Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Skeptic successes in homeopathy

I've started a collection of activities undertaken by people skeptical of homeopathy and the successes they've had in taking homeopathy to task for its misleading claims. For fairness there's also a segment on failures which I'll update too - we can learn from things going wrong.

I'll also add a section for individual succcesses (eg NHS Lothian's decision to shelve funding for homeopathy was recently challenged legally by a homeopathy enthusiast but this challenge failed) but it's mostly overarching categories at the moment. It feels like there are a few more categories to be added but it's late...

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Ourscreen lets you screen films yourself, in the UK

Ourscreen lets anyone pick a film and a participating cinema, pick a time-slot for screening and then try and sell tickets to it. I think it's a brilliant idea and was really excited when a similar scheme arose in the US a few years ago and I'm delighted that something similar is now available in the UK.

Once a minimum number of tickets is sold the event is confirmed and can go ahead... but more than one person can bid for the same screening time so if their event sells more tickets than yours then theirs wins.

There are participating cinemas all over the UK though I'm obviously interested in just the London ones - the nearest one to me is Greenwich Picturehouse - and they have a fantastic range of films, the current list is below (with their permission, thanks for sending it to me Ourscreen!). You can also suggest new films so obviously I suggest the entire back catalogue of Brendan Fraser's films, The Dish and Independence Day :)

Film Title
12 Monkeys
127 Hours
20 Feet From Stardom
20,000 Days on Earth
2001: A Space Odyssey
27 Dresses
5 Broken Cameras
500 Days of Summer
52 Tuesdays

