Blogs

Can we say whether a drug would have enabled someone to live longer? Sadly not.

In the first televised election debate last Thursday, David Cameron stated that “I have a man in my constituency … who had kidney cancer who came to see me with seven others. Tragically, two of them have died because they couldn't get the drug Sutent that they wanted..”. How reasonable was it to claim that two would not have died had they had access to Sutent? Some statistical analysis can give us an insight.

Going out in a blaze of glory?

I got a mention on last Sunday’s Broadcasting House on Radio 4 as suggesting it was reasonable that older people should take more risks in their lives.

"Nothing ventured: balancing risks and benefits in the outdoors"

Do you think that kids are being over-protected and need more risk in their lives? If so, you may be surprised to find that the Chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) agree with you.

The English Outdoor Council has just released a fine report by Tim Gill,
"Nothing ventured: balancing risks and benefits in the outdoors" which "explodes the myths about safety on school visits and gives real reassurance to teachers"

Egg-gate: an update

I got an article in the Times about scientific uncertainty, and managed to squeeze in the 'six double-yolked eggs in a box' story as an example of 'unknown unknowns'. When the whole world was discussing the rarity of this event, it never even crossed my mind that I would walk into my local Cambridge Waitrose and buy, for £2.49, six double-egged yolked eggs in a box. But here's the proof!

Monkeys and Shakespeare

I was lucky enough to get included in the Horizon programme on Infinity last night, talking about the old monkey-Shakespeare issue. Of course most of my rambling contribution was (rightly) cut, so here’s a few background details for anyone interested.

The risks of Eggstasy

There has been extensive coverage of a box of 6 eggs found to be all double-yoked:an event that was given odds of a trillion to 1 against. This was based on the British Egg Information Service saying 0.1% ( 1 in 1000) eggs were double-yoked, and so getting six of these required these odds to be multiplied 6 times. In fact this gives 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000, but which was reported as a trillion (now usually taken as 1,000,000,000,000).

The Daily Mail did a good demolition of this story, and it is a good example of what can go wrong when people try and work out chances.

Some risk announcements!

Some items to watch

Slightly embarrassing video

A video has gone on Youtube called Professor Risk as part of a series made for the Cambridge 800 years anniversary. To be honest it's a bit lightweight when it comes to risk, and all the subtle bits got cut. We filmed a whole lot more including my GP taking my blood, discussing statins and screening for prostate cancer. All on the cutting-room floor. Good point: Stephen Fry does the intro voiceover. Bad point: me in my jim-jams.

Can you rank hospitals like football teams?

Elsewhere on this site we talk about the difficulties in making reliable rankings of footbal teams, but at least people can agree that winning matches is a reasonable way to measure the quality of a team. Hospitals are different - even something 'obvious' such as mortality statistics may not be the best way to asses patient safety. This is an article that appeared in the Times on December 2nd, with suitable links added.

Ecstasy and equasy, heroin and hang-gliding

This appeared in the Times on November 3rd and is based on the excellent lecture that got David Nutt sacked as chair of the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (although he might still be in post if he had only added that it was delivered in his personal capacity). Nutt has suffered the consequences of repeatedly breaking the taboo of comparing the risks of the legal and wholesome (horse-riding) or long-established (alcohol and smoking), with the illegal and "impure" Ecstasy and cannabis.
The version below contains links to sources and a few comments and corrections.

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