Anarchy for the UK. Ish.

April 3rd, 2011 by Ben Goldacre in presenting numbers, statistics | 29 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 2 April 2011

Here are two fun ways that numbers can be distorted for political purposes. Stop me if I’m boring you, but each of them feels oddly poetic, in its ability to smear or stifle.

The first is simple: you can conflate two different things into one number, either to inflate a problem, or confuse it. Last weekend, a few hundred thousand people marched in London against the cuts. On the same day, there was some violent disturbance, windows smashed, policemen injured, and drunkeness. Read the rest of this entry »

Drink coffee, see dead people.

January 17th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, badscience, dodgy academic press releases, express, presenting numbers, statistics | 59 Comments »

The Guardian,
Saturday January 17 2009
Ben Goldacre

Danger from just 7 cups of coffee a day” said the Express on Wednesday. “Too much coffee can make you hallucinate and sense dead people say sleep experts. The equivalent of just seven cups of instant coffee a day is enough to trigger the weird responses.” The story appeared in almost every national newspaper. Read the rest of this entry »

You are 80% less likely to die from a meteor landing on your head if you wear a bicycle helmet all day.

November 15th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, bad science, presenting numbers, statistics | 24 Comments »

We’re all suckers for a big number, and you’ll be delighted to hear that the Journal of Consumer Research has huge teams of scientists all eagerly writing up their sinister research on how to exploit us.

One excellent study this month looked at how people choose a digital camera. This will become relevant in three paragraphs’ time. The researchers took a single image, then processed it in Photoshop to make two copies: one where the colours were more vivid, and one where the image was sharper. They told participants that each image came from a different camera, and asked which they wanted to buy. About a quarter chose the one with the more colourful sharper image. Read the rest of this entry »