Pharyngula

SciAm, how could you?

As another sign of the ongoing decline of our traditional science media, Scientific American runs a superficial article on plastic surgery with a rather dubious source.

We spoke with osteopathic physician Lionel Bissoon to help us get to the bottom (so to speak) of some of the cellulite hoopla. Bissoon runs a clinic for mesotherapy (injections of homeopathic extracts, vitamins and/or medicine designed to reduce the appearance of cellulite) in New York City, and is the author of the book The Cellulite Cure published in 2006.

Why, SciAm, why?

Also, I had to gag on the guys analysis of cellulite as a modern problem — he look at old photo albums from the 40s-60s, and “women had perfect legs”, despite not having photoshop. Does he really think they didn’t have photo retouching in the days before personal computers? Or that women’s legs have suddenly developed a fundamental difference in the last 50 years?

50 years ago, Scientific American also had a little more rigor.

Comments

  1. #1 The Science Pundit
    May 6, 2009

    Oh noes!

  2. #2 edw
    May 6, 2009

    I’ve heard that taking large doses of coenzyme q10 (ubiqinone) can do wonders for your legs, and just about anything else.

  3. #3 Glen Davidson
    May 6, 2009

    I don’t see much wrong with it, actually.

    The bit about women having perfect legs in the past is nonsense, probably less because of retouching than doing the obvious, finding women with great legs for their poses. Fatter Americans, on the other hand, presumably does have something to do with so much cellulite, as stated in the article, so it’s not ridiculous to suppose that women’s legs have changed.

    It’s not a rigorous article, but I really can’t blame them for dealing with a “problem” many are facing.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  4. #4 HenryS
    May 6, 2009

    Here is a better resource:

    http://www.quackfiles.com/

  5. #5 raven
    May 6, 2009

    The print media is having a hard time with their finances.

    SciAm, how could you?

    Well, they need the money and eyeballs.

    It isn’t about cellulite, it is about chasing paying customers.

    Next up in SciAm. Is Britney having another drunken meltdown, Michael Jackson is broke again, and how to lose 10 pounds in one week on an all root vegetable diet.

  6. #6 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 6, 2009

    Quite disappointing. More so than with New Scientist.

    I’ve heard that taking large doses of coenzyme q10 (ubiq[u]inone) can do wonders for your legs, and just about anything else.

    Evidence that that’s actually the case? Come on, we’re listening.

  7. #7 Carlie
    May 6, 2009

    Yes, cellulite is a big problem. Good to spend resources on that instead of little annoyances like cancers and deafness and needing replacement organs and stuff.

  8. #8 Cujo359
    May 6, 2009

    One old trick, so I’m told, was to just smear something like Vaseline on the lens to make the image a little bit less sharp.

    Now you can do that with guassian blur, of course. But they didn’t need image manipulation software to make people’s complexions look smoother back in the ’60s.

  9. #9 Amesthe149
    May 6, 2009

    50 years ago, women didn’t wear short shorts/skirts and weren’t in constant danger of having their backsides and upper-thighs photographed! Even skinny women get cellulite!

  10. #10 Blake
    May 6, 2009

    Every once and a while I’ll swing by the SciAm site to verify that I made the right decision when I let my subscription lapse a few years ago. Haven’t regretted it so far! It really started to become the US’s version of New Sensationalist in the early part of this decade. A huge shame. Pick up one of the old copies (pre-late ’90s) just to see how amazingly good it once was. Oh well, I’m happy with Physics Today, Science and Nature through Univ. access.

  11. #11 ERV
    May 6, 2009

    Does cellulite serve a purpose?
    I don’t think it has an evolutionary purpose. I think as people have evolved in an industrial society, we’ve become lazier. Our jobs are sitting at a desk, answering the phone. We don’t go to the gardens and pick our food?we drive to the store and park in the spot closest to the building. So we’ve become more sedentary as a culture.

    What a fucking dick.

    Anyone who knows anything about women and diet/fitness knows that even athletic women with low bf% can have cellulite.

