Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 29 January 2011
If science has any authority, it derives from transparency: you can check the claims against the working. Sometimes you hit a brick wall. Sometimes you might consider a shortcut. Let’s look at 3 types of checking. Read the rest of this entry »
Oops sorry, in all the excitement about Matthias Rath I forgot to post last week’s column, here it is.
Saturday September 13 2008
Here is a cautionary tale for anyone working in research. “Captain Cook and Lord Nelson seem unlikely figureheads in the fight against climate change alarmists,” said the Sun. “Lord Nelson and Captain Cook’s ship logs question climate change theories,” announced the Telegraph. Oh that’s handy. So perhaps we can just keep on burning oil regardless then? “The ships’ logs of great maritime figures such as Lord Nelson and Captain Cook have cast new light on climate change by suggesting that global warming may not be an entirely man-made phenomenon.” Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday May 3 2008
Traditionally on May Day the fool plays at pratfalls and buffoonery around local morris dancers, brandishing his fool’s bauble, an inflated pig’s bladder on a stick, with which he bewitches and controls the crowds. To the uninitiated it looks like chaos, but for his own safety the fool must know the dances as well as anyone, so that his weaving tomfoolery meshes perfectly with the intricate pattern of kicks, handkerchief waving, and stickbashing.
In the newspapers on May Day, meanwhile, journalists were earnestly reporting the news that pig’s bladder extract had been used by scientists in a major breakthrough allowing one man to magically regrow a finger. “‘Pixie dust’ helps man grow new finger,” squealed the Telegraph’s headline. “‘Pixie dust’ makes man’s severed finger regrow,” said the Times. “Made from dried pig’s bladder,” they explained, this magic powder “kick-starts the body’s healing process”. Read the rest of this entry »
Very briefly – because this kind of thing irritates me so much that I can’t be bothered to devote a great deal of time to it – in almost every single newspaper and media outlet today you will read about the Pixie Dust which helped a man’s finger grow back: “The man who grew a finger” [BBC], “‘Pixie dust’ helps man grow new finger” [Telegraph], “Man’s finger ‘regrown using pig extract’” [ITN], “Sliced finger grows back” [The Sun], etc.
Allow me to explain why I have good grounds to believe that this is nonsense, and that the journalists concerned have failed in the most basic regard.
[NB I gave this story some chat on the Today programme at 7:43am May 2, listen again here]
Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday October 22, 2005
Right. Where were we? Oh yes: there is a small unaccredited laboratory in Northants called Chemsol, run by a man with a non-accredited correspondence-course PhD and no formal microbiology training, and he seems to find MRSA in hospitals where other accredited labs, in universities and the like, cannot. And, weirdly, almost every undercover tabloid Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday October 15, 2005
A while ago an investigative television journalist friend rang me up. “I just went undercover to take some MRSA swabs for my filthy hospital superbug scandal,” he said, “but they all came back negative. What am I doing wrong?” Always happy to help, I suggested he swab “my arse” instead. Ten minutes later Read the rest of this entry »