“Broken string” (Catgut acupuncture)

In a post for Science-Based Medicine, Jann Bellamy mined multiple sources to come up with 32 forms of acupuncture. She noted there are almost certainly more, since “acupuncture is not based in reality but is instead a collection of pseudo-knowledge” to which anyone can apply a new concept.”

This includes catgut, whose primary uses are for stringed instruments, tennis racquets, and surgical sutures. In this instance, it has also been coopted as a specific form of quackery.

Bellamy splendidly describes acupuncture as a “theatrical placebo” that assumes never-proven notions such as qi, meridians, and blocked energy. As to how a portion of the ukulele came to be unfairly associated with pseudoscience, catgut is embedded in acupuncture products. Selected “points” are stimulated until the treatment is deemed sufficient. In reality, this usually means the ailment has ran its natural course or the subject moves onto another form of medicine, be it legitimate or phony.

Most catgut applications go for one to two weeks, the reasoning being that doing it for two weeks is better than for two hours. This points to acupuncture’s lack of authenticity. No one would conclude that if two Advil are good for pain relief, then two bottles must be fantastic. Since acupuncture treatments involve no active ingredients and has no actual impact on the body beyond discomfort at the sticking point, an overdose is impossible. So, too, is proper dosing and medical benefit.

In typical alternative medicine tradition, catgut acupuncture enthusiasts tout its ability to cure or mitigate a broad range of conditions, from autism to acne, from facial paralysis to diabetes. Genuine medicine will impact a specific ailment, with scientists understanding the etiology. Doctors can explain to patients the curative mechanism and its impact on the body. By contrast, a hodgepodge list of unrelated conditions able to be cured is almost always a pseudoscience giveaway.

“Wrong number” (Human Design)

Human Design is a form of numerology made up by Alan Krakower, who heard a voice telling him how it works, with the voice apparently encouraging him to charge others for access to the information.

Consumers input their name, precise minute of birth, and time zone born in. In return, they receive a hodgepodge of numbers, symbols, and shapes, along with a nine-item list that allegedly describes the person. The items are vague personality attributes, not testable claims or specific facts. They contain no precise details, such as dates and locations of education or employment, which would give the graph credibility.

Still, some people embrace Human Design and its promise of easy life answers sprinkled with eastern mysticism verbiage. Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning noted that while those who embrace such notions have an affinity for the Appeal to Antiquity fallacy, it is not absolute. He wrote, “Compare two concepts of the human body: First, the four bodily humors, which nobody believes in today; and second, qi, which is widely believed today.”

The difference, Dunning continued, is that one is physical, the other metaphysical. The latter is more vague, while the former could be searched for physically, not found, and therefore be disproven.

Therefore, physical claims are dismissed and metaphysical claims embraced, especially when they purport to provide a blueprint for success without any accompanying effort.

“Jumping to conclusions” (Learning preferences)

In first grade I would entertain my classmates by jumping off my desk when the teacher left the room. By my senior year in high school, I had attained a similar level of popularity by being easily the most garrulous participant in the civic teacher’s preferred Socratic Method. Some days consisted entirely of a dialogue between the two of us, and as long as conversation kept going, the teacher would refrain from giving his boring lectures.

My two learning styles in these environments could be described respectively as nonexistent and highly participatory. But according to one hypothesis, learning can be described in one of four ways: Visual, Aural, Read/write and Kinesthetic. Students answer 16 questions about their learning preferences and a computer program spits out which learning style would work best for them.

The follow-on step is to give hands-on lessons to those who those who learn best that way, lecture to those who prefer presentations by subject matter experts, and show videos with pleasing graphics to the more visually-oriented. The idea seems sound and the intent is admirable.

But Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning has highlighted some studies that show the idea is not near as effective as advertised. He cited a study published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, which concluded, “There is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice.

Dunning added, “Any reasonable review of just a small percentage of the academic work on learning styles gives you the same answer: there’s no evidence that they work.”

Here’s why. First, respondents end up divided into disparate, absolute categories. They are introverted or extroverted, absorb visuals or deflect them, prefer one speaker to several. In reality, few people fit snugly into a particular group. Given an either-or option of listening to lecture or reading a graphic-heavy textbook, the person will answer. But perhaps the preference is a very slight one – yet it will end up being favored 100 percent in the calculation. It also leaves no wiggle room for evolving preferences or working best with a mix of the styles.

