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Monthly Archives: November 2013

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

One of the big problems in science journalism is the tendency to hype scientific research. You’re familiar with the routine: A new study comes out on, say, how coffee might lead to a slight increase in a particular disease. Then, plastered all over the front pages of websites and newspapers are headlines like, “Too Much Coffee Will Kill You!” Of course, the following week, a different study will report that coffee might protect you from another disease, and the media hysteria plays out all over again, just in the opposite direction.

This is bad. Poor science journalism misleads the public and policymakers. Is there a way to prevent such hype? Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Many Americans think of Europe as something of a magical realm. The food is tastier, the people are sexier, and some parts of Poland don’t experience gravity. Wait, what?

European Journal, a fairly good television program produced by DW-TV, investigated what looks to be an “anti-gravity” spot in Poland. (See video beginning at the 21:00 mark.) On a road out in the Polish countryside, things appear to roll uphill, including bottles of water and even entire cars. What’s going on? The people of Europe demand an answer for this very strange physical phenomenon. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

We don’t cover economics regularly because it is not traditionally considered science. Furthermore, the field too often generates research and commentary that employs more voodoo than a witch doctor. It is largely for these reasons that economics is often referred to as the “dismal science” and why President Harry Truman wanted to meet a one-armed economist. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Science is going through a bit of a crisis. Thanks largely to the pioneering work of Dr. John Ioannidis, scientists — particularly biomedical researchers — are grappling with the reality that much of the scientific literature cannot be replicated and is simply incorrect. The reasons are manifold, among them the tendency of top-notch journals to publish “flashy” research, publication bias, flaws in peer review and the inadequacy of statistical tests. It is this latter problem that new research in PNAS hopes to address. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Americans insist on experiencing “death with dignity.” The reality, however, is that death is not even remotely a dignified process, particularly if nature is allowed to take its course unimpeded. Once you shuffle off this mortal coil, your body goes through a series of drastic changes, each stage more ghastly than the last. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Your humble correspondent had quite the predicament over the weekend. I had burned one of those fake logs in the fireplace, and after the fire went out I closed the flue and went to bed. Only the fire didn’t go out. I awoke the next morning to a condo full of smoke and my wife in a semi-panic.

NaOH_-_drain-cleaner.jpgAiring out the house proved problematic. A storm was moving through Seattle (great timing!). Thus, opening the front and back doors created a miniature tempest inside our home. Worse, wind kept coming down into the fireplace, blowing ash all over the house. And we couldn’t close the flue because the fake log was still smoldering.

So, we did the only thing we could think of: We threw the burning log in the bath tub and doused it with water. That worked, but it created an entirely new problem. As the fake log disintegrated, it clogged the tub. Unfortunately, the sodium hydroxide-based drain cleaner we used to unclog it wasn’t up to the job. Read More »