Saturday, February 25, 2017

Fake News and Fake? Science

      When I was working on a Ph.D. in Physics my work was to reproduce the findings of another researcher.  It was an extremely difficult experiment that required measurements on ultra-pure sodium metal at near absolute zero temperatures using microwave sensors to pull faint signals barely at the edge of noise levels.  The problem was made worse by the fact that duplicating another physicist's results no matter how impossible the experiment does not qualify one for a Ph.D.  I needed to make my own discoveries.  So when I failed to duplicate his results, I had no problem.  I was not going to be able to publish either way.  Little incentive exists in science to reproduce research.  
     One should not be surprised by a recent report in Nature that 
More than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist's experiments, and more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments. Those are some of the telling figures that emerged from Nature's survey of 1,576 researchers who took a brief online questionnaire on reproducibility in research.
The data reveal sometimes-contradictory attitudes towards reproducibility. Although 52% of those surveyed agree that there is a significant 'crisis' of reproducibility, less than 31% think that failure to reproduce published results means that the result is probably wrong, and most say that they still trust the published literature.
When researchers were asked why this problem exists most than 60% responded
pressure to publish and selective reporting — always or often contributed. More than half pointed to insufficient replication in the lab, poor oversight or low statistical power. A smaller proportion pointed to obstacles such as variability in reagents or the use of specialized techniques that are difficult to repeat.
In other words a rush to get a scoop and confirmation bias. I would add failure to adequate share the data, ALL OF IT, good and bad, and adequate documentation of technique.

       Nature has decided to take action against this problem.  They are introducing a checklist intended to prompt authors to disclose technical and statistical information in their submissions, and to encourage referees to consider aspects important for research reproducibility.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

6 Subtle Characteristics of The Pathological Liar

      Have you ever communicated with a person who seemed to live in a fantasy world where everything said felt false or exaggerated? Have you ever had an experience with a person who always seems mysterious and nothing they say ever comes to fusion? Well…if so, you might have been dealing with a sociopath, narcissist, or even a pathological liar. This article will discuss 6 important characteristics we should all be aware of with the pathological liar.

Anybody we know?

Click the following to read the whole article by Támara Hill, MS, LPC

Fake News

      Fake news has been around for a while.  You always needed to check your sources and make sure you were quoting from the actual/root source and not just repeating hearsay. What is new now is the occupants of the highest office in the land either can’t or refuse to separate reality from wishful thinking.  They have even invented a new bases of information – alternative facts. They have managed to destroy the credibility of authority figures. And Trump called Hillary a liar? Joseph Goebbels would be proud.

Fretting over fake news? It's only going to get worse Soon, not even experts will be able to tell the difference between fraudulent and genuine content. Ultimately, it comes down to the reputation of whoever created it. Feb 7, 2017

      If you’re worried about fake news, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Soon we may not be able to tell the difference between a fake video and a real one, even forensically. What we are seeing today is the tip of the iceberg.

Friday, February 10, 2017

AI Has an Eye on Your Job

      According to the TV commercials, WATSON is now doing taxes for H&R Block. As they say “There goes the neighborhood.”

      At a time when the Trump administration is promising to make America great again by restoring old-school manufacturing jobs, AI researchers aren’t taking him too seriously. They know that these jobs are never coming back, thanks in no small part to their own research, which will eliminate so many other kinds of jobs in the years to come, as well. At Asilomar, they looked at the real US economy, the real reasons for the “hollowing out” of the middle class. The problem isn’t immigration—far from it. The problem isn’t offshoring or taxes or regulation. It’s technology.

      The Future of Life Institute (FLI) is a volunteer-run research and outreach organization in the Boston area that works to mitigate existential risks facing humanity, particularly existential risk from advanced artificial intelligence (AI). Its founders include MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark, Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, and its board of advisors includes cosmologist Stephen Hawking and entrepreneur Elon Musk.

      Here is a link to a series of discussion videos.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Be Aware of Seven Questionable Clinics

     In the age of fake news, illicit Internet pharmacies, and proposed rollbacks to healthcare regulations, it is perhaps not surprising that clinics offering unsubstantiated or poorly administered medical treatments seem to be on the rise. Medscape reached out to experts to get their thoughts on seven clinics with questionable practices that may be worth further scrutiny.

      It is defined as the combining of conventional and complementary and/or alternative medicine, such as acupuncture. Mark A. Crislip, MD, an infectious disease specialist in Portland, Oregon says, "Their defining characteristic is pseudo-medicine and -science."

      He continues, "When you offer worthless therapies for money, that's fraud in the real world. Fortune tellers convicted of defrauding people of their money because they're possessed by evil demons just have to open an integrative medicine clinic and cruise. They'll never get punished."

      David H. Gorski the managing editor or Science-based Medicine, which addresses unfounded medical practices and beliefs, and professor of surgery and oncology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine says that IM represents one of the most exasperating trends in contemporary healthcare. "It misleads by building upon established health practices."

      Numerous clinics that say that they can treat patients' cancer outside of the normal tools of scientifically based medicine. According to Dr Gorski, "The most common clinics are those that espouse vague notions that cancer is caused by contamination of the body and can thereby be defeated through extensive "detoxification" protocols involving dietary restrictions, supplements, and coffee enemas, such as the Gonzalez Protocol. Often these dietary protocols are given alongside experimental drugs."

