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:

Retire Early, Get Out of Oregon

From the The Times:

Beware early retirement, it could prove fatal. A study comparing people who retired before and after the age of 65 found that healthy adults retiring at 66 had an 11 per cent lower risk of death than those who did so earlier. Oregon university researchers collected data on 12,000 people from 1992 to 2010 for the study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Thanks to reader Martin Kochanski.

  • JPD
  • 2 + 2 = 5

Sensitive Deviants

From the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:

We propose that political differences in social policy support may be partly driven by the tendency for conservatives to show greater sensitivity to deviance than liberals, even among targets lacking social or functional relevance. In 3 studies, participants were shown geometric figures and were asked to identify the extent to which they were “triangles” (or circles, squares, etc.). More conservative participants reported greater differentiation between perfect and imperfect shapes than more liberal participants, indicating greater sensitivity to deviance.
  • AA

They Feel Your Pain

From ScienceDaily:

The researchers analyzed the data from an online survey on empathy completed by more than 104,000 people from around the world. The survey measured people’s compassion for others and their tendency to imagine others’ point of view. Countries with small sample sizes were excluded (including most nations in Africa). All told, 63 countries were ranked in the study.
Ecuador was the most empathetic country, followed in order by Saudi Arabia, Peru, Denmark, United Arab Emirates, Korea, the United States, Taiwan, Costa Rica and Kuwait.
Chopik said he was surprised that three countries from the Middle East—Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait—ranked so highly in empathy considering the long history of aggression and wars with other countries in the region. That could be because the study did not distinguish between feeling empathy toward people in other countries vs. people in one’s own country.
  • JPD

Dumb as a Post

From the Journal of Health Psychology:

We examined whether the trait of “need for cognition” was associated with daily physical activity levels. We recruited individuals who were high or low in need for cognition and measured their physical activity level in 30-second epochs over a 1-week period. The overall findings showed that low-need-for-cognition individuals were more physically active, but this difference was most pronounced during the 5-day work week and lessened during the weekend.
First, it is important to note that part of the “weekend effect” in our study may be due to our sample population, which consisted of college students. Although college students are a standard participant pool in the vast majority of experimental psychology studies, their behavior and habits may be more indicative of young adult behavior than adult behavior in general. It is reasonable to assume that this “weekend effect” may change as people progress through different life stages, which is a question that future researchers may want to consider. A similar limitation with our methodology was that the participants were all involved in coursework, a time in their lives that should revolve around cognitively focused events.
  • IDC
  • SO

Works Even Better as a Suppository

From The Telegraph:

“Esthechoc” the brainchild of a Cambridge University spin-off lab, claims to boost antioxidant levels and increase circulation to prevent lines and keep skin looking youthful and smooth. Just a small 7.5g bar of anti-ageing chocolate contains the same amount of the antioxidant astaxanthin as a fillet of Alaskan salmon, and equal levels of free-radical fighting cocoa polyphenols as 100g of dark chocolate. Its makers say it can change the underlying skin of a 50–60 year old into that of someone in their 20s or 30s. Tests showed that after four weeks of eating the anti-ageing chocolate every day, volunteers had less evidence of inflammation in their blood and increased blood supply to skin tissue.
Nutrition experts at University College London also warned that previous trials showed that astaxanthin worked better when applied directly to the face rather than ingested.
  • JPD
  • ICE
  • IR
  • ID
  • E

Cats Like Wagner, Sting Not So Much

From Applied Animal Behavior Science:

We have developed a theoretical framework that hypothesizes that in order for music to be effective with other species, it must be in the frequency range and with similar tempos to those used in natural communication by each species. … In this paper, we created species-appropriate music for domestic cats and tested this music in comparison with music with similar affective content composed for humans. … Cats showed a significant preference for and interest in species-appropriate music compared with human music. … Younger and older cats were more responsive to cat music than middle-aged cats.
  • CB
  • ICE
  • ID

God Forbid


Following publication, readers raised concerns about language in the article that makes references to a “Creator,” and about the overall rationale and findings of the study.
Upon receiving these concerns, the PLOS ONE editors have carried out an evaluation of the manuscript and the pre-publication process, and they sought further advice on the work from experts in the editorial board. This evaluation confirmed concerns with the scientific rationale, presentation and language, which were not adequately addressed during peer review.
Consequently, the PLOS ONE editors consider that the work cannot be relied upon and retract this publication.
The editors apologize to readers for the inappropriate language in the article and the errors during the evaluation process.

