Science & Society


John Hawks reviews an article in the NY times, by Gina Kolata, on Grants for Cancer Research.  Here’s an excerpt from the original article:

Yet the fight against cancer is going slower than most had hoped, with only small changes in the death rate in the almost 40 years since it began.

One major impediment, scientists agree, is the grant system itself. It has become a sort of jobs program, a way to keep research laboratories going year after year with the understanding that the focus will be on small projects unlikely to take significant steps
toward curing cancer.

Are individuals, families and employers getting their money's worth from US healthcare?

You'd think not, given the media full court press by the Obama administration for a federal health care plan at a cost of trillions that will allegedly be paid for by 'savings' in current health care.    Like 'jobs saved', it isn't a number anyone can really track so it's up to individual belief - and likely political party registration.    The federal government wants to provide more services to more people.   And that may not be good health policy.
Someone's got issues with Web 2.0 - hell, with Web 1.0:
Of all the misguided schemes put forth lately to save newspapers (micropayments! blame Google!), the one put forth by Judge Richard Posner has to be the most jaw-dropping. He suggests that linking to copyrighted material should be outlawed.
That basically guaranteed to finish killing off newspapers - having them drop out of online discussion. It's also an outright rejection of one of the major advantages of online publication - citations that take you straight to the original document.
And why does everything have to be all about newspapers anyway?


Elsevier today announced the highlights of its journal impact factor performance in 2008. Elsevier overall saw 75% of its journal impact factors (IF) increase from 2007 to 2008. According to the 2008 Journal Citation Report(R) published by ThomsonReuters, Elsevier journals took the #1 position in 51 categories (of 229) across all of the sciences and social sciences.


In addition, 30 Elsevier journals got their first impact factor this year. Cell Stem Cell (http://www.cell.com/cell-stem-cell/home) (16.826) entered the Cell Biology category ranked 6th (of 157 journals), while Cell Host Microbe (http://www.cell.com/cell-host-microbe/home) (7.436) entered the Microbiology category ranked 10th (of 91 journals).


Research from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Canada says that 4 percent of worldwide deaths are directly attributable to alcohol consumption and the rise is mainly due to increases in the number of women and Europeans drinking.
Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) is an unexpected death caused by a sudden loss of heart function (sudden cardiac arrest, SCA). Every year, 400,000 adults die of SCD, making it one of the largest causes of death in Europe. Sudden Cardiac Death begins with Sudden Cardiac Arrest, mostly caused by an arrhythmia called “ventricular fibrillation” (a rapid, chaotic, lethal rhythm of the heart). When this occurs, the heart will abruptly stop to pump blood. Consequently, the patient feels dizzy and faints. SCD occurs within minutes, if no resuscitation is immediately initiated.
Newton’s apple fell from the tree and after thumping the scientist on the head, fell benignly to the ground. If the same apple fell toward Einstein (and happened to have a little added atomic oomph), it could, according to special relativity, become infinitely massive, flattening not only the unfortunate Einstein as he sat bodhisattva-like beneath the tree, but also the Earth itself.

This doesn’t mean Newton was wrong—only, that his theories apply more accurately to things traveling at speeds that don’t approach the speed of light (from slow-moving atomic particles to city transit busses). The crucial postulate of Einstein’s theory is the idea that the speed of light is measured to be exactly the same no matter the motion of the observer.
Many people will write columns, fiction, games, et cetera for the joy of doing it.  But that leads me to an important distinction between writing versus publishing.  Writers-- good and bad-- will write for free.  History tells us that.  But a good editor won't, and publishing great works requires great editors.

In all the Web2.0 talk of removing barriers between creators and audience, the role of 'publisher' is often considered a dark ages legacy, fit to be abolished.  But the role of editor rarely is invoked, and I think that's a mistake.  Yes, the editor is the bane to writers, but they are a hidden blessing to readers.  
Most conspiracy theories wouldn't gain much traction without unhinged academics:

"The most destructive people linked to conspiracy theories and denialism are those with academic appointments - and those who can manipulate their backgrounds to appear as if they have had academic appointments."


Why? Probably because they write are fluently and prolifically than the guy you meet at 2pm in the bar who can't stop going on about all of those people on Hillary Clinton's hit list. (Hey, if you're in the bar at 2pm, you're asking for it.)
A baffling report says health workers fail to understand the importance of sex for Tanzanian children.   Yes, children.

Community health organizations working on AIDS prevention projects in Tanzania, frequently fail to understand how children in Tanzania deal with sex, says Miranda van Reeuwijk, who followed groups of children in Tanzania between 2004 and 2008.  

van Reeuwijk followed the children in order to help change this situation and says the children mainly view sex as something from which they can personally benefit, but frequently hide their relationships from parents and health workers. They are more scared of their strict parents than of HIV.