Category Archives: Healthcare

Spurious Correlations

Spurious Correlations – by Tyler Vigen

Hi, I’m Tyler Vigen!  Spurious Correlations was a project I put together as a fun way to look at correlations and to think about data.

Empirical research is interesting, and I love to wonder about how variables work together.

The charts on this site aren’t meant to imply causation nor are they meant to create a distrust for research or even correlative data. Rather, I hope this project fosters interest in statistics and numerical research.

Above chart is just one example of bizarre correlations of unrelated data. (Click on chart to see full site with more of these.)

Your brain on PMS is like your brain on alcohol

Your brain on PMS is like your brain on alcohol and depressants – By Cassie Werber December 21, 2016

Recent research into hormonal contraceptives found a clear link between them and depression.

That’s hardly surprising, the researcher says, when you consider that all hormonal contraceptives contain progesterone, and some are progesterone-only.

How and why progesterone alters moods is understudied, but there’s a growing body of research, based on the results of blood tests and brain scans, conducted by Poromaa and others. One discovery from this research is that progesterone can trigger the small, almond-shaped part of the brain called the amygdala.   Continue reading

Aim your BS Detector at the Turduckens in Healthcare

Aim your baloney detector at the BS in health care – STAT – by Lawton R. Burns and Mark V. Pauly – May 2019

BS, what Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt once called a “lack of connection to a concern with truth — this indifference to how things really are,” has probably been around since the beginning of language.

We’ve noticed an influx of BS in health care. You don’t have to look far to spot it. Just think of Theranos and IBM Watson.

We are wondering if several new corporate “turduckens

I thought this was a made-up word, but no, it’s real and it’s not for the squeamish:  Continue reading

Court challenge to Controlled Substances Act

Federal appeals court refuses to dismiss the federal cannabis lawsuit. – Mike Hiller, Esq. – May 30, 2019

I just came across this and I’m not sure if this applies to our situation with opioids, but I’m delighted to see this challenge to the misbegotten Controlled Substances Act, which was passed and signed into law in 1970, almost half a century ago.

In a groundbreaking decision, the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals became the first Court to refuse to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Controlled Substances Act.

Hurray, a judge finally comes to a rational decision! 

Continue reading

Artificial Intelligence: Accuracy versus Explainability

Artificial Intelligence and Black‐Box Medical Decisions: Accuracy versus Explainability – by Alex John London – February 2019

This article explores a big problem with “AI”, one that’s fundamental to its design and function, one that presents thorny philosophical issues that must be confronted and decided before technology decides them for us by default, allow the technology to direct us instead of us directing the technology.

I suspect this is already starting to happen as more medical records are digitized and become available to be processed by an algorithm instead of a person, preferably one with medical knowledge, but these days more commonly a bureaucratic administrator following a procedural “algorithm” of their own.  Continue reading

How to Figure Out If Your Supplements Are Safe

How to Figure Out If Your Supplements Are Safe –  vitals.lifehacker.comby Beth Skwarecki – Dec 2015

By law, US companies can’t market supplements that are “adulturated or misbranded,” but no testing or approval is required.

A recent DNA analysis of several herbal supplements (sold at big name retailers like Target and Walgreen’s) showed that some of them didn’t contain any of their purported ingredients.   Continue reading

Happiness doesn’t follow success: it leads

Happiness doesn’t follow success: it’s the other way round – Lisa C Walsh, Julia K Boehm & Sonja Lyubomirsky | Aeon Ideas – 24 May, 2019

I am posting this because it refutes an argument I hear far too often: you have to work hard and completely devote yourself to a profession in order to be successful. I’ve never believed it, but I’ve certainly been pressured by it.

Here we see how inverting all those studies that show success leads to happiness can be just as scientifically valid because these studies only show correlation not causation, yet everyone even scientists who should know better jump to conclusions that fit what we initially believe before we even see the data.

Work hard, become successful, then you’ll be happy. At least, that’s what many of us were taught by our parents, teachers and peers.   Continue reading

Dolphins Use Toxic Pufferfish to Get High

Dolphins Seem to Use Toxic Pufferfish to Get High | Smart News | Smithsonian – Dec 2013

Just for fun:

Humans aren’t the only creatures that suffer from substance abuse problems.

  • Horses eat hallucinogenic weeds,
  • elephants get drunk on overripe fruit and
  • big horn sheep love narcotic lichen.

Monkeys’ attraction to sugar-rich and ethanol-containing fruit, in fact, may explain our own attraction to alcohol, some researchers think.   Continue reading

Turning Microbes Into Living Factories

Frances Arnold Turns Microbes Into Living Factories – NY Times – By Natalie Angier May 28, 2019

I’m posting this just because it fascinates me and I hope it stirs interest and curiosity in my readers as well.

The engineer’s mantra, said Frances Arnold, a professor of chemical engineering at the California Institute of Technology, is: “Keep it simple, stupid.” But Dr. Arnold, who last year became just the fifth woman in history to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, is the opposite of stupid, and her stories sometimes turn rococo.

…another of Dr. Arnold’s maxims:

“Give up the thought that you have control. You don’t.   Continue reading

Fat tissue can communicate with other organs

Fat tissue can communicate with other organs | National Institutes of Health (NIH)by Tianna Hicklin, Ph.D. – Feb 2017

I’m posting this because it upends the common belief that fat is inert. We usually view fat as an unnecessary and monolithic “blob” to be pared down as much as we can, but here we see it’s much more complicated than that.

At a Glance

  • Researchers discovered that fat tissue releases signals called microRNAs into the bloodstream that regulate genes in another organ.
  • The findings suggest new ways to treat metabolism-related diseases like obesity and diabetes.

Continue reading