A link on Reddit claimed that exercise could be an effective treatment for depression. I felt it necessary to comment that:

Exercise does not have a causal effect on depression or happiness according to twin-control studies (1, 2).

Another person replied with a meta-analysis which I then took a look at. It showed a large effect, apparently giving inconsistent results with the twin studies.

My reply:

I skimmed the meta-analysis you found. It’s here for readers without academic access.

As you can see, it included all kinds of studies, but they were generally small (Table 2+3). There was no analysis of publication bias. Very strange given the ubiquity of this problem. As I reviewer I would not approve a meta-analysis of this sort without an analysis of publication bias.

Luckily, a simply method (funnel plot) of checking publication bias can be applied to the studies given in Figure 1. Here’s the data and the plot.

As you can see, the smaller studies tended to report larger effect sizes in line with publication bias hypothesis. The effect was very strong as you can see, r=-.758.

Perhaps this inconsistency can be solely explained by publication bias.

Update 2015-09-28:

A new study made the light of the day on Reddit. Since I had already examined this issue, I wrote a reply stating that the evidence indicates that exercise does not work as a treatment for depression. In line with the usual tactics, stating that something doesn’t work is a sure way to get down-voted.

More strangely, a user tried to counter my post (this one) with the citation of another meta-analysis, which turned out to be older and also doesn’t have any analysis of publication bias!

The two cited twin studies:

BMI is often used a proxy for fat percent or similar measures. BMI has a proven track record of predictive power of many health conditions, yet it still receives lots of criticism due to the fact that it gives misleading results for some groups, notably body builders. There is a conceptual link here with the criticism of simple IQ tests, such as Raven’s which ‘only measure ability to spot figures’. Nonverbal matrix tests such as Raven’s or Cattell’s do indeed not measure g as well as more diverse batteries do (Johnson et al, 2008). These visual tests could be similarly criticized for not working well on those with bad eyesight. However, they are still useful for a broad sample of the population.

Criticisms like this strike me as an incarnation of the perfect solution/Nirvana fallacy:

The perfect solution fallacy (aka the nirvana fallacy) is a fallacy of assumption: if an action is not a perfect solution to a problem, it is not worth taking. Stated baldly, the assumption is obviously false. The fallacy is usually stated more subtly, however. For example, arguers against specific vaccines, such as the flu vaccine, or vaccines in general often emphasize the imperfect nature of vaccines as a good reason for not getting vaccinated: vaccines aren’t 100% effective or 100% safe. Vaccines are safe and effective; however, they are not 100% safe and effective. It is true that getting vaccinated is not a 100% guarantee against a disease, but it is not valid to infer from that fact that nobody should get vaccinated until every vaccine everywhere prevents anybody anywhere from getting any disease the vaccines are designed to protect us from without harming anyone anywhere.

Any measure that has more than 0 validity can be useful in the right circumstances. If a measure has some validity and is easy to administer (BMI or non-verbal pen and paper group tests), they can be very useful even if they have less validity than better measures (fat% test or full battery IQ tests).

Anyway, BMI should probably/perhaps retired now because we have found a more effective (but surely not the best either!) measure:

Our aim was to differentiate the screening potential of waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) and waist circumference (WC) for adult cardiometabolic risk in people of different nationalities and to compare both with body mass index (BMI). We undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies that used receiver operating characteristics (ROC) curves for assessing the discriminatory power of anthropometric indices in distinguishing adults with hypertension, type-2 diabetes, dyslipidaemia, metabolic syndrome and general cardiovascular outcomes (CVD). Thirty one papers met the inclusion criteria. Using data on all outcomes, averaged within study group, WHtR had significantly greater discriminatory power compared with BMI. Compared with BMI, WC improved discrimination of adverse outcomes by 3% (P < 0.05) and WHtR improved discrimination by 4–5% over BMI (P < 0.01). Most importantly, statistical analysis of the within-study difference in AUC showed WHtR to be significantly better than WC for diabetes, hypertension, CVD and all outcomes (P < 0.005) in men and women.
For the first time, robust statistical evidence from studies involving more than 300 000 adults in several ethnic groups, shows the superiority of WHtR over WC and BMI for detecting cardiometabolic risk factors in both sexes. Waist-to-height ratio should therefore be considered as a screening tool. (Ashwell et al, 2012)

Ashwell, M., Gunn, P., & Gibson, S. (2012). Waist‐to‐height ratio is a better screening tool than waist circumference and BMI for adult cardiometabolic risk factors: systematic review and meta‐analysis. obesity reviews, 13(3), 275-286.

Johnson, W., Nijenhuis, J. T., & Bouchard Jr, T. J. (2008). Still just 1 g: Consistent results from five test batteries. Intelligence, 36(1), 81-95.

Same guy proposed another idea. Wikipedia has data here. However, since i had previously seen that people fudge data on Wikipedia articles (e.g. this one), then maybe it was not a good idea to just rely on Wikipedia. So i did the best thing: fetched both the data from Wiki and the data from the primary source (WHO), and then compared them for accuracy. They were 100 identical for the “total rates”. I did not compare the other variables. But at least this dataset was not fudged. :)

So, then i loaded the data in R and plotted alcohol consumption per capita (age >=15) vs. cancer rates per capita.

source(“merger.R”) #load custom functions

DF.mega = read.mega(“Megadataset_v1.7b.csv”) #load megadataset

#load alcohol
alcohol = read.mega(“alcohol_consumption.csv”) #loads the data
short.names = as.abbrev(rownames(alcohol)) #gets the abbreviated names so it can be merged with megadataset
rownames(alcohol) = short.names #inserts the abbreviated names

DF.mega2= merge.datasets(alcohol,DF.mega) #merge datasets

scatterplot(CancerRatePer100000 ~ AlcoholConsumptionPerCapitaWHO, DF.mega2, #plot it
smoother=FALSE, #no moving average
labels = rownames(DF.mega),id.n=nrow(DF.mega)) #include datapoint names


