Bicycles and Bratislava

September 30th, 2012 § 0

Bicycles and Bratislava, what could be better? Two of my favorite things.

PARA – Žena from Martina SLOVAKOVA

Things are happening culturally in Bratislava, a lot of the work is just underground.

Bicycles and Bratislava Continues »

(Published) cell phone research indicates no radiation

September 24th, 2012 § 0

dr ben goldacre bad pharma
dr ben goldacre bad pharma

Bad Pharma, a new book by Ben Goldacre, looks into the research practices of big pharmacy. Apparently any negative information about new drugs is systematically suppressed even in the academic environment:

In 2010, researchers from Harvard and Toronto found all the trials looking at five major classes of drug…: were they positive, and were they funded by industry? They found more than 500 trials in total: 85% of the industry-funded studies were positive, but only 50% of the government-funded trials were. In 2007, researchers looked at every published trial that set out to explore the benefits of a statin….This study found 192 trials in total, either comparing one statin against another, or comparing a statin against a different kind of treatment. They found that industry-funded trials were 20 times more likely to give results favouring the test drug.

…In 2003, two [systematic reviews] were published. They took all the studies ever published that looked at whether industry funding is associated with pro-industry results, and both found that industry-funded trials were, overall, about four times more likely to report positive results….

In general, the results section of an academic paper is extensive: the raw numbers are given for each outcome, and for each possible causal factor, but not just as raw figures….In Fries and Krishnan (2004), this level of detail was unnecessary. The results section is a single, simple and – I like to imagine – fairly passive-aggressive sentence:

“The results from every randomised controlled trial (45 out of 45) favoured the drug of the sponsor.”

How does this happen? How do industry-sponsored trials almost always manage to get a positive result? Sometimes trials are flawed by design. You can compare your new drug with something you know to be rubbish – an existing drug at an inadequate dose, perhaps, or a placebo sugar pill that does almost nothing. You can choose your patients very carefully, so they are more likely to get better on your treatment. You can peek at the results halfway through, and stop your trial early if they look good. But after all these methodological quirks comes one very simple insult to the integrity of the data. Sometimes, drug companies conduct lots of trials, and when they see that the results are unflattering, they simply fail to publish them.

Still feeling confident about your industry sponsored cell phone radiation tests?

(Published) cell phone research indicates no radiation Continues »

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus vs Blade Runner

September 20th, 2012 § 0

Chariots of the Gods I first saw when I was nine. For those unfamiliar with that documentary, Chariots of the Gods breathlessly explores signs from ancient cultures that we have had contact with extra-terrestials. While the documentary raises more questions than it answers, Chariots of the Gods had the same effect on me as it did Ridley Scott: I remain convinced we are not alone in existence (universe is place, existence is state: the universe may be as small in existence as your kitchen is in existence, just one room in one house in one city in a single country) and it is more than likely that sometime somebody has stopped by to visit, no matter how briefly.

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus chooses to take up the same questions of alien visitation but in fictional form.

origin of life on earth disintegrating engineer in prometheus
origin of life on earth disintegrating engineer in prometheus

Scott would seem to be the ideal visionary director to take us to other planets and to the future. Scott’s Blade Runner has long been my favorite film, competing strangely with Rohmer and Truffaut New Wave confections but certainly uncontested in the sci-fi and epic genre. The heart rending performance of Sean Young and enigma of Harrison Ford echo through time.

Ridley Scott's Prometheus vs Blade Runner Continues »

PC John Lovegrove lied about assault: why has Lovegrove not been charged with perjury?

September 12th, 2012 § 0

This black high school student in England was charged with assaulting a police officer. Fortunately for the young man, there was a CCTV camera trained on the incident. Very fortunately the police didn’t get to that CCTV camera first.

PC John Lovegrove had charged the young man with assaulting a police officer:

Lovegrove claimed the youth, who was handcuffed behind his back at the time and forced to the ground by police, rolled over and, in doing so, caused grazing and bruising to the officer’s knuckles. The youth was also accused of spitting.

The CCTV cameras showed the youth to be “lying there like a dead fish”. Lovegrove went on to accuse the young man of drug use as he had cigarette papers on him.

PC John Lovegrove lied about assault: why has Lovegrove not been charged with perjury? Continues »