You will remember Panorama’s WiFi program very clearly. Even the children in the school where they tried to film it spotted the problems with their methodology, and they were promptly booted out by a science teacher. I for one found those two little details truly mood enhancing, and you can read the full story here – because here is where you read it first (all the various entries related to the show are listed here). Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday November 24 2007
Sometimes just throwing a few long words around can make people think you know what you’re talking about. Words like “biometric”. When Alistair Darling was asked if the government will ditch ID cards in the light of this week’s data cock-up, he replied: “The key thing about identity cards is, of course, that information is protected by personal biometric information. The problem at present is that, because we do not have that protection, information is much more vulnerable than it should be.” Read the rest of this entry »
Obviously we’re all interested in who the next US president is going to be, since it affects our risk of being blown up on the bus to work. According to the New York Times – which has covered this story at least three times – a commercial company which specialises in giving brain images to advertisers has discovered which parts of a voter’s brain are most activated by different candidates, by taking pictures of their brains while they supposedly think about them. Read the rest of this entry »
Time after time, properly conducted scientific studies have proved that homeopathic remedies work no better than simple placebos. So why do so many sensible people swear by them? And why do homeopaths believe they are victims of a smear campaign? Ben Goldacre follows a trail of fudged statistics, bogus surveys and widespread self-deception.
This is a piece I wrote in today’s edition of The Lancet. You can also see this article there in a nice Lancet PDF, along with a “world report” on homeopathy, and the references in pleasantly accessible Crossref format. To be honest, it almost feels silly writing about homeopathy in the Lancet. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday November 10 2007
When it comes to creating energy you can’t make something out of nothing, says the BBC newsreader, from behind the very important desk… “Until now. Because British scientists seem to have turned this fundamental law of physics upside down.” The Mail on Sunday loved it even more. “Amazing British invention creates MORE energy than you put into it – and could soon be warming your home,” it said. Taste the excitement. “It violates almost every known law of physics.” That’ll teach those so-called scientists a lesson.
How doctors describe the many interactions between a person, their illness, and society has little purchase in the crudely dualistic world of popular culture. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday November 3 2007
Parliamentary select committees are one of the few places where you can see politicians sitting down and doing the kind of thing you’d actually want them to do, like thinking carefully about policy. This week the science and technology committee delivered its report on scientific developments relating to the Abortion Act, and even as a man with a very low boredom threshold, I genuinely recommend reading it for pleasure: because it is a masterclass in spotting fallacious science, and that is exactly what was offered up, in spades, by the anti-abortion activists who gave evidence.