Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Archive for the ‘Biology and Health’ Category

Scopes Monkey Bill – Victory for anti-Science

Posted by Dave Bath on 2012-04-15

"Tennessee Monkey Bill Becomes Law" (Nature News 2012-04-11) reports the continuing death-throeas of Thomas Jeffersons informed and active citizenry essential for democracy, at least in the USA.

The infamous 1925 "Scopes Monkey Trial" pitched Tennessee against a teacher who dared to cover Darwin and evolution in class.

The governor of Tennessee has allowed the passage of the ‘monkey bill’, giving public-school teachers licence to teach alternatives to those mainstream scientific theories often attacked by religious and political conservatives.

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Posted in Biology and Health, Education, Politics, Society, Theology and Religion, USA | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The higher you are, the more you overestimate yourself

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-07-29

Is this why the bastards high up in penthouse and executive suites think they are better than everyone else – because of where they spend their time?  Perhaps even why "upstairs" thinks "downstairs" are worth less?

"Higher Height, Higher Ability: Judgment Confidence as a Function of Spatial Height Perception" (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022125) looks at self-perception of ability, and shows being higher (or even thinking you are up higher) makes you pump up estimates of your own judgement and abilities.

Based on grounded cognition theories, the current study showed that judgments about ability were regulated by the subjects’ perceptions of their spatial height. In Experiment 1, we found that after seeing the ground from a higher rather than lower floor, people had higher expectations about their performance on a knowledge test and assigned themselves higher rank positions in a peer comparison evaluation. In Experiment 2, we examined the boundary conditions of the spatial height effects and showed that it could still occur even if we employed photos rather than actual building floors to manipulate the perceptions of spatial heights.

So… it would be interesting to do followup studies on wage differentials, workplace attitudes (including friction, resentfulness, arrogance) from staff to senior management, and from senior management to staff, based on building layout.

What effect does this have on resistance of those on high to requests or suggestions from those on the ground floor, and what might this do to organizational efficiency?

Hell, in city blocks, adjusting for rent differences and wages, do voting intentions change?  Might this paper affect town planning for high-rise buildings, one party pushing it more than another, even pushing it more or less depending on how marginal a seat is?

No wonder Kirk never took any real notice of Scotty down in the engine saying "She canna handle any more o’ this Cap’n"!

Posted in Biology and Health, Economics and Business, Politics, Science and Tech, Society | 1 Comment »

Coming soon – GDP per cm, not just per cap

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-07-25

If the figures in this economics research paper stand up (ahem) on nation-by-nation economic performance, one wonders whether performance of individual companies might show the same correlation, … and intrusive x-rays might be used during hiring procedures, but hopefully not included in the company prospectus.

The research shows a relationship between average erect male member length and economic growth – an inverted U shape – with not-too-big, not-too-small, but just right (13.5 cm), leading to the best economic growth.

Imagine the spam: "Dear CEO – are you giving your stakeholders enough satisfaction?"  Imagine the econometric pages – we might get gory statistics on current accounts and budget balances per-cm as well as per-cap.

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Even in bold print, retractions do not fix the damage

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-07-19

The adage "act first, apologise later" has extra truth in it given new research on the persistent effect of lies/misinformation, even when strongly counteracted.

The research indicates just how damaging the lies and innuendos of dodgy politicians and press can be – retractions and corrections have relatively little effect on later decisions by victims.

It means truth in advertising, and even more, truth in reporting, needs heavy-handed policing, heavy penalties for intentional misrepresentation, and strong statutes.

Research reported in Scientific American "Lingering Lies: The persistent influence of misinformation" gives a stunning example of just how strong the effect misinformation, even when immediately corrected, can have.

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House a possum, not a cat

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-05-01

It is good to see the use of possum-boxes advocated in "The Possum Wars" (The Sunday Age, 2011-05-01), but it didn’t push the point that there should be a war on the far more noisy and destructive mammal in our cities – the cat.

