Category Archives: Noteworthy

How I Became a Madman

You ask me how I became a madman. It happened thus: One day, long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen,

the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives,

I ran maskless through the crowded streets shouting, “Thieves, thieves, the cursed thieves.”

Men and women laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me.

And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, “He is a madman.” I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time. For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and I wanted my masks no more. And as if in a trance I cried, “Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks.”

Thus I became a madman.

And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness; the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.

But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief.


While we are still waiting for the contest of the best illusions in 2022 here are my my all time favorites:

– for acoustics it is Yanny or Laurel – I hear Yaurel

– for optics it is the wedding dress – I see blue with black lace


Steht [der Begriff] unter einem Beitrag als Antwort, wird darauf hingewiesen, dass der ursprüngliche Post mehr Antworten als „Retweets“, „Likes“, „Gefällt mir“-, oder „Fav“-Angaben hat. Es kann auch verwendet werden, wenn ein „DruKo“, also eine Antwort unter einem Beitrag, mehr „Likes“ hat als der Ausgangsbeitrag. Manchmal wird auch „ratioed“ verwendet. (GIGA)

“Ratio” sollte vielleicht auch als PubMed Flag bei Zeitschriften eingeführt werden, wenn es mehr PubPeer Kommentare als Zitierungen gibt.

No more disruptive science?

Nature yesterday reporting a new paper by Russell Funk on research innovation or “disruptiveness”

The number of science and technology research papers published has skyrocketed over the past few decades — but the ‘disruptiveness’ of those papers has dropped, according to an analysis of how radically papers depart from the previous literature.
Data from millions of manuscripts show that, compared with the mid-twentieth century, research done in the 2000s was much more likely to incrementally push science forward than to veer off in a new direction and render previous work obsolete. Analysis of patents from 1976 to 2010 showed the same trend.

So has (A) everything already discovered by low hanging fruits A? Are scientists nor more taking any risk (B)? Or is the “disruptive” science now hidden in the meaningless research (C)? OR did only change citation practices (D)? The answer is in the original paper

Specifically, despite large increases in scientific productivity, the number of papers and patents with CD5 values in the far right tail of the distribution remains nearly constant over time. This ‘conservation’ of the absolute number of highly disruptive papers and patents holds despite considerable churn in the underlying fields responsible for producing those works… These results suggest that the persistence of major breakthroughs—for example, measurement of gravity waves and COVID-19 vaccines—is not inconsistent with slowing innovative activity. In short, declining aggregate disruptiveness does not preclude individual highly disruptive works.

In my own words: Progress is found in the top percentiles just as many decades before. But most research publications are a waste of money and  even harmful for cluttering up the research field.

There seem to be also some critical comments and of course some methodological issues need to be clarified for any interpretation (eg exclusion of reviews, validity of the 5 year interval, …). In any case, the authors promised to give me the CD5 dataset which will be nice to look up my own work.

Push and pull

Having been confronted with the “pull” doctrine now several times, I went for further literature. The best summary that I have found is by the European Asylum Support Office 2016

On the conceptual level, there are serious limitations with the commonly used (yet often critiqued) push and pull framework as an explanatory tool for migration decision-making processes … it makes strong assumptions about the way individuals respond to stimuli; it presumes that an individual can make cost/benefit decisions based on full information, in markets tending to a general equilibrium, far from the complex reality of human mobility. As such, the model fails to explain why, for instance, people respond differently to the same ‘push’ and ‘pull’ forces, and why emigration and immigration occur simultaneously in the same area.

There seem to be many more limitations than currently assumed.

factors explaining migration 1) often originate in the household/community/country of origin (e.g. unemployment, gender discrimination, conflict), while factors influencing migration 2) are more likely to be destination-specific (e.g. presence of co-ethnic community members, perception of the country as having a permissive asylum regime, language similarities) or process- specific (e.g. a smuggler has chosen a destination).

Another key issue, is the high death toll that is known to refugees.

Studying migration flows across the Mediterranean, particularly along two routes (the western and central Mediterranean routes), Altai Consulting found that social, political, and economic instability inspired migration flows but that individuals fleeing greater threats to their personal security were willing to traverse more dangerous and uncertain migration routes.

So we are dealing with

  • Socio-economic factors
  • Political factors
  • Demographic factors
  • Historical, cultural and geographic factors
  • Environmental factors
  • Migration policy factors
  • Economic factors in the asylum destination choice
  • Summary of convergence/divergence trends

The report shows the relevance of migrant networks in facilitating asylum migration movements and influencing migrants’ destination choices. Going back even to an earlier report of migration direction in Science, I can’t find any evidence for any pull effect.

