Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2017 scientific society talks in London blog post

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

How to trap tweets in a hurry

Disclaimer: I don't know if any of these methods are forensic enough to be considered evidence in a police investigation or court situation, I am not a lawyer but presumably you'd be able to affirm that they're genuine under 'oath'. I generally capture tweets during or after fun things like conferences, to embed them in blogs, however the techniques below are a bit less fun (eg if someone is being abusive or evasive) so... please be careful about how you use them!

Notes
URL = a web address, typically beginning with http:// or www...
This post assumes you're visiting http://twitter.com as opposed to third party apps (plenty you can do with those too).

For most of these techniques you don't actually need a Twitter account to do them, however for the bits where you do need one you can easily create a new account if you don't want to use your own.  

If the person from whom you wish to capture tweets has blocked you should still be able to view their tweets (though you can't favourite or retweet them), also they may not show up in a search when you're logged in.

Note that blocking someone does not stop them from seeing your tweets. At all.

Echofon on iPhone currently lets you view the profile of someone who's blocked you though that may change.

Table of contents
1. A useful general thing - how to exploit Google's cache
2. Using screenshots
3. Tools like Storify / Chirpstory
4. Embed the tweet in a blog before it's deleted
5. Freezepage
6. Email the tweet to yourself
7. Favstar
8. Political tweets
9. Finding difficult-to-find or deleted tweets
10. Miscellaneous

1. A useful general thing - how to exploit Google's cache
Note: you don't need a Twitter account to do this.

Search for the person's twitter handle, in the results there'll be a little downward pointing green arrow, click on that then click on 'Cached', that's the link to use. See pic below.
















What you'll end up with is unlikely to be particularly visually appealing - it's just the tweets without the nice layout, but - depending on the time - you may be able to see the tweet you're after if it's been deleted already - however you'll need to do something with it, it is not permanent.

If the person deletes all their tweets and publishes a fresh one then Google will re-index their page and the cache of tweets-of-interest may disappear. If you find a cache of tweets you'd need to take a screenshot (2) or use Freezepage (4).

2. Take a screenshot
Note: you don't need a Twitter account to do this.

Useful comment from skeptools (see below) is to make sure you grab the URL in the screenshot too (you may additionally want to capture it as text as well). If you don't want to include your other tabs or bookmarks you can open the tab in a fresh window and use the view menu to hide or display stuff.

Screenshots on PCs - Prt Scr for whole screen, Alt+Prt Scr for just the active window
This is unlikely to be suitable forensically as it can easily be altered, but click the Prt Scr (Print Screen) button on your keyboard. This silently copies the content of the screen to your clipboard - it doesn't actually 'print' anything, if you open a programme like Word (or Paint, where you can amend or tidy up the image) you can paste it and save a copy. If you only want to capture a browser window rather than your entire desktop, hold down the Alt key then Prt Scr.

Screenshots on Macs
Note 'Command' = the ⌘ key
Command-Shift-3 Capture the entire screen to a file
Command-Shift-Control-3 Capture the screen to the Clipboard
Command-Shift-4 Capture a selection to a file
Command-Shift-Control-4 Capture a selection to the Clipboard
Source: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1343

Screenshots on iPhones
Press the on/off button (at the top right) and the 'home screen' button at the bottom. This will copy whatever's on your screen to your camera roll. 

3. Storify (or Chirpstory)
Note: you don't need a Twitter account to do this on Storify (you can use Facebook) but you do for Chirpstory.

Once captured a tweet will persist even if it's subsequently deleted from Twitter (proof). Chirpstory is great for grabbing a bunch of tweets (50 at a time) from a user, or a hashtag. Storify lets you grab 20 at one go.

If you are grabbing individual tweets from different users you can do that too - might want to use the LINK tool on Storify to save the tweet by its own address (you can get that from Twitter, either on the timestamp or Expand link) rather than keeping searching for individuals. You can also use Storify's search for tweets sent to a person and capture a full conversation - tweets taken out of conversational context can give a misleading impression.

Don't forget that you don't have to publish the Storify to trap tweets in this way. You can just save it / them as a draft story. Storify has a tendency to email people whose tweets have been incorporated into a story (this only happens if the person has used Storify themselves though, and has signed up to receive these messages) so worth being aware of.  Obviously if you don't publish it no-one else will be able to see it until you do.

