It’s hard to know what to say about an observational comparison that doesn’t control for key differences between treatment and control groups, chili pepper edition

It’s hard to know what to say about an observational comparison that doesn’t control for key differences between treatment and control groups, chili pepper edition Posted by Andrew on 3 August 2017, 9:55 am Jonathan Falk points to this article and writes: Thoughts? I would have liked to have seen the data matched on age, rather than simply using age in a Cox regression, since I suspect that’s what really going on here. The non-chili eaters were much older, and I suspect that the failure to interact age, or at least specify the age effect more finely, has a gigantic impact here, especially since the raw inclusion of age raised the hazard ratio dramatically. Having controlled for Blood, Sugar, and Sex, the residual must be Magik. My reply: Yes, also they need to interact age x sex, and smoking is another…
Original Post: It’s hard to know what to say about an observational comparison that doesn’t control for key differences between treatment and control groups, chili pepper edition

Giving feedback indirectly by invoking a hypothetical reviewer

Giving feedback indirectly by invoking a hypothetical reviewer Posted by Andrew on 2 August 2017, 9:44 am Ethan Bolker points us to this discussion on “How can I avoid being “the negative one” when giving feedback on statistics?”, which begins: Results get sent around a group of biological collaborators for feedback. Comments come back from the senior members of the group about the implications of the results, possible extensions, etc. I look at the results and I tend not to be as good at the “big picture” stuff (I’m a relatively junior member of the team), but I’m reasonably good with statistics (and that’s my main role), so I look at the details. Sometimes I think to myself “I don’t think those conclusions are remotely justified by the data”. How can I give honest feedback in a way that doesn’t come…
Original Post: Giving feedback indirectly by invoking a hypothetical reviewer

“Explaining recent mortality trends among younger and middle-aged White Americans”

“Explaining recent mortality trends among younger and middle-aged White Americans” Posted by Andrew on 1 August 2017, 9:30 pm Kevin Lewis sends along this paper by Ryan Masters, Andrea Tilstra, and Daniel Simon, who write: Recent research has suggested that increases in mortality among middle-aged US Whites are being driven by suicides and poisonings from alcohol and drug use. Increases in these ‘despair’ deaths have been argued to reflect a cohort-based epidemic of pain and distress among middle-aged US Whites. We examine trends in all-cause and cause-specific mortality rates among younger and middle-aged US White men and women between 1980 and 2014, using official US mortality data. . . . Trends in middle-aged US White mortality vary considerably by cause and gender. The relative contribution to overall mortality rates from drug-related deaths has increased dramatically since the early 1990s, but the…
Original Post: “Explaining recent mortality trends among younger and middle-aged White Americans”

The fractal zealots

The fractal zealots Posted by Andrew on 1 August 2017, 9:02 am Paul Alper points to this news report by Ian Sample, which goes: Psychologists believe they can identify progressive changes in work of artists who went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease The first subtle hints of cognitive decline may reveal themselves in an artist’s brush strokes many years before dementia is diagnosed, researchers believe. . . . Forsythe found that paintings varied in their fractal dimensions over an artist’s career, but in the case of de Kooning and Brooks, the measure changed dramatically and fell sharply as the artists aged. “The information seems to be like a footprint that artists leave in their art,” Forsythe said. “They paint within a normal range, but when something is happening the brain, it starts to change quite radically.” . . . The research…
Original Post: The fractal zealots

Letter to the Editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science

[relevant cat picture] tl;dr: Himmicane in a teacup. Back in the day, the New Yorker magazine did not have a Letters to the Editors column, and so the great Spy magazine (the Gawker of its time) ran its own feature, Letters to the Editor of the New Yorker, where they posted the letters you otherwise would never see. Here on this blog we can start a new feature, Letters to the Editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science, which will feature corrections that this journal refuses to print. Here’s our first entry: “In the article, ‘Going in Many Right Directions, All at Once,’ published in this journal, the author wrote, “some critics go beyond scientific argument and counterargument to imply that the entire field is inept and misguided (e.g., Gelman, 2014; Shimmack [sic], 2014).’ However, this article provided no evidence that…
Original Post: Letter to the Editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science

