Articles to 2020-06-05

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A large number of studies in psychology can be summarized as “The ordinary people are so incredibly ignorant, only we psychologists have a true understanding of the world.” In most cases a close look at common folk belief makes it turn out to be correct. So it is here. As paraphrased by Brainard[1] “In surveys psychologists found that participants rated the pandemic as a large danger to others but not to themselves. Despite this apparent paradox, most respondents followed government advice on social distancing.”

Paradox? According to official statistics the fraction of Germans ever having been infected with Covid is 0.2 %, 2 % if you assume the largest reasonable number of unrecognized ones. For any one to get into close enough contact for long enough to be infected is highly unlikely. Conversely it is very likely for somebody, not someone specific, to become infected and you may even expect that number to rise, even rise steeply, without affecting the first estimate. That's the well known lottery paradox and again it's common folk on the street who get it right.


As Divinsky reports, near all of the proven effectiveness of Israel's fight against Covid hinges on the one measure that Germany refused to adopt.


I’ll grant Han et al. to have made a notable advance in chemistry and chemical engineering, but does it mean anything in practical terms? They're not very open with useful numbers but one they do state is a power delivery in peaks of 5 µW in short bursts. Let's leave those out and use 5 µW continuously. A small standard Lithium cell of the size often found in wrist watches can deliver that for about 16 years. That's more than the life time of most of the envisaged sensors in typical use. How does this small and cheap cell compare to their thermoelectric device in terms of price, resource consumption, size, weight, and wearability?


There were unfortunate blunders in several studies and a lapse of vigilance by two prestigious journals but – as Servick & Enserink point out – the record has soon been corrected in the way the scientific process ought to work. All's well then? Not quite. The question must be asked, whether those two studies would have been as speedily and uncritically accepted were it not for the involvement and interest of the American president, the yellow press, and state controlled television. When the correctness of facts becomes a less important driver than the politically correct attitude even in the best scientific journals a very hard look at the publishing process becomes imperative.

Another point is the unwarranted termination of two important trials. Data fluctuate and it's important that you run a study to its predetermined endpoint and not stop capriciously, whenever an intermediate result suits your purpose. There is a growing tendency to stop medical studies prematurely for more and more arbitrary and unconvincing reasons. This has to stop.

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A have no idea, if that summary does the study any justice or not. I have downloaded and read three reports from psyarxiv, none of which has anything to do with the above. The correct one is not to be found from the cryptic description, not even with looking through several dozen titles and beginnings of abstracts. That's the kind of reporting I'm used to from the yellow press, not what I expect to find in science.     Zurück