“As with many interventions intended to prevent ill health, the effectiveness of parachutes has not been subjected to rigorous evaluation by using randomised controlled trials. Advocates of evidence based medicine have criticised the adoption of interventions evaluated by using only observational data. We think that everyone might benefit if the most radical protagonists of evidence based medicine organised and participated in a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled, crossover trial of the parachute.”
Download the pdf here.
And that’s just for all papers published from November 2012 to December 2013.
To quote: “I have brought my previous study (see here and here) up-to-date by reviewing peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals over the period from Nov. 12, 2012 through December 31, 2013. I found 2,258 articles, written by a total of 9,136 authors. (Download the chart above here.) Only one article, by a single author in the Herald of the Russian Academy of Sciences, rejected man-made global warming. I discuss that article here.”
By James Powell.
Love this – although disappointing that none were found…
ABSTRACT: Time travel has captured the public imagination for much of the past century, but little has been done to actually search for time travelers. Here, three implementations of Internet searches for time travelers are described, all seeking a prescient mention of information not previously available. The first search covered prescient content placed on the Internet, highlighted by a comprehensive search for specific terms in tweets on Twitter. The second search examined prescient inquiries submitted to a search engine, highlighted by a comprehensive search for specific search terms submitted to a popular astronomy web site. The third search involved a request for a direct Internet communication, either by email or tweet, pre-dating to the time of the inquiry. Given practical verifiability concerns, only time travelers from the future were investigated. No time travelers were discovered. Although these negative results do not disprove time travel, given the great reach of the Internet, this search is perhaps the most comprehensive to date.
By Robert J. Nemiroff and Teresa Wilson. Link to arXiv page.
What if there was a non-political research project that involved a collaboration between NASA scientists and Environment Canada scientists? How easy would it be for a journalist to talk to the scientists involved?
It turns out it would take only 15 minutes for something to be arranged with NASA. With Environment Canada, however, it would take the activities of 11 media relations people, sending over 50 pages of internal emails, before a list of irrelevant information was finally sent back – all of this long after the deadline had passed. This is what happened to journalist Tom Spears in April 2012.
With this, this Terry Podcast episode asks a simple question: If it was this difficult to get interviews for a positive science story, what would happen if a journalist needed to actually ask some tough questions? Please take a listen as this episode of the Terry Podcast examines the relationship between media and Canadian Government scientists, and questions whether the Harper government has politicized science.
Please listen and share:
Note: eventually, some of these (I suspect) will be published in full at the Science Creative Quarterly.
Click on the image for larger graphic.
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(CLICK HERE FOR PIN-UP POSTER – pdf file ~1Mb)
– We suggest photocopying at 129% – LTR to 11×17 –
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The “Candy Hierarchy” represents a thoroughly authoritative attempt to scientifically measure and classify Halloween Candy by assessing “joy induction.” More or less. Since 2006, Cohen and Ng have curated these rankings as an ongoing longitudinal study, one which reassesses itself through the use of the newest technologies (often teeth and jaws) and robust scientific peer review (comments). This article therefore presents the latest rankings with insight into the complex cultural underpinnings of “sweet” things. Specific notes of interest are two fold: (1) the emergence of a child-centric sucro-fructo-tastic gummi/chewy/taffi layer into the upper strata and (2) the recent prominence of corporatized corn fructose agents potentially, but we doubt it, influencing the hierarchy. Speaking of corporate influence, we are proud to be sponsored by Sweetum’s this year. Sweetums!: When fructose jitters can’t wait, try Sweetums, an American delight! In conclusion, these findings continue to demonstrate the enormous challenge in monitoring the constantly changing landscape of candy joy induction. Except, of course, for Whoppers – Whoppers still blow. And, good god, if I get one more box of Nerds. They’re gone. It’s done. Boom. Drop the mic.
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This year, we had money. Gobs of money. Like lots and lots. If Everlasting Gobstoppers were money and not gobs used to stop things, we would be that. So much money it was crazy town for a while. It’s like, this year for Halloween we’re not going to be giving out Toblerone; we’re going to be giving out 3D printers that make Toblerone. But don’t let’s get all braggy. Our point is this: we got big cash and we did fancy research.
