This is possibly the most boring thing I’ve ever written in the Guardian, but I have been genuinely weirded out by the number of people inviting me to be a naysayer on the aporkalypse. I’m not, it’s a genuine risk. I ought to add that most of the people who rang, when I explained my position, invited me on anyway, but I’m a bit busy with other stuff, and more importantly (a) I’m not an infectious diseases epidemiologist, and (b) the world doesn’t need another arbitrary pundit to say “it’s a bit of a risk, yes”. [Oh incidentally comments on the site might take a while to appear since alexlomas has activated wp-cache after boingboing very excitingly linked the new Rath chapter.]
Giving it some chat on the Today Programme, Radio 4, about dumbing down and why scientists often don’t like media scientists
I was just on the Today Programme on Radio 4 talking about dumbing down science in response to this piece in New Scientist by Kathy Sykes (who I like, and regard with some hope as a bit of a mate by the way).
I won’t talk about it too much here since I’m hopefully going to write something on the subject for either New Scientist (if Graham Lawton gets back to me: hello Graham!) or elsewhere writing a piece on the same subject which will hopefully come out in the 9th May edition of New Scientist.
Welcome back to the only home-learning statistics and trial methodology course to feature villains. You will remember the comedy factory of the Equazen fish oil “trials”: those amazing capsules that make your child clever and well behaved. A new proper trial has now been published looking at whether these fish oil capsules work. They took 75 children with ADHD aged 8 to 18, split the group in half randomly, and gave each child either genuine fish oil capsules, or dummy capsules. They measured ratings scales, and a Clinical Global Impression scale, but there was no difference between the two groups. The fish oil pills did nothing, as in many previous studies, so this trial has not been press released by the company, nor has it been covered in the media.
Saturday April 18, 2009
Is it somehow possible – and I know I’m going out on a limb here – that journalists wilfully misinterpret and ignore scientific evidence, simply in order to generate stories that reflect their own political and cultural prejudices? Because my friend Martin, from the excellent layscience blog, has made a pretty excellent discovery. Read the rest of this entry »
This is the “missing chapter” about vitamin pill salesman Matthias Rath. Sadly I was unable to write about him at the time that book was initially published, as he was suing my ass in the High Court. The chapter is now available in the new paperback edition, and I’ve posted it here for free so that nobody loses out.
Although the publishers make a slightly melodramatic fuss about this in the promo material, it is a very serious story about the dangers of pseudoscience, as I hope you’ll see, and it was also a pretty unpleasant episode, not just for me, but also for the many other people he’s tried to sue, including Medecins Sans Frontieres and more. If you’re ever looking for a warning sign that you’re on the wrong side of an argument, suing Medecins Sans Frontieres is probably a pretty good clue.
Anyway, here it is, please steal it, print it, repost it, whatever, it’s free under a Creative Commons license, details at the end. If you prefer it is available as a PDF here, or as a word document here. Happy Easter!
Just so that your visual search strategy is correctly callibrated for bookshops and friends’ living rooms, here is the cover of the new and cheaper edition of Bad Science. It features both an index and a new chapter, which I will post for free on the web in a minute. More below.
If you’re wondering why there is a new paperback, Read the rest of this entry »
April 4 2009
If there is one great joy to be derived from scanning the scientific literature over a week, it is the barrage of studies that challenge your beliefs and preconceptions, demonstrating the weakness of intuition: because if we knew all the answers to start with, there’d be no point in doing research.
On an abstract level, there’s a good short report in the journal Cortex, where some researchers in Bologna demonstrate the spectacular hopelessness of memory. One morning in 1980, a bomb exploded in Bologna station: 85 people died, and the clock stopped ominously showing 10.25, the time of the explosion. This image became a famous symbol for the event, but the clock was repaired soon after, and worked perfectly for the next 16 years. When it broke again in 1996, it was decided to leave the clock showing 10.25 permanently, as a memorial. Read the rest of this entry »