Monday, 28 February 2011

More pseudoscience in TV adverts

"You use a toothbrush to clean your teeth, so why should your skin be any different?"

Because my teeth are a strong, tough, calcium phosphate compound designed for biting and grinding, while my skin is a soft, flexible material designed to be sensitive.

And so we begin again, although you probably shouldn't get me started on the strange and unintelligent things that advertisers say in TV adverts.  Too late, goes the cry.

Today, I have a little more on pseudoscience, inspired by a television advert I saw a couple of days ago.  I've already complained about the widespread use of hexagons in cosmetics adverts, but the commercial that I saw the other day reminded me of another considerable bug-bear of mine in the field of bad science:  the helix.

Two or three bands of various shades of brown spiral around a 'greatly magnified' strand of hair, before encapsulating it with a flash and a gleam of over-reflective sheen.  Why the helix?  Why the spiral?  I'm guessing that either it all comes down to DNA, or to the long-standing symbol for medicine? 

If it's a not-so-scientific rip-off of the DNA molecule, it might be worth mentioning that hair doesn't contain DNA.  No, despite what they may say on CSI, there's no DNA in hair.  The hair follicle at the base of the hair will contain DNA, but the hair itself won't.  So regenerating, recharging, repleneshing or otherwise repairing hair with DNA won't work.  No, sorry.
On the other hand, if the scientific message that we're meant to get is that the product is medicinal, then perhaps the helices should be snakes, as in the original symbol?  Probably not.  But there's no doubt that the helix is here to stay, at least for now, even if it only 'looks' scientific in the same way as a group of hexagons do. 

Until then, I think we'll have to keep washing our hair in icky goo, rinsing the dirt out of it with hot water and wait until somebody can find some chemically beneficial hexagons and helices.

Have I missed something?  Should I have added something else that keeps showing up in adverts in the name of science?  Let me know!

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