Nuclear fusion

Another solemn cheque-signing [BBC report] and confirmation that, at €10 billion, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (Iter) will be the second most expensive experiment of all time. Fusion scientists are pulling a fast one playing on gullibility and vanity of politicians… in return for hugely expensive and enjoyable research spend they are offering the empty promise of endless energy, allowing us to fill that mental void marked “answer to world’s energy problems” with something looking suitably futuristic. There’s a (lame) joke about fusion and its constantly shifting promise of jam tomorrow: “did you hear that the fusion research programme has discovered a new fundamental physical constant – and it is equal to 40? As in “40 years from now”.

Alternative medicine – you’re on your own

Should the NHS fund complementary medicine? Some top medics say ‘no’. Scientists are often too quick to dismiss treatments that work outside their own paradigm – and we need to stay open-minded about this stuff. But the question is, as always with the NHS, should someone else pay? The NHS is based on an implicit ‘contract’ between net beneficiaries (typically the old, sick and poor) and those that are net payers (young, healthy and rich). Those paying in are entitled to expect that NHS treatments have been shown to effective and cost-effective, and that they are not funding New Age fads. The NHS already has NIHCE to tell it what interventions are good value for money. I suspect that we will find that there are valuable therapeutic benefits from some of these treatments – but unless there is evidence, people wanting unproven alternative treatments should expect to go it alone.

Professor Sir Roy Meadow

It’s hard not to dislike intensely Professor Sir Roy Meadow – the ‘expert’ witness that consigned Angela Canning to gaol and her family to utter misery on the basis of completely incompetent statistical assertions designed to shore up his idiosyncratic theories about sudden infant death syndrome. And he has never even apologised.

So good news today to hear that the General Medical Council is to appeal against the High Court ruling denying its right to stike him off. And the GMC will be supported by the Attorney General. [BBC item]. The High Court’s ruling was a disgrace, effectively protecting experts from the professional consequences of outrageous failure with extreme consequences for others.

The most famous claim with which Meadow mislead a jury was that there was a 73 million to one chance of two ‘cot deaths’ in an affluent family. There are two childish flaws in this statistical claim: Continue reading “Professor Sir Roy Meadow”