End Times and Current Events

General Category => Evolution is a religion => Topic started by: Mark on June 02, 2015, 05:49:08 pm

Title: Why You Can't Always Trust Science
Post by: Mark on June 02, 2015, 05:49:08 pm
Why You Can't Always Trust Science

 Here’s a quote for you: “A lot of what is published [in scientific journals] is incorrect.” Care to guess where those words appeared? Not on a website that questions the “consensus of experts on climate change.” Nor do they appear in a publication associated with intelligent design or other critiques of Neo-Darwinism.
They appeared in the April 11, 2015, issue of the Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal.
The writer, Richard Horton, was quoting a participant at a recent symposium on the “reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research.” Specifically, the symposium discussed one of the “most sensitive issues in science today: the idea that something has gone fundamentally wrong with one of our greatest human creations.”
And he’s referring to scientific research—the research that not only purports to tell us how the world works, but, increasingly, how people should order their lives and societies.
As Horton told Lancet readers, “The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.”
He continues, “In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world.”
We recently saw an example of this in a story about a much-publicized study purporting to show that voters were likely to change their minds about same-sex marriage if they were visited by gay pollsters who shared their stories with them.
Researchers seeking to reproduce the findings found discrepancies in the data and asked the original researcher for the original data. The researcher was unable to produce the original data. This led the lead researcher to request that the study be withdrawn. Even supporters of same-sex marriage acknowledged that the study and the conclusions drawn from it were fraudulent.
While this was the most-publicized example of a study that turned out to be untrue, it’s far from the only one. In late April, researchers published the results of their efforts to replicate 100 of “psychology’s biggest experiments.” They were only able get the same results in 39 of them.
Commenting on the failure, Daniele Fanelli of Stanford told the prestigious journal “Nature” that “reproducibility rates in cancer biology and drug discovery could be even lower.” She added, “From my expectations, these are not bad at all.”
Not bad at all?
It’s true that to err is human, but insisting that science is the best and most reliable guide to life despite its checkered track record is more than error. It’s chutzpah.
According to Horton, the participants at the symposium he attended agreed that “something needed to be done” about the “bad scientific practices” he describes, but none of them were sure about what that “something” might be.
Well, I have a suggestion: stop telling everyone else that science is the best, if not only, way to answer life’s big questions. While this advice may not fix the problems in the lab, it keeps the “turn toward darkness” from spreading misinformation to the rest of society.
One more suggestion: if a lot of the stuff being published is “incorrect” or “untrue,” please refrain from comparing people who question the scientific consensus to Holocaust deniers and flat-earthers.
A little bit of humility would not be bad at all.


Title: Re: Why You Can't Always Trust Science
Post by: Mark on June 04, 2015, 09:05:04 pm
Harvard, Syracuse Researchers Caught Lying to Boost Obama Climate Rules

Emails obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency show that Harvard University, Syracuse University and two of their researchers appear to have falsely claimed a study supporting EPA’s upcoming global warming rules was conducted “independent(ly)” of the agency.

In early May, a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change purported to support a key EPA claim about its forthcoming global warming rules aimed at coal-fired power plants. The New York Times’ headline, “EPA Emissions Plan Will Save Thousands of Lives, Study Finds,” typified the media coverage.

Across the media, the authors were innocuously described as simply university-affiliated “researchers.” After all, the researchers had declared they had “no competing financial interests” in their study. Both universities had issued media releases heralding the study as the “first independent, peer-reviewed paper of its kind.”

Study co-author Charles Driscoll of Syracuse University told the Buffalo News, “I’m an academic, not a politician. I don’t have a dog in this fight.” The claim of independence was also emphatically asserted by study co-author Jonathan Buonocore of Harvard University. “The EPA, which did not participate in the study or interact with its authors, Buonocore says, roundly welcomed its findings.” [Emphasis added].

But a closer look at these claims of independence raises serious doubts.

An online search of EPA’s web site revealed that Syracuse’s Driscoll has previously involved as a principal investigator in studies that received over $3.6 million in research grants from EPA. Co-author Dallas Burtraw, a researcher at the think tank Resources for the Future, had been involved in previous EPA grants totaling almost $2 million. Harvard co-author Jonathan I. Levy had been involved in over $9.5 million worth of grants. Co-author Joel Schwartz, also of Harvard, had been previously involved in over $31 million worth of grants from EPA.

Are we to believe that a group of researchers who had previously received some $45 million in grants from EPA, no doubt hoping for more in the future, could possibly not have any dog in this fight? It’s probably not necessary to ask how this slipped past the incurious mainstream media.