And what did this research look like? Well, all sorts of scientific things—things like booking time at CERN to collide candy corn and chocolate bars together in an attempt to explain why some fundamental particles (bodies) have (more) mass; things like using next gen sequencing methodologies to elucidate the genetic variation within populations of same-flavored and different-flavored Starbursts; things like setting up a Dancing-with-the-Stars-like competition where we had animated FTIR machines (which we printed with our disposable 3D printers) spit out competing glucose fingerprint codes to see which danced the best. Was most of this wasted time, effort, and money? Sure, maybe…the CERN data showed that colliding candy together at high speeds resulted in smaller bits of candy (intriguing); the Starburst genome project essentially suggested that Starbursts don’t, in fact, have genomes (curious); and it’s not clear that Dancing FTIR thing even made sense. But it’s not for us to decide the findings’ value. That’s what the peer community is for. Who knows how this knowledge might one day be applied? Besides, the stuffed coats at Sweetum’s tell us we can’t actually make the good data public until Sal in marketing vets it. I think this discussion is supposed to be redacted, actually. Rob, can you go check on that before this runs?
Regardless, we can state this: lo and behold, this year’s hierarchy reveals a bi-modal fracturing at the top strata. Previous rankings had found chocolate dominance at the top. The new hierarchy reflects discoveries made in the last year whereby some kids don’t think chocolate is top tier. Seemed like bullshit at first—because, really? Non-chocolate? But data don’t lie. So check out the graphic above.
Know what else? After years of failed get-it-right fast schemes, in this scheme we got it right. And fast. With some methodological retooling, more data sets, further research, and hundreds of additional peer review comments, the hierarchy is now entirely correct. There will be no need for comments. You can turn the internet off now. Yes yes, we said that last year, and the numerous years before. But that was before Twitter was big so nobody really read this. People always say they’re super confident, and you can never believe them, and don’t ever trust who ever acts like they’re one hundred percent certain. It’s just, if someone says something is entirely correct, you have to be a bit skeptical, right? But this time we are one hundred percent confident; this hierarchy is entirely correct. Why? Because of that corporate sponsorship. That’s why we’re proud to thank Sweetum’s Good Times High Fructosery for funding this year’s hierarchy. Sweetum’s, the quicker picker upper. Anyway, the scientific process is largely structured by corporate mechanisms and economic considerations, we’re told. Scientific research is underwritten by commitments to those problems our funders deem worthy of study. Right? And so here we are. Lots of sugar. Eventual diabetes. Meager dentistry. Yum.
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SOME PEER REVIEW COLLECTED HERE
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1. Because like, score! (Bcsizemo, 2010)
2. a.k.a. God’s Candy
3. These may be rolled to a friend.
4. Not sure if this should be included. Systematics are still on going – denomination appears to be key.
5. Like that fish you’ve seen on television. You know – the one which looks like it can breathe air and stuff.
6. Appropriate ranking may depend entirely on date of purchase versus date of opening. Experts in this field often refer to this dichotomy as “fresh CCE” versus “stale CCE,” or FCCE versus SCCE (Beschizza, 2011). Note that its interior has also been described as “pustulent.” (Petersen, 2010)
7. Sometimes spousal influence forces these placements as with, ahem, this primarily southern delicacy.
8. Blame the children on this one, Canadian children too. Also, sponsored by Sweetums (“Sweetums!: When fructose jitters can’t wait, try Sweetums, an American delight!”) whose corporate dollars may or may not be messing with your heads.
9. Always a contentious subject with a rich history of controversy. Briefly: Candy Corn, as of 2006, remained unclassified, but as of 2007 had been tentatively placed in the Upper Chewy/Upper Devonian. 2008: no sighting. This year, we have elected to place in a new tier, although what this means exactly has yet to be determined.
10. Includes comparable Commonwealth version of “Smarties.” (Devo, Legionabstract, gadgetgirl et al, 2011)
11. Although has also been classified as packing material (Cunning, 2010)
12. Placed solely to acknowledge, make fun of, and possibly undermine British opinions. Google it, but be careful when you google it (2012).
13. This is from EU pressure, known in diplomatic circles as the “Hornby Concession” (see his many footnotes from the 2012 version).
14. In which we acknowledge the complex underpinnings of this here Candy ranking exercise: apparently, the wrapper of the Ferrero Roche gets a higher ranking than the candy itself (due to high artwork potential). (Son of Anthrodiva 2012)
15. Whoppers blow.
16. The authors are curious as to which neighborhoods you belong to.
17. Also a hot mess of debate. Not to be confused with hot messes involving actual persons named “Mary Jane.” (Girard, franko, lexicat, Easton, Petersen, Halloween_Jack, 2012)
18. The discontinued candy, not the equally rankable discontinued board game.
19. Oh smack, can you even imagine if you got Fritos?
20. You know, we don’t even know what this is, but, hell, your sister marries an Australian, they have a kid, now you’ve got a niece, and you want a nice life for her, you want her to have a stake in the hierarchy, so okay, Aussie Lollies — Picnic bars, cherry ripe, Frys Turkish delight, probably something Chazzwozzer-based too, knock yourself out.
