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  • Archive for the 'Science' Category

    Secretaries of State march on for two hundred years – but we still count it in feet

    Posted by Ginny on 23rd August 2015 (All posts by )

    I’ve been reading Daniel Walker Howe’s The Political Culture of the American Whigs(1979). It slowly gave me a better understanding, since I started in a complete fog. Like his Making the American Self, here Howe chooses representative figures to give narrative, character & understanding. Just because the book is forty doesn’t mean insights don’t remain. Howe enlivens the Whigs and reminds us our parties still have more than a bit of the Whig & the Jacksonian. But, surprisingly, an anecdote used to illuminate John Quincy Adams reminds us of a spring candidacy.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Religion, Science | 3 Comments »

    Why Doctors Quit.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 29th May 2015 (All posts by )

    Today, Charles Krauthammer has an excellent column on the electronic medical record. He has not been in practice for many years but he is obviously talking to other physicians. It is a subject much discussed in medical circles these days.

    It’s one thing to say we need to improve quality. But what does that really mean? Defining healthcare quality can be a challenging task, but there are frameworks out there that help us better understand the concept of healthcare quality. One of these was put forth by the Institute of Medicine in their landmark report, Crossing the Quality Chasm. The report describes six domains that encompass quality. According to them, high-quality care is:

    1) Safe: Avoids injuries to patients from care intended to help them
    2) Equitable: Doesn’t vary because of personal characteristics
    3) Patient-centered: Is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs and values
    4) Timely: Reduces waits and potentially harmful delays
    5) Efficient: Avoids waste of equipment, supplies, ideas and energy
    6) Effective: Services are based on scientific knowledge to all who could benefit, and it accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish

    In 1994, I moved to New Hampshire and obtained a Master’s Degree in “Evaluative Clinical Sciences” to learn how to measure, and hopefully improve, medical quality. I had been working around this for years, serving on the Medicare Peer Review Organization for California and serving in several positions in organized medicine.

    I spent a few years trying to work with the system, with a medical school for example, and finally gave up. A friend of mine had set up a medical group for managed care called CAPPCare, which was to be a Preferred Provider Organization when California set up “managed care.” It is now a meaningless hospital adjunct. In 1995, he told me, “Mike you are two years too early. Nobody cares about quality.” Two years later, we had lunch again and he laughed and said “You are still too years too early.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Health Care, Medicine, Politics, Science | 17 Comments »

    The Energy Crisis in Africa.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 3rd May 2015 (All posts by )

    india-solar-power-2012-640x426

    This is a powerful piece on the cost of environmental extremism to the world’s poor.

    The soaring [food] prices were actually exacerbated (as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN confirmed) by the diversion of much of the world’s farmland into making motor fuel, in the form of ethanol and biodiesel, for the rich to salve their green consciences. Climate policies were probably a greater contributor to the Arab Spring than climate change itself.

    The use of ethanol in motor fuels is an irrational response to “green propaganda. The energy density of biofuel, as ethanol additives are called, is low resulting in the use of more and more ethanol and less and less arable land for food.

    Without abundant fuel and power, prosperity is impossible: workers cannot amplify their productivity, doctors cannot preserve vaccines, students cannot learn after dark, goods cannot get to market. Nearly 700 million Africans rely mainly on wood or dung to cook and heat with, and 600 million have no access to electric light. Britain with 60 million people has nearly as much electricity-generating capacity as the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, minus South Africa, with 800 million.

    South Africa is quickly destroying its electricity potential with idiotic racist policies.

    Just to get sub-Saharan electricity consumption up to the levels of South Africa or Bulgaria would mean adding about 1,000 gigawatts of capacity, the installation of which would cost at least £1 trillion. Yet the greens want Africans to hold back on the cheapest form of power: fossil fuels. In 2013 Ed Davey, the energy secretary, announced that British taxpayers will no longer fund coal-fired power stations in developing countries, and that he would put pressure on development banks to ensure that their funding policies rule out coal. (I declare a commercial interest in coal in Northumberland.)
    In the same year the US passed a bill prohibiting the Overseas Private Investment Corporation — a federal agency responsible for underwriting American companies that invest in developing countries — from investing in energy projects that involve fossil fuels.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Crony Capitalism, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, International Affairs, Leftism, Politics, Science | 3 Comments »

    Shawyer Space Drive…Arriving.

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 1st May 2015 (All posts by )

    A science fiction writer acquaintance of mine, John Ringo, is already going nuts about this “Shawyer Drive” on his Facebook page, because he
    is friends with one of the scientists involved.

    See power point page and the links below:

    Magnetron driven, reaction massless, "Shawyer Drive"

    Magnetron driven, reaction massless, “Shawyer Drive”

    Magnetron powered EM-drive construction expected to take two months
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/04/magnetron-powered-em-drive-construction.html

    Emdrive Roger Shawyer believes midterm EMdrive interstellar probe could flyby Alpha Centauri
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/04/emdrive-roger-shawyer-believes-midterm.html

    The drive seems to be a quantum “zero-point energy” phenomena that you put electricity into and get reaction massless thrust out of.

    _AND_ it looks to be both scalable and improvable with better magnetrons.

    This is also dovetailing nicely with a Lockheed Martin compact fusion reactor that

    1. Generates more power than it uses and
    2. Produces something on the order of 7.4 megawatts

    See:

    http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/products/compact-fusion.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_beta_fusion_reactor

    Given the reality of Space X’s and Blue Origin’s reusable rocket successes, and it seems that Mankind is about to burst out from this planet in a very big way.

    See:

    http://www.spacex.com/news
    http://www.wired.com/2015/04/jeff-bezos-blue-origin-just-launched-flagship-rocket/

    And all of the above is driving John Ringo to despair on his science fiction writing career.

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, Miscellaneous, Science, Society, Space | 13 Comments »

    Myopia and why it is increasing.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 25th April 2015 (All posts by )

    myopia

    A couple of interesting articles about the increasing incidence of myopia in children.

