Thursday, January 4, 2018

First Links of 2018

  • What is so striking about the fall of Rome is the collapse of material sophistication that ensued. This happened, I believe, precisely because the Roman world was not entirely dissimilar to our own: complex economies are very fragile because they rely on hugely sophisticated networks of production and distribution. If these are seriously disrupted, widely and over a long period of time, the entire house of cards can collapse. Although I have a great deal of respect for the new Late Antiquity, it does seriously worry me that it smoothes over the very real crisis that happened at the end of the Roman world. The Romans, like us, enjoyed the fruits of a complex economy, both material and intellectual. And like us, they assumed their world would go on forever. They were wrong, and we would be wise to remember this. The main lesson I think we should learn from the collapse of the Roman Empire and of ancient civilization is not some specific panacea that can preserve our civilization forever (since modern circumstances and the threats to our well being are ever-changing), but a realization of how insecure, and probably transient, our own achievements are—and, from this, a degree of humility. [PDF]
  • He agreed to sell me 200g of his special Beaufort as long as I signed a "compromise de vente" (sales agreement) that it wouldn't be grated or melted and would only be used to be put on display on the mantelpiece. [link]
  • As I like to point out to my students: nothing is free in medicine. You can't block an evolved cellular function in a large percentage of the population and think that nothing will go wrong. Adaptive, fitness-enhancing processes are also blocked, along with symptoms. Unintended consequences are guaranteed. In this instance ignorance is not bliss. If you are blind to adaptation and evolution, it can literally kill you. [link]
  • A pervasive immunocentric view of sepsis research – an immune/inflammatory unit/pathway must be identified that is required for mortality in any model of sepsis, because – in terms of ultimate causality – mortality is due to the response and not to the inciting pathogen. Evidence for this can be easily obtained by searching the National Institutes of Health website 'Grantome' using sepsis as the search word. With no exception, every funded grant is based on the immunocentric theory of sepsis and almost every grant has a promissory note that blockade of a pathway or molecule will inform a strategy to improve the outcome of human sepsis. Implicit in each of these proposals is the practice of dismissing any ongoing involvement of the inciting pathogen or any role for the ecologic collapse of the normal microbiota (microbiome) in the sepsis process. Finally, in order for the immunocentric view to prevail, the cause of death from sepsis must be believed to be due to the response itself. [NLM]
  • Take Trump's kids, all of them are college graduates, the three oldest have jobs (working for Trump's business), the youngest daughter is in law school at Georgetown. Compare Trump's kids to the screw-ups that are Sarah Palin's kids. Sarah Palin's kids picked up crappy prole values in the crappy prole public schools in Wasilla, Alaska, while Trump's kids picked up upper-class values in elite private schools in Manhattan. [LoTB]
  • Your job as a parent is to fit your kids into the world. Your job is to make it as easy for them as possible to be as successful as possible so they can have children of their own with quality people. That's what matters. If you are not actively helping your kids, then your kids will lose the race to those parents that do help. This is plain and simple. It will happen like the laws of physics. What does helping your kids mean? It means that you provide enough resources for them so that they need only have to worry about one thing at a time. If they are in school, then their job is school and anything related to it. Their job is not working some crappy McJob so they can get a car or buy clothes or have spending money or an apartment. [LoTB]
  • By my estimate, the deadliest event before the industrial revolution (the Black Death) killed ~9.7% of world population, and the deadliest event after the industrial revolution (the 1918 flu pandemic) killed 3.3% of world population. Alternately, we might consider World War I and the 1918 flu pandemic a 'double catastrophe' — since they occurred so close together in time and place, and the former exacerbated the latter — in which case their combined death toll was ~4.1% of world population. [link]
  • The medians of the pooled quintiles of serum 25(OH)D were 6, 18, 29, 37 and 48 ng/ml. Pooled odds ratios for breast cancer from lowest to highest quintile, were 1.00, 0.90, 0.70, 0.70 and 0.50 (p trend < 0.001). According to the pooled analysis, individuals with serum 25(OH)D of approximately 52 ng/ml had 50% lower risk of breast cancer than those with serum less than 13. [link]
  • That makes 'only give Adderall to people with ADHD' a moral judgment, not a medical one. Adderall doesn't 'cure' the 'disease' of ADHD, at least not in the same way penicillin cures syphilis. Adderall will give everyone better concentration, and we've judged that it's okay for people with terrible concentration to use it to overcome their handicap, but not okay for people with already-fine concentration to use it to become superhuman. [SSC]
