Posts tagged with discover

Written by Veronique Greenwood

An unknown number of women may perceive millions of colors invisible to the rest of us. One British scientist is trying to track them down and understand their extraordinary power of sight.

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Not only do we have two different systems - logic and instinct - that gives us conflicting advice, but we are also at the mercy of deep-seated emotional associations and mental shortcuts.
Jason Daley

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A little birdie told me a secret about Kepler’s exoplanet announcement…

On Jan 15th, the Kepler team is supposed to unload all of it’s data they have kept hidden for us for 8 months regarding exoplanets and the likelihood of other Earth-like planets in our galaxy. Here’s a bit of info to get you stoked…

"You can look up into the night sky, and about 12% of those stars have a super-Earth (3 to 10 times our mass) orbiting within the disance separating Mercury and the sun. As the size of the planets we looked for decreased the number that we found increased: We found more planets with 3 times the mass of the Earth than planets with 10 times Earth’s mass, more planets 10 times as massive than 100 times, and so on. Extrapolation of that trend suggests that 1 in 4 stars hosts an Earth-size planet (1/2 to 2 times the mass of Earth)"

Astronomer Geoff Marcy stated “We’re edging closer, but so far no one has announced the discovery of a truly Earth-size object.” DISCOVER magazine noticed and commented back, “I notice you carefully said “so far”.

Marcy: “That’s right. [Laughs]. Results from Kepler will be coming out (soon), including the data from the 400 stars that have been held back until now. You can just bet what’s in there. The implications of those planets are so profound that we’ve got to work harder before we make them public. I can’t reveal too much yet, but you get the idea.”

Our galaxy alone may contain tens of billions of planets roughly the same size as our home, Earth.

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Reckless Medicine: Part 1 - Medicine’s Dark Side

DISCOVER Magazine did a fantastic, albeit terrifying, article about modern medicine. I feel like it’s very important to get some of this information out. This is all credited to DISCOVER Magazine and writers Jeanne Lenzer and Shannon Brownlee. I will just post highlight of what I thought stood out. The full article is in the November issue of DISCOVER.

Less than half the surgeries, drugs, and tests that doctors recommend have been proved effective.

Part One: Medicine’s Dark Side

In a recent poll conducted by the Campaign For Effective Patient Care, 65% of the 800 California voters surveyed said they thought that most of nearly all of the health care they receive is based on scientific edivence.

The reality would probably shock them.

A panel of experts convened in 2007 by the prestigious Institute of Medicine estimated that "well below half" of the procedures doctors perform and the decisions they make about surgeries, drugs, and tests have been adequately investigated and shown to be effective. The rest are based on a combination of guesswork, theory, tradition, with a strong dose of marketing by drug and device companies. 

Doctors are often as much in the dark as their patients when they implant new devices, perform surgery, or write prescriptions. One surgeon said: “Device makers could sell us a piece of curtain and call it surgical mesh and we wouldn’t know the difference. 

Many widely adopted surgeries, devices, tests, and drugs also rest on surprisingly thin data.

The holes in medical knowledge can have life-threatening implications. More than 770,00 Americans are injured or die each year from drug complications, including unexpected side effects, some of which might have been avoided if somebody had conducted the proper research. Meaningless or inaccurate tests can lead to medical interventions that are unnecessary or harmful. And risky surgical techniques can be performed for years before studies are launched to test whether the surgery is actually effective. 

A 2002 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 87% of guidline authors received industry funding and 59% were paid by the manufacturer of a drug affected by the guidelines they wrote.

Giving patients care they dont need and failing to give them care that is necessary account for an estimated 30% of more of the $2.4 trillion the nation spends annually on health care.  

Part two will be entitled: The Surgery Problem

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What We Wanted/What We Got: Part One

Discover magazine just celebrated 30 years and they compiled this list of what we wanted mixed with what we actually accomplished.

What we wanted… Weather Control

“From planning an outdoor wedding to ending droughts and floods, the appeal is obvious. A sprinkling of precipitation powder on wispy clouds, and poof: A hard rain is gonna fall. Or perhaps giants fans on blimps could blow clouds away when too much rain has fallen.”

What we got… Weather Out Of Control

“We did manage to affect the weather, after all. Yay us! No, no yay. We spewed so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and denuded so much of the planet’s greenery tha we succeeded in warming everything up to an even more chaotic and less predictable state.”

Quotes are from Wendy Marston

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Over the past 20,000 years, the average volume of the human male brain has decreased from 1,500 cubic centimeters to 1,350 cc, losing a chunk the size of a tennis ball. The female brain has shrunk by about the same proportion. “I’d call that major downsizing in an evolutionary eyeblink,” anthropologist John Hawk says. “This happened in China, Europe, Africa - everywhere we look.” If our brain keeps dwindling at that rate over the next 20,000 years, it will start to approach the size of that found in Homo erectus, a relative that lived half a million years ago and had a brain volume of only 1,100 cc.
Kathleen McAuliffe - The Incredible Shrinking Brain (DISCOVER magazine)

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