    Myopia isn’t an infectious disease, but it has reached nearly epidemic proportions in parts of Asia. In Taiwan, for example, the percentage of 7-year-old children suffering from nearsightedness increased from 5.8 percent in 1983 to 21 percent in 2000. An incredible 81 percent of Taiwanese 15-year-olds are myopic.

    The first thought is that this is an Asian genetic thing. It isn’t.

    In 2008 orthoptics professor Kathryn Rose found that only 3.3 percent of 6- and 7-year-olds of Chinese descent living in Sydney, Australia, suffered myopia, compared with 29.1 percent of those living in Singapore. The usual suspects, reading and time in front of an electronic screen, couldn’t account for the discrepancy. The Australian cohort read a few more books and spent slightly more time in front of the computer, but the Singaporean children watched a little more television. On the whole, the differences were small and probably canceled each other out. The most glaring difference between the groups was that the Australian kids spent 13.75 hours per week outdoors compared with a rather sad 3.05 hours for the children in Singapore.

    This week the Wall Street Journal had more. There are some attempts to deal with the natural light effect.

    Children in this small southern Chinese city sit and recite their vocabulary words in an experimental cube of a classroom built with translucent walls and ceilings. Sunlight lights up the room from all directions.

    The goal of this unusual learning space: to test whether natural, bright light can help prevent nearsightedness, a problem for growing numbers of children, especially in Asia.

    The schools have tried to get Chinese parents to send the kids outdoors more but it doesn’t seem to work.

    And it isn’t limited to Asians.

    In the U.S., the rate of nearsightedness in people 12 to 54 years old increased by nearly two-thirds between studies nearly three decades apart ending in 2004, to an estimated 41.6%, according to a National Eye Institute study.

    But Asians with their focus on education are the most effected.

    A full 80% of 4,798 Beijing teenagers tested as nearsighted in a study published in the journal PLOS One in March. Similar numbers plague teens in Singapore and Taiwan. In one 2012 survey in Seoul, nearly all of the 24,000 teenage males surveyed were nearsighted.

    So, what to do ?

    Though glasses can correct vision in most myopic children, many aren’t getting them. Sometimes this is because parents don’t know their children need glasses or don’t understand how important they are for education. Other times, cultural beliefs lead parents to discourage their children from wearing them, according to Nathan Congdon, professor at Queen’s University Belfast and senior adviser to Orbis International, a nonprofit focused on preventing blindness. Many parents believe glasses weaken the eyes—they don’t.

    Getting kids to spend even small amounts of time outdoors makes a difference.

    Why myopia rates have soared isn’t entirely clear, but one factor that keeps cropping up in research is how much time children spend outdoors. The longer they’re outside, the less likely they are to become nearsighted, according to more than a dozen studies in various countries world-wide.

    One preliminary study of 2,000 children under review for publication showed a 23% reduction in myopia in the group of Chinese children who spent an additional 40 minutes more outside each day, according to Ian Morgan, one of the researchers involved in the study and a retired professor at Australian National University in Canberra. (He still conducts research with Sun Yat-sen University in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.)

    That is a very significant effect of small changes in behavior. Now the researchers are trying something new.

    Dr. Morgan, Dr. Congdon and a team from Sun Yat-sen are now testing, as reported recently in the science magazine Nature, a so-called bright-light classroom made of translucent plastic walls in Yangjiang to see if the children can focus and sit comfortably in the classroom. So far it appears the answer is yes.

    In 2007, Donald Mutti and his colleagues at the Ohio State University College of Optometry in Columbus reported the results of a study that tracked more than 500 eight- and nine-year-olds in California who started out with healthy vision6. The team examined how the children spent their days, and “sort of as an afterthought at the time, we asked about sports and outdoorsy stuff”, says Mutti.

    It was a good thing they did. After five years, one in five of the children had developed myopia, and the only environmental factor that was strongly associated with risk was time spent outdoors6. “We thought it was an odd finding,” recalls Mutti, “but it just kept coming up as we did the analyses.” A year later, Rose and her colleagues arrived at much the same conclusion in Australia7. After studying more than 4,000 children at Sydney primary and secondary schools for three years, they found that children who spent less time outside were at greater risk of developing myopia.

    What is the mechanism ? Maybe it is this.

    The leading hypothesis is that light stimulates the release of dopamine in the retina, and this neurotransmitter in turn blocks the elongation of the eye during development. The best evidence for the ‘light–dopamine’ hypothesis comes — again — from chicks. In 2010, Ashby and Schaeffel showed that injecting a dopamine-inhibiting drug called spiperone into chicks’ eyes could abolish the protective effect of bright light11.

    Retinal dopamine is normally produced on a diurnal cycle — ramping up during the day — and it tells the eye to switch from rod-based, nighttime vision to cone-based, daytime vision. Researchers now suspect that under dim (typically indoor) lighting, the cycle is disrupted, with consequences for eye growth. “If our system does not get a strong enough diurnal rhythm, things go out of control,” says Ashby, who is now at the University of Canberra. “The system starts to get a bit noisy and noisy means that it just grows in its own irregular fashion.”

    Another possible treatment is the use of atropine drops in the eye.

    Atropine, a drug used for decades to dilate the pupils, appears to slow the progression of myopia once it has started, according to several randomized, controlled trials. But used daily at the typical concentration of 1%, there are side effects, most notably sensitivity to light, as well as difficulty focusing on up-close images.

    In recent years, studies in Singapore and Taiwan found that a lower dose of atropine reduces myopia progression by 50% to 60% in children without those side effects, says Donald Tan, professor of ophthalmology at the Singapore National Eye Centre. He has spearheaded many of the studies. Large-scale trials on low-dose atropine are expected to start soon in Japan and in Europe, he says.

    More than a century ago, Henry Edward Juler, a renowned British eye surgeon, offered similar advice. In 1904, he wrote in A Handbook of Ophthalmic Science and Practice that when “the myopia had become stationary, change of air — a sea voyage if possible — should be prescribed”.