4. Embed the tweet in a blog before it's deleted
Note: you don't need a Twitter account to do this 

I've found WordPress.com to be better than Blogger for the way it presents embedded tweets.

In Wordpress you can usually just take the URL of the tweet (on Twitter.com you can get it from the time or datestamp which is next to the tweet-sender's name) and paste it directly into the Visual editing window. In Blogger you need to change to the HTML editing window and then paste in the embed code (it won't work in Compose view).

To get the embed code hover over a tweet and notice that the pale grey text in the bottom right goes darker. Click on More then click on Embed Tweet [see (6) for more on using the Email tweet option], copy the 'blockquote' text that appears and paste it into the editing window.

If the tweet is later deleted, or the person makes their profile private, your embedded version will remain, however people will obviously no longer be able to interact with it by clicking through and seeing the tweet on Twitter (because it's not there), nor can they reply to it or favourite it even if they're logged in to Twitter while visiting your blog.

More info on embedding tweets from Twitter's support.
Detailed info from Twitter's developers on embedding tweets.

Note, if your blog contains any material that may be under someone else's copyright then it can be taken down very quickly by a DMCA takedown notice (generally this happens along the lines of 'disable blog first, ask questions later), so if you need to keep that material make sure you back up your blog.

5. Freezepage
Note: you don't need a Twitter account to do this.

Freezepage will let you permanently capture an individual tweet (using its URL) or one page of a user's most recent tweets. In either case it's essential to use the http:// and NOT the https:// version otherwise it won't work.

One 'frozen' this will maintain a copy of tweets that are subsequently deleted or made private.

If the tweets are already deleted and you only have a cached copy (see 1) then you can freeze a copy of the cache (and it should actually reformat it so that it looks quite Twitter-like, the cache itself is usually a bit of a mess as the Twitter styles aren't applied to the page).

I tend not to delete my tweets so it should be possible to click through (hover over various tweets) and see them in original context. Example of one of my tweets | example of a page of my tweets | a page of my cached tweets (from July 2013, via Google).

Note that if you have a free Freezepage account and don't log in regularly your page will be removed - either log in regularly if you really need to keep it, or you'll have to pay to use the service (or Google for alternatives).

6. Email the tweet to yourself
Note: you will need a Twitter account to do this (unless you copy and paste tweet into a message!)


On the website version (twitter.com) hover over the tweet to bring up the extra options, choose More... and then select 'Share via email'. You can send the tweet to yourself (or anyone else provided they've not blocked this option). If you don't have a Twitter account you can only see the Embed tweet option.

On Echofon for iPhone, click on any tweet, then select the More option and 'Mail this tweet'.

Twilert is a free service (enhanced version is paid) which will send you an emailed 'alert' with tweets from a person or that contain a particular hashtag.

Peter English also points out (in the comments below) that you can have someone's tweets sent to you by text message. I suspect this will cost you money so check with your phone provider. I've not tried this one but I think you have to activate it on Twitter.com in your settings - ie you will need a Twitter account yourself.

7. Favstar
Note: you don't need a Twitter account to do this.

Favstar.fm is a tool that automatically captures tweets that have been favourited or retweeted. It seems to do it for pretty much everyone as far as I can tell. Apparently a tweet sent publicly which has been RTed or favourited will remain on Favstar.fm even after the person makes their account private. I don't know if it will remain if the tweet's been deleted though. It's definitely worth a look

8. Political tweets
Note: you don't need a Twitter account to do this.

As skeptools says in a comment below http://www.politwoops.com/countries keeps an eye on all deleted tweets by politicians around the world. Here's the UK version http://www.politwoops.co.uk/ 

9. Can't find the tweet you're after?
Note: you don't need a Twitter account to do this.

If you can remember what was in the tweet you can search for words (and you can also search for a whole or partial URL, eg searching for brodiesnotes shows tweets linking to this blog, you don't need the full URL). Even if the original tweet has been deleted someone may have manually retweeted it.

Note that manual RTs can be altered so it's probably not forensically reliable in which case responses to original tweets may be corroborating evidence. To find tweets sent to someone just search for the @name, eg you can see tweets sent to (and from!) me).

