Sciencebase

Syndicate content
David Bradley science journalist, photographer, musician
Updated: 1 day 23 hours ago

Dave Bradley Music

20 November, 2014 - 21:12

In case you didn’t know, I’m a science journalist by day, a photographer on my days off and a musician by night. I’ve written and recorded a few songs over the last couple of years, which you can get hold of from the usual download sites: iTunes, BandCamp, Google Play, Amazon mp3Spotify, SoundCloud etc. Mostly originals but a handful of covers licenced through Loudr for iTunes and others.

dave-bradley-music

Here’s a very short list of a few of the musicians, bands and artists I admire: Athlete, America, The Beatles, David Bowie, Kate Bush, John Denver, Elbow, Peter Gabriel, Led Zeppelin, Gerry Rafferty, R.E.M., Nile Rodgers, Rush, The Smiths, there are many others. Apparently, I occasionally sound like a Geordie Glenn Tilbrook (that’s according to the Manchedelic Roger Waters better known as Dek “MonoStone” Ham), and sometimes a blend of Steely Dan, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Sting and David Bowie…according to various wiseguys and wisegals on the songwriting forums…hmmm.

Dave Bradley Music is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
Subscribe to our Email Newsletter

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Categories: Science Blogs

Science is not just a theory

15 November, 2014 - 10:53

I say theory, he says theory but what do you think we mean when we talk about theories, like Big Bang theory, the theory of evolution by natural selection, the theory of relativity (both general and special) and quantum theory. Well, we don’t mean it’s “just” a theory, like some vague idea a bloke down the pub came up with to explain the woes of the world, it’s not some conspiracy theory. If only we could’ve been more positive and used another word without the negative connotations of the man on the Clapham omnibus’ conception of the word theory…well, that’s the theory anyway.

Science is not just a theory is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
Subscribe to our Email Newsletter

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Categories: Science Blogs

Put them on hold

15 November, 2014 - 09:17

Songs of Experience by Dave Bradley

It’s a quarter of a century since the fall of the Berlin Wall, but still lives are put on hold by those who will divide and subjugate us. Isn’t it time, once again, to reject their calls, put them on hold?

Put them on hold

I made the call that I’m a free man
I talked wild of spirit, throughout the land
I saw the wonders that were open to mankind
I held up hope and love and life as gifts that we might shine

Then days became much darker than the night
The hope we had soon vanished from our sight
The love we took for granted we’d never find
Life fading fast as fear our hearts would bind

We put you on hold
Despite your objections
Despite your deflections
You will do as your told

When you’re out in the cold
No time for reflection
No more defection
We bring you into the fold

I dreamed that I could be a free man
I wondered if my spirit just might find a plan
I saw with wonder how despair crushed all mankind
No hope to hold, no love nor life to help us shine

We put you on hold
Despite your objections
Despite your deflections
You will do as your told

When you’re out in the cold
No time for reflection
No more defection
We’ll drag you into the fold

But, surely we can this hate denounce
We can this fear renounce
If there’s one ounce, one single ounce of decency left inside

We put them on hold
Despite their objections
Despite their deflections
We come in from the cold

We tear down the walls
At last, On reflection
from your hate we’re defecting
We reject all your calls
We reject all your calls

From my mini-album Songs of Experience
Words & Music by David Bradley
Vocals, instrumentation and mixing by DB

Cover art adapted from a photo by Saxon Moseley. More information about the photo here j.mp/tacheles-berlin-89

put-them-on-hold-240px

Now with added belltree, but no cowbell

Put them on hold is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
Subscribe to our Email Newsletter

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Categories: Science Blogs

Is breast best?

5 November, 2014 - 14:43

Is it oversharing to tell you I wasn’t breastfed as an infant? Tough. I don’t feel that being bottlefed formula milk did me any harm. Breastfeeding is natural but it’s not always possible for new mothers and the push from the healthcare workers for breast is best waxes and wanes as any social fashion.

There is a lot of guilt poured on mothers who (a) choose to breast feed their infant (b) choose not to breast feed their infant (c) cannot breast feed their infant. Take your pick, there’s guilt from every angle. If it’s physiologically possible it should be every mother’s personal choice, but none should be made to feel guilty for the choice they make, especially not on health grounds fo their child.