Another issue, Dunning noted, is that preference won’t necessarily equate to aptitude. You can like something without being very good at it, as a number or weekend golfers can attest.

“Ankle rankle” (Sprain treatment)

I find myths and misconceptions intriguing and pondering how they came to exist and why they still endure. Big Ben brings to mind the giant London clock, but the alliterative moniker actually refers to the bell inside the tower which houses the oversized timepiece. The Immaculate Conception is often assumed to refer to a Christian savior’s birth, but it is actually used to describe Mary being born without the stain of Original Sin. Peruse may be the word most mangled from its original meaning. It is often thought to mean skimming a manuscript when it instead is defined as to pour over it thoroughly.

The world of health has its share of myths as well, to include the idea that a sprain should be iced. The twisting of lower ligaments is are among the most common medical misfortunes, meaning a million people or more each year are likely tending to it the wrong way.

The SkepDoc, Harriett Hall, reviewed Dr. Paul Offit’s book Overkill, which focuses on medical myths, most specifically on supposed cures. Per Hall, a frigid fix came to be associated with ankle in 1978 when Dr. Gabe Mirkin wrote a book about sports-related injuries in which he recommended ice along with rest, compression, and elevation, forming the acronym RICE. But Hall wrote that these ideas stemmed from “intuition rather than evidence.”

Since then, research and studies have consistently shown that icing does nothing to speed recovery. Hall cited a 2012 Dutch review of eleven studies which found no evidence to support the RICE hypothesis. In fact, the regiment could even aggravate the injury. What did work, researchers found, was early movement.

A 2013 Taiwanese study showed that strenuous exercise damaged muscle tissue by causing increased creatine kinase levels and myoglobin in the blood. The supposed cure, ice, led to even higher levels of such damage. Further, patients treated with ice experienced more fatigue.

Offit wrote the key to healing is inflammation. While painful, inflammation increases blood flow, which transports immune cells to the damaged body part. Also, warmth can be applied and gentle ankle exercises can be done without weight-bearing.

Conversely, anything that decreases blood flow will lengthen the time of healing. And rest, ice, compression, and elevation all cause this decrease; so everything traditionally recommended for ankle sprain recovery actually makes them worse. To his credit, Mirkin now says RICE is the wrong way to go. So if you twist an ankle while walking up the stairs to see the Big Ben bell because you were perusing a tourist guide, go with heat and moderate activity instead of their opposite numbers.

“Stoned Age” (Protohuman psychedelics)


There are various hypothesis as to how humans became the dominant species. Perhaps the least-known and least-supported of these is the suspicion that our distant ancestors used natural psychedelic compounds that led to societal advances and bodily adaptations.

To the best of my knowledge, the idea has zero support among anthropologists and archeologists. It seems limited mostly to psychedelic proponents, the most prominent of whom is Terence McKenna, who outlined the idea in his book Food of the Gods.

Specifically, he wonders if as we became bipedal and made our way from the Horn of Africa to the savannah, we consumed psilocybin, which formed naturally on the ground. According to the tale, this fomented an ability to think abstractly, to develop toolmaking and fire-building skills, and fostered the first use of rudimentary language. As to why the likes of gazelles, primates, and other animals who had equal access to the compound had no corresponding advancements is left unexplained.

On another topic, McKenna attributes the tripling of brain size that took place in upright hominids over three million years to regular ingestion of psilocybin. He does this while claiming science offers no other explanation. First, even if that were true, it would merely be a secular variant of the god of the gaps fallacy. Secondly, anthropologists and archeologists have a good idea of why this trebling of the cerebrum and related parts occurred. 

They attribute it to the evolution of the opposable thumb and to cooking food, which made the victuals more nutritious. Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning noted, “Anthropologists have cemented these ideas with the expensive tissue hypothesis, which provides a metabolic and biochemical explanation for how protohumans were able to afford the greater energy requirements of a larger brain on the same basic energy budget, by reducing the relative size of the gut which became possible once food was being cooked to make its nutrients much more bioavailable.”

The brain and digestive systems require the most energy to function, and we see the results of this is humans and other animals. There exists a negative correlation between brain and gut sizes. As one shrinks, the other grows, and vice versa.

