Purely a figment of your imagination

What amuses, annoys, concerns or otherwise interests me – Noodlemaz


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QEDcon 2016

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Part of this year’s goodie bag – a QED sticker to adorn whatever you fancy

After about 13 hours of sleep post-QED, I started to write some words about it!

6 years in a row. A strange feeling walking back into a hotel room like one I stayed in 3 years ago, but quickly settling into familiarity, largely because of all the friendly faces to see and hugs to give/receive.

I haven’t been to many conventions in my time, but of those few, this skeptical event has to be the best by a long way.

Not just because the organisers are very talented and kind people I’m proud to call friends, or the consistently excellent, approachable and affable speakers, or because fellow attendees are a joy to be around (in all states of sobriety and so far from it). All of that and more.

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Sense About Science: Fad Diets

Ask for EvidenceDiets on the internet: You might as well make them up.

Sense about Science have a new (ish, I’m a bit slow off the mark on this one!) campaign focus – exposing the claims behind fad diets.

Many societies currently have a problem with nutrition. In places where food is abundant, or supermarkets and fast food chains present the main family options, a lot of people are overeating and eating badly. Poverty doesn’t help, and when you already have little money, companies duping people with claims of superhealthy items and food plans are extremely unethical.

The NHS resources are, in my view, the best place to go for a start. To learn about calories, going about losing weight, “hidden” weight-gain causes, asking a GP about getting and keeping a healthy weight and more – really many of these things should be in schools, so equipping people with skills that will last a lifetime and help them to keep healthy, combating challenges such as lack of support at home when children are growing up.

Unfortunately, a combination of culture generally, celebrity following, personal challenges and insufficient regulation of food suppliers often leads to people who are frustrated and find it difficult to keep healthy and happy. Where there are vulnerable people with problems, there are quacks ready to take advantage and make money from them.

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Healthy Evidence Forum

AskforEvidenceNHSchoicesSense About Science have launched a new discussion forum today, called Healthy Evidence:

“We are very pleased to tell you that NHS Choices Behind the Headlines have asked us to partner with them on a new online forum to help people understand the science behind health claims and connect them with expertise. Healthy Evidence is launched today. Join the community here.”

The more people that join and share their insights into the science behind health reporting, the better the resource could become. Collating useful sources can help people judge which information is beneficial rather than bogus, and what’s likely or dubious.

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Scientists cure cancer but no-one notices

The Cancer Research UK Science Update Blog has published an excellent post by Kat Arney on cancer conspiracies – here it is, plus some other excellent pieces:

Licenced under Creative Commons by-nc-nd 2.0 (Image B0002108)

Wellcome Images: Human breast cancer cells dividing

It has prompted me to look back through my posterous archive for something I remember writing but couldn’t find on here – about how offensive it is when people accuse us (people working in cancer research in any capacity) of being part of some great conspiracy to hide cures. I’ve edited it a bit as it’s from 2011.

Let us not forget that many people are living examples that we can and do cure cancer, it’s just difficult to define “cure” – 5 years free? 10? We all die of something. But particularly “treatable” diseases include some forms of leukaemia, or breast, skin and testicular cancer – surgical techniques, chemo- and radiotherapy have come a very long way in the last 50-60 years, since DNA was discovered and we started to learn a lot more about this hugely varied set of diseases.

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ALL the trials!

Be aware of this new and incredibly important campaign: alltrials.

It’s time all clinical trial results are reported. Patients, researchers, doctors and regulators everywhere in the world will benefit from publication of clinical trial results.

Please sign the petition

Please do. Doctors cannot prescribe the most suitable treatments, if they don’t know what the most suitable treatments are due to lacking information. Patients therefore suffer. Academics cannot plan their research effectively without knowing previous results. The government cannot make appropriate funding decisions without this information, either.

So, help to make ALL clinical trial data available to everyone who needs it – all of us.

Edit 05/02/13: GSK have just signed up! Amazing! Ben has written a quick post on it and here’s the alltrials news.

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John Maddox Prize 2012

Comments on this post are now closed – thank you to all civil contributors!
Update 2015: excellent summary of the controversies on this subject at MosaicScience
Update 2017: on the results of the PACE trial of CBT for ME/CFS and errors at SBM

Last night I was lucky to be at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society for the annual Sense About Science reception.

I am a member of Voice of Young Science, which is a network set up and supported by SAS that allows young scientists to get involved with pro-science activism. Through this group, we are able to participate in public-facing discourse about science and challenge common misconceptions. This takes the form of supporting campaigns (such as Libel Reform) and contributing to publications. For example, I picked up a copy of Peer Review: the nuts and bolts last night because I joined discussions about its content and aims. Anyone young scientists who’d like to, definitely sign up!

Many of us London-based VOYS members went along last night to show our support for SAS and the RPS, and to find out who won the first John Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science. Sir John Maddox was a long-term editor of Nature and helped expand Sense About Science as a charity, supporting and encouraging its work, as well as helping to establish programmes like VOYS.

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Science Wooseum Revisited

Time for an update on the Science and Art of Medicine – Living Medical Traditions exhibit in the Science Museum, London!

If you’re not familiar with the backstory, do check out these posts or listen to my report in the Pod Delusion live 2nd birthday episode – go, make some tea and a sandwich while it’s on or something 😀

Briefly, we’ve been trying to improve the Science Museum’s alternative medicine exhibit as there were some serious problems with it. It largely came across as promoting alternative treatments, even advertising practitioners and generally being worryingly uncritical, with no reference to the results of reliable studies (i.e. that most of the ‘treatments’ are no better than placebo and many carry serious risks) – and indeed no mention of the wonderous placebo effect at all.

I’ve highlighted some of the original displays and issues in this photo gallery, now with some new photos – though a lot of them are appallingly blurry, apologies – in this new set.

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