Cats, for their massacre of native fauna, could be called "furry cane toads" – but that would be unkind to cane toads which at least don’t impose a significant cost to human health (see "Kill cats – save humans and the health budget" – 2009-06-09).

Possums might be a little annoying with their kxkxxxx noises during the mating season, but they don’t make noises all damn year, and don’t mimic the sound of a human baby crying.  That sound gets deep down, reaches into even my sleep, and wakes me up, having grabbed at my basic human instincts to attend to a distressed infant.

Possums?  They make good "wild buddies" for the famil – while you cannot establish the reciprocal affection you can with a magpie family, it’s pretty easy to develop some trust from them.

Personally, I think kids can learn as much, if not more, from a wild buddy than a pet.

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Posted in Australia, Biology and Health, Environment | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

Health funds admit they should not exist

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-04-03

It’s good when an advertiser tells the unvarnished truth, sad when you realize that neither people mor government are prepared to join the dots… and the advertisers know this.

The ad in question was for a health fund.  The argument was "use us because we pay out 96 percent of what we collect in premiums, the average health fund returns 91 percent."

In other words, if the 5% difference makes it worthwhile switching to them from a more wasteful place to put your month, the extra 4% from putting your premium under the mattress is even more attractive, and you’d do much better putting it in a bank for another couple of percent.

In other words, they admit the nation is better off without a health fund, or that the best health fund is a bank, where you are guaranteed a few per cent more than you put in.

It would be bad enough if only stupid individuals were being sucked in, but that governments subsidize premiums, knowing they are throwing taxpayer funds down the drain – well, that is stupid, if not corrupt.

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Posted in Australia, Biology and Health, Economics and Business, Governance, Politics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

A yummy way to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s on the cards

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-01-30

Cinnamon toast – always loved it – and now there’s a new excuse for the luxury – to prevent Alzheimer’s Dementia (AD) – and some hope it’ll reverse some of the problems of that nasty disease.

"Orally Administrated Cinnamon Extract Reduces β-Amyloid Oligomerization and Corrects Cognitive Impairment in Alzheimer’s Disease Animal Models" in PLosOne (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016564 – published 2011-01-28) includes the following:

Our results present a novel prophylactic approach for inhibition of toxic oligomeric Aβ species formation in AD through the utilization of a compound that is currently in use in human diet.

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Posted in Biology and Health | Leave a Comment »

Jan 26 – color matters

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-01-26

I just discovered that January 26 has a significant event, and that color is the issue, and will be remembered all around the world.

OK, not really that significant: Facebook End Colorblind Confusion (For a Day…) – "please" attend by wearing an uncolored shirt – white, grey or black.

Yep…. we aren’t colorblind, we are color confused, we’ll mix them up, give them the wrong name, have trouble if they are similar saturations… (resources to test and simulate what we see over the fold)

So as an example of the 1-in-20 males with characteristics essential to survival of the human race a hundred thousand years ago, the guy in the hunting party who wasn’t fooled by mainstream camouflage, the one who said "throw your spears and rocks over there" at something we wanted to eat, or wanted to eat us, I offer a few giggles, hopefully for all of us, although for different reasons.

Now, I’m told I might need to be careful with one of the following images – but I cannot tell which for sure.

Give Love To The Colorblind 1

Give Love To The Colorblind 2

More images, and some references to tests and simulations so you normal folk can see what we see over the fold.

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Posted in Biology and Health, Civil rights, Humor, Science and Tech, Society | 6 Comments »

Obesity incidence underestimated and threshold overestimated

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-09-01

A study of US population weights, adjusted for birth cohorts, suggests weights ballooned decades earlier than generally accepted, so diagnostic indicators need to be tightened, many now labelled "normal" are actually overweight, and stronger action against the obesity epidemic is needed.

The flawed indicators are used here in Oz as well as the US.

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Posted in Biology and Health, Science and Tech, Society | 1 Comment »

Is sugar the gateway drug to cocaine?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-02-19

Those wanting action on adolescent obesity have got a good tabloid headline in their kit-bag, thanks to a new paper (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009296 in PLoS that links adolescent (but not) sugar overconsumption with a liking for cocaine in later life, not through correlative statistics, but by messing with the dopamine-related reward pathways in the brain.

