The illusion of control, Bad Science (link)
Must-read. This area of research sounds truly amusing. Points again to the importance of measuring the placebo effect.
Mystery: what happens when neuroscientists, psychiatrists, and business executives get together in a room? (link)
Someone at Wired is obsessed with why expensive medicines don't work. Last year, Steve Silberman proposed that placebo effect is getting stronger and in the way of meds. I made some dissenting comments here. Now, Jonah Lehrer tells us there is a New Yorker article claiming that "disturbing" false positive results threaten the "scientific process". My frustration with this whole storm in a teacup is that the participants spend all their time on secondary issues (such as the placebo effect being "too strong", "our facts losing their truth", "claims enshrined in textbooks suddenly unprovable", too much natural variability) while ignoring the most obvious hypotheses (such as medicines not good enough, effect sizes too small to be measured properly, clinical trials standards generate too many false positives, clinical trials poorly designed, conflict of interest leading to insufficient attention to side effects, fast track and other politically-driven standards that usurp the scientific process, use of medicines beyond the originally targeted groups).
The quoted passage ends with this truism:
...experiments are essential because they "put nature to the question". But it appears that nature often gives us different answers.
This natural variability is posed as a challenge to the principle of "replication" in science. If this is the mainstream view, we are back in the Stone Age. It is precisely because of variability that replication is necessary. If every experiment would yield the same outcome, we only need one measurement. If pharmas spend billions of dollars to develop medicines that have effects so tiny they can't be measured without extraordinary efforts, then no amount of truth-finding can hide these bad investment decisions.
Statistics invade the humanities, according to the New York Times (link)
Can such analyses yield generalizable results?
getstats: a 10-year plan to improve statistical literacy (link)
Related to the getstats campaign. Hans Rosling, creator of Gapminder (absorbed by Google) is the star here. Looks like the documentary focuses on how to find insights from big databases of public data. Hopefully, it will cover how such insights can directly improve our lives. As I have been saying in my talks, it is not sufficient for statistics to be fun, it needs to be impactful.