National Science Board’s Science and Engineering Indicators–2012

Recently, the National Science Board (NSB) published its biennial Science and Engineering Indicators report for 2012.  This report comprises quantitative data on the U.S. and international science and engineering by objectively reviewing science and engineering progress in both the US and internationally.  The report does not make policy options and recommendations, but it is used by different governmental and non-governmental entities to formulate their own policies and recommendations. This report is required by law. Continue reading “National Science Board’s Science and Engineering Indicators–2012”

Mandatory flu vaccinations for health care workers

Nosocomial infections, or hospital acquired infections, are a significant issue in hospital environments and has become a serious public health issue. These infections include everything from drug resistant bacteria to several viruses, including the flu.  They have serious repercussions in a hospital environment–everything from employee absenteeism to higher mortality rates of patients.  For example, influenza, which has a reputation of being innocuous, can be dangerous to infants, the elderly and immune compromised patients.  Further, a flu outbreak can leave a hospital short-staffed with sick nurses, techs and physicians, making it more difficult to deal with the outbreak itself. Continue reading “Mandatory flu vaccinations for health care workers”

The Placebo Myth from Science Based Medicine

While doing some research on the placebo non-effect, I found this article, The Placebo Myth, by Mark Crislip (an infectious disease specialist), in the Science Based Medicine blog.  He makes a simple and effective question which debunks the “placebo effect”:  “why would actively doing nothing have any measurable physiologic effect? It shouldn’t and it doesn’t. Mind over matter? Bah, humbug.”  He continues, “I think that the placebo effect with pain is a mild example of cognitive behavioral therapy; the pain stays the same, it is the emotional response that is altered.”  So, it’s talking therapy (albeit not very focused), not a sugar pill that works. Continue reading “The Placebo Myth from Science Based Medicine”

Faux Siri for the iPhone–vokul and Evi

Though 95% of this blog’s posts are going to be about skepticism in science, medicine, and the natural world, I, as the author, reserve the right to talk about stuff that thrills me in sports and technology.  A couple of weeks ago, I talked about the vokul app for the iPhone 4.  If you have an iPhone 4S, you have access to Siri, a voice control system that connects with Apple’s servers and provides all kinds of assistance.  It can read texts, find stuff for you, and apparently has a great sense of humor.  What makes it different than other voice control systems is that it understands natural speech.  You don’t have to say “open up calendar.  Check 10 AM.”  You can say, “what’s going on with my schedule today?” Continue reading “Faux Siri for the iPhone–vokul and Evi”

CDC makes recommendations on the use of HPV vaccine in males

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends routine vaccination of males aged 11 or 12 years with HPV4 administered as a 3-dose series (recommendation category: A, evidence type: 2§). The vaccination series can be started beginning at age 9 years. Vaccination with HPV4 is recommended for males aged 13 through 21 years who have not been vaccinated previously or who have not completed the 3-dose series. Males aged 22 through 26 years may be vaccinated. Continue reading “CDC makes recommendations on the use of HPV vaccine in males”

The Discovery Institute opposes Indiana’s Creationist Bill

Kids love the theory of intelligent design.

The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that focuses on Intelligent Design, has issued a press release that “condemns passage of creationism bill by Indiana Senate as bad science and bad education.”  The irony is so thick that it’s displacing oxygen in the atmosphere, since Intelligent Design is simply a flavor of creationism that purports to be a scientific theory that proposes that evolution is controlled or directed by an intelligent designer.  They state, in the release that:

“Instead of injecting religion into biology classes, legislators should be working to promote the inclusion of more science,” said Joshua Youngkin, a law and policy analyst at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture. “There are plenty of scientific criticisms of Darwin’s theory today, and science students should be able to hear about them, not about religion.” Continue reading “The Discovery Institute opposes Indiana’s Creationist Bill”

Quoting intelligent design advocates–rampant cynicism

I had saved a website long ago that listed a bunch of quotes where Intelligent Design (ID) proponents deny any hidden creationist agendas, but rather claim they are only trying to promote good solid science in our public schools. Unfortunately, the blog is no longer online, so I couldn’t find it to link here, but you can read the saved pdf file and I can give full credit to Brian Poindexter.

Although it’s about 9 years old, I thought I would repost it to clear up any possible confusion about whether ID is really science or, as is clearly stated by ID proponents, it’s a cynical method to get creationism into US public schools. Continue reading “Quoting intelligent design advocates–rampant cynicism”

20 Million Year Old Lake Beneath Antarctica Is About to Be Uncovered–Updated

This post is an update of my previous discussion about breaching this lake.

After 20 years of drilling, Russian scientists are about to break through 4km of Antarctic ice to reach 20 million year old Lake Vostok.  Who knows what they’ll find there, but I just hope they don’t contaminate this valuable and pristine ecosystem (if anything is alive down there).  And they don’t bring back something right out of a H.P. Lovecraft novel.

From a scientific standpoint, this could be fascinating.  The water will tell us a lot about the earth’s climate 20 million years ago.  It might have life forms that are either living fossils (that is, organisms once thought extinct, but have been found).  Or it might be boring and give us nothing but water.  In science, a negative result is still a result. Continue reading “20 Million Year Old Lake Beneath Antarctica Is About to Be Uncovered–Updated”

How the placebo effect proves nothing and means nothing

Recently, there has been a large uptick in interest about the so-called placebo effect, mostly from the complementary and alternative junk medicine (CAM) crowd.  Evidently, they feel that being equivalent to doing nothing is good enough to be real.  A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Why Placebos Work Wonders, is indicative of this recent pro-placebo point-of-view.  I’ve got other bones to pick with WSJ on global warming, but I’ll save that for another day.

What exactly is the placebo effect?  The definition is often misused, implying some beneficial effect from a sugar pill or sham treatment.  But in medicine, a placebo is actually a failure.  If a new pharmaceutical, procedure or medical device shows no difference in efficacy compared to a placebo, then it is rejected.  But the CAM-pushing herd thinks that proves its a success when one of its potions and lotions is equivalent to a placebo.  What?  A failure of a modality in evidence-based medicine is somehow converted into a successful product in the CAM world? Continue reading “How the placebo effect proves nothing and means nothing”

Indiana creationism bill passes Senate–Intelligent Democrats creatively amend it

This is part of a long multi-part series on the Republican state legislatures in the USA pushing religious teaching into public schools in clear violation of the US Constitution’s Establishment Clause. I’ve discussed Indiana here, here and here, so this is a small update with a bit of intelligent design (of the bill) by some Democrats. Indiana Democrats are a feisty group, and the science deniers must be annoyed by them. Continue reading “Indiana creationism bill passes Senate–Intelligent Democrats creatively amend it”