Skepchick Quickies 12.13

  • Higgs boson ‘may have been glimpsed’ – “Prof Stefan Soldner-Rembold, from the University of Manchester, called the quality of the LHC’s results “exceptional”, adding: “Within one year we will probably know whether the Higgs particle exists, but it is likely not going to be a Christmas present.””
  • Led by the child who simply knew – The story of Jonas and Nicole, two identical twins, one boy and one trans girl.
  • Study debunks myths about gender and math performance – “”We tested some recently proposed hypotheses that try to explain a supposed gender gap in math performance and found they were not supported by the data,” says Janet Mertz, senior author of the study…Instead, the Wisconsin researchers linked differences in math performance to social and cultural factors. From Blakut.
  • The scent of a man? It could be an STD – Or it could be terrible science reporting. From Michael, who is also skeptical of this report.


Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. A clinic on reporting preliminary scientific findings;

    How to do it correctly: Higgs boson ‘may have been glimpsed’

    How to do it incorrectly: The scent of a man? It could be an STD

  2. OMG, the Jonas and Nicole one is adorable. I wish my parents had been like that! (Not that it would have helped me; was in denial until I was 16.)

  3. What a beautiful article about the transgender twin! To have such loving parents who can figure out how to help their daughter be who she is, even though they had almost no awareness of the issue before becoming parents.

  4. Bah, I wanna see the actual paper, but I don’t have access to that journal. There has to be something wrong with something because I don’t get a significant difference between the healthy men and the infected men (p=0.0788) when I do a chi square (using the results from the healthy men as the expected value and the results from the infected men as the observed value). I’ll admit that it’s almost significant, but when we’re also dealing with numbers this low, it’s not even close to convincing.

    Also, a sample size of 5 for the treated men? Seriously? Samples of 16 and 13 were bad enough, but 5? That’s just ridiculous.

    I didn’t do any sort of stats on the 18 women who smelled the sweat, mostly because the abstract didn’t report how many smelled the sweat, but did report the men who sweated, telling me they probably didn’t look at if the women could identify the sweat of men with an STI versus without (which is totally the test I would have done).

  5. The transgender article was very very awesome, and a great read. But, I couldn’t help but notice that the article had to continue to point out how “feminine” Nicole is/was.

    She like girly things like pink, purple, Barbies, mermaids, and dresses, etc.

    What the fuck difference does it make? Would it have been harder to accept if she’d like stereotypically masculine things, like sports, guns, hunting, blue, etc?

    It’s like the article, while trying to be open, still had to confirm and enforce gender policing. “It’s ok for her to be a girl, because she likes girly stuff.” What about boys who like “girly” stuff, but aren’t transgender? They don’t have an excuse? And, I guess we couldn’t take her seriously if she didn’t like “girly” stuff.

    Finally, at the end of the article, they write this:
    “At 14, Jonas is handsome, Nicole pretty. Jonas is midway through puberty. His shoulders have broadened, his voice has deepened, and there’s a shadow on his upper lip. He’s 5 feet 6 and weighs 115 pounds, with a size 11 shoe.

    Nicole is petite: 5 feet 1, 100 pounds. She’s got long, dark hair and she wears girls’ size 14-16. Her closet contains nice shirts and jeans, party dresses, glittery shoes, and a pair of footy pajamas.”

    Why do they give her clothes size, but not his?

    Kinda ruins the article for me.

    1. I was going to make this same comment. They kept pointing out how much Nicole liked pink and tutus and such, as if that has anything to do with her being a girl.

  6. In ‘The Sent of a Man? It could be an STD?’, “Sniffing a potential partner’s scent could tell whether Mr. Right has a sexually transmitted disease, according to a small study that found that gonorrhea-infected men smelled “putrid” to a bevy of young ladies.”

    Really, we are going to go with the word “putrid”…doesn’t that mean rotting meat?

  7. I wish I knew more to try to even judge about the accuracy of the Higgs report. I’ve studied engineering mechanics but when I tried to understand quantum it totally threw me for a loop.

    It would be great to be able to look at the studies and actually say “Yeah that’s looking like it might indicate the Higgs Boson” or “That is dubious”.

    1. I’m a bit familiar with particle physics, so I might be able to clear things up here. They usually detect this type of thing by collecting all the junk that flies out of a series of collisions and plotting the energies of all of it. You tend to see spikes in this data around the masses (=energies) of particle types, but there’s also a ton of noise. So, from my read of the article, they see a spike where they expect the mass of the Higgs boson to be, but it’s not yet at the point of statistical significance. Once they do more runs we’ll be able to become more confident about whether it’s a real detection or if these first two spikes were just noise.

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