Everything you need to know about science in the news

Sunday, 31/05/2009 ≅16:21 ©brainycat

The Science News Cycle

This is courtesy of the always entertaining and enlightening Mental Indigestion blog. It seems like everytime I see something interesting in mainstream media, the reality of the alleged research isn't as definitive as they would have you believe. But the reality of the reseach is also vastly more interesting, nuanced and ultimately enlightening. No wonder it doesn't make it into the pablum they spew into our tvs and all over our internets.



Finally, a reason to adopt twitter

Thursday, 21/05/2009 ≅11:24 ©brainycat

The Boston police department has informed it's citizenry that it will warn them of the zombiepocalypse. I only hope that Seattle's PD is as forward thinking as well. Of course, with all the hippies around here, it'll be a handful of gun owners and the cops vs. the unarmed zombies.



How to prepare for swine flu

Thursday, 30/04/2009 ≅16:09 ©brainycat

These are the most cogent, accurate and thoughtful websites I've found that deal with the H1N1 "swine flu" outbreak. The most important thing you can do for yourself and your household is to prepare yourself with knowledge. Epidemics don't work in the real world like they do in fiction (see The Stand, for example). Just because most patients recover and the bodies aren't piling up on your street does not mean this is "just another flu".

The Flu Wiki - A wiki brought to you by leaders in virology, epidemiology and health care
Wiki: http://www.fluwikie.com/
Forum: http://www.newfluwiki2.com

Effect Measure - A blog by an epidemiologist involved with federal efforts to track and prepare for pandemics
http://scienceblogs.com/effectmeasure

CDC swine flu information site
http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu

How to prepare your household for pandemic flu
http://www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/individual/index.html
http://www.getpandemicready.org
http://www.fluwikie.com/index.php?n=Consequences.HomeAlone

Homeopathic "Medicine" Scam Alert - Print a copy and distribute widely
http://www.youngausskeptics.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/swine-flu-scam-alert.pdf

WHO - What "level 5 pandemic" means
http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/phase/en

CDC - pandemics occur in waves, don't be lulled by a reduction of new cases
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol12no01/05-0979.htm

Tips and strategies for your workplace
http://www.uschamber.com/issues/index/defense/pandemic_influenza.htm



What’s the big deal about swine flu?

Monday, 27/04/2009 ≅13:22 ©brainycat

You've no doubt heard about the latest swine flu outbreak. If you're like me, you found yourself curious why this particular outbreak is worth so much attention. I poked around teh intertubes for awhile, and found out why swine flu is such a big deal.

Swine flu is a generic name for a class of viri that was responsible for the 1918-1919 pandemic that killed 2.5% of the world's known population. This latest variety of H1N1 is believed to have killed anywhere from 60 to 100 people in Mexico already, and cases have been reported around the globe already. This variant includes some proteins also found on the SARS virus H5N1. It is unclear at this time if this has any effects on it's communicability or lethality. The death rate in Mexico is not definitively known, but reports indicate it's about 7%, plus or minus a point or two. This, I believe, is an inflated rate, as it only counts the number of diagnosed survivors. No doubt quite a number of people got sick but did not seek hospitilization.

While "normal" flu viri kill less than one half of one percent of flu patients a year, these pandemic flus kill several orders of magnitude more. Being healthy is somewhat of a liablity, as the stronger the immunological response you can muster, the more phlegm is developed, which can drown the patient or invite massive secondary bacterial infections. Of course, immunocomprimised patients are always at risk.

Fifteen percent of the diagnosed patients in the US had taken the flu vaccine. The vaccine is tailored every year to strains that are expected to spread, but these projections are made months before flu season and prognosticating plague is a less than exact science. Personally, I wound up in the hospital with life-threatening intestinal flu the year I tried the vaccine, so I haven't touched it since.

This flu is probably more dangerous than H5N1, the famous avian flu. It's spreading faster, and has at least the same lethality if not more. Fortunately, we have drugs to combat it. Or rather, some people do:

The article went on to state that only up to a quarter of a given Western nation population (except Great Britain at fifty percent) can be treated with antiviral drugs from government stockpiles during the first pandemic wave. This would mean, as Australia's Dr. Buddhima Lokuge et.al. states (see eMJA article), Australian government stockpiled antivirals "will be limited and reserved for those on a confidential rationing list." The United States public are in the same boat and face an identical government policy situation -- selective rationing:*)

In economic news, analysts indicate that for the most part the scare has had a negative impact on the markets, but Roche (the manufacturer of Tamifil, manufacturer of the drug that the flu responds to the best) has gone up.

