Pure Pedantry

Archives for October, 2008

This Sunday you are slightly less likely to have a heart attack. Swedish researchers, publishing in the NEJM, looked at a registry of heart attacks from 1987 to 2006. They found that the incidence of heart attacks slightly increases for the three days following the Spring daylight savings time where we lose an hour. The…

The Ethics of Using Placebos

A survey of American internists and rheumatologists has revealed that over 50% of them regularly prescribe placebos. Tilburt et al. surveyed internists and rheumatologists to see whether they were prescribing placebos, and if so how and what kind they were using. The study, published in BMJ, found the following: 679 physicians (57%) responded to the…

Whenever you are having a debate — particularly a policy debate — it is always important to check your premises. That is why I found this article in the Journal of the American Medical Association refreshing. Emergency Department utilization is clearly on the rise in the US, and this rise in use is leading to…

Brain to Muscle Link in the Monkey

I am a little late to this party, but I do want to talk about this paper in Nature Neuroscience. Moritz et al. implanted an electrode into a monkey’s motor cortex. The electrode was designed to only record from a single neuron at a time. Then the output of that cell — after a little…

Economy Update

I have been a bit lax on the blogging, but here is what I have been reading on the economy. Tyler Cowen attributes the financial bubble to three main causes: The current financial crisis comes from a conjunction of three major trends, common to many countries and to a wide variety of financial institutions. The…

In Defense of Piracy

Lawrence Lessig, co-founder of Creative Commons, writes in the WSJ in defense of piracy — or more aptly the culture of remixing of which blogging is certainly a part: The return of this “remix” culture could drive extraordinary economic growth, if encouraged, and properly balanced. It could return our culture to a practice that has…

Being a Doctor and the Moral Sense

Philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel and psychologist Fiery Cushman have designed a moral sense test. The test poses scenarios and asks you to evaluate the relative morality or immorality of different actions. The purpose of the test for the researchers is to compare the responses between philosophers and non-philosophers to various ethical questions. (I imagine that the…

The scientific process is composed of generating hypotheses and testing those hypotheses through experiment. Yet we don’t know a whole lot about how about hypothesis generation happens on the level of the brain. Recognizing that I am dealing with a loaded term — scientists have strong opinions on the meaning of the term hypothesis —…

US Politics Moving West

An article at RealClearPolitics of interest to those living in the Southwest. (I am looking at you, Mom and Dad.) Political observers agree that, like in the Northeast, Democrats have made gains because they have broadened their coalition to include those more supportive of gun and property rights and more open to domestic energy exploration.…

Kara showed me this clip when I was in London, and it is too funny not to share. It is of British comedian James Sherwood detailing his “rules of songwriting.”