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Scientific method

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The BICEP2 telescope at twilight at the South Pole. The supporting data for the inflation of the universe have also gone off into the sunset. Steffen Richter, Harvard University

Failure in real science is good – and different from phony controversies

Last March, the BICEP2 collaboration announced that they had used a microwave telescope at the South Pole to detect primordial gravitational waves. These tiny ripples in spacetime would be the first proof…
There’s science going on here, no test tubes or lab coats necessary. USA Today Sports / Reuters

Super Bowl athletes are scientists at work

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman gets called a lot of things. He calls himself the greatest cornerback in the NFL (and Seattle fans tend to agree). Sportswriters and some other players call…
Look beyond tinfoil hats – the most dangerous pseudoscience comes from scientists. B Rosen/Flickr

Scientists can learn from pseudoscience … that’s a fact

Scientists should study pseudoscience – see what the pseudoscientists are up to and perhaps (for a laugh) try a few pseudostudies themselves. Critically, scientists must learn what really distinguishes…
China: “No, thanks. We don’t want a Nobel peace prize.” andreasl

China isn’t creative enough to win a science Nobel

“China is at the forefront of medicine and hi-tech and computing.” So said UK Chancellor George Osborne, who recently visited the country. Global tests for 15-year-olds show the youth of Shanghai are comfortably…
Scientists are often untrained in methods to make their research replicable. Pulpolux !!!

Science is in a reproducibility crisis – how do we resolve it?

Over the past few years, there has been a growing awareness that many experimentally established “facts” don’t seem to hold up to repeated investigation. This was highlighted in a 2010 article in the New…
We are used to thinking in probabilities: will it be stormy enough to need an umbrella? Luis Martins

In science, the only certainty is uncertainty

In the lead up to the release next month of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) Fifth Assessment Report we are exploring concepts of confidence and certainty in climate science. You…
Sometimes a piece of the puzzle won’t fit, but overall the picture is coming together. Dave Ginsberg

150 years and counting: confidence in climate science

In the lead up to the release next month of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) Fifth Assessment Report we are exploring concepts of confidence and certainty in climate science. The…
Maybe humans aren’t causing climate change, and maybe penguins choose not to fly. Antarctica Bound/Flickr

Penguins can’t fly and humans are causing climate change: how scientists build theories

In the lead up to the release next month of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) Fifth Assessment Report we are exploring concepts of confidence and certainty in climate science – beginning…
Now, no cheating: why doesn’t Australia have its own Office for Research Integrity? Nat20_Film

From fraud to fair play: Australia must support research integrity

Science is knowledge gained from reproducible observations or experiments. Yet in a commentary in Nature in May last year, researchers from biotechnology company Amgen reported that the findings in 90…
How many times do we have to try before we are able to repeat those results? Queen's University

Fraud and trouble with replication are chemistry’s problems too

Scientific fraud has raised its ugly head once more. In a note to chemists in the journal Organic Letters, Amos Smith, the editor-in-chief, has announced that an analysis of data submitted to the journal…
Research showing no effect on antisocial behaviour after playing violent videogames (such as Call of Duty: Black Ops) should not be discounted. hmomoy

Violent videogames: why the ‘null effect’ shouldn’t be shot down

The debate over the impact of playing violent videogames on aggressive attitudes and behaviour is a long and heated one. Based on my research, I would argue the link is not as straightforward as A + B…
The role of unconscious influences on behaviour has long been a contentious issue in psychology. ssri

Does thinking about professors make you more intelligent?

What roles do unconscious influences play on your behaviour and decision-making? The answer might not be as simple as you think. Imagine I showed you a list of words one by one on a computer screen and…
Would an “open science” approach lead to less academic fraud? It’s possible. jintae kim's photography

Scientific fraud, sloppy science – yes, they happen

Fraud. It’s an ugly word, an arresting word. As with “cheating” it comes loaded with negative connotations, but can potentially lead to far greater penalties and consequences. And yet fraud in science…
Everyone likes to stand out from the crowd, but sometimes ignoring the consensus goes too far. James Cridland

There is no such thing as climate change denial

In a sense, there is no such thing as climate change denial. No one denies that climate changes (in fact, the most common climate myth is the argument that past climate change is evidence that current…
We thought we knew the radius of the proton to within 0.8%. Perhaps not. Ludie Cochrane/Flickr

Updating the textbook: is the radius of a proton wrong?

Striving for agreement between theory and experiment and pushing the boundaries of precision are important parts of the scientific process. With each step in this process we move closer to enlightenment…
Consumers of research should not be satisfied with statements that “X is effective”, or “Y has an effect”. Gwenae l Piaser

Why hypothesis and significance tests ask the wrong questions

Empirical science needs data. But all data are subject to random variation, and random variation obscures patterns in data. So statistical methods are used to make inferences about the true patterns or…
When it comes to the crunch, the null hypothesis is the only one being tested. Pimthida

Explainer: what is a null hypothesis?

At the heart of the scientific method is the process of hypothesis testing. Given an observable phenomenon in the world, a scientist will construct a hypothesis which seeks to explain that phenomenon…
Rhetoric, even when light as a feather, can carry more weight than scientific evidence. Ark in Time

Eat your heart out, scientists: evidence is a balancing act

The Book of the Dead describes the ancient Egyptian “weighing of the heart” ceremony as the placing of a heart on one side of a set of scales and a feather on the other. Goddess Ma'at’s feather represents…

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