10 things that make raising a baby a scientist’s worst nightmare.
The Troll is a longitudinal study with an n of 1, and this is not his only problem.
- Any form of objectivity is completely out of the window.
- There is no adequate control group.
- Everything is one giant multiple comparisons problem.
- There are spurious correlation problems EVERYWHERE. (Aside from the ones associated with teething, the latest one I’ve had to dispel is the spurious correlation between cold weather and ear infections. In children, the Eustachian tube, which ventilates the middle ear and keeps it clear and dry, has a harder time staying open because it hasn’t yet fully developed, leaving it more vulnerable to blockage because of infections like the common cold. Cold weather does not cause colds, viruses do; close contact with others when we are forced indoors by cold weather is the reason why cold temperatures are associated with increased infections.)*
- The Hawthorne Effect (or more accurately the demand effect) is inescapable.
- Confirmation bias is rife: it’s far too easy to remember and get excited about all the times he burbles ‘at!’ in the direction of the cats and forget all the times he just grunts at the them or shouts ‘at!’ at the curtains or a cup of water.
- Occasionally, he is quantum superposition manifest in macro baby form: he is able to be in all states simultaneously before collapsing into a single defined state. Occasionally he somehow managed to be the opposite: he is in a single (mostly happy state) until is observed, and then suddenly manages to be in all states simultaneously.
- For now, and for a long time to come, because we don’t know him and he doesn’t know himself well enough yet, there is no mean to regress to.
- Keeping a detailed lab book is frowned upon for some reason.
- The peer review process is even harder to get through unscathed.
*I realised I need to be a little more nuanced after a friend's comment and clarification on Facebook: lab experiments have shown that cold temperatures might directly make us more vulnerable to infection (not just increase contact with infected people). This adds a little wrinkle the discussion my wife and I regularly have about whether or not the Troll should be wearing a hat now that the weather is starting to turn.