      Even in cases where patients have not responded to conventional medicine, for whom untested and alternative treatments may seem worth a try, there is still a considerable risk. Dr Gorski said, "You might lose the chance to put your affairs in order. You might lose your fortune that you might otherwise have passed on to your family. You may think your symptoms are bad now, but it can always be worse."

      Chelation therapy is the process by which heavy metals are removed from the blood.  It's use has been extended to cancer and autism. Dr. Gorski said, "There's the naturopath use of chelation therapy, where they often claim that many diseases or chronic illnesses are due to undefined toxins that are heavy metals. Never mind that it can be potentially dangerous. It can cause hypocalcemia or hypomagnesemia and also cause death due to cardiac arrest. Basically, it's all risk and no benefit."

      Unlicensed stem cell clinics have been described as medicine's Wild West. These clinics deal primarily with unapproved adipose-derived stem cells administered in an experimental treatment of undetermined therapeutic value that many believe flaunts the US Food and Drug Administration's rules for what constitutes a biologic agent. Online advertising for stem cell clinics often uses highly misleading language downplaying risks and promoting their curative value for a host of conditions, including multiple sclerosis, aging, Parkinson disease, stroke, and spinal cord injury.

      Paul S. Knoepfler, PhD, a professor of cell biology and human anatomy at UC Davis School of Medicine and author of the book, Stem Cells: An Insider's Guide said,
"There is essentially zero concrete evidence from properly controlled studies that what they are selling is safe and effective."

      In 2000, small but highly questionable study reported that seven subjects with major depression significantly improved after IV treatment with ketamine. There are at least 15 randomized controlled published studies and close to 20 open-label studies that showed no efficacy.

     There has been increasing criticism of ketamine clinics, specifically surrounding the sometimes high payments they solicit from desperate patients and the fact that they are often operated by anesthesiologists and emergency department doctors with little to no experience dealing with major psychiatric disorders. 

      The FDA approves testosterone replacement only for men who have low testosterone from disorders of the testicles, pituitary gland, or brain that cause hypogonadism. However, the pervasive direct-to-consumer "low T" advertising campaign has taken advantage of disease-mongering to extend treatment indications to often ambiguous symptoms associated with the normal aging process, such as decreased sense of vigor. They distort the truth without actually lying by exaggerating vague symptoms.

     In the last decade, prescriptions for testosterone have increased by 10- and 40-fold in the United States and Canada, respectively, with annual US sales alone to exceed $2 billion. Patients seeking out these clinics run the risk of being treated by practitioners who may not have the experience or interest to diagnose the true underlying causes of their symptoms, which may include depression, diabetes, or other common chronic diseases. Testosterone therapy has also been linked with an increased risk for venous thromboembolism and myocardial infarction, among other adverse outcomes.

     Bradley D. Anawalt, MD, chief of medicine at the University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, and an expert in male reproductive endocrinology said, "It is helpful for men to know that daily exercise has many of the same benefits that are being advertised about testosterone therapy for 'low T,' including increased muscle and leanness, improved bone mass and strength, and for some men there is improved sexual function. 

      The fact that dental amalgam uses 50% metallic mercury content to bind silver, tin, and copper into a durable material commonly used in fillings may have come as a surprise to many
patients, who may be vaguely aware of mercury's role as a neurotoxin.  They fear that something theoretically deleterious for your health is being placed in their body.  It has led to the rise of amalgam filling removal clinics.

     According to Grant Ritchey, DDS, a dentist in private practice in Tonganoxie, Kansas, a contributor to the SBM blog, "If you have an amalgam filling, even if it's 20 or 30 years old, there is a small but measurable amount of mercury that's released by that filling every day. It is well, well below the threshold of safety, but you can measure it."

     Nevertheless, since the 1970s a growing movement attributes dental amalgam fillings to a wide variety of illnesses, from autism and multiple sclerosis to arthritis and Crohn disease. 

As a consequence, specialty amalgam removal clinics have formed to serve people who
believe their fillings are the source of their other health issues. 

     Ritchey said, "Some of what they do is science-based, but some of it is over the top. If they're making claims of curing disease or helping mitigate chronic illness, the evidence in the scientific literature does not support that at all."

    The American Dental Association still supports the continued use of dental amalgam. Nonetheless, dental amalgam use is falling globally, partly owing to continued fears and simple
cosmetic preferences for tooth-colored composite fillings. 

For the complete article follow  

Friday, February 3, 2017

Skeptical Climate Scientists Coming In From the Cold

      In the world of climate science, the skeptics are coming in from the cold. Researchers who see global warming as something less than a planet-ending calamity believe the incoming Trump administration may allow their views to be developed and heard. This didn’t happen under the Obama administration, which denied that a debate even existed. Now, some scientists say, a more inclusive approach – and the billions of federal dollars that might support it – could be in the offing.

      “Here’s to hoping the Age of Trump will herald the demise of climate change dogma, and acceptance of a broader range of perspectives in climate science and our policy options,” Georgia Tech scientist Judith Curry wrote this month at her popular Climate Etc. blog.

      William Happer, professor emeritus of physics at Princeton University and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, is similarly optimistic. “I think we’re making progress,” Happer said. “I see reassuring signs.”

      Despite harsh criticism of their contrarian views, a few scientists like Happer and Curry have pointed to evidence that global warming is less pronounced than predicted.