    But no, no, “You have cellulite cause youre fat and lazy, bitch”, says the good doctor.

  12. #12 PixelFish
    May 6, 2009

    re: old photos – Lighting and camera angles and shoes will have a lot to do with that as well. Diffuse lighting won’t show things as harshly.

  13. #13 Rod
    May 6, 2009

    Just cruised through to see if someone had mentioned that Americans had gained about 30 lbs on average since then. Skinny “earthy” girls, the pill, and no AIDS…man, it was nice.

  14. #14 Charles Miller
    May 6, 2009

    PROTIP: What we now call “photoshopping” used to be called “airbrushing”.

  15. #15 Doc Bill
    May 6, 2009

    After nearly 35 years I dropped my SciAm subscription last year.

    Tired of the fluff and woo.

    Yes, it was once a good monthly. SciAm is a shell of its former self, more like Popular Science or Discover. Tabloid.

    Another death knell for SciAm is that they are often quoted by the Disto Tute!

    Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say.

  16. #16 Hans
    May 6, 2009

    It’s up to us, the SciAm readers, to hold the SciAm up to a respectable standard. I am submitting a cancelation of my membership if the author of the article is not fired. I hope you will do the same.

  17. #17 varlo
    May 6, 2009

    From riagor to rigor mortis?

  18. #18 'Tis Himself
    May 6, 2009

    I stopped reading SciAm several years ago when they stopped being a science magazine.

  19. #19 varlo
    May 6, 2009

    Or even RIGOR

  20. #20 Yahyavol
    May 6, 2009

    SciaAm underwent two precipitous declines in quality, the first in the years after Martin Gardner’s column ended, and the second, even worse, in the late 1990s. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive their hatchet job on Eric Drexler.

  21. #21 arachnophilia
    May 6, 2009

    @charles miller: (#15) yeah, that little “airbrush” tool in photoshop, i wonder where they came up with that name…

    seriously. more or less anything worthwhile that can be done in photoshop can be done the old fashioned way. look up jerry uelsmann sometime. you’ll swear they’re photoshops. they’re not. (hell, look at this picture. they tell me it’s real but i swear it’s a photoshop. ok, sorry i had to. i’m a big fan of that joke)

    anyways, all photoshop does is make tools easier to use and thus more accessible. but i’m not sure that’s what’s going on here. it’s probably some combination of equipment, medium and philosophy — because let’s face it, your average husband with his new leica or nikon f (or speed graphic!) probably wasn’t airbrushing their wife’s thighs. and nostalgia/editting might have some effect here too. you’re not gonna stick the picture of your wife that makes her look hideous in your family album, and we’re not going to fondly look back on how disgusting we were. i mean, maybe now we’d do that, but… you get the idea.

    and, um, there’s also the outside possibility that cellulite really was less common. i’m just saying. is diet a factor? average diet might have changed since then.

  22. Homeopathic? Seriously, SciAm treats a guy that uses homeopathic treatments as a reliable source? You have got to be kidding.

    And that’s even before getting onto the cosmetics & airbrushing & making normality into a problem.

  23. #23 Benny the Icepick
    May 6, 2009

    I’m just disappointed that the article didn’t include any of these photos of the women with the perfect legs. Come ON, SciAm, gimme summa that RIGOR!

  24. #24 Ysidro
    May 6, 2009

    I’m tempted to get a subscription to SciAm just to cancel it and demand a refund for false advertising.

  25. #25 yoyo
    May 6, 2009

    What is called celulite now has always been with us, look at old paintings like the Rape of the Sabine Women. I am underweight BMI of 16 but have dimples flesh on my bum, big deal.

    I think Scientific American is trying to be the new OMNI but without the panel van art. (Does OMNI still exist?)

  26. #26 yoyo
    May 6, 2009

    What is called celulite now has always been with us, look at old paintings like the “Rape of the Sabine Women”. I am underweight BMI of 16 but have dimples flesh on my bum, big deal.

    I think Scientific American is trying to be the new OMNI but without the panel van art. (Does OMNI still exist?)

