizzy”.

    I divorced the mother some time back…

  • Ha !!!! Found it. I have been searching for this Richard Feynman Quote:

    You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight. I was coming here, on the way to the lecture, and I came in through the parking lot. And you won’t believe what happened. I saw a car with the license plate ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the state, what was the chance that I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing!

  • I too have suffered from cramps in me right calf during the night. I find that if I drink a large glass of water before going to bed then it does not happen.

  • Teaspoon in bottle just provides more nucleation sites ==> gies flat faster. Straight Dope covered this a while ago…
    Leave your comment here…

  • Hi Michael

    Brent is right – dehydration is a factor with cramp (esp. after a bit of alcohol I find). Magnesium supplements help alot too. Be wary of price though – can be a factor 3 in price between different pharmacies.

    • I’ve tried magnesium before but didn’t seem to help. Will see how the hydration approach goes

  • Quinine used to be prescribed for nocturnal leg cramps.

    Good trials showed essentially placebo effect, so cramps are no longer an indication for quinine in NZ.

    In spite of this, many people (including many doctors!), recommend a glass of tonic water before bed because of the included quinine.

  • Ross – All switches off (I assume you mean sockets with nothing in them) is a good safety measure; so when you plug something in, it isn’t immediately powered.
    Keeping the same Lotto numbers just means they are easy to remember; any set of 6 is as likely as any other (but why does 1 show up more than the others…?).