    Posted in China, Education, Health Care, Medicine, Science | 5 Comments »

    Entropy is taking over.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 27th February 2015 (All posts by )

    Another excellent post from The Belmont Club, Which I read every day.

    The barbarians of ISIS destroy ancient artifacts, in an outrage like those committed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    The Taliban’s rejection this month of international appeals to halt the destruction of much of Afghanistan’s pre-Islamic heritage — their leader Mullah Mohammed Omar termed them idols — indicates that those most determined to impose their vision of a perfect Islamic state are firmly in control.

    That article was from the period before the US invasion. Many artifacts were repaired but that will stop and the destruction will resume after we leave.

    The Mosul destruction is to be expected everywhere the Takfiri tide rises enough to control an entity.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Energy & Power Generation, History, Islam, Leftism, Middle East, National Security, Politics, Science | 19 Comments »

    Lovescanning

    Posted by David Foster on 14th February 2015 (All posts by )

    Especially for Valentines Day,  GE posts a video about Stanford University’s MRI-based “love contest.”

    It’s not quite a cold and clinical as it sounds, on account of the individual stories told by the participants.

    Posted in Human Behavior, Medicine, Science, Tech | 2 Comments »

    Global Warming Again.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 8th February 2015 (All posts by )

    land only

    As the global warming matter chugs along, more more evidence of the manipulation of data is coming to light.

    Although it has been emerging for seven years or more, one of the most extraordinary scandals of our time has never hit the headlines. Yet another little example of it lately caught my eye when, in the wake of those excited claims that 2014 was “the hottest year on record”, I saw the headline on a climate blog: “Massive tampering with temperatures in South America”. The evidence on Notalotofpeopleknowthat, uncovered by Paul Homewood, was indeed striking.
    Puzzled by those “2014 hottest ever” claims, which were led by the most quoted of all the five official global temperature records – Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (Giss) – Homewood examined a place in the world where Giss was showing temperatures to have risen faster than almost anywhere else: a large chunk of South America stretching from Brazil to Paraguay.
    Noting that weather stations there were thin on the ground, he decided to focus on three rural stations covering a huge area of Paraguay. Giss showed it as having recorded, between 1950 and 2014, a particularly steep temperature rise of more than 1.5C: twice the accepted global increase for the whole of the 20th century.
    But when Homewood was then able to check Giss’s figures against the original data from which they were derived, he found that they had been altered.

    Some interesting graphics here.

    I follow this story on a skeptic blog and Steve McIntyre’s blog.

    Both are currently tearing apart an absurd recent paper that has serious statistical errors. Steve is a statistician.

    A new paper in Nature by Jochem Marotzke and Piers Forster: ‘Forcing, feedback and internal variability in global temperature trends’[i] investigates the causes of the mismatch between climate models that simulate a strong increase in global temperature since 1998 and observations that show little increase, and the influence of various factors on model-simulated warming over longer historical periods. I was slightly taken aback by the paper, as I would have expected either one of the authors or a peer reviewer to have spotted the major flaws in its methodology. I have a high regard for Piers Forster, who is a very honest and open climate scientist, so I am sorry to see him associated with a paper that I think is very poor, even as co-author (a position that perhaps arose through him supplying model forcing data to Marotzke) and therefore not bearing primary responsibility for the paper’s shortcomings.

    This is embarrassing as many are attacking the methods with what sound like valid arguments.

    Even Nature has begun to recognize trouble in the alarmist world.

    Despite the continued increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, the annual-mean global temperature has not risen in the twenty-first century 1, 2, challenging the prevailing view that anthropogenic forcing causes climate warming. Various mechanisms have been proposed for this hiatus in global warming3, 4, 5, 6, but their relative importance has not been quantified, hampering observational estimates of climate sensitivity. Here we show that accounting for recent cooling in the eastern equatorial Pacific reconciles climate simulations and observations. We present a novel method of uncovering mechanisms for global temperature change by prescribing, in addition to radiative forcing, the observed history of sea surface temperature over the central to eastern tropical Pacific in a climate model.

    The story is getting harder to defend but, grant money being what it is, there is still a strong motive to try to keep the ball rolling, even uphill.

    The Michael Mann lawsuit against Mark Steyn and National Review is still chugging along as Mann seems to have nine lives in this matter.

    Steyn comes to Washington Tuesday for a hearing at the D.C. Court of Appeals. Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State, filed the lawsuit against Steyn, National Review, space policy and tech analyst Rand Simberg and the Libertarian-bent Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in 2012.

    All parties have lawyered up. They all have different legal representation with the exception of Simberg, who is clumped in with CEI.

    It is hard for me to take this seriously but there are enough scientifically illiterate judges to keep Mann’s suit alive.

    Steyn insists Mann is waiting out the clock so that everyone he’s suing will be good and broke if they ever get remotely near the prospect of a trial. The journalist, however, is plowing ahead, raising money and prepping himself for a trial he’s dying to see happen.

    The case is already on its second judge — the first one applied for “senior status” (meaning she’ll work part time and get full pay) and was accepted. The second, says Steyn, seems to be more on top of things, but has been unable to restore a timely process.

    Mann appears to be following a “law fare” strategy.

    ”If this guy Dr. Mann feels he’s being defamed then he should, like Oscar Wilde, get in court and have the manner settled. There is no right to a speedy trial…but you know, defamation is serious and more injurious to one’s reputation than bouncing a check for $30 at the general store. It’s more injurious than a parking ticket, than doing 45 in a 30 mile speed limit. [There’s the right to a speedy trial], but not for defamation. Nuts to that.”

    Last summer, a “lukewarmer” scientist named Roger Peilke had the misfortune to encounter the angry left when he accepted a job at the left wing site called five thirty eight.

    Roger Pielke Jr. said Monday that he left FiveThirtyEight, ending a short-lived but turbulent stint with the site launched by Nate Silver earlier this year.