  27. #27 Barry
    May 6, 2009

    I have no comment on his viewing legs in old photographs, or the SciAm article. But I?ll give you an example of what really shocked the hell out of me a few years ago. At the Chimney Rock National Historic Site and Museum (Nebraska Panhandle), they have many photographs of large groups of immigrants as they gathered along the Oregon and Mormon Wagon Trails. There are thousands of people in those photographs (and none of them are cosmetically ?retouched?). When you look at them you ask yourself ? ?What the hell is wrong with these photographs?? Then it hits you ? there are no fat bodies! None. Not even a ?pleasingly plump.? Compared to the view you get at any mall today, it blows your mind. Of course they are all dressed in clothes (with long sleeves, ankle length dresses, no cut-offs, etc.; so you can?t really check for cellulite). But I guess it means we?d all be better off in some ways if we just walked a thousand miles or so alongside a wagon train every now and then.

  28. #28 Wes
    May 6, 2009

    We spoke with osteopathic physician Lionel Bissoon to help us get to the bottom (so to speak) of some of the cellulite hoopla. Bissoon runs a clinic for mesotherapy (injections of homeopathic extracts, vitamins and/or medicine designed to reduce the appearance of cellulite) in New York City, and is the author of the book The Cellulite Cure published in 2006.

    Homeopathic “extracts”? You mean water?

  29. #29 David Utidjian
    May 6, 2009

    My HS girlfriend had cellulite. She was 5′-11″ and weighed 110 lbs. She was on the girls swim team. Excellent muscle tone. Some women just are just unlucky when it comes to cellulite.

    I used to work as a bike messenger in San Francisco, before digital cameras, Photoshop, liposuction, email, and fax machines. I did a lot of deliveries between ad agencies, magazines, and studios. Almost every picture was re-touched with an airbrush and/or colored pencils. Amazing work the artists did.

    I suppose if you injected enough saline into someone it would fill them up like a water balloon and everything would look smooth and tight.

    -DU-

  30. #30 Tsar Bomba
    May 6, 2009

    If John Rennie (former editor of SciAm, fired from his position two or so weeks ago, and who gave a great talk at TAM 6) were dead, he would be turning over in his grave.

  31. #31 Carlie
    May 6, 2009

    But I guess it means we?d all be better off in some ways if we just walked a thousand miles or so alongside a wagon train every now and then.

    Don’t forget the severe malnutrition and possible parasite loads! Damn, people were healthier back then when they were skinny.

  32. #32 Nusubito
    May 6, 2009

    I’ve found a disconcerting willingness to uncritically accept homeopathy’s claims other places, too. The last place I expected was at the pharmacy department of the university I’m attending, yet there are multiple assessments of the risk of homeopathic remedies plastered on the walls.

    The posters conclude happily that homeopathy causes no adverse effects, while stupidly avoiding the obvious reason(there is nothing there to cause adverse effects). The posters then end by claiming that these remedies are safe to dispense and use. No mention that they aren’t remedies, nothing at all indicating that they understand how ridiculous the concept of homeopathy is.

    It seems that although people might conduct tests on the subject, they don’t actually think about what the underlying hypothesis of homeopathy implies. That as you dilute a thing, the effects it exerts on a living system *increase*.

    But not any other observable effects, because those can’t be faked with the placebo effect. This bullshit is so concentrated it could never be diluted into a homeopathic remedy. And yet so many people buy into it, simply because their thinking about the subject is murky and imprecise.

  33. #33 trumpeter
    May 6, 2009

    Forgive me, I don’t have the time to try to figure out the nebulous problems inherent in PZ’s objection(s). I most certainly don’t have the time to read 100+ postings about people who simply agree with PZ and cancelled their subscriptions to SciAm a year ago, hey I can top that, 18 mths. ago , oh yeh, 2 years ago. The word homeopathy gives me pause but please, spare me reading 100 agreeable posts and lay it out. For those of us (maybe I’m alone) who don’t have time to study and research and figure out where the scientific abuse is, what is this all about.

    Thank you.