Favstar.fm (see (7)) is also useful for uncovering some tweets. Google cache (see (1)) may help but equally it might not - it's very dependent on timing.

Older tweets may have been picked up by various archiving tools such as section 4 in this page on Finding things that aren't there any more on the internet, and storing things that are.

Archiving sites
http://archive.org/web/web.php
http://archive-org.com/

10. Miscellaneous
Note: you don't need a Twitter account to do this.

There's also a free screen recorder bundled into Mac (OX 10 and above I think) that would record a video of your screen with tweets on it, for no other reason than it's less tamperable-with than a screenshot. You can also 'save page as html' in most browsers but I don't think this is particularly reliable.

If you know of other tools let me know and I'll add them:
@JoBrodie
jo. brodie at gmail. com



Friday, 26 July 2013

Google Street View and seeing people who've since died

I quite often use Google Maps' Street View to rehearse unfamiliar journeys that I'm going to make on foot (comically bad sense of direction, tendency to flip everything 180 degrees) and there are often people in the vistas that appear on the screen, although their faces are blurred out.

A few months ago a friend was looking at [their] home town and spotted an elderly relative who'd since died but whose image was clearly reflected in a window (the person was facing away from the camera so their face wouldn't have needed blurring). This is because some of the photos are a couple of years old.

My friend was delighted with this and sent screenshots to family members. I had a go looking at places where my mum might have been (she died a few years ago) but sadly didn't spot her.

I wondered if other people have spotted dead relations and friends while browsing through the Street View maps. If you know someone well you don't need to see their face to know it's them and I suspect it could be rather disconcerting for some.

Plenty of people might not know that Street View exists - you have to click and drag the little person icon onto the map to turn the map to Street View. In the first photo the little yellow man is highlighted with a pink marker that I drew on. In the second is a screenshot of what happens once you click and drag him onto the map, and the third is what you see when you 'release' him onto the pavement. You can then go in pretty much any direction (forward, back, turn around, look up etc) and take a wander round the area. I dropped the little chap into Blackheath.


The direction of the green thing next to the little chap (it looks like a green speech bubble pointing upwards) shows the direction that you'll be looking in when you let go of the person icon. You can move your mouse around to change his direction and position before dropping him. Or her.




Light googling suggests plenty of popular stories relate to children pretending to be dead and someone apparently covering up after a murder, ie the idea of Google photographing people who are actually dead. What I'm interested in is Google capturing people while alive who subsequently die but who are forever trapped on Street View.



Tuesday, 23 July 2013

testing everystockphoto embed codes

Edit 23 December 2013
The code below would once have shown one of my Creative Commons images. Because my images are CC anyone may use them (including for commercial purposes) with credit to me and Flickr, where they're hosted. Usually this is done online via the 'share' link but if people want to use them in a magazine and can't manage the credit... I can probably live with it.

Back in July I found that some of my photos appeared on EveryStockPhoto - that in itself didn't bother me too much but I was a bit miffed that they credited themselves when anyone used the share link from their site. So I asked them to remove me and they did.

script src="http://www.everystockphoto.com/widget.php?imageId=6403792&size=small" type="text/javascript"

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

What would you recommend for email discussion groups with filesharing capabilities - Google Groups?

I am helping to do some admin for our Continuing Professional Development (CPD) course in Computer Science for Teachers at QMUL. As this is the last week the students are keen to keep in touch and share resources, either links or files.

Probably Google Groups is the most straightforward as it satisfies these criteria (I believe):
  • it's free
  • no-one needs to download anything to use it
  • anyone can be invited even if they don't have a Gmail address
  • everyone can store files there (or is it just the group admin?)

Does anyone know differently? And would anyone suggest Yahoo Groups or other groups instead?

Thanks :)

Rejected tools include
LinkedIn - don't think you can share files (?)
Facebook - dear god it's just awful, you can share photos though and there's some limited filesharing
Twitter - bit too public, crap for filesharing unless Dropbox is used or things like that

Monday, 15 July 2013

Does the pitch of an air raid siren vary with the frequency of the electricity supply?

As a child I was scared witless in a fascinated sort of way by air raid sirens - a bit like the "what's the time Mr Wolf?" game, you're scared but you keep going back. I have a childhood memory of being in Portugal when one went off and I wasn't very happy about it. Now I think they have a wonderfully evocative sound but of course I've never lived through any experience where they would genuinely mean something frightening, I've only ever heard tests (and rarely at that).