There is no relationship there. However, it may work in multiple regression:

lm1 = lm(CancerRatePer100000 ~ AlcoholConsumptionPerCapitaWHO+X2012LifeExpectancyatBirth,

lm(formula = CancerRatePer100000 ~ AlcoholConsumptionPerCapitaWHO + 
    X2012LifeExpectancyatBirth, data = DF.mega2)

    Min      1Q  Median      3Q     Max 
-48.677 -26.569   0.717  28.486  61.631 

                               Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)    
(Intercept)                    -91.6149    79.2375  -1.156    0.254    
AlcoholConsumptionPerCapitaWHO   1.7712     1.6978   1.043    0.303    
X2012LifeExpectancyatBirth       4.2518     0.9571   4.442 6.13e-05 ***
Signif. codes:  0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1

Residual standard error: 31.56 on 43 degrees of freedom
  (227 observations deleted due to missingness)
Multiple R-squared:  0.3158,	Adjusted R-squared:  0.284 
F-statistic: 9.923 on 2 and 43 DF,  p-value: 0.0002861

There is seemingly no predictive power of alcohol consumption! But it does cause cancer, right? According to my skim of Wiki, yes, but only 3.5% of cancer cases, so the effect is too small to be seen here.

The data is in megadataset 1.7c.

An online acquaintance asked me me to find data about these two and look for a relationship. It stands to reason that if you have a country where people die of lots of other things (accidents, warfare, parasites/contagious disease, hunger/thirst), they don’t ling long enough to get cancer.

I already had life expectancy data from the UN when I imported the Human Development Index data. So where to find cancer rate data? I found 50 datapoints here. There are other sources such as this, but they have age standardized the data, which makes it useless for our purpose here. Furthermore, they are given by regions, where we want country-level.

So, I used the 50 datapoints from The Guardian. In R, I typed:

source(“merger.R”) #this loads my custom functions for working with the megadataset

DF.mega = read.mega(“Megadataset_v1.7b.csv”) #load data

library(car) #library needed for scatterplot function
scatterplot(CancerRatePer100000 ~ X2012LifeExpectancyatBirth, DF.mega,
smoother=FALSE, #no moving average
labels = rownames(DF.mega),id.n=nrow(DF.mega)) #add labels for all points

cor(DF.mega[“CancerRatePer100000”],DF.mega[“X2012LifeExpectancyatBirth”],use=”pairwise”) #get correlation


The correlation is .55. The labels are ISO-3 or custom (full names can be found in the “Names” variable in the megadataset).




Having already read Peter Gøtzsche’s Dødelig medicin og organiseret kriminalitet: Hvordan medicinalindustrien har korrumperet sundhedsvæsenet. Art People, 2013, this book did not bring so much new. However, it did present things better than Gøtzsche did. To be fair, he focused mostly on proving that the farma industry are organized criminals. I agree, but the science is more interesting than reading about 100 different cases of farma companies cheating and getting fines.




If you’re a nerd, you might think: these files are electronic;

they’re PDFs, a type o f file specifically designed to make sharing

electronic documents convenient. Any nerd will know that if

you want to find something in an electronic document, it’s easy:

you just use the ‘find’ command: type in, say, ‘peripheral

neuropathy’, and your computer will find the phrase straight

off. But no: unlike almost any other serious government docu­

ment in the world, the PDFs from the FDA are a series of photo­

graphs of pages of text, rather than the text itself. This means

you cannot search for a phrase. Instead, you have to go through

it, searching for that phrase, laboriously, by eye.


Easily solved by OCR software.




Sharing data of individual patients’ outcomes in clinical

trials, rather than just the final summary result, has several

significant advantages. First, it’s a safeguard against dubious

analytic practices. In the VIGOR trial on the painkiller Vioxx,

for example, a bizarre reporting decision was made.83 The aim

of the study was to compare Vioxx against an older, cheaper

painkiller, to see if it was any less likely to cause stomach prob­

lems (this was the hope for Vioxx), and also if it caused more

heart attacks (this was the fear). But the date cut-off for mea­

suring heart attacks was much earlier than that for measuring

stomach problems. This had the result of making the risks look

less significant, relative to the benefits, but it was not declared

clearly in the paper, resulting in a giant scandal when it was

eventually noticed. If the raw data on patients was shared,

games like these would be far easier to spot, and people might

be less likely to play them in the first place.


Occasionally – with vanishing rarity – researchers are able to

obtain raw data, and re-analyse studies that have already been

conducted and published. Daniel Coyne, Professor of Medicine

at Washington University, was lucky enough to get the data on a

key trial for epoetin, a drug given to patients on kidney dialysis,

after a four-year-long fight.84 The original academic publication

on this study, ten years earlier, had switched the primary

outcomes described in the protocol (we will see later how this

exaggerates the benefits of treatments), and changed the main

statistical analysis strategy (again, a huge source of bias). Coyne

was able to analyse the study as the researchers had initially

stated they were planning to in their protocol; and when he did,

he found that they had dramatically overstated the benefits of

the drug. It was a peculiar outcome, as he himself acknowl­

edges: ‘As strange as it seems, I am now the sole author of the

publication on the predefined primary and secondary results of

the largest outcomes trial of epoetin in dialysis patients, and I

didn’t even participate in the trial.’ There is room, in my view,

for a small army o f people doing the very same thing, re-

analysing all the trials that were incorrectly analysed, in ways

that deviated misleadingly from their original protocols.


This is the kind of second-order scientist that was described in the paper:

Nosek, Brian A., and Yoav Bar-Anan. “Scientific utopia: I. Opening scientific communication.” Psychological Inquiry 23.3 (2012): 217-243.


