JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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The Vicar of Bray (updated)

A Sunday change of pace, for those who are musically inclined. – Jo

The Vicar of Bray (probably now preaching at a college in upstate New York)

An updated version[1] by William York (who is looking for a singer, or group. A counter tenor or others?)

In George Bush Senior’s golden days when climate no harm meant, A zealous scientist was I, and so I gained preferment. I saw the rise of CO2 might be a source of funding And so I wrote computer code that soon defied unbundling.

chorus: And this be law, I shall insist Until my dying day, sir That what so ere the weather ist, The climate is at fault, sir.

When William Clinton came to power, then climate was in fashion, And bold Al Gore bestrode the world whose climate was his passion The IPCC, I found, did fit Full well my own projections And I had been a Wall Street quant, but for these good connections. [...]

Weekend Unthreaded

The good news medical revolution — this week’s cancer breakthroughs

The word revolution is overused and done to death. But in the case of medicine, we are in the midst of one. Here are three stories just out this week. It’s possibly none of these will end up being useful clinically, but the sheer volume of results like these mean that sooner or later getting a diagnoses of cancer will mean something very different. It’s time for good news stories. Let’s redirect the gravy train of pointless climate and renewables research. (Sell the ABC and use the money to double our medical research budget. How many lives might we change?*)

These are not instant miracles, but potential ones. The bladder cancer drug ultimately helped about a quarter of all patients. It was a small trial. Two patients of 68 appeared to reach the holy grail: to be tested free of cancer (though it doesn’t mean they are). The second news report talks about a small study targeting a similar mechanism to stop melanoma that only helps about 30% of patients — the study successfully predicted which ones. In both cases the idea is to stop the cancer from hiding from the immune system. Some cancer cells produce molecules called PD-1 [...]

The Peer Review Scam: Why not review your own paper?

If you suffer from an uncontrollable urge to claim that peer review is a part of The Scientific Method (that’s you Matthew Bailes, Pro VC of Swinburne), the bad news just keeps on coming. Now, we can add the terms “Peer Review Rigging” to “Peer-review tampering”, and “Citation Rings”.

Not only do personal biases and self-serving interests mean good papers are slowed for years and rejected for inane reasons, but gibberish gets published, and in some fields most results can’t be replicated. Now we find (is anyone surprised?) that some authors are even reviewing their own work. It’s called Peer-Review-Rigging. When the editor asks for suggestions of reviewers, you provide pseudonyms and bogus emails. The editor sends the review to a gmail type address, you pick it up, and voila, you can pretend to be an independent reviewer.

One researcher, Hyung-In Moon, was doing this to review his own submissions. He was caught because he sent the reviews back in less than 24 hours. Presumably if he’d waiting a week, no one would have noticed.

Nature reports: “THE PEER-REVIEW SCAM”

Authors: Cat Ferguson, Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky are the staff writer and two co-founders, respectively, of Retraction Watch in [...]

How to save billions of gallons of gasoline

Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have looked at drag-reducing devices on semi-trucks, and say they can conserve billions of gallons of fuel plus tens of billions of dollars. This not exactly rocket science.

Boat-tailed bullet (left)

The researchers estimate that trailer-skirts and boat-tails (see the pic below) could reduce drag on trucks by as much as 25%, which means they would save about 13% on their fuel bill. Apparently only a few percent of US trucks use these devices at the moment, and the researchers claim they can make up to a 19% improvement in fuel economy.

If these work that well (and are not too expensive or painful on carrying capacity), the free market will take care of this pretty quickly.

Boat tails means a tapered shape at the back of the vehicle. They are already used on bullets (and boats, obviously). There are pics of “boat-tails” on trucks below, but my favourite shot is this boat-tail on a car. A DIY masterpiece. It’s a “Pontiac Firefly (Canadian Geo Metro). The maker Darin Cosgrove says “the Firefly squeezed out 64 miles per gallon during testing.” I can’t see mums rushing to go food shopping in it though. [...]

65% of US population are skeptical that each flood drought or heatwave is mostly “man-made”

How big is the Green B-lobby? So big, whole research projects are devoted to better ways to push propaganda onto voters. In this case, it turns out that despite an international PR blitz to unscientifically link your car exhaust to extreme floods in Bangladesh (etc and so forth), 65% of the US public just aren’t buying it. Instead the study finds that people are actually not too bad at judging whether a season was warmer than usual. (Was anyone surprised at this after 500 million years of evolution?). Disappointingly, though, for those pushing the climate propaganda, the meme that man-made global warming is to blame for all heatwaves, snowfalls, floods, hurricanes, and reckless fish is not working.

“Only 35 percent of U.S. citizens believe global warming was the main cause of the abnormally high temperatures during the winter of 2012″

This is a cruel blow to climate change activists. They had pinned their hopes on generating fear among voters by trying to associate every storm and bad-hair day to man-made global warming. But two-thirds of the public are not fooled. Even when they “personally experience” abnormally warm winters, or even hear news of a whole series of severe [...]