Archive for February, 2010

Financial Aid For Hearing Aids (and don’t YELL at me!)

Posted by on Friday, 12 February, 2010


Hearing Aid Help

You’re right.

Science Ain’t So Bad is a blog about science. And technology. And where you find the bucks to pay for hearing aids isn’t the big research issue of the century.

But I’m the writer guy and I get to decide. And DAMN this is a good thing to tell people about. So don’t yell at me.

I got my rights!

So, as I was saying, a VERY non-scientific and technical matter of GREAT interest to those of you who wear or need hearing aids is how do you pay for the durn things. The good ones are expensive as hell and, mostly, they’re not covered by your health plan.

The Better Hearing Institute has published a comprehensive “Guide To Financial Assistance for Hearing Aids“. And MISTER ScienceAintSoBad thinks that is mighty cool!

Even if it DOES leave you unfulfilled about the latest results from the Large Hadron Particle Collider.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 10 and no apologies for it.

Freeze Yer Snakes

Posted by on Thursday, 11 February, 2010


Nutrition: Reptile Menus

SOME of you are not regular snake eaters.

For the rest of you, a study in The International Journal of Food Microbiology says that you only risk trichinosis, pentastomiasis, gnathostomiasis or sparganosis by eating crocodiles, turtles, lizards or snakes.


Did I mention there’s also a chance of Salmonella, Shigella, Escherichia coli, Yersinia enterolitica, Campylobacter, Clostridium or Staphylococcus aureus?

I know you like fresh, but freezing’s safer. It tends to kill the very small stuff that shouldn’t be there anyway.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 5. (This study is still preliminary. And, besides. You eat snakes, you deserve what you get.)

Disgruntled Burglars Quitting The Trade. Can’t Compete.

Posted by on Wednesday, 10 February, 2010

What NEXT?

Criminology: Economics Of Burglary.

According to James Treadwell’s research (University of Leicester), global price pressures – particularly “cheap labor in China” – are RUINING it for decent burglars in the UK.

Commodity pricing in consumer goods such as DVD players has gotten so crappy that you can’t even fence a good home entertainment system anymore and embittered former second story guys are turning to a life of street crime.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 6 (Good entertainment value. Not so sure about the science).

An Artificial Pancreas For Diabetes: Still In The Works

Posted by on Tuesday, 9 February, 2010

THAT'S one. (A pancreas.)

image from Creative Commons

Medicine: Type 1 Diabetes.

An artificial pancreas really is just over SOME horizon now. An announcement from Cambridge (article in the Lancet) describes the fine work of Dr Roman Hovorka at the University of Cambridge, working with a group of seventeen diabetic kids.

A cure for diabetes would be nice, of course. And there are some intriguing hints but, for now, an artificial pancreas would be stunning enough.

If it works out (and if it is widely accepted), this development has the potential to greatly reduce the complications of the disease, ease peoples’ lives, and reduce health care costs significantly (Wouldn’t THAT be nice?).

Back to which horizon this is over.

It’s hard for MISTER ScienceAintSoBad to say this but, once again, this is only a tantalizing possibility of something that is badly needed. We ARE a lot closer, thanks to the great work being done. Maybe as little are three, four or five years.

Karen Addington (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) says this is a “proof of principle” and that we “need to redouble our efforts.”

I’m not sure that’s what we want to hear. But reality IS so darn real, isn’t it?

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 9

– – – – – – – – – Postscript – – – – – – – – –

Karen Addington was nice enough (and ubiquitous enough) to leave a comment which I am duplicating below since it addresses the question of when this device might really hit the road. Notice that her motivation is personal.

Her comment:

Thanks for picking up on this new research.

We know that developments like the artificial pancrease can’t come quickly enough for people living with type 1 diabetes, and their families. That’s why we’re working really hard to make sure that the artificial pancreas becomes a reality as soon as possible. In January my colleagues at JDRF International (based in the USA) announced a partnership with Animas (a Johnson & Johnson company that manufactures pumps) to develop a first generation artificial pancreas.

The goal is to develop a system that can prevent the extremes of both hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia automatically – but will still need some input from the wearer, such as informing the system of meal times and periods of exercise.

This partnership is planned for four years and by the end we hope to reach the point where it will ready to go forward for approval by regulatory bodies like the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMEA), and from there to people with type 1.

I have had type 1 diabetes for 30 years, and I’m really excited about what this research could soon mean for me, and everyone else with type 1.

The Future Of Light

Posted by on Monday, 8 February, 2010


SEMICONDUCTOR TECHNOLOGY: Cheap, bright, and disposable.


I’ve never been a big fan of light coming from walls. Too much pressure on the dust devils.

But ACS Nano describes a new kind of light source made from graphene which consists of sheets of ultra efficient lighting material for displays and glowing walls and whatnot.

It makes it sound like the current hot technology for plastic displays, OLED, (have you even heard of it yet?) is old before its time.

Cheap, recyclable, and highly efficient, Organic Light – Emitting Electrochemical Cells ( LEC’s) sound fine but, having read one too many articles about big breakthroughs followed by deep and long lasting silence, MISTER ScienceAinSoBad is becoming a bit jaundiced. We’ll spare this fascinating tease a ScienceAintSoBadRAting = 7 until it shows itself to be a game changer.