There are lots of people with air raid sirens of their own, bought from collectors and eBay, and YouTube has plenty of videos of the sirens being displayed and tested.

Things I have learned during pleasant searches on YouTube and beyond is that these things are robust and heavy and need an oomph-load of electricity to get going and to get them up to the right speed for that spine-chilling siren sound.

I'd 'heard of' three phase power (electricity supply, generally used industrially) but had no real idea what it is - not the sort of thing you have coming out of your living room sockets and so if you have a siren at home the best you're going to get from it in terms of sound is what you can get by starting it with a drill bit rotating at a decent speed. However all this will do will make the rotors spin, but it won't warn anyone of any impending doom, perhaps just mild peril.

Siren started with drill - mild peril              Siren with three phase supply - doom!

 

Since I know so little about electricity supply, voltage and frequency (and about sirens) there's still a lot still to learn but this comment on this YouTube video intrigued me.
"If you want the classic low pitch British air raid sound you would want to get a convertor to take the power supply from 60 Hz to 50 Hz, otherwise it will sound like the Federal 2T22 or 3T22 siren, which in turn would sound like a Castle Castings siren if run on 50hz."
Gosh. Does this mean that the main differencess in sound between US sirens (eg the Federal 2T22 / 3T22) and UK ones (eg Castle Castings) are down to the frequency at which their electricity supply operates and the pitch of the siren is set by this frequency?

Also as a child I discovered that my mini two-battery fan could spin a heck of a lot faster if I sellotaped more batteries together, so it doesn't surprise me that 'more power' changes the rotation speed and so the pitch, but the frequency idea took me by surprise.

I've also learned that they have some pretty scary-looking sirens in the US.

                      Allertor                                                    3T22
 

                         T135


I can't embed this one but it spins round and in the test emits three different signals, the last one is the scariest I think.

You might also like
South Shields meets the sublime: A report on the Foghorn Requiem (24 June 2013) by Sarah Angliss who went to hear the Souter Lighthouse foghorn play out for (probably) the last time, as part of a musical event


Sunday, 14 July 2013

Homeopathy and cargo cult campaigning

Fighting for homeopathy: http://fighting-for-homeopathy.blogspot.co.uk/

Campaign strategies
There's a new campaign/er working in support of homeopathy and their recommendation is, commendably, for people to get involved in the online discussion about homeopathy. What I'm less sure about is their recommendation to "go to the debate and paste a short personal story, or a few short sentences noting why you support homeopathy" as this will just result in an awful lot of anecdotes being posted.

One thing homeopathy fans have in their favour is anecdote, they are fully of stories about how homeopathy worked for them, and people generally warm to stories.

The information on 'how you can help' (at http://fighting-for-homeopathy.blogspot.co.uk/p/who.html) encourages supporters of homeopathy to get in, post their story and get out again without waiting to read the criticisms from homeopathy detractors.

One thing I think that the skeptics have done fairly well though is raising awareness of why anecdotes are not much use in determining how well a particular medicine works. 

The strategy to flood the debate with anecdotes would seem to be self-defeating given that the people that homeopaths want to persuade are already aware that anecdotes don't provide the required quality of evidence.

It briefly crossed my mind that the campaigner might be misleading homeopaths (eg see Poe's law) because if I wanted to waste the time of homeopathy fans it would be by getting them to post anecdotes all over the internet. It's doing something that keeps people busy but probably won't actually help much (see cargo cults).

Perhaps I'm wrong though and the power of stories will be the better strategy and maybe those skeptical of homeopathy will have to find some anecdotes where 'homeopathy didn't work for me'. The decision-makers and people with purse strings have always been interested in the cost-effectiveness of medicines although sometimes public support has derailed this somewhat, so maybe we skeptics need some stories too.

Misunderstanding copyright
I'm no expert in copyright matters but I think this paragraph, included as part of a comment published on many of the blog's posts is quite mistaken:

"I strictly abide by copyright laws when posting any information, images, links and or comments posted elsewhere. All of the comments by the opposition have been posted elsewhere and as such are a part of the public domain."

Things on the internet are NOT part of the public domain unless the author has put them in the public domain.