This paper is extremely interesting by the way. Read it. Yes, seriously!

Kuliev, Anver, and Yury Verlinsky. “Preimplantation diagnosis: a realistic option for assisted reproduction and genetic practice.” Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology 17.2 (2005): 179-183.
Purpose of review
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) allows genetically
disadvantaged couples to reproduce, while avoiding the
birth of children with targeted genetic disorders. By
ensuring unaffected pregnancies, PGD circumvents the
possible need and therefore risks of pregnancy termination.
This review will describe the current progress of PGD for
Mendelian and chromosomal disorders and its impact on
reproductive medicine.
Recent findings
Indications for PGD have expanded beyond those used in
prenatal diagnosis, which has also resulted in improved
access to HLA-compatible stem-cell transplantation for
siblings through preimplantation HLA typing. More than
1000 apparently healthy, unaffected children have been
born after PGD, suggesting its accuracy, reliability and
safety. PGD is currently the only hope for carriers of
balanced translocations. It also appears to be of special
value for avoiding age-related aneuploidies in in-vitro
fertilization patients who have a particularly poor prognosis
for a successful pregnancy; the accumulated experience of
thousands of PGD cycles strongly suggests that PGD can
improve clinical outcome for such patients.
PGD would particularly benefit poor prognosis in-vitro
fertilization patients and other at-risk couples by improving
reproductive outcomes and avoiding the birth of affected
Verlinsky, Yury, et al. “Over a decade of experience with preimplantation genetic diagnosis: a multicenter report.” Fertility and sterility 82.2 (2004): 292-294.
Harper, Joyce C., and Sioban B. SenGupta. “Preimplantation genetic diagnosis: state of the art 2011.” Human genetics 131.2 (2012): 175-186.
I made this:

I recently got interested in a new field en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_epidemiology

Cognitive epidemiology is a field of research that examines the associations between intelligence test scores (IQ scores or extracted g-factors) and health, more specifically morbidity (mental and physical) and mortality. Typically, test scores are obtained at an early age, and compared to later morbidity and mortality. In addition to exploring and establishing these associations, cognitive epidemiology seeks to understand causal relationships between intelligence and health outcomes. Researchers in the field argue that intelligence measured at an early age is an important predictor of later health and mortality differences.[1][2]

I decided to scout the academic literature. Here’s some for those also curious.

Special issue of Intelligence, 2009, about cognitive epidemiology.

1. Introduction to the special issue on cognitive epidemiology

2. The association of childhood intelligence with mortality risk from adolescence to middle age Findings from the Aberdeen Children of the 1950s cohor

3. Cognition and incident coronary heart disease in late midlife The Whitehall II study

4. Can we understand why cognitive function predicts mortality Results from the Caerphilly Prospective Study (CaPS)

5. Cognition and survival in a biracial urban population of old people

6. Fluid intelligence is independently associated with all-cause mortality over 17 years in an elderly community sample

7. Reaction time and established risk factors for total and cardiovascular disease mortality

8. IQ in childhood and the metabolic syndrome in middle age Extended follow-up of the 1946 British Birth Cohort Study

9. The association between IQ in adolescence and a range of health outcomes at 40 in the 1979 US National Longitudinal Study of Youth

10. Does a fitness factor contribute to the association between intelligence and health outcomes

11. Intelligence in childhood and risk of psychological distress in adulthood The 1958 National Child Development Survey and the 1970 British Cohort S

12. Level of cognitive performance as a correlate and predictor of health behaviors that protect against cognitive decline in late life The path through life study

13. Intelligence and persisting with medication for two years Analysis in a randomised controlled trial

14. How intelligence and education contribute to substance use Hints from the Minnesota Twin family study

15. Cognitive epidemiology With emphasis on untangling cognitive ability and socioeconomic status

Some other papers that i found:

Why is intelligence correlated with semen quality Biochemical pathways common to sperm and neuron function and their vulnerability to pleiotropic mutations

Why do intelligent people live longer

The relationships between cognitive ability and dental status in a national sample of USA adults

Rare Copy Number Deletions Predict Individual Variation in Intelligence

Looking for ‘System Integrity’ in Cognitive Epidemiology

Intelligence and semen quality are positively correlated

Intelligence Is It the Epidemiologists’ Elusive Fundamental Cause of Social Class Inequalities in Health

Does IQ explain socioeconomic inequalities in health Evidence from a population based cohort study in the west of Scotland

Cognitive epidemiology J Epidemiol Community Health-2007-Deary-378-84

From somone named <Anonymous> on G+ i saw a link to a blogpost from a doctor about the dangers of fouride. that sounded interesting but potentially nutty (conspiracy nuts like such ideas). from reading the discussion at varius sites it was still unclear what i shud believe. so i downloaded the actual study cited and read it. its a pretty decent correlational systematic review. causation can be difficult to establish here, but ther shud be som natural experiments that can be used. for instance, som areas currently have high levels of flouride in the water for natural reasons. we can test the children of those areas, and then fix the drinking water by lessening flouride levels to those used in western countries, so about 1mg/L. then wait som years, like 10, and test som other children. if flouride is causing lowered IQ scores, they shud hav gone up by now. apply som stats to get rid of any potential Flynn effect. shud be somwhat easy to make this experiment in developing countries.

