Fri Jul 11 17:38:28 EDT 2014

Medical Links

Some recent links from the world of medicine.

Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Sat Jun 28 22:57:48 EDT 2014

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently:

  • The Pitchforks Are Coming... For Us Plutocrats

    Memo: From Nick Hanauer
    To:       My Fellow Zillionaires

    If we don't do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn't eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It's not if, it's when.

  • The Disruption Machine

    What the gospel of innovation gets wrong.
    Jill Lepore, in The New Yorker June 23, 2014

    And the response, Clayton Christensen Responds to New Yorker Takedown of 'Disruptive Innovation'

  • SpiderOak

    Store. Sync. Share. Privately (and Securely)

  • Death Switch

    Secure access by others to your online data after you die.

  • What's So Bad About a SuperPAC?

    Lawrence Lessig, lawyer and reformer plan to fight money with money.

    Or more precisely, to change the way we fund elections, both directly and through SuperPACs, we needed a SuperPAC. We need, in other words, a powerful political engine to build the support that this movement will require. And we need one quickly.

    For more information on how to help fight the influence of money in politics see, MAYDAY PAC
  • Pulling back the curtain on Dr. Oz

    Rant by Erin May at Harvard policy lab

    Given his education and influence, there's no excuse for the unsubstantiated claims and sensational language that is so pervasive on his show. I'm not sure whether it's willful blindness or calculated deception that causes him to disregard rigorous scientific standards. But the result is that many of his recommendations are akin to the cure-all elixirs peddled by door-to-door salesmen in the patent medicine era of the late 1800s.

  • Spurious Correlations

    Tyler Vigen illustrates how correlation does not imply causation.

    The next time someone tells you about a coincidence they cannot explain, point them to this web site.

  • Is Atheism Irrational?

    Kelly J. Clark in Big Questions Online.

    Is atheism's connection with autism the silver bullet that proves once and for all that atheists are irrational? Given the complexities of both the human mind and human culture, it is impossible to tell.

  • The secret to desire in a long-term relationship

    Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, TED talk.

    In long-term relationships, we often expect our beloved to be both best friend and erotic partner. But as Esther Perel argues, good and committed sex draws on two conflicting needs: our need for security and our need for surprise. So how do you sustain desire? With wit and eloquence, Perel lets us in on the mystery of erotic intelligence.

  • The Enron-Style Accounting That Deprives Americans Of Economic Growth

    John Tamny in Forbes

    Of course, the fact that GDP registered growth is the first clue that it's a more-than-worthless number. Diane Coyle, author of a new book 'GDP: A Brief But Affectionate History', wouldn't agree that the number is worthless, but she does acknowledge that it does not measure human wellbeing or welfare. No it doesn't, and while Coyle doesn't hide her bias in favor of the hubristic conceit that says economists can credibly measure country economic activity, her book is still an important read for, if nothing else, revealing to readers just how unwittingly fraudulent the practice of economics is.

  • 'How Not To Be Wrong' In Math Class? Add A Dose Of Skepticism

    Jordan Ellenberg, author of 'How Not To Be Wrong - The Power of Mathematical Thinking' interviewed on NPR's ALl Things Considered.

    Ellenberg tells NPR's Robert Siegel how he believes math courses should be taught and what sets math apart from other school subjects.

  • A Cell Phone App To Detect Cancer

    DermoScreen, developed by University of Houston professor Dr. George Zouridakis and the MD Anderson Cancer Center, works simply enough. Users snap a picture of a potentially problematic mole or lesion, then the app automatically analyzes the picture using algorithms based on the same criteria used by professional dermatologists to identify cancerous growths--namely the so-called ABCD rule, 7-point checklist, and Menzies' method.

    But here's the crazy thing: Early testing of the technology has shown it to be accurate about 85% of the time, which is similar to the accuracy rate for trained dermatologists--and more accurate than non-specialist primary care physicians.