  34. #34 Carlie
    May 6, 2009

    Shorter trumpeter: I can’t be bothered to read anything that is not spoon-fed directly to me, and I also don’t know the difference between 32 and 100.

    Here you go: Cellulite and homeopathy fluff articles are not appropriate topics for Scientific American. Concise enough for you?

  35. #35 Trumpeter
    May 6, 2009

    Thank you Nusubito, you answered before I hit the enter key. Very helpful.

  36. #36 Andy Pandy
    May 6, 2009

    Fuck Osteopathy and, more importantly, Fuck Homeopathy.
    Bloody Comedy Medicine.

  37. #37 Desert Son
    May 6, 2009

    arachnophilia at #21:

    hell, look at this picture. they tell me it’s real but i swear it’s a photoshop

    Damn. I just now got that joke. Heh – I spent two minutes squinting at the image on-screen, trying to figure out, “what’s arachno talking about . . . ?”

    With that, it’s probably time for dinner.

    No kings,

    Robert

  38. #38 Cannabinaceae
    May 6, 2009

    SciAm had a good run. It’s sad to see something die of agony, better if it had just killed itself. I used to subscribe, then there’d be a run of crap issues, I’d let it lapse. I’d jones for it, see it on the newsstand, there would be a good issue or two, then I’d resubscribe. Then they would start sucking again. Finally, I gave up.

    I loved the Mathematical Games/Metamagical Themas, and the Amateur Scientist columns best of all. When they died, the magazine died for me.

  39. #39 Keanus
    May 6, 2009

    Speaking on woo but in a different place, Melanie Phillips of the Spectator put out another screed on ID, creationism, and evolution earlier this week. You can see the ugly spectacle at the Spectator

  40. #40 truthspeaker
    May 6, 2009

    Does he really think they didn’t have photo retouching in the days before personal computers?

    Astounding ignorance of the recent past seems to be a common feature among alternative medicine proponents. This guy doesn’t know there were ways to retouch photos before computers; the anti-vaxxers don’t remember polio or German measles.

  41. #41 BMurray
    May 6, 2009

    SciAm has been steadily dumbing down for a long time now. The issues I recall in college (some 25 years ago) were vastly more detailed and rigorous and flat out engaging than any issue I’ve read since at least 2000.

    I blame Alan Alda.

  42. #42 Trumpeter
    May 6, 2009

    Carlie, I really didn’t want to get into this but.. avoiding spoon feeding is exactly what I’m attempting to avoid, and pronouncement from the mount with instant agreement in the first 32 of the undoubtedly upcoming 78 following posts without any explanation is precisely what I’m trying to avoid. Nusibito on the other hand outlined a concise and proper argument which incidentally agrees with my assessment. I will not go to the wall on the other hand without a proper argument. Pronouncements don’t impress me. Never have. Never will regardless of the source.

  43. #43 Carlie
    May 6, 2009

    Trumpeter, that’s fine, but you should acknowledge that your tone was incredibly condescending. Saying “Can someone clarify this issue for me” is fine; saying you don’t have time to read everything especially since you think it’s an echo chamber is insulting to everyone who has already taken the time to read and compose comments. That’s why many sites with large numbers of active boards, such as Television Without Pity, have a standing policy that you must read comments before posting and not stroll in in the middle and announce you haven’t bothered to read what anyone else has said. It’s common netiquette.

  44. #44 the pro from dover
    May 6, 2009

    “Cellulite” is not a recognized pathological medical disorder. There are no microscopic histologic findings that confirm or deny its presence. It is a marketers invention with a sciency sounding name that is more engaging than “imperfect”. For this then a gigantic entrepreneurial medical-cosmetic industry has been developed to diagnose and treat it. Next up is mandated insurance coverage and disability for the disease. Makes “fibromyalgia” sound like “brain tumor”.

  45. #45 Nova
    May 6, 2009

    From Wikipedia:

    In the past scientists interested in fields outside their own areas of expertise made up the magazine’s target audience. Now, however, the publication is aimed at educated general readers who are interested in scientific issues.

    Maybe this explains the apparent drop in standards?

