This year, I served on the judging panel for The Royal Statistical Society’s International Statistic of the Year.

On Dec. 18, we announced the winner: 90.5 percent, the amount of plastic that has never been recycled. Okay – but why is that such a big deal?

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis of five years of death certificates (2011-2016) found that among drug overdose deaths 29 percent were due to fentanyl by 2016, a huge leap from 4 percent in 2011, when oxycodone was most dangerous at 13 percent.
Whenever we talk about people and how they behave on a certain environment there seems to be a general consensus in the way it should be. Society summarizes the sum of individuals, and bring with it a single framework from which every person can work from there to face reality. Some of those products are education, laws and morality just to name a few.

As we can see there has been certain level of success by acknowledging the social construct. Why hasn’t it been completely successful? There’s an underlying assumption we have complete control over the way we think.
Two weeks ago, CNN shocked some in the science community by having Vani Hari, who styles herself as "The Food Babe"(1), tell us that the bacterial problem on romaine lettuce was caused by modern medicine.  It was no great surprise to most of us, if there is a hyperbolic claim about science CNN is an always reliable platform create a story or at least tweet about it.

There are many sensationalist stories today about this research. But they were looking at the past history of this volcano. Not the present. It is not ready to collapse right now and is closely monitored. Likely to be centuries to millennia before a collapse if one is possible at all - it may have ended that phase too. A normal eruption would be devastating for local people and it is closely monitored. It probably did not make the Neanderthals extinct but the 2–4C global temperature reduction for a couple of years might have helped modern humans to get an edge over the Neanderthals at a critical time in the past.

Example stories to debunk:

KAIST International Forum on Asia’s Futures, Session 2
Seoul, December 13, 2018

I thank our conference hosts for the kind invitation to participate in this panel, and for the opportunity to assemble these thoughts on Asia’s Technology-Driven Futures.

Let’s outline a context for these futures, before diving into the three questions posed to the panel.

There is a global environmental crisis. For Asia, the most pressing consequences are water shortages in China and elsewhere, due to less Himalayan snow runoff, and coming mass migrations due to rising seas, stronger storms, and inundation of coastal areas.
Organic Consumers Association has opened a new front in their culture war against science - now they say organic food itself is too science-y.

Don't they represent organic farmers? No. Unlike Organic Trade Association, the mainstream trade group created to help organic corporations gain market share, Organic Consumers Association is a fringe group that was created to tear down science they oppose on ideological grounds. They just wrap themselves in the flag of the burgeoning organic movement. They are not for anything, they are instead against any science a client will pay them to be against.
Since microRNAs are key regulators of biological processes, a microRNA cluster that regulates synaptic strength and is involved in the control of social behavior in mammals may be a new path toward therapeutic strategies for the treatment of social deficits in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder or schizophrenia. 

DNA is first copied to make messenger RNA molecules (mRNAs) that are then translated into protein. MicroRNAs are short snippets of RNA that do not code for a protein. Instead, they function mainly by regulating the stability or translation rate of mRNAs, inhibiting the production of particular proteins. Each microRNA typically targets hundreds of different mRNAs, making them ideal for coordinating complex cellular processes.
As many as three million Americans, an alarming one percent of the U.S. population, get a diagnosis of bipolar disorder each year. That is a fantastic amount, bordering on unbelievable, 12,000X as many gun murders that will occur. 

If being "bipolar" is over-diagnosed then it may well be that something as simple as yogurt will fix it. And that is the claim of a pilot study unveiled today at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology meeting - people who suffer damaging shifts in moods, from mania to depression, may not need expensive, antipsychotics, depressants or even therapy, they may just need a half a cup of Activia.


Dec 13 2018 | comment(s)

It's been a while since I last discussed something personal in this column. The reason is not that I changed my mind with respect to being open and freely share my ideas, experiences, and personal life things here - I have long argued that if a blog is not personal, it is not interesting, and I stand by that assessment. 
Rather, the reason of my not talking much about myself and my personal / work life is the good old one: lack of time. If I have time to write an article, I try to do it on a subject which I suppose will be more interesting to the readers of this site. Hence physics, rather than life and work, takes the precedence. But it needs not be so all the time, so today I will try to go in the other direction.