Saturday, 27 October 2012

Consilience #61: Grim words of perilous science-adventure

I'm audible for the sixth time. A couple new voices too, with Patrick Till and Deon Barnard making noises into mics 2 and 3. Apparently the Meadons have become too weak from their Meadon-spawn and work and shit to stay in the podcast every single episode. (Seriously, kids: Just say "No!" to reproduction.) It was a good recording, and I felt it was interesting and well done.

One thing I wasn't entirely sure of was how well I'd explained the problem of researcher "degrees of freedom." Steve Novella explained it much better a while back. But here's an analogy: You're driving down the road. You decide that staying out of the on-coming traffic's lane 90% of the time is good enough. On an empty road in the middle of the night where there is no other traffic, that might be practical enough. But during rush hour, on a busy central road? Context matters, and the point I tried to make in the podcast and maybe failed at was that the context of each subjective research decision made in the Mossbridge meta-analysis has to include all the other subjective research decisions, and not just external stuff.

Somehow, inevitably, another travel anecdote: I still don't officially get the Gilooly's interchange and fucked up my planned turn through it, putting me on the N3/N12 South. I recognised my error pretty quickly, but there just aren't many places to turn around on that stretch, so I aimed for a spot I know really, really well, the Camarro offramp on the N12 West. I used to live just off Camarro back when I was teaching in the South, and I love that stretch of N12 at night. It's great quality road (it was even before the big '09/'10 highway rejuvenation, which somehow made it even better) and it does wonderful bends and weaves that are a joy to speed along (responsibly), with relatively few other cars in the way. The N12 East, at 01:00 on a Sunday night, was one of my great pleasures back when I lived in the South. That, and never having to put on any clothes, while eating nothing but jars of peanut butter and watching Firefly in my little flat. It was a weird, wonderful time. But the bottom line is, I ended up driving about 1.3 times the total distance of the ring-road around Joburg, thanks to my fuckup.

You can find the file and the show notes for #61 here:
http://consiliencecast.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/episode-61-nobel-prizes-meta-analyses-and-a-real-warp-drive-this-time/