Skip to content
Archive of posts filed under the Miscellaneous Science category.

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 and still stays around even after it’s been retracted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 […]

Should we talk less about bad social science research and more about bad medical research?

Paul Alper pointed me to this news story, “Harvard Calls for Retraction of Dozens of Studies by Noted Cardiac Researcher: Some 31 studies by Dr. Piero Anversa contain fabricated or falsified data, officials concluded. Dr. Anversa popularized the idea of stem cell treatment for damaged hearts.” I replied: Ahhh, Harvard . . . the reporter […]

“Retire Statistical Significance”: The discussion.

So, the paper by Valentin Amrhein, Sander Greenland, and Blake McShane that we discussed a few weeks ago has just appeared online as a comment piece in Nature, along with a letter with hundreds (or is it thousands?) of supporting signatures. Following the first circulation of that article, the authors of that article and some […]

My two talks in Montreal this Friday, 22 Mar

McGill University Biostatistics seminar, Purvis Hall, 102 Pine Ave. West, Room 25 Education Building, 3700 McTavish Street, Room 129 [note new location], 1-2pm Fri 22 Mar: Resolving the Replication Crisis Using Multilevel Modeling In recent years we have come to learn that many prominent studies in social science and medicine, conducted at leading research institutions, […]

Statistical-significance thinking is not just a bad way to publish, it’s also a bad way to think

Eric Loken writes: The table below was on your blog a few days ago, with the clear point about p-values (and even worse the significance versus non-significance) being a poor summary of data. The thought I’ve had lately, working with various groups of really smart and thoughtful researchers, is that Table 4 is also a […]

Not Dentists named Dennis, but Physicists named Li studying Li

Charles Jackson writes: I was spurred to do this search by reading an article in the 30 Mar 2018 issue of Science. The article was: Self-heating–induced healing of lithium dendrites​ by Lu Li et al. Wikipedia says that more than 93 million people in China have the surname Li. I found 62 articles on Lithium […]

(back to basics:) How is statistics relevant to scientific discovery?

Someone pointed me to this remark by psychology researcher Daniel Gilbert: Publication is not canonization. Journals are not gospels. They are the vehicles we use to tell each other what we saw (hence “Letters” & “proceedings”). The bar for communicating to each other should not be high. We can decide for ourselves what to make […]

Journalist seeking scoops is as bad as scientist doing unreplicable research

Tom Scocca shares this dispiriting story: Yesterday, as a news day, was an even worse cascade of lies and confusion and gibberish than usual. Yet what stood out the most was a single word: “Clarification.” It appeared at the bottom of a very short Axios post by reporter Jonathan Swan, introducing a note that read, […]

Good news! Researchers respond to a correction by acknowledging it and not trying to dodge its implications

In a letter to the Journal of Nursing Research, Brown and Allison write: We question the conclusions that a health promotion model “was highly effective for gaining healthy life behaviors and the control of BMI of the participants” in an article recently published in The Journal of Nursing Research (Fidanci, Akbayrak, & Arslan, 2017). The […]

George Orwell meets statistical significance: “Politics and the English Language” applied to science

1. Political writing: imprecision as a tool for obscuring the indefensible In his classic essay, “Politics and the English Language,” the political journalist George Orwell drew a connection between cloudy writing and cloudy content. The basic idea was: if you don’t know what you’re saying, or if you’re trying to say something you don’t really […]

I believe this study because it is consistent with my existing beliefs.

Kevin Lewis points us to this.

“Using 26,000 diary entries to show ovulatory changes in sexual desire and behavior”

Kevin Lewis points us to this research paper by Ruben Arslan, Katharina Schilling, Tanja Gerlach, and Lars Penke, which begins: Previous research reported ovulatory changes in women’s appearance, mate preferences, extra- and in-pair sexual desire, and behavior, but has been criticized for small sample sizes, inappropriate designs, and undisclosed flexibility in analyses. Examples of such […]

Facial feedback is back

Fritz Strack points us to this new paper, A multi-semester classroom demonstration yields evidence in support of the facial feedback effect, by Abigail Marsh, Shawn Rhoads, and Rebecca Ryan, which begins with some background: The facial feedback effect refers to the influence of unobtrusive manipulations of facial behavior on emotional outcomes. That manipulations inducing or […]

Science as an intellectual “safe space”? How to do it right.

I don’t recall hearing the term “safe space” until recently, but now it seems to be used all the time, by both the left and the right, to describe an environment where people can feel free to express opinions that might be unpopular in a larger community, without fear of criticism or contradiction. Sometimes a […]

The butterfly effect: It’s not what you think it is.

John Cook writes: The butterfly effect is the semi-serious claim that a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a tornado half way around the world. It’s a poetic way of saying that some systems show sensitive dependence on initial conditions, that the slightest change now can make an enormous difference later . . . Once […]

“Either the results are completely wrong, or Nasa has confirmed a major breakthrough in space propulsion.”

Daniel Lakeland points us to this news article by David Hambling from 2014, entitled “Nasa validates ‘impossible’ space drive.” Here’s Hambling: Nasa is a major player in space science, so when a team from the agency this week presents evidence that “impossible” microwave thrusters seem to work, something strange is definitely going on. Either the […]

Becker on Bohm on the important role of stories in science

Tyler Matta writes: During your talk last week, you spoke about the role of stories in scientific theory. On page 104 of What Is Real: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics, Adam Becker talks about stories and scientific theory in relation to alternative conceptions of quantum theory, particularly between Bohm’s pilot-wave interpretation […]