I haven’t written much recently, but I thought I would share some links to what I thought were some especially interesting recent skeptical or science blog posts.
First, Phil Plait the Bad Astronomer has a superb explanation of what makes a year (sidereal or tropical) in Happy New
Year Arbitrary Orbital Marker! :
Yay! Tonight at midnight it’s New Year!
But what does that mean, exactly?
The year, of course, is the time it takes for the Earth to orbit the Sun, right? Well, not exactly. It depends on what you mean by "year", and how you measure it. This takes a wee bit of explaining, so put down the champagne, take the lampshade off your head, and hang on.
Phil gives a really good explanation of the astronomical factors at play – and it’s not as simple as most people think. Of course, the Earth’s “wobble”, and the resulting difference between the sidereal and the tropical year is the reason that most astrological charts, and therefore your sun sign used by most astrologers, is wrong. Not that it would make any difference if astrologers used the sidereal instead of the tropical zodiac – astrology is crap either way.
Next, Orac writes about how Andrew Wakefield was paid to undermine MMR vaccine.
ANDREW WAKEFIELD, the former surgeon whose campaign linking the MMR vaccine with autism caused a collapse in immunisation rates, was paid more than £400,000 [$780,000] by lawyers trying to prove that the vaccine was unsafe.
Of course, the fact that he was paid does not in and of itself prove Wakefield was wrong, although the conflict of interest clearly means we should examine his data more skeptically. However, the anti-vax crowd routinely use this kind of conflict of interest to smear anyone who disagrees with their position. It will be instructive to see how they handle this piece of news.
Next, John Lynch of
Give Seed, Get Seed Stranger Fruit gives us ID in 2007 - from the horses mouth – a list of developments in ID that we almost certainly won’t be seeing. My favorite:
A theory of how the Designer-Who-Shall-Not-Be- Named did the designing.
Don’t hold your breath.
Then there is Ben Goldacre’s review of the year in bad science. Sample:
And what a great year for scares. The Times reported on its front page that cocaine use among schoolchildren had doubled when it had done nothing of the sort (they simply misinterpreted the report). The media’s anti-MMR campaign continued unabated as the Telegraph, Mail and Times all reported on unpublished research claiming to show a link between the vaccine and autism, even though the research was from a man with a history of making such claims as far back as 2002, which he still hasn’t published. Over the year, at least two fully published studies showing a negative result for almost the exact same experiment were inexplicably ignored by all newspapers.
Finally, I liked RealClimate’s 2006 Year in review, which starts:
Best highlight of the gap between the 'two cultures':
Justice Scalia: 'Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I'm not a scientist. That's why I don't want to have to deal with global warming'.
I’m sure you don’t.