Monday, April 15, 2013

5 Steps to Separate Science from Hype, No PhD Required

3. Evaluate the data Once you find the data, it’s time to evaluate it. Check to see if the scientists behind the original claim, or another group of scientists, have repeated the experiments (and make sure the results were the same each time!). It’s also better if they analyzed hundreds or thousands of people (or monkeys, or cells, or anything else) instead of just two or three. Also keep an eye out for all the differences between two groups in a study, especially with humans. Things like income levels and access to health care can sometimes explain the reported results better than whatever the article is proposing. Think about it this way: if you were in charge of figuring out the height of the average American male, you would need to measure a bunch of people to get it right. If you only measured a few people, and they happened to be basketball players, you’d be way off. Also keep an eye out for misleading graphs. Graphs are great for communicating complicated information quickly, but they can also be misleading. Here are a few classic graphical tricks to watch out for:

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