Carrie Fisher ruled
As a Blues Brothers and Starwars fan, of course I was a very disconcerted to learn that Carrie Fisher had passed at such a young age. She was such a likeable actress with a solid sense of humor and seriousness that made her characters come to life. Shared below is one of my favorite scenes of hers..
However, it's really not unexpected with the lifestyle she lived. Anyone who has ever watched "Behind the Scenes" of her career, knows full well her history of drug indulgence and partying. Almost all the movies she worked on in the 80's were basically cocaine parties behind the scenes, especially the Blue Brothers. As Dan Aykroyd states himself, "We had a budget in the movie for cocaine for our night shots."
So, unfortuantely, she has now passed away. It's a pretty big deal as she made a huge impact. Thoughts go out to her family, friends, and fans around the world.
The unfortunate twist
However, isn't a tribute. This is a call to point out completely and total bias posted by Next Avenue by Emily Gurnon and shared by PBS. So bear with me as what I have to say about critical thinking in science journalism, will extend from breaking down the article titled, "Carrie Fisher's Heart Attack Should Be No Surprise."
You see, every major news outlet that posts a story, does so in order to gain something from their readers. Credible news agencies typically post articles that are well researched, and less shocking. Less credible bloggers will typically post whatever they want without citing sources and may have an extreme bias or message of missinformation they attempt to pass in order to get the most viral reach across the vast internet. The end goal is always the same: make as much money as possible. This area can become a bit grey as freelance journalists are often rushed to get articles completed within the publics' window of caring about the tragedy at hand.
Disclaimer: No one pays me to write and there's no ads. I do appreciate if you share the articles however.
The clear agenda: money
Unfortunately, this article ignores facts, presses a research center's agenda, and uses Carrie Fisher as the main platform to press their shock and awe.
In this article Emily uses Carrie Fisher's death to push the focus on heart disease. The problem starts right in the first paragraph as the only interviews and opinions gathered are from heart disease researcher centers who downplay and ignore other risks. Which means, you are reading a bias where these research centers are essentially promoting their research all while riding Carrie Fisher's corpse to money town. They even cite the recent death of George Michael, who's death remains a bit mysterious at the time that this article was published.
So, just how much money goes towards heart disease research and why should they press it? 33 billion dollars in 2016.
So yes, there's plenty of reason to down play other causes into beloved celebrities deaths when it comes to dividing that money in favor for what people care about. An incredible amount of competition exists in the science world and this money is divided across all research centers, so naturally by interviewing only Women's Health Clinic researchers who study heart disease, we're left with heart disease as the only cause of her death.
Missinformation about drugs
Further into the article, there's even a section titled, "Don't Blame Cocaine," which shocked me as years of school taught me how dangerous cocaine was to the human heart. I was pretty interested to read this section, but again the article only presents you biased information provided by Dr. C Noel Bairey Merz, the medical director of the Women's Health Center. Dr. Merz states that cocaine isn't a risk factor for heart attacks and again presses the heart disease agenda. The problem here is a basic google search comes up with sources that says otherwise. I tagged one for you which cites cocaine's effects in the abstract of the research paper. The general concensus is that cocaine hardens heart muscles and arteries, and contributes to heart attacks. Many famous actors, actresses, and musicians have all passed in their 50's now, and just about all who suffered heart attacks were known heavy users of the drug in the 80's. Go figure.
The doctor interviewed further ignores genetics, as Carrie's mother avoided the same fate, and discredits herself by the end stating that they do not know Carrie's medical history either. Leaving the entire claim, as an assumption. In science we don't operate with assumptions or that's how you lose credibility...
Always think critically
So what I want to stress about my article, is simply that well sourced and cited articles, can still be biased. As scientists, it's our job to read through the bias, but unfortunately for the average reader, this bias goes unnoticed and you're left with the wrong message. It's very important to always ask yourself while reading any article, what is the journalists' goal with this piece? More often then not, it's less to inform you and more to press an agenda.
Rest in peace Carrie Fisher.
The Misinformation of Flossing - A Debate that Shouldn't Exist
Recently, many leading journals such as the NY Times, CNN, Daily Mail, and dozens of others jumped on an article about how flossing, serves no health benefits, without actually reading the article or assessing what flossing does for your teeth and gums. This is a modern example of viral misinformation. You have to ask yourself, if you find a headline too good to be true, it probably is. Click here to view the science atrocity.