Developmental Fluoride Neurotoxicity A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis


Ba c k g r o u n d: Although fluoride may cause neurotoxicity in animal models and acute fluoride
poisoning causes neurotoxicity in adults, very little is known of its effects on children’s neuro­
oBj e c t i v e: We performed a systematic review and meta­analysis of published studies to investigate
the effects of increased fluoride exposure and delayed neurobehavioral development.
Me t h o d s: We searched the MEDLINE, EMBASE, Water Resources Abstracts, and TOXNET
databases through 2011 for eligible studies. We also searched the China National Knowledge
Infrastructure (CNKI) database, because many studies on fluoride neurotoxicity have been pub­
lished in Chinese journals only. In total, we identified 27 eligible epidemiological studies with high
and reference exposures, end points of IQ scores, or related cognitive function measures with means
and variances for the two exposure groups. Using random­effects models, we estimated the stan­
dardized mean difference between exposed and reference groups across all studies. We conducted
sensitivity analyses restricted to studies using the same outcome assessment and having drinking­
water fluoride as the only exposure. We performed the Cochran test for heterogeneity between stud­
ies, Begg’s funnel plot, and Egger test to assess publication bias, and conducted meta­regressions to
explore sources of variation in mean differences among the studies.
re s u l t s: The standardized weighted mean difference in IQ score between exposed and reference
populations was –0.45 (95% confidence interval: –0.56, –0.35) using a random­effects model.
Thus, children in high­fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low­
fluoride areas. Subgroup and sensitivity analyses also indicated inverse associations, although the
substantial heterogeneity did not appear to decrease.
co n c l u s i o n s: The results support the possibility of an adverse effect of high fluoride exposure on
children’s neurodevelopment. Future research should include detailed individual­level information
on prenatal exposure, neurobehavioral performance, and covariates for adjustment.
ke y w o r d s: fluoride, intelligence, neurotoxicity. Environ Health Perspect 120:1362–1368
(2012).  dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1104912 [Online 20 July 2012]

I really just was curious to know how whores in older times avoided getting pregnant… but it turned into a longer read. Here are some excerpts. Enjoy :)


The history of condoms goes back at least several centuries, and perhaps beyond. For most of their history, condoms have been used both as a method of birth control, and as a protective measure against sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms have been made from a variety of materials; prior to the 19th century, chemically treated linen and animal tissue (intestine or bladder) are the best documented varieties. Rubber condoms gained popularity in the mid-19th century, and in the early 20th century major advances were made in manufacturing techniques. Prior to the introduction of the combined oral contraceptive pill, condoms were the most popular birth control method in the Western world. In the second half of the 20th century, the low cost of condoms contributed to their importance in family planning programs throughout the developing world. Condoms have also become increasingly important in efforts to fight the AIDS pandemic.

Distribution of condoms in the United States was limited by passage of the Comstock laws, which included a federal act banning the mailing of contraceptive information (passed in 1873) as well as State laws that banned the manufacture and sale of condoms in thirty states.[1]:144,193 In Ireland the 1889 Indecent Advertisements Act made it illegal to advertise condoms, although their manufacture and sale remained legal.[1]:163-4,168 Contraceptives were illegal in 19th century Italy and Germany, but condoms were allowed for disease prevention.[1]:169-70 Despite legal obstacles, condoms continued to be readily available in both Europe and America, widely advertised under euphemisms such as male shield and rubber good.[1]:146-7 In late 19th century England, condoms were known as “a little something for the weekend”.[1]:165 Only in the Republic of Ireland were condoms effectively outlawed. There, their sale and manufacture remained illegal until the 1970s.[1]:171

In the 1960s and 1970s quality regulations tightened,[1]:267,285 and legal barriers to condom use were removed. In 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court case Griswold v. Connecticut struck down one of the remaining Comstock laws, the bans of contraception in Connecticut and Massachusetts. France repealed its anti-birth control laws in 1967. Similar laws in Italy were declared unconstitutional in 1971. Captain Beate Uhse in Germany founded a birth control business, and fought a series of legal battles continue her sales.[1]:276-9 In Ireland, legal condom sales (only to people over 18, and only in clinics and pharmacies) were allowed for the first time in 1978. (All restrictions on Irish condom sales were lifted in 1993.)[1]:329-30

The first New York Times story on acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) was published on July 3, 1981.[1]:294 In 1982 it was first suggested that the disease was sexually transmitted.[10] In response to these findings, and to fight the spread of AIDS, the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop supported condom promotion programs. However, President Ronald Reagan preferred an approach of concentrating only on abstinence programs. Some opponents of condom programs stated that AIDS was a disease of homosexuals and illicit drug users, who were just getting what they deserved. In 1990 North Carolina senator Jesse Helms argued that the best way to fight AIDS would be to enforce state sodomy laws.[1]:296-7

Their claims about AIDS and homosexuals reminds me of


Gay-related immune deficiency (GRID) (sometimes informally called the gay plague) was the 1982 name first proposed to describe an “unexpected cluster of cases”[1] of what is now known as AIDS,[2] after public health scientists noticed clusters of Kaposi’s sarcoma and pneumocystis pneumonia among gay males in Southern California and New York City.[1]


Birth control, contraception, family planning or fertility control[1] refers to the usage of methods or devices intended to control the incidence of a pregnancy.[2][3] Some include the termination of pregnancy in the definition.[4]

There are a number of ways that a female can engage in sexual activity while reducing or otherwise controlling the risk of becoming pregnant. Available contraception methods include barrier methods, such as condoms and diaphragms; hormonal contraception including oral pills, patches and vaginal rings, injectable contraceptives, and intrauterine devices.[5] Birth control options shortly after sex includes emergency contraceptives.[6] Permanent methods include sterilization. Some people regard abstinence as a contraception method as well as engaging in sexual activity which does not involve penile-vaginal penetration.

While methods of birth control have been used since ancient times, effective and safe methods only become avaliable in the 20th century.[5] For some people, birth control involves moral issues, and many countries limit access to contraception due to the moral and political issues involved.[5] Some argue, for example, that the availability of contraception increases the level of sexual activity within society.

