Science

The lab of the thinking dead

This is a Halloween statistical tale. Believe me, it will scare you. It's about a lab where strange things happened, where a dead fish showed brain activity in a magnetic resonance image. This is a scary tale not because the protagonists discovered a fish that apparently was thinking dead, but because they discovered a significant proportion of brain scan scientists had been using sloppy statistics. That gives you the creeps.

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Sky-high? Your risks when taking a freefall

Last weekend Felix Baumgartner set a world record for the highest ever skydive, casually hopping off a skateboard-sized platform some 39 kilometres above the New Mexico desert. Millions around the world watched (a record 8 million people in tuned in to Youtube to watch Baumgartner's feat) with bated breath as the Austrian adrenaline addict tumbled through the Earth's upper atmosphere, breaking the sound barrier in the process, before deploying his parachute and coasting to an elegant landing several minutes later. Never in doubt, as they say.

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Does patient satisfaction equal better health?

Customer satisfaction is a useful metric for business. The relationship between a positive customer experience and profit is evident. In the healthcare industry, many argue that patient satisfaction is important for profits and also can measure for quality care. Patients, who are satisfied stick with their provider and talk amongst their family and friends. However, the relationship between satisfaction and healthcare quality is not well understood. Nor is it known whether satisfied patients become healthier people.

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Does it rain in Manchester?

The Scottish poet, WD Cocker (1882 - 1970) is best known for 'The Deluge', a poem re-telling the Old Testament story of Noah and the flood. The poem starts:
 
The Lord tuik a staw at mankind, 
A richteous an naitural scunner;
 
Slightly surprising, perhaps, that God appears to be a Glaswegian, but who has not been on holiday in Scotland and thought the end of the world might be nigh.

The OraQuick Test and HIV Screening

Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a revolutionary new over-the-counter HIV test. The OraQuick Test, designed by OraSure Technologies, is expected to go on sale in the US within the next few months with a price tag of less than $60 (£38). The test is a simple saliva check that requires the user to take an oral swab and can produce results within 20-40 minutes. Previous over-the-counter tests have included blood tests whereby users have had to prick their finger in order to obtain a sample.

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