Second Stupidest Study Ever?

Second Stupidest Study Ever?

I think I need a new file system for the articles I save for future reading. Last week it was a study I saved with the file name 'jaw dropingly stupid'. For this article, saved the same day, I used the file name 'second dumbest study ever', but only in relation to the earlier saved file. It occurs to me that trying to rank pseudo-medical studies on a stupidity scale is futile. They are not electrons with only one being able to occupy a given state.

No. An almost infinite number of studies could vie for the title of stupidest study ever and they could all win.

The article in question is Significant Geometry Features in Tongue Image Analysis.

Traditional Chinese Pseudo-Medicine (TCPM) uses pulse and tongue examination to make diagnoses. Traditionally these diagnoses are not of real diseases, but of the fantastical maladies of TCPM.

In TCPM there are multiple characteristics that determine the nature of the tongue: color, shape, moisture, cracks, coating and more. It is a complicated system that depends on years of making stuff up to master.

As the authors noted

However, ambiguity and subjectivity are associated with their diagnostic results.

A nice way of saying tongue diagnosis is bogus.

These authors, in a truly phenomenal waste of time, decided to use computer analysis of the tongue. The approach of applying technology to TCPM is popular. You can even use your smart phone to generate useless TCPM tongue evaluations.

They took high resolution photos of the tongue, did measurements and classified the tongue into one of 5 shapes: rectangle, acute and obtuse triangles, square, and circle

Really. As if this were in anyway a meaningful reality based tongue evaluation. It looks all mathy and sciencey, although their decision tree looks a bit creepy. All these isolated tongues look like Game of Thrones gone bad.

Then they compared the shape of the tongue, as determined by the computer analysis to one of six diseases and, with lots of data mining, found associations.

Amazingly, this was a University level project and not an April Fools joke.

And they concluded that

With tongue shape and a persons' health state now established using computer-based methods, this potentially provides a new painless and efficient way to diagnose patients.

As always, I think of MacBeth, contemplating the death of useful medical research

Tongue evaluation's but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an computer scientist, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

And the authors intend to waste more of their life evaluating this pseudo-science.

A continuation of this work will investigate the fusion of all possible tongue features including color and texture in order to better determine a patients' state.

It is sad to think how much time, money and intellectual capacity are wasted in the studies such as this.

Points of Interest
Points of Interest 09/16/2015

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