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Homologous recombinaltion tiniker (lol science reporting)

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  • FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Winky wrote: »
    Syrdon wrote: »
    Do you recall the short version of why they didn't like p-values? If not, no worries, just kinda curious.

    There isn't exactly a short version, but I'll try to quote/paraphrase a bit:
    The incidence of schizophrenia in adults is about 2%. A proposed screening test is estimated to have at least 95% accuracy in making the positive diagnosis and about 97% accuracy in declaring normality.

    With a positive test for schizophrenia, given the more than .95 accuracy of the test, your probability of a positive test when a patient is actually normal is less than .05, so p < .05. If you were to get a positive test you would reject the hypothesis that the patient is normal and conclude they have schizophrenia, but within .05 alpha error.

    However, that probability (.05) is not the probability of a person being normal when the test is positive. The actual probability of a false positive is 60%.

    Say we had 1,000 cases:

    Result
    Normal
    Schizo
    Total
    Negative test
    949
    1
    950
    Positive test
    30
    20
    50
    Total
    979
    21
    1,000

    You see, because we're saying that 95% chance of declaring someone who's schizo as schizo, so from the 21 schizos all but 1 will be properly declared. Then we have a 97% chance of declaring normal people normal, so from the 979 normals we'll declare 949 correctly and 30 incorrectly. We end up with a really high false-positive rate of 60%, which would be clearly unacceptable. The problem is that even though our confidence in the test is very high, the actual incidence of schizophrenia is very low.

    EDIT: Fixed the wording.

    The key here is the difference between the probability that the test will show that they're positive when the person is normal, and the probability that the person will be normal if the test shows that they're positive.

    This is actually a pretty big problem with a lot of medical tests. A good doctor will use such a test as a negative screen - in other words, testing positive doesn't necessarily mean you're sick, but testing negative is a pretty good indicator that you're healthy. It gets even weirder when you are looking at tests that measure antibodies, because antibodies indicate exposure, not necessarily active infection. (They may not even indicate direct exposure, in the cases of antibodies that can be transferred from the mother.) This is why we use two different tests for HIV.

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of situations where the results might be misinterpreted or miscommunicated. The care provider (physician or non-MD) might not understand the statistics, or might not remember them offhand, or the doctor may be concerned that telling the patient about false positives may lead to greater risk-taking behavior.

    In any case, this is particularly a problem for general screening of asymptomatic populations. If a patient is symptomatic, then the numbers change - we can presume, for instance, that the prevalence of schizophrenia among people experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia is a lot higher than 2%.

    This calls into question the usefulness of routine blood screening.

    BTW, there's also one other problem with comparing p-values to alpha. If the null hypothesis is true, and all we're studying is random noise with alpha of 5%, then we'd expect 1 out of 20 studies to demonstrate a false positive. Publication biases favor studies that show an effect over studies that do not show an effect, consequently, we can presume that there are quite a lot of false positives in the literature. This problem, and several similar problems, have been explored by a researcher named John Ionaddis.

    Ionaddis published an article in 2005 and came to the conclusion that there are more false articles published in major journals than true articles. I disagree with the severity of his conclusion, but not the principle of it. Much like Winky's hypothetical schizophrenia test, the likelihood of false positives in research is way too high. (Unfortunately, Ionaddis's research has been jumped on by pseudoscience cranks of all stripes to demonstrate that science doesn't really know anything, ignoring of course that this damns a lot of pseudoscientific thinking, too.)

    The way to get around this? Much like with HIV, the way to fix it is with retesting. There is not nearly enough respect given to replication - and we have to publish negative results, too. The likelihood of false positives drops dramatically with replication.
    Winky wrote:
    Essentially, the p value gives you the probability that you get your data given your hypothesis is false, when what you need is the probability that your hypothesis is false given your data.

    This is what Bayesian statistics attempts to do.

    I don't understand Bayesian methods enough to really comment on them.

