Pure Pedantry

Archives for February, 2009

There are some people who argue that the Internet increases the size of people’s social networks by lowering the transaction costs of interacting with people. Facebook — as a dataset — is handy for determining whether this is true. Everyone on Facebook has friends with whom you communicate on a regular or irregular basis. Therefore,…

As scientists await Obama reauthorizing federal funding of embryonic stem cell research and the FDA approves the first clinical trials using embryonic stem cell treatments, there is an important case report that highlights the potential safety issues with putting stem cells in humans. Amariglio et al. report a case in PLoS Medicine of a boy…

Here is a lesson in why defensive medicine should be avoided: it costs a lot, it doesn’t help patients, and it has the potential to hurt them. Chou et al. published a study in the Lancet showing that in patients presenting with lower back pain without serious clinical symptoms (more on this in a second)…

Rather than funding new grants, most of the fiscal stimulus to NIH will be going to grants that have already been reviewed. From Science Insider: The National Institutes of Health will dedicate most of its $8.2 billion for research from the economic stimulus bill to funding grant applications it has already received and to supplementing…

An article by Evan Mills, a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, points out that scientific buildings use a lot more energy than average: Improving energy productivity is a doubly worthy challenge, given that those making the biggest contributions to the science of sustainability often do so in highly energy intensive facilities such as…

Many economists have egg on their face

Economic historian, Gregory Clark, details why times have changed for academic economists: The current recession has revealed the weaknesses in the structures of modern capitalism. But it also revealed as useless the mathematical contortions of academic economics. There is no totemic power. This for two reasons: (1) Almost no-one predicted the world wide downtown. Academic…

Submarines collide: In a freak accident, two submarines carrying nuclear missiles, one French and the other British, collided while submerged on operational patrols in the Atlantic early this month, the British and French defense ministries said Monday. Both vessels returned damaged but otherwise safe to their home ports, with the 250 crew members aboard uninjured…

The Geithner Treasury plan for rescuing the banking system (more here) is getting panned on both sides of the aisle for being excessively vague. Megan McArdle: Tim Geithner reveals that the Treasury has a plan to fix the problems in our broken capital markets by . . . er . . . fixing them. ……

SEA (again) has the details of the result of the House and Senate conference bill for economic stimulus. Here are the parts related to science: Provides $3 billion for the National Science Foundation, for basic research in fundamental science and engineering – which spurs discovery and innovation. Provides $1.6 billion for the Department of Energy’s…

A trio of Federal judges have ruled against three separate plaintiffs who alleged that vaccines caused their child’s autism: These three decisions, each looking into a different theory as to how vaccines might have injured the children, are expected to guide the outcomes of all those claims. The judges ruled that the families seeking compensation…