Intrigued by Bounocore’s odd assertion of absolutely no involvement with EPA, I submitted a request to EPA under the Freedom of Information Act for email between the study authors and EPA staff. Although subsequent wrangling with agency staff gave me doubt that I would ever get anything, I received, much to my surprise, 99 pages of emails after mere weeks.

The emails reveal that study co-authors Driscoll, Buonocore, Schwartz and Harvard’s Kathy Lambert were definitely in contact with key EPA staff regarding this research.

A July 8, 2014 email shows Lambert arranging a conference call with EPA staff to get EPA’s input on the study. One of the EPA staff involved was the contact person for agency’s Clean Power Plan cost-benefit analysis. A subsequent e-mail shows that the top EPA staffer on the Clean Power Plan cost-benefit analysis was added to the call.

A July 15, 2014 email from Driscoll to an EPA staffer boasts of “considerable interest” in their analysis from unnamed outside “groups.” One sentence after buttering up the EPA staffer, Driscoll asks her if they could have a phone call to discuss fundraising for a conference Driscoll is organizing. No appearance of attempted financial conflict there?

A November 7, 2014 e-mail from Lambert to EPA about the study reads, “We would like to follow back up with you by phone to discuss possible next steps in this analysis and what role you might be able to play.”

This issue goes deeper than mere truth-telling. The EPA’s controversial Clean Power Plan hinges on the notion that shuttering coal plants will save lives.

The EPA’s proposed global warming plan ostensibly focuses on reducing carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants. But the bulk of the alleged benefits of the plan actually arise from collateral projections of lives supposedly saved by reducing coal plant emissions related to particulate matter and ozone.

As EPA values each life “saved” at about $10 million, the claim that the rules will save 6,600 lives per year puts the rules’ alleged benefits on the order of $66 billion per year, far in excess of industry projections of the rules’ costs.

These EPA claims, however, are controversial to say the least. A compelling alternate view is that no lives will be saved because, for one reason, EPA’s own extensive clinical research shows that particulate matter and ozone in outdoor air do not kill anyone.

The only casualty in this case is our confidence in the independence of EPA-funded researchers.


Title: Re: Why You Can't Always Trust Science
Post by: Mark on June 05, 2015, 05:55:59 am
NOAA Fiddles With Climate Data To Erase The 15-Year Global Warming ‘Hiatus’

THEY ARE CHANGING THE DATA TO SUPPORT THEIR LIES!! This is what scientists do, they do not have the FACTS to back up their THEORY so they just make the stuff up. They are LIARS not scientists.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists have found a solution to the 15-year “pause” in global warming: They “adjusted” the hiatus in warming out of the temperature record.

New climate data by NOAA scientists doubles the warming trend since the late 1990s by adjusting pre-hiatus temperatures downward and inflating temperatures in more recent years.

“Newly corrected and updated global surface temperature data from NOAA’s [National Centers for Environmental Information] do not support the notion of a global warming ‘hiatus,'” wrote NOAA scientists in their study presenting newly adjusted climate data.

To increase the rate in warming, NOAA scientists put more weight on certain ocean buoy arrays, adjusted ship-based temperature readings upward, and slightly raised land-based temperatures as well. Scientists said adjusted ship-based temperature data “had the largest impact on trends for the 2000-2014 time period, accounting for 0.030°C of the 0.064°C trend difference.” They added that the “buoy offset correction contributed 0.014°C… to the difference, and the additional weight given to the buoys because of their greater accuracy contributed 0.012°C.”

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2015/06/04/noaa-fiddles-with-climate-data-to-erase-the-15-year-global-warming-hiatus/#ixzz3cBTTSgW4

Title: Re: Why You Can't Always Trust Science
Post by: Mark on July 21, 2015, 11:19:58 am
Academic oligarchy: Majority of science publishing is controlled by just six companies

The flow of science in this modern age is largely controlled by just six corporate publishing groups, which by calculated design have been gobbling up the journal market since at least the 1970s. And a new study out of Canada reveals that this mass consolidation of publishing power is, to a large extent, skewing what passes as scientific progress.

Researchers from the University of Montreal pored through the whole of scientific literature published between 1973 and 2013 and found that the publishing realm has changed dramatically during this time. Many smaller publishers have been absorbed into larger ones, for instance, and academic research groups have become increasingly beholden to the interests of these major publishers, which tend to favor large industries like pharmaceuticals and vaccines.