The blog's writer has been posting pictures and names of the 'enemies of homeopathy' http://fighting-for-homeopathy.blogspot.co.uk/p/our-foes-names-and-faces.html

Posting photographs of people who own the copyright on that photograph (not because they're in it but because they took it) seems another strange approach. Skeptics are probably unlikely to report copyright violations (via the DMCA takedown notices) because it's a bit tedious and childish but also because this strategy has been misused by others in order to shut down debate. Even so it seems odd to post this stuff and announce it's perfectly OK because it's within copyright. I'm not sure that it is.

Personally though, I have very low tolerance both of photo posting and DMCA takedowns because of this person.

Recent news and context
See Guy Chapman's post for the significance of the recent Advertising Standards Authority adjudication on what homeopaths can say in their advertising.

Comments policy
I'm afraid I haven't accepted any pro-homeopathy comments on this blog for several months now, so my refusal to accept any at the bottom of this post isn't particularly to do with meanness, just consistency. It's clear that the homeopaths have their own pages on which they can post their disagreements with those who don't support homeopathy.

Friday, 12 July 2013

How to fix new Gmail (the one with the tabs)


"Deselect all categories to go back to your old Inbox." - that's what you're doing to fix this.

If you want to play around with other options, your settings page is https://mail.google.com/mail/?shva=1#settings

Background
Today Gmail decided to rearrange my inbox and move some of my messages into 'social' (things like Quora questions) and 'promotion' (things like Amazon) which is something I've never felt the need to do myself.

It actually sounds like a great way to be able to reorganise messages but I can't imagine librarians being overjoyed if I turned up to their library and rearranged their books even if my system happened to be an improvement (doubtful).

So it immediately got my hackles up. I'm all for improvements but I'd rather not have them imposed. Maybe leave my emails alone and just let me know that a new system is available.

I wonder how many people don't bother to exploit the things that can make their use of email more efficient. You still have to spend time setting things up, or learning how to set things up (or even just absorbing the concept that there are ways to use email more efficiently) and many might think it's not really worth it.

Edit - 16 September 2013
If Gmail on iPad seems to be hiding your social emails then the workaround above might work - @Comprendia has reported back that it does but of course this is an n=1 so your mileage may vary :-)

I've already got oodles of filters and folders imposed on my Gmail email system so everything neatly shuttles itself into the correct spot and there's no need for Gmail to come along and muck it all about thankyouverymuchharrumph.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

What Live Blood Analysts Can't Tell You

On 3 July 2013 the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), the body which determines the guidelines that the Advertising Standards Authority uses to decide if an advert is decent, legal, truthful etc, published their findings on what Live Blood Analysts may claim in their marketing materials. This is part of CAP's massive AdviceOnline database.

The last line of their guidance is significant
"CAP is yet to see any evidence for the efficacy of this therapy which, without rigorous evidence to support it, should be advertised on an availability-only platform." (emphasis added). 
This means that anyone offering live blood testing can say that it's available, but not what it's 'for' (because there's no evidence that it's 'for' anything) unless they have really good evidence.

The Live Blood Analysis (LBA) industry has been experiencing close scrutiny from bloggers and skeptics because of the persistently misleading health claims made by a number of its practitioners both in the UK and abroad.

In the UK this scrutiny has resulted in several listings on the Advertising Standards Authority's (ASA) pages for action taken against misleading claims. The action taken ranges from the minor informally resolved cases (where the practitioner / marketer agrees to remove or amend the misleading claims and a note is added to the ASA's pages about this) to the more serious adjudications (which can either be 'upheld' or 'not upheld') - in these cases the marketer has argued their case (either successfully or not) and details of the complaint(s) made, the evidence supplied and the findings of the ASA are published.

The most serious sanction is to be listed on the ASA's 'non-compliant online advertisers' page, for persistent offenders who don't amend their claims. At this point the ASA may pass details of the misleading claims onto Trading Standards and may also work with Google and other search engines to remove advertising from showing up in searches, or the ASA may take out an advert itself. There may also be negative articles written in the press and blogs.

The new CAP guidelines are not a ruling against LBA but they do mean that future complaints against people offering live blood testing will be quicker. Rather than having to go through the deliberations needed for adjudications the complaint can just be passed to the ASA's compliance team. The ASA has already done the work determining that LBA is unevidenced and doesn't need to do so again.