In modern Europe, knowledge of herbal abortifacients and contraceptives to regulate fertility has largely been lost.[41]Historian John M. Riddle found that this remarkable loss of basic knowledge can be attributed to attempts of the early modern European states to “repopulate” Europe after dramatic losses following the plague epidemics that started in 1348.[41] According to Riddle, one of the policies implemented by the church and supported by feudal lords to destroy the knowledge of birth control included the initiation of witch hunts againstmidwives, who had knowledge of herbal abortifacients and contraceptives.[41][42][43]

On December 5, 1484, Pope Innocent VIII issued the Summis desiderantes affectibus, a papal bull in which he recognized the existence of witches and gave full papal approval for the Inquisition to proceed “correcting, imprisoning, punishing and chastising” witches “according to their deserts.” In the bull, which is sometimes referred to as the “Witch-Bull of 1484”, the witches were explicitly accused of having “slain infants yet in the mother’s womb” (abortion) and of “hindering men from performing the sexual act and women from conceiving” (contraception).[44] Famous texts that served to guide the witch hunt and instruct magistrates on how to find and convict so-called “witches” include the Malleus Maleficarum, and Jean Bodin‘s De la demonomanie des sorciers.[45] The Malleus Maleficarum was written by the priest J. Sprenger (born in Rheinfelden, today Switzerland), who was appointed by Pope Innocent VIII as the General Inquisitor for Germany around 1475, and H. Institoris, who at the time was inquisitor for Tyrol, Salzburg, Bohemia and Moravia. The authors accused witches, among other things, of infanticide and having the power to steal men’s penises.[46]

Barrier methods such as the condom have been around much longer, but were seen primarily as a means of preventingsexually transmitted diseases, not pregnancy. Casanova in the 18th century was one of the first reported using “assurance caps” to prevent impregnating his mistresses.[47]


The Comstock Act, 17 Stat. 598, enacted March 3, 1873, was a United States federal law which amended the Post Office Act[1] and made it illegal to send any “obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious” materials through the mail, including contraceptive devices and information. In addition to banning contraceptives, this act also banned the distribution of information on abortion for educational purposes. Twenty-four states passed similar prohibitions on materials distributed within the states.[2] These state and federal restrictions are collectively known as the Comstock laws.

The Comstock Laws were variously case tested, but courts struggled to establish definitive thinking about the laws. One of the most notable applications of Comstock was Roth v. United States, in which the Supreme Court affirmed Comstock, but set limits on what could be considered obscene. This landmark case represented one of the first notable revisions since the Hicklin test, and the evolving nature of the laws on which Comstock was conceived.

The sale and distribution of obscene materials had been prohibited prior to Comstock in most American states since the early 19th century, and by federal law since 1873. Federal anti-obscenity laws are currently still in effect and enforced,[3][4] though the definition of obscenity has changed much (now expressed in the Miller Test) and extensive debates on what is obscene continue.

The Comstock laws banned distribution of sex education information, based on the premise that it was obscene and led to promiscuous behavior[6] Mary Ware Dennett was fined $300 in 1928, for distributing a pamphlet containing sex education material. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), led by Morris Ernst, appealed her conviction and won a reversal, in which judge Learned Hand ruled that the pamphlet’s main purpose was to “promote understanding”.[6]

Publications addressing homosexuality were automatically deemed obscene under the Comstock Act until 1958.[7] In One, Inc. v. Olesen, as a follow-on to Roth v. United States, the Supreme Court granted free press rights around homosexuality.

In 1915, architect William Sanger was charged under the New York law against disseminating contraceptive information.[10] In 1918, his wife Margaret Sanger was similarly charged. On appeal, her conviction was reversed on the grounds that contraceptive devices could legally be promoted for the cure and prevention of disease.[11]

The prohibition of devices advertised for the explicit purpose of birth control was not overturned for another eighteen years. During World War I, U.S. Servicemen were the only members of the Allied forces sent overseas without condoms which led to more widespread STDs among U.S. troops. In 1932, Sanger arranged for a shipment of diaphragms to be mailed from Japan to a sympathetic doctor in New York City. When U.S. customs confiscated the package as illegal contraceptive devices, Sanger helped file a lawsuit. In 1936, a federal appeals court ruled in United States v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries that the federal government could not interfere with doctors providing contraception to their patients.[11]

In 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court case Griswold v. Connecticut struck down one of the remaining contraception Comstock laws in Connecticut and Massachusetts. However, Griswold only applied to marital relationships. Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972) extended its holding to unmarried persons as well.


The Miller test (also called the Three Prong Obscenity Test[1]), is the United States Supreme Court‘s test for determining whether speech or expression can be labeled obscene, in which case it is not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and can be prohibited.

The Miller test was developed in the 1973 case Miller v. California.[2] It has three parts:

The work is considered obscene only if all three conditions are satisfied.

The first two prongs of the Miller test are held to the standards of the community, and the last prong is held to what is reasonable to a person of the United States as a whole. The national reasonable person standard of the third prong acts as a check on the community standard of the first two prongs, allowing protection for works that in a certain community might be considered obscene but on a national level might have redeeming value.

For legal scholars, several issues are important. One is that the test allows for community standards rather than a national standard. What offends the average person in Nacogdoches, Texas, may differ from what offends the average person in Chicago. The relevant community, however, is not defined.

Another important issue is that Miller asks for an interpretation of what the “average” person finds offensive, rather than what the more sensitive persons in the community are offended by, as obscenity was defined by the previous test, the Hicklin test, stemming from the English precedent.

