Archive for October, 2009

Healthcare My Butt!

Posted by on Friday, 23 October, 2009

Image by me


My wife and I have been trying to figure out what’s what with medical costs.

Haven’t you?

Why is it that costs in this country are so dramatically much higher than elsewhere?

Is it simple “greed” or incompetence?A target for frustration is always so nice.

Dr. Hannah Wunsch, of Columbia led a study that took a good look at how much time we Americans spend expiring in the most expensive part of the hospital.

Or just being old.

WHAT a surprise! We spend lots more time vegetating in the ICU than our English counterparts. She (and her colleagues) leave open the question of whether this difference is due to humane and sound decisions (a good thing) or rationing (a bad thing?).

Science Ain’t So Bad thinks this is a good study and hopes it will help to guide policy discussions in our country. But the authors were too timid and should have said that it isn’t health care that’s being rationed when you’re beyond help. It’s something else.

And that something else can be found at home.


And better.

ScienceaintSoBadRating= 10

Pancreatic Cancer And Libraries and Whatnot

Posted by on Thursday, 8 October, 2009

photo courtesy of Creative Commons

LibaryScience:The Future Of Libaries

Books are being digitized.

Google’s taking the lead.

Having already digitized several million books, Google hopes to become a digital “Library of Alexandria”, a modest claim since the collection of the ancient Greeks was nothing compared to what has already been digitized by the big G.

But, in its day, the Library of Alexandria, with its 700,000 volumes of manuscripts, was the best library anywhere.

This seems to be Google’s hope too.

700,000 volumes is just spit in the ocean, these days. According to the Trivia Library, 277 of our books were written by a single person – Alexandre Duma pere (remember The Three Musketeers?) and that was before we had word processors. Two more writers, Mary Faulkner and Lauran Payne, have written a combined total of over 1650 books. If there’s a lost art, it isn’t the art of writing books.

Amazon presently sells more than 14 million different titles.

Google wants ’em all.

The specific agreement with the Authors Guild covering Google’s right to capture and distribute a wide variety of books including those that are out-of-print isn’t screwed down yet. There’s more suing and defending to be done.

But with, maybe, some modifications, Google is likely to prevail.

I assume that old-fashioned books will continue to be bought and sold for many years. Some say that digitization will even be good for the trade.

But what about libraries? How will such easy online access to books affect the repositories of printed material? What form will libraries take in the future? Will they disappear? Will they adapt? And what adaptations would make sense?

This year, there’s lots of talk about electronic books. But until recently, the idea was mostly dismissed as silly. Nothing could replace the experience of the printed page and no electronic device was gonna change that.

I don’t know what got into the book traditionalists. Was it Google? Was it Amazon’s Kindle or Sony’s Reader? Or does it just take time for a new reality to sink in? But the inevitability of e-books isn’t far fetched anymore.

Whether books will endure or not, Googleizing them WILL turn your browser into a library and may EVENTUALLY undermine the old public libraries. And, meanwhile, the stubborn defenders of books have mutated into the stubborn defenders of the buildings that hold them.

Suddenly, libaries are wonderful places. Romantic. We’ve always loved them. With dusty printed matter out of the way, they would be good places to come to for community gatherings and ideal places to digitally look at books. Maybe they could be art centers.

I dunno. It doesn’t work for me.

I’m thinking an old library would be a great place for a gas station.


If the fluid pressure in your eye gets too high, it can harm the optic nerve and hurt your vision or cause blindness. The primary way Glaucoma is treated involves the drainage of this fluid – usually with drops, sometimes with surgery. But this development describes a whole new system of drainage.

Totally unknown till now.

A system for circulation of lymph in the eye just like in other parts of the body.


Glaucoma’s complicated. And intraoccular pressure isn’t always behind the degeneration of nerves (neuropathy). But getting the pressure down IS the focus of most therapy so this development is, potentially, a big deal.

Nice study. Nice conclusion.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 10


Hearing loss is one of my favorite topics. Wearing hearing aids’ll do that.

The authors of this study, Josef Shargorodsky, Gary Curhan; Sharon, Curhan and Ronald Eavey, found that the much touted anti-oxidants don’t do a dang thing for hearing loss. Folates, on the other hand, seem to be truly effective, reducing the risk of hearing loss by 20% which, from a public health standpoint, is big.

Folates? They’re all over the place. Spinach, lettuce, turnips, beans, peas.

Fresh salad with your meals may be all it takes.

And, while we’re on the subject (of hearing loss), a group from the Scripps Research Institute is onto something too. They’ve discovered a gene which is related specifically to “age related hearing loss”. Since that’s the type of hearing loss that’s most prevalent, could be a good thing. LOTS of work to be done yet.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 7


The five year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is less than 5%. Dismal. This is primarily because most cancers of the pancreas aren’t caught until they’re quite advanced.

In fact there may be some early warning signs such as suddenly getting diabetes or persistently itchy feet. But wouldn’t it be great if there were a really reliable detection system?

Work in this area is intense. This, this, this, and this give some indication of the newest stuff.

Maybe one of these hopeful ideas will lead to real progress in catching cancer of the pancreas early. If ScienceAintSoBad had fingers, they would be crossed.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 6/10 (6 because it’s too early to know, 10 because of the importance. Make that an 11.)