Random readings

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Three random things from my to-blog list — no time this morning for more — maybe some commentary later:

Douglas Maurer, "Testing how well Google translate works for medical translation", iMedicalApps 8/12/2015
Matt Michel, "6 Reasons You Can't Trust Science Anymore", Cracked 8/13/2015
"Loaded Language", Boston Calling (BBC)



  1. BlueLoom said,

    August 19, 2015 @ 7:54 am

    Re: "6 Reasons You Can't Trust Science Anymore":

    "Neuroskeptic" (blog) has been harping on these points for years.


  2. Bean said,

    August 19, 2015 @ 9:57 am

    The faux-jocular, sarcastic, know-it-all tone of these kinds of articles (6 Reasons…) irritates the heck out of me. I think the whole thing could have been written more clearly in half the words. But then it wouldn't have been as smarmy, which is what they're obviously going for.

  3. Sybil said,

    August 19, 2015 @ 11:28 am

    @Bean: the "faux-jocular, sarcastic, know-it-all tone of these kinds of articles" is aimed at a particular audience that isn't likely to read, for example, Neuroskeptic. An audience that might find the "tone" of such blogs to be irritating (aloof, talking down, etc. ) Cracked delivers an amazing amount of good information to an audience that might not otherwise be exposed to it.

    I may be biased because I'm especially taken with the article "5 Math Equations That Change The Way You See The World": I haven't found a lot of sources that convey "gee whiz, isn't math cool!" in that way, and the information is actually correct – for example, the equations are actually equations (many times any mathematical thing at all is referred to as an "equation"), and the author manages to convey what is so cool about them without getting too technical, in a way that doesn't commit any significant errors. I only wish I could do this.

  4. Guy said,

    August 19, 2015 @ 11:38 am


    Well, Cracked is an entertainment and humor publication originally created in imitation of Mad Magazine. Obviously there have been substantial changes in medium, demographic, and editorial style, but it's basically still a humor publication, so publishing a "straight" version of the article would be out of their style. I don't think linking to it here is substantially different from linking to XKCD when it has a joke on a relevant topic, although in this case the lack of context might make its unserious tone kind of jarring. And yes, Cracked usually does aim for a kind of semi-ironic affectation of a stereotypical nerdy "well actually…" kind of tone, which I'm sure a lot of people find grating.

  5. J. W. Brewer said,

    August 19, 2015 @ 1:36 pm

    An interesting glass-is-half-full take on some of the issues raised in the Cracked piece is here: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/science-isnt-broken/

  6. Rubrick said,

    August 19, 2015 @ 4:29 pm

    I find it impressive that Cracked tackled this issue at all, and fairly accurately at that, even if it's not really all that funny. However, the piece did include one blatantly untrue assertion: "No one wants to read about dozens of weight-loss drugs that made test subjects gain 10 pounds and a third nipple". I'm pretty sure that's exactly the sort of thing most people want to read.

  7. Brett said,

    August 19, 2015 @ 5:35 pm

    Cracked has gone from being a sad imitation of (the already somewhat sad) Mad to a major Internet site. They have a naturally snarky take on things, but I have learned an awful lot from reading their lists. Sometimes their lists seem to be ranked and sometimes not. In this case, the items seemed to start with the most important and proceed to the least; I wonder if this was just random or whether there was some miscommunication in the preparation of the article.*

    * I have been burned a couple times by having things placed in the opposite order from what I originally intended. Just yesterday, I was reminded of a graphic design project I worked on a very long time ago. It required me to hand draw a large number fish on small stickers, which were applied to the final map we were making. After finishing the drawings, I numbered them in order of quality; it was not clear how many of them we would need at that point. I had to move on to another part of the project that I was also supervising, and my two assistants managed to use the worst fish on the final map, leaving the best to (metaphorically) rot in the sun. This isn't especially relevant, I suppose, but a quarter of a century later, I still occasionally get annoyed about it.

  8. K Chang said,

    August 19, 2015 @ 9:57 pm

    I personally, find this Cracked Article to be far more germane to this blog:

    36 Famous Movie Scenes That Are Better With Misheard Dialogue / subtitling errors


  9. Bean said,

    August 20, 2015 @ 6:14 am

    @All: Sorry, sorry, possibly I wasn't in the right mood for it (and evidently I didn't clue into which website it was from, and what Cracked was), or maybe I am just generally sick of all knowledge now being framed as listicles*. It's rampant.

    I am curious though, does Cracked truly speak their message to a broader audience that wouldn't otherwise read such things, or is it like preaching to the choir? In other words, do only nerds read Cracked anyway? There are other blogs I read where the same issues are addressed (drug research and scientific method) and I feel like everyone who's reading already Believes In the One True Path (=whichever lifestyle that particular blog is promoting).

    *Haha, I should entitle my next conference paper something like, "7 things you never knew about multistatic anti-submarine warfare". See if I get a better audience response, or a media interview. :P

  10. Peter Erwin said,

    August 20, 2015 @ 7:58 am

    I have to admit that my main reaction to the Cracked article was "the stupid… it burns." It's a mishmash of genuine problems, the Recency Illusion, confusion, and dunderheaded wrongness.

    More precisely:
    "Negative Results Are Ignored": this is a problem, but is it a new one? What's arguably new is the concern with trying to address something that's probably been around for a long, long time.

    "Scientists Don't Have to Show Their Work": same thing, except that this is an area where science has been getting better and better in recent years. The sharing and availability of raw data is in fact far better than it's ever been in the past — it's just not as good as many of us think it ought to be or could be.

    "No One Can Share Their Work": … that's pretty much just backwards. Preprint archives, hosting on personal websites, and open access publishing mean that it's never been easier to access scientific papers. (Yes, Elsevier is acting in a horrible manner and needs to be smacked down — but twenty years ago, you basically couldn't read any scientific papers without physically traveling to a university library.)

    And I'm a bit skeptical about sham journals "destroying" science, since most scientists already know which journals in their sub-fields are legitimate.

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