In practice, pornography showing genitalia and sexual acts is not ipso facto obscene according to the Miller test. For instance, in 2000 a jury in Provo, Utah, took only a few minutes to clear Larry Peterman, owner of a Movie Buffs video store, in Utah County, Utah, a region which had often boasted of being one of the most conservative areas in the US. Researchers had shown that guests at the local Marriott Hotel were disproportionately large consumers of pay-per-view pornographic material, accessing far more material than the store was distributing.[4][5]


The combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP), often referred to as the birth-control pill or colloquially as “the Pill“, is a birth control method that includes a combination of an estrogen (oestrogen) and a progestin (progestogen). When taken by mouth every day, these pills inhibit female fertility. They were first approved for contraceptive use in the United States in 1960, and are a very popular form of birth control. They are currently used by more than 100 million women worldwide and by almost 12 million women in the United States.[6][7] Usage varies widely by country,[8] age, education, and marital status: one third of women[9] aged 16–49 in the United Kingdom currently use either the combined pill or a progestogen-only “minipill“,[10] compared to only 1% of women in Japan.[11]

The placebo pills allow the user to take a pill every day; remaining in the daily habit even during the week without hormones. Placebo pills may contain an iron supplement,[14][15] as iron requirements increase during menstruation.

Rather clever.

Less frequent placebos

Main article: Extended cycle combined oral contraceptive pill

If the pill formulation is monophasic, it is possible to skip withdrawal bleeding and still remain protected against conception by skipping the placebo pills and starting directly with the next packet. Attempting this with bi- or tri-phasic pill formulations carries an increased risk of breakthrough bleeding and may be undesirable. It will not, however, increase the risk of getting pregnant.

Starting in 2003, women have also been able to use a three-month version of the Pill.[17] Similar to the effect of using a constant-dosage formulation and skipping the placebo weeks for three months, Seasonale gives the benefit of less frequent periods, at the potential drawback of breakthrough bleeding. Seasonique is another version in which the placebo week every three months is replaced with a week of low-dose estrogen.

A version of the combined pill has also been packaged to completely eliminate placebo pills and withdrawal bleeds. Marketed as Anya or Lybrel, studies have shown that after seven months, 71% of users no longer had any breakthrough bleeding, the most common side effect of going longer periods of time without breaks from active pills.[18]


The same 1992 French review article noted that in the subgroup of adolescents 15–19 years of age in the 1982 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) who had stopped taking the Pill, 20–25% reported they stopped taking the Pill because of either acne or weight gain, and another 25% stopped because of fear of cancer.[26] A 1986 Hungarian study comparing two high-dose estrogen (both 50 µg ethinyl estradiol) pills found that women using a lower-dose biphasic levonorgestrel formulation (50 µg levonorgestrel x 10 days + 125 µg levonorgestrel x 11 days) reported a significantly lower incidence of weight gain compared to women using a higher-dose monophasic levonorgestrel formulation (250 µg levonorgestrel x 21 days).[42]

Many clinicians consider the public perception of weight gain on the Pill to be inaccurate and dangerous. A 2000 British review article concluded there is no evidence that modern low-dose pills cause weight gain, but that fear of weight gain contributed to poor compliance in taking the Pill and subsequent unintended pregnancy, especially among adolescents.[43]

More recently a Swedish study concluded that combined oral contraceptive use was not found to be a predictor for weight increase in the long term. Postal questionnaires regarding weight/height, and contraception were sent to random samples of 19-year-old women born in 1962 (n = 656) and 1972 (n = 780) in 1981 and 1991. The responders were followed longitudinally, and the same women were contacted again every fifth year from 1986–2006 and from 1996–2006, respectively. There was no significant difference in weight increase in the women grouped according to use or non-use of combined oral contraceptive or duration of combined oral contraceptive use. The two cohorts of women were grouped together in a longitudinal analysis and the following factors age, combined oral contraceptive use, children, smoking and exercise were included in the model. The only predictor for weight increase was age (P < 0.001), resulting in a gain of 0.45 kg/year. Smokers decreased (P < 0.001) their weight by 1.64 kg per 15 years.[44]


Overall, use of oral contraceptives appears to slightly reduce all-cause mortality, with a rate ratio for overall mortality of 0.87 (confidence interval: 0.79–0.96) when comparing ever-users of OCs with never-users.[58]

Environmental impact

A woman using COCPs excretes from her urine and feces natural estrogens, estrone (E1) and estradiol (E2), and synthetic estrogen ethinylestradiol (EE2).[129] These hormones can pass through water treatment plants and into rivers.[130] Other forms of contraception, such as the contraceptive patch, use the same synthetic estrogen (EE2) that is found in COCPs, and can add to the hormonal concentration in the water when flushed down the toilet.[131] This excretion is shown to play a role in causing endocrine disruption, which affects the sexual development and the reproduction, in wild fish populations in segments of streams contaminated by treated sewage effluents.[129][132] A study done in British rivers supported the hypothesis that the incidence and the severity of intersex wild fish populations were significantly correlated with the concentrations of the E1, E2, and EE2 in the rivers.[129]

A review of activated sludge plant performance found estrogen removal rates varied considerably but averaged 78% for estrone, 91% for estradiol, and 76% for ethinylestradiol (estriol effluent concentrations are between those of estrone and estradiol, but estriol is a much less potent endocrine disruptor to fish).[133] Effluent concentrations of ethinylestradiol are lower than estradiol which are lower than estrone, but ethinylestradiol is more potent than estradiol which is more potent than estrone in the induction of intersex fish and synthesis of vitellogenin in male fish.[134]



Extended cycle combined oral contraceptive pills are COCPs packaged to reduce or eliminate the withdrawal bleeding that occurs once every 28 days in traditionally packaged COCPs. Extended cycle use of COCPs may also be called menstrual suppression.[1]

Other combined hormonal contraceptives (those containing both an estrogen and a progestogen) may also be used in an extended or continuous cycle. For example, the NuvaRing vaginal ring[2] and the contraceptive patch[3] have been studied for extended cycle use, and the monthly combined injectable contraceptive may similarly eliminate bleeding.[4]

Before the advent of modern contraceptives, reproductive age women spent most of their time either pregnant or nursing. In modern western society women typically have about 450 periods during their lives, as compared to about 160 formerly.[5]


