Monday, November 30, 2009

The plural of anecdote is data

From askville (Amazon) Nelson W. Polsby PS, Vol. 17, No. 4. (Autumn, 1984), pp. 778-781. Pg. 779: Raymond Wolfinger's brilliant aphorism "the plural of anecdote is data" never inspired a better or more skilled researcher.

I e-mailed Wolfinger last year and got the following response from him:

"I said 'The plural of anecdote is data' some time in the 1969-70 academic year while teaching a graduate seminar at Stanford.

The occasion was a student's dismissal of a simple factual statement--by another student or me--as a mere anecdote. The quotation was my rejoinder.

Since then I have missed few opportunities to quote myself. The only appearance in print that I can remember is Nelson Polsby's accurate quotation and attribution in an article in PS: Political Science and Politics in 1993; I believe it was in the first issue of the year."
I also e-mailed Polsby, who didn't know of any early printed occurrences.
What is interesting about this saying is that it seems to have morphed into its opposite -- "Data is not the plural of anecdote" -- in some people's minds. Mark Mandel used it in this opposite sense in a private e-mail to me, for example.
Fred Shapiro

From MPC Publog -

The Plural of Anecdote is Data
Perhaps the most memorable quote of the STM meeting was dropped by MIT Sloan School of Management Economist Erik Brynjolfsson, who directs the Center for Digital Business. (It turns out the quote is attributable to Berkeley Political Scientist Raymond Wolfinger, who apparently coined it in the 60s or 70s. Lots of people quote its opposite [The plural of anecdote is NOT data] and try to attribute the source of that quote...Isn't Google great for trivia questions?)

See also (using

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The world as you've never seen it before

Worldmapper: All kinds of maps to peruse.

Strange as it may be, cancer, cancer deaths, or even cause of deaths is missing from the statistics there.

More random science

'Fly Paper' Created to Capture Circulating Cancer Cells

ScienceDaily (Nov. 19, 2009) — Just as fly paper captures insects, an innovative new device with nano-sized features developed by researchers at UCLA is able to grab cancer cells in the blood that have broken off from a tumor.

These cells, known as circulating tumor cells, or CTCs, can provide critical information for examining and diagnosing cancer metastasis, determining patient prognosis, and monitoring the effectiveness of therapies.

Metastasis -- the most common cause of cancer-related death in patients with solid tumors -- is caused by marauding tumor cells that leave the primary tumor site and ride in the bloodstream to set up colonies in other parts of the body.

The current gold standard for examining the disease status of tumors is an analysis of metastatic solid biopsy samples, but in the early stages of metastasis, it is often difficult to identify a biopsy site. By capturing CTCs, doctors can essentially perform a "liquid" biopsy, allowing for early detection and diagnosis, as well as improved treatment monitoring.

To date, several methods have been developed to track these cells, but the UCLA team's novel "fly paper" approach may be faster and cheaper than others -- and it appears to capture far more CTCs.

Surprising stats about kids and injury and death

Some of the facts about sports and recreational injury may surprise you. For example, when we hear about sports injury, many of us immediately think of contact sports like football. While these sports are associated with higher injury rates, injuries from recreational activities and individual sports are more likely to be severe when they occur. Incidence of injury also varies by age group: young children (ages 5 to 9) are more likely to sustain playground- and bicycle-related injuries, while older children are more likely to suffer from bicycle- and sports-related injuries and overexertion. 

Injury risks by activity:

·        Baseball has the highest fatality rate among all sports for children ages 5 to 14. Each year, three to four children die from baseball-related injuries.

·    Gymnastics-related injuries caused more than 21,200 children ages 5 to 14 to be treated in hospital emergency rooms in 2002.  

·        In 2001, 134 children ages 14 and under died in bicycle-related crashes. 

·        Since 1992, at least 87 children ages 14 and under have died from inline skating injuries.  The majority of these deaths were from collisions with motor vehicles. 

·       Each year, nearly 20 children ages 14 and under die from playground-related injuries. 

·        In 2001, more than 74,500 children ages 14 and under were treated in hospital emergency rooms for trampoline-related injuries.

·      More than 51,300 children ages 14 and under were treated in hospital emergency rooms for unpowered scooter-related injuries in 2002. Since 2001, at least 10 children ages 14 and under have died as a result of this type of injury.

·     In 2002, at least 44 children ages 14 and under died and nearly 20,300 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for ATV-related injuries.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Peanut allergy, Calomel and Thalidimide

A brief bit of original thought here. Peanuts, Calomel and Thalidomide all have something in common it seems.

Animal testing will not show the effects they can have on children, or a developing fetus.

Large studies also would miss the possible fatal consequence of these substances on children, that have an allergic reaction to them.

This is one of the blind spots of modern science.  All the double blind testing in the world may not reveal what will actually happen when human children are exposed to something that may harm them.

The Hygiene and the pool chlorine hypothesis

Worms, Chili Peppers and Cancer

Helminthic Therapy (it means using worms to treat disease)

OK that is just unexpected.  A recent House episode used this as part of the story.

Capsaicin, the active ingredient in peppers, kills cancer cells. 

PubMed (many many studies there)
Now a new treatment involving resiniferitoxin's cousin, capsaicin, is showing promise in killing tumor cells.
Yes, Chillies kill cancer cells.
This isn't even News.

Chili peppers have many uses.

Fantastic Thalidomide Blog entry

What is Thalidomide

Thalidomide was one of the greatest cases in history of a drug disaster tragedy being caused by animal research.

