Category: Miscellaneous Science

“Superior: The Return of Race Science,” by Angela Saini

“People so much wanted the story to be true . . . that they couldn’t look past it to more mundane explanations.” – Angela Saini, Superior. I happened to be reading this book around the same time as I attended the Metascience conference, which was motivated by the realization during the past decade that junk […]

I think that science is mostly “Brezhnevs.” It’s rare to see a “Gorbachev” who will abandon a paradigm just because it doesn’t do the job. Also, moving beyond naive falsificationism

Sandro Ambuehl writes: I’ve been following your blog and the discussion of replications and replicability across different fields daily, for years. I’m an experimental economist. The following question arose from a discussion I recently had with Anna Dreber, George Loewenstein, and others. You’ve previously written about the importance of sound theories (and the dangers of […]

Let’s try this again: It is nonsense to say that we don’t know whether a specific weather event was affected by climate change. It’s not just wrong, it’s nonsensical.

This post is by Phil Price, not Andrew. If you write something and a substantial number of well-intentioned readers misses your point, the problem is yours. Too many people misunderstood what I was sayinga few days ago in the post “There is no way to prove that [an extreme weather event] either was, or was […]

Was Thomas Kuhn evil? I don’t really care.

OK, I guess I care a little . . . but when it comes to philosophy, I don’t really care about Kuhn’s personality or even what exactly he said in his books. I use Kuhn in my work, by which I mean that I use an idealized Kuhn, I take the best from his work […]

My talk at the Metascience symposium Fri 6 Sep

The meeting is at Stanford, and here’s my talk: Embracing Variation and Accepting Uncertainty: Implications for Science and Metascience The world would be pretty horrible if your attitude on immigration could be affected by a subliminal smiley face, if elections were swung by shark attacks and college football games, if how you vote depended on […]

More on the piranha problem, the butterfly effect, unintended consequences, and the push-a-button, take-a-pill model of science

The other day we had some interesting discussion that I’d like to share. I started by contrasting the butterfly effect—the idea that a small, seemingly trivial, intervention at place A can potentially have a large, unpredictable effect at place B—with the “PNAS” or “Psychological Science” view of the world, in which small, seemingly trivial, intervention […]

Coney Island

Inspired by this story (“Good news! Researchers respond to a correction by acknowledging it and not trying to dodge its implications”): Coming down from Psych Science Stopping off at PNAS Out all day datagathering And the craic was good Stopped off at the old lab Early in the morning Drove through Harvard taking pictures And […]

Why does my academic lab keep growing?

Andrew, Breck, and I are struggling with the Stan group funding at Columbia just like most small groups in academia. The short story is that to apply for enough grants to give us a decent chance of making payroll in the following year, we have to apply for so many that our expected amount of […]

“The most mysterious star in the galaxy”

Charles Margossian writes: The reading for tomorrow’s class reminded me of a project I worked on as an undergraduate. It was the planet hunter initiative. The project shows light-curves to participants and asks them to find transit signals (i.e. evidence of a transiting planets). The idea was to rely on human pattern recognition capabilities to […]

Endless citations to already-retracted articles

Ken Cor and Gaurav Sood write: Many claims in a scientific article rest on research done by others. But when the claims are based on flawed research, scientific articles potentially spread misinformation. To shed light on how often scientists base their claims on problematic research, we exploit data on cases where problems with research are […]

Gigerenzer: “The Bias Bias in Behavioral Economics,” including discussion of political implications

Gerd Gigerenzer writes: Behavioral economics began with the intention of eliminating the psychological blind spot in rational choice theory and ended up portraying psychology as the study of irrationality. In its portrayal, people have systematic cognitive biases that are not only as persistent as visual illusions but also costly in real life—meaning that governmental paternalism […]

“Widely cited study of fake news retracted by researchers”

Chuck Jackson forwards this amusing story: Last year, a study was published in the Journal of Human Behavior, explaining why fake news goes viral on social media. The study itself went viral, being covered by dozens of news outlets. But now, it turns out there was an error in the researchers’ analysis that invalidates their […]


This came up in comments the other day:
I kinda like the idea of researchers inserting the word “Inshallah” at appropriate points throughout their text. “Our results will replicate, inshallah. . . . Our code has no more bugs, inshallah,” etc.

Reproducibility problems in the natural sciences

After reading my news article on the replication crisis, Mikael Wolfe writes: While I’m sure there is a serious issue about replication in social science experiments, what about the natural sciences? You use the term “science” even though you don’t include natural sciences in your piece. I fear that climate and other science deniers will […]