The Joy of Statistics: Hans Rosling
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Hofmann’s Potion

2002. Here we have a narrative about a substance whose property is that it gives us a slippery reality. It and its cousins have profound powers and by simple osmosis have affected every visual thing, every cinematic lexicon, and much literary shape. And here we have a film that leaves out too much, and since it consists of primarily interviews with LSD researchers (all of whom testify to altered truth) the thing has problems. The narrative is simple enough. This is a serious chemical with effects that are worthy of serious, scientific study. This study is not allowed in the US (while research in other drugs is). The reason in this story is because Tim Leary promoted the drug as something inevitable and necessary for everyone – the next stage. Scads of young people took it and ended up in anti-war protests, so the story goes. This, coupled with government guilt over sponsoring Army research into using it as a weapon, have resulted in unreasonable proscription of otherwise promising research. But the story leaves too much out. The Army research was much more nuanced than reported, and in fact related work continues today. The researchers that are interviewed all took the drug themselves, so we get a tangled mess in terms of perspectives. You can’t objectively observe something you think changed your life.

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