The Dangers of Internet Gurus and The Abuse of Science

In London I regularly walk past people sharing or promoting garbage – it might be why we’re going to hell, why we need to invest in X or why we need to buy this product. I even get automated phone calls selling me things. Nobody listens to them but, for some reason, the amount of respect people give to random ideas increases dramatically when it’s in the form of an article or website. Particularly so when it’s dressed up to closely resemble a scientific review.

For some reason the written word has always been held in higher regard than the spoken one. In our culture written opinions, published anywhere, still come with connotations of authority and trustworthiness. However since internet opinions aren’t anymore regulated than the verbal ones your mate might give you in the pub, we need to invite the same scepticism to reading as we do to listening to people who aren’t qualified to give advice.

In fact, whenever I see a patient receiving a diagnosis, the doctor explaining it never fails to warn the patient about the dangers of ‘googling’ their illness.

Articles that say a particular symptom means inevitable death, or articles where ‘experts’ explain how a disease is actually the result of a deficiency to the product they’re selling, far outnumber legitimate, informed opinions.

The internet is awash with fallacies and it isn’t always easy to tell what can be trusted. Health gurus regularly misuse science to back up their ideas and enthusiastic amateurs share conclusions from studies without being able to assess their quality.

Common types of internet health fallacies:


1) The accidental, well-meant fallacy. Normally from people who are careless and share their knowledge of science they acquired from reading articles and abstracts on PubMed. They lack understanding of how to asses the reliability of a paper and are often well-meaning enthusiasts.

2) The intentional, research-selective fallacy. This is often from people selling products that have some basis of proof in scientific literature, but as the research is overwhelming against their product, they select the research they present.

3) The intentional, misrepresentation fallacy. This is similar to the last point, but worse. Rather than finding some papers that agree with them, there are no papers on the topic as it is so bizarre. So they use huge leaps of logic and create a theory that is extrapolated from some grains of truth and uses technical terms so many non-scientists can’t see the obvious lies.

Intentional fallacies are a much more malicious and manipulative activity – these people are the parasites that live within the belly of scientific research. They scour scientific journals and pick out the 1 or 2 very weak, positive results from 100 negative ones and use them to sell a product.


Science education at university has a huge emphasis on the importance of criticizing other scientists work. It’s not something that many people seem to be aware of but the conclusion of an abstract in a poorly ranked science journal means almost nothing. I wrote my undergraduate dissertation in Neuroscience on the molecular mechanisms behind a certain brain tumor, yet nearly half the marks came from pointing out the flaws and limitations in respected academic papers. The scientists who wrote them weren’t even trying to deceive, it was just that they often didn’t have the ability to carry out the required tests or didn’t have the best samples. It’s accepted that studies aren’t perfect and can lead to erroneous results – that’s why they’re re-tested again and again. But imagine how easy it is to prove a point by intentionally finding the really low-quality abstracts in the haystack of preliminary studies and poorly tested ideas?

This doesn’t mean science is flawed, it just means it can be manipulated by the insincere and passed on to the naive.

Legitimate medical doctors and scientists don’t ever take action on single papers, even in the best journals. They’re based on a thorough review of ALL the studies – in what is called a meta-analysis. And even then, many studies will be excluded because of how poor their methods were.

Many of the scientific fallacies are an example of what in philosophy is called a False Syllogism.

If all A’s are B’s, then all B’s have to be A’s.

The above statement is false. For example all scientists are human, but not all humans are scientists. This may be a patronisingly obvious statement but it is a simplified version of how many health gurus sell ideas and products. For example:

X can prevent cancer and X is found in supplement Y, therefore supplement Y prevents cancer.

A study will find that a certain substance at super high-concentrations has a small positive effect in some people; companies then sell a supplement containing a fraction of the dosage mentioned in the study because it is expensive.

However, even if you do check the research first and find out the dose that is required, the supplement company normally doesn’t tell you how much is in their product. They hide behind using a ‘proprietary formula’, whereby they’re no longer legally required to share the dosage of ingredients.

There are many high-quality products and writers out there though, and even the ones who can’t always back up their theories can be ok to listen to providing it’s obvious that what they’re talking about is their own totally unproven idea. Far too many bloggers and gurus have this written in the small print on their pages, but in articles and podcasts they state things in a way one naturally associates with fact.

An Overview of Piracetam / Nootropil

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Piracetam, AKA Nootropil, is an incredibly useful nootropic. Despite being first launched clinically over 40 years ago, it remains one of the most popular supplements for cognitive enhancement among the many students and professionals seeking a competitive edge.