    Feral on
    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.

    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
  • L|amaL|ama Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Bliss 101 wrote: »
    Robman wrote: »
    Most scientists don't understand statistics. They just enter their data into JMP or SigmaStat and hit ANOVA.

    And many of them don't even consider this a problem. I once had to listen to a speech by a fresh PhD who proudly proclaimed that she hadn't looked up what linear regression means until the day before her dissertation. Everything in her thesis rested on interpreting linear regression statistics. I can only hope someone double-checked her work.

    what the hell was her PhD in?

    L|ama on
  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    To be fair, the very interesting discussion on statistics that we just had is information I couldn't just tell you off by hand, and I'm doing a Ph D (plus, I don't do much hard data stuff at the moment because nothing is working as it should be). On the other hand, I am aware of both the existence of this field and it's importance and non-obvious nature, as well as a few of the common fallacies of statistics, which is, in my opinion, more then enough to go on when you're not immersed in the problem.

    electricitylikesme on
  • The CatThe Cat Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited April 2011
    L|ama wrote: »
    Bliss 101 wrote: »
    Robman wrote: »
    Most scientists don't understand statistics. They just enter their data into JMP or SigmaStat and hit ANOVA.

    And many of them don't even consider this a problem. I once had to listen to a speech by a fresh PhD who proudly proclaimed that she hadn't looked up what linear regression means until the day before her dissertation. Everything in her thesis rested on interpreting linear regression statistics. I can only hope someone double-checked her work.

    what the hell was her PhD in?

    Yeah shit, I'm not sure any series of linear regressions is enough to base a fucking PhD on. Maybe an honours project...

    I swear to god, the more I hear about academia the happier I am that I never went that way.

    Anyways, science reporting sucks even within popsci and specialist publications. Any academic expecting to be reported on accurately by a freaking broadsheet is hopelessly naive. I actually saw this happen to an aquaintance of mine a couple of months back, too. The series of facebook updates running from bragging to bewildered to furious was comedy gold.

    The Cat on
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  • Curly_BraceCurly_Brace Robot Girl Mimiga VillageRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I'd like to say two things:

    1. Feral is the best poster. This is a fact with science.

    2. God damn, humanity. It's been 50 friggin' years since we first went into space and we're still struggling with stuff like willful ignorance and massive science illiteracy? Dang people, get your act together!

    ...sorry, I just get so dang frustrated. Gotta rant sometimes.

    Curly_Brace on
  • RMS OceanicRMS Oceanic Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    A thread on poor science reporting? Time to post this!

    The man in this video is Doctor Ben Goldacre, and he has written an awesome book called Bad Science, which does a lot to make one aware of how pseudoscience concerning health & nutrition tries to disguise itself, among other things. I recommend it, along with his website of the same name.

    I would say part of the problem is people are used to having topics and issues condensed and summarised so they can digest it, but there are some concepts that cannot be similarly abridged without misrepresenting it. This doesn't mean they don't try to summarise it, and you end up with "Human DNA causes cancer".

    RMS Oceanic on
  • DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    You're mad about the last 50 years of scientific illiteracy?

    The most popular arguments against evolution are still the same ones as were around when Darwin first published his book on the subject (and debunked them in the book, too).

    DarkPrimus on
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  • Mr_RoseMr_Rose 83 Blue Ridge Protects the Holy Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    You're mad about the last 50 years of scientific illiteracy?

    The most popular arguments against evolution are still the same ones as were around when Darwin first published his book on the subject (and debunked them in the book, too).
    My favourite is when they claim that even Darwin said the eye couldn't have evolved in the Origin.
    Then they get upset when you point out that whoever told them this (because they clearly haven't actually read the source themselves) was lying to them.

    Mr_Rose on
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  • TastyfishTastyfish Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    It's a balance really, it would probably be easier to fix if there were stricter laws in place (or perhaps some) that allowed people to challenge a story if it isn't true and penalised the people reporting it in order to force them to properly research the story and fact check it.