Dunning used the cow as an example, noting that our bovine buddies “consume only grass, a terrible diet virtually devoid of nutrition. So it needs four enormous stomachs and a great long digestive system, all energetically expensive tissue, leaving it with a tiny brain.”

We, by contrast, eat a far more energy dense diet – including a lot of cow meat and milk – and this enables the human digestive systems to be small and fuel-efficient. That leaves plenty of energy to fuel the brain, which is why it is of ample size to see the folly in a hypothesis predicated on stoned apes. 




“Pushing it” (Applied kinesiology)


Pseudoscience refers to misusing or remarketing scientific terms in order to give undeserved credence to an untenable position. One such example is applied kinesiology. The second word in this phrase is a legitimate medical field, the study of movement.

By applying, so to speak, another word to the phrase, an area with no scientific backing attempts to coopt this legitimacy. Applied kinesiology is a putative muscle-testing technique based on the supposition that the way a subject’s muscles respond to being pushed, pressed, and prodded tells the practitioner what ails the patient.

The field assumes the existence of unproven concepts like chi, meridians, and a universal intelligence which runs through nature, to include the human nervous system. Proponents believe that muscles reflect the flow of chi and that resistance reveals the health of the subject’s bodily organs and what nutritional deficiencies afflict them.

The original applied kinesiologist was George Goodheart, who claimed his technique could evaluate nerve, vascular, lymphatic, and digestive systems. The key was the flow of an undefined and undetectable energy along equally non-existent meridians.

Energy is the most frequently misused word among alternative medicine practitioners. It serves as a placeholder that substitutes for any meaningful term or function. In science, energy means “measurable work capability,” and using this phrase instead of energy will reveal just how silly and shaky such claims are.

For example, this site informs its readers that, “Kinesiologists test specific points along the Chinese acupuncture meridians to discover areas of stress/imbalance in the body, mind and energy systems. Then, by using one or more of the many balancing methods – including chakra balancing, sound, color and more – you will be able to balance the body’s energy.”

Using the scientific definition of energy would leave us with this phrase: “Kinesiologists test specific points along the Chinese acupuncture meridians to discover areas of stress/imbalance in the body, mind and measurable work capability systems. Then, by using one or more of the many balancing methods – including chakra balancing, sound, color and more, you will be able to balance the body’s measurable work capability.”

When subjects go to have their measurable work capability adjusted by an applied kinesiologist, the practitioner will consider weak muscle responses to be an indication of illness. Which muscles correspond to which organ or allergy varies by practitioner, which makes for a pseudoscience giveaway.

My astigmatism has been correctly diagnosed and treated by a half dozen optometrists in multiple states and countries. By contrast, a person whose left elbow responds poorly to pressure may be said to have pre-diabetes, gout, or celiac, depending solely on which applied kinesiologist is pressing the arm.

So it’s unsurprising that repeated double-blind studies have shown applied kinesiology to be no better than chance at diagnosing a condition. Any seeming successes are owed to post hoc reasoning, the cyclical nature of some illnesses, and the ideomotor response. The latter refers to how expectations can lead to infinitesimal, unconscious motor movements. Because the person is unaware of this, he or she attributes the movement to an external force. This can be spooky when glancing at a Ouija board, a revelation when holding a dowsing rod, or a diagnosis when at the applied kinesiologist.

Practitioners think they are applying the same amount of force each time, but their beliefs are causing them to apply more or less, depending on their subconscious expectations. Similarly, subjects believe they are applying the same amount of resistance each time the applied kinesiologist pushes, but expectations will alter this.  The difference is subtle, but enough to make a difference. Therefore, the technique seems to work. But anybody could do it. It’s just that nobody should. 






“Home evasion” (Social distancing and the immune system)


There are many conspiracy theories centered on the coronavirus. Some of these would seem mutually exclusive but all are still bandied about by believers. For example, the suspicion that China developed it as a bioweapon is at odds with the idea that COVID-19 is mostly innocuous and being greatly overblown by leftists hoping to wreck the economy. Harmless chemical warfare does seem a tad contradictory. Yet this position, at least when broken into two separate charges, is a regular feature of the conspiracy crowd, whose members make appearances on my news feed with annoying regularity.

