“Pregnant thanks to acupuncture”

One of the most troubling aspect of this newspaper story — “I’d lost my baby then somehow fell pregnant thanks to acupuncture”– is knowing quite where to begin discussing it (although I know I should start by thanking @johnbirrane for tweeting it to me). The story appeared in the “Mothers & Babies” section of today’s Irish Independent. In short, it describes the experience of a 44-year-old woman who recently gave birth to her second child. The focus of the story is that she believes her pregnancy to have been assisted by acupuncture, as prior to receiving the treatment she had serious difficulty in conceiving successfully. While acknowledging that this news story concerns an event of great joy for the mother concerned, it has to be said that, as a whole, it consists almost entirely of specious concepts held together by spurious reasoning.
Continue reading ““Pregnant thanks to acupuncture””

‘Science News’ and Football: Together at last

The Daily Telegraph recently reported — in their “Science News” section, notice — a story headlined “Secret of match success: Suits for the dugout, tracksuits for training”. According to the byline, “sports coaches who wear suits on match days and tracksuits on training days are more likely to get the best out of their teams, according to new research”. The story is illustrated with a gallery of professional football managers wearing suits and/or tracksuits. Overall, readers would be forgiven for assuming that the study in question involved: (a) data on the clothing habits of successful and unsuccessful sports coaches; (b) data on differences between attire of coaches across match days and training days; (c) data on the success of teams in terms of their sporting performance; (d) data on the full range of other measurable factors known to contribute to the sporting success of the teams in question; (e) some statistical analysis of the associations among (a), (b), and (c), while controlling for (d); and/or (f) a study sample comprising real coaches and real teams. Hmmm. Actually, the study referred to had none of those features. Continue reading “‘Science News’ and Football: Together at last”

Do polling locations influence election outcomes?

In times of economic and political turmoil, people increasingly turn their attention to how their societies are governed. As a result, it seems as though matters relating to elections and electoral processes are permanently in the public spotlight. Globally, over 80 national elections or civil ballots are scheduled to take place in 2011; this month alone, there are to be seven national elections or referenda (in Benin, Cape Verde, Chad, Ireland, Kosovo, Switzerland, and Uganda). (The year’s busiest month will be April, during which eleven separate national ballots are already scheduled, with a constitutional referendum also now likely to be held in Egypt.)

Perhaps surprisingly, the practice of democracy has been influenced in several respects by systematically conducted empirical research. For example, much of the text formatting and layout of ballot papers is subject to evidence-based design principles. Research showing that multi-page ballots lead to higher levels of voter error has led to ballot papers being produced so that all candidates appear on the same page (increasing its size if necessary). Other research has led to the introduction of graphical elements, such as candidate photographs and political party emblems. Overall, studies spanning several disciplines (such as psychology, optometry, and ergonomics) have helped influence what goes on inside the polling station. However, research has now begun to show that the polling station itself is of relevance, and in a particular way that will undoubtedly be seen as controversial. Continue reading “Do polling locations influence election outcomes?”

%d bloggers like this: