Good, Bad, and Bogus

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A blog about science and science journalism; good, bad, and bogus.

Michael Slezak
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  • December 15, 2010
  • 01:32 AM

Alternative medicine “butt” of serious joke

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

If you wrote to the organising committee of a scientific conference saying that you have a theory that there is a person in everyone’s bum and if you massage it in the...... Read more »

  • December 14, 2010
  • 11:40 PM

Mythbusting booze: Absorbing alcohol through feet?!?

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

Yeah — I didn’t think this was a belief that anyone held either. But apparently it’s Danish urban folklore that you can become drunk by submerging your feet in an...... Read more »

Christian Stevns Hansen, Louise Holmsgaard Færch, Peter Lommer Kristensen. (2010) Testing the validity of the Danish urban myth that alcohol can be absorbed through feet: open labelled self experimental study. The British Medical Journal. info:/10.1136/bmj.c6812

  • October 25, 2010
  • 07:00 PM

Doctors arguing badly: the ethics of placebos

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

The ethics of conducting medical trials can be tricky. There is always the risk someone could be exposed to a drug that is dangerous, or they could miss out on...... Read more »

  • October 14, 2010
  • 07:00 PM

Another day, another drug company cover up

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

It seems that hardly a month goes by without another shocking example of drug companies hiding, manipulating or lying about data in order to mislead consumers about the safety or...... Read more »

  • August 22, 2010
  • 06:04 AM

The problem with drug trials

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

Should randomised trials be the only type of evidence accepted for rolling out drug treatments?
If so, then two researchers wrote in the Lancet this week that that we face a problem:
The evidence we have might not be the evidence we need, and the evidence that we need may never become available.
They are writing in response [...]... Read more »

  • August 6, 2010
  • 12:48 AM

Can smoking pot make you smarter?

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

Is it possible that if you have schizophrenia, smoking marijuana will actually improve your cognitive performance?
Since this blog is often concerned with the relationship between science and its communication, something which has come up once or twice here is the way drug and alcohol research is reported in the media.
Very often, it is reported that [...]... Read more »

  • July 20, 2010
  • 08:09 AM

Why you REALLY can’t trust small studies: the small study effect

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

You’ll often see loony zealots refer you to a study showing how effective their preferred treatment is — there usually is some small study supporting the use of almost any treatment.
You’ll also often hear people reply that the study was only small, so shouldn’t be trusted. But why shouldn’t you trust small studies? Sure, they [...]... Read more »

  • July 16, 2010
  • 05:23 AM

‘Gravity doesn’t exist’, says philosophically naive scientist/journalist

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

Reports of a physicist “taking on gravity” have recieved a bit of attention recently, with a New York Times article outlining Erik Verlinde’s idea that gravity is an emergent property of thermodynamics.
I think it’s great that the piece was written — even though apparently it hasn’t excited any physicists since the start of the year. Regardless [...]... Read more »

Erik P. Verlinde. (2010) On the Origin of Gravity and the Laws of Newton. arXiv: 1001.0785v1

Bertrand Russell. (1912) On the notion of cause. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society. info:other/

  • June 30, 2010
  • 10:39 PM

Mythbusting booze: Hair of the dog – hangover cure or excuse for alcoholism?

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

This is the second part in a series about the myths and realities of alcohol consumption.
I pray thee let me and my fellow have
A hair of the dog that bit us last night—
And bitten were we both to the brain aright
-  John Heywood
The idea that alcohol may itself be a cure for alcohol hangovers is [...]... Read more »

Jeffrey G. Wiese, MD; Michael G. Shlipak, MD, MPH; and Warren S. Browner, MD, MPH. (2000) The Alcohol Hangover. Annals of Internal Medicine, 152(12), 897-902. info:/

Wiese JG, Shlipak MG, & Browner WS. (2000) The alcohol hangover. Annals of internal medicine, 132(11), 897-902. PMID: 10836917  

  • June 20, 2010
  • 07:20 AM

Mythbusting Booze: Myths and realities of alcohol consumption

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

This is the first part of a series that aims to bust some myths about booze.
Hangovers suck and they’re probably best avoided. But once you’ve got one, can you get rid of it? People swear by their favourite hangover cures — insisting that if you just follow their advice, you’ll free yourself of the post-intoxicated state.
Can [...]... Read more »

Verster JC. (2008) The alcohol hangover--a puzzling phenomenon. Alcohol and alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire), 43(2), 124-6. PMID: 18182417  

  • May 17, 2010
  • 08:16 PM

Mobile phones and cancer: Study says ‘no’, news reports say ‘yes’…

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

Ahead of a landmark study, newspapers all around the world have carried news reports warning of the terrible risk faced by mobile phone users.
The story behind the story is worth a few words. Firstly, the study seems to says opposite to what all these reports claim. Secondly, the study was under embargo until the [...]... Read more »

Elisabeth Cardis. (2010) Brain tumour risk in relation to mobile telephone use: results of the INTERPHONE international case–control study. International Journal of Epidemiology, 1-20. info:/10.1093/ije/dyq079

  • April 9, 2010
  • 01:05 AM

Should journalists report on unpublished research?

