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Archive of posts filed under the Miscellaneous Science category.

Endless citations to already-retracted articles

Ken Cor and Gaurav Sood write: Many claims in a scientific article rest on research done by others. But when the claims are based on flawed research, scientific articles potentially spread misinformation. To shed light on how often scientists base their claims on problematic research, we exploit data on cases where problems with research are […]

Gigerenzer: “The Bias Bias in Behavioral Economics,” including discussion of political implications

Gerd Gigerenzer writes: Behavioral economics began with the intention of eliminating the psychological blind spot in rational choice theory and ended up portraying psychology as the study of irrationality. In its portrayal, people have systematic cognitive biases that are not only as persistent as visual illusions but also costly in real life—meaning that governmental paternalism […]

“Widely cited study of fake news retracted by researchers”

Chuck Jackson forwards this amusing story: Last year, a study was published in the Journal of Human Behavior, explaining why fake news goes viral on social media. The study itself went viral, being covered by dozens of news outlets. But now, it turns out there was an error in the researchers’ analysis that invalidates their […]


This came up in comments the other day: I kinda like the idea of researchers inserting the word “Inshallah” at appropriate points throughout their text. “Our results will replicate, inshallah. . . . Our code has no more bugs, inshallah,” etc. Related: God is in every leaf of every tree

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a computer, calculating the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin—forever.

Riffing on techno-hype news articles such as An AI physicist can derive the natural laws of imagined universes, Peter Woit writes: This is based on the misconception about string theory that the problem with it is that “the calculations are too hard”. The truth of the matter is that there is no actual theory, no […]

Reproducibility problems in the natural sciences

After reading my news article on the replication crisis, Mikael Wolfe writes: While I’m sure there is a serious issue about replication in social science experiments, what about the natural sciences? You use the term “science” even though you don’t include natural sciences in your piece. I fear that climate and other science deniers will […]

The garden of 603,979,752 forking paths

Amy Orben and Andrew Przybylski write: The widespread use of digital technologies by young people has spurred speculation that their regular use negatively impacts psychological well-being. Current empirical evidence supporting this idea is largely based on secondary analyses of large-scale social datasets. Though these datasets provide a valuable resource for highly powered investigations, their many […]

We should be open-minded, but not selectively open-minded.

I wrote this post awhile ago but it just appeared . . . I liked this line so much I’m posting it on its own: We should be open-minded, but not selectively open-minded. This is related to the research incumbency effect and all sorts of other things we’ve talked about over the years. There’s a […]

How to think about reported life hacks?

Interesting juxtaposition as two interesting pieces of spam happened to appear in my inbox on the same day: 1. Subject line “Why the power stance will be your go-to move in 2019”: The power stance has been highlighted as one way to show your dominance at work and move through the ranks. While moving up […]

How statistics is used to crush (scientific) dissent.

Lakeland writes: When we interpret powerful as political power, I think it’s clear that Classical Statistics has the most political power, that is, the power to get people to believe things and change policy or alter funding decisions etc… Today Bayes is questioned at every turn, and ridiculed for being “subjective” with a focus on […]

Question 8 of our Applied Regression final exam (and solution to question 7)

Here’s question 8 of our exam: 8. Out of a random sample of 50 Americans, zero report having ever held political office. From this information, give a 95% confidence interval for the proportion of Americans who have ever held political office. And the solution to question 7: 7. You conduct an experiment in which some […]

Why edit a journal? More generally, how to contribute to scientific discussion?

The other day I wrote: Journal editing is a volunteer job, and people sign up for it because they want to publish exciting new work, or maybe because they enjoy the power trip, or maybe out of a sense of duty—but, in any case, they typically aren’t in it for the controversy. Jon Baron, editor […]

Let’s publish everything.

The other day someone pointed me to this article by James Kaufman and Vlad Glǎveanu in a psychology journal which begins: How does the current replication crisis, along with other recent psychological trends, affect scientific creativity? To answer this question, we consider current debates regarding replication through the lenses of creativity research and theory. Both […]

They’re working for the clampdown

This is just disgraceful: powerful academics using their influence to suppress (“clamp down on”) dissent. They call us terrorists, they lie about us in their journals, and they plot to clamp down on us. I can’t say at this point that I’m surprised to see this latest, but it saddens and angers me nonetheless to […]

Crystallography Corner: The result is difficult to reproduce, but the result is still valid.

Joel Bernstein writes: I just finished reading your oped article on reproducibility in science. As an experimental scientist – more precisely a chemical crystallographer – I have had to deal with this kind of situation a number of times, and at least two examples may serve as the possible exceptions to your rules. One of […]

Pushing the guy in front of the trolley

So. I was reading the London Review of Books the other day and came across this passage by the philosopher Kieran Setiya: Some of the most striking discoveries of experimental philosophers concern the extent of our own personal inconsistencies . . . how we respond to the trolley problem is affected by the details of […]

Hey, people are doing the multiverse!

Elio Campitelli writes: I’ve just saw this image in a paper discussing the weight of evidence for a “hiatus” in the global warming signal and immediately thought of the garden of forking paths. From the paper: Tree representation of choices to represent and test pause-periods. The ‘pause’ is defined as either no-trend or a slow-trend. […]

“In 1997 Latanya Sweeney dramatically demonstrated that supposedly anonymized data was not anonymous,” but “Over 20 journals turned down her paper . . . and nobody wanted to fund privacy research that might reach uncomfortable conclusions.”

Tom Daula writes: I think this story from John Cook is a different perspective on replication and how scientists respond to errors. In particular the final paragraph: There’s a perennial debate over whether it is best to make security and privacy flaws public or to suppress them. The consensus, as much as there is a […]

“How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions” . . . and still stays around even after it’s been retracted

Chuck Jackson points to two items of possible interest: Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions, by Richard Harris. Review here by Leonard Freedman. Retractions do not work very well, by Ken Cor and Gaurav Sood. This post by Tyler Cowen brought this paper to my attention. Here’s a […]

Impact of published research on behavior and avoidable fatalities

In a paper entitled, “Impact of published research on behavior and avoidable fatalities,” Addison Kramer, Alexandra Kirk, Faizaan Easton, and Bertram Hester write: There has long been speculation of an “informational backfire effect,” whereby the publication of questionable scientific claims can lead to behavioral changes that are counterproductive in the aggregate. Concerns of informational backfire […]