Tag Archives: Science

Program for International Student Assessment ranks U.S. students 24th in Science Achievement

2 Oct

(Hat tip to BoingBoing)

Why you need to read the original research: neti pot edition

20 Jan

The last few days I have been suffering from a cold. In order to help relieve my sinuses, I have resorted to a traditional Indian nasal irrigation technique: the neti pot. I know that it sounds gross, but there is evidence that the practice has modest benefits.

But what to make of this claim, I found at the web site University Health News

Try finding Dead Sea salt; studies show that Dead Sea salt seems to confer some added benefit over regular saline solutions, as it likely has particularly effective anti-inflammatory effects.

This struck me as odd, since all salt is composed of sodium chloride, it seemed unlikely that Dead Sea salt could be different enough to have any detectable difference. Fortunately, Unitersity Health News did cite a source for this claim: a paper titled: “Dead Sea salt irrigations vs saline irrigations with nasal steroids for symptomatic treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis: a randomized, prospective double-blind study”

I was delighted to learn that there the researchers used an outcome measure called the Sino-Nasal Outcomes Test 20, or SNOT 20 for short.

The study reported:

The 2 groups were homogeneous with respect to pretreatment primary and secondary outcome metrics. Dropout rates were 30% in the DSS group and 36.6% in the control group. Both groups showed significant improvement in mean SNOT-20 scores following treatment; however, the degree of improvement was not significantly different between groups (p = 0.082). There were no significant changes in secondary outcome metrics between the 2 groups

In other words, the study found no advantage for Dead Sea salt, the opposite of what was reported by University Health News. It pays to check out the original research and not assume that media reports are accurate.

By the way, exactly which University is University Health News affiliated? Turns out they are not connected to any.

Astronomer John Dobson has died.

24 Jan

Here is The New York Times obituary. And here is the trailer for a documentary about his life:

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