Dutch psychologist condemned for faked research

A Dutch psychologist has admitted making up data and faking research over many years in studies which were then published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Diederik Stapel, a psychologist working at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, said he had “failed as a scientist” and was ashamed of what he had done, but had been driven to falsifying research by constant pressure to perform. The respected journal Science, which published some of Diederik Stapel’s work earlier this year, issued an “expression of concern” editorial in which it said it now had serious concerns about the validity of Stapel’s findings.

NSS. Part of the point of peer review is questioning in material and scientific analysis – not just accepting results as rote. Certainly in many other vocations that is the case.

Stapel was suspended from his position at Tilburg University in the Netherlands in September when an investigation was launched by the university into his work.

“The official report … indicates that the extent of the fraud by Stapel is substantial,” Science’s editor-in-chief Bruce Alberts wrote in the journal’s online edition Science Express…

The process of peer review, in which other scientists are asked to critique and analyze a paper before it is accepted for publication in a journal, is designed to minimize the risk that false data will get through, but it is not infallible.

As I said above, regardless of how a paper is vetted beforehand, a critical part of the process is investigation after the fact. Cripes, there are discussions in archaeology, paleontology, astronomy which have been in progress for decades.

Free rides for Rick Perry on corporate jets are just part of the job


Pilgrim Chickens on the left – with his favorite chicken plucker

On a July morning in 2008, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and several aides boarded a plane for Washington to lobby on ethanol use, an issue important to corn growers and livestock owners in his state.

The growers favored federal rules requiring the use of the corn-based fuel in gasoline, but beef and chicken suppliers said the rules would raise the price of feed stocks. Mr. Perry was firmly in the livestock camp, and he took his case straight to the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, urging him to waive the ethanol mandate to lower the cost of corn.

While executives from the livestock industry did not attend Mr. Perry’s private meeting at the E.P.A., the governor would not have made it there without them — literally. The Hawker 800XP plane that Mr. Perry and his team flew from Austin to Washington and back was provided by Lonnie Pilgrim, one of the world’s largest chicken producers and a leading critic of the ethanol mandate…The poultry magnate also flew the governor to Washington in June to take part in a news conference on the issue.

The two trips, each valued at $9,179, were among more than 200 flights worth a total of $1.3 million that Mr. Perry has accepted — free — from corporate executives and wealthy donors during 11 years as governor, according to an analysis of Texas Ethics Commission records by The New York Times.

Although many of the trips were for political or ceremonial events — not unusual for elected officials — others involved governmental functions, including some that were of interest to the planes’ owners. As a result, a group of well-heeled businessmen has effectively helped underwrite some of Mr. Perry’s activities as governor.

The head of a Texas oil refinery spent almost $20,000 flying Mr. Perry and his staff to a trade meeting in Mexico, where the governor asked Mexican energy officials to consider more joint ventures with Texas oil companies. Other Texas business owners have paid Mr. Perry’s way to Washington to lobby on immigration, testify before Congress and meet with the homeland security secretary.

Mr. Perry’s travels adhere to Texas ethics laws, and he is far from alone in accepting gifts of air travel. But among politicians he stands out for taking private flights for activities that are considered part of his job as governor. That is different from campaign travel or the sort of quasi-official trips for which officeholders normally use private planes, like attending a conference or giving a speech.

Texas ethics laws, of course, is a contradiction in terms. Ethics has little or nothing to do how Rick Perry or pretty much any other Texan governs. Taking care of the Big Boys is what counts. The Texas legislature will make certain laws are bent, broken, or stapled together to allow for as much influence as “grassroots” organization like the Petroleum Club or Chickenpluckers International require.

RTFA for lots of details, anecdotes, the sort of corrupt practices considered trivial in Texas.

Close encounter with Asteroid 2005 YU55 – passing by on Tuesday


Radar image and projected path

A huge asteroid will pass closer to Earth than the moon Tuesday, giving scientists a rare chance for study without having to go through the time and expense of launching a probe. Earth’s close encounter with Asteroid 2005 YU 55 will occur at 6:28 p.m. EST (2328 GMT) Tuesday, as the space rock sails about 201,000 miles from the planet.

It is the first time since 1976 that an object of this size has passed this closely to the Earth. It gives us a great — and rare — chance to study a near-Earth object like this,” astronomer Scott Fisher, a program director with the National Science Foundation, said Thursday during a Web chat with reporters…

Thousands of amateur and professional astronomers are expected to track YU 55’s approach, which will be visible from the planet’s northern hemisphere. It will be too dim to be seen with the naked eye, however, and it will be moving too fast for viewing by the Hubble Space Telescope.

