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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 35,773

Journal Archives

Will Scotland and Northern Ireland vote to leave GB and join the EU?

If so, what does that mean for the world economy, if anything?

According to this, the GOP did something similar to support off shore drilling in 2008.


"...The aide further noted that Democrats, back in 2008 when they had control of the House, had turned cameras, lights, and microphones off during one similar GOP attempt to push for a vote allowing offshore drilling.


Publicity stunt? Maybe. But at least it's one that's trying to move things in a positive direction for the population. And any GOPer who wasted time on anti-ACA votes the past few years, hasn't got a leg to stand on in regard to publicity stunts.

Americans Spend $30 Billion a Year on Alternative Medicine


"Americans seem to believe in alternative medicine, shelling out more than $30 billion in 2012 alone for treatments ranging from acupuncture to homeopathy, federal researchers reported on Wednesday.

They found that 59 million Americans paid for some sort of alternative or complementary treatment in 2012 — an average of $500 per person. That's even though there is little evidence some of these approaches work.

"Substantial numbers of Americans spent billions of dollars out of pocket on these approaches, an indication that users believe enough in the value of these approaches to pay for them," the team at the National Center for Health Statistics reported.

"These expenditures, although a small fraction of total health care spending in the U.S., constitute a substantial part of out-of-pocket health care costs and are comparable to out-of-pocket costs for conventional physician services and prescription drug use."



But, you know, it's no big deal.

Mistrust after Tuskegee experiments may have taken years off black men’s lives


"The damage from a series of unethical syphilis experiments on Southern black men may have reverberated far beyond the test subjects themselves, a new study has found.

The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment was a government-run project from 1932 to 1972 in which hundreds of black men in Macon County, Ala., were deprived of a known syphilis treatment so that researchers could observe how the disease progressed. The tests were later widely condemned and President Clinton issued a formal apology for them in 1997. “Tuskegee” has also come to be a stand-in, historians say, for the centuries of abuse that African-Americans have suffered in the medical system.

The syphilis study was known in the medical community, but came into the public spotlight with front-page coverage in 1972 in the New York Times. That same year, the US Public Health Service halted the study. But its legacy carried on, according to a new analysis, which finds that after 1972, black men’s health suffered because they avoided doctors and died earlier than they would have been expected to. The authors claim that the Tuskegee revelation contributed to an eroded trust in doctors.

That finding “adds greater credibility to the conclusion that the Tuskegee Syphilis Study had an impact not only on the men directly involved, but on generations that followed,” said Stephen B. Thomas, director of the Center for Health Equity at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, who has been studying the legacy of Tuskegee since the early ’90s.



Getting Slapped Around: An Interview with Dorthe Nors



I spoke with Nors on her final day in the U.S. following the book’s launch. She is warm and confiding and possessed of a Northern European glamour that favors dark sweaters and disdains what most New Yorkers would consider a major and ongoing snowstorm. Throughout the hour we spent together, she drank trucker-strength coffee and held her chin in her hand. She told me about bucking tradition with new forms, the finer points of Danish comedy, and how life finds a way of slashing us all.

After four novels, it’s a short story collection—your first—giving you a breakthrough into the U.S. market. Why do you think that form did it?

Without me realizing it, I found that the short story—this compact, intensive way of writing—suited my voice. The short story isn’t really part of our tradition in Denmark. This is the country of Hans Christian Anderson and Karen Blixen, but for some reason there’s this sense that we don’t want to dirty our hands with the short story. That’s why it’s such a blessing that this is happening for me in America, where there’s such a strong tradition for the form. I feel like I’m presenting my work to a nation without having to explain what I’m doing.

How did you first step outside that tradition and decide to give the short story a try?

I always thought that writing short stories would be too difficult, but I knew this teacher who worked with at-risk teenagers and he asked me to come write a story about his class. So I spent some time with these kids and cooked something up. Afterward, the teacher assembled the entire school to hear me read this story, and when I was done, the kids were actually cheering. They could see themselves in it and they loved it. That experience boosted my confidence.



Nors' "Karate Chop" is incredible.

Her second US book, So Much For That Winter, is released today.

I can't wait!


The love affair between science and poetry


"Poetry and science seem like opposites – but the two have long been intertwined. At London's Roundhouse in June, performance poet Robin Lamboll's take was wonderfully dramatic. It featured a shouting, angry and judging voice performance on "science being fun facts of the natural world and religion being Nietzsche's The Antichrist".

Watching it made me think about the flirtation of poetry and science and how deep a romance it is. In the late 1700s, scientific treatises were written in poetic form because poetry was considered the language of intellect and the future. In the 1800s, Lewis Carroll experimented with mathematical logic to create The Square Stanza.

And who can forget Dante's The Divine Comedy; a smorgasbord of history and religion which at its damning best was underpinned by solid science such as the action of gravity as he travels to the core of the earth and on Lucifer's fall through the galaxy.

