Live from the South Atlantic: Sara Chodosh: Humpback whales are organizing in huge numbers, and no one knows why: It flies in the face of typical humpback behavior
Live from the South Atlantic: Sara Chodosh: Humpback whales are organizing in huge numbers, and no one knows why: It flies in the face of typical humpback behavior
A correspondent reminds me of [a moment] almost four years ago that powerfully drove home to me how low the intellectual standards are on the American right. This will be very important to remember over the next four years--especially since the Trumpists are not the brightest of the lights on the American right as it stands today, never mind how it stood before the ascendancy of George W. Bush fifteen years ago, and never never mind how it stood before the ascendancy of Newt Gingrich twenty-five years ago.
It takes some wind-up, however. Let's start with the (usually) very sharp Thomas Nagel:
Thomas Nagel (2012): Mind and Cosmos: "If I decide, when the sun rises on my right, that I must be driving north instead of south...
[a moment: http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2013/03/why-oh-why-cant-we-have-a-better-press-corps-andrew-ferguson-of-the-weekly-standard-edition.html
Hoisted from the Archives: 470 years ago, in 1543, King Henry VIII Tudor of England married his sixth and last wife, Katherine Parr. He also:
A busy king, for one so sick and mad.
Must-Read: Richard Mayhew: A Thousand and One Posts:
Wow, that last post was my 1,000th post here at Balloon Juice. I was not expecting that when I first got started here...
Must-Read: Nikola Koepka and Joerg Baten (2005): "The biological standard of living in Europe during the last two millennia":
Nikola Koepka and Joerg Baten (2005): "The biological standard of living in Europe during the last two millennia", European Review of Economic History 9:1 (April), pp. 61-95
Must-Read: Aaron Carroll: Helpless to Prevent Cancer? Actually, Quite a Bit Is in Your Control:
Of the nearly 90,000 women and more than 46,000 men, 16,531 women and 11,731 men fell into the low-risk group....
Must-Read: Cosma Shalizi (2014): Review of Oliver Morton (2008): "Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet":
Of Heliophagy: I cannot remember the last time I read a popular science book with such enjoyment, or learned so much from it....
Live from the Phanerozoic: Sarda Sahney and Michael J Benton (2008): Recovery from the Most Profound Mass Extinction of All Time:
The end-Permian mass extinction, 251 million years (Myr) ago, was the most devastating ecological event of all time....
Live from the Olympic Peninsula: Sea otter population: 500,000 pre-fur trade, down to 1-2,000 in early 1900s, now back at 100,000...
Michael Carman: Sea Otter Madness Close to Hoh Head:
THE CALLS POURED in. To the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, to the National Parks Service and to the Olympic Coast Marine Sanctuary. Have you seen all those sea otters? What visitors were spying off the Pacific Ocean coastline, a raft of hundreds upon hundreds of sea otters, was unusual in both scope and location.
Another in my series of webloggers who I think are underappreciated--of people who, by accidents of chance and historical contingency, are just as smart (or more) and are as (or more) worth reading as I am. Richard Mayhew of Balloon Juice is doing some of the very most interesting blogging-from-the-trenches of our health care financing system.
Here's a baker's dozen of worthwhile reads:
Must-Read: John Tang: The Engine and the Reaper: Industrialization and Mortality in Early Modern Japan: "Economic development leads to improved health over time due to increased access to medical treatment, sanitation, and income...
Live from Bodega Bay: Let me, for one, welcome our avian masters:
John Timmer: Bird brains are dense—with neurons: "Birds pack neurons into their brains at densities well above densities in mammals' brains, putting some relatively compact bird brains into the same realm as those of primates when it comes to total cell counts..."
Weekend Reading: Sam Richardson, Aaron Carroll, and Austin Frakt (2013): More Medicaid study power calculations (our rejected NEJM letter): "Sam Richardson, Aaron, and Austin submitted a more efficiently worded version of the following...
