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Articles Associated with Keyword: study

Podcast > Thursday, 6 January 2011 12:32:20 EST

Dumbass Podcast #3: The Importance Of Definitions

Keywords: statistics, concern about children, nutrition, study, bad reporting, aliens, ancient alien theory, conspiracy, historical, book

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In this episode of The Dumbasses Guide To Knowledge podcast, I do a little reflecting on my experience since creating this podcast, and I do some analysis on my interview with Karl Mamer on his podcast, The Conspiracy Skeptic.  Then I read an article I wrote all about definitions and how they can be misapplied.  Finally, I start up the Dumbass Book Club, and I take a look at visitor comments.

Links Mentioned In The Show:
The Conspiracy Skeptic Podcast
Skeptic North
The IALLS Literacy Test
The Audible 14 Day Trial Deal
The Invisible Gorilla Audiobook
The Ancient Flight Comments Section
Star Wars And Anomaly Hunting
Melody's Blog
Jonathan Coulton's Music

I hope you guys enjoy the podcast!  Here's the transcript:
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Analysis > Wednesday, 15 September 2010 23:26:17 EST

Children Are Being Incorrectly Dosed With Over-The-Counter Medicines!

Keywords: statistics, concern about children, study, epistemology

I came across another one of those ads just the other day that caused me to do a double-take.  This time it was a banner advertising a method for parents to determine the correct dosage of medicine for their children. 

Here's the ad:

72% Of Children Have Been Incorrectly Dosed With OTC Medications

I'm personally all in favour of any product that helps make the job of being a parent easier.  This statistic just didn't sit right with me though.  I needed to look at the source of this claim and try and determine it's context.

At first I thought I was dealing with a mutant statistic - a fact or figure which has been misremembered/misinterpreted in such a way as to render it completely inaccurate.  I wasn't able to find this 72% figure in any search of the literature, so it looked like maybe there was some mutation going on here.

So I wrote to the people at Accudial asking for information about this claim.  Normally when I make these kind of inquiries, they go unanswered.  But this time I actually did get an answer, and now I can tell you what I found out:
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Analysis > Monday, 31 May 2010 01:46:42 EST

Well, Don't Us Skeptics Of Acupuncture Feel Silly Now!

Keywords: study, woo, alternative medicine, acupuncture

I just came across this article on Cnet News entitled "Think Acupuncture's A Hoax? Think Again" written by freelance journalist Elizabeth Moore.

For the record, I don't believe that Acupuncture is a hoax.  I think that Acupuncturists are fooling themselves, but for the most part I think they actually believe in what they do.

Moore claims to have previously been a skeptic of Acupuncture, and I'm sure that she had her doubts.  But reading her article, it strikes me that she's way too easily swayed by weak evidence to really have employed much critical thinking here.

She calls the evidence "yet another pin in the proverbial coffin for skeptics like myself:"  And what is this evidence?  It's simply this: A study done on mice demonstrates that a needle puncture can release a nucleoside known as Adenosine into the surrounding tissue, which may help with pain relief.

Sound's pretty simple and scientifically valid, right?  What could I possibly have to say against that?
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Musings > Saturday, 22 May 2010 07:58:29 EST

Lifestyle Panic: Unrealistic Expectations

Keywords: health, statistics, study

I've talked before in this blog about how alternative style thinking about health has become dismayingly commonplace.  It even creeps into public policy by official medical bodies, take for example this statement by the surgeon general of the United States:

Scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Breathing even a little secondhand smoke can be harmful to your health.

I'm not a smoker, and I certainly don't like breathing in other people's smoke.  But the thing is, I searched through the surgeon general's report in which these conclusions are made.  It's listed as a "major conclusion" of the report, but no part of the report is referenced as evidence for this conclusion.  In fact, no part of the report seems to back up this extreme statement.

The reason that this alarms me is because I've spent a lot of time arguing against woo concepts which contend that we're constantly subjected to tiny amounts of "toxins" that are responsible for every form of ill health.  I'm always explaining to people that it's the dose that makes the poison.  People often have knee-jerk reactions to ingredients in substances like vaccines, foods, and medicines that aren't informed by the state of current scientific knowledge.

It's harder to explain to people, for example, why we've concluded that mercury in vaccines is safe because of these reasons when the Surgeon General is actively feeding this kind of paranoia by stating that even the smallest exposure to a substance in passing can endanger your health.

There's a good excerpt available from audible.com (also available in mp3 format) of a book called "Hyping Health Risks" by Geoffrey Kabat.  Kabat is a researcher who is fully in favour of restrictions on secondhand tobacco smoke, but he clearly demonstrates that the hyperbole surrounding the issue takes the risk out of all proportion with reality.

I believe that this is a symptom of an alternative health type mindset that has made it's way into mainstream medical discourse.  Related to this symptom is the current intense focus on "healthy lifestyles" and "wellness" as a means of ensuring greater health.

I may have just lost some of you with that last statement.  Let me explain myself in more detail.
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Analysis > Thursday, 11 February 2010 14:52:39 EST

A Dumbass Study: The Meaning Of Life

Keywords: study, experiment

Any study has a set of built in assumptions.  Identifying those assumptions is important for understanding what the results are telling us and whether there might be other explanations for the conclusions of the study authors.

That's why I think the ability to understand statistics and how studies work, at least at a basic level, is very important for understanding the kind of information on new studies and statistics that we're constantly subjected to.

I've talked about this a few times before on this blog.  For illustration today I want to present something on a bit of a lighter note.  A few years ago I myself performed a study in my spare time.  The grand purpose of my study was no less than to figure out the meaning of life. 

How in the world did I design a study to answer such a large question?  Read on and I'll tell you!
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Analysis > Friday, 22 January 2010 09:53:00 EST

The Importance Of Definitions

Keywords: statistics, concern about children, nutrition, study, bad reporting, Canada

I managed to convince Steve Thoms of Skeptic North to allow me to write a guest blog post, which was posted online today.  Since I was trying to be concise for Steve and keep the article under 1200 words, I didn't mention a few things that I'd have liked to point out.  They're not points that are really necessary to understanding the article, but I think they'll be of  interest to seekers of truth who like to get the full analysis.

So I'm going to post the entry here, along with a dumbass addendum.  So please read on while a dumbass explores the importance of definitions.
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Criticism > Saturday, 16 January 2010 11:53:23 EST

Is Google "Hostile To Privacy"?

Keywords: study, statistics, bad reporting

Some of you may remember that back in 2007 a group called Privacy International released a report on the state of privacy practices in top internet service companies.  They gave Google their lowest rating, "Hostile To Privacy".  Google was the only company to receive this dubious honour.  It made the headlines for a few days, after which nobody talked about it.

Well, three years after the fact, I'm going to talk about it.  The reason I want to talk about it is because I think it provides a great example of the benefits of going to the source and actually looking at the data involved.

I want to assure you up front that I'm no Google apologist.  I think there are some very good points of criticism that we can level against Google regarding it's data policies.  That being said, this study by Privacy International is just a huge fail on all levels.  It's a half-assed sloppy piece of drivel that I believe was only released for the publicity value.

Normally I wouldn't go that far in my language when criticizing a study, but I think this is one case where it is warranted.  Read on and I'm confident that you'll agree with me.
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