    Pielke, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, told Discover Magazine that after editors at the site “showed some reluctance” in publishing his work, he told FiveThirtyEight managing editor Mike Wilson that “it was probably best that we part ways.”

    Reluctance was not exactly the proper term. Hysteria was more like it.

    “Disinformer!” the Daily Kos screamed. “One of the country’s leading tricksters on climate change,” charged the Huffington Post. “Inaccurate and misleading,” was ThinkProgress’s measured verdict. Even that doyen of professionalism and sworn enemy of hyperbole, Michael Mann, weighed in, knocking his foe for his “pattern of sloppiness.” The pile-on was as predictable as it was unjust. At root, Pielke’s biggest crimes are to have walked at slightly different pace than his peers and to have refused to bow to the president. Pielke accepts the IPCC’s view of the climate-change question but suggests in parallel that man’s response is unlikely to have a “perceptible impact on the climate for many decades” and that civilization should thus adapt to, rather than attempt to prevent, change.

    Pielke quickly left. He now has begun a new blog called The Climate Fix.

    The alarmist hysteria grows more acute as the evidence piles up that they are wrong and, perhaps, even lying.

    Posted in Blogging, Politics, Science, Statistics | 11 Comments »

    Nature and Nurture.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 21st January 2015 (All posts by )

    I have long been a fan of Steven Pinker’s books.

    I have read many of them, beginning probably with his books on speech as he is a linguist first. This was probably the first as I was intrigued by his theories about irregular verbs and how children learn language.

    He points out, for example, how normal construction in archaic forms such as “Wend, went and wended” have become “Go, went, gone.”

    The child makes an error he or she may not understand that “Goed” is not a used form for past tense, whereas “Wend” is an archaic form whose past tense has been substituted. The child is using language rules but they don’t account for irregular verbs. He continues with this thought in The Language Instinct, which came later. Here he makes explicit that this is how the mind works. One review on Amazon makes the point:

    For the educated layperson, this book is the most fascinating and engaging introduction to linguistics I have come across. I know some college students who had received xeroxed handouts of one chapter from this book, and these were students who were just bored of reading handouts week after week… but after reading just a few paragraphs from The Language Instinct, they were hooked, fascinated, and really wanted to read the whole book (and did). I wish I had come across such a book years ago…

    Now, this is interesting but Pinker has gotten into politics inadvertently by emphasizing the role of genetics in language and behavior. I read The Blank Slate when it came out ten years ago and loved it.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Architecture, Book Notes, Civil Society, Education, Human Behavior, Leftism, Philosophy, Science | 11 Comments »

    The Comet and the Shirt.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 15th November 2014 (All posts by )

    Comet_aug3-copy

    Comet_from_40_metres_large

    The European Space Agency landed a probe on a comet this week.

    Unfortunately, there were a couple of malfunctions. In the first, the “harpoon” that was to anchor the lander malfunctioned allowing it to bounce around a bit.

    These revealed the astonishing conclusion that the lander did not just touch down on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko once, but three times.

    The harpoons did not fire and Philae appeared to be rotating after the first touchdown, which indicated that it had lifted from the surface again.
    Stephan Ulamec, Philae manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center, reported that it touched the surface at 15:34, 17:25 and 17:32 GMT (comet time – it takes over 28 minutes for the signal to reach Earth, via Rosetta). The information was provided by several of the scientific instruments, including the ROMAP magnetic field analyser, the MUPUS thermal mapper, and the sensors in the landing gear that were pushed in on the first impact.

    The result of this mishap was that the lander, which was using solar energy to recharge batteries, was not positioned properly to absorb the very weak sunlight energy at that distance.

    But then the lander lifted from the surface again – for 1 hour 50 minutes. During that time, it travelled about 1 km at a speed of 38 cm/s. It then made a smaller second hop, travelling at about 3 cm/s, and landing in its final resting place seven minutes later.

    That is quite a move and the result has been a very limited experiment as the lander has now shut down due to low battery power.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Energy & Power Generation, Europe, Science, Society, Space | 16 Comments »

    Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series – Ebola or Black Heva?

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 2nd November 2014 (All posts by )

    [Readers needing background may refer to the earlier members of this series, Don’t Panic: Against the Spirit of the Age, and Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series.]

    Time is running out, the man explains, speaking calmly and confidently, in the manner of a university professor. A deadly disease, spread by primitive tribespeople through dead bodies, will kill vast numbers of Americans unless the Federal government uses its powers to stop it.

    The man is Russell Eugene Weston Jr., a paranoid schizophrenic who murdered two policemen inside the Capitol building in the summer of 1998. He has been institutionalized ever since.

    As I write this, the most widely-read individual blog in the English-speaking world, written by a genuine university professor, is infested with (invariably pseudonymous) commenters not readily distinguishable from Weston; we can only hope that none of them will act on their impulses as he did. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Bioethics, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Ebola, Elections, Health Care, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Libertarianism, Medicine, Politics, Science, Systems Analysis, Terrorism, Tradeoffs, USA | 8 Comments »

    China Syndrome comes home to roost.

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on 19th October 2014 (All posts by )

    Two viruses are making the news these days. One, Ebola hemorrhagic fever has infected two in the United States with no deaths yet. It has created wide spread concern bordering on panic. The other, Non-Polio Enterovirus D 68, appears to have infected 825 this year and been directly responsible for at least one death and indirectly responsible for many others, primarily among children. It has generated comparatively little media attention and very little panic. Why the difference?

    First the victims of D 68 are primarily children, Ebola also strikes adults. As a culture we no longer value children as much as we once did. Children are an option, almost a luxury. They have become more expensive than most luxuries we consume. Perhaps it is because the high cost to rear a child is reflective of the damage we humans are doing to the planet Or because so few of them die at an early age as compared to the past. And I suspect that childlessness is far more prevalent among our media elite opinion makers. In any case, few children vote and so they don’t really matter to policy makers.