    But then you'd probably just make things even more vague and erode away a lot of free speech rights.

    Probably some happy medium though, and if you could get it to work you'd probably improve a lot of political discourse as well by removing the more egregious bullshit that comes out.

    We could also probably do with a big drive to update the general scientific knowledge of the population as well - it seems like there has been a fairly big jump in what we can do (particularly medically, though that's probably just my bias coming in) but it does seem that the public understanding of it is still fairly heavy rooted in the 1960s. Probably aimed at improving the general level of science in the media (stricter limits on what adverts can say, perhaps with some money/airtime provided if they can add a bit of instruction/background as well)

    Tastyfish on
  • DiannaoChongDiannaoChong Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Mr_Rose wrote: »
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    You're mad about the last 50 years of scientific illiteracy?

    The most popular arguments against evolution are still the same ones as were around when Darwin first published his book on the subject (and debunked them in the book, too).
    My favourite is when they claim that even Darwin said the eye couldn't have evolved in the Origin.
    Then they get upset when you point out that whoever told them this (because they clearly haven't actually read the source themselves) was lying to them.

    I see this kind of thing often, usually there's backpedaling and "NOT UH" or "Maybe your source lied to you!". It never ends well becuase at that point you have just insulted their intelligence, and so they believe its legitimate recourse to do so back.

    DiannaoChong on
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  • Bliss 101Bliss 101 Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    The Cat wrote: »
    L|ama wrote: »
    Bliss 101 wrote: »
    Robman wrote: »
    Most scientists don't understand statistics. They just enter their data into JMP or SigmaStat and hit ANOVA.

    And many of them don't even consider this a problem. I once had to listen to a speech by a fresh PhD who proudly proclaimed that she hadn't looked up what linear regression means until the day before her dissertation. Everything in her thesis rested on interpreting linear regression statistics. I can only hope someone double-checked her work.

    what the hell was her PhD in?

    Yeah shit, I'm not sure any series of linear regressions is enough to base a fucking PhD on. Maybe an honours project...

    Medical genetics. For the most part the thesis was about determining which patients of a certain polygenic disease should be screened for mutations in certain genes, based on family history and clinical characteristics. I think they published some pretty good papers, even if the statistical analyses are pretty simple and straightforward. I'm just appalled she didn't know what she was doing.

    Bliss 101 on
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  • acidlacedpenguinacidlacedpenguin Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Any day now we should start seeing stories about how vaccines cause autism because Timecube.

    I'm just waiting to see the stories about how autism causes timecube vaccines.

    edit:
    ElJeffe wrote: »
    First: lol OP, five stars, would read again

    Second: My working hypothesis is that the problem stems from the fact that no casual consumer of news will pay attention to anything that requires more than a single sentence to explain. They will read more than a single sentence about a topic, but mostly for the sake of elaboration and exploring response to the article's topic. If the actual meat of the article cannot be explained in one single sentence that converts the reader into a layman's expert on the topic material, his eyes will glaze over and he will move on.

    (As a corollary to my hypothesis, I submit that nothing that can be completely explained in a single sentence is actually worth knowing.)

    And journalists know this. It's fine if your article is "Yankees Win World Series" or "Man Murders Five With Axe," and this kind of reporting is generally fine as long as nothing complicated happened. But if you're talking sciense, or politics, or economics, or just about anything more involved than basic human interest, you're boned. Because none of those things can be adequately explained in a single sentence. And yet the journalists will try to do it anyway, because if they don't nobody will read it. Moreover, since science reporting now consists of whatever you can get across in a sentence, there's no reason to bother learning how science works. Because all you'll be regurgitating is single-sentence bastardizations of whatever the scientist has to say. (And it doesn't help that your average scientist sucks at communicating their ideas to real people, since they're more accustomed to communicating with fellow scientists.)