  • The End Is A.I.: The Singularity Is Sci-Fi's Faith-Based Initiative

    I'm not arguing that machine sentience is an impossibility. Breakthroughs can't be discounted before they have a chance to materialize out of thin air. But belief in the Singularity should be recognized for what it is -- a secular, SF-based belief system. I'm not trying to be coy, in comparing it to prophecy, as well as science fiction. Lacking evidence of the coming explosion in machine intelligence, and willfully ignoring the AGI deadlines that have come and gone, the Singularity relies instead on hand-waving. That's SF-speak for an unspecified technological leap. There's another name for that sort of shortcut, though. It's called faith.

  • The Five Biggest Threats to Human Existence
    1. Nuclear war
    2. Bioengineered pandemic
    3. Superintelligence
    4. Nanotechnology
    5. Unknown unknowns

    Note that climate change is not in the top five.

Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Mon Jun 9 12:50:41 EDT 2014

Inequality (and Piketty)

Some pointers to discussion on the hot topic of income inequality and social mobility.

Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Fri May 30 15:29:33 EDT 2014

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently:

  • Neil deGrasse Tyson Slammed For Dismissing Philosophy As 'Useless'

    On a recent episode of the Nerdist podcast, Neil deGrasse Tyson dismissed philosophy as a useless enterprise, advising students to avoid it. It's not the first time he's made such remarks, prompting biologist and philosopher Massimo Pigliucci to write a must-read response.

  • Uber and Airbnb Are Waging a Libertarian War on Regulators

    First, companies like Airbnb have honed in on parts of the economy where powerful regulators have traditionally deterred new entrants. Second, and largely as a result, the upstarts must not only innovate with their technology and business strategy, but also when dealing with the government officials who control their fate.

  • Munk Debates

    A Canadian charitable initiative established in 2008

    Two panelists argue for a debate style motion and two against. The format is short opening statements followed by a civil and substantive moderated panel discussion, followed by short closing statements.

  • Is Israel an Apartheid State? (Jeffrey Goldberg)

  • Dollars for Docs

    How Industry Dollars Reach Your Doctors

    In recent years, drug companies have started releasing details of the payments they make to doctors and other health professionals for promotional talks, research and consulting. As of 2012, 15 companies published the information, most because of legal settlements. Use this tool to search for payments.

  • 9 Simple Statements That Will Make You Think Differently About the World

    1. how deceiving common sense can be
    2. the importance of personality
    3. wages in rich countries are determined more by immigration control than anything else
    4. the faster things change, the less reliable forecasts are
    5. [the] worst-case event, when it happened, exceeded the worst case at the time
    6. having control of your time is the only reasonable financial goal
    7. skills grow just like compound interest, with one generation leveraging the talents of the last
    8. the brain is designed with blind spots, and one of its cleverest tricks is to confer on us the comforting delusion that we, personally, do not have any

    9. two Australian surgeons found that half of the facts in that field also become false every forty-five years

  • Over the Hill? Cognitive Speeds Peak at Age 24

    The study is limited by the fact that it only focused on video game players.

  • Brain Injury Turns Man Into Math Genius

    The injury, while devastating, seems to have unlocked part of his brain that makes everything in his world appear to have a mathematical structure.

  • Peculiar Traits of Rich People
    • They are (mostly pleasant) sociopaths
    • They care about time periods most can't comprehend
    • They don't give a damn what you think of them

  • Medicare Payments to Providers in 2012

    Data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, shows the dollar amounts that doctors and other medical providers received in Medicare reimbursements in 2012, along with other data including their specialties.

  • The '77 Cents on the Dollar' Myth About Women's Pay

    Once education, marital status and occupations are considered, the 'gender wage gap' all but disappears.

Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Tue May 27 15:00:00 EDT 2014

Obama and Wall Street

Some recent links on how Obama dealt (or did not deal) with Wall Street.

  • The Buck Stops With Obama on Tepid Financial Reform

    Favored Obama appointees seem to share certain qualities: They work within the system, they don't like to ruffle feathers or pick fights, and they keep their profiles low. They are technocrats.

  • Why Won't Washington Take on Wall Street's Biggest Crimes?

    The Justice Department has successfully convicted dozens of bankers for insider trading. But the big banks did something much worse and got away with it.