    Second, D 68 generally kills indirectly by weakening the child so that pneumonia or some other respiratory illness can be the cause of death. Ebola eats you alive! I’ve seen it on TV! And it is a terrible new way to die unlike ways we’ve died before.

    Finally, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE. D 68 is poorly understood and we have no idea how prevalent it is in the population or how many childhood deaths it has contributed to. And it’s non-Polio. But we know Ebola has a 50-70% fatality rate among those who contract it in African third world countries. After all it’s hemorrhagic fever. We’re going to bleed to death. So, if it gets loose here we could have millions of deaths like that! But we actually have all the tools we need in our public health system to prevent it from spreading widely, once we get the Bozos out of power. So it’s highly unlikely that this outbreak will spread among the general population.

    It’s a very small probability of a terribly frightening event. And some folks have used the propensity of people to exaggerate the possibility of catastrophic outcomes to further their political goals. I’m thinking of nuclear power, an energy source that has killed no one in the US. Compared to the coal industry, which routinely contributes to the death of both its producers and consumers, nuclear power is harmless. However, some used Three Mile Island to shut down the development of power plants that could have cushioned us from the effects of the OPEC cartel. Or how about the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) fraud? Or the reaction to a terrible but unrepeated terror bombing? The public has been taught to fear by leaders who want to harness public opinion to support their political goals.

    Now comes Ebola. True, a threat. But a highly improbable one. Except when the incompetence of our elite leaders is made abundantly clear for all to see. And then those leaders have the audacity to be surprised when a formerly courageous people are reduced to trembling? The chickens are coming home to roost.

    Posted in Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Ebola, Health Care, Human Behavior, Science, Statistics, Terrorism, Tradeoffs | 23 Comments »

    Treatment of the Ebola contact.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 3rd October 2014 (All posts by )

    The early information of the Ebola patients in Dallas seems to suggest that competence has not been high on the list of priorities. First, the patent seems to have known about his illness before he got on the plane to the US. He lied to the authorities in Liberia but that is not that unusual. All it takes is ibuprofen to evade the screening at the airport.

    Second the treatment of the relatives Has finally become humane after days of cruel treatment including quarantine in a contaminated apartment.

    The initial treatment was not a model of infectious disease protocol. Why he was sent home with a GI illness and a history of travel to Liberia is still not explained. My medical students are all told to take a history of travel with any GI illness symptom. It’s not clear who he saw but many ERs use Nurse practitioners or PAs to see ER patients.

    He is not doing well and he seems to be declining. We will see how he does but his relatives are still in serious trouble. We are still in trouble.

    The promised treatment program is still inadequate. Tomorrow will bring more bad news.

    A CDC official said the agency realized that many hospitals remain confused and unsure about how they are supposed to react when a suspected patient shows up. The agency sent additional guidance to health-care facilities around the country this week, just as it has numerous times in recent months, on everything from training personnel to spot the symptoms of Ebola to using protective gear.

    This is only the first case.

    UPDATE: More news from Bookworm.

    Ebola can transmit through people’s skin. It’s not enough to keep your hands away from your nose and mouth. If someone’s infected blood, vomit, fecal matter, semen, spit, or sweat just touches you, you can become infected. Even picking up a stained sheet can pass the infection. Additionally, scientists do not know how long the virus will survive on a surface once it’s become dehydrated. The current guess is that Ebola, unlike other viruses, can survive for quite a while away from its original host.

    Oh oh. This explains the infection of hospital workers in Nigeria from urine.

    The good news, if any, is this:

    If patients get Western medicine that treats the symptoms — drugs to reduce fever and to control vomiting and diarrhea, proper treatment if the body goes into shock, and blood transfusions — the mortality rate is “only” 25% — which is still high, but is significantly lower than the 70%-90% morality in Africa, where patients get little to no treatment.

    I will update this as news becomes available.

    UPDATE #2

    Now we have a possible case #2

    A patient with Ebola-like symptoms is being treated at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., a hospital spokesperson confirmed late Friday morning.

    The patient had traveled to Nigeria recently.

    That person has been admitted to the hospital in stable condition, and is being isolated. The medical team is working with the CDC and other authorities to monitor the patient’s condition.

    “In an abundance of caution, we have activated the appropriate infection control protocols, including isolating the patient,” said hospital spokesperson Kerry-Ann Hamilton in a statement. “Our medical team continues to evaluate and monitor progress in close collaboration with the CDC and the Department of Health.”

    No final word yet. Then, of course, we have the NBC case.

    Thursday, news broke that a freelance NBC cameraman covering the outbreak in Monrovia, Liberia had tested positive for Ebola after experiencing symptoms of the disease.

    The cameraman, Ashoka Mukpo, had been working with chief medical correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman. NBC News is flying Mukpo and the entire team back to the U.S. so Mukpo can be treated and the team can be quarantined for 21 days.

    Posted in Ebola, Health Care, Immigration, Medicine, Science | 21 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 2nd October 2014 (All posts by )

    The festival of lights in Thailand

    Three Irish girls win the Google Science Fair with an approach to bacteria-enhanced crop growth

    Two versions of “Oklahoma” at Bookworm, with discussion

    10 Disney cartoons from the 1930s, with link to an article on the evolution of Disney’s cartoons over several decades

    The lost art of political persuasion.  This piece at Ricochet argues that politicians are now less about converting the opposition and persuading the undecided, and more about activating those who are already members of their choir.

    Bill Whittle thinks it’s time to talk about some good news (video)

    A recent study suggests that empathy can lead to scapegoating

    Book giveaways during WWII contributed greatly to the popularization of reading and the subsequent growth of the publishing industry.

    This article by a Wharton professor argues that “emotional intelligence is overrated” and, specifically, that it is overrated in sales.  He cites a study in which hundreds of sales people were tested both for emotional intelligence and cognitive ability, and their sales performance subsequently tracked…with the conclusion that cognitive ability was more than 5X as powerful as emotional intelligence in predicting sales performance.  (Actually, I’m pretty sure that the importance of cognitive ability and the importance of emotional intelligence both vary greatly depending on what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to, and also on what kind of resources the salesman needs to leverage within his own organization.)