Reproducing biological research is harder than you’d think

Mark Tuttle points us to this news article by Monya Baker and Elie Dolgin, which goes as follows: Cancer reproducibility project releases first results An open-science effort to replicate dozens of cancer-biology studies is off to a confusing start. Purists will tell you that science is about what scientists don’t know, which is true but not much of a basis on which to develop new cancer drugs. Hence the importance of knowledge: how crucial this mutation or that cell-surface receptor really is to cancer growth. These are the findings that launch companies and clinical trials — provided, of course, that they have been published in research papers in peer-reviewed journals. As we report in a News story this week, a systematic effort to check some of these findings by repeating an initial five published cancer studies has reported that none…
Original Post: Reproducing biological research is harder than you’d think

It’s not “lying” exactly . . . What do you call it when someone deliberately refuses to correct an untruth?

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens tells the story. First the background: On Thursday I interviewed Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo on a public stage . . . There was one sour moment. Midway through the interview, Pompeo abruptly slammed The New York Times for publishing the name last month of a senior covert C.I.A. officer, calling the disclosure “unconscionable.” The line was met with audience applause. I said, “You’re talking about Phil Agee,” and then repeated the name. . . . My startled rejoinder was not a reference to the covert C.I.A. officer unmasked by The Times, but rather a fumbled attempt to refer to the law governing such disclosures. Philip Agee, as Pompeo and everyone in the audience knew, was the infamous C.I.A. officer who went rogue in the 1970s, wrote a tell-all memoir, and publicly identified…
Original Post: It’s not “lying” exactly . . . What do you call it when someone deliberately refuses to correct an untruth?

Iceland education gene trend kangaroo

Someone who works in genetics writes: You may have seen the recent study in PNAS about genetic prediction of educational attainment in Iceland. the authors report in a very concerned fashion that every generation the attainment of education as predicted from genetics decreases by 0.1 standard deviations. This sounds bad. But consider that the University of Iceland was founded in 1911, right at the beginning of the period 1910-1990 studied by the authors (!). So there is a many-thousand-percent increase in actual educational attainment at the same time as there is an ominous 0.005 SD/year decrease in ‘genetic’ educational attainment. Over this period educational attainment in the developed world seems to have exploded beyond a reasonable doubt, as is shown in the paper’s appendix also for Iceland. This genetic effect seems like a kangaroo feather to me. My reply: I’m…
Original Post: Iceland education gene trend kangaroo

Delegate at Large

Delegate at Large Posted by Andrew on 29 July 2017, 9:42 am Asher Meir points to this delightful garden of forking paths, which begins: • Politicians on the right look more beautiful in Europe, the U.S. and Australia.• As beautiful people earn more, they are more likely to oppose redistribution.• Voters use beauty as a cue for conservatism in low-information elections.• Politicians on the right benefit more from beauty in low-information elections. I wrote: On the plus side, it did not appear in a political science journal! Economists and psychologists can be such suckers for the “voters are idiots” models of politics. Meir replied: Perhaps since I am no longer an academic these things don’t even raise my hackles anymore. I just enjoy the entertainment value. This stuff still raises my hackles, partly because I’m in the information biz so I…
Original Post: Delegate at Large

An improved ending for The Martian

In this post from a couple years ago I discussed the unsatisfying end of The Martian. At the time, I wrote: The ending is not terrible—at a technical level it’s somewhat satisfying (I’m not enough of a physicist to say more than that), but at the level of construction of a story arc, it didn’t really work for me. Here’s what I think of the ending. The Martian is structured as a series of challenges: one at a time, there is a difficult or seemingly insurmountable problem that the character or characters solve, or try to solve, in some way. A lot of the fun comes when the solution of problem A leads to problem B later on. It’s an excellent metaphor for life (although not stated that way in the book; one of the strengths of The Martian is…
Original Post: An improved ending for The Martian