Writing in The Guardian
, Ben "Bad Science" Goldacre debunks a story published in sister paper The Observer
about the supposed benefits of fish oil. Not only were the study and its results badly misreported (it wasn't even a study on fish-oil, but rather on Omega-3 fatty acids), but it constitutes part of a larger pattern of bad reporting that ultimately benefits dietary supplement vendors who make insane, unsubstantiated claims about their products' benefits.
If this had been a trial to detect whether omega-3 improves performance, it would be laughably small: a dozen children in each group. While small studies aren't entirely useless, as amateurs often claim, you do have a very small number of observations to work from, so your study is much more prone to error from the simple play of chance. A study with 11 children in each arm could conceivably detect an effect, but only if the fish oil caused a gigantic and unambiguous improvement in all the children who got it, and none on placebo improved.
Fish oil in the Observer: the return of a $2bn friend
This paper showed no difference in performance at all. Since it was a brain imaging study, not a trial, they only report the results of children's actual performance on the attention task in passing, in a single paragraph, but they are clear: "there were no significant group differences in percentage correct, commission errors, discriminability, or reaction time"...
And oddly enough, someone has finally now conducted a proper trial of fish oils pills in mainstream children, to see if they work: a well-conducted, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, in 450 children aged 8-10 years old from a mainstream school population. It was published in full this year (http://qurl.com/fish), and they found no improvement. Show me the news headlines about that paper.
(Image: Fish oil caps, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from spcummings's photostream)
This gadget does exactly as promised: it looks like a thumbdrive (sort of) and fries the circuitry of any computer it’s plugged into. It’s made from camera flash parts, is charged with a standard AA battery, and delivers a 300V zap of DC destruction to the port for all your USB-murdering needs. Note that this […]
The Cobham catalog, exposed by The Intercept, features countless pages of surveillance gadgets sold to U.S. police to spy on American citizens: tiny black boxes with a big interest in you. In the creepily bland feature lists and nerdy product names is a whisper of a dark future; perhaps darker than anyone can imagine.
This image depicts the most commonly-found stylesheet colors on the web’s top sites—Paul Hebert did an amazing amount of analysis and this is just one of the intriguing visualizations he came up with. Most of these are obvious staples, especially HTML red and blue, though it’s interesting how far the blue “cluster” is from the […]
Loot Crate is a totally different kind of subscription service that mails subscribers monthly boxes filled with curated geek, pop culture, and gamer paraphernalia. Its cult following awaits a box every month filled with everything from bobble heads to T-shirts to special edition collectibles. But nothing gets Loot Crate fans as excited as the limited […]
The ARMOR-X Mini Flexible Phone Tripod is a smartphone tripod that is designed with flexible legs to rest on virtually any type of surface. Other tripods have proved useless unless I conveniently have a flat surface in front of me, which is why this particular tripod was appealing enough to try out. The ARMOR-X is compact and easy […]
You don’t need to get an advanced degree and take out massive loans to become a coder. This bundle of 10 courses was designed to teach anyone to code at home for less than it costs to go out for dinner. I was particularly impressed with this new 2017 bundle because it includes courses on […]