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Business, Education, Elections, Film, History, Human Behavior, Management, Photos, Politics, Science, USA | 2 Comments »

    Don’t Panic: Against the Spirit of the Age

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 21st September 2014 (All posts by )

    Cold and misty morning, I heard a warning borne in the air
    About an age of power where no one had an hour to spare …
    – Emerson, Lake & Palmer, “Karn Evil 9, 1st Impression, Part 1

    Imagine that you just stepped out of a time machine into the mid-1930s with a case of partial historical amnesia. From your reading of history, you can still remember that the nation has been beset with economic difficulties for several years that will continue for several more. You also clearly remember that this is followed by participation in a global war, but you cannot recall just when it starts or who it’s with. A few days of newspapers and radio broadcasts, however, apprise you of obvious precursors to that conflict and various candidates for both allies and enemies.

    As mentioned several times in this forum, I adhere to a historical model, consisting either of a four-part cycle of generational temperaments (Strauss and Howe), or a related but simpler system dynamic/generational flow (Xenakis). That model posits the above scenario as a description of our current situation and a prediction of its near future: a tremendous national trial, currently consisting mostly of failing domestic institutions, is underway. It will somehow transform into a geopolitical military phase and reach a crescendo early in the next decade. It cannot be avoided, only confronted.

    Nor will it be a low-intensity conflict like the so-called “wars” of recent decades, which have had US casualty counts comparable to those of ordinary garrison duty a generation ago. Xenakis has coined the descriptive, and thoroughly alarming, term genocidal crisis war for these events. Some earlier instances in American history have killed >1% of the entire population and much larger portions of easily identifiable subsets of it. Any early-21st-century event of this type is overwhelmingly likely to kill millions of people in this country, many if not most of them noncombatants. And besides its stupendous quantitative aspect, the psychological effect will be such that the survivors (including young children) remain dedicated, for the rest of their lives, to preventing such a thing from ever happening again.

    I will nonetheless argue that no matter how firmly convinced we may be that an utterly desperate struggle, with plenty of attendant disasters, is inevitable and imminent, we must avoid both individual panic and collective overreaction.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Current Events, Environment, History, Human Behavior, Immigration, International Affairs, Islam, Latin America, Leftism, Media, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Personal Narrative, Political Philosophy, Predictions, Religion, Rhetoric, Science, Systems Analysis, Tech, The Press, USA, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    Is Ebola airborne ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 13th September 2014 (All posts by )

    Ebola has become an uncontrolled epidemic in Africa. I have previously posted on Ebola.

    UPDATE: A new CDC report has now been provided on precautions. Somebody is worried. The document, itself, is here (pdf)

    Now, we are going to send 3,000 military personnel to Africa to help. I sure hope none of these US people are infected. They did not volunteer for this and the training to protect themselves will take time.

    Now the German epidemiology community has concluded that Liberia and Sierra Leone are lost.

    Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg told DW that he is losing hope, that Sierra Leone and Liberia will receive the neccessary aid in time. Those are two of the countries worst hit by the recent Ebola epidemic.

    “The right time to get this epidemic under control in these countries has been missed,” he said. That time was May and June. “Now it will be much more difficult.”
    Schmidt-Chanasit expects the virus will “become endemic” in this part of the world, if no massive assistence arrives.

    With other words: It could more or less infect everybody and many people could die.

    This, of course, is from a German site and our own CDC is unwilling to say it.

    For Sierra Leone and Liberia, though, he thinks “it is very difficult to bring enough help there to get a grip on the epidemic.”

    According to the virologist, the most important thing to do now is to prevent the virus from spreading to other countries, “and to help where it is still possible, in Nigeria and Senegal for example.”

    Of course, it is already in Nigeria.

    In the balance therefore, the probability is that the virus is not airborne — yet — but it is more dangerous than its predecessors. This would account for its ability to slip through the protocols designed for less deadly strains of the disease. It’s not World War E time, but it’s time to worry.

    And: This may be a new strain with more virulence.

    The results of full genetic sequencing suggest that the outbreak in Guinea isn’t related to others that have occurred elsewhere in Africa, according to an international team that published its findings online in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). That report was from April 2014.

    Now, we have more news. From 2012, we know transmission in animals may be airborne.

    While primates develop systemic infection associated with immune dysregulation resulting in severe hemorrhagic fever, the EBOV infection in swine affects mainly respiratory tract, implicating a potential for airborne transmission of ZEBOV2, 6. Contact exposure is considered to be the most important route of infection with EBOV in primates7, although there are reports suggesting or suspecting aerosol transmission of EBOV from NHP to NHP8, 9, 10, or in humans based on epidemiological observations11. The present study was design to evaluate EBOV transmission from experimentally infected piglets to NHPs without direct contact.

    The study of this potential explosive development showed:

    The present study provides evidence that infected pigs can efficiently transmit ZEBOV to NHPs in conditions resembling farm setting. Our findings support the hypothesis that airborne transmission may contribute to ZEBOV spread, specifically from pigs to primates, and may need to be considered in assessing transmission from animals to humans in general.

    Now we have more articles appearing about this.

    The second possibility is one that virologists are loath to discuss openly but are definitely considering in private: that an Ebola virus could mutate to become transmissible through the air. You can now get Ebola only through direct contact with bodily fluids. But viruses like Ebola are notoriously sloppy in replicating, meaning the virus entering one person may be genetically different from the virus entering the next. The current Ebola virus’s hyper-evolution is unprecedented; there has been more human-to-human transmission in the past four months than most likely occurred in the last 500 to 1,000 years. Each new infection represents trillions of throws of the genetic dice.