    So we wind up with retarded monosyllabic approximations of scientific endeavors. And people, being people, will fill in the (many, many) holes in the journalists' explanations with their own understanding of how the world works. The dreaded common sense and conventional wisdom. So you get something like global warming reduced to "Humans are putting stuff in the air and it's making the climate change, and this could be really bad." This really explains nothing, and the holes will be filled in with the obvious facts that the Earth is huge and we are small and how can something small affect something huge, lol liberal alarmists QED.

    Basically, it's impossible, via mainstream media, to communicate anything to anyone that will actually inform them in a way that does not already conform with how they choose to view the world. And at this point, science reporting probably does more harm than good. I legitimately think that, the way media is currently constructed, we would see less harm if major outlets just never said anything about science ever. People would be ignorant, but at least it would be the more benign sort of ignorance whereby they just don't know things, rather than the malicious form we have now where people enthusiastically know wrong things.

    TL;DR

    could you sum that up in an attention grabbing twitter post?

    edit 2: electric bugaloo:

    just kidding, but that joke just gave me an amazing idea. . . I wonder what the result would be (at educating the twitter demographic, or at least reaching the twitter demographic) to write up thousands of basic science/math/stats/whatever facts into twitter sized morsels and them cross-tweet them against celebrities' twitter accounts. I'm not entirely versed with how twitter works but I'm thinking you could tag the tweets in such a way that there's a progression that can be followed and concepts that build on previous concepts could link back to them.
    My theory is that taking a scattergun approach with these concepts means that there might be a chance that some uneducated twitter user might accidentally stumble upon the concept of algebra while checking to see what flavor of alcohol Snooki had for breakfast that day and then accidentally learn something before they realized the tweets weren't talking about some new luxury clothing line or something.

    acidlacedpenguin on
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  • ElJeffeElJeffe Moderator, ClubPA mod
    edited April 2011
    just kidding, but that joke just gave me an amazing idea. . . I wonder what the result would be (at educating the twitter demographic, or at least reaching the twitter demographic) to write up thousands of basic science/math/stats/whatever facts into twitter sized morsels and them cross-tweet them against celebrities' twitter accounts. I'm not entirely versed with how twitter works but I'm thinking you could tag the tweets in such a way that there's a progression that can be followed and concepts that build on previous concepts could link back to them.
    My theory is that taking a scattergun approach with these concepts means that there might be a chance that some uneducated twitter user might accidentally stumble upon the concept of algebra while checking to see what flavor of alcohol Snooki had for breakfast that day and then accidentally learn something before they realized the tweets weren't talking about some new luxury clothing line or something.

    Well, that runs against my corollary that nothing expressible in a single sentence (or a Twitter post) is actually worth knowing.

    Including the sentence I just wrote.

    Also, I'd like to clarify that I don't mean to dis on scientists. Scientists are brilliant and necessary and whatnot, but communication skills atrophy when you don't use them often. And while I don't have much experience with scientists, per se, I have experience with lots of technical types - engineers, programmers, and the like - and they are, as a rule, horrible at communicating with laypeople. Because they rarely have a need to. Generally when you need to talk about something technical or complex, you're talking to someone who already knows the jargon and shorthand and has at least a modest grasp of the field you're discussing.

    Which is why I think, ideally, scientists should pretty much never talk to journalists. Ever. If there is a work going on that the public would be interested in, the task of talking to journalists should be handled by a dedicated PR rep that both understands the science going on and also knows specifically how to talk to laymen. Of course, this isn't always possible, but it would be nice. And the alternative is almost invariably going to be a horribly mangled semi-coherent interprabortion of the actual work being done.

    ElJeffe on
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  • surrealitychecksurrealitycheck lonely, but not unloved dreaming of faulty keys and latchesRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    It really does vary. Some of the people I know in the field of phylogenetics are incompetent human beings and cannot even talk to each other without serious communication issues.

