The Science Behind ScienceMediaHype

The Science Behind ScienceMediaHype

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The Science Behind ScienceMediaHype, or “This it how it works in the real world.”

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The cartoon linked here sums up pretty neatly a lot of things that are hard about being a scientist. If only science were as neat and pretty as what the press release sites and the newspapers described. In the world of newspapers, a line of research always yields fascinating and unequivocal results and the researchers’ cleverness and insight overcomes long odds to reveal amazing truths. Then, we pull the actual papers and the first thing we say to ourselves is, “Hmm. I wish they’d done this too. The paper would have been stronger.” And we recall the times we’ve published things ourselves that weren’t as done as we wanted them to be because it was time to move on, or because the funding was running out, or because it was time for the student to graduate.

Often, we’ve run out of time because we’ve run the same analysis 39 times and gotten 39 disparate answers, with no rhyme or reason as to why the variation. Maybe we’ll find out later that the undergrad intern reset the optics on the diffractometer, or that the rotavap was contaminated by that guy in the next lab who is a total slob.

All of us live for the “that’s funny” moments. Those moments when we see something unexpected that we suspect might hide something new and exciting. That’s not what usually happens, though. Usually, its a case of “I have no freaking clue why its doing that.” And often that means we’ve failed to control some variable or missed some confounding factor or interference. We have no idea what it is, but we do know that more likely than not, we’re going to spend the next month re-running that same experiment. Sigh.

And then. Then, inevitably we get data we believe, data that show that we’ve made the molecule we meant to make or something like that. We think about all these things and we say to ourselves, “These data look too good. I’m missing something. I’m going to run the experiment again.” Sigh, again.

It’s pretty in fashion right now in some circles to discount science as abstract and disconnected with the real world or to claim science has no advantage over various other sources of knowledge. I sometimes wonder why I don’t see more scientists speaking up about that, pushing back a little. Then, I see this cartoon and I’m reminded why they aren’t. They’re busy running that experiment for the 40th time, because this time (for reals!) they’ll figure out why its catching on fire in step 11.

This is a followup to a recent post in Curator’s Choice by Chad Haney (https://plus.google.com/105917944266111687812/posts/3r8ghecybAW)

This is a re-post from Brent’s Google Plus page with his permission.

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What is antibiotic resistance and Why does it matter?

What is antibiotic resistance and Why does it matter?

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Our world was a very different place before 1928, when Sir Alexander Fleming discovered the very first antibiotic – penicillin. Weaponless, we as humans were much more vulnerable to the microscopic pathogens around us.

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Logical Fallacy Question Time

Logical Fallacy Question Time

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Recently a reader asked us the below question-

 

“I would like to know what fallacy this is: It cannot be proven that there are not other life forms living in the caves of Mars, therefore I cannot believe that there is no life on Mars.”

 

This is known as the “Argument from Ignorance” (in Latin: argumentum ad ignorantiam) or “Appeal to Ignorance” and is a type of informal logical fallacy. I actually listed this as one of the most common logical fallacies in my opinion in a previous article. I will go into a little more detail here and also share some other examples that others and I have come across. But first we can break down the example you provided.

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Thoughts out loud: Anti-intellectualism and the issue of Vaccination

Thoughts out loud: Anti-intellectualism and the issue of Vaccination

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Recently I was asked by a friend in Indonesia why there seems to be a growing rejection of science-based medical marvels such as vaccination in my own highly developed country of Australia. This is actually something that concerns me greatly, as both an educator and someone involved in medical research applicable to vaccine development. Below I give a recount of my reply, which are merely my thoughts on the matter, and should be seen as me “thinking out loud”. No doubt, in the future, I shall revisit this issue with more scholastic rigor.

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Hacking Health Toronto 2013

Hacking Health Toronto 2013

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This past November I had the amazing opportunity to participate in the Hacking Health hackathon right here in Toronto. The event brings together healthcare professionals and technology developers to collaborate and build solutions to existing health care problems.

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A Call for Scientists and the Scientifically Minded to Enter Politics

A Call for Scientists and the Scientifically Minded to Enter Politics

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As a citizen or resident of any country I think it is highly important to do your best to learn at least the basics about the political system that governs over you, and of course if you want to meaningfully comment on a state of affairs

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Top 5 Kuhnian Revolutions and Paradigm Shifts in Malaria Research

Top 5 Kuhnian Revolutions and Paradigm Shifts in Malaria Research

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Thomas Kuhn was among the leading figures in the philosophy of science during the 20th century (along with other greats such as Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein). He popularized the use of the word paradigm,

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Hume, Kant and Asking for Evidence.

Hume, Kant and Asking for Evidence.

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David Hume

 

Lately I have been reading a lot of Hoax Slayer and using the associated information for responding to highly incorrect information that people have been re-posting on Facebook. It seems many people do not even bother with a quick two second Google search to check the veracity of most claims. This takes very little effort and intelligence to do for run of the mill posts (so there’s little excuse for not checking), especially compared to proper academic discourse which will require many years of formal education, knowledge of the published literature and relevant experience in the area being discussed.

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Long-tailed tit

Long-tailed tit

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“This adorable picture was taken by the Norwegian photographer Dagfinn Breivik Skomsø (http://adnaturae.blogspot.no/) near Trondheim, Norway. These little birds are members of the species long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus), tiny birds (13-15 cm) found widespread around Northern Europe. Aren’t they the cutest thing ever?”

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Rocky Mountain Elk

Rocky Mountain Elk

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This week’s stunning photo was shot by Norwegian photographer Rune Gudmundsen, and it is of a Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus canadensi nelsoni). The Rocky Mountain elk is a sub species of elk (Cervus canadensi), and is found in the Rocky Mountains (hence it’s name) and areas around in western North America.

The elk is the one of the largest species of deer.

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