I'm not really all that mysterious

Everything Causes Cancer

Crazy headlines like these might make you want to throw up your hands and just start smoking cigarettes and inhaling asbestos…

Research links cancer to fruit and vegetables • 2002 Feb 17 • Robin McKie • Science Editor • The Guardian

…but behind the hysterical link bait, there is an actual putative mechanism:

Glasgow University team links increased use of nitrate fertilisers to rise of gullet cancer in UK

Coupled with the IARC reclassifying processed meat as a known carcinogen (primarily because of N-nitroso compound content, but also because of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines), I don’t think it’s particularly surprising that excessive nitrate concentrations could be problematic.

But this does increase my skepticism that massively industrialized agriculture is the One True Way™ to avoid a Malthusian catastrophe (nevermind that I think Malthusian catastrophes are overhyped1.)

It appears that the mass production of vegetables in the Western world since the last world war may be the underlying factor that has led to such huge increases in this form of cancer.

Prof. Kenneth McColl, Glasgow University

And lest I be painted as a organic-woo Luddite…

…it was unlikely that organic food would be any healthier, because it also contained substantial levels of nitrate, some of which came from natural fertilisers such as manure.

Meat and vegetables might give you cancer, but I think you can still eat fungi and phytoplankton! (crossposted on Facebook){. metadata }

And just in general:

All things are poison and nothing is without poison; only the dose makes a thing not a poison.

posted by Author's profile picture mahiwaga

Heart Attacks are Still a More Likely Cause of Death than Cancer

Realistically, if you eat a ton of bacon, sausage, or Spam or eat an entire porterhouse steak every night, you’re probably not going to die of cancer. Coronary artery disease is probably going to get to you first. (crossposted on Facebook)

Heart disease: 611,105; Cancer: 584,881

Deaths: Final Data for 2013, table 10 via Leading Causes of Death • FastStats • CDC

posted by Author's profile picture mahiwaga

Zombies and Othering

Imagining a grim meathook dystopian science fiction story where some terrible virus causes people to shuffle along like zombies and not be able to talk and generally be out of it, but they aren’t actually undead, they’re just sick.

The people who are unaffected panic anyway and slaughter them by the millions, convinced they’re really zombies and not actually just people infected by a terrible disease.

The governments encourage it because who wants to foot the medical bill?

(crossposted on Facebook){. metadata }

Let’s also say that they—like a lot of people with altered mental status—get violent when you try to subdue them or otherwise interfere with their movements.

And they mostly look and smell like they’ve been on the street for awhile and are mumbling to themselves and don’t have any regard for your personal space.

Turns out there is already a book based on a similar premise, where the zombies are still people, not mindless undead (h/t Katy S)

Contemporary zombies—much like vampires before them—seem to hearken to a xenophobic instinct (and to a fear of contagion).

The zombie apocalypse is basically libertarian/survivalist (and xenophobe) ruin porn.

Which makes Junot Díaz’s post linking to an Atlantic article about zombies quite synchronous:

The Tragic, Forgotten History of Zombies • The horror-movie trope owes its heritage to Haitian slaves, who imagined being imprisoned in their bodies forever. • 2015 Oct 28 • Mike Mariani • The Atlantic

Hence a bitter irony between the Haitian zombie and its American counterpart. The monster once represented the real-life horrors of dehumanization; now it’s used as a way to fantasize about human beings whose every decision is exalted. While it’s difficult to begrudge the storytelling logic of wiping out the many to restore meaning and importance to the few, it’s still worth acknowledging the bleak asymmetry of the zombie then and the zombie now. The original emerged in a context where humans were denied control of their own bodies and sought death as an escape. And now in pop culture, the zombie has come to serve as the primary symbol of escapism itself—where the fictional enslavement of some provides a perverse kind of freedom for everyone else.

posted by Author's profile picture mahiwaga

TB test

So it’s kind of embarrassing that the first time I ever heard of the LAM-ELISA test was because of the unsolved murder of Elisa Lam.

Clinical utility of a commercial LAM-ELISA assay for TB diagnosis in HIV-infected patients using urine and sputum samples. • 2010 Mar 24 • Dheda, K et al • PLoS One • PubMed

One weird theory suggested she had TB encephalopathy. I’m not sure where that came from.

posted by Author's profile picture mahiwaga

Apparently Approaching the Stationary Phase of Moore's Law

Without some new breakthrough in physics, it seems unlikely that the original formulation of Moore’s Law will continue to hold. This is certainly not the first gloomy forecast.

Smaller, Faster, Cheaper, Over: The Future of Computer Chips • 2015 Sep 26 • John Markoff • New York Times

posted by Author's profile picture mahiwaga

Molecular Version of the Myth of Sisyphus

Christopher S. posted this animated GIF on Facebook and I knew I’d seen it somewhere before….

kinesin walking on a microtubule

After some cursory Googling….

Kinesin • Wikipedia

posted by Author's profile picture mahiwaga

Auvi-Q Recall

I never prescribed Auvi-Q because I don’t think they were ever covered by Medi-Cal managed care plans, but I thought they were kind of cool. They’re kind of like Siri talking you through a scene from “Pulp Fiction”.

Sanofi US Recalls All Auvi-Q Epinephrine Injection • 2015 Oct 29 • Robert Lowes • Medscape Pediatrics

posted by Author's profile picture mahiwaga