Category Archives: Science/Medicine

New Math

This octonion math looks very cool. I wish I understood it. Anything that explains quantization in nature has something going for it.

Obligatory Tom Lehrer video:

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The Jerky (Not the Onion)

Study: Eating Beef Jerky Might Be Linked to Manic Episodes in Some People.

Not from the Onion, but I had to check.

a strange pattern began popping up among people diagnosed with mania, a state of hyper excitement, arousal, and delusion frequently followed by periods of severe depression in people who have bipolar disorder. Compared to the control group, people with a manic episode reported eating more cured meats such as beef jerky. Overall, they found that people with a recent history of eating cured meat were three times more likely to be hospitalized for mania, even after adjusting for factors like age or socioeconomic status. The same pattern couldn’t be seen with any other type of food eaten.

As for how jerky could be triggering mania, Yolken suspects it involves the microbial environment, or microbiome, of the gut. In a healthy person, the gut and brain regularly “talk” to one another through hormonal and nerve signals to keep the body regulated, the so-called gut-brain axis. In recent years, researchers have started to find that our gut microbiota is integral to keeping those airwaves clear. But if the gut microbiome is imbalanced (through changes in diet or antibiotics, for instance), that might set off a chain of events that wreaks havoc on both the brain and gut, often through chronic inflammation. This inflammation then might make people more susceptible to developing mental illness, or worsening its symptoms.

And indeed, when Yolken’s team looked at the guts of nitrate-fed rats, they found clear changes in the gut microbiome, in the form of an increase of certain kinds of bacteria, compared to normal rats. Those particular bacteria have previously been associated with behavior and cognition changes in animals. There was also evidence of minute molecular changes in the brain associated with mania in these rats, though Yolken cautioned that the results can’t prove that the gut changes led to the brain changes. They also can’t prove that nitrates are responsible for any similar changes in people.

Jerky is not my thing, but I wonder if the effect extends to cured meats like salami?

And of course the obvious question: Does Trump eat jerky?

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Parody Project

Parody Project’s “Confounds the Sciednce”, says David Brin, is “One of the best pieces of musical political satire I’ve seen in years!“:

Parody Project are prolific. Leaving the science tag, I like What Does the Gun Say?, Where Have all the Statesmen Gone?, The Age that Will Bury Us, and Battle Hymn of the Republic – Modified for Relevance:

There’s lots more where that came from.

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On UMiami Football

The last time UM had a winning football team both the team and the fans behaved badly. They called it ‘swagger’ but it was mostly rudeness. I was embarrassed for all of us.

Now the U’s football team is “relevant” again: UM beat FSU, is undefeated, and justly ranked 3rd in the College Football Playoff Rankings. And the U has the Turnover Chain (soon to be a beer near you).

So far at least the swagger has been cleaner; the Turnover Chain is a team celebration, not so much in the face of another team or its fans.

Of course, even if “the U is back” it’s far from cemented in its new status. The team has yet to equal its past domination, and remains far from a national championship, although that dream seems less ridiculous than it did two weeks ago. Until then, however, the team’s, and the fans’, ability to avoid the ‘swagger’ excesses of yore remains to be tested.

Meanwhile, the campus and the county are going nuts in a fun way even if the rest of the country hates us. Even UM President Julio Frenk gamely tweeted out a video supporting the football team. I like good PR as much as the next guy, but it has to be admitted that the sports media is totally in the tank for UM–presumably because it’s great copy, great visuals, and Miami is much nicer place to visit in November and December than, say, Madison, Wisconsin or Norman, Oklahoma.

Of course, as a world-class authority on public health, President Frenk must also be aware of the human toll that football takes on its players: college football causes many injuries including concussions, and creates a real risk of brain injury even without actual concussions.

Perhaps we’ll get to see President Frenk do a video on that topic in his last week on the job. It probably would be his last week, whether or not he intended it that way.

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These Are the Good Old Days?

Or will be if the gloomdogglers are right about the environment,

This is not to downgrade the danger presented by global heating – on the contrary, it presents an existential threat. It is simply that I have come to realise that two other issues have such huge and immediate impacts that they push even this great predicament into third place.

One is industrial fishing, which, all over the blue planet, is now causing systemic ecological collapse. The other is the erasure of non-human life from the land by farming.

And perhaps not only non-human life. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, at current rates of soil loss, driven largely by poor farming practice, we have just 60 years of harvests left. And this is before the Global Land Outlook report, published in September, found that productivity is already declining on 20% of the world’s cropland.

The impact on wildlife of changes in farming practice (and the expansion of the farmed area) is so rapid and severe that it is hard to get your head round the scale of what is happening.

It all sounds dreadful. Of course historically technical change and market forces overwhelmed Malthusian effects, so it’s possible that late capitalism still has rabbits in the hat….

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Missing Mass – Half Found

Half the ‘missing mass’ is gas floating between galaxies.

That means there’s 50% less work for the flogiston, sorry I meant aether, sorry I meant Dark Matter to do.

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