Research published earlier this year looked at various indicators of health over a 25 year period between siblings breast fed and not breast fed. The bottom line is that “much of the beneficial long-term effects typically attributed to breastfeeding, per se, may primarily be due to selection pressures into infant feeding practices along key demographic characteristics such as race and socioeconomic status.”

The researchers report that, “A mother’s decision to breastfeed her child as well as how long she is able to do so is based on a complex web of personal, familial, and social factors.” Women often have to cut their working hours to carry on breastfeeding for some time after the baby’s birth. “This trade off, however, may be especially untenable for poor or minority women who already face reduced access to steady, full-time employment, have few or no benefits, and lower than average salaries often in conjunction with the added pressures of single parenthood,” they say.

Breast or bottle is a small component in a bigger picture of the growing child’s short-term and long-term health. Like all environmental factors the impact is strongly affected by all the other factors and it is very unlikely that any single factor unless obviously detrimental (such as not being vaccinated and succumbing to measles, mumps, rubella or whatever or being run over by a bus) will add up to a significant effect on long-term health.

Is breast truly best? Estimating the effects of breastfeeding on long-term child health and wellbeing in the United States using sibling comparisons.

Is breast best? is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
Subscribe to our Email Newsletter

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Categories: Science Blogs

Don’t worry about anxiety

2 November, 2014 - 09:20

This week’s BBC “Point of View” was purportedly humanist but is perhaps an age-old perspective that humanity has sought and found many times throughout history for living with less worry and hopefully overcoming existentialist angst at least temporarily.

Adam Gopnik identifies four different types of anxiety that afflict modern people and suggests ways to cure them. Bottom line: make the thrill of the ameliorative, the joy of small reliefs, of the case solved and mystery dissipated and the worry ended, for now – to make those things as sufficient to live by as they are good to experience.

If it’s 10:1 it’s going to happen, then it probably will, this week. 100:1? This year! 1000:1? Maybe this decade. 10000:1 Just once in a lifetime. 100000:1 it ain’t gonna happen. In the words of Bobby McFerrin: Don’t worry, be happy!

You can listen to Gopnik’s monologue via the BBC. If you’re not in licence-fee territory (Britland) you may need to find a proxy or a VPN to tunnel into the UK…

#anxiety #depression #coping #strategies #psyche #psychology #angst #death #fear

Don’t worry about anxiety is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
Subscribe to our Email Newsletter

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Categories: Science Blogs

Who was Gerry Mander?

7 October, 2014 - 20:12

Moving the political goalposts – Gerrymandering is the deliberate design of voting districts to achieve a specific outcome other than fair representation in a governmental election. It is named for US Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, who signed the Massachusetts Senate Redistricting Bill of 1812 that included several “creatively” drawn districts designed to ensure his political party’s continued majority in the state senate. This less than ethical approach to democracy continues unabated in many parts of the world to this day.

gerry-mander

In 1973, political scientist PJ Taylor defined various shapes in The American Political Science Review, 1973, Vol. 67, No. 3, pp.947–950) that revealed the creation of indentations, elongations, separations and other choice boundary movements that were indicative of gerrymandering. Unfortunately, politicians, while not renowned for the subtlety on many matters are rather too adept at masking their unethical behaviors. The term originated with an editorial cartoon entitled ‘Gerry-mander’ that portrayed one oddly shaped district in Gerry’s redistricting plan of 1812 showing a salamander with wings (Boston Gazette, 1812). Now, Brian Lunday Assistant Professor of Operations Research at the Graduate School of Engineering and Management at the US Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright Patterson Airforce Base, in Ohio, USA, has developed a mathematical metric to provide quantitative evidence building on the somewhat more subtle shapes proposed by Taylor .

Wikipedia cites examples of gerrymandering in modern times in Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, Sudan and the UK…but of course, the vice is used elsewhere and in particular in the home of gerrymandering the USA. Gerrymandering is essentially precluded in Israel and The Netherlands because there is only a single voting district for elections there.

