Recently in Science, Technology & Health Category
Here is a heartbreaking story about four-week-old Dana McCaffery who died from whooping cough (pertussis) after being exposed at the hospital. Dana was too young to be vaccinated and was infected because other parents are foolishly choosing not to vaccinate their children. We live in an age of miracles, where infant mortality is lower than anywhere else, ever, and a huge amount of that success is due to vaccination.
Vaccinate your children.
ON March 9, 2009, four-week-old Dana McCaffery's heart stopped after whooping cough left her tiny lungs unable to breathe.
Her mother Toni could not watch as medical staff unhooked her daughter from the hopelessly inadequate life support system, but her husband Dave did, and crumpled with grief.
"Dave was screaming," says Toni.
"I told him to be quiet. I just wanted to soothe my child."
As Toni held her tiny baby, she couldn't comprehend the loss, or how they would survive the sorrow.
Little did they know then that Dana's death from whooping cough, and the media coverage that followed, came to represent a very inconvenient truth to the anti-vaccination lobby - and thus began an extraordinary campaign against this grieving family.
Follow the link to read more about the persecution Dana's parents faced from anti-vaccination extremists.
Dr. Anthony Levatino is an OB/GYN who has performed more than 1,200 abortions but is now pro-life. He was recently invited to testified to Congress about abortion and why it should be banned. His description of a dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedure is chilling.
Imagine if you can that you are a pro-choice obstetrician/gynecologist like I once was. Your patient today is 24 weeks pregnant. At twenty-four weeks from last menstrual period, her uterus is two finger-breadths above the umbilicus.
If you could see her baby, which is quite easy on an ultrasound, she would be as long as your hand plus a half from the top of her head to the bottom of her rump not counting the legs. Your patient has been feeling her baby kick for the last 2 months or more but now she is asleep on an operating room table and you are there to help her with her problem pregnancy.
The first task is remove the laminaria that had earlier been placed in the cervix to dilate it sufficiently to allow the procedure you are about to perform. With that accomplished, direct your attention to the surgical instruments arranged on a small table to your right. The first instrument you reach for is a 14-French suction catheter. It is clear plastic and about nine inches long. It has a bore through the center approximately ¾ of an inch in diameter.Picture yourself introducing this catheter through the cervix and instructing the circulating nurse to turn on the suction machine which is connected through clear plastic tubing to the catheter. What you will see is a pale yellow fluid that looks a lot like urine coming through the catheter into a glass bottle on the suction machine. This is the amniotic fluid that surrounded the baby to protect her.
With suction complete, look for your Sopher clamp. This instrument is about thirteen inches long and made of stainless steel. At the end are located jaws about 2 ½ inches long and about ¾ of an inch wide with rows of sharp ridges or teeth. This instrument is for grasping and crushing tissue. When it gets hold of something, it does not let go. A second trimester D&E abortion is a blind procedure. The baby can be in any orientation or position inside the uterus. Picture yourself reaching in with the Sopher clamp and grasping anything you can.
At twenty-four weeks gestation, the uterus is thin and soft so be careful not to perforate or puncture the walls. Once you have grasped something inside, squeeze on the clamp to set the jaws and pull hard-really hard. You feel something let go and out pops a fully formed leg about six inches long. Reach in again and grasp whatever you can. Set the jaw and pull really hard once again and out pops an arm about the same length. Reach in again and again with that clamp and tear out the spine, intestines, heart and lungs.
The toughest part of a D&E abortion is extracting the baby's head. The head of a baby that age is about the size of a large plum and is now free floating inside the uterine cavity. You can be pretty sure you have hold of it if the Sopher clamp is spread about as far as your fingers will allow. You will know you have it right when you crush d own on the clamp and see white gelatinous material coming through the cervix. That was the baby's brains. You can then extract the skull pieces. Many times a little face will come out and stare back at you.
Congratulations! You have just successfully performed a second trimester Suction D&E abortion. You just affirmed her right to choose.
He goes on to explain why delivery by Cesarean section is safer and faster than abortion in cases where the mother's life is in jeopardy.
Three of America's largest health insurance companies have decided not to participate in California's Obamacare exchange. Why? Because "no comment". The companies that are participating are already bigger players in California's insurance market, so they pretty much had to play ball or go out of business.
Some prominent health insurers, including industry giant UnitedHealth Group Inc., are not participating in California's new state-run health insurance market, possibly limiting the number of choices for millions of consumers.
UnitedHealth, the nation's largest private insurer, Aetna Inc. and Cigna Corp. are sitting out the first year of Covered California, the state's insurance exchange and a key testing ground nationally for a massive coverage expansion under the federal healthcare law.
Meanwhile, the biggest insurers in the state -- Kaiser Permanente, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California -- are all expected to participate in the state-run market for individual health coverage.
What it means: everyone who had a choice decided to opt-out. Is this a trend?
[Glenn Melnick, a health policy professor at USC,] said UnitedHealth, Aetna and Cigna may be making a mistake by sitting on the sidelines given California's size and importance in the healthcare overhaul nationwide. "California is going to be a trendsetter," he said.
Melnick is probably right that California is setting a trend, but it may not be in the direction he's implying.
Is psychiatry really medicine? Are the diseases in the DSM really scientific, or just fancy ways to describe self-evident symptoms? The American Psychiatric Association will release the fifth Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-5, on May 22nd and Gary Greenberg is an ardent critic who believes that most of psychiatry is just hand-waving nonsense. One day we may understand the brain well enough to map some of these disorders onto observable biochemical conditions, but I bet that mapping won't look much like the DSM.
You're a practicing psychotherapist. Can you define "mental illness"?
No. Nobody can.
The DSM lists "disorders." How are disorders different from diseases or illnesses?
The difference between disease and disorder is an attempt on the part of psychiatry to evade the problem they're presented with. Disease is a kind of suffering that's caused by a bio-chemical pathology. Something that can be discovered and targeted with magic bullets. But in many cases our suffering can't be diagnosed that way. Psychiatry was in a crisis in the 1970s over questions like "what is a mental illness?" and "what mental illnesses exist?" One of the first things they did was try to finesse the problem that no mental illness met that definition of a disease. They had yet to identify what the pathogen was, what the disease process consisted of, and how to cure it. So they created a category called "disorder." It's a rhetorical device. It's saying "it's sort of like a disease," but not calling it a disease because all the other doctors will jump down their throats asking, "where's your blood test?" The reason there haven't been any sensible findings tying genetics or any kind of molecular biology to DSM categories is not only that our instruments are crude, but also that the DSM categories aren't real. It's like using a map of the moon to find your way around Russia. ...
It's circular -- thinking that anybody who commits suicide is depressed; anybody who goes into a school with a loaded gun and shoots people must have a mental illness.
I wish I could remember who sent this to me!
Even if you support at-will abortion you must be horrified by the casual attitude of abortionists towards infanticide, right? Details of what goes on in abortion clinics continues to emerge from hidden camera sting operations.
In an exchange laden with euphemisms on both sides to conceal the gruesome nature of the discussion, the pregnant woman wondered aloud what would happen if "it" (her fetus) emerged from her intact and alive.
The employee assigned to take note of medical history reassured the woman, "We never had that for ages" (a seeming admission that a baby did survive abortion at the clinic at least once) but that should "it" "survive this," "They would still have to put it in like a jar, a container, with solution, and send it to the lab. . . . We don't just throw it out in the garbage."
Oh, and this innocuous-sounding "solution" was, of course, a toxic substance suitable for killing an infant.
"Like, what if it was twitching?" asked the pregnant woman.
"The solution will make it stop," said the clinic employee. "That's the whole purpose of the solution . . . It will automatically stop. It won't be able to breathe anymore."
As for any qualms a woman might have about seeing her newborn child being poisoned and drowned in a jar, the employee advised her "patient" not to worry: She'd be under sedation, and the murder would take place in another room anyway.
A team from the University of Illinois has created a super-battery that could revolutionize the ongoing consumer electronic explosion.
The University of Illinois team says its use of 3D-electrodes allows it to build "microbatteries" that are many times smaller than commercially available options, or the same size and many times more powerful.
It adds they can be recharged 1,000 times faster than competing tech. ...
"You could replace your car battery with one of our batteries and it would be 10 times smaller, or 10 times more powerful. With that in mind you could jumpstart a car with the battery in your cell phone."
Better batteries will lead to much more powerful portable electronics. One of the chief complaints about the recently unveiled Google Glass is that the power consumption is high and battery life is low.
The battery should last about a day during "typical use" however features like Google Hangouts and video recording will drain the battery more quickly.
Super-batteries could also completely change the economics of electric vehicles. No one wants them because their ranges are too low, but what if you could get 500 miles from a charge instead of 50? Sign me up.
Too late for Easter, but here is an interesting medical advance towards resurrection. When I die, please make sure that they cool me off and get me on an ECMO machine as soon as possible.
Sam Parnia MD has a highly sought after medical specialty: resurrection. His patients can be dead for several hours before they are restored to their former selves, with decades of life ahead of them.
Tell us what you think: Star-rate and review this book
Parnia is head of intensive care at the Stony Brook University Hospital in New York. If you'd had a cardiac arrest at Parnia's hospital last year and undergone resuscitation, you would have had a 33% chance of being brought back from death. In an average American hospital, that figure would have fallen to 16% and (though the data is patchy) roughly the same, or less, if your heart were to have stopped beating in a British hospital.
By a conservative extrapolation, Parnia believes the relatively cheap and straightforward methods he uses to restore vital processes could save up to 40,000 American lives a year and maybe 10,000 British ones. Not surprisingly Parnia, who was trained in the UK and moved to the US in 2005, is frustrated that the medical establishment seems slow and reluctant to listen to these figures. He has written a book in the hope of spreading the word.
The Economist has long article explaining that the climate may be much less sensitive to carbon emissions than previously thought.
OVER the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth's surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar. The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO₂ put there by humanity since 1750. And yet, as James Hansen, the head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, observes, "the five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade."
Temperatures fluctuate over short periods, but this lack of new warming is a surprise. Ed Hawkins, of the University of Reading, in Britain, points out that surface temperatures since 2005 are already at the low end of the range of projections derived from 20 climate models (see chart 1). If they remain flat, they will fall outside the models' range within a few years.
This is great news. Civilization has spent trillons of dollars on carbon emission reduction and climate mitigation, and this expense has been a huge drain on the global economy. If climate change isn't as big a worry as previously thought then we can eliminate a lot of these policies and expenses.
This news isn't a surprise to any software engineers who took the time to look at the climate modeling code that was leaked back in 2009. The software models were garbage, so of course they started to diverge from reality.
(HT: Power Line.)
"What would we do if you detected even a small one, like the one that detonated in Russia, headed for New York City in three weeks? What would we do? Bend over and what?" ...
"And so the answer to you is if it's coming in three weeks, pray," the NASA chief continued.
Reminds me of Ghostbusters, but Bolden goes beyond Mayor Lenny who declines to "call a press conference and tell everyone to start praying."
I want to paperless. No more filing paper, no more storing paper, no more paper cluttering my desk, no more paper anywhere! (Except the bathroom.) Just imagine.
Have any of you done this?
While comparing the layouts of the websites of The New York Times and the Daily Mail, John Pavlus coins a pithy description of what websites are for:
In pure machine-interface terms, The Daily Mail is "for" getting visitors to click a lot (to serve ad impressions), not read a lot. So the Daily Mail provides scads of affordances for clicking, often at the expense of those for reading. And it works like gangbusters (for now, anyway). That is all a technological interface has to do: work.
I'm still hoping that a free-to-use model emerges that doesn't depend on advertising, but so far the only example I can think of are cosmetic microtransactions for free-to-play video games.
Your sleeping habits affect gene expression in hundreds of ways that aren't yet well-understood, but sleeping too little sure seems bad.
So researchers at the University of Surrey analysed the blood of 26 people after they had had plenty of sleep, up to 10 hours each night for a week, and compared the results with samples after a week of fewer than six hours a night.
