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).

Getting information on the internet requires separating fact from crap. Most people can't do this.

There is a whole lot of crap when it comes to "cures" on the internet. If you don't have genuine knowledge, and the ability to think critically, you will fall for it.

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. 

Studies also found that Wikipedia, a source of information on natural disasters, is  biased towards rich countries (5). As a source of information related to natural disasters, the authors  of the study show that on Wikipedia, there is a greater tendency to cover events in wealthy countries than in poor countries. By performing careful, large-scale analysis of automatic content, "we show how flood coverage in Wikipedia leans towards wealthy, English-speaking countries, particularly the USA and Canada," they claim in their work. "We also note that the coverage of flooding in low-income countries and in countries in South America, is substantially less than the coverage of flooding in middle-income countries," they add. This makes Wikipedia's information highly flawed, according to the study.

People who rely on social media for information were more likely to be misinformed about vaccines than those who rely on traditional media, according to a study of vaccine knowledge and media use by researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania(6). The study, based on nationally  of nearly 2,500 U.S. adults, found that up to 20% of respondents were at least somewhat misinformed about vaccines. Such a high level of misinformation is "worrying" because misinformation undermines vaccination rates, and high vaccination rates are required to maintain community immunity, the researchers said. It stressed that increased exposure to information about measles and the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine on social media were more likely to grow more misinformed about vaccines. 

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 one in four You Tube videos on COVID 19 is fiction (7). More than one-quarter of popular English-language COVID-19 information videos posted to YouTube are misleading, researchers warn. There are posts, for example, falsely claiming that drug companies already have a cure for COVID-19, but won't sell it, and that different countries have stronger strains of coronavirus, a new study finds.

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.

Also specialists warn not use health information from internet. 

Patients with chronic health conditions especially rely on social media, including YouTube videos, to learn more about how to manage their conditions.

But video recommendations on such sites could exacerbate preexisting disparities in health.

Extracting thousands of videos purporting to be about diabetes, I verified whether the information shown conforms to valid medical guidelines.

I found that the most popular and engaging videos are significantly less likely to have medically valid information.

Users typically encounter videos on health conditions through keyword searches on YouTube. YouTube then provides links to authenticated medical information, such as the top-ranked results. Several of these are produced by reputable health organizations.

Recently, YouTube has adjusted how search results are displayed, allowing results to be ranked by “relevance” and providing links to verified medical information.

However, when I recruited physicians to watch the videos and rate them on whether these would be considered valid and understandable from a patient education perspective, they rated YouTube’s recommendations poorly.

I found that the most popular videos are the ones that tend to have easily understandable information but are not always medically valid. A study on the most popular videos on COVID-19 likewise found that a quarter of videos did not contain medically valid information.

This is because the algorithms underlying recommendations on social media platforms are biased toward engagement and popularity.

Based on how digital platforms provide information to search queries, a user with greater health literacy is more likely to discover usable medical advice from a reputed health care provider, such as the Mayo Clinic. The same algorithm will steer a less literate user toward fake cures or misleading medical advice.

Correcting algorithmic biases and providing better information to users of technology platforms would go a long way in promoting equity.

For example, a pioneering study by the Gender Shades project examined disparities in identifying gender and skin type across different companies that provide commercial facial recognition software. It concluded that companies were able to make progress in reducing these disparities once issues were pointed out.

According to some estimates, Google receives over a billion health questions everyday. Especially those with low health literacy have a substantial risk of encountering medically unsubstantiated information, such as popular myths or active conspiracy theories that are not based on scientific evidence.

The World Economic Forum has dubbed health-related misinformation an “infodemic.” Digital platforms where anyone can engage also make them vulnerable to misinformation, accentuating disparities in health literacy (8).

Social media and search companies have partnered with health organizations such as the Mayo Clinic to provide validated information and reduce the spread of misinformation. To make health information on YouTube more equitable, those who design recommendation algorithms would have to incorporate feedback from clinicians and patients as well as end users.

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!










Views: 1215

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.


A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that individuals who falsely believe they are able to identify false news are more likely to fall victim to it. In the article published today, Ben Lyons, assistant professor of communication at the University of Utah, and his colleagues examine the concern about the public's susceptibility to false news due to their inability to recognize their own limitations in identifying such information.

If people incorrectly see themselves as highly skilled at identifying false news, they may unwittingly be more likely to consume, believe and share it, especially if it conforms to their worldview.

Benjamin A. Lyons el al., "Overconfidence in news judgments is associated with false news susceptibility," PNAS (2021).



Getting information on the internet requires separating fact from crap. There is a whole lot of crap when it comes to cancer "cures" on the internet.

If it's a matter of learning about the cancer diagnosis, reading about treatment options and side effects, I don't have a problem with that and I'm impressed at how prepared many patients are for their consultation with their question list.

But I don't consider any of that "doing research" because it's more or less reading up about the subject.

What passes for very ineffective and harmful internet research is the endless search for the hidden-by-big-and-greedy-pharmaceutical-company's-alternative-under-our-noses-cancer-cure that is just after the 15,034th Google list on the internet and known only for the persistent and inquisitive few who can find it; the natural treatment, the alkaline water, the dose of vitamin C, the no sugar diet, the no carb diet, the no anything not organic diet, the Gerson diet, the megadose anti-oxidant supplement, mushroom extract, the seaweed extract, the chelation therapy, the custom vaccine made from one's own urine, etc.

And then bringing in that list and spending visit after visit arguing with the oncologist about why something so intuitively simple and yet so elegant isn't a so much better way to go instead of that stupid recommendation for surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.

It takes 4 years of medical school, 3 years of residency, and 3 years of specialty fellowship training and also more than several years of practical experience to really know the intricacies of how to treat cancer.

This isn't something that can be accomplished within several weeks or months of being self taught any more than someone reading science fiction books can go online and read information that will allow him to apply to SpaceX and then help design the next spaceship to Mars. The human body and cancer are much more complicated and less well understood than putting a rocket into space which is a very very hard thing to do.


© 2024   Created by Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service