A Dark Reflection
A Field In England
A Hard Day's Night
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
A Promise
A Single Man
About Time
Advanced Style
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
Alf Engers aka "The King"
Alive Inside
All is Lost
Alvin and the Chipmunks
Alvin and the Chipmunks 2 - The Squeakquel
Alvin and the Chipmunks 3 - Chipwrecked
American Beauty
American: The Bill Hicks Story
An American Werewolf in London
Angel and Tony
Animal Kingdom
Anna Karenina
Annie Hall
Another Earth
Another Me
Any Day Now
Appropriate Behaviour
As the Palaces Burn
Au Revoir Les Enfants
Babette's Feast
Back To The Future
Battle Royale
Be Kind Rewind
Beauty Is
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Beyond Clueless
Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance
Black Coal, Thin Ice
Black Swan
Blazing Saddles
Blood Cells
Blue Ruin
Blue Velvet
Boogie Nights
Born on the Fourth of July
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Breath of the Gods
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Captain Phillips
Chasing Ice
Child 44
Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawntreader
Cinema Paradiso
Cobain: Montage of Heck
Come As You Are
Computer Chess
Concerning Violence
Crazy Heart
Cycling with Moliere
Darkest Day
Dartmoor Killing
Day of The Flowers
Days of Glory
Days Of Heaven
Dear White People
Death of a Gentleman
Despicable Me
Despicable Me 2
Dinosaur 13
Dirty Dancing
Dirty Harry
Dirty Wars
Do The Right Thing
Donnie Darko
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Eagle vs Shark
Early Bird
Easy Rider
End of Watch
Enter The Void
Everyone's Going to Die
Evil Dead
Fall of an Empire: The Story of Katherine of Alexandria
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Finding Fela
Finding Vivian Maier
Frances Ha
Fruitvale Station
Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life
German Concentration Camps Factual Survey
Get On Up
God's Pocket
Gone Girl
Gran Torino
Grand Central
Green Zone
Groundhog Day
Guilty of Romance (Masters of Cinema)
Hackney's Finest
Heather Peace, The Thin Line Tour - Access All Areas
Heaven Adores You
High Tide
His Girl Friday
Home for Christmas
Horrid Henry
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
How To Train Your Dragon 2
Human Capital
I am Love
I Origins
Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
In Bruges
In The Heat Of The Night
In The Name Of
In The Shadow Of The Moon
Inglourious Basterds
Inside Llewyn Davis
Into The Clouds We Gaze
It Follows
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Jane Eyre
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
John Dies At The End
Jules et Jim
Kajaki. The True Story
Kelly + Victor
Kill Bill: Volume 1
Kill Bill: Volume 2
Kiss of the Damned
Kuma The Second Wife
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter
La Belle et La Bete
Lambert & Stamp
Lance Armstrong: Stop at Nothing
Leave To Remain
Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man
Les Miserables
Let's Get Lost
Liberal Arts
Life Itself
Life of Riley
Lift To The Scaffold
Lion Ark
Listen Up Philip
Little Shop Of Horrors (Directors Cut)
Loose Cannons
Lost River
Love Actually
Love Is All
Love is Strange
Made You Look
Magic Mike
Mamma Mia
Man on Wire
Maps To The Stars
March of the Penguins
Mark of an Angel
Meek's Cutoff
Meet Me In St. Louis
Merchants Of Doubt
Midnight Son
Miss Bala
Miss Violence
Mistaken For Strangers
Moshi Monsters: The Movie
Mr Bean's Holiday
Mr. Turner
Muscle Shoals
Muse - Live at Rome Olympic Stadium
My Accomplice
My Afternoons With Margueritte
My Name is Salt
Mystery Road
Nanny Mcphee and the Big Bang
Nas: Time Is Illmatic
National Theatre Live Frankenstein (Benedict Cumberbatch as Creature)
National Theatre Live Frankenstein (Jonny Lee Miller as Creature)
National Theatre Live Medea
National Theatre Live Skylight
National Theatre Live The Audience
National Theatre Live The Habit of Art
National Theatre Live: A View from the Bridge
National Theatre Live: JOHN
Nativity 3
Natural Resistance
Never Let Me Go
Next Goal Wins
Night Bus
No Manifesto: A film about the Manic Street Preachers
North Sea Texas
Northern Soul
Norwegian Wood
Nosferatu The Vampyre (Herzog)
Nothing But A Man
O Lucky Man!
Office Space
One Mile Away
One Night In Istanbul
Only God Forgives
Open Bethlehem
Oslo, August 31st
Our Children
Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton
Palo Alto
Pan's Labyrinth
Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist
Passport To Pimlico
Patema Inverted
Patti Smith: Dream of Life
Ping Pong
Pour Elle
Prince Avalanche
Pulp Fiction
Rabbit Hole
Raging Bull
Rare Exports
Regarding Susan Sontag
Repo Man
Return to Homs
Room 237
Run for Your Wife
Safety Not Guaranteed
School Of Babel
Scott Walker: 30 Century Man
Searching For Sugar Man
Secret In Their Eyes
Set Fire to the Stars
Seven Streets, Two Markets and A Wedding
Shaun Of The Dead
She Monkeys
Short Term 12
Shut Up and Play The Hits
Sigur Rós: Heima
Simon Killer
Sin City
Sin City 2
Singin' In The Rain
Slavery Free + Kavi
Sleep Tight
Slow West
Smart Ass
Spike Island
Spring Breakers
Starred Up
Steel Magnolias
Still the Enemy Within
Stranger By The Lake
Suite Française
Super Duper Alice Cooper
Taxi Driver
Taxi Zum Klo
Tea & Sangria
That Sugar Film
The 400 Blows
The ABC's of Death
The Act of Killing (Director's Cut)
The Arbor
The Armstrong Lie
The Babadook
The Beat Beneath My Feet
The Big Lebowski
The Bling Ring
The Blues Brothers
The Borderlands
The Breakfast Club
The Brighton Mob
The Confessions Of Thomas Quick
The Connection
The Counterfeiters
The Cove
The Croods
The Damned United
The Dirties
The Divergent Series: Insurgent
The Emperor's New Clothes
The Epic Of Everest
The Evil Dead
The Exorcist (Director's Cut)
The Ghosts In Our Machine
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
The Golden Dream
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Grand Seduction
The Grandmaster
The Great Hip Hop Hoax
The Homesman
The Hooligan Factory
The Human Centipede 3
The Hundred-Foot Journey
The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The Imposter
The Journey
The Keeper of Lost Causes
The Killer Inside Me
The Knife That Killed Me
The Last Five Years
The Last Waltz
The Long Good Friday
The Matrix
The Mighty Ducks
The Outlaw Josey Wales
The Overnighters
The Pervert's Guide to Ideology
The Place Beyond the Pines
The Pool
The Possibilities Are Endless
The Princess Bride
The Punk Singer
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
The Reunion
The Road
The Rocket
The Rover
The Royal Tenenbaums
The Shawshank Redemption
The Shining
The Signal
The Skeleton Twins
The Social Network
The Spirit of '45
The Stone Roses: Made of Stone
The Terminator
The Theory of Everything
The Thing
The Tingler
The Town That Dreaded Sundown
The Treatment
The Tribe
The True Cost
The Voices
The Water Diviner
The Water Horse
The Way He Looks
The Wizard of Oz
The Woman in Black 2: Angel Of Death
The World's End
The Yellow Sea
The Zero Theorem
These Birds Walk
This Is Spinal Tap
Three Miles North of Molkom
Tim's Vermeer
To Kill A Mockingbird
Tokyo Story
Top Cat - The Movie
Touch Of Evil
Toy Story
Tucker & Dale vs Evil
Two Years At Sea
Under the Skin
Upstream Colour
V For Vendetta
Wake In Fright
Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago
We Are Monster
We Are The Best
We Love Paleo
Welcome to New York
Wendy and Lucy
West Side Story
What If
What We Do In The Shadows
White Bird in a Blizzard
White God
White Shadow
Who is Dayani Cristal?
Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory
Withnail And I
You've Got Mail

