scientific method

17 Sure-Fire Treatments for Strep Throat

Published on Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Each of these remedies offer a 99% guarantee that your strep throat will be gone within 5-7 days.

Ad ignorantiam ad nauseam

Published on Monday, 19 March 2012

There is a logical fallacy called the argumentum ad ignorantiam or the argument from ignorance. The essence of this fallacy is that because we don't know something to be definitively false, it must therefore be true. A good example relates to concern about the dangers of electromagnetic frequencies.

On the Blasphemy Challenge: A Quakerly Perspective

Published on Thursday, 15 March 2012

Over the past few years many people participated in the "Blasphemy Challenge", which asked people to submit a video denouncing the Holy Spirit. I found this quite absurd.

When diet and exercise aren't enough...

Published on Thursday, 16 February 2012

I think this is of the most cruelly deceptive phrases in modern advertising. Firstly, no one wants to change their diet. Secondly, exercise takes time and effort and, at least at first, is quite unpleasant. Taking a pill is ridiculously easy to do.  So essentially this advertising phrase applies to everyone with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, adult-onset diabetes or other "lifestyle-related" diseases for which there are profitable pharmaceuticals (or "alternative" treatments, for that matter). It should really be "when diet and exercise don't seem appealing...".

Medicine that Works...

Published on Monday, 28 November 2011

I was at the drug store today to pick up some vitamin D. Living in the dark, cold north requires a bit of extra vitamin D. My levels are particularly low. The label said that any claims on the vitamins had not been evaluated by the FDA for efficacy in the treatment, prevention, or amelioration of any disease. Most of the vitamins on the shelf had doses that were ridiculously high. Being a relatively unregulated market, how does one determine whether the pills will do anything at all or worse, do something bad to you.

Regarding the Break-in at Ravenclaw

Published on Sunday, 02 October 2011

To the editors, Hogwarts Today Alumni Magazine I am surprised at the indignation going around about how students from Slitherin managed to "break into" Ravenclaw without having someone tell them the answer to the Ravenclaw riddle ("Dark Magic in Ravenclaw, Slitherin students fess up" Daily Prophet, 19 September 2011). 

No side effects—no effects!

Published on Monday, 26 September 2011

I saw a box of tablets at the coop check-out the other day. The "active ingredient" was at a level less than the equivalent of one molecule in Lake Superior. The box proudly proclaimed: "no side effects!" How amazing! A drug that treats exactly and only the ailment for which it was indicated. This means there is a drug out there that is more effective than the immune system itself.  When you have a cold much of the drowsy, low energy feeling you get is due to your immune system combatting the illness. The virus does not cause that feeling itself, your immune system does.

The Odds

Published on Friday, 16 September 2011

Consider this bit of trivia: the average salary of an actor is comparable to the average salary of an accountant; however, few if any accountants are unemployed in their line of work, but few make 6 figure incomes. Almost none make 7 figures. Compare this to actors.

Entrance Exams

Published on Wednesday, 10 August 2011

I wonder if entrance exams with their "one right answer" design tend to have a negative effect on academic research. Do they tend select for people who believe there is one right answer to any question?  Do people who prefer certainty over ambiguity do better on such exams? Much of the research at the academy is also based on winning grant money. What kind of effect on the quality of research might this have?

What makes you so certain?

Published on Wednesday, 10 August 2011

What makes you so certain? Are you sure you have controlled for your confirmation biases? Wouldn't it be wise to double-check just in case? How would you double-check for real if you are already so sure you are right? Consider reading On Being Certain by Robert A. Burton. Certainty is an emotional state whose emergence does not require perfect data.

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