Showing posts with label Science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Science. Show all posts

Monday, September 21, 2020

We Do Not Have a Functioning CDC Right Now



This is bullshit:

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday abruptly reverted to its previous guidance about how coronavirus is transmitted, removing language about airborne transmission it had posted just days earlier. 

 "A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency's official website. CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted," Jason McDonald, a CDC spokesman, said in a response emailed to CNN.

The guidance had been quietly updated on Friday, according to the CDC's website. CNN was first to report the change on Sunday. The CDC responded to CNN just before noon on Monday to say it was reverting to the previous guidance.

Despite several studies that have shown the novel coronavirus can spread through small particles in the air, the CDC page now says that Covid-19 is thought to spread mainly between people in close contact -- about 6 feet -- and "through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks." This is the same language it posted months ago.

There is no way to say this without sounding shrill. The CDC has stopped functioning as an agency. It is now an arm of the Trump Re-Election Campaign. It is no longer a Federal agency devoted to protecting the American people or using science to advance our understanding of diseases.

People need to start walking out the door. I understand that there are no more whistleblower protections in place. Hell, there aren't many Inspectors General left either. But, damn. We are in a terrible place right now and people are dying.










Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Understanding the Meltdown


I don't know about you, but when I go looking for a diversion, I really don't need to hear more bad news on top of all the bad news we're faced with each and every day. However, the need to understand what's happening in our world takes precedent. As Antarctica goes, so goes the whole planet.

Scientists may just have identified Thwaites Glacier's Achilles heel.

This Antarctic colossus is melting at a rapid rate, dumping billions of tonnes of ice in the ocean every year and pushing up global sea-levels.

Now, a UK-US team has surveyed the deep seafloor channels in front of the glacier that almost certainly provide the access for warm water to infiltrate and attack Thwaites' underside.

It's information that will be used to try to predict the ice stream's future.

"These channels had not been mapped before in this kind of detail, and what we've discovered is that they're actually much bigger than anyone thought - up to 600m deep. Think of six football pitches back to back," said Dr Kelly Hogan from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

"And because they are so deep, and so wide - this allows a lot more water to get at, and melt, Thwaites' floating front as well as its ice that rests on the seabed," she told BBC News. 

If you need some good news, think of the dedication of these scientists. They may not be able to solve the problem but the fact that they're working on it is worth praise.




Monday, July 13, 2020

That's Doctor Fauci to You


Incredible as it may seem, the White House is attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci instead of taking steps to save the lives of the American people:
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta shared insight Monday morning into how Dr. Anthony Fauci — the visible face of the White House's coronavirus task force — has been feeling since the White House tried to discredit him.
Asked by "New Day" anchor John Berman about reports Fauci will be at the White House later on Monday, Gupta responded, "I think he wants to stick around. I think he's feeling a little beaten up by all this — I think there's no question about it — but he has seen a lot of support."
Gupta, who speaks regularly to Fauci, continued, "Again, we are learning as we go along here. Nobody knew everything from the very start, including Dr. Fauci, but that's very different than saying the guy was intentionally wrong or somehow misleading in some way, which seemed to be the suggestion."
Any expertise or credibility that threatens Trump's reign of error must be destroyed, apparently. Anyone who has the experience and knowledge to keep the American people safe and stop the spread of the pandemic is a political "threat" to Trump and this should be exposed for what it is by the media--an admission of incompetence and guilt and nothing more.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Experts Weigh In


Well, do I base all of my decisions on what Megan McArdle thinks or do I adopt Nate Silver's tone of mighty overcorrection and go down with guns blazing?

Listen, the mustard man is on to something here. We should listen to epidemiologists, but perhaps not the ones that are afraid to speak up in case Trump fires them.

Never in American history--and I don't use this comparison lightly--have we been less prepared for a disaster and more inundated with the foolhardy opinions of wankers than we are right now. People who have zero experience, training, or credentials are writing opinion pieces seen by millions without any regard for the harm or disinformation they are spreading.

