La ciencia tras bastidores: Correlación y causalidad

Escrito en inglés por Brian Moyers, traducida al español por Thibaut R. Pardo-García y editado por Attabey Rodríguez-Benítez.

Cuando hablamos sobre problemas científicos, la frase “correlación no implica causalidad” a veces es utilizada. Pero, ¿Qué significa esta frase? La ciencia hace declaraciones sobre causa y efecto. Por ejemplo, el fumar causa cáncer de pulmón, las emisiones de carbón causan cambios climáticos y altas temperaturas causan un aumento en violencia. Claramente, los científicos tienen alguna manera de inferir relaciones causales. Pero, ¿Cómo es que ellos luchan con la idea de que “Correlación no implica causalidad”? Si no utilizan correlación, ¿Qué herramientas utilizan para inferir causalidad?

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Science behind the scenes: The costs and payoffs of science

By: Bryan Moyers

Edited by:  David Mertz, Shweta Ramdas, Scott Barolo, Kevin Boehnke

Why haven’t we cured cancer?  Physicians have known about cancer for over 5000 years, and the United States spends nearly $5 billion per year on cancer research.  But there’s still no cure.  Also, where is our clean, renewable energy?  We can’t even catch half the energy in sunlight, and solar panels don’t come cheap!  Why don’t we have a moon colony yet or a male birth control pill?

In the U.S., science funding comes from many sources, including the taxpayers.  As an example, half a percent of the federal budget goes to fund NASA, before considering all of the money that goes to the National Science Foundation (NSF) or the National Institutes of Health and other federal science organizations.  It is reasonable that publicly-funded science should provide some benefit for the public, but it seems like there’s a lot of scientific research out there that’s not giving us the technologies and discoveries we want and need.   So why do we throw money at projects that don’t seem to deliver?

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P-values, or: infinite shades of grey

Author: Peter Orchard

Editors: Theresa Mau, Bryan Moyers, Alisha John


Peter Tea_and_MilkAlmost 100 years ago, the English biologist and statistician Dr. Ronald Fisher was enjoying a cup of tea with his Cambridge University colleagues when another biologist, Dr. Muriel Bristol, made an interesting claim. Bristol asserted that just by tasting her tea, she could infer whether the tea was poured into the cup before the milk, or the milk before the tea.

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Science behind-the-scenes: Which fields are “real sciences”?

Author: Bryan Moyers

Content Editors: Christina Vallianatos, Molly Kozminsky

Senior Editor: Alisha John



Well, that field isn’t really science.”

Oh, that’s just a soft science.”

Most people who work in the sciences have probably heard phrases like these.  Translation: that field is lesser.  The physicists say it about everyone lower than them in the pecking order, as do the chemists, biologists, and so on down the line.  The nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford famously said, “All science is either physics or stamp-collecting.”  People argue about this at scientific conferences and in the media.   The science and pop-culture webcomic xkcd has even parodied the issue.

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Communicated, not classified: The importance of collaboration in science (Science behind-the-scenes)

By Molly Kozminsky

Close your eyes and picture a scientist. What do you see?

In 1983, David Wade Chambers published results from a study conducted on 4,807 children as they progressed from kindergarten through fifth grade in the United States and Canada. The test? To draw a scientist. In what must rank as one of the most adorable research experiences ever, the drawings were scored for seven indicators of a “standard image of a scientist:”

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Science behind-the-scenes: Correlation and causation

By Bryan Moyers

When talking about scientific issues, the phrase “Correlation doesn’t imply causation” is sometimes thrown around.  But what does it mean?  Science makes statements about cause and effect.  Smoking causes lung cancer.  Carbon emissions cause climate change.  Higher temperatures cause increased violence.  Clearly, scientists have some way of inferring causal relationships.  But how do they grapple with the idea that “Correlation doesn’t imply causation”?  If they don’t use correlation, what tools do they use to infer causation?

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Science behind-the-scenes: “And that is a scientific FACT!”

By Bryan Moyers

In the film Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, there is a scene where the quartet of male leads is screaming at their boss.  They are outraged over the hiring of a woman for the position of news anchor.  At one point, David Koechner’s character leans forward over the desk and announces:

“It is anchorMAN, not anchorLADY, and THAT IS A SCIENTIFIC FACT!” Continue reading “Science behind-the-scenes: “And that is a scientific FACT!””