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

I was recently commissioned to write a short news story about a some unpublished research. Should journalists be writing about research that hasn’t undergone peer review?
The research was about the Mpemba effect — where hot water sometimes freezes faster than cold water — and was published online on arXiv. It is quite poorly written but [...]... Read more »

  • March 30, 2010
  • 12:39 AM

Climate change and philosophy of science: Does climate science aim at truth?

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

A couple of weeks ago there was an interesting exchange in The Guardian between George Monbiot and Nicholas Maxwell, a philosopher of science from University College London. In his piece, Monbiot presents an excellent, if overly pessimistic, analysis of the psychology behind climate change denial. In his response, Maxwell draws on some interesting results from the philosophy [...]... Read more »

Cartwright, Nancy. (2004) Do the laws of physics state the facts?. Readings on the Laws of Nature. info:/

Kitcher, P. (1981) Explanatory Unification. Philosophy of Science, 48(4), 507. DOI: 10.1086/289019  

  • March 6, 2010
  • 03:54 AM

Pot causes psychosis? Not so fast…

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

“Teen Pot Use Linked To Psychoses“, “Teen pot smokers at high risk of mental illness“,”Study finds cannabis use is ‘crazy-making’” are the headlines being produced about some new research that finds a link between cannabis use and psychosis

But are the headlines justified? Well, headlines like this are rarely justified. A more interesting question worth asking [...]... Read more »

  • February 4, 2010
  • 10:30 PM

Can unconscious brains think? Coma, philosophy of mind, and the media.

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

“Ok brain. I don’t like you and you don’t like me. Let’s just do this and I can go back to killing you with beer.”  - Homer Simpson

A new piece of research has elicited headlines around the world in today’s newspapers such as “Coma patient ‘talks’ with his thoughts” and “Coma victim talks via brain [...]... Read more »

Monti MM, Vanhaudenhuyse A, Coleman MR, Boly M, Pickard JD, Tshibanda L, Owen AM, & Laureys S. (2010) Willful Modulation of Brain Activity in Disorders of Consciousness. The New England journal of medicine. PMID: 20130250  

Martin M. Monti, & Audrey Vanhaudenhuyse. (2010) Willful Modulation of Brain Activity in Disorders of Consciousness. The New England Journal of Medicine. info:/10.1056/NEJMoa0905370

  • February 2, 2010
  • 06:57 PM

Fish oil: Bogus or not?

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

In a previous post which considered some of the bogus science claims made by the Australian TV show Today Tonight, I had a brief look at a few things that fish oil is supposed to treat. It seemed fair to say that counter to the strong claims made by TT, the evidence suggests that fish oil [...]... Read more »

Amminger, G., Schafer, M., Papageorgiou, K., Klier, C., Cotton, S., Harrigan, S., Mackinnon, A., McGorry, P., & Berger, G. (2010) Long-Chain Ω-3 Fatty Acids for Indicated Prevention of Psychotic Disorders: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Archives of General Psychiatry, 67(2), 146-154. DOI: 10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2009.192  

  • January 21, 2010
  • 10:25 PM

Actually, maybe economists did prove money can buy happiness…

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

A little while ago, I wrote a post about an article in Science about the relationship between “objective” measurements of “quality of life” and subjective measurements of “life-satisfaction”. The article found a very high correlation between these measurements leading the authors to claim that there was now “objective verification” of the subjective measurements often used [...]... Read more »

  • January 20, 2010
  • 05:02 AM

How risky is a home birth? Some thoughts about the number crunching.

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

For some time now, there has been a heated debate in Australia about home births. Home birth advocates argue that a woman should have the right to choose how to give birth to her baby and if she chooses to have a home birth, that choice should be supported by providing the her with adequate [...]... Read more »

  • December 29, 2009
  • 07:38 PM

Economists (don’t) prove that money can buy you happiness… And news outlets prove they’re crap.

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

... Read more »

  • December 17, 2009
  • 11:49 PM

BOGUS: Today Tonight on Fish Oil, Weight Loss and Holograms

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

I’ve been reluctant to call bogus on science reporting from shows like Today Tonight or A Current Affair because, well, it’s just too easy. That, and I don’t watch them.
It feels kind of cheap picking on Today Tonight when they feel the necessity to put at the bottom of the idiotic reporting on their website [...]... Read more »

Hagen KB, Byfuglien MG, Falzon L, Olsen SU, & Smedslund G. (2009) Dietary interventions for rheumatoid arthritis. Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online). PMID: 19160281  

Leon, H., Shibata, M., Sivakumaran, S., Dorgan, M., Chatterley, T., & Tsuyuki, R. (2008) Effect of fish oil on arrhythmias and mortality: systematic review. BMJ, 337(dec23 2). DOI: 10.1136/bmj.a2931  

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