Tag Archives: TED

5 prescription drugs doctors had no idea could hurt their patients

I posted a link to a Daily Mail article by Dr Ben Goldacre a couple of days ago. A couple of months ago the TED Blog published this

post with more comment on the issue of selective publishing of medical trials, along with a video of Goldacre’s talk to TEDMed 2012.

It is well worth watching, but at the same time is pretty terrifying when you consider the implications of what is going on. Most people wouldn’t buy a car for example purely on the sales patter of the car salesman, or the information in the brochure – we know it is going to be biased and selective, we look for independent tests, maybe in the motoring press. That’s not what happens with drugs. Drugs are tested by the manufacturers, and they choose whether or not to publish the results. If the results are positive they publish, negative they’re less likely to. Medical practitioners therefore do not have a full picture when prescribing drugs that could potentially be life or death to a patient…

“People will do lots and lots of studies and on the occasions that it works, they’ll publish. On the ones it doesn’t, they won’t,” says Goldacre in his talk. “This is a problem because it sends us all down blind alleys.”

TED Time Again

TED2007 kicks off today in California, with a suitably stellar list of speakers that includes Bill Clinton, Paul Simon, Richard Branson and J J Abrams to name just a few. As usual even if I could get the time off to go California, the conference was sold out months ago, as has next years conference too – so I guess I’ll be reading the blogs and watching the talks on video instead.

More Interesting TED Talks

I’ve been taking a look at some more of the TED talks that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Tonight I’ve watched the talk by Hans Rosling, a public health expert, and director of the Sweedish Karolinska Institute. In this talk he uses his Gapminder software to show that the separation between the third world and the first world is not what it once was. There are some fascinating examples of how the world is changing. You can explore more of the statistics at the Gapminder site.

Get a Taste of TED

Back in February I really enjoyed reading Wil Shipley’s blog posts describing his attendance at the TED conference, held in Monterey, CA. The conference brings together an amazing cross section of people, including actors, politicians, musicians and geeks. The thing that unites them all is ideas. To get some idea of what went on at the conference, Wil gives a good idea of the diversity in his postings.

However, until now, you couldn’t really get an idea of what the speakers were like. I say until now, because TED themselves have now posted videos and audio recordings of some of the major speakers online, with more to come. Even better, the videos and audio recordings are all released under a Creative Commons licence allowing them to be freely distributed.


The first of the videos is Al Gore, the man who in his own words “used to be the next President of the United States of Americaâ€?. Here he is talking about Global Warming. It is worth mentioning that this was his second presentation at the conference. His first is effectively what was used as the basis for his movie An Inconvenient Truth, which received a limited release last month. The video that TED includes of Gore lasts only just over fifteen minutes, and is well worth a look if you are at all concerned about Global Warming. However, watching Gore on stage it is hard not to compare him with the man he beat in the popular vote, but ultimately handed the presidency to six years ago, and wonder how things might be different…

Anyway, back to TED. Also amongst the other speakers represented in the video, and again showing the breadth of topics and speakers is David Pogue, who is best known on this side of the pond as the writer of a number of books in the ‘…for Dummies’ and ‘Missing Manuals’ series, on keeping things simple. He opens his presentation singing a reworking of ‘The Sound of Silence’ about being on hold for tech support, and includes songs about Bill Gates and Steve Jobs – anyone would think he started out as an accompanist! 😀 Great stuff. (More of his songs can be found on his website.)

It’s not just Americans. There is also a talk by a person you may not have heard of, Sir Ken Robinson, currently a senior advisor to the J Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles. Previously voted Business Speaker of the Year, his talk is a very entertaining discussion on the public education system, particularly the way in which, since it’s birth, creative subjects are pushed aside in favour of academic subjects, leading to the cultural definition of inteligence as being academically gifted, pushing aside those whose gifts are elsewhere. Here he argues for the benefits of encouraging creative ideas in young people.

There is definitely something for everybody amongst the current selection, and a new talk promised each week. You can subscribe for free through a variety of methods including e-mail, and even through iTunes. I’d certainly recommend taking a look for some interesting, and in some cases pretty challenging stuff.