Jimmy Carter on the attempts to cure major diseases

While I have my criticisms of some aspects of Jimmy Carter’s record while he was president, there is no question that he was one of the better ones in recent times and has been doing some good work since returning to private life. The former president spoke with Jon Stewart about the efforts, in which his own center has participated, that have led to the almost complete eradication of the awful disease caused by the guinea worm.
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The brutality of boxing and football

I have been writing about the dangers playing American football due to the increasing number of reported cases of brain injury due to the repeated concussions that American football players experience, and argued that there are strong grounds for schools and colleges not fielding teams since educational institutions should not be encouraging young people to run the risks of permanent damage by seeming to endorse a dangerous activity. If as adults they want to play, there is little we can do except not support them.
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Averages can be tricky

When I started out as a graduate student, I was a teaching assistant in a lab. Invariably in physics labs students are expected to measure some quantity multiple times and then take the average so as to minimize the effect of random uncertainties that are intrinsic to any measurement. I recall some students showing me a set of about six numbers and the average that they had calculated from it. They were amazed when I told them after a quick glance that the average was wrong.
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The ethics of being sponsored by a sex offender

The saga of Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy money manager whose penchant for sex with young girls resulted in him being investigated for having sex with minors, has involved some big-name people such as prince Andrew and Alan Dershowitz. But it turns out that Epstein also fancied himself as some kind of Renaissance man and funded individual scientists, many of them very well-known, such as Nobel prize winning physicist Murray Gellman and skeptic and physicist Lawrence Krauss. In fact, physicists seem to be particularly favored by Epstein.
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The family that eats together …

Via that excellent website Machines Like Us I came across this article by Anne Fishel that points to the benefits of having meals together with one’s children.

As a family therapist, I often have the impulse to tell families to go home and have dinner together rather than spending an hour with me. And 20 years of research in North America, Europe and Australia back up my enthusiasm for family dinners. It turns out that sitting down for a nightly meal is great for the brain, the body and the spirit.

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Are annual physicals useful?

I am one of those people fortunate to be covered by an employer-based health insurance plan that pays for an annual physical exam and I regularly schedule one because it seems like a good preventative way of detecting early problems. So I was surprised by this article by Ezekiel J. Emanuel, an oncologist and a vice provost at the University of Pennsylvania, who says that large longitudinal studies show that routine annual physicals are of little value and his new year’s resolution is to stop having them.
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What now for Sri Lanka’s ‘royal astrologer’?

In an earlier post I mentioned how the just-defeated Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, a very superstitious man in a very superstitious country, frequently consulted with his astrologer to ensure that the stars were properly aligned to ensure his success in all things, including his re-election bid. It turns out that even I underestimated the extent of his dependence on astrologers, as this article describes, written two days before the election.
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The role of chance in life is not controversial

I would have thought that speaking about the importance of chance in life would be uncontroversial. My post a few days ago about a new study that was of interest not because the researchers showed the role of chance in getting cancer but that it was more significant than I would have guessed, being responsible about 2/3 of the time, with only 1/3 due to heredity and the environment, something we focus on a lot.
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The menace posed by not vaccinating children

Tara Culp-Ressler had an article about how those who are opposed to vaccinating their own children against measles are threatening the lives of other children.

California officials issued a health alert this week over a measles outbreak that appears to have originated at Disneyland theme parks. Nine cases of the highly contagious virus have been confirmed so far in people who recently visited the tourist destination — most of whom haven’t been vaccinated against measles.
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