Are these the right papers for first-year Ph.D. students in Economics to read for their week spent thinking about the Malthusian Economy? If not these, what are the right papers?
Live from UMKC: America's loonier fragments of both its left and its right agree on something that makes all of us worse off!
Ann Marie Marciarille: Important Health Message: Mumps: "What the Important Health Message doesn't say...
Live from Crow's Coffee: Oliver Willis: GOP Quietly Admits The Truth About Their Attacks On Planned Parenthood: "Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who was otherwise busy this week attempting to become Speaker of the House, admitted it on Thursday:
Live from Jackson Hole 2015 Weblogging: It's 6800 feet up here. For the first time ever, I wish I were a vampire--I could really, really use some more oxygen-carrying red blood corpuscles right now...
What is the science on doping yourself with your own stored blood when you go up to high altitude, anyway?
As you will remember from yesterday, the grifter-goldbug conference featuring grifter-goldbug George Gilder, Steve Moore, Benn Steil, Peter Schiff, and Jim DeMint as its five top headliners is a production of the American Principles Project.
What is the American Principles Project? It says:
Robert P. George – Founder: Dr. George is the Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). He is also a McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University...
I have read one thing written by Robert P. George--one thing and one thing only:
Robert P. George: Killing Abortionists: A Symposium: "I am personally opposed to killing abortionists. However, inasmuch as my personal opposition to this practice is rooted in a sectarian (Catholic) religious belief in the sanctity of human life, I am unwilling to impose it on others who may, as a matter of conscience, take a different view...
Live from La Farine: Sam Thielman and Valerie Lapinski**: Darpa: These Robots Will Save Your Life (Once They Learn to Walk): "Tech reporter Sam Thielman visited the Darpa Robotics Challenge in Pomona, California...
**Live from La Farine: 500 years, or 50 years, or 5 years, or 5 months, or 5 days from now the Roman Catholic Church will reverse Pope Paul VI's claim that he has special insight into natural theology which tells him that birth control is very wrong. Whenever that happens, what will the administrators of and lawyers for Notre Dame have to say for themselves?
**: Federal Appeals Court Tells Catholic University [Notre Dame] That It Can't Cut Off Birth Control For Its Students: "'The Seventh Circuit... express[es] ‘puzzlement about what exactly the university wanted us to enjoin’...
The mixing of the human genome via intermarriage occurs remarkably fast--we are and are likely to remain one single human race, and should treat one another as such:
Ah. Andrew Sullivan looks forward--a little too eagerly?--to the division of the human race into subspecies along racial lines:
http://www.AndrewSullivan.com - Daily Dish: Humans are still evolving - and at quite a brisk pace, according to new research. Bad news for liberals: at the rate research is going, you will soon have to choose between believing in evolution and denying any subtle, genetic differences between broad racial groups.
Lives lost from Ebola to date are tiny, even in West Africa, compared to HIV, TB, and malaria. Ebola still not (yet) the biggest public health problem in West Africa.
Yes, the epidemic will spread to more countries.
Ebola will not become the biggest public health problem in West Africa unless deaths reach the high seven figures--which they may: it is highly likely that deaths in the six figures are now baked in the cake.
Unless the virus changes dramatically, we are almost surely safe. If you want to worry, worry that influenza or something already airborne will become more deadly, not that Ebola will become airborne.
Those at risk from the Ebola virus are overwhelmingly (a) those who love them and (b) those medical professionals who treat them--you get it from direct fluid contact with symptomatic patients. Thus risks here in the United States are very low. It is scary, but unlikely to be a serious problem here.
Why, then, are risks high in West Africa? The major problem with control is that there is no functioning health system in most of sub-Saharan Africa. Not only are resources poor, but they are uncoordinated. What we really need is a helicopter drop of trained people.
