Ever since COVID-19 swept across the planet earlier this year, the race has been on to develop a vaccine. Now there are two vaccines that are just about ready to go, but there seems to be quite a bit of reluctance when it comes to the prospect of actually getting it. So let's talk about… Continue reading COVID-19 and Vaccine Hesitancy
What the heck is Benford's law and why should anyone care? I was oblivious until I recently saw an episode of the series Connected on Netflix on the topic, but it turns out, the distribution of numbers in our world is a lot less random than you might think. Physicist Frank Benford was actually the… Continue reading Benford’s Law and the Weird & Wacky Ways Our World Works
Many fields have their own jargon, which Wikipedia describes as "specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity" that often isn't well understand by people outside of that particular field. While jargon can help people within a field communicate precisely, that doesn't necessarily translate well outside of the field. It can be… Continue reading The Use and Misuse of Jargon
We've probably all heard of the placebo effect, but what is it, and how does it work? For something that happens regularly, it's not all that well understood. A placebo is any substance that's not intended or expected to have any therapeutic effect. Ethically, it generally wouldn't be considered acceptable to give a patient a… Continue reading What Exactly Is the Placebo Effect?
I'm a very science-minded person, and one of the things that really grates my rutabagas is when people make things up and call it science. In particular, I'm not impressed with made-up vibrations, and especially the made-up idea of vibrating thoughts, law of attraction style. Somehow, the notion of essential oils vibrating flew under my… Continue reading Made-Up Vibrations: The Essential Oils Version
There are plenty of odd pseudoscientific health practices out there, but psychic surgery kicks it up to a whole new level of weird. Psychic surgery isn't like what happens in an operating room; it's more like what happens on a magician's stage. Sleight of hand, fake blood, and animal parts are used to make the… Continue reading Is Psychic Surgery a Real Thing?
Our minds play all kinds of tricks on us. We've got all kinds of cognitive biases that influence what we do with our thoughts, and our brains do interesting things with the what it picks up through our senses. There's a philosophical argument as to whether or not there is a truly objective reality, but… Continue reading Perceived vs. Objective Reality
While COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus, and there's still much to be learned about the virus and the illness, coming up with a vaccine doesn't mean totally reinventing the wheel. How vaccines work is based on knowledge about how the immune system works, and the immune system doesn't abruptly change just because a… Continue reading How Vaccines Work (and What That Means for COVID-19)
There are all kinds of statistics that get thrown around, some of which appear rather dubious. As a result, there seems to be a lot of suspicion about statistics in general. But is that warranted? Let's start with what statistics are. According to Wikipedia, statistics is "the discipline that concerns the collection, organization, displaying, analysis,… Continue reading Can You Believe Statistics?
One of my major pet peeves is pseudoscience, which Google defines as "a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method." There's a lot of pseudoscience out there in the world that can spread easily and quickly via the internet, and it often astonishes me what people will believe. There's also… Continue reading How to Spot Pseudoscience