Piracetam belongs to a class of drugs known as the racetams; defined by their pyrrolidone nucleus yet known for their influence on cognitive ability. This nootropic is a cyclic derivative of the neurotransmitter GABA and, after researchers noted its potent effects on cognitive functioning, it was launched clinically under the trade name Nootropil in the 1970s. Although limited in clinical practice today, it’s still commonly used due to its remarkable ability to improve cognitive functions of the brain such as memory, attention and intelligence.
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Advice Young Professionals Need To Hear – my first article as a ‘Lifehack Expert’

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“Everybody has heard the saying, “Work smarter, not harder,” but isn’t it hard work just thinking about ways to be smarter?”

Today my first article for Lifehack.org was published. It’s an article featuring 8 key pieces of advice that can really provide some effective short-cuts and boosts in the ultra-competitive young professional world.

Check it out here and let me know what you think: Essential advice for ‘work-smart’ young professionals.

The Capacity of Our Brains

The human mind has long reminded me of a stadium. Football stadiums are built with huge capacities but whether they can hold 500 people or 50,000 people, they’re very infrequently used to that extent. Maybe once a week, if the team is popular, the stadiums get filled. Otherwise they nearly always have the potential to hold much more people in very comfortably, just like they were built to do.

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The average person holds in their head one of the most under-utilised resources in the world. The most complex structure in the known universe, capable of truly amazing feats; yet, like an out-of-season football stadium, its capacity goes unfulfilled.

Sadly though, the similarity between stadiums and brains stops there because an unused football stadium doesn’t matter. It’s unused because people don’t have a use for it. But human minds on the other hand, they have to be used fully in order for us to find out just how useful they are. Nobody knows the value of a mind until it is used to its full extent. Imagine if Mozart lacked the focus to progress on the piano, his genius would have been left undiscovered without the skills he acquired to release it from himself. What if Edward Jenner (the guy in the picture) didn’t have motivation or memory skills to learn how to be a doctor, he wouldn’t have invented the world’s first vaccine, which is thought to have led to saving more lives than any human in history.
The examples are endless and don’t just apply to the most well-known people; look at yourself and around at the people you know for any success that’s been achieved. Then ask whether this would have been achieved with a poorer memory, a lack of focus, an insufficient self-belief or a feeling of well-being? And then maybe you can wonder; what further things haven’t you achieved because your skills of mind were insufficient?

The sad (or inspiring) bit is that although we can probably think of things we’ve failed at because we lacked the skills of mind for it, the greatest things we’re capable of but failed to do will almost definitely be complete unknowns. You won’t even be aware that you failed at it, just as Mozart wouldn’t be aware he failed to become the most highly-regarded musician in the world if he stopped playing the piano.

It can be quite simple to get more from your brain in order to get more from your life and there are many ways to approach this. Improving your memory, focus, motivation, feeling of well-being and many more things isn’t as hard as it sounds. These are all skills, i.e something that can be learned/enhanced, and honing these skills is critical to living optimally. This is the introduction to a series of articles about ways to improve these
critical skills of mind. I’ll describe how I get more from my memory, focus and motivation and how to increase feelings of well-being too.

Creatine and Cognition.

Creatine and Cognition.

Supplementing with creatine offers potent benefits for health, aesthetics, fitness and cognition that have been proven in a magnitude of different studies; it really is proving itself to be a super-supplement. One of those great natural products that has not only repeatedly succeeded in studies which tested its value in one domain but now as science catches up, we’re finding more uses for it as it becomes popular with cognitive neuroscientists and clinical researchers alike.

In this article I wrote for Natural Stacks I’ll explain exactly why creatine should be one of every self-improver’s staple supplements.

My favourite Pieces of Life Advice

imageI posted on Reddit’s awesome r/self-improvement page wanting to hear users’ best single pieces of life advice that they have received/given. This is a growing list of the most popular ones and my favourites too, not particularly in order: (Note: some quotes are slightly edited for purposes of clarity, which were made clear in the comments).

“Never judge a person, because you don’t know the whole story”

“Spend your money where you spend your time”

“Always take the high road”

“Errors of omission are the ones that define you” – This was popular and I like it too, I interpret it to mean that the things you fail to do or choose not to do say a lot about your character.

“Make a 5 year plan”

“Do not expect people to behave the way that you expect them to”

“Adapt, Improvise, Overcome”

“Nobody on their deathbed ever said I wish I spent more time in the office”

“The world is your mirror” – This is possibly my favourite, I’ve heard it before and I interpret it to be a reminder that your perceptions of the world and everyone in it often reflect your own beliefs and attitudes. But really I feel like I could write a whole book on the inter-personal, economic, psychological and social implications of this sentence. It’s really simple but one of the most profound things I’ve read in a while.

