Articles to 2011-05-06

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Erickson, especially the comment by Coen, Lawlor, and Kenny, is a gross example of wishful thinking distorting the reporting of results that did not come out as expected. In addition to the criticism above I miss a third group, those that did not do any exercise at all but knew they were going to be retested a year later (but then I am highly biased about this topic). This malpractice ought to come under far stricter editorial control. Anyone trying to get a first overview over a topic, at first only reads titles and skims abstracts before delving deeper.

As someone very prone to making grave mistakes myself, I found it quite hartening to see in Kooijman how even Arnold Sommerfeld made sign errors in one of his standard and popular books and that it took a century for them to be found. Another example of nullius in verba, or, as Richard P. Feyman put it "Never believe the textbooks, always go back to primary data and check calculations yourself."

Reardon reminds us of something totally ignored so far. Japan is a densely populated and highly industrialized country. After the tsunami flattened everything in sight, there are far more important and longer living pollutants to worry about than radioactivity. It is doubtful if agriculture will be possible again in those redistributed chemicals. Let’s not forget heavy metals have a half life of infinity and some halogenated organics nearly so.

Stolarz-Skrzypek offer the largest and least ambiguous study so far (at least of those I know of) debunking the spurious salt theory of heart disease.

Vo is another example of nullius in verba. In this case the respected debunker of junk science, Steve Milloy, is wrong. So again, don’t take anything on trust, check everything yourself.

In Comment and Reply Vigilant & Langergraber share my doubts about Lalueza-Fox (list of 2011-01-06). These data are insufficient to resolve the question one way or the other.

Cameron might be an answer to the Bandkeramik conundrum. Zimmermann and Lüning insist on cultural continuity from the Mesolithic, proving the adoption of farming by former hunters and gatherers, while all genetic studies become ever more convinced, no significant admixture of the old to the new population took place.

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

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