For more on the significance of the new CAP guidelines see

Live Blood Analysis: no health claims allowed (5 July 2013) Josephine Jones' blog
A good week for the reality-based community (5 July 2013) Guy Chapman's blahg



This next part of the post highlights some of the inaccurate claims made about live blood analysis. It's very detailed, you might want to get a cup of tea.

It's important to acknowledge that many people find live blood testing to be beneficial in helping them change their lifestyle and I'm sure plenty of them will be unconvinced by blog posts from people like me who say that live blood analysis is a bogus diagnostic tool. That's fair enough, but if you are thinking of spending money on this test, I recommend keeping your wits about you as this business is unregulated and, anecdotally at least, seems to be used to sell people vitamins and other supplements that they don't necessarily need and could probably get more cheaply from their doctor (if they actually need them).

Things to bear in mind
People selling live blood tests are unlikely to be medically trained so you should really see a doctor if you're concerned about your health. If anyone tells you to stop taking medication (or implies that you will be able to stop taking your medication) treat this advice with caution. If they use the title Doctor or Dr check that they have a proper medical degree (they may have a PhD doctorate which means they are a 'Dr' but not a medical doctor, see CAP's advice on the Use of the term "Dr" and the rulings panel on the right hand side of that page for examples).

What's live blood analysis (LBA)?
LBA involves pricking your finger, taking a small drop of blood and placing it onto a slide to view under a high powered microscope. A camera is attached to the eyepiece of the microscope and the view of the cells is displayed on a monitor letting the customer and live blood analyst see what's in the sample. While it all sounds sciencey it isn't really. The information that LBA practitioners provide in their promotional literature implies that the test will let them see certain things about someone's health, however that information is largely mistaken.

1. Healthy red blood cells
Healthy red blood cells under a microscope, played by Cheerios in a dish

A note on finger-pricking, using a lancet, to collect a drop of blood
Only a tiny drop of blood is needed but this does involve breaking the skin to access it, therefore it is best thought of as 'minimally invasive' rather than 'non-invasive'. In some US states a person who isn't properly trained in collecting blood samples isn't meant to do so and LBA practitioners will let the client use a blood collecting device instead. In the UK, as far as I'm aware, as long as consent is given for the finger to be pricked then this is perfectly fine.

A note on artifacts 
An artifact on a microscope slide of someone's blood is something that was created during the process of preparing the slide and isn't actually anything to do with the person's blood. As Wikipedia says it's "an apparent structural detail that is caused by the processing of the specimen and is thus not a legitimate feature of the specimen." Another article says "in micro­scopy, an artifact is something that looks abnormal or odd but is actually insignificant and is ignored by a trained professional."

Royal Microscopical Society
Hardly any live blood analysts claim that they are members of the RMS, but I thought I'd mention it because this advert for a distance-learning course in nutrition and live blood analysis says that
"Completion of the course the graduate gains a Diploma in Live Blood Analysis & Nutrition. Automatic membership to the British Association of Health and aesthtics and memebrship to the Royal Microscopical Society of Great Britain. "

Ordinary membership of the RMS costs £64 (2013 prices) and the PDF membership form doesn't ask about your competence as a microscopist, or even if you are one, only your areas of interest and nor does the corporate membership form.

Another advert implies that people who've done a similar course will be eligible for professional membership of the RMS although as far as I can see neither of the forms require someone to be a professional microscopist.


Things to watch out for

1. If the person doing your live blood test tells you that they can see bacteria in your blood, watch out - they are probably telling you something that isn't true.
They've been given wrong information in their training and are unwittingly passing this on to you in good faith. It's pretty unlikely that you have bacterial infection in your blood - you would probably be feeling very ill (unlikely to be well enough to want to sit in a clinic looking at your blood on a screen).

Sometimes they might tell you that your blood cells are turning into bacteria (this is simply impossible).
"If the practitioner could actually identify bacteria in the blood, the customer is in danger and should request immediate transfer to the nearest emergency room to be treated for septicemia, a potentially life-threatening infection of the bloodstream" - from this article on live blood cell analysis.
Basically you are very unlikely to have bacteria in your blood and if a live blood tester tells you that you do they are likely mistaken and you should be careful about following their advice or giving them money to 'treat' you.

