In The Truth Wears Off, Is there something Wrong with the Scientific Method? Jonah Lehrer claims “the weak coupling ratio exhibited by decaying neutrons, which appears to have fallen by more than ten standard deviations (emphasis added) between 1969 and 2001.”
The Particle Data group publishes the data. http://pdg.lbl.gov/2010/reviews/rpp2010-rev-history-plots.pdf
I presume Lehrer refers to the axial vector coupling ratio of neutron decay, g_A/g_V. The initial measurement was -1.22 +/- 0.22. The most current measurements are -1.27+/- .05.
So the difference is about 18% (hardly a large shiftO. It is more negative, but a larger magnitude rather than a declining effect, and only 3 of the original standard deviations from the original measurement. Using the current, more precise measurement standard deviations is both incorrect and misleading. I’m pretty underwhelmed. Abuse of the statistics leads me to question more of the article.
Johah Lehrer, The Truth Wears Off, Is there something Wrong with the Scientific Method? December 13 2010, The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/12/13/101213fa_fact_lehrer