Other uses

Condoms excel as multipurpose containers because they are waterproof, elastic, durable, and will not arouse suspicion if found. Ongoing military utilization begun during World War II includes:

  • Tying a non-lubricated condom over the muzzle of the rifle barrel in order to prevent barrel fouling by keeping out detritus.[88]
  • The OSS used condoms for a plethora of applications, from storing corrosive fuel additives and wire garrotes (with the T-handles removed) to holding the acid component of a self-destructing film canister, to finding use in improvised explosives.[89]
  • Navy SEALs have used doubled condoms, sealed with neoprene cement, to protect non-electric firing assemblies for underwater demolitions—leading to the term “Dual Waterproof Firing Assemblies.”[90]

Other uses of condoms include:

  • Covers for endovaginal ultrasound probes.[91] Covering the probe with a condom reduces the amount of blood and vaginal fluids that the technician must clean off between patients.
  • Condoms can be used to hold water in emergency survival situations.[92]
  • Condoms have also been used to smuggle cocaine, heroin, and other drugs across borders and into prisons by filling the condom with drugs, tying it in a knot and then either swallowing it or inserting it into the rectum. These methods are very dangerous and potentially lethal; if the condom breaks, the drugs inside become absorbed into the bloodstream and can cause an overdose.[93]
  • In Soviet gulags, condoms were used to smuggle alcohol into the camps by prisoners who worked outside during daylight. While outside, the prisoner would ingest an empty condom attached to a thin piece of rubber tubing, the end of which was wedged between his teeth. The smuggler would then use a syringe to fill the tubing and condom with up to three liters of raw alcohol, which the prisoner would then smuggle back into the camp. When back in the barracks, the other prisoners would suspend him upside down until all the spirit had been drained out. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn records that the three liters of raw fluid would be diluted to make seven liters of crude vodka, and that although such prisoners risked an extremely painful and unpleasant death if the condom burst inside them, the rewards granted them by other prisoners encouraged them to run the risk.[94]
  • In his book entitled Last Chance to See, Douglas Adams reported having used a condom to protect a microphone he used to make an underwater recording. According to one of his traveling companions, this is standard BBC practice when a waterproof microphone is needed but cannot be procured.[95]
  • Condoms are used by engineers to keep soil samples dry during soil tests.[96]
  • Condoms are used in the field by engineers to initially protect sensors embedded in the steel or aluminum nose-cones of Cone Penetration Test (CPT) probes when entering the surface to conduct soil resistance tests to determine the bearing strength of soil.[97]
  • Condoms are used as a one-way valve by paramedics when performing a chest decompression in the field. The decompression needle is inserted through the condom, and inserted into the chest. The condom folds over the hub allowing air to exit the chest, but preventing it from entering.[98]



Four stage model of the sexual response

One of the most enduring and important aspects of their work has been the four stage model of sexual response, which they described as the human sexual response cycle. They defined the four stages of this cycle as:

This model shows no difference between Freud‘s purported “vaginal orgasm” and “clitoral orgasm“: the physiologic response was identical, even if the stimulation was in a different place.

Masters and Johnson’s findings also revealed that men undergo a refractory period following orgasm during which they are not able to ejaculate again, whereas there is no refractory period in women: this makes women capable of multiple orgasm. They also were the first to describe the phenomenon of the rhythmic contractions of orgasm in both sexes occurring initially in 0.8 second intervals and then gradually slowing in both speed and intensity.

Laboratory comparison of homosexual male versus female sex

Masters and Johnson randomly assigned gay men into couples and lesbians into couples and then observed them having sex in the laboratory, at the Masters and Johnson Institute. They provided their observations in Homosexuality in Perspective:

Assigned male homosexual study subjects A, B, and C…, interacting in the laboratory with previously unknown male partners, did discuss procedural matters with these partners, but quite briefly. Usually, the discussion consisted of just a question or a suggestion, but often it was limited to nonverbal communicative expressions such as eye contact or hand movement, any of which usually proved sufficient to establish the protocol of partner interaction. No coaching or suggestions were made by the research team.

—p. 55

According to Masters and Johnson, this pattern differed in the lesbian couples:

While initial stimulative activity tended to be on a mutual basis, in short order control of the specific sexual experience usually was assumed by one partner. The assumption of control was established without verbal communication and frequently with no obvious nonverbal direction, although on one occasion discussion as to procedural strategy continued even as the couple was interacting physically.

—p. 55


The practice of abortion, the termination of a pregnancy so that it does not result in birth, dates back to ancient times. Pregnancies were terminated through a number of methods, including the administration of abortifacient herbs, the use of sharpened implements, the application of abdominal pressure, and other techniques.

Abortion laws and their enforcement have fluctuated through various eras. In many western nations during the 20th century various women’s rights groups, doctors, and social reformers successfully worked to have abortion bans repealed. While abortion remains legal in most of the West, this legality is regularly challenged by pro-life groups.[2]

Natural abortifacients

Art from a 13th-century illuminated manuscript features a herbalist preparing a concotion containing pennyroyal for a woman.

Botanical preparations reputed to be abortifacient were common in classical literature and folk medicine. Such folk remedies, however, varied in effectiveness and were not without the risk of adverse effects. Some of the herbs used at times to terminate pregnancy are poisonous.