The NY Times article written by Catherine Saint Louis lifts what it wants to hear from a science review paper, leaving out important information. The classic journalism taking a story and running with it. The original research review was of a dozen short term experiments (1-3 months) with over 500 participants. They did not detect noticeable differences with flossing and brushing with plaque reduction, however they did find that flossing plus tooth brushing showed a statistically significant benefit compared to tooth brushing in reducing gingivitis. Furthermore, this was only a short term review, and tooth decay is not a short term process!
So, the science behind what's happening between your teeth is really easy enough to explain. The food we eat contains sugars called Carbohydrates. These sugars are specifically targeted by bacteria in our mouths which convert the food into acid, which in tern decays our teeth by decalcifying our enamel. Basically, this is how cavities are formed. Most cavities are formed in the areas between your teeth, where brushing does not reach. The reason for flossing, is to break up the source of carbohydrates and reduce the acid between our teeth. The process of decay, takes years. You have your adult teeth for the majority of your life, and 1-3 months of not flossing, is not likely to make a big difference. This is why you have to floss and maintain your teeth, over years.
To further discredit herself, Catherine Saint Louis even published months earlier an article supporting the evidence as to why you should floss, without even considering this information in her recent article. Articles like this exist only to serve the publisher, not inform the public. This article went viral on social media and became clickbait. Clickbait means, it was created to generate revenue for their advertisements through your clicking and sharing of the article. There's a modern fight raging between greed vs. factual information, make sure you question everything you read.
1. Always question articles that are too good to be true, and shared on social media. It doesn't matter who the source is.
2. Bacteria generate acid from the food between your teeth, acid rots your teeth. Flossing physically removes said food.
3. There is no debate, floss!
Image source: wfsj.org
Social media has become the primary source of information for the vast majority of people connected to the internet. Gone are the days of published articles and National Geographic programs and magazines, and now is the time of flash articles. Information has taken a turn for the worse and every day thousands and thousands of articles are being shared simply because of a flashy headline. In this article however, I would like to break down and explain why this is a problem for modern society.
I want to address reasons for shocking articles, the first being Website traffic. Articles are written with such tact that they’re baiting the viewer to click the headline; tabloids if you will. These articles can target select groups of people, their interest, their feelings, generate shares, and to increase website traffic and revenue from ads. This approach is called “clickbait.” You rarely find these articles at any dignified news source and worse yet, they’re often filled with tons of bold claims but little to no citation to support them.
Articles can also be written to target our beliefs or attempt to create a new belief where there wasn’t one previously. The problem with tact is that it spreads misinformation which people take hold as beliefs. This is damaging to our species overall intelligence and safety. The now classic case of bogus information being shared is in the case of Autism and Vaccines. A single researcher came out with erroneous information which could not be duplicated by themselves or any other scientists, yet, people ran with this information. It was rapidly shared across the internet and soon a new paradigm was born as there are now groups of people who vehemently believe vaccines cause autism and hold to these believes without any scientific proof and it’s caused diseases previously eradicated in the Western world to return.
Another problem comes in the form of memes. Memes are simple images with words on them which are entirely designed to be shared due to their ease. In science you will find most people share things such a picture of a nebula with the hashtag, #science, but it won’t actually have any information or be related to the process of science. In other cases, they can have an entire doctrine attempting to subtly convince the viewer of a particular goal. Examples of that could range from “Why should shouldn’t eat meat,” “Why SeaWorld is evil,” or “How to get better gas mileage,” they can literally be based on anything. We have reached that point today where I think we’ve all heard one of our friends some something really dumb, and if you ask where they heard that something, sometimes it’ll be from a meme on Facebook. Snopes.com is a great place to check facts on any fantastic claims by a meme.
There are ways to combat this newfound spread of ignorance, and that is by each and every educated person, promoting a new paradigm shift in how we address tabloid science. You yourself can help by actively checking for sources before posting that article about cancer, marijuana, or whatever else is may be hot and trendy. Remember they’re after your clicks, not out to educate you. It is up to us to call out, educate, and demonize misinformation and click bait articles. We are in the modern age and mass information is now spread through social media, there’s no reason it needs to be cheapened down to a tabloid.
I want to highlight next a few articles which demonstrate misinformation designed for clicks. This will begin my weekly updates which I will now call Misinformed Mondays, where I find a popular article or two and walk through why it’s junk.
The first is an article I have seen more than once shared by my peers. The first clue that something is wrong here is that the headline is treating science like a person. “Science Say’s…” The next clue that you may be sharing bullshit, is that the scientific article is on a businessinsider.com. Business Insider is not a credible scientific news website. Lastly, any article you see with a top # list will be hogwash. This my friends, is an article designed to bring you in for a sweet and savory click by a lady with a shit-eating grin.