Tagged: Science Journalism

Notes for Philcon “Recent Science Headlines” panel



  • Phase down (not phase out) of fossil fuels including coal – thanks, Australia (and China and India).
    • Developing countries say they need fossil fuels to help their people
    • Sinking countries (e. g. the Marshall Islands) point out that this policy can cause their entire nations to cease to be
  • Creation of a carbon market (nations can reduce emissions more than their quota and sell the “credit” to another country)
  • Poor countries continue to be promised funding that nobody actually supplies (except Scotland)

Mostly promises, little action. See you in Egypt next year.

Climate Change Causes Disasters



Booster shots – we’ve all heard about ‘em.

Treatments coming online!




Spinal Cord Repair!


Kessler Syndrome?


Astronauts hide in shelters as thousands of debris particles are generated. Russia inexplicably accuses the West of “hypocrisy”.

Space Stations

Example: Boeing/Blue Origin team up for “Orbital Reef”

China, too: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiangong_space_station

Toliman searches for extraterrestrial habitable planets


Human beings are not the same thing as monkey cells: no, don’t start taking fenofibrate

Audacy (a site for radio stations’ online presence) reports, “Cholesterol drug cuts COVID infection rate by 70%: study”.

Actually, no, that is not what’s reported.

70% reduction in infection would be incredible, so naturally I read the article. I even read the actual journal paper they refer to.

Bonus points for this being an actual, peer-reviewed, published paper in a real journal, Frontiers in Pharmacology Translational Pharmacology. It just does not say anything about infection in humans. It says that the virus failed to infect monkey cells in culture media by up to 70%.

This is a really interesting paper, and I look forward to future work. This could potentially be a useful treatment.

That does not justify the utterly false headline. Audacy reporter Stephanie Raymond apparently either did not read the paper or did not know what Vero cells are and did not bother to look it up. Certainly she did not interview any of the scientists involved. One wonders if she worked off a press release.

Note: in the subject line I said not to start taking fenofibrate. I of course mean, “Unless it’s prescribed by your doctor, for a valid reason.” I am not a medical doctor and I’m not giving medical advice. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t start any prescription med unless it is prescribed by a licensed practitioner.

No, I don’t think the Thais have cured the Wuhan virus

Did you see that Thai doctors have cured the Novel Coronavirus?

https://www.ibtimes.co.in/cocktail-flu- … and-812699

Don’t hold your breath. They claim to have used anti-HIV drugs. Those are almost all antiretrovirals. Coronavirii are not retroviruses. It seems very unlikely meds that work by inhibiting the enzyme reverse transcriptase would affect members of the Coronaviridae, since the RNA of a coronavirus is not reverse-transcribed into DNA.

Oseltamivir (trade name Tamiflu), their third drug, is specific to influenza and again would not be expected to work against a totally different type of virus. I actually found a Chinese study that tested it against the SARS virus (close relative of 2019-nCoV) and found no activity.

The whole media brouhaha is based on … one patient.

I can’t rule it out. I can and do doubt it a lot.

The Washington Post embarrasses itself

I just dashed off an angry letter to the Post about their recent article, UFOs exist and everyone needs to adjust to that fact. I reproduce my text below.

The above article is apparently a fairly subtle joke that has taken in the Post’s editorial team. Surely you wouldn’t post something so afactual and nonsensical without a disclaimer in a serious “Perspective” demi-editorial? Surely you should at least have had an article by a person competent in some sort of science? I find it hard to believe you were taken in.

On the off-chance you took that … set of words … seriously (I’m eliding my more strident description), may I suggest you consult Professor Massimo Pigliucci (CUNY), or Professor Steven Novella (Yale Med), or someone from the CSI (Center for Skeptical Inquiry)? Massimo in particular as a philosopher and scientist could point out both the factual incorrectness of some of the assertions, and the logical fallacy blatantly present in the phrase, “… but even those skeptics could not completely rule out the possibility that extraterrestrial activity was involved.”

I await your retraction.

Carl Fink

The article is a hot mess of nonsense. I’m embarrassed for every newspaper editor, just because their colleagues published this waste of photons.

(Image courtesy Wikipedia user D J Shin)