21. In a word, surreal… Plus grandpas with eyepatches always make everything better. Pretty sure, this is reproducible. (Gyrofrog, petertrepan, Koerth-Baker, Olsen 2012)
22. By some accounts, these two are actually one and the same (Gadgetgirl, 2010)
23. Yet some would be just as well to be left off. Bit-o-Honey, for example, might be called a lower tier member, but why bother? It says to your trick-or-treaters, “Here, I don’t care, just take this.” The lesson of Bit-o-Honey is: you lose. Doorstep offers of lectures in civics, too. You’re making a social statement–“I hate you and everything you represent”– when you give these out.
24. Yes, we really meant fruit that is healthy, clean-cut upstanding fruit that takes time from its gym membership and all the demands that come with it to contribute a positive message of citizenship and camaraderie to the community. This isn’t a typo of healthy for healthful. (see U.M.H. 2011)
25. Research has further defined this relationship. Currently, it has been suggested that Blackwing Pencils > Hugs > Creepy Hugs > Pencils. (Lobster, Prufrock451, and Warreno, 2010)
26. Unless it’s something caramel, pronounced “caramel.”
27. Unless you eat them properly. To quote Anonymous, 2010: “The trick to realizing how brilliant and delicious Now ‘n Laters are is a two step process. The first step is to carefully read the name of the candy. “Now ‘n Later.” What does it mean, you ask? Well, it implies that the candy will be different “now” (when you put it in your mouth) and at some point “later” in time. A small leap of logic takes us to the second step: be patient. You need to suck on it for a while until it softens. If you skip this step, the Now ‘n Later will be an inedible, rock-like colorful brick quite worthy of the low end of the hierarchy. But if you are patient in your candy-eating process, oh the rewards you will reap!”
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Originally published at Boingboing.net.
Some satire from yours truly. Sad that for some, it’s close to the truth.
“Make an observation.
Take a photo of it with your phone. Apply cool looking image filter, tweak with selective blurring, and then share via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your blog, etc.
Provide a trite but punchy comment that explains your observation. This is your hypothesis. OMG!”
Read on at McSweeney’s.
Applicable for all signs:
“The coming year is likely to present challenges; these trials are when your true character will show. Trusted friends can provide assistance in particularly pressing situations. Make use of the skills you have to compensate for ones you lack. Your reputation in the future depends on your honesty and integrity this year. Monetary investments will prove risky; inform yourself as much as possible. On the positive side, your chances of winning the lottery have never been greater!”
By DAVID NG
A slide for talking about the scientific method, hypothesis, generation, and testing via experimental design. Oh yeah, and aliens.
The set-up is to provide context with a story about declining stork populations as well as lower fertility rates in a particular country (this actually happened, for instance, in China in the 80s).
Who is Hadi? He’s a colleague at UBC, who does very cool stuff.
(Also, all of these goofy pics are now being archived at a tumblr I just set up – scienceisawesomethatisall.tumblr.com)
O.K. Yesterday was our provincial elections (in British Columbia), and in the end, the Liberal party came out winning. There’s quite a few environmental issues that are in the forefront in my neck of the woods, not the least of which concerns the Northern Gateway pipeline.
The Liberals didn’t actually have the greatest platform on this (at least from an environmental or science policy standpoint), but here’s hoping the public continues to pressure them to do the “best” (re: what scientific expert peer review suggests) thing for the province, and indeed the planet at large.
Last Saturday, my lab opened up the entire ground floor of the Michael Smith Building to the public. This was in conjunction with Science Rendezvous, a cross Canada science festival, and in the case of UBC, organized by the Faculty of Science. In the house (so to speak) were folks from the Beaty Museum, Civil Engineering, Pathology, Physics and Astronomy, as well as the Engineering Physics Robotics lab (who also brought in their 3D printers). We also used the building as ground zero for a number of tours throughout campus.
All in all, a great day (and busy too!). In my space, I actually brought out about a dozen or dissecting scopes and collected a nice jar of pond scum. Kids (and their parents), with some basic instructions, were let loose to find whatever they could find in the pond water. Lots of cooties were found, protozoa and algae abound, but my favourite was this Hydra that I managed to get a decent picture of on my iPhone.