While there are many COVID conspiracy theories, our focus today is the narrow idea that being mostly homebound damages our immune system. In short, proponents feel that social distancing harms, not helps, the situation. Similar attempts to invert the normal order pop up frequently among conspiracy theorists: Excess carbon dioxide is good for the environment; insulin causes diabetes; vaccines are worse than what they prevent.

In Mother Jones, Keira Butler wrote of three persons who have posted claims about the putative immune system damage that social distancing is causing. She referenced two physicians and one engineer, who made separate videos outlining their positions.

It is telling that these claims were pitched to a sympathetic audience on YouTube and not submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. Alas, we will still assess the legitimacy of their assertions, not where they aired them.

The gist of their argument is that the lockdown is harming the immune system. They base this on the notion that germs and disinfectants are in constant battle, both evolving and adapting as they try to get the upper microscopic hand. Without exposure to enough germs, the trio argue, the immune system may grow lax and put up too feeble a fight. In some cases, there is merit to this idea, which is why some immunologists argue against trying to develop ultra-germ killers since it opens the chance that the germs which survive will further adapt and form a superbug, which is impervious to all treatments.

But this does not apply here since COVID-19 is not a chronic immune condition, but rather a novel virus that attacks the afflicted in ways immunologists don’t fully understand. As a novel virus, our immune system has no defense in place for it.

Moreover, isolated persons are still exposed to germs at home, which is another strike against the notion.

Social distancing helps to slow the spread of the virus and the anti-lockdown fervor, which is based not on the rate of infection or any projections, but on livid persons wanting a haircut and dine-in pizza, figures to be a public health disaster.

I miss the park, PTA meetings, and arcades, but not more than I value the health of my children, myself, and everyone else. A nationwide commitment to social distancing and pursuit of a vaccine would have solved this problem.

But selfishness and the ignoring of science are winning. A virus has no idea nor concern if its host is a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or independent, so this should have been the ultimate non-partisan issue. Instead, it is highly divisive and shows how dangerously close to the mainstream anti-science tropes and conspiracy theories are becoming.

Rather than isolation and inoculations, the other side embraces the naturalistic fallacy, where it is assumed that whatever is natural is good and whatever is artificial is bad. Butler cited one error-laden anti-vax group post, which claimed that masks, gloves, vaccines, and synthetic soap damage the immune system. This is another example a topsy-turvy belief where the prevention is labeled as the cause. They also claimed that fear damages the immune system. There is no truth to this, a good thing for the bazooka-toting Subway patron.





“The Certainty Principle” (Alternative medicine diagnoses)


One of the main causes of stress is the unknown. When staring a new job, an employee will wonder what the boss will be like, what the expecations are, and how cool they keep the break room fridge. But as the worker learns these answers, he or she settles into a routine and the fear of the unknown dissipates.

But until an answer is given, the stress continues. More stressful than the unknown at a new job is the angst over a serious health issue. That’s why the seeming ability of alt-med practitioners to offer a definitive diagnosis and a treatment plan can seem attractive. Their answers are often painless, quick, and inexpensive, making it more appealing. But the biggest hook is certainty.

However, Dr. Harriett Hall wrote in the Skeptical Inquirer that uncertainty is a legitimate, important part of many medical diagnoses. She recalled from her days as a practicing physician how patients would clamor for more testing when a thorough checkup and exam failed to find the cause of their malady.

She recalled, “They wanted an answer and thought if we just did more tests, the answer would become evident. I had to explain to them that we had done all the indicated tests and that further indiscriminate testing would only muddy the waters.”

Moreover, when the chance of a disease is minuscule, a test is much more likely to produce a false positive than a true one. Testing for 100 different ailments might suggest the patient has one or two of the conditions, but these would likely be false results, which, Hall explained,  “would only lead to further fruitless diagnostic efforts, including possibly dangerous invasive procedures.”

Sometimes, conditions resolve on their own. The cyclical nature of many illnesses is why many alt-med practices seem to work. By the time one is seeking an applied kinesiologist or a Reiki practitioner, the condition has likely been bugging the patient for some time, so they resort to alt-med. When the symptom then runs its course, alt-med gets the credit and another glowing anecdote in lieu of data.

