Archiv für März 2006

Believe it or not, revisited

März 31, 2006 - Markus Hoenicka
I already told you so, but now there is another study about praying out there, funded by your tax money and healthcare insurances. While the first study didn't report any effect of praying, positive or negative, the new study has some real bad news for the religious among you. The study agrees that praying itself does not affect the outcome of coronary artery bypass grafting (the kind of surgery to cure heart attacks). However, patients who knew that someone was praying for them ran a higher risk of suffering from complications than patients that didn't know. It seems possible that the certainty of receiving prayer raises expectations which cannot be fulfilled. To the best of my knowledge this is the first study that shows that praying for others may cause harm.
One weakness of this study may leave some hope for the religious though. The praying support was delivered only by Christian groups (both Catholic and protestant) as the authors were not able to locate prayer groups of other religions. The debate may well go on claiming that praying to Jewish, Muslim or ancient Greek gods may provide better results.
New York Times digest (requires registration)

Deconstructing RIS (part I)

März 12, 2006 - Markus Hoenicka
Whether you like it or not - RIS is one of the most widely used formats for bibliographic data on Windows and Mac boxes. The fact that the company that developed this format bought all relevant vendors of bibliographic programs on the market certainly helped to establish this leadership. Some say the format is easy to use. I agree as long as we look at simple cases like a journal article or a book. Some say the format is crappy, illogical, badly designed from the ground up. I agree as a developer of bibliographic software. But for reasons of compatibility and to encourage data migration, we still have to support this format somehow.

Lets first analyze why the data format is so illogical. Look at the following brief examples. The first two encode the same book, and the third and fourth encode the same chapter (all variants are valid according to the RefMan manual):

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