Lunday explains that in the US, at least, for House of Representatives as well as state legislatures, political districts exist to ensure elected representatives are responsible for and accountable to the residential constituents from local geographic regions rather than representing a state at large, lest a legislator be potentially more accountable to a political party. As populations grow and relocate, so boundaries must be shifted periodically to ensure fair representation. It is at these times that gerrymandering can be carried out to shift the political focus of particular regions, which has to be considered an unfair exploit within a democratic system.

Lunday has looked at the 16 main shapes and compared 80 different combinations to find the metrics associated with each that might be combined into a single figure to define whether gerrymandering has or has not been implemented. He has also calibrated the metric against recent “redistricting” plans. He has proposed a method for evaluating objectively the shape of political districts based on the presence of undesirable geometric characteristics such as puncturedness, indentation, elongation, and separation, the presence of which portend the absence of compactness and/or contiguity, he says, the metric was calibrated against court decisions by federal courts and the Supreme court on boundary changes. Tests of the metric against human judgment of whether or not gerrymandering took place are highly correlated (correlation coefficient of 0.804, which means a little over 8 times out of 10, the metric was right to say whether gerrymandering took place or not).

Research Blogging IconLunday, B.J. (2014) ‘A metric to identify gerrymandering’, Int. J. Society Systems Science, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp.285–304.

In case you hadn’t realised my headline and graphic is a joke, there was no Gerry Mander in this context, rather, the word is a portmanteau of Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry’s name, with “salamander” and was coined in a famous cartoon showing “The Gerry-Mander”, this political satire lampooned the way in which Gerry had adjusted borders to favour specific candidates in the 1812 elections.

The-Gerry-Mander

Who was Gerry Mander? is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
Subscribe to our Email Newsletter

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Categories: Science Blogs

Spiders on drugs

28 September, 2014 - 16:25

Back in the day, when I was freelancing regularly for New Scientist, the magazine covered the story of the errant webs created by spiders that had been exposed to (THC) from marijuana, LSD, speed and various other drugs including caffeine and alcohol . This was an issue in 1995, if I remember rightly. There was a follow up a “humourous” video many years later, which you can watch here:

As you can see the spiders don’t do their best work when they’re stoned on various psychoactive drugs and the social outcomes are not optimal it has to be said. The original New Scientist story from 1995 is here (paywall); perhaps surprisingly the research was done by NASA.

Spiders on drugs is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
Subscribe to our Email Newsletter

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Categories: Science Blogs

Liquid energy

22 September, 2014 - 13:07

My latest news story for Chemistry World is on the topic of stationary energy storage and a rather unique concept – liquid metal batteries.

Researchers at MIT have developed such a device, which could allow electricity generated by intermittent, but renewable sources, such as wind, solar and wave power. Such a battery could lower the overall costs of energy storage while also having the advantages of small physical footprint and mechanical simplicity.

liquid-metal-battery

Stanford University materials scientist Robert Huggins was very positive of the development:

“There is currently a large amount of research and development underway on energy storage in various types of batteries,” Huggins told me. “Much of this relates to various versions of lithium-based batteries. However, the invention of the three-level liquid metal battery by Sadoway and his co-workers at MIT is unique.”

Huggins points out that the work which uses three layers of liquid lithium, antimony and lead, which are maintained in the liquid state by electrical energy itself keeping it at 450 Celsius, “is leading to the development of an entirely different type of energy storage device, applicable to a different set of applications and technical requirements, in which size, weight and portability are not critical parameters. Instead, cost, high rate performance, safety and lifetime are most important,” he adds.

The approach has many advantages in terms of being safer than conventional batteries with solution electrolytes that can leak into the environment. If this battery fails the components freeze instantly and so cannot leach into the environment. “Characteristics of this new approach to energy-storage technology are especially applicable to large-scale energy storage, such as that which could be employed in connection with solar or wind energy systems. Intermittent cloud cover or sudden shifts in the velocity or direction of the wind can cause major rapid changes in the output of such important systems,” Huggins told me. “The development of new methods and technologies that can alleviate this transient problem is of great importance. The work of the Sadoway group is clearly one of the most interesting approaches to this problem. I think that it is important to give visibility to this important work, which is very different from what is being done in other laboratories throughout the world.”