Much of the independence that was once cherished within the scientific community, in other words, has gone by the wayside as these major publishers have taken control and now dictate what types of content get published. The result is a publishing oligopoly in which scientists are muzzled by and overarching trend toward politically correct, and industry-favoring, "science."

"Overall, the major publishers control more than half of the market of scientific papers both in the natural and medical sciences and in the social sciences and humanities," said Professor Vincent Lariviere, lead author of the study from the University of Montreal's School of Library and Information Science.

"Furthermore, these large commercial publishers have huge sales, with profit margins of nearly 40%. While it is true that publishers have historically played a vital role in the dissemination of scientific knowledge in the print era, it is questionable whether they are still necessary in today's digital era."

The following Natural News infographic illustrates the disturbing reach of this academic oligarchy:


Six major publishers control fields of chemistry, psychology and social sciences
The fields most controlled by this academic oligarchy include those dealing with chemistry, psychology, social sciences and the professional fields. On the flip side, biomedical research, physics, and the arts and humanities are influenced to a much lesser degree by these six corporate publishers, according to the study.

What this suggests is that, over time, certain disciplines have become more corrupted than others as they've been absorbed into the corporate publishing fold. Such content, though often skewed, is highly profitable for publishers which not only don't have to pay for the articles they publish but also resell such content digitally at profit margins upwards of 40%.

"As long as publishing in high impact factor journals is a requirement for researchers to obtain positions, research funding, and recognition from peers, the major commercial publishers will maintain their hold on the academic publishing system," added Lariviere.

Publishing in one of "Big Six" corporate journals doesn't add value, study finds
But does publishing in high-impact journals really make much of a difference in terms of article exposure and the quantity of citations? Not really, the researchers found. The reach is roughly the same, they found, except that smaller publishers are less likely to be actively promoting a special interest agenda, and are thus less likely censor science that doesn't correspond with the official narrative.

"One would expect that a major publisher acquiring a journal would have the effect of increasing the latter's visibility," said Lariviere. "However, our study shows that there is no clear increase in terms of citations after switching from a small to large publisher."

"Our findings question the real added value of big publishers. Ultimately, the question is whether the services provided to the scientific community by these publishers warrant the growing share of university budgets allocated to them."

Sources for this article include:

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/050457_science_publishing_academic_oligarchy_corporate_corruption.html#ixzz3gXlOC8LY

Title: Re: Why You Can't Always Trust Science
Post by: Mark on September 15, 2015, 10:50:57 am
Major science journal retracts 64 papers after publishing them with fake peer reviews

 A major publisher of scientific studies has been forced to retract some 64 published articles in 10 journals following an internal investigation that found peer-reviewed reports linked to the articles' publication were fabricated, Nature reports.

The Nature website noted that Berlin-based Springer announced it had made the retractions in a statement released Aug. 18.

"After a thorough investigation we have strong reason to believe that the peer review process on these 64 articles was compromised. We reported this to the Committee on Publishing Ethics (COPE) immediately. Attempts to manipulate peer review have affected journals across a number of publishers as detailed by COPE in their December 2014 statement," the statement said.

In May, Springer merged with publishing divisions of Macmillan Science and Education, the publisher of Nature, to form a new company, Springer Nature.

The culling of published scientific work by Springer comes amid previous discoveries of "fake peer review" by a number of other major publishers, including BioMed Central, a division of Springer based in London. That publishing house began retracting 43 articles in March citing "reviews from fabricated reviewers."

'Peer-review process cornerstone of quality and integrity'
In July, Natural News reported that 60 studies by a single Taiwanese professor, Peter Chen, were pulled from the Journal of Vibration and Control, a prominent international journal, after an internal review found that they had been illicitly passed through the peer-review process. The investigation found that the studies were the product of a covert "peer-review ring" that involved fake peer reviewers.

Nature noted that some reviews are fabricated when researchers submit a paper for publication and suggest reviewers but then give contact information that actually leads back to the same researchers.

"The peer-review process is one of the cornerstones of quality, integrity and reproducibility in research, and we take our responsibilities as its guardians seriously. We are now reviewing our editorial processes across Springer to guard against this kind of manipulation of the peer review process in future," said the statement from Springer.

"In all of this, our primary concern is for the research community. A research paper is the result of funding investment, institutional commitment and months of work by the authors, and publishing outputs affect careers, funding applications and institutional reputations," the statement continued.

