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Last week, Rajiv Chowdhury, an epidemiologist at Cambridge University, reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine that an exhaustive review of studies on fats in the diet had found no evidence that eating saturated fat increased the risk of heart disease.

“My take on this would be that it’s not...

Last week, Rajiv Chowdhury, an epidemiologist at Cambridge University, reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine that an exhaustive review of studies on fats in the diet had found no evidence that eating saturated fat increased the risk of heart disease.

“My take on this would be that it’s not saturated fat that we should worry about” in our diets, he told Anahad O'Connor at The New York Times.

Science writers who reported that finding were then left with the problem of how to account for decades of research and advice that seemed to say the opposite.

They struggled.

The conclusion seems to be that nobody is quite sure how to reconcile the old advice with the new finding. Here is the best that five reporters could come up with:

1. Let's start with O'Connor at the Times. She...

"Here's How NASA Thinks Society Will Collapse," read one headline on Mar. 18. Here was another, on Mar. 20: "NASA...

"Here's How NASA Thinks Society Will Collapse," read one headline on Mar. 18. Here was another, on Mar. 20: "NASA Study: Civilization Doomed to Collapse Soon."

And there were others, some of which made the distinction that this was not a NASA study, but rather a NASA-funded study, which hedges a bit but still suggests vague NASA approval: "NASA-funded report says society is trending toward big collapse" read the headline in the Houston Chronicle on Mar. 18. (And as we will see, even "NASA-funded" isn't quite right.)

But as the coverage continued, it began to morph into something quite different...

Buenas notas sobre innovación o retorno de cerebros, y horribles sobre gravedad repulsiva o astrología médica
Pere Estupinya
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(English intro to Spanish lang post) The first story we highlight today argues that entrepreneurship in Mexico is high but it has low impact, because it’s not connected enough with research and innovation. Some experts comment on what’s needed to change this tendency. We track also about...

(English intro to Spanish lang post) The first story we highlight today argues that entrepreneurship in Mexico is high but it has low impact, because it’s not connected enough with research and innovation. Some experts comment on what’s needed to change this tendency. We track also about Colombia’s ambitious plan to bring back colombian scientists who are making remarkable research abroad. A brazilian reporter published a good analysis of scientific fraud in Latin America, and we found a very nice story about the decline of Monarch butterfly. Unfortunately when searching for good stories one always finds very bad ones, like the profile of a young mexican physicist claiming that he has modified Einstein’s laws, or a detailed description of the basis of “medical astrology” to figure out which diseases you’ll suffer, based in your sign. Both stories are not published in tabloids, but in important newspapers of Chile an Mexico....

Drew Altman
Paul Raeburn
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[Ed. note: Drew Altman is the president and chief executive officer of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. He publishes a regular column on health issues at the foundation's website. This column...

[Ed. note: Drew Altman is the president and chief executive officer of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. He publishes a regular column on health issues at the foundation's website. This column appeared today. It is reprinted with the foundation's permission. -Paul Raeburn.]

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Obamacare: The Metrics In The News Are Mostly Wrong

A few weeks ago the Obama Administration reported that enrollment in the new insurance marketplaces topped four million through the end of February, then five million by mid- March, showing steady progress since the website woes of October. News organizations...

The successful and respected blog Retraction Watch--with 100,000 unique visitors and 450,000 page views per month, and growing--is now launching its own version of an online...

The successful and respected blog Retraction Watch--with 100,000 unique visitors and 450,000 page views per month, and growing--is now launching its own version of an online subscription.

But as Retraction Watch's founders, Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus, acknowledge, their subscription is more like a request that readers throw some cash into a tip jar.

"We're hoping some of you will consider making a financial contribution," Oransky writes. The idea is to use the extra funds for operating expenses, hiring other writers as contributors, conducting investigations, and building a proper retractions database.

But Retraction Watch will remain freely available to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. "Open access to information about scientific corrections and retractions is...

    Good news is not always news, not as a news reporter defines it. This morning a story ran in the local press declaring that there is at least one win-win response to California's on-going rain shortage, now in its 15th month, and evermore heated argument over water system priorities among...

