Articles to 2011-03-12

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Current archaeological textbooks relate how the retinue of a dead queen donned their best garb, lay down in orderly rows and voluntarily drank cups of poison. Baadsgaard has scanned some skulls in a CT and found them neatly bashed in by the spike of a then current battle axe. As the priests went to great length to convey exactly the older impression we may ask whom they were trying to con, presumably not archaeologists four and a half millennia later.

I strongly agree with Rohn. I fondly remember the Akademische Oberräte and Oberingenieure, often the lives and souls of institutes, without own career ambitions, always willing to help and advise students, and pursuing lengthy unglamourous research away from the mainstream.

Smyth (thank you, Helmut) is another take on publication bias. The medical sciences are a special case here. Trial protocols and outcomes to be investigated are clearly set down beforehand. They find that actual reporting often is in clear violation of these stated goals. At least in principle, this ought to be easy to rectify. The general case is more complicated. What you should do after playing around with your data and finding patterns is to formulate a hypothesis and then test it with new, independently generated data. But often, especially in archaeology and the humanities, such data are not to be found, forcing you to publish the untested hypotheses including a number of purely spurious results. Reproducing others’ results used to be a mainstay of the sciences, but has now all but stopped for lack of funding. Published results, including irreproducible random ones, get treated like gospel. (See also Feynman on this subject.)

Wilson is a comprehensive review of the problem of group selection in evolution.

There are two new commentaries on "The iceman as a burial" by Renato Fasolo and Gian Luigi Carancini & Tommaso Mattioli.

I’m currently reading Wade and following up references therein. This explains the length of this list. Nature is changing itself from a venue for original research to a magazine of commentary and review, resulting in a plethora of interesting stuff not to be archived, i.e. my category Aktuell.

Here’s the link to this week’s complete list.

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