The company's internal investigation began in November 2014 when a journal editor-in-chief discovered irregularities in contact details for peer reviewers. The irregularities included email addresses that the editor believed may be bogus but were nevertheless accompanied by the names of actual reviewers, according to William Curtis, the vice president for publishing, medicine and biomedicine at Springer.

Just double-check email addresses
Nature further reported:

The investigation, which focused on articles for which authors had suggested their own reviewers, detected numerous fabricated peer-review reports. Affected authors and their institutions have been told about the investigation's findings, says Curtis.

The publisher would not identify the articles or journals involved in the purges, but a search of the publisher's website identified more than 40 retraction notices between August 17 and 19 for articles that had been published in eight Springer journals.

As a result of the discoveries, Springer says it will better vet peer-reviewer suggestions, according to Curtis. And, in the future, the publisher's journals may request institutional email addresses or Scopus author IDs for reviewers.

In response to the fake reviewer discoveries, some publishers like BioMed Central and San Francisco-based PLOS have ended the practice of allowing authors to suggest reviewers.

However, Elizabeth Wager, a publication consultant and former chairperson of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), says "less drastic" measures like double-checking non-institutional email addresses given for reviewers should suffice.


Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/051175_science_journals_peer_reviews_retractions.html#ixzz3lp5W1Dhz

Title: Re: Why You Can't Always Trust Science
Post by: Mark on April 18, 2016, 12:52:15 pm
Big Science is broken

Science is broken.

That's the thesis of a must-read article in First Things magazine, in which William A. Wilson accumulates evidence that a lot of published research is false. But that's not even the worst part.

Advocates of the existing scientific research paradigm usually smugly declare that while some published conclusions are surely false, the scientific method has "self-correcting mechanisms" that ensure that, eventually, the truth will prevail. Unfortunately for all of us, Wilson makes a convincing argument that those self-correcting mechanisms are broken.

For starters, there's a "replication crisis" in science. This is particularly true in the field of experimental psychology, where far too many prestigious psychology studies simply can't be reliably replicated. But it's not just psychology. In 2011, the pharmaceutical company Bayer looked at 67 blockbuster drug discovery research findings published in prestigious journals, and found that three-fourths of them weren't right. Another study of cancer research found that only 11 percent of preclinical cancer research could be reproduced. Even in physics, supposedly the hardest and most reliable of all sciences, Wilson points out that "two of the most vaunted physics results of the past few years — the announced discovery of both cosmic inflation and gravitational waves at the BICEP2 experiment in Antarctica, and the supposed discovery of superluminal neutrinos at the Swiss-Italian border — have now been retracted, with far less fanfare than when they were first published."

What explains this? In some cases, human error. Much of the research world exploded in rage and mockery when it was found out that a highly popularized finding by the economists Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhardt linking higher public debt to lower growth was due to an Excel error. Steven Levitt, of Freakonomics fame, largely built his career on a paper arguing that abortion led to lower crime rates 20 years later because the aborted babies were disproportionately future criminals. Two economists went through the painstaking work of recoding Levitt's statistical analysis — and found a basic arithmetic error.

Then there is outright fraud. In a 2011 survey of 2,000 research psychologists, over half admitted to selectively reporting those experiments that gave the result they were after. The survey also concluded that around 10 percent of research psychologists have engaged in outright falsification of data, and more than half have engaged in "less brazen but still fraudulent behavior such as reporting that a result was statistically significant when it was not, or deciding between two different data analysis techniques after looking at the results of each and choosing the more favorable."

Then there's everything in between human error and outright fraud: rounding out numbers the way that looks better, checking a result less thoroughly when it comes out the way you like, and so forth.

Still, shouldn't the mechanism of independent checking and peer review mean the wheat, eventually, will be sorted from the chaff?

Well, maybe not. There's actually good reason to believe the exact opposite is happening.

The peer review process doesn't work. Most observers of science guffaw at the so-called "Sokal affair," where a physicist named Alan Sokal submitted a gibberish paper to an obscure social studies journal, which accepted it. Less famous is a similar hoodwinking of the very prestigious British Medical Journal, to which a paper with eight major errors was submitted. Not a single one of the 221 scientists who reviewed the paper caught all the errors in it, and only 30 percent of reviewers recommended that the paper be rejected. Amazingly, the reviewers who were warned that they were in a study and that the paper might have problems with it found no more flaws than the ones who were in the dark.

This is serious. In the preclinical cancer study mentioned above, the authors note that "some non-reproducible preclinical papers had spawned an entire field, with hundreds of secondary publications that expanded on elements of the original observation, but did not actually seek to confirm or falsify its fundamental basis."