Behaving Robotically

Posted by on Saturday, 6 February, 2010

Employee Killer (uh.. EmployMENT Killer)

Jobs Jobs Jobs

We need more jobs, right? Maybe General Motors and NASA are a little “off message” here.

They’re creating “Robonaut 2“, a humanoid robot worker that any productivity – hungry, greedy corporation would LOVE to get its mitts around.

See, workplace robots aren’t easily mistaken for somebody you went out with last year. They tend to have wrenches for arms and stuff.

Hmm.. I take it back.

Anyway, the philosophy behind workplace robots is “form follows function”. In fact, it’s kinda reassuring when they look like machines. Easier to tell the difference between a robot and a me.

But at the Johnson Space Center, they attacked the problem quite differently because they need human assistants to work beside their astronauts. If you want a robot working beside you, it needs to be compatible with its human partners who do not HAVE little sockets to accept various special purpose tools. So Robonaut 2 (the familiar form of its name seems to be R2) can swap tools with its partners and is less likely to accidentally sideswipe a hapless spaceman (or woman) and send him.her spinning into space.

As far as gender is concerned, Robonaut 2 seems less likely to get tossed out of the men’s room than the ladies room with its current chestal configuration but I don’t see anything in the specs on the subject. Maybe its humanoid features aren’t THAT specific.

You may find it reassuring to note that doesn’t look cheap to make.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 7 and we’ll watch this development.

If You Only Took One Pill, What Would It Be?

Posted by on Monday, 1 February, 2010

Take THAT!

Nutrition: The Everything Pill!


For the elderly, it helps sharpen memory and reduces falls.

It’s effective against  chron’s disease and cancer and PMS and gum disease.

It  helps with insomnia and prevents  skeletal defects.

And, by the way, it also works against stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, depression, pain, ,  cardiac disease and can defend against multiple sclerosis.

Let’s see. What else?

Oh.  You know about telomeres, the little twisty ties at the end of chromosomes which keep them from falling apart? This thing I’m describing protects the twisty ties and  slows down the aging process. Pretty good, huh?

I’ll skip the rest of the benefits (there  are more). You get my point.

Just got a telegram from a reader who  says: “You’re full of CRAP! And, even if such a thing DID exist, I couldn’t afford it and the side effects would  melt me”.

Dear Reader

Just hold yer water there, Dear Reader.

Let’s start with price.

You can buy it over-the-counter for less than 2 cents a pill and it’s FDA approved.

As far as side effects are concerned, none I can find unless you stuff so many down your gullet that you choke. Or overdose. And I’m not even sure you CAN overdose. There’s some controversy as to whether there  is a toxic level. If there is, it takes a systematic effort over a long time to build it up in your body fat.  In other words, you really gotta try.

Enough with the long run up. I guess you’ll be surprised to learn that “it”  is vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin.”

The Clues

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad tries to stay on top of relevant news.

Keeps him busy.

While skimming through the blizzard of buzz about science and technology, I  began to  notice studies about vitamin D which were related to all KINDS of things like stroke, chron’s, multiple sclerosis, and on and on, and on..

This is a LITTLE blog.  A one- guy-when-he-has-a-chance-to-write blog.  I can’t comment on everything so I look for things that’re the most useful or relevant or interesting or amusing.

Nobody wants to hear about vitamins and minerals. I’m not yer mother.

But the articles and studies kept coming  until, FINALLY, I started to get the picture. This isn’t just a pill. This is a PILL!


The “crept up on us” factor

“D” was “discovered” in 1905 ( William Fletcher). Before that, remedies for rickets and scurvy (deficiency diseases) were recognized, consisting of  certain foods that we now know were D – rich.

By the modern era, sailors were smart enough to avoid scurvy by keeping a few oranges around (after there was a way to keep them cool). Course the issue became kinda moot when steam engines made  ocean crossings shorter.

We were conquering D deficiency.

Then we got REALLY smart.

We discovered that the sun can cause skin cancer and we started wearing big hats. And sun block. And watching flat screen TV’s.


And now, one in seven teens is deficient in vitamin D (even by traditional measures).  And it’s starting to sound like much of the population needs a D tune up (in part because of the recognition that the prior minimum daily dose was insufficient for all its possible uses).

How much?

Many of the benefits of D that are discussed here are pretty new and the entire question of how much is enough is under review. Walter Willett’s a smart guy as well as the chairman of the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department Of Nutrition. He says 1000 IU might be about right.

An extra orange or a tangerine in the morning couldn’t do you any harm either.

– – – – – – — –  A PostScript – – – – – – – –

An article by Tara Parker-Pope in the New York Times this morning, observing the claimed wide ranging benefits for vitamin D, throws (possible) scientific cold water at it. Where are the randomized clinical trials? These are mere correlations. Correlations aren’t NECESSARILY cause and effect. Maybe staying healthy RAISES levels of vitamin D.

Science can be SUCH  a BUMMER!

Take your D.