  46. #46 Noadi
    May 6, 2009

    In the days before photoshop there was this marvelous mechanical device called an airbrush.

  47. #47 NFPendleton
    May 6, 2009

    “We asked an ass-scratching simpleton what he thought: ‘I’ll tell you the same thing you’ll hear from other quacks and even motivational speakers all over the country: If you’re not young, thin, beautiful, rich, successful, and healthy it’s because of you and your personal failings. You’ve got fix you! And I can help with just 20 easy monthly installments of $99.99…”

    Fixed.

  48. #48 Awesome Robot
    May 6, 2009

    “If John Rennie (former editor of SciAm, fired from his position two or so weeks ago, and who gave a great talk at TAM 6) were dead, he would be turning over in his grave.”

    They fired John Rennie? WTF!

    I generally still have a high opinion of SciAm, mostly because Steve Mirsky does an excellent job on Science Talk. But hearing about Rennie being gone is making me seriously consider giving up my subscription. If they get rid of Mirsky, I’m out for sure.

  49. #49 Carlie
    May 6, 2009

    I bet that guy doesn’t understand where the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop came from, either.

  50. #50 Paul Lundgren
    May 6, 2009

    @Trumpeter:

    I most certainly don’t have the time to read 100+ postings about people who simply agree with PZ…

    And later:

    …in the first 32 of the undoubtedly upcoming 78 following posts…

    First, “upcoming” and “following” are either redundant or mutually exclusive, but they’re excessively wordy. Second, while 32 + 78 = 110, and that could be construed as “100+”, it still makes it look like you can’t add, either. Taken together with the aforementioned condescending attitude, I think you need to make sure your next contribution to this site is more carefully laid out. You’ll find this community has VERY high standards.

    No hard feelings. Enjoy the site.

  51. #51 atomjack
    May 6, 2009

    So, trumpeter, do you expect someone else to sort the wheat from the chaff for you? Are you even an atheist? One of the requirements (I would say, unless you’re just an angry young atheist (R)), is that an atheist would have a reasoned position stemming from a little thought after a lot of input, some of it garbage. You’ll just have to deal.

  52. #52 atomjack
    May 6, 2009

    @50, we tripped over each other, sort of. But even if we double 50, we’re still not to 110. Hmmm….I seem to remember a joke about those who can’t count to ten in binary.

  53. #53 George E Martin
    May 6, 2009

    Like a number of people posting in this thread I also think that SciAm has declined from what it used to be 15 or 20 years ago. I think that the reason for the change is due to the fact the magazine was sold to its current publisher, the Holtzbrinck group of Germany, in 1986. I had remembered that it was sold, I but couldn’t quite remember when until I just read the wikipedia article on the magazine.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_American

    That article also mentions that “John Rennie is the current editor-in-chief, although he plans to step down in June 2009.” So did he leave earlier that he anticipated?

    George

  54. #54 arachnophilia
    May 6, 2009

    @Desert Son: (#THIRTY SEVEN!)

    Damn. I just now got that joke. Heh – I spent two minutes squinting at the image on-screen, trying to figure out, “what’s arachno talking about . . . ?”

    ok, now i feel bad. it’s not supposed to take THAT long… :D

    it’s like a terrible pun mixed with “look closely now” internet humor. the first time i saw it, i actually checked that the file extension to make sure it wasn’t a gif (that would surprise me with something unexpected), and looked very cautiously expecting goatse. you can tell i’ve been on the internet too long.

  55. #55 Fred the Hun
    May 6, 2009

    Coincidence?

    Homeopathy kills a child

    Category: Alternative medicine ? Medicine ? Quackery
    Posted on: May 5, 2009 10:00 AM, by Orac

    Homeopathy is water.

  56. #56 Anonymous
    May 7, 2009

    Man oh man. They used to set a standard. Readers used to read articles in that wonderful magazine to actually LEARN something. Now the articles are pared down to 4 or 5 pages (with frequently inane artwork) and the haphazard invitation to “learn more” on their website.

