Is There a Reproducibility Crisis in Science?
One of the things that has become painfully apparent since the introduction of the internet is that when it comes to research, everything is not what it seemed to be.
What I mean by that is that over the past ten years or so some pretty major pieces of information based on what we all thought was some kind of infallible scientific research has been proven to be wrong.
Those evil eggs that were sending us all to early graves have turned out to be not so bad after all and in fact we are now being told they are healthy.
Previously the road to hell was not paved with good intentions as we had been led to believe but was in fact made of animal fats and we were all going to die.
Again, turns out that wasn’t exactly true and in fact the real culprit for heart disease that triggered the original search turned out to be sugar.
So the question I keep getting is how could that happen?
How could it be that these scientific studies and research programs are initially taken up as the “real” data and then later get discredited.
Well the answer to that lies in the research process itself.
When some group undertake an experiment or research project the chances are they already have some kind of “thing” they are trying to prove or disprove.
That immediately taints the research even if only in a tiny way.
What is supposed to happen is that after a study is done a paper should be written on it then that paper should be inspected and questioned by the scientific community as a whole.
If sufficient doubt is raised what should then happen is that another independent group should replicate the original study or experiment to verify the outcomes reported.
Notice I keep using the word “should?”
Yeah, there is reason for that!
Although these are all things that should happen the reality is that they almost never do and the reason for that comes down to one point and one point alone.
most people get the idea that “research” is somehow being undertaken by nice people in lab coats with the intention of improving the world in some way, to heal the sick or to make our lives better.
The only accurate thing about that is probably the lab coats.
The vast majority of research is paid for by an interested party and when I say interested I mean a party that has a stake in the outcome.
So when the sugar industry commissions research into the health benefits of consuming excessive sugar you can bet your bottom dollar that research will come out in favor of the masters of the project!
If something untoward comes out then they just bury the results and you never hear of it again.
Keep in mind that if that were to happen and someone decided to question the results, where would they get the money to run the research program again?
Certainly not from the interested party!
Growing a Spine
I thought this was pretty cool. Theoretically sea urchins live in an environment that almost completely fails to provide sufficient calcium to build their bodies the first time let alone enough to cover repairs.
Yet somehow they manage to do it and also manage to rebuild spines that have been lost.
Scientists are just beginning to understand how they are managing to do that.
The results may very well have an impact on our own ability to re-grow and repair bones in our own bodies including delicate structure like the spine.
Victorian Pseudosciences: Shocking People Back to Health
Sometimes, as I cast my eye about the current nutritional and medical landscape I wonder to myself, “Have we really advanced all that much past this point?”
So Let’s Relax on the Sugar OK?
OK, so if you are currently in a state of panic regarding the whole “sugar gonna kill you” state of affairs maybe it’s time to relax a little and get some perspective.
The bottom line is that sugar in any processed or concentrated form outside of how it appears naturally is not good.
But, that doesn’t mean a little sugar is going to kill you or lead you down the path of degeneration towards death at breakneck speed.
It just means that you should look realistically at your levels of sugar consumption and reduce it, not cut it out altogether.
The only reason sugar has become such a big monster is that over the years no-one realized just how much of it has been added to foods that we wouldn’t normally associate with containing sugar.
The result of this is that perfectly harmless piece of cake you just ate is not so harmless because it is on top of a whole bunch of sugar you didn’t realize you were eating.
So don’t sweat the type of sugar, they are all sugar!
Just take a little time to calculate realistically how much you are having regularly and cut it down a bit.
Don’t worry about the obvious places like icecream and desserts, worry about the hidden sugar in processed food, that where the trouble starts.
Well this is certainly conflicting!
The good news is that Nestle claim they have found a way to reduce the sugar in chocolate by 40% without affecting the flavour.
So that’s good right?
However I can’t help but feel a tad nervous when it is Nestle making the announcement.
All kinds of “Frankensugar” possibilities come to mind.
Then on top of that they claim they have found a way to alter the structure of sugar so that is dissolves faster fooling the tongue into perceiving more sweetness from less sugar.
Ummm… ok, that kinda makes sense but then again it is Nestle after all so I think I am now a little worried about exactly HOW they have “altered” the structure of the sugar to do that.
Finally they have said they won’t be using it until 2018 which to me suggests they have done something that may require them to actually test the “new” form of sugar just to make sure it doesn’t kill or damage (too many) humans.
Like I said, it’s a real good news bad news affair!
Platypus to the Rescue!
There is much to love about Australia’s most unusual and unique mammal, the platypus.
Incredibly odd looking yet at the same time unbelievably cute, the platypus is one of only two mammals in the world that reproduces by laying eggs.
As a side note, the only other one is also native to and unique to Australia as well and that the Echidna.
The male platypus has spurs on it’s hind legs that can release a venomous substance and although not deadly, does the trick in warding of predators.
Scientists have recently discovered that within this venom is a hormone not necessarily unique to the platypus but certainly in a form unique to them.
The hormone in question promotes the release of insulin and can be found in humans and many other animals forming part of the control system for sugar levels.
What is different with the platypus hormone is that it is particularly long lasting as compared to the human equivalent and that produced by other animals.
Although it is early days yet scientists are hopeful that this new form of the hormone may provide the key to more effective blood sugar control for diabetics.
Whilst you could say the overall consensus of opinion on eating nuts would suggest they are a healthy snack alternative, like most things in life, not all things were created equal.
Check out the article linked below for a convenient side by side comparison of most of the common nuts and their virtues.