Will 2009 be remembered as the year the epidemic started? Will history's recollection overshadow the first non-white president for a submicroscopic sliver of protein and RNA? Will the wildly disparate availability of medicine and medical care be the catalyst for worldwide revolution? Hopefully not the former, hopefully the latter.

EDIT 4/29/2009
It appears the H1N1 swine flu has arrived in Seattle.



Who really pays taxes

Thursday, 16/04/2009 ≅12:21 ©brainycat

I didn't want to say anything about the nationwide teabagging. I didn't want to give those wackos that kind of credit. Of course, Dispatches from the Culture Wars came up with some info too good not to share.

Above and beyond the usual hypocrisy the right brought out for display, the baseless jingoism and thinly veiled theocratic and racist ideals, the right's ability to completely ignore the history of the last century and rewrite this centurie's history were soundly picked apart.

The best part, of course, was this post describing in detail, with congress' own data, how the tax rate today is less than it has been for most of the modern era. Additionally, the data clearly show that the wealthiest 20% pay approximately 50% of their tax rate, while the 80% that includes eeryone I know pays nearly 100% of our tax rate.



How Much Are You Worth?

Friday, 10/04/2009 ≅13:39 ©brainycat

First, they started siphoning gas out of cars. Then they started stealing copper cables and plumbing. Let's hope they don't get a chance to see this chart: (all cred to Science Punk)

from http://www.sciencepunk.com/v5/gallery/bodyfluids_log.png

from http://www.sciencepunk.com/v5/gallery/bodyfluids_log.png



God Says Aborted Fetuses Are Better Off

Friday, 10/04/2009 ≅11:12 ©brainycat

From Ureasonable Faith:

If the Bible is taken literally as the “Word of God,” you can’t only take Jesus or Leviticus literally. You have to take Ecclesiastes, too. To me it seems obvious the writer of this was just having a bad day or really overstating his case (just like I did here). But it’s just an old book. I don’t have to agree with it. The literalist, on the other hand, must care about this because they believe this is the very words of God.

For a list of other great prohibitions, see the wisdom in Leviticus, especially the parts about no sex with menstruating women and don't eat anything that crawls along the ground. Ummm, yeah ok. Whatever.



Stand Up and Be Counted

Monday, 30/03/2009 ≅15:44 ©brainycat

pharyngula said it perfectly:

This is one of the reasons we godless need to be militant in expressing our ideas: there are children out there right now who have the potential for genius, but their talents are being shunted into the futile wasteland of religiosity. Yes, there are a lot of atheists in the topmost ranks of successful scientists, but it's not because they are intrinsically smarter than someone who believes in gods — it's because they more easily embrace the mode of thinking that is most productive and successful in scientific fields, and are less burdened with absurd presuppositions. Let's stop handicapping our kids.

Piqued? Read on...



Book Review: Still Broken by AJ Rossmiller

Monday, 16/03/2009 ≅22:39 ©brainycat

Book Review:
Still Broken: A Recruit's Inside Account of Intelligence Failures, from Baghdad to the Pentagon
AJ Rossmiller
MobiPocket ebook
ISBN-10: 0891419144
ISBN-13: 978-0891419143
amazon.com

I enjoyed reading this book. I felt it was a small glimmer into a world that I will never be a part of, but affects me everyday. AJ was hired out of college into the state department, and worked as an intelligence analyst. This book chronicles his rise from a young, idealistic junior adminstrator to young, idealistic junior intgelligence analyst, and his subsequent resignation from his post after explaining to his management exactlty what's wrong with them. Piqued? Read on...



Ballot would force a god into every public resource

Friday, 20/02/2009 ≅13:53 ©brainycat

Pharyngula notified the blogosphere of yet another wildly unconstitutional attempt by the theocrats to recreate the political landscape in their own image. This ballot measure for the state of Washington that "would prohibit state use of public money or lands for anything that denies or attempts to refute the existence of a supreme ruler of the universe, including textbooks, instruction or research." It later goes on to specifically mention scientific research.

And this is what America comes up with in the state with one of the most (percentage wise) atheists anywhere in the country.

I continue to weep for the future.

EDIT
The woman responsible for this is nuts, and the company she keeps are insidiously stupid.