Thursday, 13 August 2015

The 2015 scientific society talks in London blog post

I know it's still Summer (there are about 180 open-air cinema screenings in London before the end of September in London) but it's about this time of year that I start to keep an eye on the autumn science talks season. Here's what I've found so far...
Also, feel free to copy and paste this and put it in your own blog posts and listings. It's not my info, it's just culled and re-ordered from all these sources above. Share the science communication news :)

Wednesday 9 September 2015
8pm - Richmond Scientific Society
Fusion power - safe, clean, inexhaustible nuclear power: do we need it, and is it possible? - Dr Alan Costley
Thursday 17 September 2015
6pm - Linnean Society
The Global Oil Supply: Implications for Biodiversity? - Professor Chris Rhodes (advisor on low-carbon energy to the European Commission and director of Fresh-lands Environmental Actions)

8pm - Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution
Discussion on scientists reporting experiments - Prof. Vivian Moses in conversation with Prof. Sir Colin Berry, Queen Mary College

8:15pm - Hampstead Scientific Society
Your hand is a miracle! - Prof Heinz Wolff (Brunel University)

Monday 21 September 2015
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)
The slippery and the slimy; how pitcher plants trap their prey - Dr Ulrike Bauer (University of Bristol)

Monday 28 September
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)
Wrest Park - A garden revealed - Sheila Das (Garden Manager, RHS Wisley)

Monday 5 October
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)
Madagascar, not the movie - Paul Eguia (Kew Diploma student)

Wednesday 7 October 2015
8pm - Richmond Scientific Society
 New Horizons: space-probe mission to Pluto - Dr Mike Goldsmith, Science writer
Preceded by the Annual General Meeting. Wine & Nibbles after the talk.

Monday 12 October 2015
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)
Woody plants of North Carolina - Alex Hoyle (Kew Diploma Student)

Thursday 15 October 2015
6pm - Linnean Society
Evolution from beyond genetics? - Dr Ovidiu Paun (University of Vienna)

8pm - Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution
Energy storage in the electricity supply industry - Discussion led by Frank Escombe, EscoVale Consultancy Services

8:15pm - Hampstead Scientific Society
Pollen and forensic science - Dr Michael Keith-Lucas (University of Reading)

Friday 16 October 2015
7:45pm - Blackheath Scientific Society
The Cassini-Huygens mission - Dr Adam Masters (Imperial College London)
A talk on the space probe mission to uncover the secrets of the Planet Saturn, its rings and planets

Monday 19 October 2015
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)
Jeju - Wandering through one of the new 7 wonders of nature - Katarzyna Babel (Kew Diploma student)

6.30pm - Linnean Society
The 2015 Darwin Lecture in partnership with the RSM - Prof Sir John Bell
- note venue is Royal Society of Medicine

Wednesday 21 October 2015
8pm - Richmond Scientific Society
Cold atoms: from fundamental physics to precision measurements - Dr Vera Guarrera, National Physical Laboratory

