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Archive of posts filed under the Miscellaneous Science category.

Are GWAS studies of IQ/educational attainment problematic?

Nick Matzke writes: I wonder if you or your blog-colleagues would be interested in giving a quick blog take on the recent studies that do GWAS (Genome-Wide-Association Studies) on “traits” like IQ, educational attainment, and income? Matzke begins with some background: The new method for these studies is to claim that a “polygenic score” can […]

Will decentralised collaboration increase the robustness of scientific findings in biomedical research? Some data and some causal questions.

Mark Tuttle points to this press release, “Decentralising science may lead to more reliable results: Analysis of data on tens of thousands of drug-gene interactions suggests that decentralised collaboration will increase the robustness of scientific findings in biomedical research,” and writes: In my [Tuttle’s] opinion, the explanation is more likely to be sociological – group […]

Four projects in the intellectual history of quantitative social science

1. The rise and fall of game theory. My impression is that game theory peaked in the late 1950s. Two classics from that area are Philip K. Dick’s “Solar Lottery” and R. Duncan Luce and Howard Raiffa’s “Games and Decisions.” The latter is charming in its retro attitude that all that remained were some minor […]

Of Manhattan Projects and Moonshots

Palko writes: I think we have reversed the symbolic meaning of a Manhattan project and a moonshot. He explains: The former has come to mean a large, focus, and dedicated commitment to rapidly addressing a challenging but solvable problem. The second has come to mean trying to do something so fantastic it seems impossible. But, […]

The Generalizer

I just saw Beth Tipton speak at the Institute of Education Sciences meeting on The Generalizer, a tool that she and her colleagues developed for designing education studies with the goal of getting inferences for the population. It’s basically MRP, but what is innovative here is the application of these ideas at the design stage. […]

It happens all the time

Under the subject line, “Here is another one for your archive,” someone points me to a news article and writes: What would have happened had the guy not discovered his coding error? Or what if he had, but the results were essentially unchanged? My guess if that nothing would happen until someone got the data […]

Science is science writing; science writing is science

Meehan Crist writes: There is a belief, particularly prevalent among scientists, that science writing is more or less glorified PR – scientists do the intellectual work of discovery and writers port their findings from lab to public – but [Rachel Carson’s 1962 book] Silent Spring is a powerful reminder that great science writing can expand […]

Horns! Have we reached a new era in skeptical science journalism? I hope so.

Pointing us to this news article from Aylin Woodward, “No, we’re probably not growing horns from our heads because of our cellphone use — here’s the real science,” Jordan Anaya writes: I haven’t looked into it, but seems like your basic terrible study with an attention grabbing headline. Pretty much just mention cell phone use […]

Judith Rich Harris on the garden of forking paths

Ethan Ludwin-Peery writes: I finally got around to reading The Nurture Assumption and I was surprised to find Judith Rich Harris quite lucidly describing the garden of forking paths / p-hacking on pages 17 and 18 of the book. The edition I have is from 2009, so it predates most of the discussion of these […]

“There is this magic that our DNA enables”

I was just at a talk where a computer scientist was making dramatic claims for the value of human decision making. This is typically a crowd-pleasing position to take—after all, we in the audience are humans and we want to hear how great we are. What really riled me was when the speaker said, “There […]

The tone problem in psychology

Are you tone deaf? Find out here. P.S. Link updated. I guess things can change in 6 months!

Don’t believe people who say they can look at your face and tell that you’re lying.

Kevin Lewis points us to this article, Lessons From Pinocchio: Cues to Deception May Be Highly Exaggerated, by Timothy Luke, which begins: Deception researchers widely acknowledge that cues to deception—observable behaviors that may differ between truthful and deceptive messages—tend to be weak. Nevertheless, several deception cues have been reported with unusually large effect sizes, and […]

“Why We Sleep” update: some thoughts while we wait for Matthew Walker to respond to Alexey Guzey’s criticisms

So. It’s been a week since Alexey Guzey posted his wonderfully-titled article, “Matthew Walker’s ‘Why We Sleep’ Is Riddled with Scientific and Factual Errors.” I few days ago I reviewed Guzey’s post, and I summarized: I’ve not read Walker’s book and I don’t know anything about sleep research, so I won’t try to judge Guzey’s […]

Is Matthew Walker’s “Why We Sleep” Riddled with Scientific and Factual Errors?

Asher Meir points to this hilarious post by Alexey Guzey entitled, Matthew Walker’s “Why We Sleep” Is Riddled with Scientific and Factual Errors. Just to start with, the post has a wonderful descriptive title. And the laffs start right away: Positively Nabokovian, I’d say. I mean it. The above table of contents makes me want […]

In research as in negotiation: Be willing to walk away, don’t paint yourself into a corner, leave no hostages to fortune

There’s a saying in negotiation that the most powerful asset is the ability to walk away from the deal. Similarly, in science (or engineering, business decision making, etc.), you have to be willing to give up your favorite ideas. When I look at various embarrassing examples in science during the past decade, a common thread […]

Should we mind if authorship is falsified?

In a typically thought-provoking piece, Louis Menand asks, “Should we mind if a book is a hoax?” In his article, Menand (whose father taught the best course I ever took at MIT, in which we learned that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty) focuses on imaginative literature written by white people but attributed to […]

Is “abandon statistical significance” like organically fed, free-range chicken?

The question: is good statistics scalable? This comes up a lot in discussions on abandoning statistical significance, null-hypothesis significance testing, p-value thresholding, etc. I recommend accepting uncertainty, but what if it’s decision time—what to do? How can the world function if the millions of scientific decisions currently made using statistical significance somehow have to be […]

What if it’s never decorative gourd season?

If it rains, now we’ll change We’ll hold and save all of what came We won’t let it run away If it rains — Robert Forster I’ve been working recently as part of a team of statisticians based in Toronto on a big, complicated applied problem. One of the things about working on this project […]

Filling/emptying the half empty/full glass of profitable science: Different views on retiring versus retaining thresholds for statistical significance.

This post is by Keith O’Rourke and as with all posts and comments on this blog, is just a deliberation on dealing with uncertainties in scientific inquiry and should not to be attributed to any entity other than the author. As with any critically-thinking inquirer, the views behind these deliberations are always subject to rethinking […]

“The paper has been blind peer-reviewed and published in a highly reputable journal, which is the gold standard in scientific corroboration. Thus, all protocol was followed to the letter and the work is officially supported.”

Robert MacDonald points us to this news article by Esther Addley: It’s another example of what’s probably bad science being published in a major journal, where other researchers point out its major flaws and the author doubles down. In this case, the University of Bristol has an interesting reaction. It’s pulled down its article praising […]