More than 700 genes were altered by the shift. Each contains the instructions for building a protein, so those that became more active produced more proteins - changing the chemistry of the body. ...
... the key findings were the effects on inflammation and the immune system as it was possible to see a link between those effects and health problems such as diabetes.
Inflammation alone is has all sorts of negative health effects.
Key takeaway: give sleep as much priority as exercise and eating right.
Scientists have given rats the ability to sense infrared light by means of a brain implant.
Scientists have created a "sixth sense" by creating a brain implant through which infrared light can be detected.
Although the light could not be seen lab rats were able to detect it via electrodes in the part of the brain responsible for their sense of touch. ...
But the new study, by researchers from Duke University in North Carolina, is the first case in which such devices have been used to give an animal a completely new sense.
Dr Miguel Nicolelis said the advance, reported in the Nature Communications journal this week, was just a prelude to a major breakthrough on a "brain-to-brain interface" which will be announced in another paper next month.
More interesting to me than a brain-to-brain interface would be a brain-to-internet interface. I'd love to browse the web and send email with my brain.
Far be it from me to dispute Scientific American, but their recent bit about the internet reaching it's "limit" is nonsense.
The number of smartphones, tablets and other network-connected gadgets will outnumber humans by the end of the year. Perhaps more significantly, the faster and more powerful mobile devices hitting the market annually are producing and consuming content at unprecedented levels. Global mobile data grew 70 percent in 2012, according to a recent report from Cisco, which makes a lot of the gear that runs the Internet. Yet the capacity of the world's networking infrastructure is finite, leaving many to wonder when we will hit the upper limit, and what to do when that happens.
There are ways to boost capacity of course, such as adding cables, packing those cables with more data-carrying optical fibers and off-loading traffic onto smaller satellite networks, but these steps simply delay the inevitable. The solution is to make the infrastructure smarter. Two main components would be needed: computers and other devices that can filter their content before tossing it onto the network, along with a network that better understands what to do with this content, rather than numbly perceiving it as an endless, undifferentiated stream of bits and bytes.
Now I'm all for "smarter" networks, for some definition of "smart", but there are significant downsides to the approach mentioned later in the article by Markus Hofmann, head of Bell Labs Research in New Jersey. As I bolded above, there is a very simple and proven way to expand the capacity of the internet: more and fatter cables.
We know there are certain limits that Mother Nature gives us--only so much information you can transmit over certain communications channels. That phenomenon is called the nonlinear Shannon limit [named after former Bell Telephone Laboratories mathematician Claude Shannon], and it tells us how far we can push with today's technologies. We are already very, very close to this limit, within a factor of two roughly. Put another way, based on our experiments in the lab, when we double the amount of network traffic we have today--something that could happen within the next four or five years--we will exceed the Shannon limit. That tells us there's a fundamental roadblock here. There is no way we can stretch this limit, just as we cannot increase the speed of light. So we need to work with these limits and still find ways to continue the needed growth.
The Shannon-Hartley theorem is real, but it all it does is define the limit for the amount of information that can be pushed through a pipe. It doesn't prevent us from laying new pipes.
How do you keep the Internet from reaching "the limit"?
The most obvious way is to increase bandwidth by laying more fiber. Instead of having just one transatlantic fiber-optic cable, for example, you have two or five or 10. That's the brute-force approach, but it's very expensive--you need to dig up the ground and lay the fiber, you need multiple optical amplifiers, integrated transmitters and receivers, and so on.
Yes, it's expensive to lay more pipes, but the return on investment is massive. Cars are expensive too, and yet few people ride Segways. Laying fiber costs money, but the benefits far outweigh the costs. DoD, Microsoft, Google, Apple, IBM, the financial industry, telecommunications... etc. The demand is huge, the profits are huge, and more fiber cables are being laid down as fast as humanly possible.
What's needed is a network that no longer looks at raw data as only bits and bytes but rather as pieces of information relevant to a person using a computer or smartphone. On a given day do you want to know the temperature, wind speed and air pressure or do you simply want to know how you should dress? This is referred to as information networking. ...
