More Ramblings from a Los Angeles Programmer

June 28, 2007

Don’t take my word for it

Filed under: daily life — Josh DeWald @ 10:11 am

Those who know me may have noticed that I tend not to take someone’s word for something if I find it improbable (or even probably for that matter) that a statement is true. I like to research it in some way. Some may take offense. The reason is do this is that I’ve noticed that other people do tend to simply accept what somebody says without finding out if it’s true themselves. Now clearly this can be taken too far, there are things that simply do not matter whether or not they are true or not, they are simply interesting. But sometimes people change the way they live their life because of something they’ve heard that isn’t true. Again, if this is ok with you then that’s fine, but it’s not for me.

  • Red Bull is not made out of bull testicles (the chemical in question is actually a synthetic which is a copy of something that’s in bull bile!). Even if it were, so what? It’s an extracted chemical. Salt is made out of sodium and chlorine, both of which are rather deadly. You combine ions of them and you have a tasty seasoning. Red Bull (and all energy drinks) is basically sugar water with the equivalent caffeine of a cup of coffee. Yes, they have other ingredients that have sometimes been shown to aid in concentration, etc but they are in very small quantities. If you like Red Bull, drink it. If you don’t, don’t.
  • As far as anybody can tell, nobody has ever put a razor blade into an apple.
  • It used to be true that movies and books were totally false when they had somebody getting a virus without even opening or saving an email. Outlook has made this not true because it will execute anything that even *looks* like it could be executable. So, yes, you should be careful about your email. If you don’t know the person, you don’t need to see what cool pics they’ve sent you.
  • Mountain Dew will not make your testicles shrink (nor will anything with Yellow 5). I think that one was dispelled long ago, but just wanted to put it out there.
  • The placebo affect is “real” in the sense that people can in fact feel better if they are under the impression that they are receiving medication. My personal belief is this is why homeopathic stuff “works” (if it ever does work). Please don’t think that the non-existent traces of whatever chemical are actually *doing* anything. My understanding of chemistry and biology (but I could be very very wrong, research it) is that many chemicals/medicines basically act like a catalyst to make your brain/body release/block another chemical from releasing (such as one that triggers a pain receptor or euphoria or something). So if you you can convince yourself that you are getting this chemical, then your body may itself release it’s own that actually serve to do the work.

I would highly recommend that people read Snopes ( also has a good Urban Legends section) anytime they hear or read something that seems improbable or that they would make a change to their way of life (or tell to somebody, who then changes their life) as a result of. You can make the argument that in reading Snopes, you’re still just “believing” somebody else. This is true in a sense, yes. But they show evidence both when they find an item to be true or false in that they try to find the original source of something. If you’d prefer to take my claim of evidence to the limits, then there is no way to please you.

Again, you can choose to believe something if you want to. I suppose it’s even fine if you’re going to keep it to yourself. But you’re not, you’ll probably turn to somebody else with “You know what I heard… ” or, worse yet, you’ll send an email to your entire contact list. But you’re doing a disservice to somebody else if you pass on this information and they then act on it. They may think that you’re someone who is trustworthy and always checks the facts and so take your word for it. Let them be that way, but you shouldn’t.


  1. >It used to be true that movies and books were totally false
    >when they had somebody getting a virus without even opening
    >or saving an email

    A few years back most or all of the popular e-mail clients (including Eudora, Outlook Express, and Netscape) suffered from a stack-trace bug on the message _title_, so just retrieving your messages could launch an exploit. I think it was related to YahooPOPs, Yahoo’s little app you used to have to use for POP access.
    talks about a cross-site scripting/AJAX worm that executed when you opened an e-mail message in Yahoo’s _web-based_ email service. Again, no attachment required.

    Comment by Skott Klebe — July 6, 2007 @ 3:27 pm

  2. Nice, proof in point that you shouldn’t take my word for it… even in something that I thought I knew what I was talking about I was completely wrong.

    Good find!

    Comment by Josh DeWald — July 6, 2007 @ 3:34 pm

  3. But stories about those exploits usually had a flavor of, “What do you know? Hollywood had it right after all!”

    Came here from Raganwald.

    I was intending to amplify, not fact-check. Great post, great blog!

    Comment by Skott Klebe — July 6, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

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