This desire for certainty fuels alt-med. If a medical doctor tells someone that their leg cramps are a common ailment of unknown origin and will likely resolve, that can leave the patient unsatisfied. The diagnosis may include pain relief pills or leg exercises, but this lacks the reassurance of a quick fix.

Conversely, peddlers of craniosacral therapy, Joy Touch, and iridology will insist they know the precise cause, the specific cure, and how to guard against its recurrence, the latter involving regular visits to their office. This leaves the patient with an artificial reassurance.

Depending on which branch of alternative medicine the provider practices, the focus will be on a different body part that is allegedly the center of heath – the spine for chiropractic, the feet for reflexology, the hand for Therapeutic Touch, the skull for craniosacral therapy – and so on. Tellingly, when such practitioners gather for a group talk or forum, they never challenge each other even though they can’t all be right. If an acupuncturist claims the movement of qi through meridians determines everyone’s health, this is at odds with the iridologist’s insistence that every illness is caused by a disturbance within the eye. Yet all the practitioners and audience members nod and somehow merrily agree.

Many of those audience members may not even have an ailment. The craving for certainty causes some patients to embrace an unproven treatment for a disease or condition never shown to exist. This includes chronic Lyme disease, adrenal fatigue, and Leaky Gut Syndrome. These are imaginary illnesses, but a desperate patient finally has a name to associate with a real or perceived medical misfortune. They now know what they are suffering from and a kindly alt-med practitioner has the cure. The practitioner offers them sympathy and an attentive ear, plus a diagnosis and treatment plan that sounds sciencey but has no medical basis.

And while replicable double-blind studies remain the benchmark of medical efficacy, they have trouble matching personal experience. A person who would never read or understand a 60-page paper can most assuredly know that a technique worked for them. But as Hall wrote, “You had a symptom, you tried a remedy, and your symptom went away. It might have gone away without any treatment, it might have gone away because of the treatment, or it might have gone away despite the treatment. Before antibiotics, there were people who survived pneumonia. Spontaneous remissions occur.”

Compare that mindset to that of alt-med darling Andrew Weil. Hall wrote that Weil ran “tests of osteopathic manipulation for ear infections, and when the experiments showed no effect, he said, ‘I’m sure there’s an effect there. We couldn’t capture it in the way we set up the experiment.’”

Such a conclusion is silly, to be certain.

“An apple a nay” (Apple cider vinegar)


Proponents tout apple cider vinegar as an amazing product that can fend off disease as well as managing some lesser accomplishments. But the best evidence indicates the sour fermented liquid has only modest health benefits and certainly lacks an ability to vanquish serious ailments.

It may be of some value since the product contains a probiotic, but claims associated with it can be exaggerated, sometimes spectacularly so.

Like all vinegars, the apple cider variety consists mainly of acetic acid plus whatever was in the original liquid, minus the sugar that was transformed into alcohol during fermentation. It is the acetic acid that usually leads believers to ascribe panacea qualities to the resultant product.

The most extreme assertion is that it can treat or prevent some cancers. There is no evidence anywhere to buoy this idea and anyone gulping apple cider vinegar to halt rouge cell growth is making a fatal mistake.

Those who believe in the oncological power of the sour liquid may be relying on studies in which cultured cancer cells shrunk after being exposed to vinegar or acetic acid. But as Dr. Edwin McDonald of the University of Chicago School of Medicine wrote, “We can’t directly pour ACV on cancers inside of people.

Further, you definitely can’t give someone an ACV IV infusion without causing serious harm or death.”

Another erroneous, dangerous idea is that the vinegar controls high blood pressure. This may be based on one small study of rats that showed a decrease in a specific type of blood pressure when the rodents were plied with a diet heavy in acetic acid. But like most such test results, there is no comparable conclusion reached with humans. McDonald warns, “High blood pressure is nothing to play with. There’s simply not enough data to support using ACV as a blood pressure medication. Eat a healthy diet, exercise, and take your meds.”

Sticking with serious conditions, there is scattered belief out there that apple cider vinegar lowers blood sugar among diabetics. There has been one small clinical trial in which drinking a tiny amount of the vinegar each day seemed to improve blood sugar control in patients with type 2 diabetes. And Skeptoid’s Brian

Dunning noted, “It’s biochemically plausible; the acetic acid can interfere with absorption of starches, reducing their ability to change blood sugar levels.”