I was slightly concerned with the fact that this system uses lead, but Sadoway pointed out an obvious benefit of using liquid metals over solutions. “Lead is not a problem as it is inside a sealed container,” he told me. “It’s not going to be venting or leaking into the environment. Safety is not an issue in the course of normal use. In fact, if the battery case were breached and the contents leaked, they would freeze. In this sense, a battery that is operative only at elevated temperature is safer than a battery that is operative at ambient temperature. If the case of a lithium-ion battery is breached, the contents can leak into the environment with attendant harm. Plus, we know that it is forbidden to ship lithium-ion batteries by air transport. The liquid metal battery, in contrast, can be safely shipped by any means since at room temperature the contents are solid metal and salt, i.e., totally disabled.”

My full news story: Molten metal batteries set to store grid power.

The image above by Felice Frankel shows a model of just such a liquid metal battery at room temperature, in a glass container. The bottom layer is the positive electrode. In the real battery this is an alloy of antimony and lead, represented here by mercury. The middle layer is the electrolyte – in reality, a mixed molten salt; here, a solution of salt in water. The top layer is the current collector of the negative electrode, a metal mesh of iron-nickel alloy.

Liquid energy is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
Subscribe to our Email Newsletter

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Categories: Science Blogs

A simple flowchart for trolls

22 September, 2014 - 09:09

The end of all name-calling arguments during childhood is often the intervention of an adult with a phrase such as: “If you’ve got nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. If only we could apply parental rule #4.6/d to the childish online, the twitter trolls, the youtube haters, the blog spammers and others. Here’s a handy flowchart you may cut out and keep and pin to your computer screen so that next time you are making a decision regarding a Twitter reply, a Facebook update or are commenting on a blog, a video or some other creative output, you will know how to behave graciously.

troll-flowchart

A simple flowchart for trolls is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
Subscribe to our Email Newsletter

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Categories: Science Blogs

Did you fake your password?

18 September, 2014 - 08:37

It’s an evergreen news story in the tech world: the top 25 idiotic passwords we use. Every tech magazine reports it and trumpets our global stupidity in the face of hackers. The articles usually beseech us to think about security, to batten down our virtual hatches, to make sure we use a good strong password like 6z!!jciBAOdGEy5EHE&6 or something equally unmemorable.

spoof-login

The surveys and roundups of passwords usually show that simple alphanumeric strings are in widespread use purportedly protecting our Hotmail, GMail, Facebook, Twitter, Xbox, Sony and every other online account, even our bank and credit card accounts. Among the apparently silliest and simplest are things like “password” and “passw0rd”, “123456”, “ILoveYou”, “qwerty”, “abc123″, “111111” and many others besides. All equally crackable and/or guessable. Indeed, any short alphanumeric string, no matter how seemingly random can be cracked by so-called bruteforce means within seconds by a powerful enough computer, or an array of hijacked machines running malware.

Recent revelations about an alleged 5 million GMail passwords being published online revealed once again that the users of those accounts were particularly foolish with their password use. Security blogs suggested that 9 out of 10 of the passwords leaked could have been bruteforce attacked easily because they were so simple.

But, a twitter discussion with Michael Horak ‏@fatmike182 and Benedikt Malleolus ‏@BMalleolus has got me thinking about those silly statistics. Horak pointed out that of any bunch of leaked GMails there is a likelihood that a fair proportion will be either fake (accounts set up for spam and other malicious purposes) or else created for one-time use as a disposable account with which to register on a particular site. We have no easy way to determine what percentage of any list of username/password logins, from whatever hacked source, are genuine users and what proportion are fake, spam, disposable logins.

In other words, the shouty tech blogs that discuss password complexity and how inept most of use supposedly are at using decent passwords may be basing their proclamations on skewed data. Maybe many of us use really strong passwords and two-factor authentication, maybe more than they care to admit aren’t really so dumb as to use “password” as a password for our mission critical logins.

But, here’s a little puzzle, which of these two imaginary passwords would take the longest to crack?

“iSK6%3U6Gt” or “Password……..”

The answer, given the leading question may not surprise you, but is surprising nevertheless. It’s all about making the haystack in which your password needle might be found much bigger than everyone else’s. The mixed character password would be crackable in about a week assuming some kind of Massive Cracking Array Scenario carrying out one hundred trillion guesses per second. The latter password would take the same Array slightly longer, about 2 billion years. Of course, if everyone starts simply adding fullstops to the ends of their passwords, the hackers will soon learn and add that pattern to their search algorithms. Maybe we need to be even a little cleverer than they give us credit for.

