Science & Society

Big Data

Big Data

Aug 02 2014 | 1 comment(s)

Nothing boosts the prospects of page hits on a blog – or funding of a grant proposal – like the phrase “big data.” Why are we enamored with “big data”?
The history of World War I - since there was no II then, it was simply The Great War - is well-known. Volumes have been written about why European monarchs, related to each other, nonetheless rolled "the iron dice" and sent millions of young men to their deaths. The technological and medical advances, and America's emergence as the decision-maker in geopolitics, have also been exhaustively examined.

Yet the role of women, not so much. World War II was another matter; from Rosie the Riveter to WACs, empowered female imagery was common. World War I, on the other hand, caused  progress on universal suffrage to go backward, and the role of women challenged the concept of femininity that existed.  

In the 1800s, mentally ill people were in jail. Then they were put in more humane mental hospitals. But then mental hospitals got vilified in mainstream news stories and horror movies and they were closed and now mentally ill people are back in jails, 10 times as many as are in mental health facilities.

Policy makers don't buy that psychology has value any more, and they feel only slightly better about psychiatry. Scrutiny and abuse has led politicians to demand tighter Medicaid policies governing antipsychotic drugs and a new paper links those tighter policies to increased incarceration rates for schizophrenics. 


In the summer of 2008, the US economy was clipping along as well as it had ever been. There were people in the know who recognized that actual economic output was down and the drivers were housing sales, including President Bush and his economic advisors years earlier, but they got little attention as long as GDP kept looking higher.


Scholars studying the child care sector in Kansas, particularly in rural areas, have found that informal child care services create a large economic impact in the state. 

Informal child care services include unlicensed facilities, unreported day care services run from homes, and child care performed for trade rather than money.
The authors estimate that
the informal child care industry created more than 128,000 jobs and added about $971.5 million in total value to the state of Kansas in 2005.


A new paper in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute addresses the risks associated with the growing popularity of endoscopic resection in the treatment of localized, early-stage esophageal cancer.

Researchers found that the more traditional surgical resection, while more invasive, provided significantly better outcomes with an 87.6 percent five-year survival rate for patients than endoscopic resection, which had a 76 percent five-year survival rate. The study reviewed the outcomes of more than 5,000 patients from 824 hospitals using the National Cancer Data Base, a program of the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer and the American Cancer Society.


In America, where categorization becomes easy because there are two main political parties, it is well-known that right-wing people donate more to charity. This makes sense; people who believe in smaller government should be willing to help their fellow man rather than relying on government to tax and redistribute wealth. Yet right-wing people also espouse individual initiative, so why donate more to charity when recipients have not earned it? 

A new paper in the Journal of Consumer Research explains this seeming inconsistency and suggests that moral identity decreases donations when recipients are deemed to be responsible for their plight.


Revolutions are messy business, they require participation by a type of personality that is not very savory; militant, bombastic, a little crazy. 
Science Magazine used Transwomen as props on a cover that had nothing to do with the contents. All it did was stigmatize a marginalized group of people and probably reinforce bias among members of a privileged group, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The use of the cover by a large production of that group of privileged people proves the presence of anti-transgender feelings which, like other bigotries, can hide under color of science.  I say this as one who has defended the validity of the work of various scientist in the face of activist and anti-scientific, backlashes.

There is a lot of concern about food waste and it may be due to leftovers that never get used but it probably isn't the bulk of Americans - 92 percent of people eat everything. Obviously that can be bad for people in other ways if people put a lot on their plate.

"If you put it on your plate, it's going into your stomach," says Cornell University Professor of Marketing Brian Wansink Ph.D.