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Stop eating your pet's food

Apparently people are eating their pet's food, and they're getting salmonella poisoning in return...

A scientific reference manual for US judges

Science and our legal system intersect frequently and everywhere - climate, health care, intellectual...

Rainbow connection

On the way to work this morning, I noticed people pointing out the train window and smiling. From...

Neutrinos on espresso

Maybe they stopped by Starbucks for a little faster-than-the-speed-of-light pick me up....

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Becky JungbauerRSS Feed of this column.

A scientist and journalist by training, I enjoy all things science, especially science-related humor. My column title is a throwback to Jane Austen's famous first line in Pride and Prejudice

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Actually, I have no proof – yet. But an article this month’s issue of Scientific American highlights the myriad therapeutic benefits of blogging, so maybe dashing off a quick article will help with my aching back… Jessica Wapner writes in her article that self-medication may be the reason the blogosphere has taken off. “Scientists (and writers) have long known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. But besides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits.
A segment on ABC’s Good Morning America May 19 caught my attention, so much so that I spent a good chunk of time attempting to find research to back up the claims. The idea itself seems to be obvious – if you have a neurological disorder affecting your brain, you should examine the brain in order to figure out exactly what’s going on to figure out how to best treat the problem, right? I am not a neurologist, so my thinking could be flawed. A comment by the doctor featured in the segment made sense to me, though: diagnosing children with behavioral disorders like ADHD and autism without looking at their brains is like trying to diagnose heart problems without actually looking at the heart.
Common Sense 101: if benefits outweigh the costs, generally people will opt in to whatever action is under consideration. If you can prevent or reduce your chance of death from cancer by early screenings at a nominal fee, you will probably get screened. Now throw a twist into the equation. Say that screening is only 50 percent effective at catching early cancer. On the benefit side, screening will still prevent or reduce cancer. On the cost side, you may not catch a tumor; you may be exposing yourself to harmful radiation (which ironically could contribute to the cancer you’re trying to prevent), emotional stress from false positives and possible physical harm from false negatives; and you’re spending money on a service that only works half the time. (Using the same idea, if your airbag only worked in 50 percent of accidents, would you pay for it to be installed in your car, or would you demand that auto manufacturers developed an airbag with 100 percent efficiency?)

President Bush has a bill on his desk, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which will prohibit discrimination on the basis of genetic information with respect to health insurance and employment. He is expected to sign the bill, but is science – and the people – ready?