It’s more than likely gambling and other addictive behaviours could have sugar as a gateway drug as well.

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Posted in Biology and Health, Politics, Science and Tech, Society | 2 Comments »

The best electioneering hat…

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-02-02

Electioneering honesty could be ensured if politicians wore funny hats, of a very special kind.

"Can a Brain Scan Predict a Broken Promise?" (Sci Am Online 2010-02-02) looks at results that seem to detect an intention to cheat when the deal is being made.

Hmmm… maybe there is application of these funny hats for use when signing contracts!

I bet this research won’t be getting much "innovation assistance" funding from politicians.

Posted in Biology and Health, Politics, Science and Tech | Leave a Comment »

Do you call a drunk bat “wingless”?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-01-31

Some bats seem to love their booze, and fly faster through obstacle courses when they are drunk.

"Drinking and Flying: Does Alcohol Consumption Affect the Flight and Echolocation Performance of Phyllostomid Bats?" (PLoS One, 2010-02-01 officially) has experimenters thinking about whether the fermented fruit bats eat (which can get up to 4.5% alcohol in some parts of the world) would affect the way they deal with an obstacle flying course made of linked plastic chains about a wingspan apart.

Well, some species appeared to get quite drunk as far as blood levels went, with a significant number getting themselves above 0.3%BAC, and some species avoided stronger alcohol unless they were hungry, yet apart from speed (some species slowing down when drunk, others speeding up), behaviour was unaffected.

It looks like the ability to handle your drink is important for bat evolution.

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Chimps, altruism, and helping with the kids of others

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-01-30

Further to "Adoptive chimp single dads and the evolution of altruism" (2010-01-28), another pointer, to a chimp, Anjana, an "assistant" at a zoo, that has fostered tigers, leopards and orangs, titled "A Mom is A Mom no matter what the species".

Also, look down the bottom for the discussion of chimps and non-reciprocal (don’t expect anything in return) altruism in "Of rats and men: generalized reciprocal altruism" (2007-07-10), as well as "Human Rights: a regressive concept" (2008-05-04) and its links.

Unlike many photos of cute animals, where the punchline comes from a caption, here, the eyes have it.

Anjana the chimp and fostered tiger

Anjana the chimp and fostered tiger

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Posted in Biology and Health, Ethics, Science and Tech, Society | 8 Comments »

Treating cannabis “problems” with cannabis

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-01-27

By the look of a recent paper in Nature Neuropsychopharmacology, the problems of psychosis caused (in the small number of people that are susceptible) by smoking too much cannabis could possibly be cured by…. smoking cannabis!  It’s the strain that makes the difference, suggesting that a "government approved labelling standard" and a different legal status for each strain might be worthwhile – or even that the government should give away seeds from good strains!

There are two major cannabinoids in Cannabis sativa, Δ-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD), both of which are psychoactive (especially for medicinal purposes like painkilling), but with THC being the most intoxicating.

It seems that for those few that can be pushed towards or into psychosis by pot smoking, it’s the THC that causes the problems, while CBD not only doesn’t cause the problem, but protects against at least some the dangers of THC.

This might well tie in with the newer strains of cannabis, "skunk", that have much higher levels of THC and lower levels of CBD, probably by a skewing of the metabolic pathways away from CBD in favor of THC rather than simply increasing the amount of THC produced by upping activity of the pathways leading to both.

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Posted in Biology and Health, Civil rights, Economics and Business, Law, Politics, Science and Tech | 2 Comments »

When is a toy not a toy?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-01-26

…. when it’s a toy that goes hum in the night.

Consumer Affairs Minister Craig Emerson (one of the more useful members of the KRudd government in my opinion) has announced a long-overdue "Ban on pthalates in toys" (2010-01-25) is good news – but does it go far enough – cover enough toys?

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Posted in Australia, Biology and Health, Economics and Business, Politics | Leave a Comment »

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