My Bad Science Reading List

January 16, 2009 at 8:43 pm (Bad Science, Books) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Well, first up are the Bad Science blogs. These people, in my opinion, are providing a public service in fighting against the ignorance and bullshit promoted by anti-vaccinationists, the mainstream media, and homeopaths with healer fantasies (among others). Issues as important as Aids in Africa and MMR vaccines in Britain are addressed by these bloggers. Then there are the books available online – from Trish Greenhalgh’s How to Read a Paper [free registration required] to Chalmers, Evans and Thornton’s Testing Treatments. [You can download this as a free PDF.]

How to Read a Paper includes a section on papers that report drug trials and this has some very useful information on topics such as surrogate end points, while Testing Treatments tackles such issues as whether there should be “Less research, better research, and research for the right reasons”. I would recommend reading both Greenhalgh’s How to Read a Paper and the Testing Treatments e-book, but if you want to read more on Evidence-Based Medicine you could do a lot worse than to visit Holfordwatch and check out the links in the sidebar under that heading. The BMJ editorial on EBM is worth checking out.

Books I have bought include How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff, my favourite bit of the book is possibly the section that introduces the “gee-whiz graph” (a chart that has the bottom cut off to make it seem more impressive). Ben Goldacre is also a fan and there is also a PDF here that looks at the success of the book. It includes this line, which I quite like: “People do lie with statistics every day, and it is to Huff’s credit that he takes the media (and others) to task for having stretched, torn or mutilated the truth.”

Another is Harry G Frankfurt’s On Bullshit. I thoroughly enjoyed this essay, which includes the assertion that “bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are” and points out that, despite this, we seem to consider lying to be a worse crime than bullshitting.

A book that may be useful in honing one’s bullshit detector (particularly in terms of marketing tricks to be wary of) is Robert Cialdini’s Influence: Science and Practice. Cialdini talks of six “weapons of influence” that can be used to persuade you to do something you may not otherwise have done. The points Cialdini makes are well illustrated by the stories he relates (the boy scout selling tickets and candy bars, and the jewellery shop owner are still fresh in my memory).

Finally, there is the Bad Science book itself. Bad Science takes us through all manner of topics, from detoxing one’s Barbie doll to the Media’s MMR hoax. Bad statistics, bad reporting, and bad research are covered methodically and with humour. You can read reviews of this book on Amazon.


Amazon reviews are also available for Huff; Frankfurt; Cialdini.

EDIT: I should also have mentioned two three further books that I own – the collection of essays by Richard Dawkins, Devil’s Chaplain, and Feynman’s “Surely You’re Joking…” (the chapter on Cargo Cult Science is excellent) and The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. I should also have mentioned Francis Wheen’s How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World, which was a present from my dear old mum. Counterknowledge and Flat Earth News have now been reserved at my local library and Holford Watch have linked to this on their miniblog: How to critically appraise an article. To update further: I’ve read Counterknowledge and Flat Earth News now. I’ve also read Dawkins’ Unweaving the Rainbow and Stuart Sutherland’s Irrationality (both from my local library).

[Digg this post]

EDIT 19th June: More resources here…



  1. Alan Henness (zeno) said,


    If you’re interested in the media and how they work, you could do worse that read Nick Davies’s ‘Flat Earth News’. Although primarily about the way the media churn, mislead and lie about all news events, it is very applicable to the pathetic way they report science, particularly the way they don’t actually do much investigating or confirmation of details about stories. Davies has a website associated with the book

    I can also highly recommend Ben’s book that Dave mentioned. Just got ‘Healing, Hype or Harm’, edited by Edzard Ernst and Damian Thompson’s ‘Counter-Knowledge’ this morning, so lots more to read.

  2. Mojo said,

    I’d add Bausell’s Snake Oil Science and Robert Park’s Voodoo Science.

