scooped again

Two Spanish researchers have shown (original here) that two leading journals routinely publish statistical errors:

The analysis revealed that at least one error appeared in 38 per cent of the Nature papers and 25 per cent of the British Medical Journal papers looked at. Furthermore, the study estimates that four per cent of results reported to be statistically “significant” may not be significant after all.

Yet again, the Spanish study is an example of someone actually doing something I thought of some time ago. (Fortunately for me, I’m usually only pleased when this happens, because I know perfectly well that I’ll never do anything with the idea.) I am woefully ignorant of statistics, and probably have published overly simplistic analyses myself (though I am careful about claims of significance, and am confident that I’ve made no errors there). This sorry state is much more prevalent among biomed researchers than it ought to be, so I’m not suprised by the study’s findings. Garcia-Berthou and Alcaraz also make another point upon which I’ve been known to wax shrewish:

As well as warning researchers and editors to be more careful with data, they also urge the publication of raw data online. “If we had that, we could check the results,” Garc´┐Ża-Berthou says. “Some journals already publish supplements online, but it’s rare, and I think it should become commonplace.”

I think it should by now be viewed as low-rent not to make your raw data available online. There’s no reason not to do it, unless you’re hiding something; if the journal doesn’t provide the option, the server space and bandwidth costs are well within reach of any research institution. I’m convinced that it will become a standard part of scientific publishing. (Obdisclosure: I haven’t made any of my raw data available online, even though it was about the first thing I thought of when I came across the net, way back in 1993. I could never convince the higher-ups that it was a good idea. I’ll start doing it as soon as I’m high enough on the food chain to insist on it, which I hope will be from the next paper onwards, paying for the hosting myself if need be.)

Manadel al-Jamadi, RIP.

Jesus sickening Christ. Human beings don’t get much more debased than this before they stop being human at all. Warning: horrifying photographs featuring marines smiling and giving the thumbs-up as they pose with the body of a man beaten to death by civilian “interrogators”.

According to testimony from Spc. Jason Kenner, obtained by ABCNEWS, the man was brought to the prison by U.S. Navy SEALs in good health. Kenner said he saw extensive bruising on the detainee’s body when he was brought out of the showers, dead.
Kenner says the body was packed in ice during a “battle” between CIA and military interrogators over who should dispose of the body.

And as for “RIP”, well, that’s just a thing you say because you have to say something. Dead is dead, and there is no such thing as a God or an afterlife. Mr al-Jamadi is gone; it is to his family and friends that my heart goes out. May they find some kind of peace.

Posted in woe

i have no mouth and i must scream

I wish I had time to collect my thoughts and words to write them down with, but I don’t right now so I’ll just point you to Stavros:

It becomes easier when everyone else is Them. We didn’t saw off poor Nick’s head, it was those scum, those vermin, the evil-doers, those others. We didn’t stick blunt objects up prisoners’ asses, either, or rape them or set dogs on them, we didn’t rip those kids apart with our amusingly-named ordinance. That was other people, a few bad apples, and they’re not us! We’re consumers of the images, don’t you see? We didn’t make this world! We didn’t maim that boy! It was them. Them! We didn’t slit Daniel Pearl’s throat, we didn’t knock over the gravestones, we didn’t fly airplanes into the World Trade Centre! We didn’t sell arms to Saddam, we didn’t sell arms to Iran, we didn’t ask for the double-anal pissporn, we didn’t do any of that shit. We are watchers. Watching makes it real, and watching keeps it separate from us. Watching is a noble act, at least until it gives you a hardon.
The basic truth gets obscured. What’s the difference between Osama bin Laden and George Bush? There isn’t one. What’s the difference between that fucker Amrozi who set the bomb that killed my friend Rick and me? There isn’t one. What’s the difference between the animals that sawed off Nick Berg’s head and the animals that beat prisoners to death at Abu Ghraib? There isn’t one. Between the Pope and Saddam? Between that old lady in front of the TV in a trailer in Alabama and that old lady digging up roots in a field in Kazakhstan?
We are one. We are all meat and electricity. And if there is more than that, we are all equally a part of that divine More. Or none of us are.

ding dong

I’m too busy doing it to write about science and too sick over it to write about politics, so just go read dong resin already.

I love how these republicans are all so law and order/ responsibility-for-one’s-actions until they get caught out. Then suddenly there’s a whole lot of “complexity.”
Their problems are complex, not simple, not like homelessness, which is what just happens when you’re lazy, or drug addiction, which is what just happens when you’re lazy and weak, or AIDS which is what happens when you’re Freddy Mercury. My God, he had that shit coming to him, didn’t he. I saw him fuck a panda once, he was insatiable. No, they get what they deserve, and how about a little self control/personal responsibility next time, you sad losers.
Oh, but ineptitude on a global level? No, that shit is nuanced.

Buy his book, too, or God will kill a kitten.

yanqui go home. no, really.

The unholy clusterfuck in Iraq makes me want to puke every time I think about it. I literally cannot imagine how Iraqis must feel, but I’m pretty sure I know what they want right now. River, whom you should be reading regularly, puts it this way:

I sometimes get emails asking me to propose solutions or make suggestions. Fine. Today’s lesson: don’t rape, don’t torture, don’t kill and get out while you can- while it still looks like you have a choice… Chaos? Civil war? Bloodshed? We

Posted in woe


scissors icon The last word on copyright was written more than twenty years ago, by someone you’ve never heard of. (via Cory at Boing Boing)

scissors icon Chris at Signal + Noise (best. tagline. ever.) waxes romantic about a public enthused over science, and in the process makes me nostalgic for my own feeble forays into amateur astronomy. Good reads, as Alton Brown might say.

scissors icon A little bright spot: critter comeback.

scissors icon I haven’t been able to write about the latest obscenities in Tha War on Terra™, because it twists my gut to think about it. As usual, Teresa has made as much sense as can be made of the awfulness, and lists the same must-reads as I was planning to.
After you read that, be sure to cheer yourself up (you’ll need it!) with some of Teresa’s Particles, such as the official H2 salute, the One Eater, pretty glass arthropods (they’re not all insects!), BeoWatch, the dildo of death and this superb experiment (measuring the speed of light with marshmallows — no, really, it works!)

scissors icon Via Metafilter (a blind pig that still, even in its dotage, turns up more than its share of acorns; the RSS feed avoids the comments, which are a pit of bilious inanity), an overview of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Thrilling and depressing all at once.

scissors icon Excellent news: lunatic Ten Commandments Warrior Roy Moore is considering a run for the presidency. Not only will he bring down much-needed ridicule upon the Christian hard right, but he’s set to be the GOP’s very own Nader and is hitting Bush where it hurts by claiming he’s not Christian enough. Moore is just insane enough to pull support from Bush’s psychofundie base, a pack of slavering American Taliban assholes for whom there can be no such thing as too much public piety. Eat each other, you scumbags.

scissors icon Speaking of Shifty George, he was recently “unable” to think of any mistakes he’s made, so the Center for American Progress has put together a short list for him to choose from.

scissors icon More watching the watchers: Media Channel (“the global network for democratic media”) and its executive editor’s weblog News Dissector can’t be worse than CNN et al. Following the money (scroll down to #8) doesn’t raise any obvious red flags.

scissors icon Finally, a nod to this “science” stuff I keep saying I’m going to write about. Apparently, mammals have at least two biological clocks, one of which is sensitive to light. Miseries like jet lag are visited upon us when the clocks get out of sync. The article is in Current Biology; here’s the abstract.