3. Red blood cells showing signs of yeast
Red blood cells showing signs of a yeast infection, portrayed by Cheerios in a dish, and milk

2. If your live blood analyst tells you that you have yeast in your blood or markers for yeast, watch out - they are probably telling you something that isn't true.
Again, it's not about lying or deliberately misleading you - they are simply mistaken though well-meaning. It's extremely unlikely that you'd have yeast in your blood. You may well have a yeast infection elsewhere (eg thrush) but looking at your blood under a microscope doesn't tell you much about that.
"Some artifacts are mistakenly identified by the practitioner as yeast cells, one of the most common “findings” by alternative practitioners. Yeast cells cannot be seen in the blood of a healthy person for the simple reason that they are not there. An actual fungus (yeast) in the blood is seen in patients who are critically ill with some type of severe immune system deficiency. These individuals also will not be well enough to be wandering about at a health fair" - from this article on live blood cell analysis.

3. If your live blood tester says you have parasites in your blood they are unlikely to be correct
This one is at least slightly more believable, in that it is perfectly possible to detect some parasites in the blood (microscopy is used in detecting malaria for example). However it is unlikely that that is what your live blood analyst is looking at and they have probably confused artifacts introduced into the preparation of the slide for parasites.

A properly trained microscopist could certainly spot the presence of certain parasites in the blood and if you think you might have them (eg you've been bitten by a mosquito in an area where they're known to carry malaria) then a visit to the doctor's a good idea.

If someone says you have parasites, without telling you what they are, watch out if they offer some sort of treatment. They need to know what parasites are present (and further tests might be needed) as that will determine what type of treatment is needed. If they just offer to sell you herbal supplements or vitamins - be cautious.

4. If a practitioner tells you they can spot blood sugar (blood glucose) imbalances by looking at your blood they are going about it the wrong way
There's not very much you can tell about someone's blood glucose levels by looking at their blood under a microscope.

It's far more efficient to measure the concentration of glucose in the blood using a proper blood glucose meter, but it's best to learn about how to make sense of the results from a doctor or nurse. 

Higher levels of glucose in the blood overall does reduce the squishiness of red blood cells, a bit, but I'm not convinced this can easily be picked up under a microscope (and even if it was it could perhaps be caused by things other than blood glucose levels, for example, as the sample dries on the slide).

Although it's superficially plausible - after all you'd expect treacly blood to stick together more and behave slightly differently - it doesn't really work like that. Testing blood glucose levels requires either a blood glucose meter to find out what the levels are now or a glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) test to give an indication of glucose levels over the past few weeks. Not a microscope.
  • Influence of D- and L-glucose on erythrocytes and blood viscosity (abstract only)
    I can't make a great deal of sense of this one as the abstract suggests that glucose both does and doesn't increase viscosity of blood but I've included it in case anyone wants to use it as a springboard to find other similar papers

  • Hemorheological Disorders in Diabetes Mellitus 
    Rheology is to do with how liquids flow and how soft materials can be compressed (squishiness) and this paper talks about the effect of high blood glucose levels on the squishiness of red blood cells. It makes them less flexible - which is a problem as red blood cells need to be able to squeeze into small spaces to get into the really small capillaries (to bring oxygen to organs). I still don't think it's something that can be seen easily picked up under a microscope, at least not without appropriate training.

    The paper also talks about high glucose levels increasing the aggregation (sticking together-ness) of red blood cells. Live blood analysts often claim that they can spot red blood cells sticking together (forming "rouleaux" - stacks of red blood cells) and undoubtedly they can however this is probably an artifact - as the blood smear on the slide dries there'll be a bit more clumping. If they try and use this as part of a diagnosis, beware.

    There's more information on rouleaux in this article on live blood cell analysis that I've already linked to umpteen times :)

2. Unhealthy red blood cells
Red blood cells under a microscope forming rouleaux, played by Cheerios that were obligingly already stuck together

5. If the live blood microscopist moves the slide around to look at different features of the blood they may be about to tell you something that isn't correct
If the live blood analyst moves the sample so that different bits of it are viewed and tells you that this refers to different organs in your body then they are mistaken. It's likely to be an artifact - the sample of blood will be slightly thicker in the middle and thinner at the edges, where it will dry more quickly.

