Death by Liquorice

A blog post for the non-expert The media is reporting a 54-year-old construction worker from Massachusetts has died of liquorice poisoning. Not for the first time when dealing with such issues, the press reports are so similar that they were likely all cloned from the original source, a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine.Continue reading “Death by Liquorice”

A sober look at dexamethasone

A Covid-19 blog post for the non-expert It stared with a 16th June 2020 press release  from the University of Oxford “Low-cost dexamethasone reduce death by up to one third in hospitalised patients with severe respiratory complications of COVID-19” – which triggered the equivalent of a media cytokine storm (pun explained shortly). I do not want,Continue reading “A sober look at dexamethasone”

Has the scientific method been suspended?

There’s a scene in the Netflix series Space Force when Chief Scientist Dr. Adrian Mallory asks, “why do you distrust scientists?” To which General Naird angrily replies, “you scientists say don’t eat carbs one day and only eat carbs the next”. One of the scientists in the room interjects, saying, “because of the sample sizesContinue reading “Has the scientific method been suspended?”

Covid-19 vaccine pessimism

Another blog on Covid-19 for the non-expert I’ve seen claims on social media and in the press saying a vaccine for Covid-19 may never arrive. The Telegraph, and The Guardian are two examples. The three most commonly quoted reasons I’ve seen for vaccine pessimism are: (1) vaccines take many years to make, the mumps vaccineContinue reading “Covid-19 vaccine pessimism”

What is Remdesivir and how does it work?

Another Covid-19 blog post for the non-expert. Parts of the media are claiming a drug called remdesivir has arrived to save us The BBC: “Remdesivir: Drug has ‘clear-cut’ power to fight coronavirus” RFI – Radio France Internationale, live news: “US claims major breakthrough after positive trial of coronavirus drug remdesivir” The Express: “Hope of coronavirusContinue reading “What is Remdesivir and how does it work?”

Antimalarials for Covid-19

Another post concerning topics on Covid-19 aimed at the non-expert. Scientists are cautious by nature, some politicians and political journalists are not. While scientists say there’s no convincing evidence antimalarial drugs such as hydroxychloroquine have any effect on Covid-19, President Trump says, “there are some very strong, powerful signs of hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 therapy”.Continue reading “Antimalarials for Covid-19”

Media reporting and experts

We all have our political opinions but I have tried very hard to stay away from them on this blog, and this post is no exception. Nevertheless, I’m about to wander off the science and towards the media, so it’s bound to be somewhat opinionated – please forgive me. I’ll make one exception on theContinue reading “Media reporting and experts”

Is Science Popular?

Scientists often despair at the general lack of scientific understanding by the general public. And to be fair, that understanding is not brilliant, evidenced by regular surveys. I have summarised a snapshot of a series of surveys from across the world below to illustrate the point. Percentage of people getting the right answer to aContinue reading “Is Science Popular?”

… damn lies and statistics

The saying, “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics” is attributed to Mark Twain but may have originated from Benjamin Disraeli. It’s one of those phrases that has been misquoted more times than I can remember because in truth statistics is a branch of mathematics essential to understanding the world. StatisticsContinue reading “… damn lies and statistics”

Antibiotic from breast milk – really?

The headlines read: New drug to wipe out superbugs – antibiotic ‘bullet’ created from breast milk (The Times) Breast milk could wipe out hospital superbugs and even incurable diseases (Express) Breast milk protein could be used in fight against antibiotic resistance (Guardian) Breast milk protein could destroy antibiotic resistant superbugs (Independent) Drug resistant bugs destroyedContinue reading “Antibiotic from breast milk – really?”