Why Scientists are Allergic to Statistics

November 21, 2018

Physics and Art

This article in Medical Xpress addresses a huge pet peeve of mine. Scientists largely suck at statistics! Especially for experimental scientists, this is insane. Yet I cannot express how frustrating it has been to me throughout my career as an experimental scientist to see study after study proven invalid because the statistics were botched. And I’m not just talking about bad scientists; even the very best are constantly caught in this trap. Many a brilliant scientist has treated statistics as an afterthought and been burned by it. In fact, I’d bet many non-scientists can name multiple times that some big breakthrough was announced in the media, only to fade away into nothingness. Virtually always this was due to the responsible scientists not understanding their statistics.

This article delves into possible causes for this. I myself was drawn into the fray a few years back, to try and stem the tide of poor…

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Moby-Dick by Melville

November 16, 2018

Pen & Ink Reviews

mobyCall me Ishmael. It is one of the most noted lines in literary history. Thus beginsHerman Melville’s Moby-Dick, a classic in America’s literary body. Complex and dense, the tale revolves around a depressive former school teacher who instructs the reader to call him Ishmael as he becomes embroiled in an ill-fated, epic voyage around the world aboard the Pequod. While the straightforward plot is well-known—an insane captain pursues an insane white whale—the nuances, imagery, allegories, and symbolism are what make this tale a classic.

The most prevalent theme in Moby-Dick is that of man versus nature, human versus animal. Fear, pain, and rage have all combined to create Captain Ahab’s relentless obsession, and the mysterious, deadly white whale has become a symbol for all of the man’s (and humankind’s) suffering. Nature in all its might, apathy, and sometimes seeming-intent is personified in the figure of the white whale…

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Magic Bullet

October 13, 2018

Absent-mindedly, he stuffed his right hand in his jacket pocket and felt the jar.  He drew it out, looked through the glass at the white lumps of organic matter inside and said aloud to himself, “Magic I don’t think so.”  He tossed it in the metal waste bin then, as the clanging sound his action had caused resonated around the room, he had another thought and looked in the bin.  The jar was still intact.  He retrieved it, put it down on the laboratory bench, discarded his jacket and put on his labcoat.  What followed next led to the discovery of Floracillin.

Read http://peatmore.com/magicbullets.htm


Medicine in literature

August 15, 2018

I was surprised when Amazon classified my new novel Magic Bullets as Medical Fiction.  But then I read an article I saw on the Wellcome Book Prize webpage (see https://tinyurl.com/yaf3hb7c) where judges and former winners picked their all-time favourite fiction books that touch on this topic and it seemed that their links to medicine appeared rather vague.  So I decided to list three books that I felt could be similarly classified.

The first one on my list is Trouble with Lichen by John Wyndham.  This is about two biochemists who extracted and anti-aging drug from an unusual strain of lichen only to find that it could induce harmful side effects.  My memories of the book are rather vague as I read it a long time ago.  I do remember it as being rather heavy reading but I kept going as I found the plot most intriguing.

The second on the list is The Invisible Man by H G Wells.  In this book Wells goes into great detail about how to change a body’s refractive index and become invisible.  What I liked about the story was that Wells skill in explaining the science behind the plot makes it seem entirely plausible.  I have read this book several times and still enjoy it as an absorbing read

But my favourite has to be The Double Helix by James D Watson.  It is an autobiographical account of the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA.  It is controversial due to Watson’s willingness to appropriate data surreptitiously from others and his sexist attitude towards scientist Rosalind Franklin who, because of the harmful nature of the X-rays she worked with, died early and therefore could not share the Nobel Prize.  Despite these flaws, I found the story fascinating.  It is probably the greatest medical discovery of all time which has lead and is still leading to momentous breakthroughs in modern medicine.  It is the best detective story I have read and is the main reason why I followed a career in biological science.

 

Keith Jahans


Available on Amazon in hardcover, paperback,
as an ebook and audiobook.


Book Review – Dead Simple by Peter James

April 11, 2018

This is the first book in Peter James’s detective series featuring Roy Grace.  The author has hit on a winning formula as the jacket states that 14 million copies of have been sold of this book alone.  It is certainly a rattling good read for anyone who loves police procedural crime novels.  The plot kept me riveted right to the end with many unsuspecting twists along the way.  Peter James is certainly an expert storyteller.

Keith Jahans

Published in 39 formats and editions and easily found
on Amazon & other major book stores


Robots and Typing

February 20, 2018

I spent most of my working life in the years BC (Before Computers).  When I started work at a UK Government veterinary laboratory at the end of the 1960s there were no calculators; desktop and laptop computers had not been thought of.  Instead, we worked out calculations and wrote letters with pen and paper.  Then a typist would type up the results of our endeavours and copies were made as she typed (it was always a female typist) on carbon paper.

The ladies of the typing pool were some of the kindest, jolliest people I have ever worked with.  Sometimes I dictated my words into a cassette recorder and handed them a tape, but most of the time they had to decipher my scribbled handwriting and most could touch type faster than I could talk.  When I presented the thesis for my Masters Degree for one to type, I did not know that the G and F on the qwerty keyboard were next to each other so that when the word, “buffer”, appeared in my hand written script (and it appeared frequently because of the nature of my study) it came back as “bugger”.  A red faced lady apologised profusely but instead of simply erasing the offending word with correction fluid, she insisted on retyping the whole manuscript.  Then came the first computers and word processors and I guiltily typed out my own letters and reports.  Then came the demise of the typing pool.

Now the personal computer is as much of my life as a pen and paper once were.  I am slightly dyslexic so the built in grammar and spell checkers are a godsend.  But the human interaction with someone who most always presented the text in a manner more pleasing to the eye than I ever could is gone.  Most repetitive human actions now seem to be being replaced by robots.  Even driverless cars are appearing on the roads.  The world is advancing at a pace scarcely envisaged three decades ago.  On the surface it appears that we may have lost something along the way but I like to think that we can still keep the human touch alive with art, music, writing and humour that people have naturally built into their genetic makeup which machines can never replace.

Keith Jahans


Book Review – And I Love Her: A Phil Allman P.I. Novel by Brett Wallach

March 23, 2017

This is the second novel in the Phil Allman series but the reader need not worry if he or she has missed reading the first as it stands well on its own in its own right.

In this story Private Investigator, Phil Allman, is hired to find a missing eleven year old girl while at the same time battling with his ex-wife over the custody of his own eleven year old daughter and the nine year old girl he adopted at the end of the first book.  His investigations are met with various twists and turns during which he encounters some very shady characters and several murders.  We find out more about the psychology of the central character and the story becomes very dark as he attempts to resolve the tasks before him.  The characters are exceptionally well described and Allman’s fondness for quoting lines from English and American popular music adds to his personal appeal.

I have already reviewed Book 1 of Allman’s story (see below) and I thoroughly recommend that it be read even if you have read this story first.  In this tale we find out more about Allman’s personality and the unravelling of the truth behind what motivates him makes this a fascinating read.

Keith Jahans


And I love her is published by SynergEbooks
and is available as a pdf for $4.88