What I'm Reading (June 30)

Related articles

Scientific writing could use an English major
Which is worse, stupidity or malignant intent?
Hype and alarmism hype’s evil twin in today’s scientific enterprise.
A bright, refreshing wine with a bit of a smoky aftertaste – from the nearby wildfires.

“Most medical communications are difficult to read. To determine why, contributions to three issues of the New England Journal of Medicine were studied, and the prose analyzed.

Articles were taken from the joumal issues dated April 4, 1974; February 6, 1975; and October 16, 1975. These issues lay buried under a pile of papers on my desk. Articles were read at random. …

I identified 10 recurring faults in the Journal articles I read.”

Another in a series of journal articles trying to get science majors to write more like English majors. Should we pay any attention? Perhaps, because this postdoc at the Salk Institute actually had some writing chops. You might know him from one of his older works, Jurassic Park; the latest version has grossed $390 million. From Michael Crichton, "Medical Obfuscation: Structure And Function" NEJM

“Against stupidity we are defenseless.

Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed — in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical — and when facts are irrefutable, they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack.”

Those are the words written 80 years ago by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and still seem true today. From the North State Journal, Bonhoeffer: On stupidity

According to the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity, the primary goal of science is to increase the understanding of the world and ourselves. Scientific research rests on a premise of freedom to define research questions and to formulate tentative theories on the workings of systems under study, and through appropriate methods, gather data that can confirm or deny said theories. This code also states that maximizing ‘the quality and robustness of research is one of the basic responsibilities of the scientific community. … One might then wonder if the scientific community is not failing to uphold these guidelines….” 

Mariana Sá Santos, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Basel, is singing ACSH’s tune! She presents an overview of the problem with scientific hype and bias. From Bioengineering, Ethics of Hype and Bias in Science

“Winemakers are no strangers to the vicissitudes wrought by climate change. Warmer temperatures have been a boon to some in cooler regions who are rejoicing over riper berries — but devastating to others. Scorching heat waves, wildfires and other climate-driven calamities have ruined harvests in Europe, North America, Australia and elsewhere.

And as 2020 showed, climate change can take its toll on grapes without directly destroying them. Wildfires and warmer temperatures can transform the flavor of wine, whose quality and very identity depends on the delicate chemistry of grapes and the conditions they’re grown in.”

OK, it's one thing that our increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather is causing flooding and drought, prompting varying degrees of human suffering; now, it is affecting wine. Enough! From Knowledge Magazine, Climate change is altering the chemistry of wine