The coronavirus sure is dangerous, but what's more of a threat are the hacks and weasels who think they understand it better than the experts.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Don't Take Trump's Advice


Trump is literally killing people, and there's no way to stop him:
US President Donald Trump claimed at a White House briefing last week that the Food and Drug Administration had approved the "very powerful" drug chloroquine to treat coronavirus.
"It's shown very encouraging -- very, very encouraging early results. And we're going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately. And that's where the FDA has been so great. They -- they've gone through the approval process; it's been approved. And they did it -- they took it down from many, many months to immediate. So we're going to be able to make that drug available by prescription or states," Trump said.
He added: "Normally the FDA would take a long time to approve something like that, and it's -- it was approved very, very quickly and it's now approved, by prescription."
However, the FDA after the briefing issued a statement saying it had not approved the drug for use against Covid-19 and is still studying its effectiveness against the disease.
We all know that there was a man in Washington State who died after using it, and his wife is in critical condition. Did you know that it's now sold out on some websites that carry the drug?


Part of the problem is, there are no warnings about how the drug should be used and the old marketing language is still up, likely misleading people:


Thanks to Trump, people are going to be injured or even die from using something that he has been hyping. Welcome to the Idiocracy.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

A Reminder of What is Being Destroyed


If the Democrats had taken back the Senate last year, I'm convinced they could have stopped entirely the insanity of building a bio-diversity killing wall on our southern border. This story reminds us of what is at stake, and it's one of the few clear and stark warnings that people have been ignoring in the Trump era:
The National Butterfly Center, in danger of losing access to most of its wildlife nature preserve along the Rio Grande, is asking a court to stop federal officials from building a border wall across its land. 
The North American Butterfly Association first sued more than a year ago after government officials allegedly cut down trees and cleared brush on its Texas property. The planned wall would cut the 100-acre property in two, with as much as 70 percent of the land inaccessible between the wall and the Rio Grande, Butterfly Center Executive Director Marianna Trevino Wright has told NPR. 
Trevino Wright told CNN last week that the case had been "languishing" in the court since then and that she was exploring further legal action. This week, she asked the court to stop the government from bringing heavy machinery onto its land, until the court can rule on its original 2017 request. 
It's the latest court challenge brought by environmental groups that lament the damage caused by construction of barriers between U.S. and Mexico. On Monday, a federal court ruled that the Trump administration has broad authority to waive environmental laws in the name of border security. The Department of Homeland Security has already said it will waive regulations to build along the Rio Grande.
The wall continues, unabated. It's the stupidest goddamn thing we could be doing, and it won't accomplish anything, but welcome to the Trump era. It cannot end soon enough, and, when it does, we will be spending a lot of time, energy, and money to put things right. What a waste.

Monday, April 7, 2014

It's Not Controversial Because It's Dumb




The damage that bullshit does to our society is evident all around us. Witness the decision by Chili's to cancel a fundraiser for Autism because the people they partnered with persist in spreading bullshit far and wide:


In recent decades the decision of whether or not parents should vaccinate their children has become controversial because some have linked vaccinations to autism. Many opponents of vaccinations base their beliefs on a 1998 study that was declared fraudulent by a leading British medical journal. 


The NAA says the link between autism and vaccination mentioned on its site is based on "parent reports." 


"Though published mainstream science fails to acknowledge a causal link to any of these specific exposures, it's important that parental accounts be carefully considered," says the NAA on its website. 



It is not controversial. It's anti-intellectualism that ignores basic science and plays into the idea that people are "elite and special" and "care more than other parents" when they withhold vaccines from their kids. There really and truly are people who, by virtue of the fact that they make a little more money than everyone else, think that their own participation in the gene pool is an accident and that they have been bred to be superior than the lower class people who end up going to the same schools their special and talented and wonderful kids go to. 





They shop at Whole Foods and pay more for the same groceries that come from the same distribution centers in California and Florida that everyone else's groceries come from. They form their own self-deluding block of know-nothings who do not understand the basic history of science and medicine. They're dumbasses and they don't realize the danger they're putting everyone else in by believing their own lies.


