Saturday, June 27, 2015

Lack of reproducibility of scientific papers getting attention

A lack of reproducibility of published scientific studies is finally getting recognition by the corporations (that seems to me to that could lose millions from bad research).  Academia seems a bit resist.  Source article:
 Reseach uncovering unreproducibility faces backlash 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

I know English is evolving when I hear these words in a courtroom

I was recently snared into Jury Duty in Massachusetts.  This isn't so much an article about that.  Instead, this is about something I noticed while listening to the case before me and my 5 other jurors; word choices.

The first interesting word was uttered by the Prosecutor quoting the defendant who was fighting a DUI charge. The Prosecutor stated that the defendant pleaded with the arresting officer to cut him a break because he was not cocked.  This word cocked was used in a mocking manner by the prosecutor several times in his opening and closing arguments.

The second word that stood out was spoken by the Defense attorney.  While questioning the arresting officer, the Defense attorney asked about the likelihood of something-or-another.  What caught my attention is that he used the prolly, instead of prob'ly or probably.  The use of this word in such a formal manner struck me, since the word is still considered by many to be of the mythically inferior not-a-word status.

The last spoken element I picked up on was the Judge's use of the idiom begging-the-question.  I've written about the idiom begging-the-question quite recently.  There are two official definitions for the idiom.  The traditional definition is based on a logical fallacy.  The modern definition is an alternative for raises-the-question; this was Judge's use that day.  It is interesting to note that both definitions appear in dictionaries now.

#Blooming #tree - #trees #spring #springday #sunnyday #beautiful #flower #flowers #flowerbed #Massachusetts #NewEngland #SunsetRidge #bolton #flowering #whiteflowers

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Monday, June 15, 2015

#Icehouse #DowntownDenver - #Denver #Downtown #clearsky #bluesky #colorado #sunset #impossibleshot #golden

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There is increased awareness of general problem with #scientific studies right now, with #preclinical at the crux

Over reliance on study conclusions and flaws within scientific studies is a troubling problem that is recently getting more attention, finally.

Flawed preclinical studies create false hope for patients waiting for lifesaving cures; moreover, they point to systemic and costly inefficiencies in the way preclinical studies are designed, conducted, and reported. Because replication and cumulative knowledge production are cornerstones of the scientific process, these widespread accounts are scientifically troubling.
The problems go beyond preclinical studies.  I've approached this topic before in two previous articles.
As more studies and data are revealed about this issue, the problem seems to be far worse than some may have believed.  This most recent study suggests that 50% of preclinical studies are plagued with errors which prevent their results from being reproduced.  As any high school graduate should know, reproducibility of a study's result is the cornerstone of the Scientific Method.  Anyone must be able to use the same methods of the study to find similar results.  If results cannot be reproduced, the study has no scientific value and cannot be used as a reference or source for further discovery.

To sound the alarm even louder, Nature's article Irreproducible biology research costs put at $28 billion per year cites that as much as 89% of studies may have irreproducible results.  They state,
Overall, the team [study researchers] found that poor materials made the largest contribution to reproducibility problems, at 36%, followed by study design at 28% and data analysis at 26%. The team estimates the overall rate of irreproducibility at 53%, but cautions that the true rate could be anywhere between 18% and 89%. That puts the potential economic cost of irreproducibility anywhere from $10 billion to $50 billion per year.
This is a problem that needs to be tackled.  It is costing billions of dollars, and perhaps putting lives at risk.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunset Ridge evening

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Faeryland Coitus

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To carry one from my previous discussion, I had one other surviving shoe polish on card stock paper painting from my time spent bored working in a mall shoe store when I was a kid. This one can have a multitude of meanings. The title Faeryland Coitus only reflects one interpretation. I believe I did this one as contrast to my shear #boredom. I created excitement from nothingness. There are many objects in the painting. In some views, it could be seen as a lot of different fairies doing naughty things. From another perspective, it could be a hands smashing something between them as they clap together. It could also be two figures engaged in acts of carnal lust with tornado like movement. It ultimately represents my desire to be freed from my imprisonment at the shoe store during long and empty hours.

