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Governments around the world have spent $9 billion stockpiling a flu drug that's probably no better than aspirin and possibly harmful.

So writes Julia Belluz at Maclean's magazine...

Governments around the world have spent $9 billion stockpiling a flu drug that's probably no better than aspirin and possibly harmful.

So writes Julia Belluz at Maclean's magazine in Canada. The story was prompted by a study and a new release from the Cochrane Collaboration, a non-profit research group that produces broad reviews of the evidence for and against such things as drugs, medical procedures, and healthcare policies.

In a new review, Cochrane reports that "Tamiflu (the antiviral drug oseltamivir) shortens symptoms of influenza by half a day, but there is no good evidence to support claims that it reduces admissions to hospital or complications of influenza." It reports that the...

The news website of MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences--known around the campus as SHASS--asked me to say something briefly about the Tracker and its mission. Here is how I answered SHASS's...

The news website of MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences--known around the campus as SHASS--asked me to say something briefly about the Tracker and its mission. Here is how I answered SHASS's "3 Questions" for the Tracker.

This also gave me an occasion to bring up--yet again!--the story of the "immortal" jellyfish.

Enjoy.

-Paul Raeburn

   In a brief letter to Nature this week six researchers say that the time lag between scientific discoveries - particularly in the basic physical sciences - and Nobel Prizes to salute them is getting longer and longer. If this keeps up, they drily note, nobod will live long enough to receive a Nobel....

   In a brief letter to Nature this week six researchers say that the time lag between scientific discoveries - particularly in the basic physical sciences - and Nobel Prizes to salute them is getting longer and longer. If this keeps up, they drily note, nobod will live long enough to receive a Nobel. Maybe the no-posthumous-award rule must be lifted. There are many plausible reasons for the trend. Maybe it is that there are so many more scientists these days, and discovery is such a group process, that singling out the best of the bunch - and narrowing credit to just three people - has gotten harder. But to argue that it is just the opposite, that the pace of discovery has gotten too slow, seems counterintuitive. One might think that it is easier to choose the best (or least bad) from a shorter list.

   No science journalist is happier with the result than a certain amiable and imaginative fellow at New Jersey's Stevens Institute of Technology. He...

Doctors should not accept money to promote drug companies that fund their research.

Hard to argue with.

There's a legitimate argument for paying researchers to speak, and it doesn't mean they become pharma salespeople.

Also hard to argue with.

The first of these statements comes...

Doctors should not accept money to promote drug companies that fund their research.

Hard to argue with.

There's a legitimate argument for paying researchers to speak, and it doesn't mean they become pharma salespeople.

Also hard to argue with.

The first of these statements comes from Charles Ornstein of ProPublica, one of the authors of "Double Dip: Doctors Paid to Advise, Promote Drug Companies That Fund Their Research," co-published by ProPublica and The Boston Globe. The story argues that Yoav Golan, an infectious-disease specialist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, is wrong to accept "tens...

Medicare, the government-run health program for older Americans, paid one doctor $20.8 million in 2012.

Of the 825,000 doctors in Medicare's claims database, 344 took in at least $3 million each, for a total of $1.5 billion.

This data has been kept private since 1979--35 years ago--by a court...

Medicare, the government-run health program for older Americans, paid one doctor $20.8 million in 2012.

Of the 825,000 doctors in Medicare's claims database, 344 took in at least $3 million each, for a total of $1.5 billion.

This data has been kept private since 1979--35 years ago--by a court injunction sought by the American Medical Association that barred release of any details of these expenditures of public money. The injunction was vacated by a federal judge last year.

This data from the Medicare claims database was released today by the federal government, which called this a "historic release of data."

The word I'd use is not historic, but outrageous. The first two facts above come from an Associated Press  story by Ricardo Alonso-...

Dude! Two medical stories defy 'rules' in science journalism. One's gnarly to the max, other's a wipeout.
Charlie Petit
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   Here're some rules of the first metacarpal on what a diligent medical reporter ought to do when faced with reports of cure: Glaze one's eyes at a study with just one data point; say whoa! if outside experts are all leery; Think again if it involves amateur treatment under utterly uncontrolled...

