All the madness in the world

By Grant Jacobs 10/08/2011 7

Well, sort of – a round-up of the quirky, interesting and merely newsworthy.*

Baron Greenfield has upset some people over, apparently, linking internet use and autism. Professor* Dorothy Bishop responds in this open letter. (* Professor of developmental neuropsychology.)

Deborah Blum describes an almost perfect murder she learnt of during research for The Poisoner’s Handbook.

ERV has an excellent take on media reports that wine prevents sunburn. That story made it to New Zealand too, I believe. She gives a great take-down.This job description I recently read started,

A Senior Bioinformatician with bioinformatics experience will assist with […]

Er, yes, I’d hope a bioinformatician had bioinformatics experience… (It’ll be a classic case of what they meant, as opposed to what they wrote. They’ll have meant that they want an experienced person.)

Fracking is a topic that has come up in Christchurch earthquake discussions. An article at Scientific American blogs examines the evidence for fracking polluting subterranean wells.

Not mad at all, this one. Simon Singh is looking for an assistant. I get a feeling he’s going to be swamped with applicants! (These will have to be people in London, but then there’s always plenty of ex-pat Kiwis there.)

PZ Myers, whose blog Pharnygula has recently been reworked to operate from two bases, has written an excellent ‘explainer’ of a recent scientific paper examining the way guts are arranged in bodies. My only quibble stems from a hobby horse. The key thing isn’t really that guts behave according to an equation, but that simple, general physics is determining their form. Yes, I’m nitpicking a single word, but it matters to me. Biophysics is important, and think often under-rated by some experimental biologists, perhaps through not being comfortable with the mathematics involved. A lot of processes in life exploit fairly simple physics. That’s what the equations capture.

If you need more, and missed it earlier, Alison  has her biological oddities, including the naughty bits.


* Yes, I’m clearing those web browser tabs out again. Getting this out while I’m working on a science post, maybe even two!

Other articles on Code for life:

“Knowledge is merely opinion.” Storm – in cartoon and words.

Google personalised searches and the ‘echo chamber’ effect?

How algorithms shape our world

Appeals court concludes that Myriad can patent BRCA genes

Haemophilia – towards using a cure using genetic engineering

7 Responses to “All the madness in the world”

  • Sigh. Amazing no-one has pointed it out.

    Did I write Baron Greenfield?

    I did indeed… That ought to be Baroness. I’ll edit the post when I’ve time.

  • Aha! I see, the familiar scaling laws (a.k.a power-laws).

    Sciblog blogger Shaun Hendy had touched on this topic of scaling/power laws. Shaun’s inventor networks supposedly exhibits a scaling/power law.

    “Zipf’s law and the distribution of patents among applicants”

    Scaling laws is being observed in other phenomenon (social science, biological, economics, etc,…) apart from physics. It is supposedly a signature of complex systems.

  • Speaking of madness (and therefore not as OT as usual), I was loitering in the vicinity of Respectful Insolence today, and some drive-by commenter mentioned epigenetics. This was in the context of the purported Vaccine / Autism connection. When the removal of mercury-based antiseptics from vaccines has failed to lower the incidence of autism, the argument shifted to blaming autism today upon the vaccinations administered to parents.

    So I Googled, and yes indeed there are a lot of alt-med nimrods who couldn’t tell a nucleosome from a knucklebone going on about mercury epigenetics.

    So I am wondering, how common is this particular brand of cargo-cult science? Is it widespread?

  • herr doktor bimler,

    I’ll bite… (Cue ‘more fool me’, etc.)

    ‘Mercury epigenetics’? – that’s a new one to me.

    Looking over Orac’s way I can see the comment and your replies.

    Is it widespread?

    It’s not as if I’ve done a survey! So I’ve no idea. I have seen epigenetics used by people promoting ‘remedies’. Anecdotally you get the impression that’s fairly common. Grabbing a trendy “jazz term” from science and waving it around to make the product look “scientific”, etc.

    Haven’t seen the argument that autism is being blamed on the vaccines the parents took either, but then just shows that I don’t actively follow what the anti-vaccine crowd are up to. By contrast I’ve read Orac say that he gets the feeds of some of the anti-vaccine groups directly.

    I haven’t read that post of Orac’s either, but as it’s his usual long-winded affair it’d have to wait until at least the weekend! (In case anyone thinks I’m being harsh on Orac, my latest post isn’t much shorter!)

    Sorry I’m not much help.

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