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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Opinion: Cancer is Hard, But Let’s Not Turn to Woo.

Opinion: Cancer is Hard, But Let’s Not Turn to Woo.

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Cancer. The word alone invokes deep emotions in many people. For some, fear, for others, anger. This is completely understandable. During my biomedical science degree I worked in nursing with a predominant focus on patients with various stages and types of cancer. Some made it and others were not so fortunate. I was even quite emotional seeing the plight of these patients, but maintained my resolve to give them the best care I possibly could. It wasn’t just me either; each patient had a large team of nurses, doctors and specialists who worked with them, investing their expertise to help every person they saw. However, the emotions of fear and anger were very real and very present. These emotions, for some, can lead to bad choices (often out of desperation). It is this that I want to focus on in this opinion piece.

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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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Imagine…

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Imagine a world where science was replaced with pseudoscience and pathological science (yes there is a subtle difference). Imagine that instead of the scientific method and all its rigorous standards that we adopted unsubstantiated claims, cherry picked data and anecdotes. Imagine a world were our “experts” either did not have to hold a relevant degree and/or experience, or held an inappropriate qualification for what they were an expert in (though this frequently is the case in this world for political ministers). Finally, imagine a world where utilizing logic, appropriate and relevant statistics, and being informed through skeptical thought was held in great contempt. How many valid and credible discoveries do you think we would be able to muster? How much advancement and development of society do you think could occur?

 

I present this thought and ask these questions because it appears that is what many purveyors of woo seem to want. I do not believe this is a straw man either, as I am talking about the conglomeration of ideas from the crank crowd and tin hat army. Whilst it may be true that an individual woo-meister may not want all the ideals proposed above, they align themselves with a thought process that paves the way for and represents this paradigm (crank magnetism also helps this along). Additionally, while individual scientists may not embody all the ideal tenets of rational, logical thought at all times, the system that is science does (it is also guaranteed to be self-correcting over time, whilst magical thinking is not) and that is why it remains our best way of understanding the world we find ourselves in.

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Berry Go Round #62

Berry Go Round #62

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This month MostlyScience is proud to host Berry Go Round #62. If you are unfamiliar with BGR, it is a blog carnival devoted to highlighting recent blogging on the science of plants.

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