   Here're some rules of the first metacarpal on what a diligent medical reporter ought to do when faced with reports of cure: Glaze one's eyes at a study with just one data point; say whoa! if outside experts are all leery; Think again if it involves amateur treatment under utterly uncontrolled circumstances; Ditto if it cannot even describe what it was about the treatment that did the trick - if anything did. Oh, another reason to pause: Even if the so-called treatment worked nobody else is ever likely to try it.

   Such alarm bells ought be taken seriously. That is unless there are extenuating circumstances. Covered with froth? Even better. In the right hands, with the right caveats, almost anything can past muster. What's the self-canceling rule? Rules are made to be broken.

  Here's one that breaks rules and soars.

  • Live Science - Bahar Gholipour:...

When we think about science and religion, we often see the two in conflict. Science says the world and its creatures arose over billions of years by way of natural processes; and some religions--not all--argue that the world was made in seven days by a being whom we should therefore revere.

You can see this...

When we think about science and religion, we often see the two in conflict. Science says the world and its creatures arose over billions of years by way of natural processes; and some religions--not all--argue that the world was made in seven days by a being whom we should therefore revere.

You can see this dichotomy in a piece by the social critic Barbara Ehrenreich in in the most recent Sunday Review in The New York Times. "My atheism is hard core...a stance I perpetuated by opting, initially, for a career in science," she begins. Science is not an expression of atheism, just as it is not an expression of religion. Even smart people like Ehrenreich can become confused about that.

One person who didn't become confused about science and spirituality--and who showed there is a place for them to coexist--was...

On Saturday, Elisabeth Rosenthal at The New York Times began a story with a description of a woman with diabetes who wears a small digital pump at her...

On Saturday, Elisabeth Rosenthal at The New York Times began a story with a description of a woman with diabetes who wears a small digital pump at her waist that delivers insulin to her bloodstream. The insulin keeps her alive; this isn't a high-priced option for a wealthy patient. It's necessary care.

“It looks like a beeper,” the woman told Rosenthal. “It’s made of plastic and runs on triple-A batteries, but it’s the most expensive thing I own, aside from my house.” A new model, Rosenthal reported, can cost tens of thousands of dollars. And the pump and related supplies will cost the woman $5,000 this year, even with good health insurance. That includes insulin that once "cost a few dollars" and "now often sells for more than $200 a vial, meaning some...

Philip J. Hilts, the director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT and a former science reporter for The New York Times and The Washington Post, has announced that...

Philip J. Hilts, the director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT and a former science reporter for The New York Times and The Washington Post, has announced that he will retire at the end of June.

Hilts, who took over the program in 2008, expanded its international reach and added training in video and audio storytelling. And under his leadership, the number of applicants for the year-long Knight Science Journalism fellowships  for science reporters grew from about 80 per year to about 150 per year.

"The Knight Program has been a tremendous asset to MIT, and a powerful resource for our understanding of the relationship between science and technology and the public," said Deborah Fitzgerald, the Kenan Sahin Dean at the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. "I am...

Tabitha M. Powledge at On Science Blogs reviews the week's climate coverage (including some of our remarks here).

And she also notes an event that...

Tabitha M. Powledge at On Science Blogs reviews the week's climate coverage (including some of our remarks here).

And she also notes an event that I somehow missed: Jane Goodall's 80th birthday. I met Goodall once, at a dinner in New York, and she is not only smart, charming, and engaging, but she has some kind of aura about her. I know, I know: talk of "auras" makes me sound like some kind of new-age...well, makes me sound new-age. Instead of "aura," let's say charisma. Whatever it is, it makes you want to speak softly when you're around her, and listen carefully to everything she says.

She was probably 70 when I met her. I thought she was cool.

Powledge also collects comments on the discovery of the bones of Richard III, which gives me a rare opportunity to quote some...

There are only two things you need to know about medicines and ADHD:

Some kids get medicine when they shouldn't. And some kids don't get medicine when they should.

