Category Archives: Science and Medicine

Testing, testing . . . .

In his book Bad Science, columnist and psychiatrist Ben Goldacre presents the following simple problem. (I have modified it a bit, but the basic idea is the same.) I have a deck of 100 index cards. On one side of … Continue reading

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William Tanner and the Peterloo Massacre

On the Sixteenth of August, 1819, a crowd of some 80,000 gathered on St. Peter’s field in Manchester. Their main purpose — besides enjoying the uncommonly good weather — was to demand reform of the rigid parliamentary rules that disenfranchised … Continue reading

Posted in History, Manchester, Mathematics and Logic, Science and Medicine, The Lost Journals of William Tanner | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Misleading medical tests

Kerfuffle There’s been a kerfuffle in the media recently (March 2012) about a blood test that will with “90  per cent accuracy” predict whether people over 70 will develop Alzheimer’s Disease within three years. You can Google “test Alzheimer” to … Continue reading

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A shallow thought about depth

Late at night, while I was browsing through my favourite blogs, it occurred to me that blogging is a shallow activity. Blog thoughts, like this one, scrape the surface of subjects that could be investigated in depth. Even a blogger … Continue reading

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Yipee! We’re gonna live a thousand years. No. Wait.

“We don’t know how old the first person who will live to 150 is today, but the first person to live to 1,000 is almost certainly less than 20 years younger.” Gerontologist Aubrey de Grey as quoted by Peter Singer, … Continue reading

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The “science can’t . . . ” gambit

So you’ve demolished the arguments advanced by your woo-loving religious adversary: astrology trashed; homeopathy shredded; creationism flushed. But then your opponent’s eyes light up and a wry smile crosses his lips. You know what’s coming, don’t you? “Science may have … Continue reading

Posted in Atheism and Religion, Crank science, Religion, Science and Medicine, Skepticism | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Post-morbid effects of retro-active intercessory prayer

Does it help to pray for seriously ill patients? The results of well-designed clinical trials of intercessory prayer generally say no. But a not-so-recent study published by the British Medical Journal (22 December, 2001) brought a new twist to the … Continue reading

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“Just say no”: Does chastity work?

The recent amazing discovery that teens like sex has led to campaigns promoting chastity among high school students. Advocates for this crusade condemn the promotion of condom use, claiming that avoidance of sex is the only way to prevent unwanted … Continue reading

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We are not Stephen King

“But don’t you make money off your publications?” Academics — university professors like me — get the question all the time. Those outside the ivory tower assume that when we publish a paper, we get royalties. They couldn’t be more … Continue reading

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Which countries are research giants?

On its news website, the journal Nature recently published a graphic illustrating scientific research activity around the world as measured by the number of papers published from January to October 2011. Nature obligingly arranged the data by country. A glance … Continue reading

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