    If the New York Times is publishing this, somebody is worried.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Ebola, Health Care, Immigration, Medicine, Science | 31 Comments »

    “The Kardashians and Climate Change: Interview with Judith Curry”

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th August 2014 (All posts by )

    From an interview with the climatologist Judith Curry at OilPrice.com:

    Judith Curry: The debate is polarized in a black-white yes-no sort of way, which is a consequence of oversimplifying the problem and its solution. Although you wouldn’t think so by listening to the Obama administration on the topic of climate change, the debate is becoming more complex and nuanced. Drivers for the growing number of layers in the climate debate are the implications of the 21st century hiatus in warming, the growing economic realities of attempting to transition away from fossil fuels, and a growing understanding of the clash of values involved.
     
    Oilprice.com: How does the climate change debate differ, in your experience, in varying cultures; for instance, from the United States to Western Europe, or Canada?
     
    Judith Curry: The U.S. is more skeptical of the idea of dangerous anthropogenic global warming than is Western Europe. In the U.S., skepticism is generally associated with conservatives/libertarians/Republicans, whereas in Western Europe there is no simple division along the lines of political parties. In the developed world, it is not unreasonable to think ahead 100 or even 300 years in terms of potential impacts of policies, whereas the developing world is more focused on short-term survivability and economic development.
     
    Oilprice.com: How significant are cultural elements to this debate?
     
    Judith Curry: The cultural elements of this debate are probably quite substantial, but arguably poorly understood. A key issue is regional vulnerability, which is a complex mix of natural resources, infrastructure, governance, institutions, social forces and cultural values.

    Worth reading.

    Posted in Environment, Science | 7 Comments »

    Deirdre McCloskey at the Illinois Policy Institute: The Ethical and Rhetorical Foundations of Modern Freedom and Prosperity

    Posted by Lexington Green on 21st August 2014 (All posts by )

    GREAT talk by Deirdre McCloskey at the Illinois Policy Institute last night.

    She was promoting her book Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World which is the second in a trilogy with The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce. She announced last night that she just finished the third volume.

    This essay, entitled The Great Enrichment Came and Comes from Ethics and Rhetoric gives some insight into her ideas.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes, Britain, Economics & Finance, Politics, Rhetoric, Science | 36 Comments »

    Why Ebola will not stay in Africa.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 8th August 2014 (All posts by )

    Today’s Belmont Club has a good explanation of why Ebola will not stay in Africa.

    UPDATE: Patrick Sawyer was planning to visit Minnesota when he got sick.

    UPDATE #2: More from Belmont Club.

    In the balance therefore, the probability is that the virus is not airborne — yet — but it is more dangerous than its predecessors. This would account for its ability to slip through the protocols designed for less deadly strains of the disease. It’s not World War E time, but it’s time to worry.

    And: This may be a new strain with more virulence.

    The results of full genetic sequencing suggest that the outbreak in Guinea isn’t related to others that have occurred elsewhere in Africa, according to an international team that published its findings online in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). That report was from April 2014.

    His wife, Decontee Sawyer, said that she had spoken to him a week earlier and that he had made plans to be stateside in early August to celebrate the birthdays of two of his three young daughters. She said the couple had been separated.

    He is believed to be the first American to have died from the current outbreak, which has killed 672 people since March, according to World Health Organization figures.

    He was American, not African.

    The man who brought the Ebola virus to Nigeria probably knew he was infected. Surveillance video of Patrick Sawyer before boarding his flight at Liberia’s James Sprigg Payne’s Airport showed “Mr. Sawyer lying flat on his stomach on the floor in the corridor of the airport and seemed to be in ‘excruciating pain.’ The footage showed Mr. Sawyer preventing people from touching him.”

    He collapsed upon arrival in Nigeria, after a layover in Togo and was rushed to a Nigerian hospital. Upon being told he had Ebola, he acted with what the Nigerians called “indiscipline”; a burst of rage and despair against the world and everyone in it.

    Upon being told he had Ebola, Mr. Sawyer went into a rage, denying and objecting to the opinion of the medical experts. “He was so adamant and difficult that he took the tubes from his body and took off his pants and urinated on the health workers, forcing them to flee.

    Amazingly, he was even then in the process of being sprung by his political connections before death intervened. Had he lived Sawyer might have gotten out and protected by the juju of expensive watches and status symbols, mingled among the muckety-mucks of ECOWAS.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Ebola, Health Care, Medicine, Science | 56 Comments »

    Medicine as a government benefit.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 3rd August 2014 (All posts by )

    Obamacare is having serious trouble as I have discussed. The success stories, like California, are an example of what I have called Medicaid for All.

    “It’s a total contradiction in terms to spend your public time castigating Medicaid as something that never should have been expanded for poor people and as a broken, problem-riddled system, and then turn around and complain about the length of time to enroll people,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a member of the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, which advises Congress.

    Most of the new enrollees are Medicaid members and those enrolled in “private insurance” learn that they have severely restricted choice of doctor or hospital.

    Now we have a new development.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Economics & Finance, Health Care, Medicine, Political Philosophy, Science | 5 Comments »

    An Update on healthcare reform.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 21st July 2014 (All posts by )

    Cash medical practice or, in the phrase favored by leftists critics, “Concierge Medicine,” seems to be growing.

    Becker is shifting to a new style of practice, sometimes called concierge or retainer medicine. With the help of a company that has been helping physicians make such shifts for over 13 years, he will cease caring for a total of 2,500 patients and instead cut back to about 600. These patients will pay an annual fee of $1,650. In exchange, they will receive a two-hour annual visit with a complete physical exam, same-day appointments, 24-hour physician phone access, and personalized, web-based resources to promote wellness.

    The article suggest that all these doctors choosing to drop insurance and Medicare are primary care. Many are but I know orthopedists and even general surgeons who are dropping all insurance.

