Category Archives: Uncategorized


Red Wine and Lies

Here is a sampling of reaction to the news that a researcher who had done a lot of work on the compound resveratrol—found in red wine along with foods like peanut butter, and thought by some to have healthful, perhaps even life-extending, properties—stood accused of a vast fraud:

For years, connoisseurs of red wine believed their consumption improved their cardiovascular health. Today, they’re learning it may be a big lie.

Bad news, winos: Turns out, the University of Connecticut researcher who …


UConn Investigation Finds That Health Researcher Fabricated Data

A three-year investigation by the University of Connecticut has found that the director of its Cardiovascular Research Center falsified and fabricated data at least 145 times, in some cases digitally manipulating images using PhotoShop.

The researcher, Dipak K. Das, is best known for his work on resveratrol, a compound present in grapes and other foods that some research suggests can have beneficial effects on the heart and could slow aging, though recent studies have cast doubt on the latter cl…


Bite-Size Science, False Positives, and Citation Amnesia

There are good things about short psychology papers. They’re easier to edit and review, not to mention less time-consuming to write. A short paper on a CV looks just as impressive as a long one. Also, a short paper is more likely to be noticed by reporters with little to no attention span—especially if the result is interestingly contrarian—and thus bring the researcher widespread acclaim and riches. Or at least a mention in some blog.

The downside is that they tend to be wrong, at least accordi…


Does Ecstasy Really Cause Brain Damage?

A new study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry trumpeting the dangers of Ecstasy use received a lot of attention recently. Its findings were in direct contrast to a large study released earlier last year that reached the opposite conclusion.

To help sort this out, I lobbed a few questions at Brad Burge of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies:

Q. Your group financially supports MDMA research and also hopes to get FDA approval for the drug as a prescription treatm…


Is Intelligence in the Genes?

Christopher Chabris, Union College

At least a dozen papers have been published that appear to show links between general intelligence and specific genes. But the authors of a forthcoming paper, to be published in Psychological Science, contend that those findings are all most likely false. I asked one of those authors, Christopher Chabris, who co-wrote the best-seller The Invisible Gorilla, a few questions via e-mail, and he was kind enough to answer:


So general intelligence is to some degree …


Why the Tears Over Kim Jong Il?

In the wake of the announcement of Kim Jong Il’s demise, the above video of hysterically grieving North Koreans has been making the rounds. Why are the people of North Korea so upset over the death of the horrible despot who has starved and enslaved them? This 2010 paper, published in Critical Asian Studies, about the death of Kim Il Sung, Jong Il’s father and equally awful predecessor, has an answer:

There is no doubt that the death of Kim Il Sung on 8 July 1994, induced a profound shock and r…


Study of Fish Suggests the Value of Uninformed Voters


Could the golden shiner prove the salvation of our democracy? New research involving the common minnow suggests that uninformed voters are important in blunting the effects of political extremists. Getty Images

As Congress proves itself increasingly dysfunctional and captive to extremists, lots of people may be asking themselves: What kind of fish-brained voters keep electing these guys?

A team of researchers led by a Princeton University biologist has now studied that question and conclud…


Neighborhood Studies Measure the Spread of Holiday Spirit

Keeping up with the Joneses can be tough—especially when the Joneses have a house decked with 40,000 ornamental lights that blink in sync with Ozzy Osbourne, or a front yard mobbed with inflatable snowmen, or a roadside nativity scene that dwarfs Mary and Joseph’s accommodations in Bethlehem.

But people in at least some American communities do, indeed, scope out their neighbors when it comes to determining the scale of their Christmas or Chanukah displays, suggests an unusual line of studies ba…


Can Science Explain Everything?

Washington — There’s a new bully on the intellectual block, shoving scholars around. Lots of them are caving into the threats. The bully’s name is “scientism,” the belief that science has a monopoly on all real knowledge. All other knowledge, scientism asserts, is simply opinion, irrationality, or utter nonsense.

That was the perspective Ian Hutchinson, professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, offered at an event titled “Can Science Explain E…


Wait, Maybe You Can’t Feel the Future

Back in January, a paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology appeared to prove that ESP is real, that in certain circumstances (involving, as it happens, erotic pictures) people really can predict the future. Naturally, this got more attention than your average academic publication. At the time I talked to the author of the paper, Daryl J. Bem, who was reeling from all the media attention.

Now that nearly a year has passed, I wanted to see if any replications had been p…