Sunday, November 26, 2017

Blast from the plagiarism past, "Mind Over Mayhem"

The Colombo episode, Mind over Mayhem," first aired in February 1974, and had an interesting plot involving plagiarism, which copying was uncovered by a chemistry professor, Dr. Howard Nicholson (played by Lew Ayres).

The plagiarism victim was a physicist type and already dead by the time of the opening scene. The plagiarism culprit, Neil Cahill, was a computer type who had obtained the notes of the physicist, and had published the theory under his own name. He was to receive an award. The chemist, figuring the computer type unlikely to have developed the theory (an issue not contemplated by the award givers, who are known to be sometimes oblivious to possible plagiarism), found evidence of the copying and asked Cahill's father (Dr. Marshall Cahill played by Jose Ferrer) to intervene.

Cahill's (Ferrer's) first response was of interest: that a chemist would be incapable of understanding the theory.

Nicholson persisted and was murdered for his trouble. Uncoverers of plagiarism typically do not fare well.

Of interest in the episode was an appearance by Robby the Robot, an appearance by a character named Steve Spelberg (yes, the naming was intentional), and an oblique reference to colchicine.

See also

Columbo: 5 things you may have missed watching “Mind Over Mayhem”

Separately, from the Cornell Daily Sun :

In January, three scholars published a paper — titled “Statistical Heartburn: An Attempt to Digest Four Pizza Publications from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab” — investigating four papers Wansink co-authored on pizza-eating habits and listed 151 claims of data inconsistencies involving incorrectly calculated statistics, sample sizes and standard deviations.

Wansink responded directly to the “Statistical Heartburn” paper, issuing a 16-page response to each of the authors’ 151 claims.

More recently, JAMA Pediatrics retracted a similar study co-authored by Wansink, which reported that children are more likely to choose an apple over a cookie if the apple included an Elmo sticker, but contained numerous statistical errors.

The same day the JAMA publication was retracted, Wansink and his co-authors published a replacement version, which still contained flaws, as both the original and the replacement claimed that the study included 208 students ranging from eight to eleven years old at seven schools in upstate New York. But in fact, the data collected observed kids from three to five years old, Wansink told Buzzfeed News.



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