From one of the authors:

We are sorry for drawing the debates about creationism. Our study has no relationship with creationism. English is not our native language. Our understanding of the word Creator was not actually as a native English speaker expected. Now we realized that we had misunderstood the word Creator. What we would like to express is that the biomechanical characteristic of tendious connective architecture between muscles and articulations is a proper design by the NATURE (result of evolution) to perform a multitude of daily grasping tasks. We will change the Creator to nature in the revised manuscript.
  • JPD

Last Exit to Brooklyn

From the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:

Fiction simulates the social world and invites us into the minds of characters. This has led various researchers to suggest that reading fiction improves our understanding of others’ cognitive and emotional states. Kidd and Castano (2013) received a great deal of attention by providing support for this claim. Their article reported that reading segments of literary fiction (but not popular fiction or nonfiction) immediately and significantly improved performance on the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), an advanced theory-of-mind test. … In contrast to Kidd and Castano (2013), we found no significant advantage in RMET scores for literary fiction compared to any of the other conditions. However, as in Kidd and Castano and previous research, the Author Recognition Test, a measure of lifetime exposure to fiction, consistently predicted RMET scores across conditions. We conclude that the most plausible link between reading fiction and theory of mind is either that individuals with strong theory of mind are drawn to fiction and/or that a lifetime of reading gradually strengthens theory of mind, but other variables, such as verbal ability, may also be at play.
  • AA

Twitch For Yes

From The Telegraph:

Indian specialist Dr Himanshu Bansal, working with Biotech companies Revita Life Sciences and Bioquark Inc, has been granted ethical permission to recruit 20 patients who have been declared clinically dead from a traumatic brain injury, to test whether parts of their central nervous system can be brought back to life.
Scientists will use a combination of therapies, which include injecting the brain with stem cells and a cocktail of peptides, as well as deploying lasers and nerve stimulation techniques which have been shown to bring patients out of comas.
The trial participants will have been certified dead and only kept alive through life support. They will be monitored for several months using brain imaging equipment to look for signs of regeneration, particularly in the upper spinal cord—the lowest region of the brain stem which controls independent breathing and heartbeat.
  • SBB
  • ICE

You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

From the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation:

A higher active travel speed has offsetting impacts on air pollution inhalation dose through higher breathing rate but shorter exposure duration. The net effect of speed choice on inhalation dose for pedestrians and bicyclists has not been established. This paper derives equations for pedestrian and bicycle steady-state minimum dose speed (MDS). Parameter distributions from the literature are applied to a synthetic population of travelers to calculate individual MDS. Results strongly support the existence of a definable MDS, which is near observed travel speeds for urban pedestrians and bicyclists. For a wide range of travelers the MDS is 2–6 km/hr while walking and 12–20 km/hr while bicycling, decreasing with road grade at a rate similar to observed speeds.
  • POM
  • SO

Did I Leave My Keys in the Sauna?

From ScienceDaily:

Frequent sauna bathing can reduce the risk of dementia, according to a recent study carried out at the University of Eastern Finland. In a 20-year follow-up, men taking a sauna 4–7 times a week were 66% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia than those taking a sauna once a week. The association between sauna bathing and dementia risk has not been previously investigated.
  • JPD
  • CB
  • IR

This is Brain Work, No, Really

From the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics:

Extraction of coffee solubles from roast and ground coffee is a highly complex process, depending on a large number of brewing parameters. We consider a recent, experimentally validated, model of coffee extraction, describing extraction from a coffee bed using a double porosity model, which includes dissolution and transport of coffee. It was shown that this model can accurately describe coffee extraction in two situations: extraction from a dilute suspension of coffee grains and extraction from a packed coffee bed. Despite being based on some simplifying assumptions, this model can only be solved numerically.
  • POM
  • JPD
  • DTF