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'Bad Science' bashes quack doctors and shoddy scientific studies

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Monday, October 25, 2010; 4:07 PM

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Searching for scams "Bad Science" (Faber and Faber, $15)

British physician and journalist Ben Goldacre takes aim at quack doctors, pharmaceutical companies and poorly designed studies in extraordinary fashion in "Bad Science." He particularly loathes (most) nutritionists, especially Scottish TV personality Gillian McKeith. To prove that her American Association of Nutritional Consultants membership isn't so impressive, Goldacre describes registering his dead cat Hettie for the same credentials online. Goldacre shines in a chapter about bad scientific studies by writing it from the perspective of a make-believe big pharma researcher who needs to bring a mediocre new drug to market. He explains exactly how to skew the data to show a positive result. "I'm so good at this I scare myself," he writes. "Comes from reading too many rubbish trials."

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Kudos for young talent Popular Science, November issue

For the ninth year, Popular Science has named its Brilliant 10 - its roster of young scientists who are shaking up their fields. There's a physicist who creates "bullets" out of sound waves that might be able to pulverize tumors and the biologist who helped trace the H1N1 virus's origin to pigs. One of the Brilliant 10 is Maryland's own Ian Spielman, 34, who is affiliated with the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Spielman is a physicist whose experiments could make lead to the development of quantum computers (which would use atoms to complete tasks and store information). The easier-to-understand takeaway from the article: "Among physicists, the guy's a hero."

- Rachel Saslow


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