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:

Or High Entropy Either

From Scientific American:

It is important to note, however, that at this point we cannot pinpoint low entropy as the definitive source of humor. ... Indeed, although Westbury et al. intentionally used non-word stimuli because non-words are fairly meaningless, they still found that a handful of the non-word items that were rated most humorous were not necessarily those with lowest entropy, bur rather those that were similar to or contained parts of dirty words (e.g., whong, nip, poo).
  • JPD
  • IDC

You Think?

From The BMJ:

The framing of health related information in the national and international media, and the way in which audiences decode it, has complex and potentially powerful impacts on healthcare utilisation and other health related behaviour in many countries. The media also demonstrably influences the behaviour of scientists and doctors. Such impacts may often be beneficial, but misleading messages can have adverse effects (even if these effects may be difficult to predict and prove because the responses of audiences are complex and multiply determined). This problem is not restricted to rare dramatic cases such as vaccination scares; the cumulative effect of everyday misreporting can confuse and erode public trust in science and medicine, with detrimental consequences.
  • SO
  • JPD
  • AP

We're All Gonna Die

From the Independent:

The sun could spew out huge superflares and put life on Earth in danger
The energy from the flares could be equivalent to a billion megaton bomb, destroying communication and energy systems
The sun could unleash huge superflares that would destroy much of the things we rely on for life on Earth, scientists have warned.
Huge flares of energy with the power of a billion one megaton nuclear bombs could destroy our communication and energy systems, they have said.
Scientists made the warning after seeing a huge superflare erupt from another star that looks alarmingly like our own Sun.
  • E

We’ve been Saying This for a Long Time, Years Maybe

From ‘The Information Universe’ Conference, Keynote Speakers:

In this age of extreme data we cannot simply continue storing it all and hope that one day we will be able to analyze them. The sheer amounts of data will soon bring an end to the Fourth Paradigm. We need a new stage in our approach, where we must figure out how can we reduce the volume of the incoming data, but preserve most of the information content. Natural phenomena are inherently sparse, controlled by a small number of relevant physical parameters. Transforming the data to such sparse representations, close to the source, may be an efficient way to reduce data volume. Various smart sampling and reconstruction strategies must be considered. Our numerical simulations will need to be planned and run very differently. The design of future experiments must be coming from multidimensional optimizations based on principles of active learning. The talk describes various ideas about these forthcoming changes and challenges, all resulting in yet another paradigm shift at the information frontier.
  • WTYS
  • CB

Under-reflected Upon

From The Philosophers’ Magazine online:

What we see here is an emotional as well as a purely intellectual element in people’s philosophical judgements. “That’s really an under-reflected upon feature of philosophy, and I think there's a good reason for it,” says Dennett. “It’s dangerous and even verges on the offensive to draw attention to the emotional stake that philosophers often have and betray in their argumentation. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there. I see it a lot. I see what I think is white-knuckled fear driving people to defend views that are not really well-motivated, but they want to dig the moat a little further out than is defensible because they’re afraid of the thin end of the wedge. I think that fear of the slippery slope motivates a lot of going for absolutes that just don't exist.” And it’s because people have different temperaments and personalities that on an issue like free will, where there are no killer facts to settle the debate, disagreements will continue until the end of time.
  • JPD

It Goes All the Way to the Top

From BBC News:

A study has examined how long alleged conspiracies could “survive” before being revealed—deliberately or unwittingly—to the public at large.
Dr David Grimes, from Oxford University, devised an equation to express this, and then applied it to four famous collusions.
The equation developed by Dr Grimes, a post-doctoral physicist at Oxford, relied upon three factors: the number of conspirators involved, the amount of time that has passed, and the intrinsic probability of a conspiracy failing.
  • TCC
  • E
  • IR
  • IDC
  • POM

Couple of them Stiffs are Regular Make-out Bandits


University of Utah biologists used cadaver arms to punch and slap padded dumbbells in experiments supporting a hotly debated theory that our hands evolved not only for manual dexterity, but also so males could fistfight over females.
  • E
  • ID
  • ICE
  • JPD

And Also There Was Like This Real Mean Kid in The Class

From Current Biology:

Prosocial behaviors are ubiquitous across societies. They emerge early in ontogeny and are shaped by interactions between genes and culture. Over the course of middle childhood, sharing approaches equality in distribution. Since 5.8 billion humans, representing 84% of the worldwide population, identify as religious, religion is arguably one prevalent facet of culture that influences the development and expression of prosociality. While it is generally accepted that religion contours people’s moral judgments and prosocial behavior, the relation between religiosity and morality is a contentious one. Here, we assessed altruism and third-party evaluation of scenarios depicting interpersonal harm in 1,170 children aged between 5 and 12 years in six countries (Canada, China, Jordan, Turkey, USA, and South Africa), the religiousness of their household, and parent-reported child empathy and sensitivity to justice. Across all countries, parents in religious households reported that their children expressed more empathy and sensitivity for justice in everyday life than non-religious parents. However, religiousness was inversely predictive of children’s altruism and positively correlated with their punitive tendencies. Together these results reveal the similarity across countries in how religion negatively influences children’s altruism, challenging the view that religiosity facilitates prosocial behavior.
  • AA


From JoNova:

The Science is Settled

Our climate models are among the best in the world and our measurements honed those models to prove global climate change. That question has been answered, and the new question is what do we do about it, and how can we find solutions for the climate we will be living with?
CSIRO (The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization)

If the Science is Settled, why do we need all those guys who settled it?

“It's inevitable that people who are gifted at measuring and modelling climate may not be the same people who are gifted at figuring out what to do about it how to mitigate it.”
Larry Marshall, CSIRO Chief Executive

Turns out, We don’t

“The latest round of job cuts from CSIRO is nothing short of appalling … While we know that the climate is changing because of human activity, we have not simply ‘answered’ that question after the Paris agreement—many more questions remain.”
Dr Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, Research Fellow at the Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW

The thing about settled science is that it is not really settled

“… Research in any field does not, and cannot stop after an apparent question has been answered.”
Dr Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick

Larry has a point sort of, but

“I worry about his statement that there is no further need … to understand climate change since we now know it is real.”
Professor Steven Sherwood, UNSW
  • DTF

Space Oddity

From The Atlantic (13/10/15):

Astronomers have spotted a strange mess of objects whirling around a distant star. Scientists who search for extraterrestrial civilizations are scrambling to get a closer look.
Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University, is set to publish an alternative interpretation of the light pattern. SETI researchers have long suggested that we might be able to detect distant extraterrestrial civilizations, by looking for enormous technological artifacts orbiting other stars. Wright and his co-authors say the unusual star’s light pattern is consistent with a “swarm of megastructures,” perhaps stellar-light collectors, technology designed to catch energy from the star.
“Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.”

From The Guardian (9/12/15):

“We found no evidence of an advanced civilization beaming intentional laser signals toward Earth,” said Douglas Vakoch, the president of SETI International which led the laser search, in a statement. Vakoch has submitted a paper detailing the observations to the Astrophysical Journal.
“The history of astronomy tells us that every time we thought we had found a phenomenon due to the activities of extraterrestrials, we were wrong,” said SETI Institute astronomer Seth Shostak in a statement. “But although it’s quite likely this star’s strange behaviour is due to nature, not aliens, it’s only prudent to check such things out.”
“The hypothesis of an alien megastructure around KIC 8462852 is rapidly crumbling apart,” said Vakoch.
  • JPD