Did you fake your password? is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
Subscribe to our Email Newsletter

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Categories: Science Blogs

A brief word about tomatoes and prostate cancer

4 September, 2014 - 14:16

UPDATE: To avoid confusion: eating lots of tomatoes will not stop you getting prostate cancer if other risk factors are in place!

At least 20 years ago I wrote a news story in my rookie days about how the natural red pigment in tomatoes, the antioxidant lycopene, could somehow protect men against prostate cancer. Nothing was ever proven and the latest news which hit the tabloids in the last couple of weeks doesn’t add much, at least if you read between the lines.

NHS Choices, as ever, has a good summary:

“This large study has shown an association between the consumption of more than 10 portions of tomatoes per week and an 18% reduction in risk of prostate cancer. However, as this was a case controlled study, and not a randomised controlled trial, it cannot prove that eating more tomatoes prevents prostate cancer.”

Tomatoes grown and photographed by David Bradley

The study does have some strengths: large size and accounting for confounding factors. However, limitations include: reliance on dietary questionnaires and the broad categories for self-estimate of body size. After all, do you recall how many portions of tomatoes you’ve had and can honestly tell us how fat or thin you are?

The bottom line NHS Choices says:

“This study does not provide enough evidence to change the recommendations for reducing the risk of prostate cancer. A healthy, balanced diet, regular exercise and stopping smoking are still the way to go, rather than relying on eating one exclusive food type such as tomatoes.”

Tomato-rich diet 'reduces prostate cancer risk'.

Incidentally, from this paper: “Prostate cancer (PCa) represents a major public health burden in the western world. It is a peculiar disease as more men die with it than from it. Also interestingly, PCa was virtually unknown until the 20th century.”

A brief word about tomatoes and prostate cancer is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
Subscribe to our Email Newsletter

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Categories: Science Blogs

Lodestar Festival 2014 Extras

3 September, 2014 - 16:21

I got rather too many photos from the 2014 Lodestar Festival, the top bunch are in my Flickr gallery and Facebook gallery. This little lot are ones I’ve plucked out from the folders that didn’t jump out at me first time through but are more representative of the festivalgoers than the bands themselves!

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

Post by Dave Bradley Photos.

Lodestar Festival 2014 Extras is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
Subscribe to our Email Newsletter

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Categories: Science Blogs

The Dark Net – Jamie Bartlett

28 August, 2014 - 20:12

From the blurb: “Beyond the familiar online world that most of us inhabit – a world of Google, Hotmail, Facebook and Amazon – lies a vast and often hidden network of sites, communities and cultures where freedom is pushed to its limits, and where people can be anyone, or do anything, they want. A world that is as creative and complex as it is dangerous and disturbing. A world that is much closer than you think.”

jamie-bartlett-dark-netIf you’ve been using the Internet since pre-web days, as I have, you may wonder what more you could learn, having spent endless hours on bulletin boards, usenet, gopher systems and the like. Jamie Bartlett, may well open your eyes to a whole new world of neurotica from the true meaning of trolls to the doxxing of camwhores, racist-nationalist activist rants and how they spill into the real world the way to the Silk Road marketplace and the truth about some of the most disturbing abuses of humanity. From cypherpunks and cyberpunks to hackers and crackers. It’s all here, it’s all dark. He shines a light on the taboo zones and demonstrates what the darkest recesses of the online world might tell us about our real-world selves.

Bartlett is Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media. His primary research interests are: new political movements and social media research and analysis, internet cultures and security and privacy online and so more than qualified to tell us about the darkest back alleys away from the information superhighway. A gripping read, more thrilling and chilling than many a fictional tale of the digital could ever be.

Footnote: As I understand it, there have been some issues brought to light since what I assume was Bartlett’s “time-of-writing” regarding various tools and techniques taken as fact at the time that are no longer necessarily valid. For instance, I don’t think the Tor (the onion router) browser and tools are necessarily as secure and private as was originally thought (although that may be due to 3rd party interactions and user errors, it’s unclear. Neither is PGP as honourable as it once was, but who’s to know whether that’s disinformation put in place by the spooks? Indeed, there are also ongoing revelations about spying by NSA and GCHQ that put paid to some of the safe harbours for libertarians.

