Thou Shalt Not Overhype

From Genes&Aging, a justifiable note of complaint about the way the press has presented recent research: "researchers in the US have identified a gene which is reponsible both for longevity and for the retention of mental sharpness. 'Wow!', thinks I, 'my work has been done for me, we can all go home.' ... It's a nice paper, and the results are interesting and may direct research into useful areas. But: (1) It's a small study (158 people); (2) The results are only just statistically significant; (3) Other factors (other genes, environment, nutrition, exercise...) appear to be more important in influencing the phenotype than the gene itself; (4) "Cognitive function" was measured with a single test. ... Neither the general public, nor the researchers, nor science itself is done any good by hyping results such as these into news of supergenes which are going to turn us all into centenarian geniuses. It's never that simple." You have to read the popular science press with a critical eye.



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