By inadequacies, we mean:

  • Exaggeration (E)
  • Irreproducible results (IR)
  • Inadequate data (ID)
  • Begging the question (BQ)
  • Confusing correlation with causation (CCC)
  • Plagiarism (P)
  • Ill-conceived experiments (ICE)
  • Ill-defined concepts (IDC)
  • Conflicts of interest (CI)
  • Scientists behaving badly (SBB)
  • The numbers don’t add up (2 + 2 = 5)
  • Purely ornamental mathematics (POM)
  • Appalling prose (AP)
  • Why did someone publish this? (WDSPT)
  • Just plain dumb (JPD)
  • Don’t touch our funding (DTF)
  • We told you so (WTYS)
  • Too close to call (TCC)
  • Could be (CB)
  • Stating the Obvious (SO)
  • All of the Above (AA)

We welcome some readers’ submissions:

Mix Those Metaphors

From the Boston Review:

Nowhere is this debate more urgent than on the question of artificial intelligence. Determinists believe all roads lead to the Singularity, a glorious merger between man and machine. Constructivists aren’t so sure: it depends on who’s writing the code. In some sense, the debate about intelligent machines has become a hologram of mortal outcomes—a utopia from one perspective, an apocalypse from another. Conversations about technology are almost always conversations about history. What’s at stake is the trajectory of modernity. Is it marching upward, plunging downward, or bending back on itself? Three new books reckon with this question through the lens of emerging technologies. Taken collectively, they offer a medley of the recurring, and often conflicting, narratives about technology and progress.
  • JPD
  • CB

This is a Joke, Right? No, Really, it’s a Joke, Right?

From arXiv.org:

Ambulance chasing is a common socio-scientific phenomenon in particle physics. I argue that despite the seeming complexity, it is possible to gain insight into both the qualitative and quantitative features of ambulance chasing dynamics. Compound-Poisson statistics suffices to accommodate the time evolution of the cumulative number of papers on a topic, where basic assumptions that the interest in the topic as well as the number of available ideas decrease with time appear to drive the time evolution. It follows that if the interest scales as an inverse power law in time, the cumulative number of papers on a topic is well described by a di-gamma function, with a distinct logarithmic behavior at large times. In cases where the interest decreases exponentially with time, the model predicts that the total number of papers on the topic will converge to a fixed value as time goes to infinity. I demonstrate that the two models are able to fit at least 9 specific instances of ambulance chasing in particle physics using only two free parameters.
  • WDSPT

Being Generous Sometimes Feels so Difficult on Account of its My Money

From Eureka Alert:

A new computational model of how the brain makes altruistic choices is able to predict when a person will act generously in a scenario involving the sacrifice of money. The work, led by California Institute of Technology scientists and, appearing July 15 in the journal Neuron, also helps explain why being generous sometimes feels so difficult.
  • SO

No, Not Us, You Dummy, Them

From PLOS ONE:

The present research investigates the associations between holding favorable views of potential Democratic or Republican candidates for the US presidency 2016 and seeing profoundness in bullsh*t statements. In this contribution, bullsh*t is used as a technical term which is defined as communicative expression that lacks content, logic, or truth from the perspective of natural science. We used the Bullsh*t Receptivity scale (BSR) to measure seeing profoundness in bullsh*t statements. The BSR scale contains statements that have a correct syntactic structure and seem to be sound and meaningful on first reading but are actually vacuous. Participants (N = 196; obtained via Amazon Mechanical Turk) rated the profoundness of bullsh*t statements (using the BSR) and provided favorability ratings of three Democratic (Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders) and three Republican candidates for US president (Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump). Participants also completed a measure of political liberalism/conservatism. Results revealed that favorable views of all three Republican candidates were positively related to judging bullsh*t statements as profound. The smallest correlation was found for Donald Trump. Although we observe a positive association between bullsh*t and support for the three Democrat candidates, this relationship is both substantively small and statistically insignificant. The general measure of political liberalism/conservatism was also related to judging bullsh*t statements as profound in that individuals who were more politically conservative had a higher tendency to see profoundness in bullsh*t statements. Of note, these results were not due to a general tendency among conservatives to see profoundness in everything: Favorable views of Republican candidates and conservatism were not significantly related to profoundness ratings of mundane statements. In contrast, this was the case for Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley. Overall, small-to-medium sized correlations were found, indicating that far from all conservatives see profoundness in bullsh*t statements.
  • E
  • IR
  • ICE
  • JPD
  • SBB

First, No One is Interested, and Second, No One is Interested

From the European Journal of Operational Research:

The most important pan-European football tournaments include ties where two clubs play each other over two matches and the aggregate score determines which is admitted to the next stage of the competition. A number of stakeholders may be interested in assessing the chances of progression for either of the clubs once the score of the first match (leg) is known. The paper asks what would be a "good" result for a team in the first leg. Employing data from 6,975 contests, modelling reveals that what constitutes a good result has changed substantially over time. Generally, clubs which play at home in the first leg have become more likely to convert any given first-leg result to eventual success. Taking this trend into account, and controlling for team and country strength, a probit model is presented for use in generating probability estimates for which team will progress conditional on the first-leg scoreline. Illustrative results relate to ties where two average teams play each other and to ties where a relatively weak club plays home-first against a relatively strong club. Given that away goals serve as a tie-breaker should aggregate scores be equal after the two matches, the results also quantify how great the damage is when a home-first club concedes an away goal.
  • SO
  • WDSPT