However, he added, there are some caveats. First, all vinegars contain acetic acid, so there would be no added gain from ingesting the apple cider version. More importantly, the benefit is infinitesimal and the vinegar is no substitute for diabetes medication. There’s no harm in using it and there might be minor benefit to doing so, but diabetics should always take their prescribed medicine as well.

A more humble claim is that the vinegar may help with weight loss. There have been a few small studies in Japan that reached this conclusion, but the subjects were already on a diet and exercise regimen. Still, those taking the vinegar did lose more weight than those swallowing a placebo, so they’re might be something there. But the evidence is still murky, owing to insufficient sample sizes and the small number of tests. And in any event, it – at best – only helps augment weight loss. It would be an inadequate replacement for a gym routine and a healthy, balanced diet.

While the cancer claim is bogus and the idea of it being a weight loss ally is a maybe, we can conclude that all vinegar, when mixed with lemon juice, is efficient at disinfecting Salmonella-tainted products.

However, it is up to the person washing the suspect lettuce to do a thorough job. The safer method is to toss the tomatoes and cucumbers and open a can of soup instead.

Next, there are those who think apple cider vinegar can serve as an antimicrobial disinfectant for scrapes and cuts. It’s true that acetic acid is antimicrobial. But apple cider vinegar contains other ingredients that are not and dashing them on an open wound may contaminate and exacerbate it. At a minimum, it will sting like the dickens. Use a salve instead. The pain will be much less and the medicine will actually work.

Finally, we look to the belief that drinking apple cider vinegar will produce an antimicrobial effect. This is likewise mistaken. As Dunning explained, “When an acidic compound hits your duodenum just after the stomach, it’s neutralized by sodium bicarbonate and its antimicrobial properties vanish.

I don’t want to be all negative here. Let me close by saying apple cider vinegar will give your chili a right proper kick.

“Good Lourdes, No” (River healing)


The 19th Century featured its allotment of 14-year-olds whose purported visions ignited prominent religious undertakings. Joseph Smith founded Mormonism as a result, while Bernadette Soubirous transformed the River Gave near Lourden, France, into a Catholic holy site after saying that the Virgin Mary had appeared to her many times there.

The Roman Catholic Church credulously and uncritically swallowed this claim and has put its stamp of blessing on 67 specific miracles that supposedly have taken place near the shores. There is no independent verification of these cures, no experiments, no controls, and no winning of the James Randi Challenge.

Furthermore, the miracles have been of the relatively modest variety and are mostly explicable through medicine or human physiology. No one has regained sight, regrown a limb, or risen from the dead.

Curiously, Soubirous claimed only that Mary had appeared to her and made a few announcements. The teen never asserted that she was on the receiving end of a miracle or that the apparition promised future divine interventions on the riverbed.

Still, Catholic believers flock each year to the site. The steady stream of claims that flow from there is as uninterrupted as the river itself. And they are comparable to those made from persons who undertake secular pilgrimages to Loch Ness.

Cognitive dissonance and the desire to believe combine to make the observer impervious to reality. No one wants to admit the traveled all this way for nothing. They saw a beast or received some godly blessing, con sarn it!

Very few of these putative miracles are considered as such even by the Church. The Vatican has criteria for what it considers to be miraculous. The gist of it is that a group comprising nearly two dozen medical doctors must acknowledge that an ailment could not have been cured by means known to science. If a treatment or product could have been the reason, no miracle is proclaimed.

But even when no explanations emerge, it is appealing to ignorance to conclude that the Christian deity, working through magic water, was responsible. Indeed, why would an all-powerful, omnipresent force induce someone with a serious illness to undertake arduous travel to another country or continent to receive healing?

Even when a genuine improvement has taken place, it is post hoc reasoning to attribute this to Lourdes, by way of a supernatural conduit. Many illnesses are cyclical, and the improvement may have taken place if one had gone to the Nile or stayed home. There also may have been other medicine or treatments taking place before, during, and after the trip.

The last Lourdes miracle claimed by the Church was 20 years ago, when the Church insisted that a man was freed of his multiple sclerosis after 12 years. Less fortunate was Soubirous. For being the embodiment of miraculous healing, she made out poorly. She suffered from lingering cases of tuberculosis and asthma and died at the not-so-ripe-old age of 35.