September 2009
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The HIV/AIDS vaccination you might have seen on the news, and the dangers of fixed statistical significance

Updated Sunday 27th September 2009 with links to further analysis. Updated again Saturday 10th October 2009 with Science Magazine’s take on the study.

You may have noticed in the news recently, some triumphant headlines concerning the “success” of an HIV vaccination trial which took place in Thailand over the last seven years. Vaccine heralds new dawn in the fight against Aids, proclaims the Independent, beginning the article with the words: “The scientific naysayers who claimed a vaccine against HIV would never be possible have received their comeuppance.” Aids vaccine found to cut risk of infection declared the Times. HIV breakthrough as scientists discover new vaccine to prevent infection exclaimed the Guardian. The Sun also weighed in with their typical measured and timid approach. First vaccine for AIDS developed, they unambiguously declared.

Out in Morocco (my current location), the news was relayed to me on my hotel room TV by Al-Jazeera, TV5, and DW-TV. So do we really have such a massive breakthrough? Do the claims stack up?

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Subversion and LyX for project writing

Ok, so a while ago I mentioned that I was going to try using a new way of working on my thesis using Subversion (a version control system predominantly used by computer programmers) and LyX (a document processor that uses LaTeX in an almost-WYSIWYG style to allow the author to focus on content alone rather than having to constantly worry about typesetting issues). And the result of the experiment? It’s been a resounding success. In this article I’m going to explain how to set up a working system so that you can work seamlessly across several computers, or collaborate with other authors without having to resort to fiddling around with USB disks or emailing yourself latest versions of documents. All using completely free software! How’s that?

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