Articles to 2013-09-15

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First the link to this week’s complete list as HTML and as PDF.

Job et al. add to the growing number of studies on the placebo effect, albeit from a novel angle. I wonder how much else demonstrably works just because societal consensus says it does. The study does have the usual number of methodical shortfalls, though.
While a p=0.29 cannot prove that subjects can discern a difference, it is wrong to state, as Job et al. do, it proves that they can’t. p=0.29 falls well outside the 1σ boundary for chance assignment.
The authors treat the limited vs. unlimited theories as purely arbitrary constructs. Assuming the ability to execute strenuous tasks continuously to be limited, as indeed it must be, there will have to be individual differences in the size of those limits. It may well be the repeated experience of such limits that leads some individuals more than others, who rarely experience their own limits, to hold these views. The fact that believing in limits correlates with displaying limits says nothing about the direction of cause and effect contrary to their “The results [...] show that the effect of willpower theories on responses to glucose ingestion is causal”. Although the authors state they manipulated beliefs, they do not indicate having tried to measure the efficacy of that manipulation against preexisting belief at all.

The Feynman text on what it is that makes science is not new and well known. It’s included here for adding the primary source to my database. “So I wish to you—I have no more time, so I have just one wish for you—the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described. and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom.” Obviously Niklas von der Assen (list of 2013-08-17) is not in that happy situation (and I well remember the need to keep third party funders happy from my time at RWTH). What can be said though is, that although he had to hide them from the customer, all the relevant data are there for other engineers to reevaluate. So I make it one more point to be proud of my old Alma Mater.

According to Wang & Dickinson the impact of Rs on daily mean Ta is half the diurnal temperature range (DTR). Their figure 6a for impact shows two distinct plateaus, a lower one for 1980–2010 and a distinctly higher one for 1920–1960. No such plateaus can be seen anywhere in their figure 5. I do not believe a chain of low correlations between small effects in low-quality data will yield meaningful results when taken over several steps.

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