Search Results for goldacre

The Memory of Water: Medicine or Pseudoscience?

“Can you tell the difference between science and pseudoscience?”

“What separates effective medicine from alternative medicine?”

“What assumptions do you make every day?”

As you grow in Biology and ToK, you should develop your critical thinking skills and become more of a skeptic. Being able to answer these two questions is a skill that you can carry through life, helping you to make sensible decisions when faced with a range of seemingly convincing alternatives.

Medicine is a system of rigourous testing, evidence collection, statistical analysis and controls to ensure that a treatment is effective when recommended to patients. If it works and it is strongly corroborated, we call it medicine – it is available to professionally-trained medical doctors to use or prescribe for their patients.

Alternative medicine is simply that – alternative to medicine. It is not rigourously tested, double-blind controlled or statistically analysed. It is built on belief without true empirical evidence. One might believe it’s efficacy based only on anecdotal or circumstantial evidence, but this is not enough. If these were true for alternative medicines, we would call them… medicine!

There are lots of good resources on ‘alternative’ therapies at Evidence-Based Medicine First. Lots of funny, but serious, write-ups at BadScience, too.

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Richard Dawkins’ recent series Enemies of Reason tackles these issues brilliantly, as does Dr Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science blog. Start with this short clip of Dawkins explaining the idea behind homeopathy, a bastion of alternative medicine:

And here’s Ben Goldacre explaining homeopathy:

Homeopathic First Aid.

Homeopathic First Aid.

  • Why is it that people buy into homeopathy and alternative medicine?
  • Have you heard of the placebo effect or the powers of suggestion and how they affect feeling?
  • What are some reasons why a patient might feel better after visiting a homeopath than after a consultation with the doctor.
  • What is the difference between complementary and alternative medicine? Which might a doctor recommend as part of a treatment? Why?

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To find out more about homeopathy and its central ideas:

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And it’s not only homeopathy that abuses our sacred water. The oxygen-water companies are it too.

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So, when you read the magazines, watch TV or wonder about a miracle cure, anti-ageing cream, magical treatment or anything else related to unusual claims and you health, think: “Where’s the evidence?”

Now here’s a funny sketch from Webb and Mitchell:

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If you still need convincing, this article from the BBC on how alternative remedies can prove dangerous for children should do the job.

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And… More Woo for You!

Power Balance recently admitted there was no effect for their expensive rubber bands. Of course. It’s all in the mind, if at all. Find out more about the placebo effect, and how more expensive placebos actually have a stronger placebo effect than cheap ones!

PulseProject.org – Lectures and Podcasts in Science

PulseProject is an interesting collection of video lectures and podcasts in science. It is aimed at university and IBDP-level (or A-level) students and educators as well as the general (well informed) public. Looking through their list of lectures and videos, there is some leaning towards eugenics and psychology, though there are many that might be of specific interest to IB Biology students:

Genetics & Evolution:

GM Crops and global food security Chris Leaver

Where did you leave your genetic fingerprint? Katharine Wright

Genes and Human History Gil McVean

Descent of the Dinosaurs Chris Jarvis

Music of Life: a new view on nature and nurture Denis Noble

What makes us human? Robin Dunbar

The practice of Eugenics in Estonia Ken Kalling

Ecology:

Saving the Asian Apes (Indonesia link!) Susan Cheyne

Exploring the Ecology of Insects Mike Bonsall

Seven Years to Save the Planet (Climate Change) Bill McGuire

And some bits from our heroes:

Ben Goldacre at Skeptics in the Pub

Marcus du Sautoy on A mathematician’s journey through symmetry

Ruchard Wiseman (the Quirkology guy) on the luck factor

Facebook Gives You Cancer

“There is no evidence because it would be hard to prove…”

Oh dear.

BadScience hero Ben Goldacre and Jeremy Paxman take on Baroness Greenfield, The Daily Mail (always a good target) and Aric Sigman in this interview from Newsnight. For a bit of background this is all a response to this story from the Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1149207/How-using-Facebook-raise-risk-cancer.html

The Daily Mail reports Sigman is claiming (without any real evidence) that time on the computer takes you away from real people. This makes you isolated and lonely and means you are not producing the right hormones and your genes will act up – potentially leading to cancer, immune problems and impaired mental function. That’s a far reach for a newspaper article to be making, but these kind of shock headlines sell papers, or get more traffic on their website.

In this debate we see the importance of peer-reviewed research before making public claims. We see that correlation does not necessarily imply causality and we see that poor reporting of sensitive issues can lead to gross misunderstandings. If we remember, the Daily Mail was central in the reporting of the MMR vaccine scare.

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When you watch this interview and read the article, can you think of responses to these questions?

  • Are there any aspects of Greenfield’s claims that may sound plausible?
  • What kind of evidence is presented here?
  • What kind of evidence would you need to see to be convinced of their arguments?
  • How might this be an example of media soundbites taking ideas out of context?

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Now for a bit of fun, here are spandexballet singing about all the things the Daily Mail says gives you cancer.

Facebook gives you cancer and infantilises the population. Ahem.

“There is no evidence because it would be hard to prove…” Aduh.

BadScience hero Ben Goldacre and Jeremy Paxman take on Baroness Greenfield, The Daily Mail (always a good target) and Aric Sigman in this interview from Newsnight. For a bit of background this is all a response to this story from the Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1149207/How-using-Facebook-raise-risk-cancer.html

If you’re in my class, the page you need to comment on is here.