    And some of the others are incredibly good at explaining things to others, laypeople or otherwise. It just depends. Having dealt a reasonable amount with journalists I would say more often than not the problem is not even in what they were told, it's what they wanted to be told in the first place.

    surrealitycheck on
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  • FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    just kidding, but that joke just gave me an amazing idea. . . I wonder what the result would be (at educating the twitter demographic, or at least reaching the twitter demographic) to write up thousands of basic science/math/stats/whatever facts into twitter sized morsels and them cross-tweet them against celebrities' twitter accounts. I'm not entirely versed with how twitter works but I'm thinking you could tag the tweets in such a way that there's a progression that can be followed and concepts that build on previous concepts could link back to them.

    This is a very interesting idea.

    /ponders

    Feral on
    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.

    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
  • ElJeffeElJeffe Moderator, ClubPA mod
    edited April 2011
    I see this kind of thing often, usually there's backpedaling and "NOT UH" or "Maybe your source lied to you!". It never ends well becuase at that point you have just insulted their intelligence, and so they believe its legitimate recourse to do so back.

    Honestly, there have been many times when I've been talking to such a person and just resorted to lying about the research I'd actually done, just because it's the only way to shut them up. I'll make up a specific study I "happened" to read a week ago discussing just this thing, what a coinkidink! Because it doesn't much matter that I know from inference and from reading reliable second-hand sources that a fact is true. And certainly if I just applied basic logic and did some math in my head to arrive at a conclusion, that doesn't hold a candle to what some guy heard from Rush Limbaugh or a pop-science article from US Weekly.

    Usually it at least shuts the person up, even if it doesn't entirely convince them.

    I am not entirely proud of this, mind you, but it's very therapeutic getting some random ignoramus to stop humping his retarded "science" article for a few minutes.

    ElJeffe on
    Maddie: "I named my feet. The left one is flip and the right one is flop. Oh, and also I named my flip-flops."
  • ElJeffeElJeffe Moderator, ClubPA mod
    edited April 2011
    It really does vary. Some of the people I know in the field of phylogenetics are incompetent human beings and cannot even talk to each other without serious communication issues.

    And some of the others are incredibly good at explaining things to others, laypeople or otherwise. It just depends. Having dealt a reasonable amount with journalists I would say more often than not the problem is not even in what they were told, it's what they wanted to be told in the first place.

    Yeah, that's another problem, and no amount of education can cure the media's desire to make everything sound exciting, even at the expense of completely abandoning the truth in order to do so.

    ElJeffe on
    Maddie: "I named my feet. The left one is flip and the right one is flop. Oh, and also I named my flip-flops."
  • SyrdonSyrdon Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    could you sum that up in an attention grabbing twitter post?
    I know I'm going to regret this, but on some level its a worthwhile thing to try (on the theory that if you can't pick out the most important portions of your idea and put it into a sentence or paragraph that you don't actually understand your idea (say, well enough to write an abstract)).
    "Journalists will try to explain complex subjects in a single sentence, because if they don't nobody will read it. Readers will fill in the holes with "common sense", and so they end up sure of things that are wrong." Its about 210 characters and I don't think it can be condensed down beyond that without actually losing a portion of the process (and, in fairness, I'm fairly certain I'm already skipping steps and hoping people follow anyway).
    I wonder what the result would be (at educating the twitter demographic, or at least reaching the twitter demographic) to write up thousands of basic science/math/stats/whatever facts into twitter sized morsels ...
    My theory is that taking a scattergun approach with these concepts means that there might be a chance that some uneducated twitter user might accidentally stumble upon the concept of algebra ... and then accidentally learn something ...
    I think its a worthwhile task, but that its doomed to failure unless you're much smarter than I am. Unfortunately, I think it hits the key problem in the interaction between the general public and the scientific community. There's a big knowledge gap, and in order for it to get bridged one side is going to need to meet the other side where they are and help them over the gap. Unfortunately, that does mean Twitter and Facebook for a depressingly large portion of the population (although you might be able to get away with linking to very short articles). It also means that you need to come up with a way to consistently bring up clear ideas in probably not more than 500 characters. On the upside, that's probably doable.

    edit: You won't be able to discuss serious science this way. But, with a lot of luck (and I would hope a Noble Prize, because you'll have earned it), you'll be able to get people to the point where they recognize when the science reporting is unreasonable or wrong. Along the way you'll probably need to run through a basic course in common statistics fallacies, which should make advertising amusing after you pull it off.