This gets into the question of the sociology of science. It's a familiar bromide that "science advances one funeral at a time." The greatest scientific pioneers were mavericks and weirdos. Most valuable scientific work is done by youngsters. Older scientists are more likely to be invested, both emotionally and from a career and prestige perspective, in the regnant paradigm, even though the spirit of science is the challenge of regnant paradigms.

Why, then, is our scientific process so structured as to reward the old and the prestigious? Government funding bodies and peer review bodies are inevitably staffed by the most hallowed (read: out of touch) practitioners in the field. The tenure process ensures that in order to further their careers, the youngest scientists in a given department must kowtow to their elders' theories or run a significant professional risk. Peer review isn't any good at keeping flawed studies out of major papers, but it can be deadly efficient at silencing heretical views.

All of this suggests that the current system isn't just showing cracks, but is actually broken, and in need of major reform. There is very good reason to believe that much scientific research published today is false, there is no good way to sort the wheat from the chaff, and, most importantly, that the way the system is designed ensures that this will continue being the case.

As Wilson writes:

    Even if self-correction does occur and theories move strictly along a lifecycle from less to more accurate, what if the unremitting flood of new, mostly false, results pours in faster? Too fast for the sclerotic, compromised truth-discerning mechanisms of science to operate? The result could be a growing body of true theories completely overwhelmed by an ever-larger thicket of baseless theories, such that the proportion of true scientific beliefs shrinks even while the absolute number of them continues to rise. Borges' Library of Babel contained every true book that could ever be written, but it was useless because it also contained every false book, and both true and false were lost within an ocean of nonsense. [First Things]

This is a big problem, one that can't be solved with a column. But the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Science, at heart an enterprise for mavericks, has become an enterprise for careerists. It's time to flip the career track for science on its head. Instead of waiting until someone's best years are behind her to award her academic freedom and prestige, abolish the PhD and grant fellowships to the best 22-year-olds, giving them the biggest budgets and the most freedoms for the first five or 10 years of their careers. Then, with only few exceptions, shift them away from research to teaching or some other harmless activity. Only then can we begin to fix Big Science.


Title: Re: Why You Can't Always Trust Science
Post by: Mark on October 12, 2016, 08:04:48 pm


Title: Re: Why You Can't Always Trust Science
Post by: Mark on April 08, 2017, 02:19:55 pm
Troubling New Data Shows Most Scientists “Can’t Replicate” Peer Reviewed Studies
Erin Elizabeth

For some time, a dilemma in the scientific community known as a “reproducibility crisis” has been an issue of concern. This term refers to the inability to successfully replicate results contained in previous scientific studies. Most recently, multiple reports have shown that the reproducibility crisis has been prevalent in the field of cancer research.

While many studies appear to be promising upon one’s initial review, they may not be nearly as reproducible as once believed. An initiative called the Reproducibility Project, led by University of Virginia psychology professor Brian Nosek, has been hard at work since 2011 seeking to analyze the reliability of dozens of studies by attempting to replicate them.

The project began after two separate discoveries, from pharmaceutical companies Bayer Healthcare and Amgen, that revealed their scientists were only able to verify a low percentage of previous studies.

The process in itself saw considerable difficulty. Elizabeth Iorns, a leader of The Reproducibility Project, and project manager Tim Errington aimed to ensure that the replications precisely followed the original methodology. They soon discovered that tracking down the raw data and identifying what the labs consisted of was a time-consuming endeavor. As noted in The Atlantic, the methods included in many of the original studies “theoretically ought to provide recipes for doing the same experiments. But often, those recipes are incomplete, missing out important steps, details, or ingredients. In some cases, the recipes aren’t described at all; researchers simply cite an earlier study that used a similar technique.”

According to a report from Wired, Iorns and Errington “had to track down that information from each of the original authors, a time-consuming process neither party much enjoyed,” Wired reported. “Not only did some of the researchers find the whole thing a nuisance, but sometimes the labs didn’t even know who did what on the original paper, as graduate students or post-docs who did the bulk of the work had since moved on.”

So far, the Reproducibility Project has been able to share their assessments of five cancer studies, with several more yet to be completed. According to BBC, “the team was able to confirm only two of the original studies’ findings. Two more proved inconclusive and in the fifth, the team completely failed to replicate the result.Errington, a microbiologist managing the project, noted that these results are “worrying because replication is supposed to be a hallmark of scientific integrity.”

