Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Power line voodoo science pops up again in the NZ Herald

here. (note to nzherald: repeating the webpage twice doesn't make something wrong a bit more right).

Simon O'Rourke has tremendous ability to switch effortlessly between the complexities of EM radiation absorption effects on DNA and breathlessly reporting "Women saw friend fly 'head first' through bus window". Besides, it's well known that you can't make a statement so preposterously stupid that you can't find at least one PhD who'll support it. Try it, it's called Google.

But these cheap ad hominum attacks, while amusing, are hardly productive.

My main grief with Simon is that he's showing poor science reporting skills. While attempting to show 'both sides' of the story, he doesn't seem to want to go to the bother of looking at whether the studies cited are any good, what other scientists say about them, is significance in 2 relatively subjective parameters significant?, what was the control group? did the study start out by assuming there would be a difference?, was it a single or double blind?, how was the field strength in each house measured?, was it inferred somehow?...

Makes you wonder if Simon has any training whatsoever in science.

"Power lines cause cancer" is a pithy headline and par for the course in the NZ Herald's science reporting.


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