Monday 26 October 2015
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)
Growing furniture, re-thinking our relationship with trees - Gavin Munro (Designer, artist, Full Grown Ltd)

Monday 2 November
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)
The secret of sacred Lotus - Biodiversity and technical innovations - Dr Wilhelm Barthlott (University of Bonn)

Monday 9 November
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)
The royal kitchen garden at Hampton Court Palace - Vicki Cooke (Kitchen garden keeper)

Wednesday 11 November 2015
8pm - Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution
Rare Earths - Discussion led by Dr Adrian Jones, University College London

8pm - Richmond Scientific Society
Colour Perception - Bill Stevenson, Society of Dyers and Colourists

Monday 16 November
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)
The role of horticulture in education (Fundraising lecture: £8 entry - £5 for students) - Alys Fowler
(Horticulturist and journalist)

Thursday 19 November 2015
5.30pm - Linnean Society
Darwin's Ark: Should Evolutionary History Inform Species Conservation?

8:15pm - Hampstead Scientific Society
The curious world of rotations - Prof John Humberston (University College London)

Friday 20 November 2015
7:45pm - Blackheath Scientific Society
Television, gathering the strands - Mr Paul Ryan (BT Sport)
Integrating the disparate sources that are gathered together to make a programme

Monday 23 November
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)
Exploring the flora of the Outer Hebrides - Elizabeth Newman (Kew Diploma student)

Monday 30 November
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)
My life in horticulture - 65 years - Jim Buttress (VMH, RHS judge, BBC Big Allotment Challenge judge)

Wednesday 2 December 2015
6pm - Linnean Society
The Lord Treasurer of Botany - Tom Kennett

Monday 7 December 2015
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS) 
The National Botanic Garden of Wales and it’s honey bees - Lynda Chrystie, Bee-keeper, NBG, Wales

Wednesday 9 December 2015
8pm - Richmond Scientific Society
Non-native invasives in freshwater - Joe Pecorelli, Zoological Society, London
(Christmas meeting with wine and nibbles)

Thursday 10 December 2015
8:15pm - Hampstead Scientific Society
Adventures and advances in medical physics - Dr Alan Calverd (State Registered Clinical Physicist)

Monday 14 December 2015
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)  
Herbaceous plant communities as a toolkit in the sustainable urban landscape - James Hitchmough (Professor University of Sheffield, Olympic Park planting designer)

Thursday 17 December 2015
6pm - Linnean Society
Pearls and Unicorns – Myth and Magic in Jewellery - Geoffrey Munn OBE, FLS

Thursday 14 January 2016
8pm - Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution
LEDs, low energy white light and its applications - Discussion led by Nigel Parry, Array Lighting, and Susie Wheeldon, Solar Aid

Monday 11 January 2016
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)  
Growing against the odds in Australia - Rupert Harbinson (Kew Diploma Student)

Wednesday 20 January 2016
8pm - Richmond Scientific Society 
Future of wireless communications: higher frequencies, higher data rates, shorter distances - Prof Alwyn Seeds, University College London

Monday 18 January 2016
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)
Space, an illusion & other mysteries - Paul Hervey-Brookes (Landscape designer)

Thurdsay 21 January 2016
8:15pm - Hampstead Scientific Society
The artificial heart; a new ending? - Prof Martin Elliott (Great Ormond Street Hospital)

Monday 25 January 2016
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)
An exploration of South Africa’s Western Cape flora - Iain Middlebrook (Kew Diploma Student)

Monday 1 February 2016
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)
Hardy's plant nursery - Rosy Hardy (Hardy's cottage garden plants)

Monday 8 February 2016
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)
The effect of pesticides on bees - Dr Beth Nicholls (University of Sussex)

Monday 15 February 2016
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)
Seed banking, the forest & mountain flora of New Zealand - Gareth Porteous (Kew Diploma Student)

Wednesday 17 February 2016
8pm - Richmond Scientific Society 
Applied plasma physics: the new frontiers of space propulsion and medicine - Dr Thomas Harle, Fourth State Medicine

Thursday 18 February 2016
8pm - Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution
Animal - computer interaction / dogs in science - Discussion led by Dr Clara Mancini, The Open University

8:15pm - Hampstead Scientific Society
Puzzles & paradoxes in science & mathematics - Tony Mann (University of Greenwich)

