Archive for August, 2012

Aug 07 2012

Two Skeptical Videos

Published by under Skepticism

Google Talk

Last month while I was on the West coast at TAM 2012 the other SGU co-hosts and I were invited to visit Google and Pixar. At Google we were invited to give a talk, along with Richard Saunders from the Australian Skeptics, and you can see that talk now on YouTube. The topic is – Being s Savvy Health Consumer. Obviously, there is a great deal of material to potentially cover in such a talk, and we had two hours. That sounds like a lot of time, but it went very fast.

I started off with a basic discussion of critical thinking, mechanisms of deception, the nature of evidence in medicine, and similar topics. My colleagues then covered some specific areas of current popular interest, with a few demonstrations.

Google as a company has a very nurturing culture. They provide educational lectures free for their employees, among other perks. Many of those lectures are on health topics and, I am told, that while they are well-meaning some recent presentations have been less than science-based. Fortunately there is a group of skeptics at Google and they decided to bring us there to inject a dose of critical thinking into the health lectures at Google. Charlie Ross was our host (he is the one who introduces us at the beginning of the lecture), and was very gracious throughout our visit.

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Aug 06 2012

Health Information on the Internet

Most Americans have used the internet to look for health information (a recent survey reports that 59% of adults have searched for health information on the net). Yet there are serious concerns about the accuracy and reliability of that information. There have therefore been many studies looking at the accuracy of health information, and not surprisingly the results are concerning.

Most of these studies pick a specific topic and then have one or more experts on that topic review websites obtained through specific search terms. For example, a British study looking at the treatment of fever in children concluded:

Only a few web sites provided complete and accurate information for this common and widely discussed condition. This suggests an urgent need to check public oriented healthcare information on the internet for accuracy, completeness, and consistency.

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