One minor quibble that isn’t really about the Dark Net text at all is that the idea that human communication is mostly non-verbal is wrong, that piece of Deceived Wisdom has been debunkeud repeatledly over the years.

The Dark Net – Jamie Bartlett is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
Subscribe to our Email Newsletter

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Categories: Science Blogs

When Google comes to town

21 August, 2014 - 09:30

UPDATE: Friend of the blog Nick Howe just pointed out to me that the Google car has a flight tyre, rear offside…so wasn’t “broken down”, just had a puncture to deal with…I should have spotted that but was too busy getting the composition and exposure for my photo right!

UPDATE: Daughter returning from school having collected her excellent GSCE results says there was an RAC van with the Google car, he’d actually just broken down, which would explain the driver’s surliness.

Mrs Sciencebase out and about in our village this morning alerted me to the fact that she had spotted a Google StreetView vehicle parked outside a boarded up shop on the High Street. I dashed out on my bike, camera in hand, to get a snap – watching the watchers – and hopefully have a chat with the operative. Well, I got a photo or two, but the chap with the controls was less than conversational, nervous almost, as if he’d been doing something wrong…like harvesting Wi-Fi passwords (allegedly) rather than assimilating images of the local streets. Either that or he was just a shy chap and not interested in chatting to the public…incidentally, I wonder if I’ll get a request to pixelate his number plate. Hahahah

google-streetview-car-2 google-streetview-car

Anyway, if you’re out and about in the village today and see him assimilating, give him the vees or a little wave depending on your mood and let’s all celebrate the wonder that is Google. Not.

When Google comes to town is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
Subscribe to our Email Newsletter

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Categories: Science Blogs

Anticancer Aspirin? Not so fast

7 August, 2014 - 08:41

The news was full of the discovery that taking some aspirin every day for ten years could somehow reduce your risk of getting cancer, particularly cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. The stomach bleeding side-effect (for some) and other as yet unknown side-effects aside, I was skeptical from the start, it just looked like a review of reviews where they looked at the idea that taking aspirin for years and years might somehow correlate with not getting cancer. To me, this is like the inverse of so many other studies that purportedly “prove” that such and such an exposure to food, pollution, toxin or whatever will “cause” cancer. Correlation is not causation.

chemical-structure-of-aspirin

As far as I can tell, the discovery was based on a literature review and not an actual study of the pharmacology and biochemical effects of aspirin itself. Thankfully, NHS Choices magazine, which takes a look at the science behind the headlines seems to agree. “The study was carried out by researchers from a number of institutions across Europe and the US, including Queen Mary University of London. It was funded by Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and the American Cancer Society. The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Annals of Oncology.” Fine. Good.

But, says NHS Choices: “Several of the study’s authors are consultants to or have other connections with pharmaceutical companies with an interest in antiplatelet agents such as aspirin.” That’s common, and, of course, those involved in pharma research are generally connected to the industry in some way. So, not necessarily a bad thing, there are often what some might refer to as conflicts of interest in biomedical research if these are indeed conflicts here.

More worrying though, and to my mind, the real nub of the problem is what NHS Choices says about the details of the study: “It is not clear that the results are reliable from the methods reportedly used to compile this review. This is because it included studies of varying design and quality, with much of the evidence coming from observational studies, which, while useful, cannot be totally relied on to test the effectiveness of healthcare interventions.”

NHS Choices also criticises the way studies in the review were chosen: “It’s not clear how the studies included in the review were chosen and whether others on the same topic were excluded. It is also not clear whether or not this was a systematic review, where studies are rigorously appraised for their quality and criteria are established for their inclusion.”

That sounds like quite the damning indictment to me and for that reason, I for one am out.

Daily aspirin 'reduces cancer risk,' study finds – Health News – NHS Choices.

Anticancer Aspirin? Not so fast is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
Subscribe to our Email Newsletter

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Categories: Science Blogs

WebElements: the periodic table on the WWW [http://www.webelements.com/]

Copyright 1993-2011 Mark Winter [The University of Sheffield and WebElements Ltd, UK]. All rights reserved.