First of all, Thalidomide had been tested on animals extensively prior to its marketing.

Even now, despite the clinical evidence to the contrary, British health authorities like the Medical Research Council maintain that the vast bulk of evidence from laboratory and animal tests is against thalidomide having any genetic effects.

The tragedy caused by Thalidomide in the 1960s was due to its teratogenic effects, ie effects on the foetus. Teratological effects of drugs were little known then. They were brought to public attention because of the Thalidomide tragedy on humans, therefore only after it. How on earth could animal researchers have thought of those effects before the disaster?

Even after the Thalidomide caused birth deformities in humans, researchers tried to reproduce the same effect in dozens of species of lab animals without success.

Reporting is science

From scientificblogging
...there are three forms of news communication: Reporting; journalism and opinion.
Reporting is stenography -- "here's what happened, here's what was said."

Journalism is interpretation -- "here's what happened, here's what was said, here's what it probably means."

Opinion is verdict -- "here's what I think happened, here's what I think was meant by what was said, here's what I believe it to me."

Print news must learn to teach its customers the differences between these phases.
And what, some of you are wondering, does any of this have to do with science?

Reporting is science: the careful observation and recording of the event.
Journalism is hypothesis.
Opinion is entertainment.

More about Pink disease

Pink disease (acrodynia, erythredema), named because of the skin colour of the sufferers, was once a serious disease of infants and young children. It appeared in the western world about the turn of the 20th century, particularly in English-speaking countries. Babies turned bright pink and became ill, intolerant to light, lost their appetites, and became utterly miserable, often rejecting even their mothers. Some lost fingers and toes from gangrene and, on average, 7% of sufferers died.

A random selection of science based stories from the Internet

PARIS: Slowing population growth would help battle global warming, says an unprecedented U.N. report that links demographic pressure and climate change.
"Slower population growth... would help build social resilience to climate change's impacts and would contribute to a reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions in the future," the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) says.

Plants may not have eyes and ears, but they can recognize their siblings, and researchers at the University of Delaware have discovered how.
The ID system lies in the roots and the chemical cues they secrete.
The finding not only sheds light on the intriguing sensing system in plants, but also may have implications for agriculture and even home gardening.
The study, which is reported in the scientific journal Communicative & Integrative Biology, was led by Harsh Bais, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences at the University of Delaware.

Braking News: Particles from Car Brakes Harm Lung Cells

ScienceDaily (Nov. 20, 2009) — Real-life particles released by car brake pads can harm lung cells in vitro. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Particle and Fibre Toxicology found that heavy braking, as in an emergency stop, caused the most damage, but normal breaking and even close proximity to a disengaged brake resulted in potentially dangerous cellular stress.

Solving the 50-Year-Old Puzzle of Thalidomide

ScienceDaily (Nov. 20, 2009) — Research into the controversial drug thalidomide reveals that the mechanism through which the drug causes limb defects is the same process which causes it to damage internal organs and other tissues. The article, published in Bio-Essays, outlines the challenges surrounding thalidomide research and claims that confirmation of a 'common mechanism' could lead to new treatments for Leprosy, Crohn's Disease, AIDS and some forms of cancer.

Birth of New Species Witnessed by Scientists

On one of the Galapagos islands whose finches shaped the theories of a young Charles Darwin, biologists have witnessed that elusive moment when a single species splits in two.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Counting by countries

Back on September 22, 2009, I mentioned the new flag counter, and the numbers.

Here is the current stats from the new counter.

The second counter confirms that it isn't search engines hitting this blog.  It must be real people.

What is up with that?

46 different countries have visited this site!

CountryVisitorsLast New Visitor
1.United States1,197November 16, 2009
2.Canada54November 15, 2009
3.United Kingdom29November 15, 2009
4.Mexico12November 9, 2009
5.Australia11November 12, 2009
6.India9November 4, 2009
7.Turkey7November 8, 2009
8.Philippines5November 15, 2009
9.Ireland5November 9, 2009
10.Indonesia4November 14, 2009
11.Iran, Islamic Republic of4November 13, 2009
12.Korea, Republic of3November 8, 2009
13.Germany3November 6, 2009
14.Saudi Arabia3October 2, 2009
15.Zambia3September 20, 2009
16.Netherlands2November 16, 2009
17.Egypt2November 13, 2009
18.Finland2November 12, 2009
19.Italy2November 12, 2009
20.Nigeria2November 10, 2009
21.Malaysia2November 9, 2009
22.Singapore2October 29, 2009
23.Norway2October 27, 2009
24.Virgin Islands, U.S.2October 23, 2009
25.Ghana2September 30, 2009
26.South Africa2September 12, 2009
27.Unknown - Satellite Provider1November 11, 2009
28.Russian Federation1November 5, 2009
29.New Zealand1November 3, 2009
30.Romania1November 3, 2009
31.Austria1November 2, 2009
32.Colombia1November 1, 2009
33.Sri Lanka1October 22, 2009
34.Jordan1October 20, 2009
35.Serbia1October 16, 2009
36.Taiwan1October 15, 2009
37.Rwanda1October 14, 2009
38.Puerto Rico1October 6, 2009
39.Panama1October 3, 2009
40.Bahamas1September 20, 2009
41.Kuwait1September 18, 2009
42.United Arab Emirates1September 16, 2009
43.Thailand1September 15, 2009
44.Luxembourg1September 15, 2009
45.Bahrain1September 14, 2009
46.Trinidad and Tobago1September 13, 2009