  3. jdc325 said,

    Thanks Mojo. I’ve heard good things about Bausell – I think AP Gaylard has cited parts of the Snake Oil Science book in some of his blog posts. I’ve not read it yet, but I think it might be one that I check out.

  4. stavros said,

    jdc, I just finished reading “On Bullshit”. It made for a very interesting albeit lightweight reading despite the philosophical motivations of Frankfurt. Very entertaining little book!

    Ben’s “Bad Science” is simply excellent.

    Greenhalgh’s list of articles seems extremely interesting -thanks for the links!

  5. Allo V Psycho said,

    Favourites from my bookshelf – probably all out of print, but hey, this is the age of teh Infostrada

    Bob Couttie: Forbidden Knowledge – the paranormal paradox
    Martin Gardner: The New Age: notes of a fringe watcher.
    Petr Skrabanek, james McCormick. Follies and Fallacies in medicine
    John Diamond: Snake Oil
    Stephen J Gould: The Mismeasure of Man

    I don’t have any of James Randi’s books – I think I read ‘Flim Flam’ and liked it.

  6. Joe Nahhas said,

    Einstein’s Nemesis: DI Her Eclipsing Binary Stars Solution
    The problem that the 100,000 PHD Physicists could not solve

    This is the solution to the “Quarter of a century” Smithsonian-NASA Posted motion puzzle that Einstein and the 100,000 space-time physicists including 109 years of Nobel prize winner physics and physicists and 400 years of astronomy and Astrophysicists could not solve and solved here and dedicated to Drs Edward Guinan and Frank Maloney
    Of Villanova University Pennsylvania who posted this motion puzzle and started the search collections of stars with motion that can not be explained by any published physics
    For 350 years Physicists Astrophysicists and Mathematicians and all others including Newton and Kepler themselves missed the time-dependent Newton’s equation and time dependent Kepler’s equation that accounts for Quantum – relativistic effects and it explains these effects as visual effects. Here it is

    Universal- Mechanics

    All there is in the Universe is objects of mass m moving in space (x, y, z) at a location
    r = r (x, y, z). The state of any object in the Universe can be expressed as the product

    S = m r; State = mass x location

    P = d S/d t = m (d r/dt) + (dm/dt) r = Total moment

    = change of location + change of mass

    = m v + m’ r; v = velocity = d r/d t; m’ = mass change rate

    F = d P/d t = d²S/dt² = Force = m (d²r/dt²) +2(dm/d t) (d r/d t) + (d²m/dt²) r

    = m γ + 2m’v +m”r; γ = acceleration; m” = mass acceleration rate

    In polar coordinates system

    r = r r(1) ;v = r’ r(1) + r θ’ θ(1) ; γ = (r” – rθ’²)r(1) + (2r’θ’ + rθ”)θ(1)

    F = m[(r”-rθ’²)r(1) + (2r’θ’ + rθ”)θ(1)] + 2m'[r’r(1) + rθ’θ(1)] + (m”r) r(1)

    F = [d²(m r)/dt² – (m r)θ’²]r(1) + (1/mr)[d(m²r²θ’)/d t]θ(1) = [-GmM/r²]r(1)

    d² (m r)/dt² – (m r) θ’² = -GmM/r²; d (m²r²θ’)/d t = 0

    Let m =constant: M=constant

    d²r/dt² – r θ’²=-GM/r² —— I

    d(r²θ’)/d t = 0 —————–II
    r²θ’=h = constant ————– II
    r = 1/u; r’ = -u’/u² = – r²u’ = – r²θ'(d u/d θ) = -h (d u/d θ)
    d (r²θ’)/d t = 2rr’θ’ + r²θ” = 0 r” = – h d/d t (du/d θ) = – h θ'(d²u/d θ²) = – (h²/r²)(d²u/dθ²)
    [- (h²/r²) (d²u/dθ²)] – r [(h/r²)²] = -GM/r²
    2(r’/r) = – (θ”/θ’) = 2[λ + ỉ ω (t)] – h²u² (d²u/dθ²) – h²u³ = -GMu²
    d²u/dθ² + u = GM/h²
    r(θ, t) = r (θ, 0) Exp [λ + ỉ ω (t)] u(θ,0) = GM/h² + Acosθ; r (θ, 0) = 1/(GM/h² + Acosθ)
    r ( θ, 0) = h²/GM/[1 + (Ah²/Gm)cosθ]
    r(θ,0) = a(1-ε²)/(1+εcosθ) ; h²/GM = a(1-ε²); ε = Ah²/GM

