Thursday, December 10, 2009

Polio explained

I ran across this great comic book today that explains the rise and fall of polio. I'd like to share it with all my friends who are against vaccines, and also those friends who don't have an opinion either way.

I've been getting into lots of arguments about vaccination lately on Facebook. I know a lot of people who are wary of most or all vaccines, and many of these people are my friends. Alas, I have read the arguments against vaccination and I'm just not convinced. Most of them seem to be based on hypotheses that are unproven or, more often, proven false.

There are some vaccinations that I don't think people should get. Small pox vaccines carry a small risk of causing serious illness, and smallpox isn't found in the natural environment anymore, so I wouldn't recommend someone get a smallpox vaccine unless some asshole rereleases it into the human population.

The benefit-risk ratio is unfavorable for some other vaccines, as well, unless a person has a high risk of exposure. So I wouldn't get the anthrax vaccine unless I was in the military, or was a veterinarian treating anthrax-infected sheep.

Nonetheless, my anti-vaccination friends tell me it is very sad that I believe anything big pharma says (some put it more politely). If that's true, though, I can't figure out why I've concluded that a significant portion of prescription drugs on the market today are useless or harmful for most of the people who receive them. (See Worried Sick by Nortin Hadler for an introduction to this topic.)

Oh, well. Maybe the comic book will help to explain my crazy views. In any case, I am looking forward to reading more great stuff from The Science Creative Quarterly.

P.S. Thanks to the Science-Based Medicine blog for pointing me to the comic!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Now I'm waiting for Obama to come up with a really cool hairstyle

After seeing this picture of Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenk, I've decided that Ukraine is a really cool country. Dude, the prime minister gets to wrap braids over the top of her head! I haven't worn my hair that way since I was a kid; I have a feeling that, even in a business casual environment, most American bosses would not tolerate this hairstyle. If I were allowed to, I just might grow my hair out again ...

(Apparently, I'm way behind the times. The New York Times wrote about her braids two years ago.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

More carnivorous plants!

A few minutes ago, while washing my dishes, I caught the very end of a radio interview on As It Happens*, the daily news magazine from CBC. I didn't catch the species or genus they were talking about until after the interview, when one of the hosts commented that she was going to go have some fries and ketchup to reassert her dominant position on the food chain.

Nightshades! The discovery must be about nightshades!

Dishes be damned. I pulled off my rubber gloves and rushed over to my computer to do a Google news search on "nightshade carnivorous." The search brought up only one result, which was a bit of a disappointment -- hello, global media, this is world-changing news! Yes, yes, I know Copenhagen is interesting, but those bigwigs aren't actually planning to agree to any changes in their policies just yet, so can't you free up at least one reporter per venue to report on breakthroughs in botany?

Well, maybe there will be more news results tomorrow.

To be fair, a search of "potato carnivorous" brought up seven results, but don't get too excited yet. Three of these were just blog rehashes of a story in the Independent, which also showed up in the results. The remaining three were:
Note that all the newspaper coverage is from the United Kingdom. If this story makes it to the States, how much do you want to bet that newspapers will simply rehash those three articles (with an exception, perhaps, for The New York Times, which - bastion of secular liberalism that it is** - actually devotes an entire weekly section to science)?

*Spoiler Warning: If you listen to this show and have always imagined the hosts to look like an older version of Nurse Hathaway, as I have, linking to this Web site will present a challenge to the theater in your mind. A photo of Carol Ott and Barbara Budd is fetured prominently on the intro page.
**Yes, insert snicker here.