You probably know Edward Anthony Jenner (1749-1823), he was an English scientist that observed that farmers who caught cowpox (a disease similar to smallpox but much less virulent) while working with cows were known not to catch smallpox, and he thought there had to be a causal connection. He developed a theory, and he tested it, and he was right, in fact, he developed the smallpox vaccine (the first successful vaccine).
He was a scientist, and he was clever, and his theory is the product of his intelligent use of the scientific method.
He saved human lives, a lot.
"What evidence is there that all of it isn’t wrong?"
12:25 pm • 15 January 2012 • 94 notes
Long term progression of changing global surface temperatures anomalies (1888-2008) and Global land-ocean temperature index (1880-2010). (via NASA/2)
5:11 pm • 5 January 2012 • 1,074 notes
“[…] research findings about sex differences have been distorted and exploited by nonscientists to an extraordinary degree—perhaps second only to research on weight loss. Beginning with the wildly popular 1992 book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, public discourse has been saturated with faulty factoids about men, women, boys, and girls that have settled deeply into society’s collective understanding of gender roles. From education and parenting to corporate leadership and marital harmony, so-called scientific findings about the male and female brain have been used to validate various stereotypical practices that are discriminatory to both sexes.”
The Trouble with Sex Differences (2011) by Lise Eliot
[…] popular portrayals of sex differences in the brain are riddled with claims that are highly extrapolated, misinterpreted, or just made up but are nonetheless used to justify the differential treatment of boys and girls in school or men and women in the workplace. If educators or corporate consultants extolled similar stories about neural differences between blacks and whites, scientists would be quick to expose their flaws. Somehow, exaggerated claims about sex differences are more culturally acceptable, but the misuse of research to validate stereotypes of any sort is dangerous, so neuroscientists need to exert more care in presenting the true magnitude and multiple causes of sex differences in the brain and behavior. […]
The notion that sex differences in the brain, because they are biological, are necessarily innate or fixed is perhaps the most insidious of the many public misunderstandings on this topic. Neuroscientists know that, in the absence of proof of genetic or hormonal influence, any sex difference in adult neural structure or function could be shaped through experience, practice, and neural plasticity. […]
12:06 pm • 4 January 2012 • 242 notes
Physicists Seek To Lose The Lecture As Teaching Tool
[…] lecturing has never been an effective teaching technique and now that information is everywhere, some say it’s a waste of time. Indeed, physicists have the data to prove it.
I’m glad physicists now realize (or, as the article says, they now have the “hard data”, except that these data are not that hard, neither are the techniques used to collect those data) of something that psychologists and educators have known for a long time.
11:11 am • 2 January 2012 • 88 notes
Why do women menstruate?
[…] as many women can tell you, it’s uncomfortable, awkward, and sometimes debilitating. So why, evolution, why?
One assumption some people might make is that that is just the way mammalian reproduction works. This isn’t true! Most mammals do not menstruate […] Of the mammals, only most primates, a few bats, and elephant shrews are among the lucky animals that menstruate […]
4:35 pm • 29 December 2011 • 339 notes
Sex and advertising.
"You would be amazed to find how often we mislead ourselves, regardless of how smart we think we are, when we attempt to explain why we are behaving the way we do"
The story of how Ernest Dichter, a Viennese psychologist, revolutionised marketing.
12:23 am • 29 December 2011 • 74 notes
Pharmacists routinely misinform young women about whether they can get emergency contraception
Researchers posing as 17-year-old women called pharmacies around the country to ask about getting EC. First off, nearly 20% of the callers were told straight-up that they couldn’t get EC that day–whether because it wasn’t in stock or they didn’t want to give it out or maybe the person who answered the phone hadn’t been trained yet. Regardless, tough luck for the caller who’d really, really like to try to avoid getting pregnant ASAP. Once the callers revealed their age, almost 20% of pharmacies claimed that 17-year-olds could not get the drug–despite the fact that, um, they damn well can. Furthermore, the study found that women in poorer neighborhoods were more than 60% more likely to be misinformed than those in more affluent neighborhoods.
So, young women are getting screwed; poor women are getting screwed. […]
6:30 pm • 23 December 2011 • 139 notes
The 27 Club: Are Famous 27-Year-Old Musicians at Risk?
You know the story of the “27 club” right? The club composed of famous musicians who supposedly died all at the age of 27. A paper recently published on BMJ explored if this is something real, if there is really a higher risk for famous musician to die at 27.
The 27 club is unlikely to be a real phenomenon. Fame may increase the risk of death among musicians, but this risk is not limited to age 27. (via)
The researchers found that there was no peak in the risk of death for famous musicians at the age of 27. […] Let’s just say that the risk was much higher after the age of 60 than at the age of 27. (via)
8:21 am • 22 December 2011 • 36 notes
Retraction by reason of insanity?
The interesting story of Jay Traver, an entomologist who in 1951 published a paper about
"a mite infestation of her scalp that resisted all treatment and was undetectable to anyone other than herself […]
It is perhaps one of the most remarkable scientific papers ever published, not, as it turns out, because of the startling new discovery, but because the Professor had never been infected by parasites.
The bugs were hallucinated, the infestation a delusion and Traver was suffering from a mental illness.
Known as delusional parasitosis the condition consists of the usually focused delusion that the person is infected by parasites that crawl under the skin and which remain present in the surrounding environment. […]”
via Retraction Watch.
6:06 pm • 21 December 2011 • 29 notes
“The first two Earth-sized exoplanets found by Kepler are shown here in comparison to Earth and Venus. Kepler-20e has a diameter of 6,900 miles, meaning it is 0.87 times the size of Earth and 0.92 times the size of Venus. Kepler-20f has a diameter of 8,200 miles, meaning it is only 3 percent larger than Earth. They are part of a five-planet system orbiting the star Kepler-20. All five would fit within the orbit of Mercury in our solar system.” —From Harvard
7:49 pm • 20 December 2011 • 533 notes