New Web Site to Check Out

Typhoon_saomai_060807

Here comes a natural disaster – image from NASA

Nate Silver’s fame spread from sports to politics during the last American presidential election when he accurately predicted the outcome despite a blizzard of conflicting public opinion polls. He edits a website at http://fivethirtyeight.com/ (owned by ESPN) that looks like a great magazine. The writers apply science and statistics, to popular topics. This gives an average reader a chance to evaluate the barrage of news, self-serving diatribe, and just plain nonsense from the media. From NCAA brackets to climate change, you’ll find interesting articles that can be of practical use.

Here’s one example: News about health seems to be full of “breakthroughs” that never arrive and contradictions that arrive frequently. What health news can you use? “Headlines are advertising. The goal is to get you to read the article, not necessarily to represent the research accurately.” But there are six criteria you can use to evaluate an article about medical studies. One is: Was the study performed on people? The more “yes” answers, the more likely the study is important to you.

Here’s another example: An article (by a writer with qualifications in the field) disputing recent claims that climate change is responsible for economic losses increasing due to natural disasters “generated a lot of comments and questions, and I thought it would be good to address some of them. Human-caused climate change is both real and important, so being careful about what claims science can support and which it can’t is imperative.” Hurray! Rational discussion of the facts and not just red team/blue team bumper stickers. FiveThirtyEight provided links to rebuttals and even plans to publish its own rebuttal to the original article.

I think reality is important, so this site looks like a great resource. Check it out.

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