Datamining for terrorists would be lovely if it worked

February 28th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, evidence based policy, politics, statistics, surveillance | 79 Comments »

The Guardian
Saturday February 28 2009
Ben Goldacre

This week Sir David Omand, the former Whitehall security and intelligence co-ordinator, described how the state should analyse data about individuals in order to find terrorist suspects: travel information, tax, phone records, emails, and so on. “Finding out other people’s secrets is going to involve breaking everyday moral rules” he said, because we’ll need to screen everyone to find the small number of suspects.

There is one very significant issue that will always make data mining unworkable when used to search for terrorist suspects in a general population, and that is what we might call Read the rest of this entry »

How Aric Sigman distorts the scientific evidence to mislead you.

February 24th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in aric sigman, bad science, mail, onanism, references | 153 Comments »

I was on newsnight a second ago, debating the rather indulgent claims of Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield and Dr Aric Sigman about Facebook and Twitter. It’s 40 minutes in to the show, which can be seen here as a wmv/rm file or here on iPlayer or here:

I promised references. These can be found below. Read the rest of this entry »

A rock of crack as big as the Ritz

February 21st, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, drurrrgs, statistics, telegraph | 65 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday February 21 2009
The Guardian

imageIn a week where our dear Daily Mail ran with the headline “How using Facebook could raise your risk of cancer”, I will exercise some self control, and write about drugs instead.

“Seven hundred British troops seized four Taliban narcotics factories containing £50m of drugs” said the Guardian on Wednesday. “Troops recovered more than 400kg of raw opium in one drug factory and nearly 800kg of heroin in another.” Lordy that is good. In the Telegraph, British forces had seized “£50 million of heroin and killed at least 20 Taliban fighters in a daring raid that dealt a significant blow to the insurgents in Afghanistan.” Everyone carried the good news. Read the rest of this entry »

Steal this explosion

February 20th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 33 Comments »

I’ve just been sent this excellent selection of slightly dangerous science videos, as part of an effort by the Institute of Chemical Engineers to persuade science teachers that health and safety is no barrier to bangs and giggles in the classroom. Some of them are rather good.

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Trading ideas in a toilet

February 18th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in onanism, podcast | 46 Comments »

I met the lovely Conrad Quilty-Harper (true) in a toilet recently. He made a video of our encounter and posted it on the internet. I’ve embedded this below for your amusement and edification: I hope you find it stimulating.

Ben Goldacre of Bad Science talks about Sensationalised Science Reporting from Conrad on Vimeo.

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The Kymatika K-test and… oh, look at that: LBC. Updated.

February 17th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre Tags:
in bad science, Global Radio, LBC, onanism | 86 Comments »

Just briefly (because my hair looks terrible in it, and they made nerdy stickboy here look chubby) I was on Watchdog last night, talking about some ridiculous magical diagnosis machine.

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Pay to play?

February 14th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in competing interests, MMR, regulating research | 46 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday February 14 2009
The Guardian

This column is about tainted medical research, not MMR. Now don’t get me wrong: it’s still an interesting week to be right about vaccines. On Sunday Read the rest of this entry »

Right. What science issue shall we ask parliament to talk about?

February 12th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 93 Comments »

Select committees are almost the only place in parliament where MPs actually do what you’d naively hope they do all the time: sit down, hear a lot of evidence on an important issue, and then have a good hard think about it. The Science and Technology committee in particular have produced some fascinating and readable documents over the years. The report on the abortion act offered transparent, evidence based policy advice, package up in a very good piece of accessible popular science writing. (It also ended with a memorable tantrum from some christians). The House of Lords equivalent, meanwhile, did a very good piece of work on the public understanding of science in 2000, during the aftermath of GM and BSE.

Now SciTech has merged into DIUS, and they are asking us, which means you and me, “the public”, for topics that deserve a good hard think. We have until Friday 27th February to come up with something good, and I thought you might have some interesting ideas?

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Sigh. Do not abuse Jeni Barnett personally

February 11th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 108 Comments »

Hi there, very briefly as I’m busy, I’ve been contacted by the Programme Director of LBC. He says that Jeni is upset by emails she has received. Do not send Jeni abusive emails, it’s not nice or helpful. I shall not post Jonathan’s email on this occasion, although I do feel – like everything I’ve had from him – it was rather intemperate and unkindly written, but I must be clear again: I do not think you should be abusive personally in emails to Jeni. Please address the arguments and the actions, not the person, as the overwhelming majority of you have. I would want nobody to be disproportionately unpleasant, but I also wouldn’t want anybody to use this to cloud the more important issue, which is the media’s gross irresponsibility with regards to MMR, of which the actions by Jeni Barnett – and more importantly LBC/Global Radio – were highly representative illustrations. I am sorry to see that LBC have failed to address everybody’s wider concerns, and I am sorry to hear that Jeni has been upset by emails she has received. But I also do wish these people would address the issues. Read the rest of this entry »

LBC, MMR, Jeni Barnett, an Early Day Motion, the Times, and, er, a bit of Stephen Fry…

February 10th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, dangers, jeni barnett, LBC, legal chill, MMR, regulating media, scare stories, stifling criticism | 155 Comments »

I thought since a few days have passed that I should let you know what’s happening with the slightly ridiculous LBC situation. If you skip to the bottom you will find a discussion on some mischievous activism which I think has great potential.

Since LBC unwisely threw their legal weight around to prevent you from being able to freely experience and ponder that astonishing 44 minute tirade against MMR, the inevitable has happened. The audio has been posted on a huge number of websites around the world, over 120 blogs so far are linking to the story, and more importantly, hundreds of thousands of people are talking and reading about the ignorance that Jeni Barnett exemplified in that worrying broadcast. It has been covered in the Times, and an Early Day Motion is being set down in parliament.

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