Experts of the Week give Grandfathers all-clear to sow their wild oats

While we all approach things from our own point of view and all have prejudices and opinions of the moment, it seems scientists suffer most dreadfully from this and insist on continuing to display their remarkably narrow-band intelligence, ie., they can create a Bose-Einstein Condensate but can’t iron a shirt to save their life.

Sheffield-based Dr Virpi Lummaa and Dr Andrew Russell, with the help of Finnish colleagues from the University of Turku have examined 361 family histories and their work was reported on by BBC.co.uk.

Dr Lummaa states:

“The results suggest the long lifespan in human men has not benefited their adult offspring’s reproductive success, even though grandfathers are much valued today.”

In other words, if your father is still alive it has no effect on the number of children you have. By my calculations, if your father is still alive it has no effect on the lunar cycle either. Perhaps I should become a doctor.

While the report clearly doesn’t contain every element of the study it never mentions the fact that the adult offspring of a grandfather will likely be about forty, ie., probably unable to successfully bear children even if they wanted to. Though it did have this remarkably unlikely statistic about the adult offspring of grandmothers.

“In their study, grandmothers gained two extra grandchildren for every 10 years they survived beyond the menopause.”

Let’s stop and think about this. The average age of the onset of menopause is just over fifty. Let’s say that the average grandmother has had two children, two years apart in her mid-twenties. So between the age of fifty and sixty, her children would be up to thirty-four and thirty-six and produce a child each. Fair enough. The next decade (sixty to seventy) sees her children at forty-four and forty-six. While technically possible, it seems rather unlikely that they produce another child each. When the grandmother is seventy to eighty, her children are fifty-four and fifty-six and have almost certainly passed through the menopause themselves. The life-expectancy of British women was about eighty in 2002. What is clear is that this statement by Dr Lummaa doesn’t hold any rational water.

Undeterred and presumably with complete confidence in her expertise, Dr Lummaa continues:

“It is more likely that longevity in men is related to their ability to have their own offspring even at advanced ages.”

For a statement to be true, the opposite must also be true. So if longevity in men is related to sperm-production and sexual potency, then infertile and impotent men should die earlier. True? Rubbish.

The BBC.co.uk reporter translated Dr Lummaa’s statement as:

“the scientists say the “evolutionary” argument for a man’s survival to a ripe old age is to continue to churn out sperm and procreate.”

I think that is a fair translation and it again shows that the doctor’s report has reached ridiculous conclusions. Considering this from an “evolutionary” standpoint manages to shoot it down in flames. (As a side point, believing in evolution means having blind faith in what men and women in white coats tell you and this silly statement is typical of evolution texts. Interestingly, this is also the state of people in the Mental Health Unit of your local hospital.)

Evolutionary theory states that the primary reason men and women exist is to produce more men and women. To this end, everything has to be interpreted as having a bearing on the likelihood of a man and a woman producing offspring. Therefore, for the doctor’s statement to be true, women of child-bearing age must be sexually attracted to crinkly old men with more hair in their nose than on their head and be able to tell at a distance whether he can still perform sexually. Ridiculous.

Doctor’s Lummaa and Russell and your Finnish associates, for making short-sighted conclusions shorn of common sense, you are my experts of the week.

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Experts of the Week: Doctors Olson, Kutner, Warner, Almerigi, Baer, Nicholi II and Beresin

These doctors of various disciplines (1 S.D., 4 Ph.D.’s and 2 M.D.’s) has produced a report entitled Factors Correlated with Violent Video Game Use by Adolescent Boys and Girls that has just been published in the Journal of Adolescent Health (Volume 41, Issue 1, July 2007, Pages 77-83).

What do we learn?

In the abstract, the report presents the results of a survey from 1254 American 12 to 14-year-old’s and concludes that most adolescent boys and many girls routinely play M-rated games and that boys play more violent games than girls. And that they do this in their bedroom.

Twenty, count ’em, months

It took a remarkable twenty months to sort out all the data from the written self-reported survey from November / December 2004 to the article being submitted in September 2006.

7 O.D.’s?

Is it just me or is it absolutely no surprise that adolescents play significant amounts of violent video games and that boys like them more than girls?

Perhaps all these should also add O.D. to their names as they are clearly Doctors of the Obvious.

I do wonder about scientific studies that state the obvious but take lots of intelligent people an inordinate amount of time to produce. I suppose that they add hard numbers to something that all game players, especially adolescent ones, already knew. Perhaps the full report (which I’m not paying for) contains more insight than is revealed in the abstract. Perhaps they really enjoyed conducting this research and working with each other. Hmm, I’m beginning to feel a bit mean for criticising them now.

I appoint thee

So, for telling us something we already knew (and making me feel a bit mean for pointing it out), I appoint Doctors Olson, Kutner, Warner, Almerigi, Baer, Nicholi II and Beresin as Experts of the Week.

Expert of the Week: Dr Chris Stanley

Dr Chris Stanley is a mineralogist of London’s Natural History Museum and, presumably, he doesn’t really want to work there anymore.

Take this story with the eye-catching headline:

‘Kryptonite’ discoverd in mine

Wow! The article starts by summing things up:

A new mineral matching its unique chemistry – as described in the film Superman Returns – has been identified in a mine in Serbia.

Let me draw your attention to the phrase “matching its unique chemistry”. The expert goes on to say:

Towards the end of my research I searched the web using the mineral’s chemical formula – sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide – and was amazed to discover that same scientific name, written on a case of rock containing kryptonite stolen by Lex Luther from a museum in the film Superman Returns.

Amazing! He continues:

The new mineral does not contain fluorine (which it does in the film) and is white rather than green but, in all other respects, the chemistry matches that for the rock containing kryptonite.

Hang on. This mineral ‘matches the unique chemistry’ of movie kryptonite except it “does not contain fluorine”. Doesn’t the fact that the chemical fluorine is not present in this mineral mean that it does not match the unique chemistry?

So, close but no kryptonite for our expert of the week, Dr Chris Stanley of London’s Natural History Museum.

Expert of the Week: BBC.co.uk News

While certainly not wanting to make light of the murder of Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer, I noted with some amusement the latest report headline on the BBC News.

Woolmer police ‘eliminate no-one’

The reporter isn’t credited on BBC.co.uk but someone should tell him, a murder investigation eliminating no-one is not exactly news. Even better, the report goes on to say this:

“Police in Jamaica investigating the murder of Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer say no-one has been eliminated from their enquiry.

But deputy police commissioner Mark Shields told the UK Times newspaper there were no prime suspects.”

Now the reason I found this funny was because it reminded me of another quote by a very famous French detective. When asked what he believed about the case he was working on he stated:

“I believe everything and I believe nothing. I suspect everyone and I suspect no one.”

The name of this famous French detective: Detective Inspector Jacques Clouseau.

Expert of the Week: Chris Lake, editor of e-consultancy.com

The number of experts quoted in the world of journalism is astonishing but the amount of insight these experts offer is depressingly low.

Toady sees a BBC news report asking What’s the cost of e-mailing 1.8m people? That is the number of people that the UK government e-mailed in response to an online petition.

For the answer to this question, the BBC ask Chris Lake, editor of e-consultancy.com:

“Last week I had lunch with someone who sends out 180,000 [e-mails] a week as a newsletter, which cost him £600,” he says. “That would make it £6,000, but it could be much less or much more.”

So, what’s the cost of e-mailing 1.8m people? £6,000. Or much less. Or much more.

Thank you Chris Lake. You are my Pointless Expert of the Week.