Today, if you want to know more about the data crossing a network--for example to intercept computer viruses--then you use software to peek into the data packet, something called deep-packet inspection. Think of a physical letter you send through the normal postal service wrapped in an envelope with an address on it. The postal service doesn't care what the letter says, it's only interested in the address. This is how the Internet functions today with regard to data. With deep-packet inspection, software tells the network to open the data envelope and read at least part of what's inside. [If the data contains a virus, the inspection tool may route that data to a quarantine area to keep it from infecting computers connecting to that network.] However, you can get only a limited amount of information about the data this way, and it requires a lot of processing power. Plus, if the data inside the packet is encrypted, deep-packet inspection won't work.
A better option would be to tag data and give the network instructions for handling different types of data. There might be a policy that states a video stream should get priority over an e-mail, although you don't have to reveal exactly what's in that video stream or e-mail. The network simply takes these data tags into account when making routing decisions.
There are a whole host of downsides. False tagging and labeling would completely undermine such a system, which is one of the reasons it doesn't already exist. The idea is not new. "Information networking" is basically impossible in an untrusted environment because people want their data to be safe and encrypted, not inspected by every computer that routes it to its destination. This kind of trusting approach might work on specialized, contained networks, but it won't work on the internet.
What's more, opening up the content of data on the network would give enormous power to the governments and corporations that control the internet's infrastructure. Who is in favor of that other than bureaucrats and tyrants?
Even if a smarter Net can move data around more intelligently, content is growing exponentially. How do you reduce the amount of traffic a network needs to handle?
Our smartphones, computers and other gadgets generate a lot of raw data that we then send to data centers for processing and storage. This will not scale in the future. Rather, we might move to a model where decisions are made about data before it is placed on the network. For example, if you have a security camera at an airport, you would program the camera or a small computer server controlling multiple cameras to perform facial recognition locally, based on a database stored in a camera or server. [Instead of bottlenecking the network with a stream of images, the camera would communicate with the network only when it finds a suspect. That way it sends an alert message or maybe a single digital image when needed.]
Increasing the amount of processing done on data before transmitting it is a viable approach, but there are trade-offs. In particular, the trend has been to move towards "post before process" rules that intentionally post raw data onto networks so that end users with purposes that aren't known to the data provider can process the raw data according to their needs. If the data collector processes data before posting it there is a strong likelihood that something will be discarded that would have been valuable to someone. The data collector (and the human who designed it) shouldn't be responsible for knowing the needs of everyone who might use the data ever in the future. Hence, post before process. It's an extremely valuable method, and network capacity will expand to preserve it.
So my prediction is that networks will get more efficient, but they'll also get fatter. Bandwidth will keep going up forever. The only physical limit to wired bandwidth expansion is the physical space required to lay cable.
Humans are not good at performing rote, mechanical tasks. When we're trained to do so we tend to excel by eliminating the breadth of thought that separates us from machines. Three examples:
Ok, now watch this video and see if you can count how many times a white team member passes the ball to another white player.
Notice anything weird? 50% of people don't.
Security screeners at two of the nation's busiest airports failed to find fake bombs hidden on undercover agents posing as passengers in more than 60% of tests last year, according to a classified report obtained by USA TODAY.
Screeners at Los Angeles International Airport missed about 75% of simulated explosives and bomb parts that Transportation Security Administration testers hid under their clothes or in carry-on bags at checkpoints, the TSA report shows.
Humans are not good at processing massive quantities of data, so when we have to perform searches on visual data we do it by creating culling and trimming out things that usually aren't important. These jobs will all be replaced by robots.
An awesome video showing off some intelligent algorithms for managing autonomous vehicle traffic.
The major difficulty will implementing a system that can yield efficiency advantages for the ever-increasing number of computer-driven vehicles while still allowing for the ever-decreasing number of human-driven vehicles.
(HT: RB and Txchnologist.)
I've posted numerous articles about robots taking all our jobs, but this one points out something new: robots that can safely work alongside humans.