    But what many of us want to know is: why, immediately after the most severe financial crisis in more than seventy years, which resulted in the loss of almost nine million jobs, did the Justice Department choose to train its heavy artillery on insider traders? Sure, insider trading is bad. It's very rich people cheating to make themselves extravagantly rich. It should be illegal, and people should go to jail for it. But it's far from the biggest thing wrong with our financial markets and institutions.

  • Geithner is trying to rewrite history in new book

    In other words, the deal Geithner is now lauding required that interest rates remain unnaturally low for six years and counting. And those low rates cost American savers many, many times the amount of money the government made on its bank deals.

Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Tue May 20 23:28:47 EDT 2014

Human Brain Limits

There is one thing that seems obvious to me but most scientists disagree. Namely that the human brain cannot understand everything about the world we live in. Not just because we haven't figured it out yet, but because our brains are a product of evolution. Since most agree that other mammals, even those with large brains, cannot understand the world as humans do, isn't it presumptuous to think some species won't come after us that makes us look similarly dumb?

So I was happy to see on, in a response to it's question of the year for 2014: What Scientific Idea Is Ready For Retirement? by Martin Rees one of the world's leading astronomers and cosmologists:

We'll Never Hit Barriers To Scientific Understanding     (NOT)

It begins,

There's a widely-held presumption that our insight will deepen indefinitely -- that all scientific problems will eventually yield to attack. But I think we may need to abandon this optimism. The human intellect may hit the buffers -- even though in most fields of science, there's surely a long way to go before this happens.

And ends with,

We humans haven't changed much since our remote ancestors roamed the African savannah. Our brains evolved to cope with the human-scale environment. So it is surely remarkable that we can make sense of phenomena that confound everyday intuition: in particular, the minuscule atoms we're made of, and the vast cosmos that surrounds us.

Nonetheless -- and here I'm sticking my neck out -- maybe some aspects of reality are intrinsically beyond us, in that their comprehension would require some post-human intellect -- just as Euclidean geometry is beyond non-human primates.
. . .

It would be unduly anthropocentric to believe that all of science -- and a proper concept of all aspects of reality -- is within human mental powers to grasp. Whether the really long-range future lies with organic post-humans or with intelligent machines is a matter for debate -- but either way, there will be insights into reality left for them to discover.

That is just the way I see it.

Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Sun Apr 27 13:21:42 EDT 2014

Items of Interest

Some web links I found to be of interest:

  • Combating bad science
    Sloppy researchers beware. A new institute has you in its sights.

    Dr Ioannidis has been waging war on sloppy science ever since, helping to develop a discipline called meta-research (ie, research about research). Later this month that battle will be institutionalised, with the launch of the Meta-Research Innovation Centre at Stanford.

    METRICS, as the new laboratory is to be known for short, will connect enthusiasts of the nascent field in such corners of academia as medicine, statistics and epidemiology, with the aim of solidifying the young discipline.

  • The Only Way to Stop Illegal Immigration

    Workplace enforcement is minimal. Fines are small. Amid all the political bellowing about the border, no one in Washington pays much attention to employers' practices.

    The only way to make meaningful progress is to end the lure of employment.

  • Global warming: Who pressed the pause button?
    The slowdown in rising temperatures over the past 15 years goes from being unexplained to overexplained.

    Gavin Schmidt and two colleagues at NASA's Goddard Institute quantify the effects of these trends in Nature Geoscience. They argue that climate models underplay the delayed and subdued solar cycle. They think the models do not fully account for the effects of pollution (specifically, nitrate pollution and indirect effects like interactions between aerosols and clouds). And they claim that the impact of volcanic activity since 2000 has been greater than previously thought. Adjusting for all this, they find that the difference between actual temperature readings and computer-generated ones largely disappears. The implication is that the solar cycle and aerosols explain much of the pause.

  • Big Company CEOs Just Aren't Worth What We Pay Them

    A recent paper by J. Scott Armstrong of the Wharton School and Philippe Jacquart of France's EMLYON, seem to have finally established that paying top dollar simply doesn't get a better job done. And, in fact, it might actually get a worse one done.

  • There is no gender gap in tech salaries

    New research shows that there is no statistically significant difference in earnings between male and female engineers who have the same credentials and make the same choices regarding their career.

