Blog Archives

Timid medical research

Cancer research is sometimes criticized for being timid. Drug companies run enormous trials looking for small improvements. Critics say they should run smaller trials and more of them. Which side is correct depends on what’s out there waiting to be

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Posted in Science, Statistics

Some fields produce more false results than others

John Ioannidis stirred up a healthy debate when he published Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. Unfortunately, most of the discussion has been over whether the word “most” is correct, i.e. whether the proportion of false results is more

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Posted in Science, Statistics

Techniques, discoveries, and ideas

“Progress in science depends on new techniques, new discoveries, and new ideas, probably in that order.” — Sidney Brenner I’m not sure whether I agree with Brenner’s quote, but I find it interesting. You could argue that techniques are most

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Academic freedom

This tweet from Luis Pedro Coelho says so much in 140 characters: “Oh, the intellectual freedom of academia” he thought while filling out a time sheet which checks that he does not work on non-grant science.

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NYT Book of Physics and Astronomy

I’ve enjoyed reading The New York Times Book of Physics and Astronomy, a collection of 129 articles written between 1888 and 2012. Its been much more interesting than its mathematical predecessor. I’m not objective — I have more to learn

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Posted in Science

Continuous quantum

David Tong argues that quantum mechanics is ultimately continuous, not discrete. In other words, integers are not inputs of the theory, as Bohr thought. They are outputs. The integers are an example of what physicists call an emergent quantity. In

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Pure math and physics

From Paul Dirac, 1938: Pure mathematics and physics are becoming ever more closely connected, though their methods remain different. One may describe the situation by saying that the mathematician plays a game in which he himself invents the rules while

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Posted in Math, Science

Playful and purposeful, pure and applied

From Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid camera: … applied science, purposeful and determined, and pure science, playful and freely curious, continuously support and stimulate each other. The great nation of the future will be the one which protects the

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Posted in Creativity, Science

How to double science research

Scientists spend 40% of their time chasing grants according to some estimates. Suppose they spend 20% of their time doing something else, such as teaching. That means they spend no more than 40% of their time doing research. If universities

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How mathematicians see physics

From the preface to Physics for Mathematicians: In addition to presenting the advanced physics, which mathematicians find so easy, I also want to explore the workings of elementary physics, and mysterious maneuvers — which physicists seem to find so natural

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Posted in Math, Science

History of weather prediction

I’ve just started reading Invisible in the Storm: The Role of Mathematics in Understanding Weather. The subtitle may be a little misleading. There is a fair amount of math in the book, but the ratio of history to math is

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Posted in Math, Science

Are tweets more accurate than science papers?

John Myles White brings up an interesting question on Twitter: Ioannidis thinks most published biological research findings are false. Do you think >50% of tweets are false? I’m inclined to think tweets may be more accurate than research papers, mostly

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Sun, milk, red meat, and least-squares

I thought this tweet from @WoodyOsher was pretty funny. Everything our parents said was good is bad. Sun, milk, red meat … the least-squares method. I wouldn’t say these things are bad, but they are now viewed more critically than

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Posted in Statistics

Personalized medicine

When I hear someone say “personalized medicine” I want to ask “as opposed to what?” All medicine is personalized. If you are in an emergency room with a broken leg and the person next to you is lapsing into a

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Posted in Clinical trials, Science, Statistics

Cancer moon shots

M. D. Anderson Cancer Center announced a $3 billion research program today aimed at six specific forms of cancer. Acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome (AML and MDS) Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) Lung cancer Melanoma Prostate cancer Triple negative breast

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