Swine Flu versus Media woo:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Doubt Break ’09
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In other news, Bill Maher finally expressed his true opinions of vaccines while interviewing Bill Frist. After being told he was crazy by a doctor, he followed up with being told he was crazy by three non-doctors the following week. Antiscience comes in many strains and Maher’s got a bad case of the Doubtbreak.

Ladies and gentlemen, don’t wait, inoculate!

P.S. I love how Jon Stewart worked in a joke about being a “Pasteurized Milk Drinker!” Take that, Raw Milkers!


April Fools all around

My favorite April Fools in the science blogosphere was in 2007, when The Panda’s Thumb pretended that an idiotic creationist named Michael Egnor was an elaborate hoax played on science bloggers by the intelligent design “think” tank – the Discovery Institute. Using a site designed to look like their media complaints division news blog, the Thumb announced that we were all SUCKERED. It had me going for a bit.

This year had a few good pranks. In a blatant attempt to out-do myself from last year, I decided to have the new Biofortified Blog be taken over by Greenpeace. Go here for the details.

Jonathan Eisen passed around a dubious story about the LHC operating in secret – I know from past experience not to trust him on April 1st. Maybe it was the fact that the NY Times was hosted on his server? What is Jon is the NY Times? Anyway, I gave it a little plug.

On the Thumb, the creationist organization AIG merged with the insurance giant AIG. And PZ Myers laments on how hard it is to tell the difference between extremely insane stuff and hoaxes on this one day of the year. Poe’s Law is indeed alive and well. Living in Jersey, I should think.

A good time was had by all.

Large Hadron Collider Still Operating!

(Hat tip to Jonathan Eisen) This is big news – the Large Hadron Collider, which supposedly shut down for repairs, has been operating in secret for months now. According to the New York Times:

The giant Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most expensive scientific experiment, was not shut down for repairs as originally reported (see New Particle Collider to Be Shut for Repairs), scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, in Geneva said today.

The NY Times got a tip in their mailbox, which they followed up on.

However, two weeks ago, the New York Times received an anonymous package that contained video recordings and other evidence that the accelerator was in full operation over the winter. Nobody from CERN would comment on the record about this evidence. However, two leading CERN scientists did confirm on condition of anonymity, that the accelerator was in use.

What have they been working on all this time?

Most striking, leading CERN scientists have been consulting repeatedly with prominent molecular biologists regarding apparent mutagenic properties of particles, presumably a new particle discovered in the accelerator. This has been confirmed by CERN scientists who spoke on condition of anonymity. Multiple sources have said that they believe they have found a particle that not only is highly mutagenic but appears to have an unusual affinity for DNA. The sources also stated that it was the mutagenic potential of the accelerator that led to the secrecy and false claims of a shutdown.

I’m very concerned about what this means for future operations of the LHC – if people get the idea that these scientists will lie to the public – how will people trust them down the road? Read the story for more.

Controls are Sweet!

In science you always.


Always use controls.

That is the very basis of science, for without a control running next to your experiment, you have no isolated variables, no conclusions that can be drawn from it, and no theories that it can support.

So when I was reading the Ethicurean, as I regularly do, I was simply flabbergasted at this post: Mercury in HFCS. Apparently, a research paper came out proclaiming that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)-containing products had detectable levels of mercury. The explanation given was that HFCS is made using alkali soda, from plants that use mercury in the process of synthesizing it. (Except this has been for the most part phased out)

I took a look at the paper, and the first thing that I noticed was Continue reading Controls are Sweet!

Coincidence? Yep.

Check out this video! (hat tip to Onegoodmove) You might think about rare happenstances a little differently after getting a good shot of statistics in your brain.

Think about all the ways that in fact common and likely events are used by people to convince you that some X factor was responsible for it. X could be a supplement pill, a supernatural claim, or a skin care product. It takes a carefully designed test to really know if X causes Y. Otherwise, it could just be coincidence.

Cool, but not.

Anytime there’s an exodus of talent from a major player like Disney (Pixar, Dreamworks), or in this case, Google, it gets a lot of attention because it usually means someone’s going to make something good. The internet story du jour (and discussed during a picnic at work today, too) is the new search engine Cuil, pronounced cool. After checking it out, I have decided that although it has a few nifty features, it seems almost useless compared to the Big G. Continue reading Cool, but not.

Monday Madness: I’m a stalker!

The month of March began just like any other month. I submitted my latest progress report to my advisor, I flew back from Washington D.C., well, ok not every month starts with me flying back from Washington DC. Actually, this was the only month where this was true. Anyway, March began like any other month, but then something odd happened. Call it a feeling that something was not right about my website statistics. A post of mine, called Return of the Science Guy, written two years ago, suddenly had 100 hits and climbing. In terms of a whole month, that’s not too significant for your average recent post, but 100 hits already on the 4th of March, and an old post like that that never got too much attention? Had to be a referral. But from where?

At the same time, there was a similar rise in people linking over from one page, a forum called The Magic Cafe. It would seem that a magician took notice of my take-down of Mentalist Adrian Saint, a stage magician who claimed that he predicted the Super Bowl two years ago using statistics, when it was all just a trick stereo. Intrigued, I took a look at the forum page in question, titled, Why We Should Be Careful.

The forum topic was discussing whether or not they thought open magic forums were a good idea, given that people can look up how tricks are done. It started when one magician did a google search and my website popped up. They talked about code words to use to fool people who aren’t “in the know,” suggested that I’m a boring writer, or defended online magic forums. But then, someone named magicman02 swoops in to attack me personally. They claim they are a friend of Adrian Saint, and that they know something about me:

Hey guys, I know this performer who the article is about. He did a great job with the publicity of this event. This guy who wrote the article is an a**hole and stalked the poor guy. He told numerous times that he didn’t have any supernatural powers, but this guy keep stalking him over and over again. Some people are just a**holes

Hey readers, I know this commenter. The handle, magicman02, belongs to Amir Ghasri, Mentalist Adrian Saint himself. Oh no! He called me a stalker! It’s time for some Monday Madness. Continue reading Monday Madness: I’m a stalker!

Madison is smarter than Boulder!

How do we measure the smarts of the cities we live in? By percentages, by sheer numbers?

Phil Plait over at Bad Astronomy points out that Boulder, CO made Forbes magazine’s top spot in their America’s Smartest Cities article. It even managed to maintain this spot since last year despite the fact that Phil moved out there! (J/K) My new home of Madison, however, was way down in slot #21. I find this interesting, because Middleton (an extended suburb of Madison) made it as the #1 place to live in the U.S. according to Money Magazine last year (Madison had this spot in 1996, and still ranks high), UW-Madison consistently maintains its spot as the fourth-largest research university in the country, (where’s the University of Colorado at Boulder, hmm?), and Mad City is also known as the Miracle in the Midwest for its growing biotech industry. (Here are more cool stats)

I thought it was interesting to note that what Forbes was measuring was not a weighted calculation of different factors that may be used to determine the overall brainpower of the city, but instead merely the percentages of bachelors degrees. They threw in the percentages of Ph.D’s and professional degrees for reference, along with the high school graduation rates. Continue reading Madison is smarter than Boulder!