  • Why Is the Merger Called Mayonnaise Loved -- & Hated -- so Deeply?

    As mayonnaise has conquered the world, it has also divided its eaters. Paul Rozin, professor of food psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, says mayonnaise "splits people into likers and dislikers, with few in the middle."

    The magic of mayonnaise is in the egg yolk, which contains substances that stabilize the oil and water in a mixture called an emulsion.

    The experts on food aversion I spoke with generally agreed that the slimy texture of mayo is responsible for much, if not most, of the disgust people feel towards it.

  • The simple, sensible -- and impossible -- fix for the Internet in the USA

    Look around at your home now. You don't have four different water mains coming in with only one hooked up. You don't have five different power lines waiting on the pole. You don't have three different telephone networks run down your street. You have one of each. In some places you may have a selection of power companies, but no matter which you choose, power is delivered via the same lines. You may even pick among telephone companies, but again, the service is delivered through the same physical telephone lines.

    There is no reason for requiring that competing broadband Internet access providers in a market deploy their own last-mile networks. Heck, as taxpayers, we've already subsidized the Internet build-out of the United States to a massive degree. We've already paid for these networks.

    Perhaps that should be the deal struck with Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Sure, go ahead and create the largest cable company in the world -- but only if you become a common carrier and allow competition throughout your network. You can play, but you must allow competitors access to your last-mile infrastructure for fixed prices, and they can compete with you fair and square. If Comcast and Time Warner squawk and say other companies don't have to do the same, perhaps we do exactly that. Fair is fair, after all.

  • Publishers Withdraw More than 120 Gibberish Science and Engineering Papers

    The publishers Springer and IEEE are removing more than 120 papers from their subscription services after a French researcher discovered that the works were computer-generated nonsense.

  • Is It Normal to Hoard?
    Hoarding shows us at our best, and worst.

    Modern science has clearly revealed why hoarding deserves the designation of "disorder": It is reflected in physical differences in how the brain is wired. At the same time, it is something that reflects to us some of the qualities and decisions with which we all struggle: Consumerism, attachment, decision-making, time management-and, at some level, survival. I'm left wondering if it is any coincidence that it was in 2013, when society demands so much from us in each of these capacities, that hoarding has taken on full-fledged disorder status in the DSM-V handbook.

  • Investing's Biggest Irony: Everyone Thinks They're a Contrarian
    "You never know what the American public is going to do, but you know they will do it all at once."
    - Bill Seidman

    Even when everyone around you is giving an obviously wrong answer, your tendency to second-guess yourself, not want to embarrass yourself, and your natural desire to fit in can trump every bit of rationality you think you have.

  • Revealing the secret corruption inside PBS's news division

    In recent years, this campaign has seen public television stations ignore PBS's own rules about editorial control and pre-ordained conclusions. Indeed, stations across the country have started airing programming from wealthy ultraconservative foundations and corporate interests looking to promote their political messages through the PBS brand.

  • Why Walking through a Doorway Makes You Forget

    Why would we have a memory system set up to forget things as soon as we finish one thing and move on to another? Because we can't keep everything ready-to-hand, and most of the time the system functions beautifully. It's the failures of the system-and data from the lab-that give us a completely new idea of how the system works.

  • What Do You Believe In?

    We readily recognize that facts are not the same things as truth. Facts are true by definition (or they wouldn't be facts), but they require analysis, understanding and interpretation to become useful and actionable, to become truth. Logically, we should decide what the facts are as objectively as we can and then interpret the facts to come to a consistent set of beliefs about them. But that's not how it usually works. We try to jam the facts into our pre-conceived notions and commitments or simply miscomprehend reality such that we accept a view, no matter how implausible, that sees a different set of alleged facts, "facts" that are used (again) to support what we already believe. Since we quite readily see poor thinking in others but fail to see it in ourselves (on account of bias blindness) and live in a highly polarized society wherein commonly accepted facts are increasingly rare, beliefs (at least the beliefs of people who disagree with us) are not generally held in high regard.