6. If the analyst says they can spot weaknesses in your organs, eg pancreas stress, they're mistaken
It's nonsense, and there's no need to buy unnecessary supplements, special foods, alkaline water or the tools to make your own alkaline water either. Here's a recent (3 July 2013) ASA adjudication which upheld a complaint made about the claims a company made for their alkaline water product.

7. If someone selling live blood testing tells you it can be used to 'help with', 'treat' or 'cure' a wide range of diseases and conditions they are telling you something that is unlikely to be true
The ASA takes a firm line on a range of conditions that it considers serious and that need to be managed with the support of a healthcare professional. At this point it actually becomes largely irrelevant if the marketer has evidence that they can help, they're simply not allowed to imply that they can help medical conditions unless a doctor is working with them. The fact that (in all ASA adjudications so far) they also haven't been able to demonstrate that they have any evidence hasn't helped the case for live blood testing either.

OK but live blood analysis isn't that harmful is it?
Hopefully not. The procedure for a live blood test only involves a finger-prick to collect some blood - this is minimally invasive (not 'non-invasive' as of course it involves breaking the skin, but it's not really a risk as long as done cleanly and there's no reason to suspect that it isn't).

The risk comes from the poor advice that's given which can be alarming (one woman was told she had markers for cancer in her blood while she happened to be waiting for the results from a biopsy that came back clear) and plain wrong (people given advice to buy unnecessary supplements, that they will be able to come off medications). There is also the concern that people are not under the care of someone who is appropriately medically qualified. To be fair plenty of live blood analysts don't make these misleading claims however the entire concept of LBA rests on a misunderstanding of what can be seen in blood samples under a microscope.

I am certainly not aware of anyone in the UK having died after following the advice of live blood analysts and only know of one case worldwide (in Australia) where that has happened. It is undoubtedly true that plenty of people are harmed by 'real' medicine, however that is not really the issue here - live blood analysis takes money from people yet is a bogus diagnostic tool.

Bet you're paid by the pharmaceutical industry
No, I receive no money or other favours from any pharmaceutical company.


How can you complain about live blood testing when [something else bad] is happening
This seems a bit like complaining that someone who's learning how to play piano is wasting time because they're not contributing anything to curing cancer. It's not a very good argument.



The ASA adjudications against claims made about live blood testing
• ASA (13 October 2010) ASA adjudication on Live Blood Test
• ASA (1 June 2011) ASA adjudication on Fitalifestyle Ltd t/a seemycells.co.uk
• ASA (7 September 2011) ASA adjudication on MyCityDeal Ltd: MyCityDeal Ltd t/a GrouponUK
• ASA (19 October 2011) ASA adjudication on Optimum Health UK
• ASA (2 November 2011) ASA adjudication on Fitalifestyle Ltd: Fitalifestyle Ltd
• ASA (16 January 2013) ASA adjudication on the Natural Health Clinic
• ASA (6 March 2013) ASA adjudication on Steps to Perfect Health
• ASA (27 February 2013) ASA adjudication on Live Blood Test
• ASA (24 April 2013) ASA adjudication on Live Blood Test

ASA Non-compliant online advertisers
• ASA (15 November 2011) Fitalifestyle (claims about blood-cleaning properties of chlorophyll)
• ASA (26 June 2012) London Natural Therapies 
• ASA (15 February 2013) The Natural Health Clinic
• ASA (12 March 2013) Live Blood Test

see Josephine Jones' post Live Blood Analysis and the ASA: a catalogue of complaints for more, including information on informally resolved cases.

CAP guidance
• CAP (3 July 2013) Therapies: Live Blood Analysis

Further reading
• Edzard Ernst (2005) A new era of scientific discovery? The Guardian
• Mark Crislip (2009) Live Blood Analysis: The modern auguries Science Based Medicine blog 
Wikipedia's article on Live blood analysis
• Thomas Patterson (2012) The Pseudoscience of Live Blood Cell Analysis Skeptical Inquirer
• Zachary Rubin (2009) Live Blood Analysis: New Diagnostic Method or Quackery? Case report and Review of the Literature UCLA Department of Medicine
• Posts tagged with Live Blood Analysis on Josephine Jones' blog