    Good news is not always news, not as a news reporter defines it. This morning a story ran in the local press declaring that there is at least one win-win response to California's on-going rain shortage, now in its 15th month, and evermore heated argument over water system priorities among proponents of wildlife, crops, and urban faucets. It reports a rare alignment in what's best for one of the state's most iconic finned friends and for farmers - specifically, those who grow the California food crop that consumes the most irrigation water.

    This piece is well worth reading even though, as explained further along, it has a few holes.

    The gist is...

For the distinguished AP science writer Malcolm Ritter, Tuesday was a day of somber reflection.

"On my 30th anniversary as an AP science writer this week, I found myself interviewing a scientist about a dinosaur known as 'the chicken from hell,'" he wrote on his Facebook...

For the distinguished AP science writer Malcolm Ritter, Tuesday was a day of somber reflection.

"On my 30th anniversary as an AP science writer this week, I found myself interviewing a scientist about a dinosaur known as 'the chicken from hell,'" he wrote on his Facebook page.

It's easy to see how emotional that must have been.

But it shouldn't deter us from extending sincere congratulations to a writer whose consistent excellence and steady hand might put us in mind of Iron Man Cal Ripken of the Orioles. I worked right beside Malcolm for a dozen years, and I can tell you that you will not find a more dependable, capable, or collegial science writer anywhere in our business.

One of Malcolm's colleagues, AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein, sent the Tracker an email with an eloquent description of Malcolm's work that I thought was worth reprinting here, so that I can add that I happily and...

On Feb. 27, 1947, a Malay villager was drawing in his net in a rice field and inspecting his catch "whereupon a fish leaped out of the water into his mouth and disappeared down his throat."

So says a medical case report hoisted from the briny depths by Discover's...

On Feb. 27, 1947, a Malay villager was drawing in his net in a rice field and inspecting his catch "whereupon a fish leaped out of the water into his mouth and disappeared down his throat."

So says a medical case report hoisted from the briny depths by Discover's Seriously, Science? blog.

When the villager's friends and family were unable to retrieve the fish, they decided to bring him to the hospital. The patient "was throwing himself about on the stretcher," but doctors could make out the tail of a fish protruding over the base of his tongue.

They then executed a delicate and breathtaking maneuver: They grasped the tail "in sponge-holding forceps" and slowly began to pull.

Alas, in the precise language of the case report, "Traction only...

  Yesterday's post on the succinct and emphatic AAAS report, What We Know, on climate change...

  Yesterday's post on the succinct and emphatic AAAS report, What We Know, on climate change elicits this thought: Is the whole thing a rehash of things already concluded by most scientists and circulated in the public by media? The answer is yes. Not that the report is a waste - it addresses the reality that a lot of Americans either don't believe we are changing climate much if at all, or that yes it's a problem but we have more important things to do right now than to fix the climate. Sure, some of us worry about it all the time, but not most of us.

    But still. The AAAS report has lots of pop but not much new info. Perhaps it will however help the message to eventually get through. In the meantime, as the tracker's job is...

A treatment for severe depression that has received a lot of coverage over the past few years has suffered a setback, John Horgan reports in his Cross-...

A treatment for severe depression that has received a lot of coverage over the past few years has suffered a setback, John Horgan reports in his Cross-Check blog at Scientific American. A multi-center trial of deep-brain stimulation was halted, raising questions about a treatment that, in trials with a handful of patients, had shown remarkable results.

The treatment was pioneered by Helen Mayberg of Emory University. She was the one who had shown a few dramatic reversals of depression in patients by means of electrical stimulation of a particular part of the brain.

"I've always had doubts about Mayberg's claims," Horgan writes, on the grounds that her initial studies had only a few patients and that she has links to a medical-device company that makes the...

New Baby Pictures of the Universe from BICEP2
Faye Flam
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Dozens of stories ran yesterday capturing the excitement behind a discovery that promises to advance our understanding of the origin of the universe. Most stories communicated the buzz, but not all of them succeeded in explaining what the scientists found or why they were so excited by it. 

The news...

Dozens of stories ran yesterday capturing the excitement behind a discovery that promises to advance our understanding of the origin of the universe. Most stories communicated the buzz, but not all of them succeeded in explaining what the scientists found or why they were so excited by it. 

