Tag Archives: science

Reason #2978 why health insurance in the US is so expensive

From an opinion piece in the New York Times on the issue of society ignoring evidence that mammograms only increase medical procedures, they don’t save lives:

For years now, doctors like myself have known that screening mammography doesn’t save lives, or else saves so few that the harms far outweigh the benefits. Neither I nor my colleagues have a crystal ball, and we are not smarter than others who have looked at this issue. We simply read the results of the many mammography trials that have been conducted over the years. But the trial results were unpopular and did not fit with a broadly accepted ideology—early detection—which has, ironically, failed (ovarian, prostate cancer) as often as it has succeeded (cervical cancer, perhaps colon cancer).

More bluntly, the trial results threatened a mammogram economy, a marketplace sustained by invasive therapies to vanquish microscopic clumps of questionable threat, and by an endless parade of procedures and pictures to investigate the falsely positive results that more than half of women endure. And inexplicably, since the publication of these trial results challenging the value of screening mammograms, hundreds of millions of public dollars have been dedicated to ensuring mammogram access, and the test has become a war cry for cancer advocacy. Why? Because experience deludes: radiologists diagnose, surgeons cut, pathologists examine, oncologists treat, and women survive.

 Read the full essay.

Dust to dust

Where does dust come from? 

I thought it was mostly bits of skin and bugs and whatnot. But if that were the case, then when I’m away from my house for days in a row, there should be a lot less “new” dust than there is when I’m here a lot. 

Tonight I vacuumed the house (What a sexy way to spend Friday night, you’re thinking, I want to party with this chick!) and I saw no difference in dust accumulation, despite my being here almost not at all for the past many weeks.  Continue reading Dust to dust

Cause. Effect.

The upper eyelid of my left eye has has been twitching for a few days. I googled to find out why this started suddenly, and whether I need to worry about it. Here’s what I found:

Called myokymia in doctor lingo, these rippling muscle contractions in an eyelid can be triggered by:

  • Stress
  • Tiredness
  • Eye strain
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Dry eyes
  • Nutritional imbalances
  • Allergies

OK, one question answered, and now I have a new one: Given the potential causes, why have my eyelids not twitched every day of my adult life?

Isn’t it fun when science echoes the movies?

It seems that Agent Smith was right all along:

Over the decades, many theories have been offered to explain what caused the demise of the Neanderthals, ranging from climate change to simple bad luck. In recent years, though, it’s becoming increasingly clear that, as Pääbo put it to me, “Their bad luck was us.” Again and again, the archeological evidence in Europe indicates, once modern humans showed up in a regions where Neanderthals were living, the Neanderthals in that region vanished. Perhaps the Neanderthals were actively pursued, or perhaps they were just outcompeted. The Neanderthals’ “bad luck” is presumably the same misfortune that the hobbits and the Denisovans encountered, and similar to the tragedy suffered by the gian marsupials that once browsed Australia, and the vaied megafauna that used to inhabit North America, and the moas that lived in New Zealand. And it is precisely the same bad luck that has brought so many species — including every one of the great apes — to the edge of oblivion today.
From “Sleeping With the Enemy,” Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, August 15, 2011

More flying things in jeopardy

In today’s New York Times, “Bats Perish, and No One Knows Why“:

In what is one of the worst calamities to hit bat populations in the United States, on average 90 percent of the hibernating bats in four caves and mines in New York have died since last winter.

Wildlife biologists fear a significant die-off in about 15 caves and mines in New York, as well as at sites in Massachusetts and Vermont. Whatever is killing the bats leaves them unusually thin and, in some cases, dotted with a white fungus. Bat experts fear that what they call White Nose Syndrome may spell doom for several species that keep insect pests under control.

Researchers have yet to determine whether the bats are being killed by a virus, bacteria, toxin, environmental hazard, metabolic disorder or fungus. Some have been found with pneumonia, but that and the fungus are believed to be secondary symptoms.

Didn’t we just go through a similar crisis with bees and other pollinators, and also with songbirds? It’s a bad time to be a small flying critter.