Science and Technology links (March 23rd 2019)

  1. Half of American households subscribe to “Amazon Prime”, a “club membership” for Amazon customers with monthly fees. And about half of these subscribes buy something from Amazon every week. If you are counting, this seems to imply that at least a quarter of all American households order something from Amazon every week.
  2. How do the preprints that researchers post online freely differ from genuine published articles that underwent peer review? Maybe less than you’d expect:

    our results show that quality of reporting in preprints in the life sciences is within a similar range as that of peer-reviewed articles

  3. Very low meat consumption might increase the long-term risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
  4. We appear to be no closer to find a cure for Alzheimer’s despite billions being spent each year in research and clinical trials. Lower writes:

    Something is wrong with the way we’re thinking about Alzheimer’s (…) It’s been wrong for a long time and that’s been clear for a long time. Do something else.

  5. Many researchers use “p values” (a statistical measure) to prove that their results are “significant”. Ioannidis argues that most research should not rely on p values.
  6. Eating nuts improves cognition (nuts make you smart).
  7. As we age, we become more prone to diabetes. According to an article in Nature, senescent cells in the immune system may lead to diabetes. Senescent cells that are cells that should be dead due to damage or too many divisions, but they refuse to die.
  8. Hospitalizations for heart attacks have declined by 38% in the last 20 years and mortality is at all time low. Though clinicians and health professionals take the credit, I am not convinced we understand the source of this progress.
  9. In stories, females identify more strongly with their own gender whereas males identify equally with either gender.
  10. Theranos was a large company that pretended to be able to do better blood tests. The company was backed by several granted patents. Yet we know that Theranos technology did not work. The problem we are facing now is that Theranos patents, granted on false pretenses and vague claims, remain valid and will hurt genuine inventors in the future. If we are to have patents at all, they should only be granted for inventions that work. Nazer argues that the patent system is broken.
  11. Smaller groups tend to create more innovative work, and larger groups less so.
  12. The bones of older people become fragile. A leading cause of this problem is the fact stem cells in our bones become less active. It appears that this is caused by excessive inflammation. We can create it in young mice by exposing them to the blood serum of old mice. We can also reverse it in old mice by using an anti-inflammatory drug (akin to aspirin).
  13. Gene therapy helped mice regain sight lost due to retinal degeneration. It could work in human beings too.
  14. Based on ecological models, scientists predicted over ten years ago that polar bear populations would soon collapse. That has not happened: there may be several times more polar bears than decades ago. It is true that ice coverage is lower than it has been historically due to climate change, but it is apparently incorrect to assume that polar bears need thick ice; they may in fact thrive when the ice is thin and the summers are long. Crowford, a zoologist and professor at the University of Victory tells the tale in her book The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

3 thoughts on “Science and Technology links (March 23rd 2019)”

  1. Great for the polar bears. A small amount of hope in the face of global warming.

    We need to arrest global warming, but will fail to some degree. We will need to adapt.

  2. Let the polar bears die!
    They are the only big predator which deliberately hunt humans as food.
    None other does this except accidentally.

    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man-eater says “Most reported cases of man-eaters [an individual animal that preys on humans as a pattern of hunting behavior] have involved lions, tigers, leopards, and crocodilians. However, they are by no means the only predators that will attack humans if given the chance; a wide variety of species have also been known to adopt humans as usual prey, including bears, Komodo dragons and hyenas.”

      Further, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bear_attack#Polar_bears says “Polar bear attacks on humans are extremely rare, but according to records by James Wilder, there have been only 20 fatal polar bear attacks out of 73 fatal attacks between 1870 and 2014.”

      While the next section reports that sloth bears are more deadly: “In Madhya Pradesh, sloth bear attacks accounted for the deaths of 48 people and the injuring of 686 others between the years 1989 and 1994, probably due in part to the density of population and competition for food sources. One specimen, known as the sloth bear of Mysore, was single-handedly responsible for the deaths of 12 people and the mutilation of 2 dozen others before being shot by Kenneth Anderson.”

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