21 September 2006

Chain Letters as a Source of Woo

If I would get off my butt and write something, I would have plenty of material for Skeptics Circle just from chian letters that my wife gets in her email. Her family is quite credulous, especially the younger ones, and often pass these things along - and require a good swift kick in the backside from an older sibling or me to get them to smarten up.

Well, in this week's Skeptic's Circle, See You at Enceladus goes off on the large number of chain letters being distributed via Powerpoint presentations. My wife received "The Woman", as mentioned in the Enceladus article, from her sister-in-law. Of course, they both found it very inspiring, and my wife forced me to watch it. I kept on expecting something funny to happen, but it ended up being pure, sappy, Xian-inspired, sentimental, Oprah-esque fluff. Ugh.

She also received one about self-CPR by coughing during a heart attack. That one really pissed me off because it used about 8 slides just for build-up to the actual technique, like an infomercial. My wife was impressed and sent it out to everyone she knew, including my mom, who's a doctor.

It seemed silly to me, since CPR is really only done when during cardiac arrest, not for a heart attack, so the R (R=resuscitation) in CPR is a misnomer. But, being tired, I supposed that it could have some sort of function in helping the strained heart muscles pump, so I let it slide. That night, one of my wife's brothers did some research on it, and found that, while technically possible, the likeliness of doing it correctly is miniscule and doing it incorrectly can hurt. The Urban Legends at About.com listing on it says that it can be used, with professional supervision, for people who suffer heart attacks due to heart arrhythmia. As I told my wife when she asked me about it, the article also says that the best first response for a typical heart attack is to take Aspirin.

After her brother told her the technique was not recommended, my wife sent a follow-up email telling everyone to disregard the previous email. But this was too late, for my mom had already read it. Of course, she became very insulted that someone would pass on this nonsense to her, so I had some situation-diffusing to do.

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