    We are ideological creatures through-and-through. We prefer stories to data consistently, no matter how fanciful the story or how rigorous the data. It can be maddeningly difficult for us to separate fact from belief. Thus it is very dangerous business indeed to lose sight of what works in order to massage our egos, feel comforted or score ideological points.

    I'd love to be able to act upon facts alone, of course, assuming I can come to a fair approximation of them. But facts without interpretation are still useless.

  • Today I Found Out
    Learn Interesting Facts Every Day

    near daily "interesting fact" articles from various, extremely well credentialed authors

  • The College Bubble And Why We Avoided It
    Take Mark Twain's advice: don't let schooling interfere with your education.

    Multi-part series about the college bubble. So far:

    1. The First Person in My Family NOT to Go to College
    2. Captive Consumers: How Colleges Prepare Students For a Life of Debt
    3. Student Loan Interest: Compounding the Problem
    4. Do the Math: How Opportunity Costs Multiply Tuition (added 05/30/2014)

Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Sat Apr 19 15:10:31 EDT 2014

Understanding statistics

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) is quoted as having said "Figures don't lie, but liars figure".
Here are a few links to help understand statistics and the numbers behind the news.

  • More Or Less: Behind the Stats
    On BBC Radio 4 Tim Harford explores the truth about the numbers used in public arguments.

    Tim Harford investigates numbers in the news. Numbers are used in every area of public debate. But are they always reliable? Tim and the "More or Less" team try to make sense of the statistics which surround us.

  • Statistics Done Wrong
    Free online book by Alex Reinhart on how to do statistics.

    "Statistics Done Wrong" is a guide to the most popular statistical errors and slip-ups committed by scientists every day, in the lab and in peer-reviewed journals. Many of the errors are prevalent in vast swathes of the published literature, casting doubt on the findings of thousands of papers. "Statistics Done Wrong" assumes no prior knowledge of statistics, so you can read it before your first statistics course or after thirty years of scientific practice.

  • FiveThirtyEight

    Nate Silver's web site uses data-driven analysis to understand the numbers behind the news in politics, economics, science, life and sports.

    Formerly a feature of The New York Times it is now under the auspices of ESPN. Nate Silver gained fame for correctly predicting the winner of all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the 2012 presidential election.

  • The Dismal Art of Economic Forecasting
    Book review of Walter A. Friedman's "Fortune Tellers: The Story of America's First Economic Forecasters".

    The failure of forecasting is also due to the limits of learning from history. The models forecasters use are all built, to one degree or another, on the notion that historical patterns recur, and that the past can be a guide to the future. The problem is that some of the most economically consequential events are precisely those that haven't happened before. Think of the oil crisis of the 1970s, or the fall of the Soviet Union, or, most important, China's decision to embrace (in its way) capitalism and open itself to the West. Or think of the housing bubble. Many of the forecasting models that the banks relied on assumed that housing prices could never fall, on a national basis, as steeply as they did, because they had never fallen so steeply before. But of course they had also never risen so steeply before, which made the models effectively useless.

Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Wed Mar 26 13:10:44 EDT 2014

Items of Interest

Some web links I found to be of interest:

  • Antioxidants Could Increase Cancer Rates
    Science / AAAS

    Many people take vitamins such as A, E, and C thinking that their antioxidant properties will ward off cancer. But some clinical trials have suggested that such antioxidants, which sop up DNA-damaging molecules called free radicals, have the opposite effect and raise cancer risk in certain people. Now, in a provocative study that raises unsettling questions about the widespread use of vitamin supplements, Swedish researchers have showed that relatively low doses of antioxidants spur the growth of early lung tumors in cancer-prone mice, perhaps by hindering a well-known tumor suppressor gene.

  • What Drives Success?
    By Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeldjan

    It turns out that for all their diversity, the strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success. The first is a superiority complex - a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite - insecurity, a feeling that you or what you've done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.

  • How to stop giving a F@$% what people think.
    Start living your life

    It's impossible to live up to everyone's expectations. There will always be people - no matter what we say or how we treat them - that will judge us. Whether you're at the gym, at work, taking the train, or even online playing Call of Duty. Even now it's happening. You will never be able to stop people from judging you, but you can stop it from affecting you.

