Posts Tagged ‘ Health ’

GMO labeling is good science

August 18, 2016
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A GMO labeling law has arrived in the US, albeit one that has no teeth (link). For those who don't want to click on the link, the law is passed in haste to pre-empt a more stringent Vermont law. The federal law defines GMO narrowly, businesses do not need to put word labels on packages (they can, for example, provide an 800-number), and violaters will not be punished. One of…

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It’s more important to know the source than the value of a number

July 12, 2016
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Here we go again. ABC News reported that Ricky Williams, former NFL star, proclaimed himself as holding "the world record for most times drug tested". (link) He said he was tested 500 times. During this 11-year career, Williams failed the test four times. So there is one thing we know - the drug testing regime is not much of a deterrent. Since the athlete knows when he is juicing or…

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Tip of the day: don’t be Theranosed

May 23, 2016
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Theranos (v): to spin stories that appeal to data while not presenting any data To be Theranosed is to fall for scammers who tell stories appealing to data but do not present any actual data. This is worse than story time, in which the storyteller starts out with real data but veers off mid-stream into unsubstantiated froth, hoping you and I got carried away by the narrative flow. Theranos (n):…

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Sitting still against the myth that sitting kills

March 23, 2016
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The fad of standing while working may die hard but science is catching up to it. The idea that standing at work will make one healthier has always been a tough one to believe. It requires a series of premises: Using a standing desk increases the amount of standing Standing longer improves one's health The health improvement is measurable using a well-defined metric The incremental standing is of sufficient amount…

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Statbusters: standing may or may not stand a chance

December 7, 2015
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In our latest Statbusters column for the Daily Beast, we read the research behind the claim that "standing reduces odds of obesity". Especially at younger companies, it is trendy to work at standing desks because of findings like this. We find a variety of statistical issues calling for better studies. For example, the observational dataset used provides no clue as to whether sitting causes obesity or obesity leads to more…

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The proliferation of useless data

November 29, 2015
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One of the secrets of great data analysis is thoughtful data collection. Great data collection is necessary but not sufficient for great data analysis. I recently had the unfortunate need to select a new doctor. Every time I had to do this, it has been an exercise in frustration and desperation. And after wasting hours and hours perusing the "data" on doctors, inevitably I give up and just throw a…

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Statbusters: please back up an extreme claim with numbers

November 23, 2015
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In this week's Statbusters, my column with Andrew Gelman in the Daily Beast, we take note of Slate's recent rant about "wasteful" anti-smoking advertising, and demonstrate how to think about cost-benefit analysis. The key point is: if you are going to make an extreme claim, you better have some numbers to back it up. These numbers can be approximate, and based on (potentially dubious) Googled data. Not every analysis needs…

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Andrew Gelman delivers a lesson on statistical adjustment, so you can relax about middle-aged men killing themselves

November 11, 2015
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Andrew Gelman delivers a lesson on statistical adjustment, so you can relax about middle-aged men killing themselves

My co-columnist Andrew Gelman has been doing some fantastic work, digging behind that trendy news story that claims that middled-aged, non-Hispanic, white male Americans are dying at an abnormal rate. See, for example, this New York Times article that not only reports the statistical pattern but also in its headline, asserts that those additional deaths were due to suicide and substance abuse. It all bega n with the chart shown…

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Statbusters: Games people play with the placebo effect

November 3, 2015
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In the first two chapters of Numbersense, I discuss how people game statistics, and why gaming is inevitable. I have also written about the placebo effect before. Another article has appeared covering the same topic -- the industry doesn't like the fact that more and more drugs fail to clear the "placebo" hurdle; and the industry thinks the problem is that the placebo effect is mysteriously increasing over time. What…

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RIP GFT

November 3, 2015
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It appears that Google Flu Trends (GFT) has slipped quietly into the night. In a short post to the Google Research blog, the team behind GFT announced that they are "no longer publishing" flu estimates, effectively ending the seven-year-old experiment. The GFT home page now links to some historical datasets. The post was dated August 15, and it appears that mainstream media completely missed it. GFT was one of the…

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