  • With the ever-increasing diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, methylphenidate has become readily accessible in the college environment. Several properties of methylphenidate indicate abuse liability. A survey regarding the recreational use of methylphenidate was distributed to the student body at a public, liberal arts college. More than 16% of the students reported they had tried methylphenidate recreationally, and 12.7% reported they had taken the drug intranasally. [NLM]
  • Irreversible subacute sclerotic combined degeneration of the spinal cord is a rare but possible effect of a strict vegetarian diet. [NLM]
  • I define startups as companies that don't have control of their own destiny because they rely on investor cash infusions to operate. [link]
  • Perhaps the most mysterious feature of epidemic influenza is its remarkable and recurrent seasonality – wintertime surfeit and summertime scarcity – a feature first explored in detail by R. Edgar Hope-Simpson, the British general practitioner and self-educated epidemiologist. After his celebrated discoveries of the cause of shingles and the latency of varicella, Hope-Simpson dedicated much of the rest of his working life to the epidemiology of influenza. He believed that discovering the cause of influenza's seasonality would 'provide the key to understanding most of the influenzal problems confronting us'. Hope-Simpson was the first to document that influenza A epidemics in temperate latitudes peak in the month following the winter solstice. [NLM]
  • When hearing or reading anything about Saudis, I usually feel embarrassed for them. It was probably a mistake letting them have the proceeds of the oil which they didn't discover and didn't (and still don't) know how to produce. It would've been better for them, too. They wouldn't have had a few generations being rich, but they wouldn't crash so hard. Benevolence (not taking the oil from the natives) produced sub-optimal outcomes for everyone. [WH]
  • During the dot-com boom, Son was one of the most enthusiastic investors—backing more than 800 startups to create what he called a "netbatsu," the digital-age equivalent of Japan's zaibatsu conglomerates. But with the crash, almost all those companies failed. Son had the distinction of losing more money than anyone else ever had—$70 billion. [BB]
  • About once a month, on a Friday or Saturday night, the Silicon Valley Technorati gather for a drug-heavy, sex-heavy party. Sometimes the venue is an epic mansion in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights; sometimes it's a lavish home in the foothills of Atherton or Hillsborough. On special occasions, the guests will travel north to someone’s ch√Ęteau in Napa Valley or to a private beachfront property in Malibu or to a boat off the coast of Ibiza, and the bacchanal will last an entire weekend. The places change, but many of the players and the purpose remain the same. [VF]
  • At one point I probably had 15-20 guitars before selling all but a couple on ebay. Most players take pretty good care of their guitars, and an instrument can last for a long time so there's probably alot of perfectly good instruments from years ago. I owned several made in the 60s and 70s (Japanese built) just because I liked them, could do my own repairs/setups, and couldn't see a reason to buy what I felt were overpriced newer guitars that often didn’t play or sound very good. New Fender Strats or Gibson Les Pauls got to be pretty pricey and might've caused sticker shock for new players. I think Harley Davidson had a similar problem with their bikes – going upscale in price, and they lost a younger generation of riders. [MR]
  • In contrast, America's Democrats are a high-low coalition with pretenses toward sophistication. While the Chinese Cultural Revolution despised refinement, leading to lowbrow slogans like "Those who are against Chairman Mao will have their dog skulls smashed into pieces," America's left wants to be seen as educated; thus, multisyllabic terms like "microaggressions." But these phrases turn out almost as stupid as "running dogs." [Sailer]
  • Steve Bannon, who became chief executive of Trump's team in mid-August, called it "the broke-dick campaign." Almost immediately, he saw that it was hampered by an even deeper structural flaw: The candidate who billed himself as a billionaire — ten times over — refused to invest his own money in it. Bannon told Kushner that, after the first debate in September, they would need another $50 million to cover them until Election Day. [NY Mag]
  • Electric compact cars that were sold in 2014 are now worth only 23 percent of their original sticker price, compared with 41 percent for comparable combustion vehicles, according to Black Book, an auto analytics firm. A stale Nissan Leaf holds its value about as well as a Florida timeshare. [BB]
  • As far as I know, there are no organisms that make use of metals as structural materials, but we all have lots of metallic elements in our bodies. There doesn't seem to be any fundamental reason why an animal couldn't evolve which makes steel, for example. It would get its raw material like we do, from iron ore. The activation energies for oxidation and reduction of iron are of the order of 30-60KJ/mole, comparable to the figure of 57KJ/mole for ATP, a molecule which is commonly used for delivering energy around our bodies. We normally make iron from its ore at very high temperatures, because the rate-limiting process is diffusion in the solid state. But the body makes materials in a very different way, from the bottom up, atom by atom, molecule by molecule. And of course the fact is that you are already oxidizing and reducing iron inside your body all the time. [link]

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