The first of those is reported over and over and over again. The second is almost never mentioned.

The New York...

There are only two things you need to know about medicines and ADHD:

Some kids get medicine when they shouldn't. And some kids don't get medicine when they should.

The first of those is reported over and over and over again. The second is almost never mentioned.

The New York Times has run a series of stories, mostly on the front page, about the overuse of ADHD medications. You will rarely find it mention--even in passing--the tragedy of children with ADHD who are not getting treatment that would help them.

If it sounds as though I'm taking sides, it's only to fight back against the widespread prejudice among journalists that the problem with drugs and ADHD is solely a problem of overmedication. I don't know how to diagnose ADHD, I don't know what medicines to use to treat it, and I'm not advocating more use of medication...

Médicos cubanos afirman haber devuelto movilidad y sensibilidad a discapacitados mediante trasplante de células madre
Pere Estupinya
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(English intro to Spanish lang post) The Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde published an extensive story claiming that 17 from 25 complete spinal cord injured people restored motor function, sensitivity and sphincter control after an adult stem cell transplantation clinical trial which started in 2009....

(English intro to Spanish lang post) The Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde published an extensive story claiming that 17 from 25 complete spinal cord injured people restored motor function, sensitivity and sphincter control after an adult stem cell transplantation clinical trial which started in 2009. Medical doctors that presumably conducted the study didn’t publish the details in any peer reviewed scientific journal. The story includes a video of the transplant recorded from inside the surgery room, and testimonies of several patients stating they’ve achieved significant improvements. The story even says that a quadriplegic was able to move his arms after the trial. Of course we have serious doubts about these results, which if true, would be the most remarkable ones in the history of cell transplantation for SCI (we’ve checked recent scientific...

[4/11/14: Updates with addition of Cyranoski's story on Feb. 17th, ahead of the others mentioned here.]

Everybody had the story this week: Haruko Obokata, who claimed to create stem cells by stressing embryonic-like cells, has been accused of scientific misconduct.

"The judgement is...

[4/11/14: Updates with addition of Cyranoski's story on Feb. 17th, ahead of the others mentioned here.]

Everybody had the story this week: Haruko Obokata, who claimed to create stem cells by stressing embryonic-like cells, has been accused of scientific misconduct.

"The judgement is the latest twist — but not the final word — in the bizarre story of stimulus-triggered activation of pluripotency (STAP), a method that researchers at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) in Kobe, Japan, still say is able to turn ordinary mature mouse cells into cells that share embryonic stem cells' capacity to turn into all of the body’s cells," wrote David Cyranoski at Nature, just one of many stories that reported the disturbing development. This was a particularly interesting one, however, because...

  Just read a very important story and am not happy about it:

  Just read a very important story and am not happy about it:

   No, not about the subject matter even though it is dispiriting. Zuckerman digs deep into the expansion of corn, soy, and other farming in the northern tier of the plains - Minnesota, the Dakotas.. - to bring back a tale of vast acreage that had been mostly grazing land, and remained more or less like the post-Pleistocene landscape of recent millennia, being plowed up for farming. Land owners see prices for soybeans and corn so high that they can make money even off marginal land. The result is a collapse in game birds that hunters...

Just a quickie here. One finds sheer genius in this seasonal story. Don't know which is keenest, the AF modes hidden beneath the B modes in the microwave sky where inflation's blown-up gravity waves are splayed wide, or the deflaton (DEF-luh-ton). It had me going for several graphs. Then Blutarsky showed up...

Just a quickie here. One finds sheer genius in this seasonal story. Don't know which is keenest, the AF modes hidden beneath the B modes in the microwave sky where inflation's blown-up gravity waves are splayed wide, or the deflaton (DEF-luh-ton). It had me going for several graphs. Then Blutarsky showed up.

  Science's reporters have several of this sort up but this one seemed particularly well-concocted.

*UPDATE: OK, one more for now. Anybody see another outstanding member of this yearly science journalism outbreak let us know (...

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