Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Back in the Saddle

Been gone for awhile, but I'm back for now.

First, a couple really interesting articles in the realm of science.

The NYT has an interesting article on the health benefits of coffee. Holy cow! If half these claims are true I am one certainly healthy person. Especially if the Dark Roast at Burgie's is anywhere near this healthy. Next up Old Style?

Second. Samizdata had a post with a link to this article on Toxoplasma gondii, The same AIDS patient/drug abuser killer featured in the "life changing" movie/book Trainspotting. Toxo is a pretty interesting parasite, and its threat to humans has become more noticable since HIV and other immune system supressing conditions have become more prevalent. Recent research according to the article seems to imply that infections in humans may result in behavioral changes within their host. I think the authors are going a bit far with worrying about "cultural implications" and "cultural diversity" of infected populations, but the larger question is does this explain "cat ladies" and "hoarders"? I think more research needs to be done.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tom Cruise vs South Park

Jon and Dale over at QandO take on the wacky cult of Scientology, and the fact Tom Cruise is blocking the rebroadcast of the "Trapped in the Closet" episode of South Park, and will refuse to promote Mission Impossible 3 if it is reaired. Also, why is Issac Hayes stepping down as Chef, due "intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs"? I'm thining it must have to do with his religion, which you guessed right, is Scientology. I'm going to say that Issac Hayes is one of the biggest hypocrites on the planet since nearly every South Park episode parodies religion, and the "Superfriends" episode parodied nearly every religion, including Islam. Did Muslims try and stop the episode? What about the Mormans in the episode about Joseph Smith? According to Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park, Issac Hayes had no problem cashing his checks when they offended other religions. So why is scientology different? Because, I think Tom Cruise and Issac Hayes are afraid that people will see the episode and check their website out, like I did, and realize what it really is, a *gasp* cult. A cult that established itself in Hollywood in order to suck the money and power out of the spirtually bankrupt self-loathing "elites" that are constantly trying to make themselves feel important.
Jon also mentions an interview with Der Spiegel where Tom Cruise completely fabricates facts about the cult's drug rehab program. This is rather disturbing, not only are they a cult, but a cult that prevents people from using or seeking well established evidence based clinical drugs. Orac over at Respectful Insolence, deals with these sorts of denialists all the time, mostly in the alternative medicine or "altie" crowd. There's almost no difference between the "alties" and the Scientologists in their arguments against medicine. I challenge Scientology to sponsor double blind clinical trials using their methods for treating mental illness and drug rehabilitation against a placebo, and then compare these to conventional medicine. If they do I'll set my e-meter to stunned.

UPDATE: Via Andrew Sullivan
"So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun! Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies. Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!!

- Trey Parker and Matt Stone, servants of the dark lord Xenu."

Could these guys kick any more ass? They know they can't beat Viacom, so they do more Scientology mocking, the sad part is if you speak Scientology this probably makes a lot of sense, and isn't really all that funny. I think Tom Cruise's time as a serious actor is over, whenever you start threatening shows that disagree with your viewpoints, you've pretty much hung it up. He should go back and hide in the closet.
Wu Tang meets PSA
Mark shows off his technical skills by taking the Wu-Tang to our favorite PSA. Probably the funniest thing i've seen all week, if not all month. Check it out here

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

NYT Strikes Again
The New York Times continues their scaremongering with this new wonderful piece of work, "The Safety of Aspartame."
The editorial starts off by stating that the study is "controversial" and "inconclusive." So if it is inconclusive, why bother writing an editorial about it? I'm just dissapointed that no writer attached their name to the piece, instead hiding behind the mysterious "Editorial" moniker.

Aspartame has been proven safe time and time again at the doses that most people would use it( like 18 diet cokes a day), so why is this study any different? Well according to the New York Times editorial board, the fact that they used over 1,000 rats makes it a good study....Along with different dosage levels(like 10,000 diet cokes a day).

"The study has definite strengths that add to its credence. It used a much larger number of laboratory rats — 1,900 in all — than any previous study, and it administered a wider range of doses, making it more likely that effects would be seen."

This is a ludicrous claim, just because there's more rats does not make it a good study.
Buried in the fifth paragraph, they glance over what makes this study completely worthless.

"There was an abnormally low incidence of cancers in a key control group, which could have made the cancer rate in rats fed aspartame look worse than it really was. And there was only a very weak relationship between the doses of aspartame administered and the cancer rate, which makes it hard to be sure that aspartame was causing the tumors"

A) Any person that knows anything about science knows that you must compare a control group to a group that has the variable you wish to study changed. The fact that there was only a weak relationship between dose and cancer means that it's not good data, and the control groups had "less than average rates of cancer" so even if the aspartame fed rats had normal rates of cancer, the data would appear to show that, Aspartame causes cancer!!
B)They fed rats until they died of natural causes, and then assesed the rats for cancer. This throws out most of your data in comparing the two contemporary groups, at least the significance of, due to the additional number of variables included in the data due to age differences.
C) The NYT glosses over the fact that even if they had good statistical evidence of a difference in cancer between the two groups it merely means that there might be a correlation, not anywhere close to causation, which almost every other study has not come close to showing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Agriculture Advancement NYT style
Mark Mogler's Blog dissects an awful piece of science reporting by the NYT
Good News or Bad?
Via Jawa Report, I viewed this letter. Regardless of your stance on Iraq, this hit home with me.

From: Mayor of Tall ‘Afar, Nine[vah], Iraq

In the Name of God the Compassionate and Merciful

To the Courageous Men and Women of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who have changed the city of Tall’ Afar from a ghost town, in which terrorists spread death and destruction, to a secure city flourishing with life.