    r(0,t)= Exp[λ(r) + ỉ ω (r)]t; Exp = Exponential

    r = r(θ , t)=r(θ,0)r(0,t)=[a(1-ε²)/(1+εcosθ)]{Exp[λ(r) + ì ω(r)]t} Nahhas’ Solution

    If λ(r) ≈ 0; then:

    r (θ, t) = [(1-ε²)/(1+εcosθ)]{Exp[ỉ ω(r)t]

    θ'(r, t) = θ'[r(θ,0), 0] Exp{-2ỉ[ω(r)t]}

    h = 2π a b/T; b=a√ (1-ε²); a = mean distance value; ε = eccentricity
    h = 2πa²√ (1-ε²); r (0, 0) = a (1-ε)

    θ’ (0,0) = h/r²(0,0) = 2π[√(1-ε²)]/T(1-ε)²
    θ’ (0,t) = θ'(0,0)Exp(-2ỉwt)={2π[√(1-ε²)]/T(1-ε)²} Exp (-2iwt)

    θ'(0,t) = θ'(0,0) [cosine 2(wt) – ỉ sine 2(wt)] = θ'(0,0) [1- 2sine² (wt) – ỉ sin 2(wt)]
    θ'(0,t) = θ'(0,t)(x) + θ'(0,t)(y); θ'(0,t)(x) = θ'(0,0)[ 1- 2sine² (wt)]
    θ'(0,t)(x) – θ'(0,0) = – 2θ'(0,0)sine²(wt) = – 2θ'(0,0)(v/c)² v/c=sine wt; c=light speed

    Δ θ’ = [θ'(0, t) – θ'(0, 0)] = -4π {[√ (1-ε) ²]/T (1-ε) ²} (v/c) ²} radians/second
    {(180/π=degrees) x (36526=century)

    Δ θ’ = [-720×36526/ T (days)] {[√ (1-ε) ²]/ (1-ε) ²}(v/c) = 1.04°/century

    This is the T-Rex equation that is going to demolished Einstein’s space-jail of time

    The circumference of an ellipse: 2πa (1 – ε²/4 + 3/16(ε²)²—) ≈ 2πa (1-ε²/4); R =a (1-ε²/4)
    v (m) = √ [GM²/ (m + M) a (1-ε²/4)] ≈ √ [GM/a (1-ε²/4)]; m<<M; Solar system

    v = v (center of mass); v is the sum of orbital/rotational velocities = v(cm) for DI Her
    Let m = mass of primary; M = mass of secondary

    v (m) = primary speed; v(M) = secondary speed = √[Gm²/(m+M)a(1-ε²/4)]
    v (cm) = [m v(m) + M v(M)]/(m + M) All rights reserved.

  7. jdc325 said,

    More resources here…

  8. Obvious said,

    On vaccination. Currently, according to the HPA we have the highest number of cases of whooping cough for decades, we also have the highest level of whooping cough vaccine compliance too.

    Apparently the outbreaks of whooping cough have nothing to do with those who decided not to vaccinate, CDC, but is due to vaccine failure.

    It is difficult to be pro vaccine with facts like this, so what’s your take on it?

  9. Obvious said,

    The efficacy of flu vaccine is bullshit, Cochraine, we can’t even audit Tamiflu because Roche lost all the data, BMJ. Surely being pro or anti vaccine is unscientific, either it works as a concept or it is marketing hype.

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