Monday 22 February 2016
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS) 
The Chelsea Flower Show - Tom Harfleet (RHS Chelsea Flower Show manager)

Monday 29 February 2016
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)
Windsor Great Park - Mark Flanagan (Keeper of the Garden)

Monday 7 March 2016
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS)
Lessons from great gardeners - Matthew Biggs (Radio 4 Gardeners' Question Time panellist)

Thursday 10 March 2016
8pm - Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution
Weather forecasting: how and why is it ever right? - Discussion led by Dr Peter Inness, Reading University

Monday 14 March 2016
6pm - Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS) 
Logan Botanic Garden, Scotland’s most exotic garden - Richard Baines (Curator, Logain Botanic Garden)

Wednesday 16 March 2016
8pm - Richmond Scientific Society
Inter-stellar chemistry observed from the Herschel space observatory 2010 - Prof Geoffrey Duxbury, University of Strathclyde
Lecture for National Science Week

Thursday 17 March 2016
8:15pm - Hampstead Scientific Society
The hydraulics of beaver dams - Matthew Duckett (BuroHappold Engineering)

Wednesday 13 April 2016
8pm - Richmond Scientific Society
Electronic Music - Andrew Hanson, Outreach Manager, NPL

Thursday 14 April 2016
8pm - Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution
Why do we sleep? - Discussion led by Prof. Derk-Jan Dijk, Surrey University

Thursday 21 April 2016
8:15pm - Hampstead Scientific Society
Is Pluto a planet? - Jerry Stone FBIS (Spaceflight UK)

Wednesday 11 May 2016
8pm - Richmond Scientific Society  
Sustainable livestock grazing systems - Jamie McFadzean, Rothamsted Research,
North Wyke and University of Exeter

Thursday 12 May 2016
8pm - Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution
Driverless cars/trucks - Discussion led by Paul Turner, Ricardo plc

Thursday 19 May 2016
8:15pm - Hampstead Scientific Society
Geological highlights of the Andes - Dr Tony Waltham (Engineering geologist)

Thursday 9 June 2016
8pm - Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution
to be arranged

Thursday 23 June 2016
8:00pm - Hampstead Scientific Society
AGM: Wine & cheese, £3 and scientific entertainment

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

#Tubestrike tips for London

For those not working from home and trying to navigate across London here are some useful tips from a fellow Londoner :)

Good luck!

Best known as a phone app it's also a website so you can plot routes beforehand and play around with it and see also their How to Survive the August 5-6th Tube Strike advice which tells you about the adjustments the app's made to discount non-functioning tube bits and highlights the cycle hire system as a Plan B.

The (open) data comes from TfL who of course have their own Journeyplanner

Google Street view
If your journey involves walking in unfamiliar bits you can rehearse the journey by using Google Streetview - that's where they've driven around London and photographed everything and then knitted it all together to form a 3D view of London.

Go to Oxford Street, wait for the page to load and spot the little person icon in the bottom right. Click and drag it onto one of the roads paying careful attention to the little green circle below it, that's what you're lining up with the road you're interested in. Drop the little person and see what they see, you can then walk through the roads online.

Find a bus
All bus stops in London have a 5 digit code which can be appended to the following unfinished address to bring up the Countdown page to tell you when your bus is due.
Web example:|searchTerm=50082
Mobile example:

Rail departure boards
Find out what your nearest railway station's three letter code is (eg Blackheath is BKH) and add it to the end of this unfinished web address to see when the next train is - works for all UK rail stations, not just London!

Thames Clipper ferries
They'll probably be every bit as busy as everything else but if your travel involves the following places it might be worth looking into. If you have anything travelcard-like you can get ⅓ off the cost.