“Our intent with this project is to perform these direct replications so that we can understand collectively how reproducible our research is,” Errington stated in an article from PBS.  While some researchers reportedly expressed concern that the project may cast negativity on the studies and create future funding problems, Errington noted that the project’s purpose is to “create a discussion.” The Reproducibility Project has provided further information on their initiative which can be seen here.

The Reproducibility Project’s findings follow a survey of 1,576 researchers published in the journal Nature in 2015. The survey revealed that 70% of researchers attempted to reproduce a fellow researcher’s experiment and failed, and over half failed attempts to replicate their own experiments. The survey also revealed that over half of the researchers acknowledged a reproducibility crisis.

However, at least 20 more studies have yet to be analyzed and replicated, so it appears that it’s too early to confirm that the remainder of these studies will not be successfully replicated. Marcus Munafo, a biological psychology professor at the University of Bristol, said that the problem with reproducing results may be partially attributed to the final versions of published studies which can be a “highly curated version of what’s actually happened.” Munafo further explained that “the trouble is that gives you a rose-tinted view of the evidence because the results that get published tend to be the most interesting, the most exciting, novel, eye-catching, unexpected results.”

*Article originally appeared at The Free Thought Project.


Title: Re: Why You Can't Always Trust Science
Post by: Mark on August 27, 2017, 05:20:29 pm
3,700-year-old Babylonian tablet rewrites the history of maths

 :D  :D  :D  :D  :D  :D  :D history Trumps science again

A 3,700-year-old clay tablet has proven that the Babylonians developed trigonometry 1,500 years before the Greeks and were using a sophisticated method of mathematics which could change how we calculate today.

The tablet, known as Plimpton 332, was discovered in the early 1900s in Southern Iraq by the American archaeologist and diplomat Edgar Banks, who was the inspiration for Indiana Jones.

The true meaning of the tablet has eluded experts until now but new research by the University of New South Wales, Australia, has shown it is the world’s oldest and most accurate trigonometric table, which was probably used by ancient architects to construct temples, palaces and canals.

However unlike today’s trigonometry, Babylonian mathematics used a base 60, or sexagesimal system, rather than the 10 which is used today. Because 60 is far easier to divide by three, experts studying the tablet, found that the calculations are far more accurate.

“Our research reveals that Plimpton 322 describes the shapes of right-angle triangles using a novel kind of trigonometry based on ratios, not angles and circles,” said Dr Daniel Mansfield of the School of Mathematics and Statistics in the UNSW Faculty of Science.

“It is a fascinating mathematical work that demonstrates undoubted genius. The tablet not only contains the world’s oldest trigonometric table; it is also the only completely accurate trigonometric table, because of the very different Babylonian approach to arithmetic and geometry.

“This means it has great relevance for our modern world. Babylonian mathematics may have been out of fashion for more than 3000 years, but it has possible practical applications in surveying, computer graphics and education.

“This is a rare example of the ancient world teaching us something new.”

The Greek astronomer Hipparchus, who lived around 120BC, has long been regarded as the father of trigonometry, with his ‘table of chords’ on a circle considered the oldest trigonometric table.

A trigonometric table allows a user to determine two unknown ratios of a right-angled triangle using just one known ratio. But the tablet is far older than Hipparchus, demonstrating that the Babylonians were already well advanced in complex mathematics far earlier.
Babylon, which was in modern day Iraq, was once one of the most advanced cultures in the world

The tablet, which is thought to have come from the ancient Sumerian city of Larsa, has been dated to between 1822 and 1762 BC. It is now in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University in New York.

“Plimpton 322 predates Hipparchus by more than 1000 years,” says Dr Wildberger.

“It opens up new possibilities not just for modern mathematics research, but also for mathematics education. With Plimpton 322 we see a simpler, more accurate trigonometry that has clear advantages over our own.

“A treasure-trove of Babylonian tablets exists, but only a fraction of them have been studied yet. The mathematical world is only waking up to the fact that this ancient but very sophisticated mathematical culture has much to teach us.”

The 15 rows on the tablet describe a sequence of 15 right-angle triangles, which are steadily decreasing in inclination.

The left-hand edge of the tablet is broken but the researchers believe t there were originally six columns and that the tablet was meant to be completed with 38 rows.

“Plimpton 322 was a powerful tool that could have been used for surveying fields or making architectural calculations to build palaces, temples or step pyramids,” added Dr Mansfield.

The new study is published in Historia Mathematica, the official journal of the International Commission on the History of Mathematics.