QED tickets on sale today!

QED logoToday at the appropriate time of 10:23am, tickets for QED 2013 go on sale! QED is a two day convention of science and skepticism taking place at the Mercure hotel in central Manchester on the weekend of April 13th 2013. The last two QEDs were absolute blasts and I’m sure things will be no different in 2013. What’s more, full price tickets are just £99, and students can attend for £59, a total bargain!

I’ll be standing by with my credit card and finger over the F5 key at 10:23 today, as I don’t want to miss out on the dinner, which sold out within about a day last time. Hopefully many of you will be doing the same!


An Acupunture Meta Analysis from the University of York

I wanted to bring people’s attention to a worrying study on acupunture, in part by written by researchers from my old alma mater, the University of York. The study itself is a meta analysis of 29 randomised clinical trials of acupuncture in back pain, neck pain, headache, and osteoarthritis which comes to the conclusion that acupuncture is effective for chronic pain and is suitable as a referrel option. I think the study suffers from certain biases and the conclusion reached by the authors is simply not supported by the evidence presented, but rather than give a detailed examination of it myself I shall recommend Steve Novella’s article on Science Based Medicine. I’m just rather concerned that a university which I still have a great affinity for is promoting such controversial treatments.

Merseyside Skeptics put Shuzi to the test

The guys at the Merseyside Skeptics Society (MSS) have been busy with some world class skeptical activism! The people that brought the ludicrous nature of homeopathy to the world’s attention with the 10:23 campaign have cast their eyes on a wristband made by the company Shuzi. The band makes all sorts of claims, similar to Power Balance bracelets (and we all recall what nonsense they were).

Unimpressed by Shuzi’s claims of it’s “Nano Vibrational Technology” being able to “unclump” and “improve communication” in your blood, the MSS devised a simple but comprehensive protocol to test the Shuzi band. They enlisted the help of a rugby player, who was tested to see how many kicks he could make when we was wearing either a genuine Shuzi band, or a “sham band (a Shuzi band with the “chip” removed). He attempted 50 kicks with and 50 without the band, but what I found impressive about this test was the blinding. In this sort of test, it’s hugely important to remove as many biasses as possible. The bands were covered by a sweatband, so the rugby player did not know which was which, and the identity of each band was kept a secret from the experimenter. The results were unsurprising. When wearing the real band, the player scored 26 out of 50, and with the “sham” band he scored 22. Although he scored more with the real band, this difference is not statistically significant. I’ve taken the liberty to illustrate the results in a graph.

Shuzi graph

As you can see, the above graph is pretty dull, not really showing much of a difference between the two tests. However, imagine I am a marketeer for Shuzi and I want to make this graph look as good as possible. I could do something like this:

shuzi exciting

Look at how much better this is! It’s the same data, except it’s in 3D, the Shuzi bar is a gold colour, and most importantly I’ve changed the axis so that the Shuzi bar is so much bigger than the sham bar. See how a little creative presentation can make your data look so much better than it is?

Anyway, it has to be said that they’ve got a good deal of press coverage from this. It’s appeared in the local Liverpool Echo, and even made it onto the Daily Mail of all places, making a nice change from the pseudoscientific guff we are all used to. Job well done guys!