The stars can affect your life...well, one star in particular may help trigger strokes

There is a lack of respect in skeptic circles regarding Astrology and the ability of the stars to affect our lives.  Skepticism is sound, for the most part.  However, one star in particular cannot only affect our lives, it can kill or maim us, and not in a way that many expect.  There is growing evidence that links geomagnetic storms from our Sun to an increase number of strokes within the human population.

There is now growing concern about the frequency of first-time strokes and correlation with geomagnetic storms.  A study was released last year, titled Geomagnetic Storms Can Trigger Stroke - Evidence From 6 Large Population-Based Studies in Europe and Australasia (link is to abstract).

An article about this study by Medscape Medical News had the following additional comment,

Dr. Feigin told Medscape Medical News that geomagnetic activity has also been associated with increased rates of heart attacks, suicides, and acute psychiatric admissions."We have known for ages that geomagnetic storms can shut down electrical stations across many regions and affect satellite navigation equipment, so it is logical that they can also affect human health," he commented.

The geomagnetic storm study (source) itself found that,

...high levels of geomagnetic activity (ie, those accompanying geomagnetic storms, predominately during solar maxima years) are important predictors of stroke.

What does this mean for the average person?  I don't know.  I haven't found any sources that convert this new found knowledge into something actionable for us laypersons.  It does leave the mind to wonder and speculate, though.  If someone is in a high-risk group of stroke susceptibility, should they chill out for a couple of days for geomagnetic storms to pass? If so, how so?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Jury Duty in the Bay State (They finally caught me)

I've managed to avoid serving on a Jury for over twenty years.  I did have to go in for Jury Duty one time for a case in California, but didn't get picked.  Massachusetts works a bit differently. They don't call juries for individual cases, but rather call in a pool of people who are made available to any cases that happen to be in the process of jury selection for that day.  You have to make yourself available for the day for any cases that might call for a jury.  If you get dismissed from one jury, you have to go back to the pool.  There is still a high chance that you'll be called in for another case later that day.  The advantage of this is that you serve for one day in the pool, or if you get picked, you serve for one case.  Once complete, you are off the hook from having to serve for three years.

I was dismissed from the first case of the day.  That case was predicted to have a 4 to 5 day length.  After returning to the jury pool, several of us were called into another case.  That case was for a DUI, and the judge predicted the trial would be complete before the end of the day.

The case was simple enough.  A man was pulled over in the middle of the night for suspicion of driving a vehicle while being impaired by alcohol.  It wasn't a straightforward DUI case.  There was no alcohol blood level evidence presented.  The officer, who was forthrightly doing his duty, did a fine job in identifying a driver who was possibly impaired.  His testimony was based solely on observations of the car for a very brief period of time, a smell of alcohol within the vehicle once he approached, a smell of alcohol on the driver's breath, and somewhat convoluted description of field sobriety tests and results.  The driver passed one test, and technically failed another, though not in a manner that one would expect to rise to the level of being impaired while driving.

There was a lot of repetition of statements and evidence while the trial went on for a few hours. There was evidence that had nothing to do with the case.  There was contradictory evidence presented by the prosecutor.  There was flaws in the evidence that the defense attorney pointed out very well.

In the end, the jury of six people, including myself, came to the conclusion that the evidence did not prove the individual was impaired.  I'm sure the District Attorney's office was a little disappointed by our jury's ruling, but they really didn't make their case.

The big surprize for me was the frankness and approachability of the judge.  He walked his jury through the process from beginning to end, with the full understanding that most of us had no idea how anything worked.  He explained the law well, as well.  After the trial was over, he visited with us one last time to see if there was anything in the process that we felt needed improvement.  None of us could think of anything.  I think we were just grateful to be on a quick in-and-out case that didn't have a lot of evidence to review.  As suggested by the Judge, we were done before the end of the day.

Did I come out of the process with a new found respect for it?  Not really.  I wouldn't mind serving on smaller, one-day cases at some future point. I am just thankful I didn't get tied up with a case that lasts a week.