Category Archives: Science And Society

A New Class Of Cholesterol Drugs

I wish I had more confidence that they’re not just treating a symptom:

As for the efficacy of the drugs, it is not yet proved that very low LDL levels produced by drugs lead to sharp reductions in heart attacks, strokes and deaths from cardiovascular disease, as researchers have seen in people with the naturally inactive PCSK9 gene.

Many cardiologists, though, are persuaded by a large body of evidence supporting the idea that the lower the LDL, the lower the risk.

“I believe lower is better and do not believe that a very low LDL is harmful,” said Dr. Daniel Rader, a cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Others, like Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist at Yale, urge caution. “We are in a period of exuberant enthusiasm about these drugs,” he said. “We could just be performing cosmetic surgery on a lab value.”

If it were certain that the PCSK9 inhibitors were safe and effective in preventing heart attacks and deaths there would be no need for clinical trials, he noted.

$14,000/year is a lot of money for a treatment for which we have no idea whether or not it’s effective. I think improving diets would be much more cost effective.

[Update Tuesday morning]

Here’s a longer piece about the new drugs and the issues. Note: 1) It is assumed that the goal is to lower cholesterol, and that this will in turn result in lower mortality and 2) No mention of diet as a potential solution. Of course, it’s hard to get people to change their diets. But I suspect that to the degree that doctors are telling people to do so, they’re still telling them to cut out sat fat and cholesterol, despite all the actual science, and probably still telling them to follow FDA food-pyramic advice, which is junk science.

[Bumped]

Mark Steyn’s New Book

A detailed review:

The problems encountered publishing the valid criticisms of Dr. Mann’s hockey stick are a serious indictment of the current peer review system, especially the systems at Nature and at the IPCC. Professor Hans Van Storch (University of Hamburg) went so far as to say “Scientists like Mike Mann, Phil Jones and others should no longer participate in the peer-review process.” Reform is needed and some suggestions by Professor Ross McKitrick are made here. The current peer review process can and has been used to suppress valid and important papers. This is why I applaud the internet and scientific blogs, they prevent self-serving and arrogant scientists from blocking the truth. One thing we have seen since the time of Copernicus and Galileo, no deception of this magnitude lasts forever.

Contrary to the myth that 97% of climate scientists believe we are headed toward a man-made climate doom, the truth is that a very small group of second rate climate scientists have captured the attention of some prominent political and media figures. They have also isolated themselves from the rest of the scientific community and suffer because of it.

Not enough to suit me.

The Timothy Hunt Witch Hunt

I don’t think I’ve ever commented on this, but almost three months later, it’s pretty clear now what happened, and there’s a good description over at Commentary. His treatment was shameful:

Like most of the science journalists who covered Hunt’s solecism, Zadrozny and Ferguson were content to rely on a handful of tweets as the only evidence in an obviously controversial story. Sadly, the Hunt affair provides ample ammunition for those who believe Internet reporters are a tribe of third-raters with little or no ethical standards or training in Journalism 101.

But there’s another explanation for the fact that reporters such as Zadrozny and Ferguson felt no obligation to verify the facts of the case or do any old-fashioned reporting. In their cases, the temptation to cut journalistic corners may have been overwhelming. That’s because for anyone with an ax to grind about gender equality or sexism in science, this was one of those stories that the tabloids used to label (jestingly for the most part) “too good to check.”

Kudos to Louise Mensch on exposing this initially. I’d also note that my respect for Deborah Blum has plummeted.

[Update a few minutes later]

And then there’s this burn:

The most generous interpretation of Connie St. Louis’s bizarre behavior is that she was too intellectually limited to recognize irony that was somehow obvious to an audience composed mostly of people who spoke English as a second language. A leak of the unedited version of her “Stop Defending Tim Hunt” piece for the Guardian is so garbled and incoherent that this actually seems plausible, though it also makes you wonder how and why she came to be teaching journalism even at a third-rate institution like London’s City University.

The science journalism community has not covered themselves in glory here.

[Update a few minutes later]

Then there’s this:

One of the more depressing aspects of the affair has been the number of clever and influential people, not all of them women, who have stated that even if Hunt was joking, he still deserved to be punished. These people genuinely believe that jokes about alleged differences between the sexes are beyond the pale—the cause of anti-sexism, like that of anti-racism, being simply too important or too fragile to tolerate subversive humor.