The health system was especially poor in Liberia. You have issues like no supply of gloves to hospitals. Few doctors even to begin. Had the epidemic started in Ethiopia or even Uganda, the probability of it getting out-of-control epidemic would have been much less--Uganda, for example, has excellent hospitals, good supply, competent public health, and even a decent medical school. Just how bad Liberia’s system was should not be underestimated.
Secondary problems in West Africa are that: (1) Ebola can be difficult to diagnose; (2) Ebola is easily transmitted in cultures where people are expected to die at home in non-sterile and non-antiseptic environments; and (3) Ebola is easily transmitted in cultures where people--still infectious--are prepared for burial at home.
The economic cost of Ebola to the countries most affected is and will be immense, in addition to the loss of life.
In general, we are not well-equipped for some types of global pandemics. The advance from years of nothing on AIDS to stopping SARS in its tracks was immense. But it relies on functional organizations--and we did and do not have any such in the affected West African areas.
Nevertheless, it is surprising how unprepared the WHO and international community was for for this kind of emergency. The WHO is a UN organization, and it is a mistake to expect much bureaucratic competence of UN organizations. Nevertheless, the international response should have been swifter and more effective.
The Ebola crisis is eating up resources in West Africa that are desperately needed in other areas of health and society. It's not so much money as people--doctors pulled in from caring for pregnant women to manage Ebola patients, NGOs working on violence reduction in Sierra Leone now counting the dead. Really sad. We are likely to lose most of the health-care professionals in the most severely affected sub-Saharan African countries.
The importance of investing in strong public health infrastructure--which is both massively underfunded and very cost-effective compared with acute care.
Courtesy of Chris Blattman, David Cutler, Ann Marie Marciarille, and others...
After a month and a half of drinking mostly decaf with an occasional quarter-caf, the impact of starting the day with a triple espresso...
This was supposed to be part of The Honest Broker about conservative objections that ObamaCare was an unwarranted and unnecessary infringement on negative liberty--on individual "freedom". But it was unsuccessful. It ran into two things along the way. First, it ran into my complete failure while teaching Economics 2 to successfully draw a line between "negative" and "positive" liberty that would allow one to say that the competitive market equilibrium was in some sense a perfection of negative liberty and that further restrictions on it were not: I wound up convincing myself that it was the jungle equilibrium that was the perfection of negative liberty, and from that point forward it was utilitarian promotion of positive at the expense of negative liberty all the way down...
May 14, 2014 at 10:36 AM in Economics: Health, History, Long Form, Moral Responsibility, Obama Administration, Philosophy: Moral, Political Economy, Politics, Science: Biology, Streams: (BiWeekly) Honest Broker, Streams: Across the Wide Missouri, Streams: Cycle, Streams: Economics, Streams: Highlighted, Thursday Idiocy | Permalink | Comments (21)
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Dirk Hanson: Drowning in Light: "William D. Nordhaus calculated that the average citizen of Babylon would have had to work a total of 41 hours to buy enough lamp oil to equal a 75-watt light bulb burning for one hour.
At the time of the American Revolution, a colonial would have been able to purchase the same amount of light, in the form of candles, for about five hour’s worth of work. And by 1992, the average American, using compact fluorescents, could earn the same amount of light in less than one second. That sounds like a great deal.
Dylan Scott: Unprecedented Attack On Evolution 'Indoctrination' Mounted In Missouri: "A Missouri lawmaker has proposed what ranks among the most anti-evolution legislation in recent years, which would require schools to notify parents if 'the theory of evolution by natural selection' was being taught at their child's school and give them the opportunity to opt out of the class....
State Rep. Rick Brattin (R), who sponsored the bill, told a local TV station last week that teaching only evolution in school was "indoctrination."... The bill is one of several anti-evolution proposals that have already appeared in statehouses across the country.... Unsurprisingly, the proposal has drawn criticism from... science teacher organizations.... [Glenn] Branch.... Evolution inextricably pervades the biological sciences; it therefore pervades, or at any rate ought to pervade, biology education at the K–12 level. There simply is no alternative to learning about it; there is no substitute activity. The value of a high school education in Missouri would be degraded"...
