Tuberculosis epidemic?

If TB really is endemic in Central America we may be in for a really bad time. Here’s a rather alarmed blog post on a potential TB epidemic brought on by the massive rise in illegal immigration from Central America.

Two anecdotes:

When I was teaching Latin at Henry W. Grady High School in Midtown Atlanta we had a round of universal TB tests – a student came back from Christmas break in Vietnam with TB and all faculty and students were tested. I don’t think anyone outside her own family had been exposed, but it was exciting for all of us.

I had a weird lung problem in the summer of 2000 or 2001 that was finally diagnosed as a cyst formed around some particle I had inhaled (and no one ever figured out where I might have done that, since the most common form happens to chicken farmers). The initial protocol is to assume TB until proved otherwise. Unfortunately for me, I went in on a Friday afternoon. The pulmonologist didn’t come see me again until Monday morning, so I spent the whole weekend in isolation with an air filter the size of a washer in the corner of my room and all my meals brought in by gowned, hooded, masked nurses. No one checked the results of the TB test (negative, thank goodness) and dropped the isolation protocol until Monday morning.


Symptoms of Stardom

There is a belief within American media that a successful person can succeed at anything. He (and it’s invariably he) is omnicompetent, and people who question him and laugh at his outlandish ideas will invariably fail and end up working for him. If he cares about something, it’s important; if he says something can be done, it can. The people who are already doing the same thing are peons and their opinions are to be discounted, since they are biased and he never is. He doesn’t need to provide references or evidence – even supposedly scientific science fiction falls into this trope, in which the hero gets ideas from his gut, is always right, and never needs to do experiments.

This is from an interesting essay on why Elon Musk’s Hyperloop won’t work. I don’t care at all about the technical details of exotic high speed transport on the west coast, but the first part and the last part of the essay, on why the culture of unquestioned superstar entrepreneurs, is well-worth reading!

via Prof. Cowen

If violent stories made for school violence . . .

. . . I would have sliced up my school with my sword for sure. My parents did indeed buy me one of those souvenir swords. I bet it would have taken an edge! A psychologist takes on the idea of a causal connection between media violence and school violence. I especially like how he dismisses the American Academy of Pediatrics as an advocacy group. Of course they are! They’re not scientists!

Anecdota – in the old fashioned sense of “unpublished”

Or, at least, unpublished where I’d ever noticed! Derek Lowe is speculating about Glaxo-Smith-Kline’s decision to pay big bucks to whoever discovers a new drug…but who is the real discoverer? Here’s an anecdote he quotes:

Even a nurse involved in the testing of a drug can make the key discovery, as happened in Pfizer’s phase 1 program with Viagra, where the nurse monitoring the patients noticed that the drug was enhancing blood flow to an organ other than the heart. To paraphrase Hilary Clinton, it takes a village to discover and develop a drug.


Who knew? I sure didn’t.

Great advice!

My mother has a fuchsia in a hanging basket – and it came with the clearest watering advice I’ve ever seen. None of this “keep partially moist” or “water when barely dry” – the tag says:

Basket should weigh the equivalent of 1G of milk. Let dry until weight is about 1/2G before watering again.

How lucid! We all have hefted gallons and half gallons of milk!

Leprosy – medieval and modern

Here’s the article.

But no sign in the article of ancient leprosy, really (other than a throwaway line about the earliest sample being from India about 4000 years ago).

I’m curious because in the 70s and 80s I frequently read footnotes (especially to newer translations of the Bible) that claimed Biblical leprosy wasn’t the same thing as modern Hansen’s Disease. Indeed, the Jerusalem Bible produced some whopper sentences in which the phrase “loathsome skin disease” and “sufferer from a loathsome skin disease” replaced “leprosy” and “leper.”

Now I always understood that the ancient concept of leprosy might have included a few more diseases, but those footnotes were always tossing the baby out with the bathwater.

Big data from cheap phones – only slightly creepy.

Read and see how you can track malaria in Africa, or:

A powerful demonstration of how useful data from cheap phones can be came after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which killed more than 200,000 people. Researchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute obtained data from Digicel, Haiti’s largest mobile carrier. They mined the daily movement data from two million phones—from 42 days before the earthquake to 158 days after—and concluded that 630,000 people who had been in Port-au-Prince on the day of the earthquake had left the city within three weeks. They also demonstrated that they could do such calculations in close to real time. They showed—within 12 hours of receiving the data—how many people had fled an area affected by a cholera outbreak, and where they went.

via Professor Reynolds.

Me at the Real Alcazar

Me at the Real Alcazar by Michael Tinkler
Me at the Real Alcazar, a photo by Michael Tinkler on Flickr.

The Alcazar Palace is really something – I think it would be very comfortable in the summer time, for Seville!
I remember the tilework from an old PBS show, “Connections.” I can’t think of the presenter’s name, but it was a history of science across time kind of thing – made an impression on me!