Number of the Month

January  2008

Yet more classical scaremongering nonsense

The Daily Telegraph came up with a story to chill the hearts of millions of women around the world:

            Calcium tablets 'raise risk of heart attacks'

One of the few useful medications that has not yet been under attack now joins the majority that have.

This one has it all:

  1. An illustration of the law of beneficial developments
  2. A Trojan number (almost 1,500) but no others that aid assessment
  3. Unacceptably low relative risks
  4. A data dredge based on a study of something else
  5. Grouping of diseases to increase the numbers
  6. Absence of any suggestion of a possible physiological cause
  7. The possibility of precipitating a disastrous general withdrawal from treatment, as happened with HRT.

That was the newspaper version, but the original paper tells us more, with actual unimpressive numbers, but some discussion of theoretical causality. Among other things

  1. It is the placebo group that shows odd statistical behaviour (an unlikely plateau, as happened with vioxx) not the exposed group, suggesting that taking the placebo reduces the risk between 24 and 50 months
  2. A rider that was bound to be ignored by the media (Thus the present study does not unequivocally show an adverse cardiovascular effect of calcium but suggests that this matter needs to be considered carefully before calcium supplementation can be broadly advocated.) and translates to “More research is needed”.
  3. Confidence intervals that embrace a RR of unity or are close to it
  4. Admission of the small size of the study

It is all a stupid and dangerous exercise that can do nothing but harm and only serves to gratify a university PR department and a few egos. Small studies are worse than useless.

Footnote: Declaration of interest

Your bending author is prescribed calcium tablets and alendronic acid to offset the risks of bone loss following exposure to steroids.


Triviality marches east

Wroclaw, which your bending author had the privilege of visiting in the dark days of 1969, has long held a reputation for excellence in science and technology. Now it has joined the modern world in which research takes the form of the sort of popular survey that used to be the province of tabloid journals. In 2003 it was the Minogue posterior that was the object of research of “scientists". Now science has descended into taking in her legs.

How are the mighty fallen!


Just a thought

The rise of the new political class combined with the ever increasing tendency toward government micromanagement means that we are appointing people who have never run anything to run everything.

The results are inevitable.

Number of the month 20%

Just when you think that the EU cannot possibly get any more insane, it issues a diktat that proves you wrong. They are now demanding that intermittent energy sources make up 20% of the supply. Other than the destruction of estuarial ecologies for trivial gain (a typical policy of destroying the environment in the name of the environment) this means wind. As wind only works for 27% of the time, this means that almost three-quarters of the supply must be provided by traditional power stations that can be switched to wasteful warm standby whenever the wind starts to blow. Heaven help the unfortunate engineers who have to operate the grid and also the victims of the power cuts when they get it wrong.

Multiple apologies: This entry is late, so is every other activity associated with Number Watch. Your bending author was expecting to go into hospital in January for the replacement of a knee joint that had disintegrated under bacterial assault, but was deemed to be not fit enough to face the operation, which was therefore postponed. There is still a certain amount of  chaos in the book sending. Please get in touch if you are still waiting.

Meanwhile thanks are due to people who have sent messages of support. Particularly inspiring are some of the messages that accompanied donations, which have cancelled any temptation for your bending author simply to give up. Number Watch is now supported by its donors and there has been enough left over to effect essential repairs and enhance the hardware, software and security. There was also enough for little luxuries  such a removing adverts from the forum.  Many thanks also to those who have contributed to that discussion group. They are modest in number, but some of the expertise and insight have been impressive, without descent into nerdishness.  It would not be so valuable it it turned into one of those overblown forums with threads stretching off towards infinity.

Meanwhile there are new entries in the Best of the Blogs to keep you going


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