“Learn how to learn from others’ mistakes” 

“Redress the discordance that exists between your day-to-day efforts and the expectations you have for your future achievements” - This was my own advice to myself a few years ago.

“Find yourself a mentor”

“Figure out who want to be and then start being them”

Can you learn in your sleep?

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Can you learn in your sleep? The idea was popularised in Huxley’s Brave New World, where one character could recite a broadcast played to him while he was asleep. The idea fascinates every over-achiever, what better than passively achieving things in those hours typically ‘wasted’ by sleep. The bad news is, this doesn’t actually seem to be possible… The good news is there are still very effective ways to exploit your sleep in order to aid learning. In this article I’ll explain why the idea of sleep-learning isn’t quite true but importantly, I will describe how learning does take place during sleep, how important sleep is for learning and, of course, methods to take advantage of this!

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“Modafinil Use Is Associated With Improved Learning” – A New RCT from Manchester Has Exciting Results

A very recent randomised-controlled-trial from Manchester has demonstrated that Modafinil at 200mg improves learning in healthy volunteers. Parameters such as new language acquisition and working memory were assessed. The effects were greatest on the first few days of use and then after 5-6 days the Modafinil group and the placebo group were similar in acquisition tasks. 

For those interested, the article can be located here

What I’ve Been Reading Recently

I’m constantly on the look-out for great new reads so I thought I’d share some of my best picks that may be of interest to the readers of this page.

This is a small selection of some very good books (in no particular order) which I highly rate for their ability to educate, inspire success and enable your productivity. If you have any recommendations of your own I’d love to hear them.

  • ‘The Social Animal – a story of how success happens’ by David Brooks
  • ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell
  • ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people’ by Stephen R. Covey
  • ‘The 4-hour work week’ by Timothy Ferris.
  • The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  • ‘The Icarus Deception’ by Seth Godin
  • ‘Brilliant Memory Training’ by Jonathan Hancock

For those interested in learning more about the human brain I’d also highly recommend reading:

  • ‘Neuroscience and Philosophy: Brain, Mind, and Language’ written by Maxwell Bennett, Danial Dennett, Peter Hacker and John Searle.
  • ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat’ By Oliver Sachs (but I would recommend absolutely anything by this author).
  • ‘The Private Life of the Brain’ by Susan Greenfield.


Productivity Blogs

The following are some blogs that I also highly rate, which offer great advice on self-improvement, productivity or practical insights into the working of the human brain.

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How To Improve Memory and Cognitive Function: Piracetam and L-Theanine + Caffeine

PKR-Inhibitor-May-Improve-Learning-and-MemoryEdit: As I’ve had numerous requests for a decent source of Piracetam since writing this, I recommend peaknootropics.
Since studying the brain extensively during my neuroscience degree, I’ve had a particular theoretical curiosity about the extent it is possible to improve one’s cognition. But now as an over-worked medical student getting closer and closer to finals, I’ve taken a more practical interest in this topic! As such, I thought I’d share a few of my personal techniques to improve your memory and enhance your cognitive abilities!

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How to Wake Up Early and Become an Early Riser: 4 Biohacks

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“Lose an hour in the morning, and you will be all day hunting for it”

I’m a night person. No matter how tired I am in the day if something catches my attention, I can happily be up until the early hours. However, no matter how early I go to bed, I can always sleep in later in the morning. I’m sure this is familiar to many of you who want to know how to wake up early. A significant proportion of the population have a genuine diathesis for staying up late, and others for rising early. However sleep-wake patterns are a complex physiological-behavioural trait and predispositions are not ultimately defining. In this article, I explain some simple neuro-hacking techniques which will help you wake up early and hopefully break you into becoming an early riser. Some of them are long-term strategies to keep you on track and others are short-term solutions for when you really want to wake up early but know you will struggle.

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My Modafinil Experience: a guide to conquering sleep safely.

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The average human sleeps 8 hours a night and lives to around 70 years old – that is 203,840 hours spent asleep! Obviously sleep has many benefits to the self-optimiser such as memory consolidation and learning… But just imagine what you could achieve with just 1-2 hours less a night from your normal routine?

You will have probably heard of the 10,000 hour principle which proposes that world class expertise in any area (e.g chess grand masters and top-flight athletes) is generally the result of of 10,000 hours of practice. Well shaving 2 hours a night from your sleep routine frees up an extra 720 hours a year. Even 1 hour less a night, at 360 hours a year, can be dramatically beneficial if the time is well spent. Master a new language? Get back into shape? Start your own business? Or simply keep doing what you’re doing but with more time spare for the fun stuff. The possibilities are endless.

So, this brings us to one of the most famous nootropics: Modafinil.

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