    Syrdon on
  • acidlacedpenguinacidlacedpenguin Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    ElJeffe wrote: »
    just kidding, but that joke just gave me an amazing idea. . . I wonder what the result would be (at educating the twitter demographic, or at least reaching the twitter demographic) to write up thousands of basic science/math/stats/whatever facts into twitter sized morsels and them cross-tweet them against celebrities' twitter accounts. I'm not entirely versed with how twitter works but I'm thinking you could tag the tweets in such a way that there's a progression that can be followed and concepts that build on previous concepts could link back to them.
    My theory is that taking a scattergun approach with these concepts means that there might be a chance that some uneducated twitter user might accidentally stumble upon the concept of algebra while checking to see what flavor of alcohol Snooki had for breakfast that day and then accidentally learn something before they realized the tweets weren't talking about some new luxury clothing line or something.

    Well, that runs against my corollary that nothing expressible in a single sentence (or a Twitter post) is actually worth knowing.

    Including the sentence I just wrote.

    Also, I'd like to clarify that I don't mean to dis on scientists. Scientists are brilliant and necessary and whatnot, but communication skills atrophy when you don't use them often. And while I don't have much experience with scientists, per se, I have experience with lots of technical types - engineers, programmers, and the like - and they are, as a rule, horrible at communicating with laypeople. Because they rarely have a need to. Generally when you need to talk about something technical or complex, you're talking to someone who already knows the jargon and shorthand and has at least a modest grasp of the field you're discussing.

    Which is why I think, ideally, scientists should pretty much never talk to journalists. Ever. If there is a work going on that the public would be interested in, the task of talking to journalists should be handled by a dedicated PR rep that both understands the science going on and also knows specifically how to talk to laymen. Of course, this isn't always possible, but it would be nice. And the alternative is almost invariably going to be a horribly mangled semi-coherent interprabortion of the actual work being done.

    hrm, I see what you mean about the idea being against your theory, or at least as I've worded it. I think I agree with your idea that something of value cannot be contained within a single sentence (sorry if my paraphrase is weak), but I guess what I'm wondering is whether it is possible to decompile a complex concept (which, like you said cannot be described in a single sentence) into a series of simple facts which are described by a single sentence. The hypothetical science tweet-train in my idea would have to be made up of those decompiled facts.

    also, I agree that the sciences need to have some sort of human-scientist chimera whose sole purpose is to translate from science to layman (or the reverse) just to avoid boondoggles such as these. Is there even a field of higher education where one could study for this role or are the sciences just too varied to allow for it? I know there's business programs but there seems to be more of a focus on translating upper-management to/from bean-counter or business speak to the media.

    acidlacedpenguin on
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  • SyrdonSyrdon Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    You'd probably want a mix of a hard science degree (or several depending on how broad you want to get), some equivalent of a communications or maybe english degree and some background in business. Basically, take whatever the basis of a career in PR is and add a whole lot of science to it. Or, alternately, get a hard science degree and then offer to be the one in your department who takes all the interviews and then spend some time at a local campus having business and english majors submit one paragraph summations of your talks along with some sort of review as to where you lost them. If you're doing this at a university, you might be able to get that instituted as an actual class to fulfill some sort of science requirement (which, if you make passing easy enough, will get you exactly the audience you want (people with no interest in science or learning about it)).