    The concierge model of practice is growing, and it is estimated that more than 4,000 U.S. physicians have adopted some variation of it. Most are general internists, with family practitioners second. It is attractive to physicians because they are relieved of much of the pressure to move patients through quickly, and they can devote more time to prevention and wellness.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Bioethics, Crony Capitalism, Health Care, Medicine, Politics, Science | 23 Comments »

    The Limits of Expertise

    Posted by T. Greer on 19th June 2014 (All posts by )

    I originally published this essay on the 18th of January, 2014 at The Scholar’s Stage. David Foster’s recent post on “credentialed experts” has prompted me to resurrect it here. I have not otherwise changed it from the original.

    —-

    Last month Tom Nichols, professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College  and a well regarded authority on Russian foreign policy and American nuclear strategy, published a thought-provoking essay on his blog titled “The Death of Expertise:”

    …I wonder if we are witnessing the “death of expertise:” a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between students and teachers, knowers and wonderers, or even between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all.

    By this, I do not mean the death of actual expertise, the knowledge of specific things that sets some people apart from others in various areas. There will always be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other specialists in various fields.

    Rather, what I fear has died is any acknowledgement of expertise as anything that should alter our thoughts or change the way we live. A fair number of Americans now seem to reject the notion that one person is more likely to be right about something, due to education, experience, or other attributes of achievement, than any other.

    Indeed, to a certain segment of the American public, the idea that one person knows more than another person is an appalling thought, and perhaps even a not-too-subtle attempt to put down one’s fellow citizen. It’s certainly thought to be rude: to judge from social media and op-eds, the claim of expertise — and especially any claim that expertise should guide the outcome of a disagreement — is now considered by many people to be worse than a direct personal insult.

    This is a very bad thing. Yes, it’s true that experts can make mistakes, as disasters from thalidomide to the Challenger explosion tragically remind us. But mostly, experts have a pretty good batting average compared to laymen: doctors, whatever their errors, seem to do better with most illnesses than faith healers or your Aunt Ginny and her special chicken gut poultice. To reject the notion of expertise, and to replace it with a sanctimonious insistence that every person has a right to his or her own opinion, is just plain silly.
    (emphasis added) [1]

    I encourage visitors to the Stage to read Dr. Nichol’s entire piece. It was prompted by what has become a common experience every time he (or fellow UNWC professor and former NSA employee John Schindler) decides to publish a new essay or speak publicly about a pressing issue of the day. Soon after his work is published a flood of acrimonious tweets and e-mails follow, declaring that he does not really understand how American intelligence agencies, the Kremlin, or the Obama administration actually work

    Most of these responses are misinformed. Many are simply rude and mean. They are not an impressive example of what laymen commentators can add to America’s political discourse. Dr. Nichols suggests four rules of thumb for engaged citizens that he believes would improve matters:

    1.The expert isn’t always right.

    2. But an expert is far more likely to be right than you are.

    3. Your political opinions have value in terms of what you want to see happen, how you view justice and right. Your political analysis as a layman has far less value, and probably isn’t — indeed, almost certainly isn’t — as good as you think it is.

    4. On a question of factual interpretation or evaluation, the expert’s view is likely to be better-informed than yours. At that point, you’re best served by listening, not carping and arguing. [2]

     ·


    The trouble with this advice is that there are plenty of perfectly rational reasons to distrust those with political expertise. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Management, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Predictions, Science, Statistics | 21 Comments »

    Global Warming and Cooling.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 20th October 2013 (All posts by )

    I have been frustrated by the antics of the AGW alarmists. Scientific American, for example, has lost whatever reputation it once had for objective science. (pdf) In an another example, the actions of Michael Mann should make for an interesting discovery in his suit against Mark Steyn.

    Today, I find a nice discussion of global warming and cooling over the past epoch. The Greenland ice cores are, or should be, the gold standard of temperature measurement. For example.

    Summary:
    Records of past temperature, precipitation, atmospheric trace gases, and other aspects of climate and environment derived from ice cores drilled on glaciers and ice caps around the world. Parameter keywords describe what was measured in this data set. Additional summary information can be found in the abstracts of papers listed in the data set citations.

    Now, to the data.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Politics, Science | 11 Comments »

    The Drug War

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 15th August 2013 (All posts by )

    My sentiments on the whole drug question have been influenced by some experience with the medical aspect of the problem. Drugs are slipping out of any control due to developments in synthetic variations of older substances that stimulate brain chemistry, sometimes in unknown ways. The traditional drugs, if we can use that term, are also slipping out of control with Mexican drug wars replacing the Columbian cartels even more violent than their predecessors.

    What about marijuana ? It is widely used by the younger generation and, while I do think there are some harmful consequences, especially in potential schizophrenics, the fact is that the laws are widely ignored and do little good and much harm. First, what about the link to psychosis ?

    Epidemiological studies suggest that Cannabis use during adolescence confers an increased risk for developing psychotic symptoms later in life. However, despite their interest, the epidemiological data are not conclusive, due to their heterogeneity; thus modeling the adolescent phase in animals is useful for investigating the impact of Cannabis use on deviations of adolescent brain development that might confer a vulnerability to later psychotic disorders. Although scant, preclinical data seem to support the presence of impaired social behaviors, cognitive and sensorimotor gating deficits as well as psychotic-like signs in adult rodents after adolescent cannabinoid exposure, clearly suggesting that this exposure may trigger a complex behavioral phenotype closely resembling a schizophrenia-like disorder. Similar treatments performed at adulthood were not able to produce such phenotype, thus pointing to a vulnerability of the adolescent brain towards cannabinoid exposure.

    This suggests that adult use may be less harmful.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Health Care, Law Enforcement, Libertarianism, Medicine, Political Philosophy, Science | 26 Comments »

    Orionid Meteor Shower Photos

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st June 2013 (All posts by )

    The night of October 20-21, 2012 was a good time to see Orionid meteors, which are bits of Halley’s Comet that hit the Earth’s atmosphere every October and appear to originate from the constellation Orion. With Jay Manifold’s expert advice and a star map that he emailed to me, I drove to the darkest convenient place and spent a few hours taking pictures.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Photos, Science | 4 Comments »