Science and Technology links (February 8th 2020)

  1. It is often believed that radiations are bad for you. To the contrary, David et al. report that life expectancy is approximately 2.5 years longer in people living in areas with an elevated background radiation in the USA.
  2. Birth order, that is whether you are the oldest or youngest sibling, is independently associated with a number of health and performance metrics. The first born is usually more fit and stable. Lin et al. argue that the main explanation might be that younger siblings are more likely to have been unwanted.
  3. The University of California has completely cancelled its subscription to research papers by Elsevier. Elsevier is one of the most important scientific publisher. It is also a for-profit publisher.
  4. Low levels of Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), often qualified as “bad cholesterol”, are strongly and independently associated with increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and all-cause mortality according to a Korean study made of hundreds of thousands of human subjects. This new study puts into question mainstream beliefs about “bad cholesterol”.
  5. Education is strongly associated with better health and better longevity. However, after controlling for income and living conditions, the relationship between health and education evaporates.
  6. Harvard’s George Church has created a startup that will use an anti-aging gene therapy to increase the longevity of dogs. It is based on previous work done on mice and reported in a paper entitled A single combination gene therapy treats multiple age-related diseases (source: PNAS).
  7. As we age, 90% of us will get gray hair. It is often believed to be an irreversible process. Researchers at the University of Alabama found strong evidence that it is not the case and they believe that hair graying can be reversed. They are launching a company to develop the therapy. Note that there is documented but anecdotal evidence for gray-hair reversal, e.g., in cancer patients.

Daniel Lemire, "Science and Technology links (February 8th 2020)," in Daniel Lemire's blog, February 8, 2020.

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Daniel Lemire

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

3 thoughts on “Science and Technology links (February 8th 2020)”

  1. Re #1: unless the full paper describes some kind of interesting new causation associated with background radiation, I find the methodology and conclusions absurd. The analogy is doing a large scale comparative analysis of a specific toxin where all measurements are orders of magnitude below well established toxic levels. If they showed that Port Hope, Ontario had lower cancer rates I’d pay attention.

    Re #3: Related to your previous post, Elsevier’s business model is the result of the long established practice of academics giving away the copyright of their papers to the publishing journal. Mental health issues aside, this issue contributed significantly to the tragic suicide of Aaron Swartz.

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