    Syrdon on
  • MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Syrdon wrote: »
    could you sum that up in an attention grabbing twitter post?
    I know I'm going to regret this, but on some level its a worthwhile thing to try (on the theory that if you can't pick out the most important portions of your idea and put it into a sentence or paragraph that you don't actually understand your idea (say, well enough to write an abstract)).
    "Journalists will try to explain complex subjects in a single sentence, because if they don't nobody will read it. Readers will fill in the holes with "common sense", and so they end up sure of things that are wrong." Its about 210 characters and I don't think it can be condensed down beyond that without actually losing a portion of the process (and, in fairness, I'm fairly certain I'm already skipping steps and hoping people follow anyway).
    I wonder what the result would be (at educating the twitter demographic, or at least reaching the twitter demographic) to write up thousands of basic science/math/stats/whatever facts into twitter sized morsels ...
    My theory is that taking a scattergun approach with these concepts means that there might be a chance that some uneducated twitter user might accidentally stumble upon the concept of algebra ... and then accidentally learn something ...
    I think its a worthwhile task, but that its doomed to failure unless you're much smarter than I am. Unfortunately, I think it hits the key problem in the interaction between the general public and the scientific community. There's a big knowledge gap, and in order for it to get bridged one side is going to need to meet the other side where they are and help them over the gap. Unfortunately, that does mean Twitter and Facebook for a depressingly large portion of the population (although you might be able to get away with linking to very short articles). It also means that you need to come up with a way to consistently bring up clear ideas in probably not more than 500 characters. On the upside, that's probably doable.

    edit: You won't be able to discuss serious science this way. But, with a lot of luck (and I would hope a Noble Prize, because you'll have earned it), you'll be able to get people to the point where they recognize when the science reporting is unreasonable or wrong. Along the way you'll probably need to run through a basic course in common statistics fallacies, which should make advertising amusing after you pull it off.

    "Journalists invite misinformation by simplifying complex science into simple sentences."

    I should be a science journalist.

    MKR on
  • acidlacedpenguinacidlacedpenguin Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    *just took this from the edit I was about to post before Syrdon beat me to the punch

    I think you've hit on precisely why this little idea is pretty much worthwhile only as a thought experiment to pass the time at work because I know myself that I don't know enough science to get away with building this into a study from which further hypothesis, conclusions, and recommendations can be drawn.

    Since you have gone through the trouble of doing the coles notes of that post, I would think my tweet-train would then be something like this:

    @kesha Journalists will try to explain complex subjects in a single sentence, because if they don't nobody will read it... *link to next tweet here* #learnscience!
    @Morgan-Freeman *linkback*...Readers will fill in the holes with "common sense", and so they end up sure of things that are wrong. #learnscience!

    I think at this point it's probably painfully obvious that I've only ever seen like 2 twitter posts in my life. The issue would be that for anything worthwhile it would take far too many twattings to be useful.
    Though it would still make for a very entertaining few days while people try to figure out wtf is going on with all the random science facts relentlessly assaulting the twitters.

    * end edit

    see I think that's why it seems to be difficult to find these "PR scientists." It seems like a person who could accurately do the job either a) just happens to be naturally good at doing the job or b) just happens to have decided to take an insanely specific and customized approach to their post secondary education where pretty much the only application of said education is in doing this one job.
    I guess it's not that big of a deal, but I think having some exposure either with it being an advertisable, certified diploma or degree program would make it easier to find people capable of doing it. It's sort of like how my brother studied to become a dispensing optician-- I didn't even know that was even something a person could pick as an education path until he just happened to get a job at a sunglass hut and it just happened to be the most efficient promotion path.

    acidlacedpenguin on
    GT: Acidboogie PSNid: AcidLacedPenguiN
  • FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    see I think that's why it seems to be difficult to find these "PR scientists."

    They're not difficult to find at all. Neil Tyson, PZ Myers... for that matter, about half of the authors on scienceblogs.com.

