The Bloomington Science Cafe gang will gather once again tomorrow eve at Finch’s Brasserie to hash over another hot topic. This time, Dr. Russell Lyons of Indiana University’s Math Dept. will talk about how we use statistics and numbers to fool each other.
Lyons is a big-time debunker, and you all know how I love debunking nonsense. He’ll use a specific case study — a highly-flawed research paper asserting that obesity is contagious — to illustrate how even supposedly respected scientists can flim-flam their way to notoriety through the use of sloppy statistical practices and outright numerical falsehoods. The paper in Q. actually contained the line: “You may not know him personally, but your friend’s husband’s co-worker can make you fat.”
The argument — and the whole paper, for that matter — was wrong and later discredited. Lyons decided that not only the general public but mass media reporters as well as reputable scientific journal editors needed refresher courses on good statistical methods. “Top journals,” Lyons says, “do not serve as the rigorous judges of quality that the public often assumes.”
The idea being we should all look at studies, papers, news stories about science, and the like with a critical, analytical eye. But before we can do that, we have to know what makes a set of numbers right or true.
Lyons’ll speak at 6:30pm in Finch’s upstairs events room. Questions will follow. Admission, natch, is free and open to the public. Such a deal: You get smarter while simultaneously eating and drinking. Sounds like heaven to me.
Civil Rights Slugger
You may think I’m getting all Ernie Banks-fixated but I ask you to try to understand how important Mr. Cub was to millions of native Chi-towners like me.
Anyway, WGN radio’s Patti Vazquez points out that Ernie persuaded the Cubs five years ago to sponsor a float in Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade held every June in the Boys Town n-hood. Thanks to Ern, the Cubs did indeed participate and, in fact, Mr. Cub himself rode on the float.
The Chicago Cubs Float Before The 2010 Pride Parade
(Photo: Cheryl Adams)
(Of course, it helped that the Cubs’ Laura Ricketts is herself the first openly lesbian major pro sports team owner in this holy land.)
The Cubs thereby became the first major American sports franchise to participate in a Pride Parade.
Can Ernie Banks’ rep get any more golden?
[h/t to Rick Perlstein]
Thanks to our friends over at Wonkette, we learn that one of the Huffington Post‘s “medical” contributors who calls herself a “doctor” is really no doctor at all.
Lots o’folks on my side of the fence love, love, love HuffPo even though founder Arianna Huffington was able to rake in $315 MM selling the Left-leaning online news service after utilizing brilliant business practices like not paying her writers. HuffPo also panders to the soft-skull wing of the White Liberal Party by running scads of articles and opinion pieces touting woo medicines and diets.
F’rinstance, “Dr.” Sherri Tenpenny — the non-medico in question, has penned a couple of HuffPo articles on how childhood vaccinations are the bunk. That and a piece on Novartis, the uber-pharma outfit that she uses to frame her argument that prescription drugs and vaccines are poisons worse than all the Big Macs and Drano in the world put together.
In the fallout from the Disneyland measles outbreak, Tenpenny has found all her speaking engagements cancelled these days. She blames “the extremists” who are insisting that kids get innoculated against catastrophic diseases. Wonkette‘s Fare la Volpe writes:
Those extremists are quite difficult, what with their unreasonable demands that children not catch polio in the 21st Century. It was good enough for FDR, wasn’t it?
Just another little reminder that anencephaly does not only strike Fox News hosts and those on the Right.