Number Watch: The fantastical world of Doctor Hu

In 1963 the BBC launched a science fantasy series for children called Doctor Who. It is still running and after nine reincarnations there have been ten wildly different interpretations of the role, which even beats Hamlet over that period. The Doctor battles to save the human race against terrifying enemies, such as the Daleks and the Cybermen.

They are all imaginary, though the children peeping out from behind the sofa are not too sure about that.

But the USA is a foreign country: they do things differently there. Doctor Hu is a real person. Disguised as a mild-mannered university professor, one of a group of super-heroes, he does battle to save the human race from horrors that are only too real. The most recent of these is the deadly red meat. Based on a relative riskreaching an incredible 1.19, they have issued dire warnings about this horrific scourge, which threatens to bring a deadly plague of type 2 diabetes upon the innocent population. Instead they recommend an alternative diet (Warning, may contain nuts).

There are, however, even more terrible threats hanging over us: for example, the even more lethal white rice at a staggering relative risk of 1.5. The methods used are meta-analyses based on a sophisticated type of survey known as a data dredge. The participants in the studies are selected as people with outstanding abilities of recall, who are able to report accurately their diets over the past four years. In addition the researchers are skilled at making adjustments for a remarkably wide range of factors. Adjustment is a major contributor to definitive proclamations such as these, as happened in the case of the dreaded global warming.

Computers are wonderful things; so much cleaner than messy old cauldrons and animal entrails. How fortunate we are to live in an age when computers are watching over us!

Number Watch

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