Vaccination …

Currently a warm topic in Oz because Bill Gates has just endorsed the practice and because of recent legislation in NSW.

I heard a discussion on your ABC recently of the great good that vaccination can do. Talk back radio being what it is, a nicely spoken gentleman called in to disagree. The thrust of his argument was that the gold standard investigation is a double blind cross over trial, since this hadn’t been done for vaccination the practise should be abandoned. He was a polite version of the terrorists in Pakistan who are shooting the health workers who are getting close to eradicating the scourge of polio.

I doubt he is reading but I am sure he would be interested in this paper by Smith and Pell in the British Medical Journal BMJ 2003; 327


Objectives To determine whether parachutes are effective in preventing major trauma related to gravitational challenge.

Design Systematic review of randomised controlled trials.

Data sources: Medline, Web of Science, Embase, and the Cochrane Library databases; appropriate internet sites and citation lists.

Study selection: Studies showing the effects of using a parachute during free fall.

Main outcome measure Death or major trauma, defined as an injury severity score > 15.

Results We were unable to identify any randomised controlled trials of parachute intervention.

Conclusions As with many interventions intended to prevent ill health, the effectiveness of parachutes has not been subjected to rigorous evaluation by using randomised controlled trials. Advocates of evidence based medicine have criticised the adoption of interventions evaluated by using only observational data. We think that everyone might benefit if the most radical protagonists of evidence based medicine organised and participated in a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled, crossover trial of the parachute.

Indeed, with his profound interest in the wellbeing of our community he might even volunteer for the study.

Peer review …

A couple of years ago I had a vigorous discussion of climate change with a young lady in the first year of her PhD studies. She had great faith in the peer reviewed literature. She hadn’t read it but she felt the consensus could not be wrong because it was peer reviewed.

In the meantime, someone has done some research on the peer review process …

Peer-review practices of psychological journals: The fate of published articles, submitted again

Douglas P. Peters and Stephen J. Ceci

Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 5, pp 187-195.

Department of Psychology, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, N.D. 58202

Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. 74853


A growing interest in and concern about the adequacy and fairness of modern peer-review practices in publication and funding are apparent across a wide range of scientific disciplines. Although questions about reliability, accountability, reviewer bias, and competence have been raised, there has been very little direct research on these variables.

The present investigation was an attempt to study the peer-review process directly, in the natural setting of actual journal referee evaluations of submitted manuscripts. As test materials we selected 12 already published research articles by investigators from prestigious and highly productive American psychology departments, one article from each of 12 highly regarded and widely read American psychology journals with high rejection rates (80%) and nonblind refereeing practices.

With fictitious names and institutions substituted for the original ones (e.g., Tri-Valley Center for Human Potential), the altered manuscripts were formally resubmitted to the journals that had originally refereed and published them 18 to 32 months earlier. Of the sample of 38 editors and reviewers, only three (8%) detected the resubmissions. This result allowed nine of the 12 articles to continue through the review process to receive an actual evaluation: eight of the nine were rejected. Sixteen of the 18 referees (89%) recommended against publication and the editors concurred. The grounds for rejection were in many cases described as “serious methodological flaws.” A number of possible interpretations of these data are reviewed and evaluated.

If the null hypothesis was that the journals reject 80% of articles at random it was not disproved.


On liberty …

… jealously guarding the liberties bequeathed by the founding fathers and the English common law.

The Australian has published the very fine speech by Daniel Ward given at his graduation. Presently it is peaking out from behind the paywall <HERE>. I would urge you to read it while you may.

Some excerpts …

The danger is Australian lawyers will get comfortable with authoritarianism. There is a risk we will subconsciously make a thousand tiny concessions to illiberalism, and allow it to insinuate itself into our psyche. We might come to tolerate affronts to the rule of law. In short, commercial opportunity threatens to hypnotise us, turning us into well-meaning Manchurian candidates.

… mental gymnastics that can also lead to this …

In 2010, the University of Sydney Senate approved a document called “Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Policy and Resolution Procedure”. It purports to ban, across all areas of university life, something called “unlawful harassment”. The policy defines that term as behaviour that offends, insults, humiliates or intimidates a person, and could reasonably have been expected to do so. It goes on to identify the grounds on which it is forbidden to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate. These grounds include things like race, sex and disability.

Astonishingly, though, they also include the following: “political belief, lack of a political belief, lack of a particular political belief (including trade union activity or lack of it, and student association activity or lack of it), religious belief, lack of a religious belief, and/or lack of a particular religious belief”.

It is nothing if not comprehensive.

If university has become a place where we can’t offend people on the grounds of their political or religious beliefs, then God help us all (and of course I say that without wishing to offend any atheists). What has university come to, if a jackbooted socialist can’t go up to a Young Liberal and hurl all the abuse his limited imagination can muster? What has it come to, if we have to think twice before aping a former Labor prime minister and labelling our opponents “desiccated coconuts” or “mangy maggots”? Surely university is the last place in the country where we should see a policy like this. Because it is precisely the place where debate should be at its most vigorous and, yes, at times, offensive, insulting and even humiliating.

Good on ya, Daniel …

Eddy into the vortex …

The controversial comment came while McGuire was speaking with co-host Luke Darcy on Triple M’s Hot Breakfast show this morning.

Darcy was talking about how a huge gorilla hand protruding from from the Eureka Skydeck in Melbourne was a “great promo” for the musical.

“What a great promo that is, for King Kong,” Darcy said.

To which McGuire replied: “Get Adam Goodes down for it, d’you reckon?”

“No, I wouldn’t have thought so,” was the response from Darcy.

A quote to ponder …

Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects…The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality.

What is going on here, has McGee switched sides?

Just as a diversion, Britain’s Met Office has had a little difficulty answering a question or six raised in the House in question time. For a long and slightly technical read … Bishop Hill. The simplified version is <HERE> but you lose the thrill of the chase.

I went to Sunday school a couple of times and if we were good, or it was our birthday we were given a text. It would be a snippet from the bible, of enormous significance, printed on a small card or piece of paper. You were encouraged to ponder on it and learn it. The fortune cooky/christmas cracker model of scholarship. Well the text at the head of this post was shamelessly filched from Watts Up With That, the author was Peter Gwyne, it was taken from Newsweek, April 28, 1975, lamenting the failure of governments to prepare for global cooling, yes cooling …

Carbon …

Following on from Carbon free sugar, it has to be observed that the general populace are woefully ignorant of the basic building blocks of life.

Carbon dioxide is essential for life as we know it. The fundamental reaction is photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide is split, the carbon combined with water makes sugar, the oxygen is released into the atmosphere. Prior to the life forms that developed photosynthesis the atmosphere was devoid of oxygen, no oxygen no higher animals at all.

The chemistry of life is the chemistry of carbon. The four essential forms of food, alcohol, protein, carbohydrate and fat are all great examples of organic chemistry, the chemistry of life. Just kidding about the alcohol being essential, nice but not absolutely essential.

But can you believe it, in a survey conducted in the streets of Perth …

  • 37% of people were so convinced carbon is pollution that they think it would be a worthwhile aim to reduce the carbon content of their body.
  • About a quarter of the population  would rather not eat food with carbon in it.
  • 44% of respondents wished to eliminate carbon and carbon dioxide from food and drink altogether.
  • while 28% of respondents didn’t think there is any carbon or carbon dioxide in food and drink in the first place.

The author of the survey was unkind enough to write …

A staggering 37% of carbon-based-life-form respondents are keen on reducing carbon in the human body. Perhaps the amputation of an appendage at the end of the leg will be the new way to reduce one’s carbon footprint.

And that’s only part of the story, read more <HERE>.