Act Now and Get the Veg-O-Matic Free

From Dr. Matthew Phillips in The Mirror:

“It turns out that certain functions of the brain, like speech and memory, are located in very specific regions of the brain, about the size of your pinky.”
“What our system does is it actually targets those changes to specific regions of the brain as you learn.”
“The method itself is actually quite old. In fact, the ancient Egyptians 4,000 years ago used electric fish to stimulate and reduce pain.”
“Even Ben Franklin applied currents to his head, but the rigorous, scientific investigation of these method started in the early 2000s and we're building on that research to target and personalise a stimulation in the most effective way possible.”
“Your brain is going to be very different to my brain when we performs [sic] a task. What we found is, that in specific circumstances, brain stimulation seems to be particularly effective at actually improving learning.”
  • JPD
  • CB
  • IR

That Didn’t Take Long, Now Did It?

From Science Daily:

An in-depth examination of a 2015 landmark study showing that more than half of all psychology studies cannot be replicated has revealed serious mistakes that make its pessimistic conclusion completely unwarranted.
  • DTF

You Want a Second Cheese Danish, Think Baumeister

From Slate:

Baumeister’s theory of willpower, and his clever means of testing it, have been borne out again and again in empirical studies. The effect has been recreated in hundreds of different ways, and the underlying concept has been verified via meta-analysis. It’s not some crazy new idea, wobbling on a pile of flimsy data; it’s a sturdy edifice of knowledge, built over many years from solid bricks. And yet, it now appears that ego depletion could be completely bogus, that its foundation might be made of rotted-out materials. That means an entire field of study—and significant portions of certain scientists’ careers—could be resting on a false premise.
  • ID
  • IDC
  • CB

No

From Aeon:

Could our machines have become self-aware without our even knowing it?
  • SO

What Would the Dumb Thing Be?

From Hopes and Fears:

The smart thing to do is to take reality as basically real.
  • SO
  • CB
  • JPD

Still Seems Like a Bummer

From Nautilus:

Paradoxically, if we can give up the belief that our bodies and brains contain some transcendent, nonmaterial essence, if we can embrace the idea that we are completely material, then we arrive at a new kind of specialness—an alternative to the specialness of “vitalism.” We are special material. We humans living on our one planet wring our hands about the brevity of our lives and our mortal restraints, but we do not often think about how improbable it is to be alive at all. Of all the zillions of atoms and molecules in the universe, we have the privilege of being composed of those very, very few atoms that have joined together in the special arrangement to make living matter. We exist in that one-billionth of one-billionth. We are that one grain of sand on the desert.
  • IR
  • ID
  • BQ

Now They Tell Us

From Aeon:

Love alone is untouchable, one of the last frontiers where the ability to manipulate or shun an experience seems to be asking for too much – but why? Love is in many ways a chemical reaction, and when love causes intense suffering or conflicts deeply with other values, people who want a chemical solution should, providing they give informed consent, have one. Access to anti-love drugs could bring some of us closer to one of the core values of Western society: personal autonomy, and a future where we control our lives and become the people we most want to be.
  • AA

The Authors All Have Tenure

From the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science:

Prominent theories of shame hold that shame is inherently maladaptive. However, direct tests of the fit between shame and its probable target domain have not previously been conducted. Here we test the alternative hypothesis that shame, although unpleasant (like pain), serves the adaptive function of defending against the social devaluation that results when negative information reaches others—by deterring actions that would lead to more devaluation than benefits, for example. If so, the intensity of shame people feel regarding a given item of negative information should track the devaluation that would happen if that item became known. Indeed, the data indicate a close match between shame intensities and audience devaluation, which suggests that shame is an adaptation.
  • IR
  • ICE
  • IDC
  • BQ
  • JPD
  • SBB
  • WDSPT
  • AP

What Does Science Have to Say about the True Source of Elevator Music?

From Scientific American:

It happens hundreds of times a day: We press snooze on the alarm clock, we pick a shirt out of the closet, we reach for a beer in the fridge. In each case, we conceive of ourselves as free agents, consciously guiding our bodies in purposeful ways. But what does science have to say about the true source of this experience?
  • IDC

Sure-Fire Stress Relief

From Biological Reviews:

I propose an evolutionary theory of human female sexual fluidity and argue that women may have been evolutionarily designed to be sexually fluid in order to allow them to have sex with their cowives in polygynous marriage and thus reduce conflict and tension inherent in such marriage. In addition to providing an extensive definition and operationalization of the concept of sexual fluidity and specifying its ultimate function for women, the proposed theory can potentially solve several theoretical and empirical puzzles in evolutionary psychology and sex research. Analyses of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) confirm the theory’s predictions that: (i) women (but not men) who experience increased levels of sexual fluidity have a larger number of children (suggesting that female sexual fluidity, if heritable, may be evolutionarily selected); (ii) women (but not men) who experience marriage or parenthood early in adult life subsequently experience increased levels of sexual fluidity; and (iii) sexual fluidity is significantly positively correlated with known markers of unrestricted sexual orientation among women whereas it is significantly negatively correlated with such markers among men.
  • JPD