In 1984, the paper The Detection of Shocked Co/Emission by physicist J. W. V. Storey was published in The Proceedings of the Astronomical Society of Australia as a 38-stanza poem, much to the irritation of his colleagues (and his sadistic pleasure).

Poetry in the DNA

Today, many poets embrace and explore both the confirmed and the working theories of physics, astronomy and nature, the most popular scientific fields for poets. The idea of scientists as poets is surprisingly common; a variation of the "writer with the day job".



Yes, a good read.

Or so I think.

The Improbability Principle (Or things that have a one in 64 million chance happen... ALL the TIME!)



But don’t worry, this just means you have to think a little harder about how likely things are. David Hand writes about this in his 2014 book: The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day. This is making the rounds again in the media because of the recent “rare” astronomical events.

Yesterday the Summer Solstice coincided with the Strawberry Moon – the first full moon in June. The last time this happened was in 1967. Recently we have seen “rare” transits of Mercury and Venus across the sun.

These events are not that rare, and I really don’t see what the fuss is all about (I guess the media is desperate for anything they can hype.) Don’t get me wrong, I love astronomical events, it is their rarity that I think is overhyped.


First it is important to recognize that when you have lots of opportunities for unlikely things to happen, they are bound to happen by chance. As I like to say, in New York City, which has a population of over 8 million people, a 1 in 8 million coincidence should happen every day.



A good read by Dr. Novella. Of course, Tim Minchin cuts to the chase:

"A woman had given birth to naturally conceived identical quadruplet girls, which is very rare. And she said, "The doctors told me there was a one in 64 million chance that this could happen. It's A MIRACLE!" But, of course, we know it's not, because things that have a one in 64 million chance happen ... ALL the TIME! To presume that your one in 64 million chance thing is a miracle, is to significantly underestimate the total number of things that THERE ARE. ... Maths."

-Tim Minchin

“Health Ranger” Sells Remedy for Disease He Doesn’t Think Exists


I love the phrase "useful substance free" as a correction for "100 % chemical free."

Oh, Health Ranger, you crack me up. No, really.



"The following was delivered as the commencement address at the California Institute of Technology, on Friday, June 10th.

If this place has done its job—and I suspect it has—you’re all scientists now. Sorry, English and history graduates, even you are, too. Science is not a major or a career. It is a commitment to a systematic way of thinking, an allegiance to a way of building knowledge and explaining the universe through testing and factual observation. The thing is, that isn’t a normal way of thinking. It is unnatural and counterintuitive. It has to be learned. Scientific explanation stands in contrast to the wisdom of divinity and experience and common sense. Common sense once told us that the sun moves across the sky and that being out in the cold produced colds. But a scientific mind recognized that these intuitions were only hypotheses. They had to be tested.

When I came to college from my Ohio home town, the most intellectually unnerving thing I discovered was how wrong many of my assumptions were about how the world works—whether the natural or the human-made world. I looked to my professors and fellow-students to supply my replacement ideas. Then I returned home with some of those ideas and told my parents everything they’d got wrong (which they just loved). But, even then, I was just replacing one set of received beliefs for another. It took me a long time to recognize the particular mind-set that scientists have. The great physicist Edwin Hubble, speaking at Caltech’s commencement in 1938, said a scientist has “a healthy skepticism, suspended judgement, and disciplined imagination”—not only about other people’s ideas but also about his or her own. The scientist has an experimental mind, not a litigious one.

As a student, this seemed to me more than a way of thinking. It was a way of being—a weird way of being. You are supposed to have skepticism and imagination, but not too much. You are supposed to suspend judgment, yet exercise it. Ultimately, you hope to observe the world with an open mind, gathering facts and testing your predictions and expectations against them. Then you make up your mind and either affirm or reject the ideas at hand. But you also hope to accept that nothing is ever completely settled, that all knowledge is just probable knowledge. A contradictory piece of evidence can always emerge. Hubble said it best when he said, “The scientist explains the world by successive approximations.”

The scientific orientation has proved immensely powerful. It has allowed us to nearly double our lifespan during the past century, to increase our global abundance, and to deepen our understanding of the nature of the universe. Yet scientific knowledge is not necessarily trusted. Partly, that’s because it is incomplete. But even where the knowledge provided by science is overwhelming, people often resist it—sometimes outright deny it. Many people continue to believe, for instance, despite massive evidence to the contrary, that childhood vaccines cause autism (they do not); that people are safer owning a gun (they are not); that genetically modified crops are harmful (on balance, they have been beneficial); that climate change is not happening (it is).



This piece should be read by all of us over and over again, or so I think.

Another reason to love the sport! Tokyo Yosaku - CHA-RA HEAD-CHA-RA

Tokyo Yosaku - CHA-RA HEAD-CHA-RA

This is just pure awesome!

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