All posts by Steven Novella

Founder and currently Executive Editor of Science-Based Medicine Steven Novella, MD is an academic clinical neurologist at the Yale University School of Medicine. He is also the president and co-founder of the New England Skeptical Society, the host and producer of the popular weekly science podcast, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, and the author of the NeuroLogicaBlog, a daily blog that covers news and issues in neuroscience, but also general science, scientific skepticism, philosophy of science, critical thinking, and the intersection of science with the media and society. Dr. Novella also contributes every Sunday to The Rogues Gallery, the official blog of the SGU.

What Not To Say When Someone Is Sick

I understand the impulse, but you are well-advised to resist it. When someone you know has a serious illness, maybe even dying, you want to say something to them that is helpful, positive, and hopeful. The hopeful tone takes away some of the sting and the awkwardness of not knowing what to say to someone who just told you they are dying....

/ March 30, 2016

Zap Your Way to Learning?

The company Halo Neuroscience is now offering a device, the Halo-Sport, which they claim enhances sports performance through “neuropriming.” Their website claims: Neuropriming uses pulses of energy to increase the excitability of motor neurons, benefiting athletes in two ways: accelerated strength and skill acquisition. Regular readers of SBM can probably see where this is going. A proper threshold of evidence Before I...

/ March 23, 2016

Another Anti-GMO Paper Retracted

Retraction Watch is a great website. As the name implies, it focuses on a key aspect of quality control in science, the retraction of scientific papers that have already passed peer-review and were published when serious concerns about those papers come to light. Retracting published papers is similar to phase IV clinical trials – tracking side effects of drugs that have already...

/ March 16, 2016

P Value Under Fire

The greatest strength of science is that it is self-critical. Scientists are not only critical of specific claims and the evidence for those claims, but they are critical of the process of science itself. That criticism is constructive – it is designed to make the process better, more efficient, and more reliable. One aspect of the process of science that has received...

/ March 9, 2016

Bad Reporting about Uploading Memories

The Mirror declares, ‘Scientists develop Matrix-style technique of ‘feeding’ information directly into your brain.’ Discovery News went with, “Novices ‘Download’ Pilots’ Brainwaves, Learn To Fly.” Most other outlets spoke of ‘uploading’ information to the brain, and learning in seconds. The one thing I was certain of from reading these headlines is that this was not what was happening. Brain-machine interface technology is...

/ March 2, 2016

Air Pollution and Public Health

Public health measures are those not aimed at individuals but at society as a whole, or subgroups within society. Physicians are charged not only with promoting the health of their own patients, but as a profession we (and health care professions in general) are charged with promoting the public health. Public health measures, however, are highly likely to cross into politically charged...

/ February 24, 2016
cows

Organic vs Conventional Meat and Milk

Two recently published meta-analyses, one on meat and another on milk, conclude that levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and omega-3 fatty acids are higher in the organic versions of both. This is being widely reported as evidence that organic meat and milk is healthier, but a closer look at these two studies shows a different picture. The organic false dichotomy I...

/ February 17, 2016

Update on the Zika Virus

A new word has been added to the public’s vocabulary – the Zika virus. It seems we have one more infectious agent to worry about. Here are the facts as we currently understand them regarding the recent Zika epidemic, and also some rumors and conspiracy theories that need debunking. Zika virus The Zika virus (of the viral family Flaviviridae, an Arthropod-Borne or...

/ February 10, 2016

Laws Limiting Vaccine Exemptions Work

It’s nice when a question can be resolved with objective numbers of unequivocal outcomes. Subjective outcomes give scientists a headache. In this case we are talking about the effect of vaccine exemption laws on vaccine compliance rates. The question here is not the ethical one, the rights of parents to determine the fate of their children vs the right of the state...

/ February 3, 2016

More Trouble for Antioxidants

Antioxidants are now an iconic example of premature hype making its way into marketing and the public consciousness long before the science is adequately understood. There are multiple lessons to be learned in this story, and a new study just emphasizes those lessons further. A brief history of antioxidants One of the unavoidable consequences of metabolism (burning food for energy) is the...

/ January 27, 2016