The NAA site also mentions that unvaccinated children have been diagnosed with autism.


Which also means nothing because, you know, science and whatnot. If people actually cared about kids and stopped trying to make themselves appear to be smarter and more concerned than the imaginary people they compete with on a daily basis, you wouldn't have a resurgence of measles and whooping cough. You'd have properly vaccinated children living free and clear of the ravages of childhood diseases.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Depletable Self Control


See if you can spot the problem here:

Flannery O’Connor once described the contradictory desires that afflict all of us with characteristic simplicity. “Free will does not mean one will,” she wrote, “but many wills conflicting in one man.” The existence of appealing alternatives, after all, is what makes free will free: What would choice be without inner debate? We’re torn between staying faithful and that alluring man or woman across the room. We can’t resist the red velvet cake despite having sworn to keep our calories down. We buy a leather jacket on impulse, even though we know we’ll need the money for other things. Everyone is aware of such inner conflicts. But how, exactly, do we choose among them? As it turns out, science has recently shed light on the way our minds reconcile these conflicts, and the result has surprising implications for the way we think about one of society’s most intractable problems: poverty.
In the 1990s, social psychologists developed a theory of “depletable” self-control. The idea was that an individual’s capacity for exerting willpower was finite—that exerting willpower in one area makes us less able to exert it in other areas. In 1998, researchers at Case Western Reserve University published some of the young movement’s first returns. Roy Baumeister, Ellen Bratslavsky, Mark Muraven, and Dianne Tice set up a simple experiment. They had food-deprived subjects sit at a table with two types of food on it: cookies and chocolates; and radishes. Some of the subjects were instructed to eat radishes and resist the sweets, and afterwards all were put to work on unsolvable geometric puzzles. Resisting the sweets, independent of mood, made participants give up more than twice as quickly on the geometric puzzles. Resisting temptation, the researchers found, seemed to have “produced a ‘psychic cost.’”
Basically what they're saying here is that any time you have to make a compromise and resist temptation, your brain won't work as well when confronted with a problem you couldn't solve anyway. I don't know if that's a valid experiment, since it seems fairly common sense to me that if you deny yourself, and set that denial of gratification up in your brain, your brain will be less effective. Consider the same sort of experiment. But run it this way. For half of your subjects, tell them their car has been towed. They cannot resolve this issue until they complete the puzzle you put before them. Now, compare their results with the results of the people who didn't have their car towed away.

How is that much different from the original experiment and how is that a valid experiment?

Anyway, here's where we're headed with this:
Last December, Princeton economist Dean Spears published a series of experiments that each revealed how “poverty appears to have made economic decision-making more consuming of cognitive control for poorer people than for richer people.” In one experiment, poor participants in India performed far less well on a self-control task after simply having to first decide whether to purchase body soap. As Spears found, “Choosing first was depleting only for the poorer participants.” Again, if you have enough money, deciding whether to buy the soap only requires considering whether you want it, not what you might have to give up to get it. Many of the tradeoff decisions that the poor have to make every day are onerous and depressing: whether to pay rent or buy food; to buy medicine or winter clothes; to pay for school materials or loan money to a relative. These choices are weighty, and just thinking about them seems to exact a mental cost.
Again, how is this relevant? People who are living at a subsistence level exist from situation to situation. Let's consider Maslow's hierarchy of needs:

Plenty of people have issues with Maslow, and that's fine. I'm not using Maslow to attack anything. I'm just pointing out that if you are living at the bottom of the pyramid--and are looking for basic sustenance--your mind is not going to be free to accomplish great mental tasks unless you are an extraordinary individual. Maslow identified this in the 1950s with a rather stilted experiment. He used brilliant subjects to perform a basic organization of wants, needs, and all that. And, let's remember something--there are brilliant people who can function under such stress and accomplish great things. These are generalizations, not hard facts.

If you want to come up with another excuse as to why there's poverty, okay. I just think that anything that detracts from the most basic causes--unemployment, lack of education, lack of opportunity, an absence of basic social justice--you're handing the opponents of things like welfare and social programs another half-baked scientific theory.
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