“The best time to observe it would be in the early evening on November 8 from the East Coast of the United States,” Don Yeomans said. “It is going to be very faint, even at its closest approach. You will need a decent-sized telescope to be able to actually see the object as it flies by.”

Scientists suspect YU 55 has been visiting Earth for thousands of years, but because gravitational tugs from the planets occasionally tweak its path, they cannot tell for sure how long the asteroid has been in its present orbit…

Computer models showing the asteroid’s path for the next 100 years show there is no chance it will hit Earth during that time, added Yeomans…

Previous studies show the asteroid, which is blacker than charcoal, is what is called a C-type asteroid that is likely made of carbon-based materials and some silicate rock.

More information about its composition and structure are expected from radar images and chemical studies of its light as the asteroid passes by the planet.

A brief and fascinating passage of objects in space, nearing then parting, the objects themselves sharing no consciousness of each other. Those living in so-called civilization with a communications network that reaches into the parcels and portions concerned with the science behind everything – will watch and listen to the discussion even if they haven’t the means to track the traverse of YU55.

Pretty much everyone else won’t notice much of anything happening in the space between the Moon and Earth. Will they?

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Jewish traditional bakery kept alive in Brooklyn by two Muslims

Two Pakistani Muslims in Brooklyn are now running the oldest bialy store in the city, and keeping it kosher.

Zafaryab Ali and his business partner, Peerada Shah, were shocked on hearing through a friend that Coney Island Bialys and Bagels was closing. Ali had worked at the store for 10 years in the 1990s and remembers it always being crowded, with lines out the door and people waiting up to half an hour for fresh bialys. So Ali and Shah bought the store to keep the 91-year business alive.

Bialys are a lighter, softer cousin to the bagel, traditionally made with onion sprinkled on top.

“I know bagels and my partner knows management,” Ali said. “If we work hard and pay attention, we’ll build up and bring more customers in.”

Ali and Shah are keeping everything the same — ingredients, equipment, recipes — all used when it was a kosher store under Jewish management. Ali is now on the hunt for a rabbi to come and give the store an official kosher certification.

They even have some of the same staff, like Ernie Devivo, a semi-retired baker who is still helping out around the shop. “I’m glad we opened up again,” Devivo said. “It’s good for everybody.”

A wonderful tale. RTFA and enjoy ordinary working people who respect other traditions and the sense of community a neighborhood is capable of enjoying.

That the tale is of two Muslims reviving a Jewish tradition is icing on the cake. Or in my case, garlic on a bialy.

Folks in Oklahoma sue Halliburton for groundwater pollution — since 1965

Halliburton Co faces lawsuits over groundwater pollution near a now-closed facility in Oklahoma that cleaned missile casings for the U.S. Defense Department during the Cold War.

Halliburton, which now specializes in oilfield services, said one of its units cleaned solid fuel from missile casings between 1965 and 1991 at a semi-rural facility on the north side of Duncan, Oklahoma. It was closed in the mid-1990s.

A component of the fuel was ammonium perchlorate, a salt that is highly soluble in water. Halliburton said it had been discovered in the soil and groundwater on its site and in certain residential water wells near the property.

The company said it was determining the extent of that contamination and that it had arranged to supply residents with bottled water and, if needed, a temporary water supply system…

The lawsuits, filed in Oklahoma state and federal courts starting late last month, claim the plaintiffs have suffered health problems such as hypothyroidism, which is associated with exposure to perchlorate over time…

According to Halliburton, the lawsuits claim it knew about the releases into groundwater of ammonium perchlorate and, in a federal lawsuit, nuclear or radioactive waste as well, and that Halliburton did not take corrective actions.

But after conducting soil and groundwater sampling along with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Halliburton said it only found nuclear or radioactive material in soil in a discrete area on the Duncan site, and that it was not present in groundwater.

“The radiological impacts from this discrete area are not believed to present any health risk for off-site exposure,” Halliburton said in the filing.

Rest easy. Folks in Duncan, Oklahoma, don’t really glow in the dark. They’re just poisoned.

Klearly some mistake — until the warning sign is repainted

Road markings outside a fire station in West Sussex have had to be repainted after workmen misspelt a Keep Clear sign with the words “Keep Klear”.

The road markings were painted outside the entrance to East Preston fire station after the pavement was dug up for some work to install some new gas mains.

Motorists were advised to “Keep Klear” of the entrance to the station after the error by workmen for Southern Gas Works.

They company had to dispatch a second crew to correct the error and the sign was repainted.

A spokesman for the company said: “The work was carried out by one of our contractors as part of our reinstatement work. “They were made aware of the error and have since corrected it. This serves as a reminder for all our staff to double-check their work.”

I offer a trans-Atlantic “D’uh” for quality checking.