Consider Baxter, a revolutionary new workbot from Rethink Robotics. Designed by Rodney Brooks, the former MIT professor who invented the best-selling Roomba vacuum cleaner and its descendants, Baxter is an early example of a new class of industrial robots created to work alongside humans. Baxter does not look impressive. It's got big strong arms and a flatscreen display like many industrial bots. And Baxter's hands perform repetitive manual tasks, just as factory robots do. But it's different in three significant ways.
First, it can look around and indicate where it is looking by shifting the cartoon eyes on its head. It can perceive humans working near it and avoid injuring them. And workers can see whether it sees them. Previous industrial robots couldn't do this, which means that working robots have to be physically segregated from humans. The typical factory robot is imprisoned within a chain-link fence or caged in a glass case. They are simply too dangerous to be around, because they are oblivious to others. This isolation prevents such robots from working in a small shop, where isolation is not practical. Optimally, workers should be able to get materials to and from the robot or to tweak its controls by hand throughout the workday; isolation makes that difficult. Baxter, however, is aware. Using force-feedback technology to feel if it is colliding with a person or another bot, it is courteous. You can plug it into a wall socket in your garage and easily work right next to it.
Maybe socialism is the wave of the future if there just aren't enough low-capability jobs to keep humans busy. Maybe economic freedom will be meaningless when 95% of humans are unemployable due to advanced robotics.
However, I disagree with the "seven stages of robot replacement":
1. A robot/computer cannot possibly do the tasks I do. 2. OK, it can do a lot of them, but it can't do everything I do. 3. OK, it can do everything I do, except it needs me when it breaks down, which is often. 4. OK, it operates flawlessly on routine stuff, but I need to train it for new tasks. 5. OK, it can have my old boring job, because it's obvious that was not a job that humans were meant to do. 6. Wow, now that robots are doing my old job, my new job is much more fun and pays more! 7. I am so glad a robot/computer cannot possibly do what I do now.
First, many people will get lost between steps two and five. Most people don't make their living creatively and won't be excited to find a new job based on symbiosis with ever-improving robotics.
Secondly, let's talk about step six. There's no reason to believe that the new job will "pay more", even if it results in a greater quality of life. I expect that robot-provided things and services will trend towards "free" and actual cash income (used to pay humans) will decline dramatically. Most workers will end up "poorer" but with a higher quality of life.
We live in amazing times. This is the first I've heard of it, but doctors are using deactivated HIV to treat cancer by reprogramming immune systems.
Doctors suggested they sign Emily up to a clinical trial that would use a disabled form of HIV to carry cancer-fighting genes into her T-cells (disease fighting cells). The hope was that this would re-programme her immune system to recognise the cancer cells and start killing them. ...
Several weeks after her T-cell infusion, they were able to conduct a bone marrow test to find out if the therapy had worked.
'Three weeks after receiving the treatment, she was in remission,' said Dr Grupp.
'Emily completely responded to her T-cell therapy. We checked her bone marrow for the possibility of disease again at three months and six months out from her treatment, and she still has no disease whatsoever. The cancer-fighting T-cells are still there in her body.'
He added that they need to see the remission go on for a couple of years before they can think about whether she is cured or not.
But, after spending years in treatment, Emily went home in June and now enjoys going to school, playing football and walking her dog Lucy.
What a wonder that a horrible plague like HIV could be turned into something good.
A great piece from Lifehacker on how to use psychological tricks to avoid gaining weight during the holidays. My favorite is this plate trick:
One study conducted by researchers Brian Wansink and Koert van Ittersum, revealed that a shift from 12-inch plates to 10-inch plates resulted in a 22% decrease in calories. Assuming the average dinner is 800 calories, this simple change would result in an estimated weight loss between 10 to 20 pounds over the course of one year. Smaller plates lead to fewer calories thanks to a powerful optical illusion known as the Delboeuf Illusion.
The illusion works because we think things are smaller when we compare them to things that are larger. So if you put a piece of food on a large plate, your mind will tell you it's a small portion and thus you put more food on the plate. However, if you put that same piece of food on a small plate, your mind will tell you it's a large portion. The image below describes the Delboeuf Illusion and how it applies to food.
I'm definitely going to try using the small plates for meals for a while!