If, 20 years ago, I had decided that I was never going to wait for the elevators but rather take the stairs up and down to and from the sixth floor of Evans Hall, I would, on net:
Will today be the day that I don't wait for the elevator but instead start making the climb?
According to a new Pew Research Center analysis, six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.”... White evangelical Protestants are particularly likely to believe that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. Roughly two-thirds (64%) express this view.... In 2009, 54% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats said humans have evolved over time, a difference of 10 percentage points. Today, 43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say humans have evolved, a 24-point gap...
The target population for whom ObamaCare might make a big, positive difference: but their political masters are trying as hard as they can to make sure that they do not get it...
Monica Potts: What's Killing Poor White Women?: "White women who don’t graduate from high school... life expectancy has declined dramatically over the past 18 years... now expect to die five years earlier than the generation before them... an unheard-of drop.... Jay Olshansky... 1990 to 2008. White men without high-school diplomas had lost three years... but it was the decline for women... that made the study news.... Olshansky and his colleagues did something the other studies hadn’t: They isolated high-school dropouts and measured their outcomes instead of lumping them in with high-school graduates....
The elephant seals are on the beach at Chimney Rock at Point Reyes...
Elephant seals... large, oceangoing seals in the genus Mirounga... hunted to the brink of extinction by the end of the 19th century, but numbers have since recovered. The northern elephant seal, somewhat smaller than its southern relative, ranges over the Pacific coast of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The most northerly breeding location on the Pacific Coast is at Race Rocks, at the southern tip of Vancouver Island.... Elephant seals breed annually and are seemingly faithful to colonies that have been established breeding areas....
Elephant seals take their name from the large proboscis of the adult male (bull) which resembles an elephant's trunk. The bull's proboscis is used in producing extraordinarily loud roaring noises, especially during the mating season. More importantly, however, the nose acts as a sort of rebreather, filled with cavities designed to reabsorb moisture from the animals' exhalations. This is important during the mating season when the seals do not leave the beach to feed, so must conserve body moisture as they have no incoming source of water. The species' non-biological names reflect their colossal size, with Southern elephant seal bulls typically reaching a length of 16 ft (4.9 m) and a weight of 6,600 lb (3,000 kg), and are much larger than the cows with some exceptionally large males reaching up to 20 ft (6.1 m) in length and tipping the scales at up to 8,800 lb (4,000 kg); cows typically measure about 10 ft (3.0 m) and 2,000 lb (910 kg). Northern elephant seal bulls reach a length of 14 to 16 ft (4.3 to 4.9 m) and the heaviest weigh about 5400 lbs (2455 kg)....
Elephant seals spend upwards of 80% of their lives in the ocean... can hold their breath for more than 100 minutes... dive to 1550 m... typically for around 20 minutes for females and 60 minutes for males, as they search for their favorite foods, which are skates, rays, squid, octopuses, eels, small sharks and large fish...
Jonathan Chait: Keystone Fight a Huge Environmentalist Mistake:
What do we want? An extremely tiny reduction in Canadian fossil fuel emissions! When do we want it? Eventually!... Keystone is at best marginally relevant to the cause of stopping global warming. The whole crusade increasingly looks like a bizarre misallocation of political attention. My view, which I laid out in a long feature story last spring, is that the central environmental issue of Obama’s presidency is not Keystone at all but using the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate existing power plants. That’s a tool Obama has that can bring American greenhouse gas emissions in line with international standards, and thus open the door to lead an international climate treaty in 2015. The amount of carbon emissions at stake in the EPA fight dwarf the stakes of the Keystone decision.
