Memory Hole (24 October): Everyone is fooled

Scientific Misconduct Blog Memory Hole: Events of October the 24th


Houdini patent

81 years ago today: Houdini's last performance

On 24 October 1926 Harry Houdini the famous escapologist gave his last performance
(at the Garrick Theatre in Detroit).

His escapes relied on trickery and misdirection.

Not unlike the nimble evasions and circumlocutions, and the Houdini-like scientific escapes discussed here.
It is about those scientific fraudsters and fakers who slip through the loopholes. Everyone is fooled.

He was also a genius.

The picture is a detail from his 1 March 1921 patent application for a diving suit.

#1370316 signed "H Houdini, Inventor".

Serious science and engineering underlying the tomfoolery.



78 years ago today: Stock market crash

24 October 1929 was the "Black Thursday" crash on the New York Stock Exchange. I am interested in the functioning and malfunctioning of government and "regulators" (including drug "regulators") in a supposed free market - hence this entry.

60 years ago today: Walt Disney and the "communists"

On 24 October 1949 Walt Disney testified to the House Un-American Activities Committee naming Disney employees he believed to be communists. Ditto above.

scientific authorship

5 years ago today: Imperial College London and the mystery publication

On 24 October 2002 a mysterious paper appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine about hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (W. Shamin et al. NEJM. 347, 1326 1333, 2002)

There were eight authors. The signatures of all eight appeared on the original submission and the three revised versions. Over the weeks following publication it emerged that several of these signatures were forgeries. Indeed most "authors" had never seen the manuscript, nor the original data.

Six "authors" had affiliations with Imperial College. Two authors, Waqar Shamin and Mohammed Yousufuddin appear to have chosen six other authors at random to lend prestige to their paper. One author stated "The first thing I knew of it was when Yousufuddin rang me two days before its publication to congratulate me, and to ask me about the method involved in case journalists questioned him".

Having said that, authors in the NEJM and elsewhere are often not authors at all.

This is a good quote about the importance of authorship:

"the integrity of a body of literature is our society’s ultimate temporal forum for negotiating life and death, suffering and wellness... the medical well-being of the society it serves is dependent on the question of who stands behind the word."
-Fr. Mark Gruber, 1999 (cited in ref)

Source for main story: "Paper Retracted as Co-Author Admits Forgery," Nature 421: 77.

3 years ago today: Bullying of doctors in the USA for raising patient welfare concerns

On 24 October 2004 the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons passed a resolution to investigate what they describe as "bad faith" peer review (basically use of hospital "peer review" proceedings to bully doctors who advocate too loudly or too persistently for better patient care).

One year earlier in October 2003, the same newspaper, the Pittsburg Post Gazette published an excellent series of articles over four days dealing with the abuse of doctors who had voiced concerns over patient welfare in the United states. Some of the articles in this "Cost of Courage" series are below:

Part 1: How the tables turn on doctors
Part 2: When right can be wrong
Doctors who spoke out: part A
Doctors who spoke out: part B
Doctors who spoke out: part C
Doctors who spoke out: part D
Extra: Rules of fair play don't always apply
Extra: Centre County hospital critics soon unwanted
Extra: Doctors pay for reporting suspicions

Source main story: Medical groups look into 'bad faith' peer reviews, Pittsburg Post Gazette, Oct 24, 2004

2 years ago today: Cylert discontinuation

On 24 October 2005 the FDA announced that "the overall risk of liver toxicity" from Cylert (Pemoline, an ADHD drug) "outweighs the benefits of this drug". It was linked with 21 cases of liver failure, of which 13 resulted in liver transplantation or death (incidence 10 to 25 times greater than the general population). Abbott Laboratories had already discontinued production.
Source: FDA Alert: Cylert

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