    It doesn't matter, because the root of the problem is that accuracy is no longer a cardinal goal of mainstream journalism.

    Feral on
    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.

    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
  • VishNubVishNub Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    This is actually my mother's job, more or less. She's director of communications for the office of research for a major university. She spends large portions of her time trying to get scientists with potentially interesting/important work to explain what they do so that her office can communicate it in their publications.

    Which isn't quite CBS journalism, but its the same idea. I like to think she does a good job, despite having very little hard training in science. I think she sometimes gets caught up in hype, but that may just be my narrow little scientist mind shitting on everything else.

    I pretty much exclusively read the Nature and Science news items, and they mostly do a good job, and when they don't there's usually an editorial the next week saying so.

    VishNub on
  • RobmanRobman Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    There's an interesting idea out there that scientists have a duty to direct the dissemination of their ideas to the public - doing things like writing wiki articles to explain their work in an approachable manner, and doing interviews with the radio etc.

    Robman on
  • L|amaL|ama Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I tried explaining one of my undergraduate computer labs to someone with no knowledge of physics or maths beyond algebra the other day

    it's uh

    it's very hard to even explain the problem I was solving, let alone the method to solve it

    you've basically got to educate people in every field that your knowledge of it is built on in like a minute, I'm not sure that it's really possible without a very well informed public

    L|ama on
  • Jealous DevaJealous Deva Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    So, MSNBC has a headline on the main page that says: "Media Overload Driving Kids to Distraction? Young people spend at least seven-and-a-half hours a day with computers, cell phones, TV or music. Is it creating more cases of ADD?"


    It leads to this article and news segment:



    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42557051/ns/nightly_news/




    *Facepalm*


    Edit: For the TLDR, the link is actually about how imaging studies have shown the brains of teenagers may actually be more developed in certain areas involving multi-tasking than those of older adults.

    Jealous Deva on
  • FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    For the TLDR, the link is actually about how imaging studies have shown the brains of teenagers may actually be more developed in certain areas involving multi-tasking than those of older adults.

    Bleghk.

    BTW, this reminds me of some of the recent research that showed evidence that people are more likely to believe a fictitious study if it includes some fancy pictures of brain scans: http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2008/06/whats_more_convincing_than_tal.php

    Feral on
    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.

    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
  • ElJeffeElJeffe Moderator, ClubPA mod
    edited April 2011
    Feral wrote: »
    For the TLDR, the link is actually about how imaging studies have shown the brains of teenagers may actually be more developed in certain areas involving multi-tasking than those of older adults.

    Bleghk.

    BTW, this reminds me of some of the recent research that showed evidence that people are more likely to believe a fictitious study if it includes some fancy pictures of brain scans: http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2008/06/whats_more_convincing_than_tal.php

    This doesn't surprise me at all.

    And it only kind of depresses me. I mean, most people are aided in learning by visual aides. You show them a bunch of text, or blather words at them, and some of it will get through. But you show them a picture, and suddenly it helps illustrate some concept. And I think most people are aware of this, too.

    And subconsciously, maybe people correlate the use of pictures with higher-quality explanations, because they recall learning more when they were given visuals to go along with the discussions.

    I know that whenever I've been tasked to write up a report for non-techie folks, I've been reminded to stick an image on every page. Doesn't even matter what it's an image of, just stick a picture on there. Because people pay more attention when you give them pretty pictures. So every report I've written for air force brass has been populated with pictures of jets taking off and air force bases and random shit that generally had fuck-all to do with anything, but the reports were always well received because oooooh, pretty!

    Honestly, I bet you could've swapped out the brain pics in those studies with pictures of almost anything and it would've yielded the same results.

    "We have done studies on brain activity. Here is a picture of tits."

    "I feel something rising! It must be my level of knowledge!

    ElJeffe on
    Maddie: "I named my feet. The left one is flip and the right one is flop. Oh, and also I named my flip-flops."
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