Won’t somebody, please, think of the children? Three weeks ago I received my favourite email of all time, from a science teacher. “I’ve just had to ask a BBC Panorama film crew not to film in my school or in my class because of the bad science they were trying to carry out,” it began, describing in perfect detail the Panorama which aired this week.
Just a brief note to say, if you want to read the original Nature news story and commentary that is driving today’s news story then Prof Colquhoun (the commentary author) is hosting a PDF copy of it here on his own entirely excellent blog:
Saturday January 13, 2007
“Science told: hands off gay sheep.” It’s hard to think of a headline more joyous than this classic from the Sunday Times. Apparently a scientist called Professor Charles Roselli is conducting cruel and gruesome experiments on sheep in the name of eradicating homosexuality. Unfortunately this “news” story, co-written by Isabelle Oakeshott – the Deputy Political Editor no less – is little more than dystopian science fiction fantasy, conjured up to drive a pressure group’s agenda.
We’ll open with their big hitter. “The animals’ skulls are cut open and electronic sensors are attached to their brains.” It sounds gruesome. But this was simply – and rather bizarrely – not true. Read the rest of this entry »
As an infinite number of people have emailed in to tell me over the past 15 minutes, there’s a maths professor in Reading who reckons he’s been teaching schoolchildren to divide by zero. I’m not saying this is necessarily unbridled nonsense, but it’s interesting, for starters, that this spectacular breakthrough has only been picked up by a local TV newshound, and is being peer reviewed by schoolchildren.
It mainly seems to involve saying that the answer to a sum where you divide by zero is “not a number”, which is, as several people have pointed out, “not a breakthrough”. Computers can tell when they’re about to get a divide by zero error, and they are generally programmed to catch it. Even Excel has this feature. Planes do not drop out of the sky. Pacemakers do not stop firing. Anyway, not entirely my field but some entertaining commentary coming in. The BBC news story is archived below (they do have a tendency to change their stories after they appear on badscience…):
Saturday September 30, 2006
I wouldn’t want you to think that I’m an overly sensitive person, but sometimes I get a bit upset by Dr Gillian McKeith PhD. There she is on the television, talking about science, making an obese woman cry, in her own back garden, by showing her a tombstone with her own name on it, made out of chocolate. And here she is, in an article headed Read the rest of this entry »
Like any other reactionary old fart in his early thirties there’s nothing I find more life affirming than internet scare stories, ideally involving terrorists and paedophiles using Napster to destroy the British music industry, which is why I am so pleased to have one of my own: Theodore Gray, the man who managed to score over a kilo and a half of pure sodium metal off Ebay.
Now at school you probably dropped a crumb of sodium into some water, or rather, you watched your chemistry teacher do it, Read the rest of this entry »
The new series of Sky’s explosion-laden hit science program “Brainiac” starts tomorrow, and there’s just one question on everyone’s lips: will they be faking the science as much in this series as they have previously? Read the rest of this entry »
I am routinely accused, in long and angry letters, of being in the pay of the pharmaceutical industry, the mobile phone industry, and the government. Needless to say I lap it up, and would never engage in similarly ad hominem attacks in return, since critiques of character and finance are a poor substitute for a sober analysis of the data.
Saturday February 25, 2006
Okay, here’s an idea: let’s see if we can gather experimental evidence to assess our prejudices. First up, prejudice number one. “Sometimes you see beautiful people with no brains. Sometimes you have ugly people who are intelligent, like scientists. Our pitch is Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday January 14, 2006
Ok, hold on to your girlfriends, because this time we get seriously geeky. Last week we were talking about hi-fi company Russ Andrews, and their Â£30 power cable, which they reckon will improve the sound of your Read the rest of this entry »