Thursday, December 1, 2011

Science vs Acne

I have pretty bad back acne.  No, I will not show you photos.  This is not that kind of blog.

I don't really care about my acne.  I've shown it scientifically!  In the past when I've tried acne medication, my conclusion was that I don't have the motivation to apply the medication on a regular basis, and that medication applied on an irregular basis is ineffective.

But I have new motivation.  I have what I'm worried is another abscess.  After how painful it was last time, I'm taking someone's suggestion that I apply hot packs to kill the bacteria before it grows big.  As long as I'm boiling this water, I might as well kill some acne!

Of course, I'm not actually going to do any science.  I am participating in what has been called the "coffeeshop fallacy" (via The Thinker).  I like the idea of doing science, but I'm not actually willing to put in the effort.  I'm a PhD student, and I have real science to occupy my time!  So what I'm actually going to do here is an affectionate parody of science, whatever amuses me.

The hot pack idea comes from Brian Dunning.  He cites a study which says you can treat acne by applying 120 farenheit for three minutes twice a day.  There's no way I will use such stringent protocols.  Brian suggested using a laptop power adapter, but I'm going to use a rag with a bit of boiling water poured on it.  I can use the extra boiling water for tea!

The other day I had some Yogi tea called "skin detox".  On the label, it said:
Goodness should become human nature because it is real nature
This so that I can credit the tea later if I get rid of the acne.

I'm taking another idea from XKCD:

On one side of my back, I'll apply the hot pack.  On the other side, I may just try some acne medication.  Then I will ask my boyfriend to say which side looks better, without telling him which is which.  Actually, I will probably use really shoddy blinding, and he'll find out which side is which.  But he will appreciate the excuse for me to be topless.

And my excuse for writing about the experiment before it's done is to avoid reporting bias.  As you know, scientists are less likely to report negative results than positive ones, which can lead to systematic errors.  Therefore, if I never write about this again, you may assume that the results were negative, or that I lost all motivation.