A list of plants which cause abortion was provided in De viribus herbarum, an 11th-century herbal written in the form of a poem, the authorship of which is incorrectly attributed to Aemilius Macer. Among them were rue, Italian catnip, savory, sage, soapwort, cyperus, white and black hellebore, and pennyroyal.[16]

King’s American Dispensatory of 1898 recommended a mixture of brewer’s yeast and pennyroyal tea as “a safe and certain abortive”.[37] Pennyroyal has been known to cause complications when used as an abortifacient. In 1978 a pregnant woman from Colorado died after consuming 2 tablespoonfuls of pennyroyal essential oil[38][39] which is known to be toxic.[40] In 1994 a pregnant woman, unaware of an ectopic pregnancy that needed immediate medical care, drank a tea containing pennyroyal extract to induce abortion without medical help. She later died as a result of the untreated ectopic pregnancy, mistaking the symptoms for the abortifacient working.[41]

Tansy has been used to terminate pregnancies since the Middle Ages.[42] It was first documented as an emmenagogue in St. Hildegard of Bingen’s De simplicis medicinae.[16]

A variety of juniper, known as savin, was mentioned frequently in European writings.[3] In one case in England, a rector from Essex was said to have procured it for a woman he had impregnated in 1574; in another, a man wishing to remove his girlfriend of like condition recommended to her that black hellebore and savin be boiled together and drunk in milk, or else that chopped madder be boiled in beer. Other substances reputed to have been used by the English include Spanish fly, opium, watercress seed, iron sulphate, and iron chloride. Another mixture, not abortifacient, but rather intended to relieve missed abortion, contained dittany, hyssop, and hot water.[34]

The root of worm fern, called “prostitute root” in the French, was used in France and Germany; it was also recommended by a Greek physician in the 1st century. In German folk medicine, there was also an abortifacient tea, which included marjoram, thyme, parsley, and lavender. Other preparations of unspecified origin included crushed ants, the saliva of camels, and the tail hairs of black-tailed deer dissolved in the fat of bears.[31]

19th century to present

“Admonition against abortion.” Late 19th-century Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock print.

19th century medicine saw advances in the fields of surgery, anaesthesia, and sanitation, in the same era that doctors with the American Medical Association lobbied for bans on abortion in the United States[44] and the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Offences against the Person Act 1861.

Various methods of abortion were documented regionally in the 19th century and early 20th century. A paper published in 1870 on the abortion services to be found in Syracuse, New York, concluded that the method most often practiced there during this time was to flush inside of the uterus with injected water. The article’s author, Ely Van de Warkle, claimed this procedure was affordable even to a maid, as a man in town offered it for $10 on an installment plan.[45] Other prices which 19th-century abortion providers are reported to have charged were much more steep. In Great Britain, it could cost from 10 to 50 guineas, or 5% of the yearly income of a lower middle class household.[3]

In France during the latter half of the 19th century, social perceptions of abortion started to change. In the first half of the 19th century, abortion was viewed as the last resort for pregnant but unwed women. But as writers began to write about abortion in terms of family planning for married women, the practice of abortion was reconceptualized as a logical solution to unwanted pregnancies resulting from ineffectual contraceptives.[46] The formulation of abortion as a form of family planning for married women was made “thinkable” because both medical and non-medical practitioners agreed on the relative safety of the procedure.[46]

In the United States and England, the latter half of the 19th century saw abortion become increasingly punished. One writer justified this by claiming that the number of abortions among married women had increased markedly since 1840.[47] In the United States, these laws had a limited effect on middle and upper class women who could, though often with great expense and difficulty, still obtain access to abortion, while poor and young women had access only to the most dangerous and illegal methods.[48]

After a rash of unexplained miscarriages in Sheffield, England, were attributed to lead poisoning caused by the metal pipes which fed the city’s water supply, a woman confessed to having used diachylon — a lead-containing plaster — as an abortifacient in 1898.[3] Criminal investigation of an abortionist in Calgary, Alberta in 1894 revealed through chemical analysis that the concoction he had supplied to a man seeking an abortifacient contained Spanish fly.[49]

Women of Jewish descent in Lower East Side, Manhattan are said to have carried the ancient Indian practice of sitting over a pot of steam into the early 20th century.[31] Dr. Evelyn Fisher wrote of how women living in a mining town in Wales during the 1920s used candles intended for Roman Catholic ceremonies to dilate the cervix in an effort to self-induce abortion.[3] Similarly, the use of candles and other objects, such as glass rods, penholders, curling irons, spoons, sticks, knives, and catheters was reported during the 19th century in the United States.[50]

Abortion remained a dangerous procedure into the early 20th century; more dangerous than childbirth until about 1930.[51] Of the estimated 150,000 abortions that occurred annually in the US during the early 20th century, one in six resulted in the woman’s death.[52]

Another case where prohibition simply makes things worse?

Effects of legislation on population

Abortion has been banned or restricted throughout history in countries around the world. Multiple scholars have noticed a that in many cases, this has caused women to seek dangerous, illegal abortions underground or inspired trips abroad for “reproductive tourism”.[87][88][89] Half of the world’s current deaths due to unsafe abortions occur in Asia.[87]

Predictable. The same result as almost always happens (speed tickets being the only exception i know of) when one makes something illegal and the law is unenforceable, and there is popular demand for the thing.


See also: Abortion in India

India enforced the Indian Penal Code from 1860 to 1971, criminalizing abortion and punishing both the practitioners and the women who sought out the procedure.[89] As a result, countless women died in an attempt to obtain illegal abortions from unqualified midwives and “doctors”.[89] Abortion was made legal under specific circumstances in 1971, but as scholar S. Chandrasekhar notes, lower class women still find themselves at a greater risk of injury or death as a result of a botched abortion.[89]




An okay to good introduction to the science and thinking behind rejuvination research and radically extended life-spans. Fairly cheap. Some of the points are rather questionable tho. I question the uncritical use of Maslow’s pyramid. Also she called all members of Mensa for geniuses i.e. top 2%. This is clearly no the case. Still recommended for people who want a short (~200 pages) introduction to the interesting subject.


I wud provide an ebook but i cudnt find one. I will destroy my book later and make one. :) It is actually quite annoying NOT to read books in ebook format. There are so many things that i wud have liked to quote and comment on, but it is too much of a hassle to type it in manually.