The news required readers to digest not one but several unfamiliar and difficult concepts. First was the observation – gravitational waves – which few readers will have heard of. Then there was the reason for the excitement – the fact that the gravitational waves are a prediction of a theory called inflation, which is, again, not part of the typical talk show fare.

Figuring out how to get the news across in a coherent, logical yet elegant way was like solving the Rubik’s cube. It can be done, but the answer is not obvious and may take some trial and error.  

In...

  When an august and generally circumspect scientific society pulls together a panel of 13 esteemed scholars for a consensus report, one does not tend to expect this sort of punchy, plain-as-nails writing:

Against this backdrop of natural variation, however, something different is...

  When an august and generally circumspect scientific society pulls together a panel of 13 esteemed scholars for a consensus report, one does not tend to expect this sort of punchy, plain-as-nails writing:

Against this backdrop of natural variation, however, something different is happening. Greenhouse gases have supercharged the climate just as steroids supercharged hitting in Major League Baseball. Over the course of a baseball season in the steroid era, we witnessed more and longer homers, even though we cannot attribute any specific homer to steroids.

   That is just about as good as any explanation of specifics versus statistics I have ever read. Maybe the report writers cribbed it from somewhere? Dunno. [Update - Not original. See comments.] But it makes clear why it is inane to ask whether this storm or that drought or those icebergs are due to global warming. It is not as though other current weather events...

Detección de ondas gravitacionales confirma inflación cósmica tras Big Bang. Diferente cobertura en prensa latinoamericana
Pere Estupinya
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(English intro to Spanish lang post) The detection of gravitational waves confirming the cosmic inflation received very diverse coverage in the newspapers of the spanish speaking countries. In Spain, all the national ones covered it in great detail and published supplementary stories explaining...

(English intro to Spanish lang post) The detection of gravitational waves confirming the cosmic inflation received very diverse coverage in the newspapers of the spanish speaking countries. In Spain, all the national ones covered it in great detail and published supplementary stories explaining different details of the announcement. In Latin America, the main newspapers of Argentina, Brazil and Chile published good reporting too, which included opinions of local cosmologists. We found a very nice story in Colombia. Also in Costa Rica. But other than that, in countries like Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, central-american ones… and even in Mexico! (big disappointment), we’ve only read short informations directly copied from wire services. It’s difficult to believe that in a whole country there’s no single science reporter willing to sign such an important scientific achievement.  

El anuncio...

Nate Silver's fivethirtyeight.com relaunched yesterday at its new home--ESPN--vowing to focus its coverage on five areas: politics, economics, life, sports--and science.

The inclusion of science was a surprise to me. And possibly a mistake, unless FiveThirtyEight can...

Nate Silver's fivethirtyeight.com relaunched yesterday at its new home--ESPN--vowing to focus its coverage on five areas: politics, economics, life, sports--and science.

The inclusion of science was a surprise to me. And possibly a mistake, unless FiveThirtyEight can quickly improve the quality of the "science" it's publishing. The lead story on the relaunched site's first day--"Finally, a Formula for Decoding Health News"--was abysmal.

Silver's most famous achievement was calling 50 states correctly in the 2012 presidential election. But in a manifesto entitled What the Fox Knows, Silver says some others did nearly as well, and that his election forecasts "didn’t represent the totality, or even the most important part, of our journalism at FiveThirtyEight. We also covered topics ranging from the...

It's now impossible to sort through all the explanations and theories concerning the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, but two theories seem to stand out today: One very persuasive, and one nearly ridiculous.

A post on...

It's now impossible to sort through all the explanations and theories concerning the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, but two theories seem to stand out today: One very persuasive, and one nearly ridiculous.

A post on Google+ by the pilot Chris Goodfellow suggests what seems to me--and to others--a plausible explanation. The left turn that the plane took put it on a direct course for Palau Langkawi, an airport with a 13,000-foot strip "with an approach over water with no obstacles." The pilot, Goodfellow speculates, "was confronted by some major event onboard that made him make that immediate turn back to the closest safe airport." The loss of communication makes perfect sense in the event of an electrical fire. The first response would be to pull all the circuits and try to isolate the bad one.

And to turn toward safe harbor:

...
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