Science and Technology links (July 13th 2019)

  1. Drinking juice increases your risk of having cancer.
  2. College completion rates are increasing and this may have to do with lower standards.
  3. Australia is going to try a flu vaccine that was partially designed with help from an artificial intelligence called Sam. Sam acquires knowledge and has new ideas, according to its creators. I think that this is misleading wording. What is real, however, is that we routinely underutilize software: many designs that are made entirely by human beings could be greatly improved via software. We are nowhere close to the end of the information technology revolution.
  4. Videoconferencing is now common. We know that it does not work as well as it should in part because we keep looking at the screen, not at the camera, and this breaks eye contact… an important behavior for human beings. Apple is deploying a fix for this problem in its own videoconferencing software by slightly altering the image to make it appear as if you were looking straight at the camera. It should be available publicly in a few months. Hopefully, other videoconferencing software will follow the lead.
  5. Omega 3 supplements lower risk of heart attacks. Calcium with vitamin D increases the risk of strokes. Multivitamins and antioxidants have no significant effect on mortality.
  6. People who live in cities are not less civil than people who live in the country. I think that if you live in a city, you have more social interactions and are therefore more likely to have rude encounters per time period. However, people in a big city are just as nice as people in a village, on average.
  7. Women with children who drink alcohol and use illegal substances are more likely to be a relationship.
  8. Researchers who study obesity frequently (50% of the time) confuse correlation or association with causality.
  9. Though the United States is often thought to be a a leader in research, in a comparison between the leading economies (G20), the researchers found that the output and impact of American researchers are in decline and that the output per researcher has fallen below the G20 average.
  10. Most new drugs entering the market are useless. I think that this should be expected: progress is hard and most of our attempts fail, even if we can only recognize the failures much later. In my mind, we should not worry that too many useless drugs are marketed, we should fear that companies shy away from risky new ventures. Don’t blame the innovators when they take risks and fail, encourage them to fail more often, to take bigger risks.
  11. Though our brains make new brain cells all the time, this effect (neurogenesis) can be slowed or prevented by our own immune system.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

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

3 thoughts on “Science and Technology links (July 13th 2019)”

  1. Drinking juice…
    What everybody overlook about “healthy juice” is that it is very, very loaded with fructose and in quickly assimilated form (all liquid, no “ballast”) and stresses the liver almost as badly as alcohol.

  2. For the first link on the consumption of sugary drinks (including juice) I wonder how they dealt with time in their statistics. That is, I presume that when diagnosed with cancer, people are quite likely to make lifestyle changes, including changes in diet. It seems possible that one of these changes might be drinking more fruit juice, either for energy, or in the possibly mistaken belief that it’s a healthier choice. I scanned the article and supplementary data, but didn’t see any mention of longitudinal changes like this. Is there a “best practice” in accounting for this?

    1. As far as I can tell, the study can’t establish causality as it is a prospective study. So there are probably many confounding factors…

      To me, the interest is that it challenges our preconceived notion that juices are healthy (which they may yet be, but where is the proof?)

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