Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

These days we hear a lot of arguments about issues like climate science, GM crops etc. that are quite controversial. And there are science Vs. religion debates. All sorts of people write on 'science'. Good! But where do these people get the knowledge of science?   From internet of course!

But think about this: Can a few hours googling be equivalent to a Ph.D. of a specialist? Never!

Internet mostly provides half truths. I have seen people 'learning' things from internet  ( I gave them a new name: "Internet Scientists"! ), thinking that what they have learned is correct so now they are as good as any scientist or even better than scientists as they have 'researched thoroughly' about the subject on the net and questioning the integrity of science and arguing things with real scientists. What they don't realize is what they have learned was second hand knowledge, which could sometimes be error-prone but refuse to accept it, refuse to provide proof,  add their prejudicial opinions to their 'research' and create a Chimera. And blame scientists and science for all this confusion! This is a dangerous situation! Because what these people 'know' can only be half truths. And what they understand is based on their preconceptions of the matter (2).

Searching the Internet for information may make people feel smarter (The Dunning-Kruger Effect *possessed individuals) than they actually are, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association (1). It seems internet searches create false sense of personal knowledge. With the Internet, the lines become blurry between what you actually know and what you think you know. According to lab scientists, an inflated sense of personal knowledge also could be dangerous in the political realm or other areas involving high-stakes decisions.

(* The Dunning-Kruger Effect is, essentially, that people believe they’re smarter than they really are, thus, end up being more outspoken, and unfortunately, the ones who usually end up making the most noise.)

What is more dangerous is these internet scientists try to ‘advice’, ‘inform’ and sometimes even try to ‘correct’ not only laymen but also the real scientists.

Yes, I have seen these 'internet scientists' actually arguing with 'real scientists' on several important topics. And I am shocked too to realize how they get their information, who 'funds' them, who 'informs' and 'influence' them.  Sometimes Internet scientists will have 'more information' than real scientists! Yes, internet  is generating more information than labs these days!  I have seen some science writers with 'silly beliefs'  vigorously propagating their view points.

And I am proved right! Nearly after a year of writing this article, today I came across news reports that say:

Scientists have warned against a dangerous new trend where patients check on Wikipedia for information on their health conditions, instead of going to a doctor.
Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia, contains errors in nine out of 10 of its health entries, and should be treated with caution, a study has warned.

American scientists compared entries about conditions such as heart disease, lung cancer, depression and diabetes with peer-reviewed medical research. Most of the information in Wikipedia contained "many errors".

Wikimedia UK has admitted to the findings and said it was "crucial" that people with health concerns spoke to their GP first.

The online encyclopaedia is a charity, and has 30 million articles in 285 languages.

The researchers said "Most Wikipedia articles for the 10 costliest conditions in the United States contain errors compared with standard peer-reviewed sources. Health care professionals, trainees, and patients should use caution when using Wikipedia to answer questions regarding patient care. Our findings reinforce the idea that physicians and medical students who currently use Wikipedia as a medical reference should be discouraged from doing so because of the potential for errors".

Dr Robert Hasty Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine, North Carolina said "From a public health standpoint, patients should not use Wikipedia as a primary resource because those articles do not go through the same peer-review process as medical journals. It can be edited by anybody, but many volunteers from the medical profession check the pages for inaccuracies".

Wikipedia is at present the sixth most popular site on the internet and up to 70% of physicians and medical students use the tool.

For commonly identified assertions, there was statistically significant discordance between 9 of the 10 selected Wikipedia articles (coronary artery disease, lung cancer, major depressive disorder, osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, diabetes, back pain, and hyperlipidemia) and their corresponding peer-reviewed sources.

The scientists said that since its 2001 launch, Wikipedia has become the most popular general reference site on the Internet.

As of March 2014, it contained more than 31 million articles in 285 languages.

Wikipedia has also become a popular source of health care information with 47% to 70% of physicians and medical students admitting to using it as a reference.

And we have another warning too:  You Tube life-saving videos are not reliable! YT is full of videos depicting life-saving techniques like cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and basic life support (BLS)  but only a handful of these provide instructions consistent with recent health norms, say experts. 

A team of Turkish emergency medicine specialists reviewed educaional videos fromt the last three years accessed via You Tube when the search terms 'CPR', 'cardio-pulmonary resuscitation', 'BLS' and 'basic life support' were entered. A total of 209 videos were analysed. They found only 11.5 percent videos to be compatible with CPR guidelines!

And it seems False health news is more popular on Facebook (3, 4). 

  • 12 per cent of 200 Facebook posts spread incorrect information or rumours

  • These were more popular than posts with correct information about Zika

  • Credible communication by institutions faces “unfair competition”

In an article published in the American Journal of Infection Control, the authors reported that while posts published by institutions such as the World Health Organization reached 43,000 page views, misleading pages that described Zika as a medical ploy or a hoax received 530,000.

“This kind of misinformation can be harmful because it strengthens existing narratives, obstructing efforts to stop the outbreak”, concluded the research group.

So...even after reading this if people still rely on internet for science/medical references, methods and information, they are doing that at their own risk. Remember, we warned you!






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Replies to This Discussion

Michio Kaku who said that "extraordinary scientific claims need extraordinary support" ( Carl Sagon).


On Twitter, the lure of fake news is stronger than the truth

An analysis of 4.5 million tweets shows falsehoods are 70 percent more likely to get shared

There’s been a lot of talk about fake news running rampant online, but now there’s data to back up the discussion.

An analysis of more than 4.5 million tweets and retweets posted from 2006 to 2017 indicates that inaccurate news stories spread faster and further on the social media platform than true stories. The research also suggests that people play a bigger role in sharing falsehoods than bots.

These findings, reported in the March 9 Science, could guide strategies for curbing misinformation on social media. 

S. Vosoughi, D. Roy and S. Aral. The spread of true and false news online. Science. Vol. 359, March 9, 2018, p. 1146. doi:10.1126/science.aap9559.

E. Engelhaupt. You’ve probably been tricked by fake news and don’t know it. Science News Online, December 4, 2016.


Contentious science topics on Wikipedia subject to editing mischief

Politically charged issues such as global warming are prime targets for online sabotage

Wikipedia page

READER BEWARE  Wikipedia articles on politically contentious issues, such as acid rain (shown), are subject to editing sabotage. Users add nonsensical, obscene or incorrect text, researchers have found.

Acid rain is a popular term referring to the deposition of wet poo and cats.

No, not really. But that's what people looking at Wikipedia's article on acid rain could have read on December 1, 2011. 

An anonymous editor had tinkered with the text. Over the next few minutes, the silly sentence winked in and out of the article as editors wrangled over the wording.

The incident is just one example of the "edit wars" that rage on Wikipedia, the user-edited online encyclopedia. Articles on politically charged scientific topics, such as global warming, evolution and acid rain, are prime targets for sabotage, ecologists report August 14 in PLOS ONE.

EDIT WARS Wikipedia science articles on politically charged topics get edited more frequently and more extensively than articles on less partisan subjects.

These articles are edited more often and more extensively than articles on less polarizing scientific topics, such as continental drift and general relativity, the researchers found after analyzing revision histories.

When browsing Wikipedia, users should beware, the researchers conclude: The content is vulnerable to vandalism.

Yes, came across a few, myself!

Ordinary brains crave patterns and meanings, and accept only that tally with their biases. Real science and rationalism goes for a toss in all this.


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