Monday, October 28, 2013

Your daily dose of science!

I thought I'd share a few awesome science posts I've found over the last few days...

An enthusiast's primer on study types. Curious what is means when something is a cohort study or what a good before and after study should be? Take a look at this post on Skeptoid!

This is a great analysis of the alkaline water phenomenon and what it actually means for our bodies  from my alma mater, Simon Fraser University.

Dr Joe Schwarcz discusses the discredited paraben study that has everyone worried about this preservative.

1 comment:

Alexis said...

I appreciate the links to sites that support good scientific practices.

I'd like to add:

Many people seem to treat scientific studies like mathematical proofs - They found x, y ,z in study A; therefore x, y, z is a universal truth. But studies do not work that way!

Regardless of the type of study, they are all based on the collection of data, and data collection is mostly an empirical endeavor that is guided by deductive practices (in theory!). The analysis of data collection is governed by statistics (hopefully!), which employs probability theory to make highly informed decisions about the data. Studies only suggest the likelihood of what the data might mean only if the study was done correctly at every stage. There is so much room for human error (and ego) to affect any given study that study findings should always be held with healthy skepticism.

Mathematical proofs are deductive in nature. They are written and described using logic. For mathematics, it does not matter how much "data" (a.k.a. examples) are collected, it proves nothing unless a true mathematical proof can be expressed to represent the conjecture (empirical question) at hand. It is important to note that mathematicians can take an empirically derived question and determine whether or not it can be proved true, false or undetermined through the use of logic.

In other words, a person can scrutinize any scientific study and may be able to finds grounds for debunking it. For a person to debunk an accepted, well established proof, s/he would have to find a valid counterexample or find logical flaws in the proof that went undetected, which would be quite a feat indeed.

As a humorous side note, studies show people often fail to realize a proof definitively shows a mathematical truth and will do countless examples to "prove" it true to themselves. %-P