To the lion-hearts who liberated our city from the grasp of terrorists who were beheading men, women and children in the streets for many months.

To those who spread smiles on the faces of our children, and gave us restored hope, through their personal sacrifice and brave fighting, and gave new life to the city after hopelessness darkened our days, and stole our confidence in our ability to reestablish our city.

Our city was the main base of operations for Abu Mousab Al Zarqawi. The city was completely held hostage in the hands of his henchmen. Our schools, governmental services, businesses and offices were closed. Our streets were silent, and no one dared to walk them. Our people were barricaded in their homes out of fear; death awaited them around every corner. Terrorists occupied and controlled the only hospital in the city. Their savagery reached such a level that they stuffed the corpsesof children with explosives and tossed them into the streets in order to kill grieving parents attempting to retrieve the bodies of their young. This was the situation of our city until God prepared and delivered unto them the courageous soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who liberated this city, ridding it of Zarqawi’s followers after harsh fighting, killing many terrorists, and forcing the remaining butchers to flee the city like rats to the surrounding areas, where the bravery of other 3d ACR soldiers in Sinjar, Rabiah, Zuma and Avgani finally destroyed them.

I have met many soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment; they are not only courageous men and women, but avenging angels sent by The God Himself to fight the evil of terrorism.

The leaders of this Regiment; COL McMaster, COL Armstrong, LTC Hickey, LTC Gibson, and LTC Reilly embody courage, strength, vision and wisdom.

Officers and soldiers alike bristle with the confidence and character of knights in a bygone era. The mission they have accomplished, by means of a unique military operation, stands among the finest military feats to date in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and truly deserves to be studied in military science. This military operation was clean, with little collateral damage, despite the ferocity of the enemy. With the skill and precision of surgeons they dealt with the terrorist cancers in the city without causing unnecessary damage.

God bless this brave Regiment; God bless the families who dedicated these brave men and women. From the bottom of our hearts we thank the families. They have given us something we will never forget. To the families of those who have given their holy blood for our land, we all bow to you in reverence and to the souls of your loved ones. Their sacrifice was not in vain. They are not dead, but alive, and their souls hovering around us every second of every minute. They will never be forgotten for giving their precious lives. They have sacrificed that which is most valuable. We see them in the smile of every child, and inevery flower growing in this land. Let America, their families, and the world be proud of their sacrifice for humanity and life.

Finally, no matter how much I write or speak about this brave Regiment, I haven’t the words to describe the courage of its officers and soldiers. I pray to God to grant happiness and health to these legendary heroes and their brave families.

NAJIM ABDULLAH ABID
AL-JIBOURI
Mayor of Tall ‘Afar,
Ninewa, Iraq

Monday, February 13, 2006

Sierra Leone
TCS Daily has an excellant article by Roger Bate, fellow at AEI, regarding the sad state of affairs in Sierra Leone's healthcare program. It describes a healthcare system that has seen a large shift in healthcare, from one that primarily focused on childhood diseases and disease prevention, to one where the majority of healthcare workers are now treating AIDS patients. This is largely due to outside influence from the WHO, when seeing that Sierra Leone had an AIDS problem poored relief dollars into fighting it. Since the healthcare workers could get paid three times more to treat AIDS than working on the traditional and successful childhood programs they switched as well, providing a nationwide shortage of childhood workers.

In my opinion, the WHO needs to realize that the last thing it needs to spend its money on is AIDS, for several reasons.

a) You can have a much larger impact per dollar focusing on easily prevented childhood illnesses. Steady access to vaccines, bednets, and electrolytes would save millions of more lives than purchasing AIDS drugs.

b) Treating AIDS patients does no good as long as culture propagates the spread of the disease, a combination of high rape rates, lack of prophalaxis, and high rates of AIDS with males in the military make it uneffective.

c) The study doesn't look at the numbers of people that actually take their drugs and follow their treatment regimes, but given the availability and lack of education of the people in general I imagine it's not high, thus exacerbating the problem through mutation and antigen drifts.

d) Once you can face the massive problems of preventable childhood illness and malnutrition, you are provided with a healthy and able workforce that will help to bring the nation out of poverty.

I think Bill Gates and the rock stars of the world need to make stipulations about where their money goes and what should be done with it. Sure, AIDS is "it" disease right now, but not treating the underlying causes of the AIDS epidemic is only going to make it worse, and no amount of money will fix that.
Join The Click!
Seriously, there's just no way I could make this up
The state of Iowa spent money on this trash? Way to go Vilsack, you've ruined all these kids lives, they're never going to be taken seriously again. Who wants to see scantily clad 12 year old girls rapping about the virtues of seatbelts?



Tuesday, January 17, 2006

In the Mail

Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near
I'll keep you posted.

Announcing the Iowa blogger bash!

details at Law and Disorder

Alito confirmation predictions

Mark Mogler offers scientific predictions on the vote (scroll)

Monday, January 16, 2006

For my first post I thought I'd take the time to introduce myself. I'm a student in veterinary medicine and also working on a graduate degree in microbiology at Iowa State University.
My research involves working with an alpha-proteobacterial pathogen in farm raised shrimp. I've also worked with the Mexican government on viral disease outbreaks in southern Sonora. I grew up on a hobby farm in central Iowa where I had my 4H projects (mostly cows).
I'm a libertarian that has interests in working with global food animal disease issues and biosecurity. As far as politics go, I fall into the libertarian hawk category, and feel that a neocon international policy is sometimes needed, but not always. I'm a strong supporter of Israel, and think that the key to the Middle East is to exposing the population to Western influence where they'll eventually realize that living under sharia law is not the greatest thing in the world.