The Daily Mail reports  Sigman is claiming (without any real evidence) that time on the computer takes you away from real people. This makes you isolated and lonely and means you are not producing the right hormones and your genes will act up – potentially leading to cancer, immune problems and impaired mental function. That’s a far reach for a newspaper article to be making, but these kind of shock headlines sell papers, or get more traffic on their website.

In this debate we see the importance of peer-reviewed research before making public claims. We see that correlation does not necessarily imply causality and we see that poor reporting of sensitive issues can lead to gross misunderstandings. If we remember, the Daily Mail was central in the reporting of the MMR vaccine scare.

When you watch this interview and read the article, can you think of responses to these questions?

– Are there parts of Sigman and Greenfield’s claims that might sound plausible?

– What kind of evidence would you want to see to support these claims?

– What is the significance of Goldacre’s comment “… you can make anything look dangerous if you are selective in which evidence you quote” ?

– Sigman makes a comment “The paper weas supposed to be a one-sided provocative feature article for The Biologist to make people think more carefully about where society is going.” How does he feel about the media attention that his words have attracted outside this publication?

– Central to Sigman’s claims were that internet use increases social isolation. He had no peer-reviewed work after 1998 to support this, yet Goldacre pointed out all these references that suggest otherwise.

– Sigman tries to re-state ‘social networking’ as a phrase meant for real-life interactions between people rather than internet-based interactions. How has his interpretation of the term led to confusion in the wider public? Who do you think is responsible for this confusion and how could it be rectified?

– Sigman tries to distance himself from the headlines and the conjectures of Greenfield and returns to his concern that internet use is having a direct and negative impact ont the lives of children. Take this opportunity to discuss the benefits and potential negative impacts of the internet with regard to childhood use.

– Goldacre makes a comment that it woudl be bad for research to prioritse what research is done based on the headlines in the newspapers. Do you agree/ disagree? Why?

– How do you think the precautionary principle might relate to the decisions parents make based on this issue?

How would you like to see this story develop? What further research would convince you of the harms or otherwise this debate?

Fizzix is Phun

I’m a bit worried about posting this so close to the DP exams*, but it is irresistable…

Ben Goldacre posted this video on the badscience blog – it’s a Physics toy for the computer, which can be downloaded here: phun.at.

The comments page turned up a load of other good toys to play with, so go on over to the original post and check them out.

There are plenty of videos of Phun in action on YouTube.

*potential 10 on the procrastinometer

Statistical Analysis for Biologists

From xkcd.com - science and maths webcomic

From xkcd.com – science and maths webcomic

First up: What are statistics?

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Here is the presentation with information on Excel and a worked set of examples with hummingbirds, to tie in with the natural selection topics. Also, skip on over to the Excel StatBook resource, for a set of examples, tables, graphs and significance tests that you can play with.

This presentation was used in my class as a collaborative task. I shared a copy with each student for them to make notes. If you want o use it, I would recommend doing your own before-after quiz. Ours looked at pre- and post-assessment data on the Classification unit.

And Geoff Browne kindly gave permission to upload his t-test powerpoint to slideshare:

Updated Essential Biology 01 Statistical Analysis

T-test practice (printable GoogleDoc here):

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Resources:

Gapminder awesome human population stats tool. Watch Hans Rosling’s brilliant Joy of Statistics here. For a short clip:

And this enlightening talk from Han Rosling: No More Boring Data!

Click here for a funny article on the 9 circles of scientific hell.

Also, play with this: Google Correlate.

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Using your calculator:

Using the TI GDC (from Click4Biology)

Using the Casio pdf download (from keymath.com)

– Using the TI NSpire:

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Statistics in Action:

‘Real’ acupuncture no more effective than fake acupuncture, from ScienceDaily

Evidence Based Medicine First, medical website explaining the false health claims of many alternative medicines.

Here’s a nice profile on Edzard Ernst, the world’s first professor of alternative medicine. He has spent his career trying to get alt-med in line with real science.

Ed Yong, MrT’s blogging hero, writes for Cancer Research UK on the WHO’s verdict on mobile phones and cancer. Correlation vs cause!

Epidemiology: The Science of Cohort Studies. How do we generate lifetimes’ worth of data in studies in medicine? Ben Goldacre’s BBC Radio 4 documentary, Science: From Cradle to Grave. An amazing discipline to work in, and one birth cohort study has been running for over 65 years!

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TOK Discussions:

Facebook Gives You Cancer” err…

And another peach from XKCD:

Significance from XKCD.com

Significance from XKCD.com

Correlation, from DogHouse WebComic

Correlation, from DogHouse WebComic

The problem with error bars, from Cheezburger.

Key terms: t-test, mean, variability, data, reliable, significance, sample, excel, calculate, correlation, graph

10,000 views, new updates and some Brainiac stupidity

No more landmark posts after this – I’ll stick to the Science!

A big thanks to Ben Goldacre from badscience.net for the miniblog link – it gave us a boost this week. Thanks also to all who have been emailing with video ideas and links and those who’ve posted on the TES Boards.

Update #1: Change of name

It’s now ‘Science Video Resources’, to reflect the diversity of people who drop in for a look. The web address is still the same and the content will still be aimed mainly at teachers and students.

Update #2: RSS feed available

An RSS/Atom feed is available (thanks to Feedburner), as is an email update notification. Just go clicky-clicky on the flaming icon in the sidebar – or select the email subscription.

OK, here’s some Brainiac thermite recklessness.

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