Ben Goldacre on big science studies

"We all know one atom of experience isn't enough to spot a pattern: but when you put lots of experiences together and process that data, you get new knowledge. This might sound obvious, but following it through – watching patterns emerge from the noise – still gives me a sense of beauty and awe."

- Ben Goldacre, writing in the Guardian

In science, it's often impossible to get at the truth without crunching a lot of numbers. In this week's Bad Science column, Goldacre departs from his normal attack mode and instead admires some good science: a recent study about how increased waiting times in hospital emergency rooms can be dangerous for the patients. It's a great illustration of how some truths are very difficult to interrogate without a mammoth sample size - and an interesting perspective on the British government's decision to abolish the 4-hour waiting limit cap in hospital A&E departments.