Guy J. Abel and Nikola Sander. Quantifying Global International Migration Flows. Science 2014; 343:6178

If I become a punching bag, I’m a punching bag (Fauci)

A true hero, true scientist who saved millions of lives: Anthony Fauci

If I become a punching bag, I’m a punching bag. But I am very happy to testify before any congressional oversight committee, I have nothing to hide, I can explain and validate everything that I’ve done.

during an interview in a new episode of “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace” – more at the Atlantic

Integrity of scientific research

I have a new book on my desk that covers most aspects of the recent discussion around research integrity in 60 chapters arranged in 14 sections.

It is a comprehensive overview of research integrity across disciplines. Maybe some chapters are not written by the leading experts in the field. And maybe the scope is super-broad with several off topic chapters like corruption in healthcare. This comes at the cost that other chapters like image integrity are missing. Nevertheless it is the largest body of text so far.



Das Thema COVID-19 Übersterblichkeit interessiert in der Öffentlichkeit nicht mehr groß, ausgenommen einiger SZ Redakteure — vermutlich weil die aktuellen Infektionsraten wieder niedrig und die Klinken voll, aber nicht überbelegt sind.
Für Epidemiologen ist die Übersterblichkeit aber dennoch alarmierend – auch wenn es keine direkten Coronatoten sind (wie in meinem nächsten Artikel in BMC über die Case fatality). Natürlich gibt es auch indirekte Todesfälle, etwa durch verpasste Therapien, dazu kommen andere Infektionen,  Hitzewelle im Sommer oder auch psychosoziale Nachwirkung durch die Lücke welche die Corona Sterbefälle hinterlassen haben.
Was jedoch sehr wahrscheinlich ist, sind  dazu auch Todesfälle durch Long Covid

We show that, beyond the first 30 d after infection, individuals with COVID-19 are at increased risk of incident cardiovascular disease spanning several categories, including cerebrovascular disorders, dysrhythmias, ischemic and non-ischemic heart disease, pericarditis, myocarditis, heart failure and thromboembolic disease.

Leider ist die Datenlage in Deutschland zu schlecht, um diese  Auswertung aus den USA zu wiederholen. Impfen hat jedenfalls vor Tod geschützt – so auch das Ergebnis der SZ Auswertung – aber auch nach Impfung gibt es leichte Verläufe die noch Opfer fordern.

Die indirekten tödlichen Folgen der Corona-Infektion kann die Impfung hingegen weniger gut abwenden, weil sie leichte Verläufe nicht verhindern kann. „Auch eine leichte Corona-Erkrankung birgt noch ein Jahr nach der Infektion ein erheblich erhöhtes Risiko für Herzprobleme“, sagt Martin Korte.

Es geht darum, Handlungsräume zu beschreiben

Ausriss von

Es geht darum, Handlungsräume zu beschreiben und loszulaufen. Ob und wie viele Menschen mitkommen, liegt außerhalb unserer Macht. Aber Dankbarkeit für das Leben und Verantwortung für seinen gesunden Erhalt zu übernehmen, auch wenn wir nicht wissen, wie das Morgen wird, ist eine schöne Energie und bereichert das Jetzt.

(Maja Göpel)

Unsent tweets, fake tweets, true facts

A legendary tale of the dying Twitter imperium

And well, parody everywhere…

Peer review in peril

Cosmos has an interesting article

The list of retractions and editorial issues of concern, even from the most-respected peer-reviewed journals, swells daily, exposing the underlying problem of expecting peer review to act as the gatekeeper for scientific rectitude and rigour. This is a job for which it is woefully inadequate.
Academic peer review became an integral part of the scientific publishing process in the early 1970s and quickly became synonymous with trustworthiness – both of the journal and of the science itself…“One of the biggest issues in peer review is the lack of incentive to do a good job,” says medical researcher Dr Hannah Wardill, from the University of Adelaide. “There is no oversight and no training. People are just so thinly spread. None of these factors facilitate a robust and thorough peer-review system.”

Virchow’s experiences with epidemics radicalized him

Ed Yong speaks from the bottom of my heart in his Atlantic essay “What Even Counts as Science Writing Anymore?

Virchow’s experiences with epidemics radicalized him, pushing the man who would become known as the “father of pathology” to advocate for social and political reforms. COVID-19 has done the same for many scientists. Many of the issues it brought up were miserably familiar to climate scientists, who drolly welcomed newly traumatized epidemiologists into their ranks. In the light of the pandemic, old debates about whether science (and science writing) is political now seem small and antiquated. Science is undoubtedly political,