This “even if they’re innocent they deserve to be punished attitude” is not a new one. Christina Hoff Sommers documented it in her book in the nineties, in which in 1991, Catherine Comins at Vassar (who, sadly, may be a childhood friend of mine, though I’ve never seen a bio) said: “Men who are unjustly accused of rape can sometimes gain from the experience.”

Fusion

A new breakthrough?

…burning hydrogen-boron fuel requires truly enormous temperatures, more than 3 billion degrees Celsius, and that will be “very challenging,” says plasma physicist Jon Menard of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in New Jersey, who is not involved in the project. He says it’s very hard to predict how the gas will behave at higher temperatures. “I’m a little concerned that their [simulations] lag behind their experience,” he says, but the approach “is worth further investigation.”

I hope that one of these ideas works out at some point.

The Hugos

Burning down the field in order to “save” it:

…while I am not upset at the results (except insofar as it proves a large number of my field is running the Marxist malware to such an extent that it will vote a slate to avoid an imaginary slate) I am upset at the display of infantility or senility or perhaps roboticity in my field yesterday (Though who would program robots that way?) No one watching that live stream — and there was a lot of it captured and it will be replayed — can imagine that those who proclaim themselves the “intellectuals” of our field have an IQ above room temperature. And certainly no one can imagine they have an emotional maturity above that of a toddler displaying to one and all the magnificence of the turd just deposited in the middle of the floor.

Related: And you cheered:

We saw those no-awards coming from a mile away. By voting no-award, you proved the Sad Puppies’s point. And most of you are too damn stupid to know it.
You’d rather no one win, than see someone you don’t agree with walk across that stage.

We only wanted a fair ballot; real diversity among the Hugos, books by authors who don’t all think the same way. Books that tell stories rather than try to force-feed us messages. But you couldn’t have that.

It was you, not us, who brought the Hugo Awards down last night.

And you cheered while you did it.

A lot of this is why I haven’t read much science fiction in the past couple decades.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Uh oh. Hitler found out what happened [language warning, but only in subtitles]

[Update a while later]

Larry Correia’s thoughts:

See? I told you so.

People have asked me if I’m disappointed in the results. Yes. But maybe not in the way you might expect. I’ll talk about the slap in the face to specific nominees in a minute, but I can’t say I’m surprised by what happened, when it was just an extreme example of what I predicted would happen three years ago when I started all this.

I said the Hugos no longer represented all of Fandom, instead they only represents tiny, insular, politically motivated cliques taking turns giving their friends awards. If you wanted to be considered, you needed to belong to, or suck up to those voting cliques. I was called a liar.

I said that most of the voters cared far more about the author’s identity and politics than they did the quality of the work, and in fact, the quality of the work would be completely ignored if the creator had the wrong politics. I was called a liar.

I said that if somebody with the wrong politics got a nomination, they would be actively campaigned against, slandered, and attacked, not for the quality of their work, but because of politics. I was called a liar.

That’s how the Sad Puppies campaign started. You can see the results. They freaked out and did what I said they would do. This year others took over, in the hopes of getting worthy, quality works nominated who would normally be ignored. It got worse. They freaked out so much that even I was surprised.

Each year it got a little bigger, and the resulting backlash got a little louder and nastier, culminating in this year’s continual international media slander campaign. Most of the media latched onto a narrative about the campaign being sexist white males trying to keep women and minorities out of publishing. That narrative is so ridiculous that a few minutes of cursory research shows that if that was our secret goal, then we must be really bad at it, considering not just who we nominated, but who our organizers and supporters are, but hey… Like I said, it is all about politics, and if it isn’t, they’re going to make it that way. You repeat a lie often enough, and people will believe it.

It isn’t about truth. It is about turf.

[Evening update]

Why the “war on nereds” is a war on art.

A Consensus Of Experts

The very notion is misguided:

While the author comes across as supporting the consensus, the paper presents some insightful perspective on the ‘consensus enforcement’ by the establishment and why a substantial portion of the public is not buying the expert consensus on climate change. It boils down to a lack of trust, and concerns about deceit, conspiracy and groupthink.

Where do these concerns come from? Climategate and explicit advocacy by scientists are two obvious sources. Disagreement portrayed in the media and distrust of the government’s politicization of the issue are others.

Yes, the lack of trust and concerns are well justified.