Amanda Marcotte: Contraception Extremism and the Right-Wing Bubble:
When you aim for “mighty rulers of America” and instead land on “squalling baby” as your public image, you screwed up, big time. So what went so terribly wrong for Republicans? If you really want to understand what’s the matter with the modern Republican Party, look no further than the issue of contraception, which played an important role during the shutdown talks. The way that the modern Republican Party approaches what used to be the non-issue of contraception tells you everything you need to know about how the Republicans’ dramatic right-wing shift happened, and why they can’t seem to see that the political moves they think are genius are actually scaring and alienating ordinary voters....
The most powerful and informative health-affairs think tank is: The Incidental Economist:
Austin Frakt, Aaron Carroll, Kevin Outterson, Harold Pollack, Bill Gardner, Adrianna McIntyre, with occasional additional contributions by Don Taylor, Ian Crosby, and Steve Pizer. They punch so much above their weight that it is not funny. In fact, it is not clear to me that they have any weight at all--that any academic, research, or philanthropic institution has given them a dime for anything, rather than they having scrounged themselves into existence in their copious spare time and funding web hosting off of the spare-change jar…
It has been a busy week for the Machine-Human Alliance. Sorry! The Human-Machine Alliance…. First there was the deployment of South Korea's autonomous jellyfish-killing aquatic robot swarm. Now… the engineers at Boston Dynamics… have released video of the WildCat, an untethered version of their quadrupedal Cheetah robot, capable of standing and running freely under its own power. There is absolutely no connection between the unveiling of this free-running terrestrial robot and the deployment of the aquatic jellyfish-killing robot swarm. This robot has legs. At present, this robot does not operate in collaborative hunting groups. Is there even any precedent for quadrupeds to operate in collaborative hunting groups?
In recent weeks, ProPublica has published a major—and scathing—investigative series on the dangers of Tylenol's main active ingredient, acetaminophen. Two years in the making, this series shows yet again the essential role of investigative journalism in providing public information that can literally save lives…
But… But… But… When I read the (very good) article, it felt like a "1 person-month" article, not like a "10 person-years" article. 10 person-years should buy you not one article but four full books on medical safety.
I mean, if I had set out to write a Tylenol safety story, I would have started by googling "site:cdc.gov tylenol overdoses", immediately gotten to http://download.journals.elsevierhealth.com/pdfs/journals/0749-3797/PIIS0749379711001826.pdf and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21294217, started making calls to the authors, and then--armed with data--gone to visit my local hospital. I would, I think, expect to be done in a month.
Why did it take ProPublica 10 person-years? And what more did they get in their story that wouldn't have been in the 1 person-month story?
I do not understand modern American journalism. I do not understand it at many levels…
The NGSS standards are a nationwide attempt to improve science education in the US, and they have been backed by organizations such as the National Research Council, National Science Teachers Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science…. The most surprising is Kansas, which has an awkward past when it comes to science education. The state booted evolution from its science standards at least twice in the last few decades…. The state Republican Party has called for their withdrawal, and now a lawsuit has been filed that claims the standards' focus on natural causes will violate students' religious freedom.
470 years ago, in 1543, King Henry VIII Tudor of England married his sixth and last wife, Katherine Parr. He also allied with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V Habsburg "of Ghent"; declared war on France; imposed the English administrative grid of counties, shires, boroughs, and House of Commons representatives on Wales; made yet another short-lived treaty with Scotland; burned the three Protestant Windsor Martyrs; and named the composer Thomas Tallis a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. A busy king, for one so sick and mad.
I'm tired of maps of world population that lazily represent a country's population as evenly distributed throughout its territory. Who in India lives in the Thar Desert? How many people in Egypt live outside the Nile Valley? The map below--with each dot representing ten million people--is an attempt to show the real human population distribution in 2000.
Looking Forward to Four Years During Which Most if Not All of America's Potential for Human Progress Is Likely to Be Wasted
With each passing day Donald Trump looks more and more like Silvio Berlusconi: bunga-bunga governance, with a number of unlikely and unforeseen disasters and a major drag on the country--except in states where his policies are neutralized.
Nevertheless, remember: WE ARE WITH HER!
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