    I’ve had growing fears about how SciAm has deteriorated markedly (AND MARKETLY) since its peak heydays of the 70’s and early 80’s, but this is a positively gruesome development. I’m afraid they’re becoming the “New Scientist” on this side of the Atlantic…and EXCEEDING them at their game.

    What have we got left for the public? Science News.

  57. #57 EW
    May 7, 2009

    Americans are fat. Ask anybody! ;-) This means we can publish about it on the cheap.

  58. #58 JeffS
    May 7, 2009

    Everyone, vagina’s are a new invention. I looked through my family albums and couldn’t find a picture of one anywhere!

  59. #59 JeffS
    May 7, 2009

    Do his treatments work though? I mean, has he shown them to be effective?

    I’m assuming no. Why?

    I would know his name. I don’t even remember it and I just read it. He would be a gazillionaire. Pahhhlease.

  60. #60 JoeB
    May 7, 2009

    I started reading SciAm as a high school kid in the 50s, and used it as a resource during my physics teaching career; had 25 years of back issues in my classroom. Several commenters mentioned C.L. Stong’s Amateur Scientist columns and Martin Gardner’s mathematical ones. There were also Phillip Morrison’s wonderful book reviews. (I also read some of the articles, honest).
    Based on Stong’s work, we built hand-held cardboard sundials (surprisingly accurate), we looked for 3rd and higher order rainbows (in the lab; they are back toward the (occluded) light source. We “built” an analog computer (in the 60s) out of dixie cups and bits of colored soda straws.
    The 50 yrs ago and 100 yrs ago excerpts seemed quaint to my teenage self; 50 years later, not so much.
    I gave up on SciAm 15-20 years ago. Occasionally look at one in the library; very dissappointing.

  61. #61 palochka
    May 7, 2009

    I feel obligated to defend SciAm at this point, though having not yet recieved this month’s print issue, I am at a loss to do so.

    I’ve been a loyal subscriber to the print edition for many years, and I’ve don’t recall ever having seen anything remotely as ridiculous as this in there. Is this fluff actually in the print edition of the magazine? Because if it has instead been relegated to the SciAm website under “Everyday Science”, it seems maybe a bit more forgivable.

    But I guess if Rennie is leaving, what does it matter anyways. </3

  62. #62 palochka
    May 7, 2009

    *I don’t recall

    Dammit, I proof-read that and everything.

  63. #63 nanahuatzin
    May 7, 2009

    I remember my old days at the Faculty of chemistry (UNAM)…
    I was thrilled when i discovered at the library, the had all the numbers of Sciam, bach to 1920!!!

    I spent a lot of time reading ALL the collection, so it became my favorite magazine… while i did not have a subscription, i tried to keep it buying…

    Imagine my dissapointmet when i began to read the article…

    Not that an series of articles about beauty have to be aout of a scientific magazine, but that does not meant to acept any kind of supposed expertice..

    Specially since mesotherapy has not scientific base. The should start by that…

  64. #64 Utakata
    May 7, 2009

    #30

    Tsar Bomba wrote:

    “If John Rennie (former editor of SciAm, fired from his position two or so weeks ago, and who gave a great talk at TAM 6) were dead, he would be turning over in his grave.”

    Where did you get that? I’ve heard he’s no longer Editor in Chief; I don’t remember any mention of firing.

  65. #65 ano
    May 7, 2009

    there’s this thing called news now, you should try reading it. it’s about, like, current events an shit.

  66. #66 Steve
    May 7, 2009

    #8 “One old trick, so I’m told, was to just smear something like Vaseline on the lens to make the image a little bit less sharp.

    Now you can do that with guassian blur, of course. But they didn’t need image manipulation software to make people’s complexions look smoother back in the ’60s.”

    They also used to make fake fog that way. Apparently, Insomnia, with Robin Williams and Al Pacino was the last movie to use it – now it’s all done in post production.

    You also see an amusing reference to this in the Simpsons, somewhere. Homer is being photographed topless, and they just smear the entire lens with a huge amount of vaseline.