  • Indecision is sometime the best way to decide
    by Steve Fleming

    Quick decision-making might seem bold, but the agony of indecision is your brain's way of making a better choice

  • The Anti-Fragility of Health
    by Esther Dyson

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb, perhaps best known as the author of The Black Swan, has written a wonderful new book called Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. According to Taleb, things that are anti-fragile - mostly living things - not only resist being broken; they actually grow stronger under stress. When coddled too much, they grow weaker. Evolution is an anti-fragile process.

    Health itself is the capacity to undergo stress and react positively to it - anti-fragility in a specific context. For example, without exposure to infectious agents, the human immune system will never learn how to ward off invaders and may even turn inward, as in auto-immune diseases. Muscles need to work (and be stressed) to grow strong. The discomfort of hunger impels us to eat.

  • New Truths That Only One Can See
    It has been jarring to learn in recent years that a reproducible result may actually be the rarest of birds.

    Given the desire for ambitious scientists to break from the pack with a striking new finding, Dr. Ioannidis reasoned, many hypotheses already start with a high chance of being wrong. Otherwise proving them right would not be so difficult and surprising - and supportive of a scientist's career. Taking into account the human tendency to see what we want to see, unconscious bias is inevitable. Without any ill intent, a scientist may be nudged toward interpreting the data so it supports the hypothesis, even if just barely.

  • Indefensible Kissinger - By Gary J. Bass
    As more details come to light, the darker his deeds seem.

    Can we please stop already with the tributes to Henry Kissinger? As more and more material gets declassified, there are periodic exposures of his uglier deeds. Walter Isaacson's biography showed in detail how Kissinger had the FBI put wiretaps on journalists and government officials, including some of his own top staffers. A couple of years ago, it was revealed that back in 1975, while discussing how the Khmer Rouge had killed tens of thousands, he told Thailand's foreign minister, "You should also tell the Cambodians"-the Khmer Rouge-"that we will be friends with them. They are murderous thugs, but we won't let that stand in our way." More recently, an Oval Office tape was released that captured Kissinger in 1973 saying, "if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern."

  • The truth about charter schools:
    Padded cells, corruption, lousy instruction and worse results

    Charter schools are sold as an answer. With awful discipline and shocking scandals, many really cause new problems

  • The 'Nutcracker Man' Diet:
    Extinct Species Of Early Human Survived on 'Tiger Nuts,' Not Meat

    Fresh analysis of an extinct relative of humans suggests our ancient ancestors dined primarily on tiger nuts, which are edible grass bulbs, settling a discrepancy over what made up prehistoric diets.

    What does this say about the Paleo diet and eating meat?

  • TED isn't a recipe for 'civilisational disaster' - Chris Anderson

    It's a misconception that TED talks oversimplify complex subjects. As its curator, I'm committed to the principle that knowledge should be shared.

  • This is your brain on religion: Uncovering the science of belief
    Why are some people of faith generous - while others are nuts?

    It does indeed seem that religion must have afforded an evolutionary advantage. Receptiveness to religion is determined by spirituality, which is 50 percent genetically determined, as twin studies have shown. Spirituality is a characteristic that everyone has to a degree, even if they don't belong to a church. Religion is the local shape given to our spiritual feelings. The decision to be religious or not certainly isn't "free." The surroundings in which we grow up cause the parental religion to be imprinted in our brain circuitries during early development, in a similar way to our native language. Chemical messengers like serotonin affect the extent to which we are spiritual: The number of serotonin receptors in the brain corresponds to scores for spirituality. And substances that affect serotonin, like LSD, mescaline (from the peyote cactus), and psilocybin (from magic mushrooms) can generate mystical and spiritual experiences. Spiritual experiences can also be induced with substances that affect the brain's opiate system.

  • Review of Richard X. Bove's book "Guardians of Prosperity: Why America Needs Big Banks"
    by Roger Lowenstein

    A Book-Length Defense of Big Banks Goes Long on Straw Men and Conspiracy Theories

  • Why Non-Profit Hospitals Are So Profitable

    "And then there is the business model of 'non-profit' hospitals, which are, in fact, among the most profitable enterprises in the country."