Find your pier
  • London Bridge City Pier (London Bridge Walk, London SE1 3UD)
  • Chelsea Harbour Pier (SW10 OXD)
  • Waterloo: London Eye Pier (Westminster Bridge Road, City of London SE1 7PB)
  • Embankment Pier (Victoria Embankment, London WC2N 6NU)
  • Blackfriars Pier (Victoria Embankment, City, London EC4V 3QR)
  • Bankside Pier (Bankside, London SE1 9DT)
  • Tower Millennium Pier (Lower Thames Street, London EC3N 4DT)
  • Canary Wharf Pier (Docklands, London E14 8RR)
  • Surrey Quays: Greenland Pier (South Sea Street, London SE16 7TE)
  • Greenwich Pier (Greenwich Promenade, Greenwich, London SE10 3QT)
  • North Greenwich Pier (Peninsula Square, Greenwich, London SE10 0PE)
  • Woolwich: Royal Arsenal Woolwich Pier (Royal Arsenal Woolwich, Woolwich, London SE18 6TL)
  • Millbank Pier (Millbank, Westminster, London SW1P 4QP)
  • Putney Pier (SW15 1JW)
  • Wandsworth Riverside Quarter Pier (SW18 1LP)
  • St George Wharf Pier (Riverside Walk SW8 2LE)
  • Chelsea: Cadogan Pier (Chelsea Embankment, London SW3 5RQ)
  • Isle of Dogs: Masthouse Terrace Pier (Napier Avenue, Isle of Dogs, London E14 3QB)
  • Hilton Docklands Riverside (265 Rotherhithe Street, London SE16 5HW)

Monday, 3 August 2015

Blunt tool idea: colour-coded system for medical research papers' study design, and conclusions

Yesterday I tweeted this
I was pleasantly surprised that no-one laughed and it even got a few retweets, and a later 'bump' tweet resulted in a bit of discussion with Jon Mendel and Adam Jacobs on the practicalities.

A great deal of research is about getting your bearings - something looks interesting to study and so people chip away at it. This is fine. What's problematic is when someone reads what's essentially a compass reading pointing North-ish and announces that a paper is evidence that we're at the North Pole. I had the idea that some sort of colour scheme might have one colour to indicate that Paper X is a well-designed meta-analysis and conclusions are reasonably firm and a different colour for Paper Y which reports on a small observational study that, while perfectly well designed on its own, cannot support such strong conclusions.

My blog is littered with ideas that sound great (to me) in theory but are a bit unimplentable and I suspect that this may be one of them but after I managed (top-of-the-head idea mine, actual effort in making it happen was @McDawg) to get share-buttons on PubMed I've become drunk on my own success ;)

Discussions with Jon and Adam considered whereabouts in the publication cycle this colour scheme might be employed. Authors might not be keen to have a 'lower grade' of colour, editors might not agree on the colour scheme (think food manufacturers and the traffic light system for fats and salt etc). My thinking is that it would happen post-publication, if at all.

Making sense of medical research abstracts involves a variety of types of knowledge, even when the abstract's telling you stuff there are things you already need to know. Those things might include physiological facts (knowing that gastric refers to the stomach and not the leg) but perhaps more likely to trip someone up is the specialist background knowledge needed to know if the study's conclusions - or a newspaper's conclusions - can be drawn from the method.

A simple example is a study that gives 500 people a pill and measures what happens. This doesn't really confirm that any effects were due to the pill. You probably need a control group and it might be helpful to randomly assign trial participants into the 'get pill' and 'not get pill' groups. The plan is to try and compare two similar groups and make the presence or absence of the pill the only difference.

My experience of people not knowing enough about study design (and the conclusions that can reasonbly be drawn) comes from several domains.

1. People who have a health condition and want to find out about the latest research. 
These are very motivated people who often do learn a lot about research methods but I've spoken to a lot of people (in my former capacity as science info officer at a health charity) who floundered a bit. Similarly not everyone working in a health charity is confident about trial design (I nearly always had to look stuff up myself!) so a few pointers might be helpful here. I've expanded on this in a much earlier post: Might #AcademicSpring change the way in which journal articles (esp medical) are written?  (11 April 2012)

2. Newspaper reports
#NotAllNewspaperReports of course, and sometimes the text is fine but the headline lets it down. However there are plenty of newspaper reports that imply that something is more certain than it is and people are confused and misinformed.

3. Homeopathy advocates
Anyone who keeps an eye on the #homeopathy hashtag will see supporters of homeopathy adding links to various PubMed abstracts in their tweets and stating or implying that the paper proves that homeopathy is not a load of twaddle. These are often very small studies, no control group, or insufficient information about what other treatments people were having alongside. The abstracts are not strong enough to support some of the conclusions advocates make for them.