  67. #67 Michael Gray
    May 7, 2009

    In the nineteen fifties and sixties, Sci Am was considered worthy enough by some as a journal in which to first publish their serious academic scientific papers.
    It has now devolved into something less than say Popular Mechanics as such a vehicle.
    (Don’t get me started on the profound deterioration of that once great publication either!)

    I ceased subscribing to Scientific American after their year-long run of predominantly trivial, hyped, and inaccurate puff-pieces that lacked any kind of intellectual rigor, instead relying on “graphic visual impact” to sell copies to Josephine Public.
    But I retain my professionally bound mid 20th century volumes of SciAm, and still gain enormous pleasure by re-reading the absorbing and erudite articles, to the point where if challenged to the “Desert Island Books” scenario, they would be very near the top of my list.

    In a year’s time, I expect to see SciAm in the checkout queue, cuddling up to The National Enquirer and Womens’ Weekly.

    Does that make me a curmudgeonly old fart?
    If so, I assume the mantle with pride.

  68. #68 Rob
    May 7, 2009

    #45: It’s why I cancelled my subscription…

  69. #69 MadScientist
    May 7, 2009

    SciAm was always populist science “for the masses” and was to science as Popular Mechanics was to engineering. Admittedly it used to be a pretty cool magazine for curious people who wanted some small idea of what was going on in the sciences. I think it was the mid to late 1980’s when I was put off of it though; Martin Gardner’s contributions waned and CL Stong passed away (not a rigorous scientist by any standard but he was an entertaining tinkerer) and then the creationist Forrest Mims 111 came in … and I just hadn’t bothered since.

  70. #70 Evolving Squid
    May 7, 2009

    I stopped reading SciAm some years ago for two reasons.

    One reason was certainly that the scientific quality of the publication has gone down markedly since the 70’s when I started reading it.

    However, the primary reason is that they sell their mailing list information – thus a subscription to SciAm generates a lot of paper-wasting junk mail.

    I know this latter because, when I subscribe to anything, I put a suite number (even though I live in a house) with my address, that is different for each magazine or whatever. The SciAm suite number started turning up on waves of junk mail. And it wasn’t science-related junk mail… it was the Shamwow, herbal viagra, bollocksy junk mail. After I cancelled my subscription, the tide of that eventually waned and I don’t see junk mail for the SciAm suite any more.

  71. #71 TGAP_Dad
    May 7, 2009

    I work for an institution which proudly boasts a college of osteopathic medicine, where they confer DO medical degrees. They try to sell this as the equivalent of an MD degree. The “doctor” cited in the article claims a “doctorate of osteopathy.” So I am wondering if he is referring to a DO degree, or is an “osteopath” (believes all ailments emanate from some problem with the bones, hence the name). While they share a common origin, the DOs have tried to distance themselves from that past.

  72. #72 BeccaTheCyborg
    May 7, 2009

    Cellulite has always been around. Check old paintings of female nudes. Most of them have a bit. Unless it’s by Rubens, in which case she’ll happily be wearing a lot of cellulite. Thing is, back in the day, it was considered pretty hot. (Ever read Victorian erotica? No breathlessly inquisitive young nymph in any of them will be without a few references to “dimpled thighs”.

    I wish I could still find the piece I read about exactly when the term “cellulite” arose and became a problem. All I recall now is that a French company had a surplus of “slimming” cream and decided they wanted a new niche.

    And of course, cellulite has nothing to do with body size. Kate Moss has some. At a size zero to two, I have some. Yes, those cute pinups likely had some too. Airbrushing and vaseline would have you believe otherwise on that last one, though.

    As far as this quack “treatment” goes, the homeopathic stuff is water, right? I’ve seen some very interesting videos of men using injected saline to err…de-wrinkle some wrinkly bits, so I suppose it would have a superficial effect. According to those guys, though, it only lasts about 24 hours. Nice if you’re a dude lugging something the size of a large mango around, not really helpful in the long-term if you’re a self-conscious woman who’s just been swindled.

  73. #73 KI
    May 7, 2009

    DM,OM@6
    I seem to remember ubiquinone being used to treat liver spots about twenty years ago. I thought it very weird, as that is the primary active ingredient in color film developer solution.