The scientific method – it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty much the best way out there on collecting your thoughts and information to make sound decisions. All the more so, if the decision is high stakes IMHO.
Really impressed by this graphic. It’s just about perfect for this sort of thing… (although technically the word “hypothesis” would be better than “theory”)
By Kyle Hill.
IS THERE A SANTA?
By Paul Clarkson, via The Science Creative Quarterly.
Being a scientific investigation of a cultural conundrum
Soon it will be Christmas Eve, and once more children will be divided into distinct factions. Here, Cyr  described younger children (12 years) who have ditched this ‘childish’ belief. But he fails, by excluding from his questionnaire, to describe a third group who aren’t really sure – the undecided voters if you like. And as the eldest child, I have spent a large part of my life in this group. Moreover, being scientifically minded even at the age 7, I of course approached this problem according to well-established techniques of investigation.
My first stop was to consult the authorities. My parents (beneficiaries of a liberal arts education and a liberal dosing of 1960’s psychotropic compounds) reassured their young child by explaining that Santa, like all beliefs, was a social construction and as such was true to all who believed in him. When I asked how I would prove that, Mum told me that all truth was relative and that the concept of proof was no more than a projection of hegemony by the dominant culture. Which I thought was a load of old bollocks.
Disappointed but not discouraged I proceeded to a literature search (It wasn’t until much later in my career that I realised this was only ever done after at least 9 months of laborious investigation, although I was naive then, so give me a break). My little red bookshelf contained several volumes referring to Santa Claus. Most were personal accounts , and as such counted as no more than Level V evidence (expert opinion). Other styled themselves as authorities [3,4], but lacked references to definitive investigations.
Modern children of course have Pubmed, and conducting a search today for “Santa Claus Existence” gave 5 results, of which one was relevant. In 2002 Cyr surveyed whether paediatric inpatients still believed in Santa Claus. While a good and noteworthy study, this would still have not fit my purposes. I didn’t care if other children believed in Santa, and besides this was still only Level IV evidence (case-series). The author also declared his bias as a continuing believer, throwing all his conclusions under a cloud.
I realised I would have to abandon epidemiological techniques in favour of direct experimentation. I proceeded with the null hypothesis “Santa Claus does not exist”. I designed a trap to snare him in my bedroom, but after two failed years I realised the fault in my experimental design. The only way to reject the null hypothesis was to catch him, but not catching him left me unable to either accept or reject the null hypothesis. Unfortunately we hadn’t studied Karl Popper in reading room at that stage.
I decided to approach things in a more indirect manner. His ability to tell if children have been naughty or nice has been well-described . More specifically, I decided to adjust my behaviour, the independent variable A, and observe the number of presents, the dependent variable B. If he did exist, then B would vary with A, but if my parents were bringing the loot then A should not cause B to vary, as I was an overindulged and spoilt child. Furthermore, being nice and still getting presents regardless would prove little, and besides naughty was much more fun.
So I was as naughty as possible on Christmas Eve. I threw tantrums, messed my room, pulled my sister’s hair and hid my brother’s toys. I interrupted my father and refused to eat my dinner. The next morning I awoke with eager anticipation of my results. I got pretty much the same presents as usual. I then realised with horror that I had no reference standard! What if I was going to get more and had been reduced? How would I know? My brother and sister served as case-controls, but this was wholly unsatisfactory. Was a Barbie doll worth one or two toy cars? Had they been naughty or nice, thus confounding the results?
In any event, I am sorry to report that despite having now reached adulthood, I have still been unable to establish a satisfactory experimental design for this problem. The levels of evidence in this field continue to be amongst the poorest in the literature, and anecdotal evidence abounds. However, there will be a bear-trap at the bottom of my chimney again this year. While Popper may maintain that it is impossible to prove that something does not exist, the truth is that I’ve only got to catch the bastard once to get my answer.
1. Cyr C. Do reindeer and children know something that we don’t? Paediatric inpatients’ beliefs in Santa Claus. CMAJ 2002 Dec 10; 167(12): 1325-1327
2. Moore CC. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. The Sentinel 1823. Heirloom edition available from Running Press Book Publishers.
3. Apple M, Baum LF, Riley, MO. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. Signet Classics
4. Perkes A. The Santa Claus Book. Lyle Stuart Publishing.
5. Coots JF, Kellogg S. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. HarperCollins
(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)