Category: Agence France-Press

One year in: The Science Bit’s greatest hits

I am generally nonplussed by birthdays. And I realise that blog posts about blog posts can sometimes be boring. However, as I’m an obsessive hoarder and a data geek, in this case I am going to make an exception. You see, The Science Bit is one year old today.

That’s right, it has reached the big ‘1’.

*Cue music* There have been highs, and there have been lows; vivid memories and lots of stuff that I’ve forgotten. Readership has waxed and waned, but gradually grown. Some people have been happy. Others have been bored. Millions of people have completely ignored me. But rather than dousing you with further personal reminiscences, I thought I would instead simply feed back to you a countdown of the five most read posts of the past twelve months.

A special item that I like to call…’REELING IN THE YEAR

Continue reading “One year in: The Science Bit’s greatest hits”

Alcohol causes cancer? If you assume so, yes

Last week, a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) linked alcohol consumption with cancer risk, and duly attracted extensive international media coverage. News outlets around the world keenly reported on the carcinogenic properties of alcohol. This description from BBC News was pretty typical: “A large Europe-wide study in the British Medical Journal found that one-in-10 of all cancers in men and one-in-33 of all cancers in women are caused by past or current alcohol intake”. Several agencies took an alarmist stance: many cancers are “caused by drinking” proclaimed the Press Association; alcohol was “a major cause” of cancer according to Agence France-Presse (AFP); “Are you aware of the cancer risks of drinking too much alcohol?” challenged Canadian broadcaster, CBC. Others tried to tease out implications. The Irish Times concluded that “reducing alcohol intake would reduce the number of cancer cases”. The Guardian were more directive, noting that “thousands of cancers could be prevented if men had the equivalent of no more than two drinks a day and women had no more than one”. Over at the Daily Mail, however, people were less optimistic: “Alcohol causes cancer“, declared its headline, “…and giving up won’t help“.

The media were virtually unanimous in their interpretation of the research: the study had established tangible evidence for a causal link between alcohol consumption and cancer onset. Unfortunately for the consensus-makers, the problem with this interpretation is that it’s wholly untrue. The BMJ researchers were not even looking for evidence of causality, and most certainly did not establish it. In fact, in one sense, they did the exact opposite. Continue reading “Alcohol causes cancer? If you assume so, yes”

Right-wingers are better looking, study doesn’t show

Last week, the news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) issued a press release with the title, “Rightwing candidates are better looking, says study”. The item described a study conducted by Swedish and Finnish economists in which 2,500 non-Finns rated 1,357 Finnish election candidates for attractiveness. The authors identified two main conclusions. Firstly, right-wing candidates were rated as being more attractive than left-wing candidates. And secondly, candidates rated as more attractive (who were mainly right-wing) were found to have received more votes. The press release was picked up and reported by a wide range of news outlets, including the Independent (London), the Daily Mail, the Wall Street Journal, Discovery News, the Albuquerque Express, The National (Abu Dhabi), the Times of Malta, the Ottawa Sun, and many more. It’s too bad then that: (a) the study has not been published in a peer-reviewed academic journal; and (b) its main findings are almost certainly unreliable. Continue reading “Right-wingers are better looking, study doesn’t show”

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