  74. #74 Ryan F Stello
    May 7, 2009

    Ah, SciAm.
    Science’s version of Us Weekly

  75. #75 bob
    May 7, 2009

    This is disappointing. Does anyone have a source on Rennie leaving? I feel like he’s both on the ball and out there in the skeptical community, so I think he’d be willing to explain (read: apologize for) things. Assuming he still works there, of course … anyone have a source for that rumor?

  76. #76 Max
    May 7, 2009

    When they stopped printing equations I was a bit miffed. When it went mainstream fluff entirely I dropped it and started reading AmSci and Sci.

  77. #77 Gavia
    May 7, 2009

    For those who have dropped SciAm, consider American Scientist, the magazine of Sigma Xi, the scientific research society. No you don’t have to be a member to subscribe. American Scientist is the Scientific American of 20 years ago.

  78. #78 Anonymous
    May 7, 2009

    SciAm has been a bad joke since their April Fools joke issue of ’02, which unfortunately became their standard format. I’d first subscribed in ’74, but didn’t renew after that format change. American Scientist seems like a worthy replacement, though it’s only bimonthly.

  79. #79 PhilB
    May 7, 2009

    To add to the photography tricks, what’s still in use today…. posing the model in such a way that it the pose itself hides perceived flaws. Other tricks I picked up from portrait photographers include having someone hold their arms above their heads for a few seconds to reduce the appearance of veins in the hands and arms.

    Oh yeah, and most women wore some kind of hose or tights back then, that were not always obvious in a photograph.

    Oh and also, many people (especially women) tend to attempt to dress to hide their flaws especially if they’re self-conscious about them. They’re not often going to be caught out in public with a barely-there bikini.

  80. #80 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 7, 2009

    Like a number of people posting in this thread I also think that SciAm has declined from what it used to be 15 or 20 years ago. I think that the reason for the change is due to the fact the magazine was sold to its current publisher, the Holtzbrinck group of Germany, in 1986.

    No, no ? it was still great when I read it every month, in the late 90s (in the highschool’s library). Quantum physics, cosmology, occasionally paleontology, often written by people who had recently published on the subject in actual journals? Apparently that has changed.

  81. #81 dNorrisM
    May 7, 2009

    I unintentionally left my April edition on an airplane I accidentally picked up Skymall instead because it had an identical advertisement. Once they stopped The Amateur Scientist and cut the page count by 60% it was quits.

  82. #82 Akiko
    May 7, 2009

    Why is cellulite a “problem”? Is it a health hazard? Does is limit our lifespan? 100 years ago the epitome of beauty was a healthy, well fed woman who as a result of being healthy and well fed had cellulite. And why is it okay for men to have gobs of it? Every dude I know over the age of 30 and even some below, has it all over their rapidly shrinking buns, their tummies and that goo that hangs over their pants. This is just marketers pushing the impossible to get people to buy shit they dont need. I dont need shit to get rid of cellulite, I dont need shinier hair, I dont need silky skin, I dont need to look 12 again.

  83. #83 Jen
    May 7, 2009

    Not only does the content of SciAm impress me less than it did even 5 years ago (when I devoured them as a senior in high school) I am equally unimpressed with the acceptance of homeopathic ‘remedies’ as science. We have doctors for a reason, and they come from accredited schools. “The last pure homeopathic school in this country closed during the 1920s”-Kaufman M. Homeopathy in America. Baltimore, 1971, The Johns Hopkins University Press.While modern medicine was progressing, homeopathy was discarded as an inaccurate and arbitrary method of treatment

    Note: those who gain any sort of relief from their aliments (add air quotes for things like cellulite- bleh)only prove that the result is merely psychosomatic. I propose that a test should be conducted: give those same believers of homeopathic remdies information that does not conclude their treatments work and then, afterwards, let them continue to use those same treatments. I’d be willing to stake a good portion of my paycheck that once the seed of doubt was placed in their heads the ‘drugs’ would not work as well as they had once proclaimed.

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