    "Every hospital has what is called a 'chargemaster,' a list of what it charges for everything from a day in the ICU to a single aspirin."

    "Medicare and insurance companies pay a fraction of the nominal prices. MD Anderson, a high-powered cancer hospital in Houston, charges $283 for a simple chest X-ray and Medicare pays the hospital $20.44."

Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Fri Feb 28 11:26:05 EST 2014

Items of Interest

Some web links I found to be of interest:

  • New Poll Shows That Americans Are Losing Faith In God
    Business Insider

    A new Harris Poll released today reveals that only 74% of Americans believe in God, an 8% decline since 2009.

  • Why Have No High-Level Executives Been Prosecuted?
    The New York Review of Books

    I want to stress again that I do not claim that the financial crisis that is still causing so many of us so much pain and despondency was the product, in whole or in part, of fraudulent misconduct. But if it was-as various governmental authorities have asserted it was - then the failure of the government to bring to justice those responsible for such colossal fraud bespeaks weaknesses in our prosecutorial system that need to be addressed.

  • Why won't the President rein in the intelligence community?
    The New Yorker: State of Deception

    Wyden, who said that he has had "several spirited discussions" with Obama, is not optimistic. "It really seems like General Clapper, the intelligence leadership, and the lawyers drive this in terms of how decisions get made at the White House," he told me. It is evident from the Snowden leaks that Obama inherited a regime of dragnet surveillance that often operated outside the law and raised serious constitutional questions. Instead of shutting down or scaling back the programs, Obama has worked to bring them into narrow compliance with rules-set forth by a court that operates in secret-that often contradict the views on surveillance that he strongly expressed when he was a senator and a Presidential candidate.

  • Who's good at forecasts?
    Philip Tetlock and Advanced Research Projects Activity forecasting tournaments.

    The only reliable method is to conduct a forecasting tournament in which independent judges ask all participants to make the same forecasts in the same timeframes. And forecasts must be expressed numerically, so there can be no hiding behind vague verbiage. Words like "may" or "possible" can mean anything from probabilities as low as 0.001% to as high as 60% or 70%. But 80% always and only means 80%

  • Criticism of Malcolm Gladwell

    The Gladwell pivot
    Commentary on the chapter about dyslexia in Malcolm Gladwell's book David and Goliath

    The gripe about Gladwell is his selective use of such information-not letting facts get in the way of a good story. A different story, certainly a more nuanced one, would result if other studies, other personal narratives, other experts had been considered. The average reader is not aware of what has been left out and thus can be easily mislead. His selective use of the research literature turns scientific findings into another form of anecdote. This is particularly bothersome to scientists whose own first commandment is something like: thou shalt address all relevant evidence, not merely the findings that support the most interesting, attention-getting hypothesis.

    Malcolm Gladwell Is America's Best-Paid Fairy-Tale Writer

    But the mix of moralism and scientism is an ever-winning formula, as Gladwell's career demonstrates. Speaking to a time that prides itself on optimism and secretly suspects that nothing works, his books are analgesics for those who seek temporary relief from abiding anxiety. There is more of reality and wisdom in a Chinese fortune cookie than can be found anywhere in Gladwell's pages. But then, it is not reality or wisdom that his readers are looking for.

  • Change Blindness
    PBS NOVA Video Blog

    Your brain really doesn't remember the things it sees very well. While it might capture certain aspects of the world, it mostly discards the information it processes.

  • Why Not Immortality?
    Communications of the ACM

    "Biological systems fail because at some point it's cheaper to make new ones." This is nature's form of cost-benefit analysis. Optimal design balances the marginal benefit of investing in the old versus investing in the new.

  • Eldercare Sourcebook

    Award-winning research site for professionals and family members looking for information on aging, eldercare, and long term care, including information on legal, financial, medical, and housing issues, policy, research, and statistics.

  • 18 Signs Economists Haven't the Foggiest
    Unlearning Economics: Criticism of mainstream economists and economics.

    ... outlining the major reasons why economists can be completely out of touch with their public image, as well as how they should do "science", and why their discipline is so ripe for criticism (most of which they are unaware of).

Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments