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Friday, February 28, 2020

COVID-19 "Pandemic?" Wall Street freaks out.

Click the Hopkins Coronavirus graphic to enlarge. Defintely spreading worldwide. Update of my prior post.

Whatever the actual current and likely projected severity of the virus impact, the panicky economic upshot has been significant this week. We've quit checking our IRAs. Probably down "on paper" about $35k at this point. Glad we don't need to take any distributions right now. Ugh.

Again, whatever the present clinical / epidemiological severity of COVID-19, the supply chains' disruptions are indisputably exigent and worsening. Irrational?
How a Coronavirus Case in Korea Instantly Hit a Small Business in the US
Everyone is trying to figure out how to get around the sudden hurdles.

A small US company that specializes in exporting US frozen and refrigerated food products to Asia, including to South Korea, suddenly got hit by the coronavirus-spread-prevention machinery that is now screwing up businesses around the globe, according to an employee who doesn’t want to be named – and doesn’t want the company to be named – because they’re not authorized to discuss the matter.

The person said that one of their customers in Korea had ordered some frozen product. The US company — let’s call it Company X — in turn ordered it from its supplier in the US, and the supplier shipped it to Company X’s freight forwarder’s cold storage location at a California port. The freight forwarder was waiting for the instructions to place the product in a refrigerated container and ship it to Korea.

Meanwhile, Company X tried to get the letter of credit from its customer in Korea. It won’t ship the product without a letter of credit. With a letter of credit, the buyer’s bank guarantees that the seller gets paid the correct amount on time. It’s a fundamental tool in international trade.

But the person then got an email from the Korean counterpart who explained that there was no letter of credit, that he tried to go to the bank to obtain the letter of credit, as he normally does, but that he couldn’t leave the office building to go to the bank because someone in the building had tested positive for the coronavirus. That was the first email…
Buckle up, folks. We're doin' a stockup CostCo run, making sure all of our meds supplies are adequate, and topping off the gas tanks.

Meanwhile, the President is off to South Carolina today to hold his latest MAGA Rally and brag some more about how great he is.
No, I don't like him. Need one explain? Seriously?

More to come...

Friday, February 21, 2020

"Deliberation Science," meet "Deception Science"

"A government insider exposes the industry playbook for undermining evidence-based policy."

Reviewed in my latest Science Magazine. Had to get it.
At the dawn of a new decade and in a pivotal election year, we face unprecedented challenges that threaten the environment, public health, and security. Meanwhile, dark money is being funneled through powerful lobbyists, plaguing the process of enacting informed, evidence-based policies. David Michaels's new book, The Triumph of Doubt, is a tour de force that examines how frequently, and easily, science has been manipulated to discredit expertise and accountability on issues ranging from obesity and concussions to opioids and climate change.

Michaels is the quintessential voice on the influence of special interests in policy-making and government inaction. An epidemiologist and professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University, he spent 7 years leading the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under President Obama and previously served as President Clinton's assistant secretary of energy for environment, safety, and health.

His book offers account after account of unethical bad actors working against the public good on issues ranging from asbestos to climate change. Powerful firms and individuals seeking personal gain repeat the tactics of a well-worn playbook of denial and misdirection proven effective by Big Tobacco more than 50 years ago. Michaels pulls no punches, naming the corporations and people responsible for fraud, deception, and even what he terms “climate terrorism.” He reveals the dirty ways that industries have succeeded at shaping their own narratives regarding safety and health by producing articles and diversions designed to deny and distort science while confusing the public…

Every chapter is deeply disturbing yet feels familiar because the tactics—and at times even the actors—are the same. The book will, and should, infuriate readers and serve as a call to action to demand more government oversight and regulation on health and safety issues that affect every citizen regardless of party affiliation.

Michaels begins the final chapter by acknowledging that capitalism has the capacity to produce extreme wealth and economic development at a cost to our health and the environment. The book closes with a sense of unease and urgency, offering practical steps to strengthen U.S. regulatory oversight, provide more funding transparency, and increase corporate accountability.

Only when we begin to recognize the abuse of power that is rampant in decisions that affect the health and safety of our families and communities will we understand our necessary role in demanding scientific integrity in policy-making…
You even get reviewed in Science Magazine, you tend to have presumptive cred; they don't waste space on weak stuff. I'm almost done reading it. Stay tuned. It's excellent.

"Deliberation Science?" Is that a thing?

See also "Define science."

David Michaels concludes:
Regulation Defends Capitalism
The catalog of horrors that has necessitated the growth of America’s public health regulatory system is long. It includes everything from the conditions in Chicago’s slaughterhouses (exposed by novelist Upton Sinclair in The Jungle) to cigarettes and asbestos to climate breakdown and the widespread PFAS contamination of drinking water. In each case, corporations making a product caused damage and externalized the costs. Litigation is typically valuable in redressing the public’s grievance, but it is not sufficient for changing the root issues, in part because litigation always occurs after the fact. By the time the lawsuit is filed, too many people have been sickened, or maimed, or killed—to say nothing of how the environment has been desecrated. 

Our regulatory system is the response to these market failures. The objectives of the new laws and the agencies empowered to enforce them is not only to stop the damage and prevent future harm; it is to maintain and strengthen the free market system. Although many advocates of free market economics refuse to acknowledge this dynamic, law and regulation are the underpinnings of our economic system. They define market structure and property rights while attempting to ensure that property rights don’t intrude on personal liberties. Without the regulatory apparatus of the state, our modern economy could not exist. The state fosters a safe space for market growth.

We all value freedom, in particular the freedom to live the lives we choose. But this is not possible unless we are secure from being harmed by others, and in our modern world we individuals cannot bargain with the factory owner or the manufacturer of contaminated food. We generally have little or no knowledge of the effects of a given exposure, or sometimes that such exposures are even occurring. It is our elected representatives and officials who must enact and enforce laws that protect us from individual and collective harm—from violence and from robbery, but also from dangers posed by tainted food, polluted air and water, unsafe drugs, and dangerous workplace exposures.

Science underpins all of these public health and environmental protections. The basic principle of the regulatory system holds that decisions must be made on the basis of the best evidence available at the time. Product defense science doesn’t just game our free-market system; it prevents our government from accomplishing one of the reasons for its very existence. It is often unrecognized because it is so ingrained in our understanding that a primary government function is to facilitate some individuals (including the owners of corporations) to benefit by producing or performing something that does not impinge on the freedom and well-being of other individuals. This is the basis of the criminal justice system, as well as our system of public health and environmental protections. We want stronger regulation not because we don’t care about freedom, but because we cannot be free without the state’s protection from harm. We need to know that our air is safe to breathe, that our food is safe to eat, and that we can return home from work at the end of our shifts no less healthy than when we walked out the door in the morning. That is both the imperative and, alas, the challenge.

Michaels, David. The Triumph of Doubt (pp. 270-272). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
I will have a lot more to say shortly once I finish.


Finished.  Table of Contents:
  1. Introduction
  2. The Science of Deception
  3. The Forever Chemicals
  4. The NFL’s Head Doctors
  5. A Spirited Denial
  6. The Deal with Diesel
  7. On Opioids
  8. Deadly Dust
  9. Working the Refs
10. Volkswagen’s Other Bug
11. The Climate Denial Machine
12. Sickeningly Sweet
13. The Party Line
14. Science for Sale
15. Future in Doubt

Disclosures and Acknowledgments
An important read. Although my wife and I have worked in highly regulated domains since the 1980s--FAA, EPA, DOE, NRC, OSHA, HHS, OCC, FDIC--and are fairly up to speed on regulatory processes and issues, I learned some great new stuff on the tactics and strategies of the "product defense" lobby industries.

Dr. Michaels is definitely cutting against the current de-regulatory neoliberal grain, which prioritizes the privatization of corporate profits concomitant with the socialization of risks and losses (dramatically accelerated under the Trump administration). I am reminded of a couple of recent reads.

to wit:
In a seminal study, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway have reconstructed the attempts of a handful of scientists, aligning themselves with corporate and political interests, to obscure scientific findings and limit their impact on democratic decision-making processes by spreading doubt in the public sphere.48 An essential ploy was to distract people’s attention from the core facts to marginal issues, for example, by discussing the role of volcanos rather than the effects of anthropogenic air pollution. This strategy (involving massive lobbying activities as well as corporate-funded research) was first successfully practiced in the 1950s with regard to the health risks of tobacco and was then reiterated and refined for other issues such as acid rain, the ozone hole, and climate change. It cynically exploits the open-ended nature of scientific discourse to create the impression that it is always too early to make such drastic decisions as prohibiting smoking in certain environments, stopping the use of CFCs, or limiting the emission of greenhouse gases. 

But why can this strategy work at all? It profits, first of all, from the highly differentiated division of labor in modern societies. Science is a complex societal subsystem, seemingly of little direct concern to most of the rest of society. One of its visible interfaces with society is an oversimplified image of knowledge shaped by past experiences, as well as by ideologies. In the United States, in particular, it has been influenced by the experience of the Cold War and neoliberal convictions: society-at-large relies on science when it comes to military challenges, to conquering new frontiers, and to securing commercial superiority. Science, essentially, is an asset in competitive situations, where it is expected to produce technical solutions. 

From the perspective of this image of knowledge, the warnings of critical scientists of the unintended side-effects of industrial, technological, or scientific developments appear to be a transgression of their natural sphere of activity; they mingle with politics and create problems, rather than delivering tangible solutions, optimally, in the form of technology. Against this background, it becomes easy for their opponents to cast doubt on their results, and even on their personal integrity, and to call for further, “more serious” research before any actions are taken that do not belong to the sphere of technology but to the sphere of societal regulations. Counteracting the strategic spread of misinformation therefore requires critical engagement with problematic images of science as well as with the economy of knowledge through which scientific knowledge (and misinformation) are shared within society, as has recently also been argued in a contribution to the journal Nature Climate Change:
As science continues to be purposefully undermined at large scales, researchers and practitioners cannot afford to underestimate the economic influence, institutional complexity, strategic sophistication, financial motivation and societal impact of the networks behind these campaigns. The spread of misinformation must be understood as one important strategy within a larger movement towards post-truth politics and the rise of “fake news.” Any coordinated response to this epistemic shift away from facts must both counter the content of misinformation as it is produced and disseminated, and (perhaps more importantly) must also confront the institutional and political architectures that make the spread of misinformation possible in the first place.
As it turns out, only a small fraction of the funds invested into research and development worldwide are dedicated to the augmentation of public knowledge. And even publicly funded research may suffer from constraints and path dependencies imposed by political or economic interests, or by the academic system itself—encouraging, for instance, a concentration of research on mainstream topics, with the danger that precisely the knowledge required to deal with the challenges of the Anthropocene may fail to be generated or publicly shared. What currently prevails is an “oligopolization of knowledge: when few know much, and many know little.” This oligopolization of knowledge is, of course, conditioned by the oligopolization of power—and vice versa. The risk is that the innovations necessary to meet the challenges of the Anthropocene are stymied, in particular when they present themselves in forms that may require locally adapted solutions rather than universal prescriptions. 

One example of the lack of research on key topics is the way in which the global challenges of disease are being addressed. Diseases are not only part of biological evolution; they are also part of cultural evolution, and they are becoming a challenge of epistemic evolution as well. They have emerged, for instance, from contact between humans and animals in domestication processes. One such example is smallpox, which was transferred from rodents to humans some millennia ago in the age of the Neolithic Revolution. Today global traffic, global nutrition chains, and global inequality of living conditions have set a new stage for the emergence and spread of bacterial and viral diseases. Diseases may constitute challenges that affect societies and economies on a global scale, even if they do so in extremely different ways in different parts of the world. While human health is probably better now than at any other time in history, this progress may have come at the price of degrading the environment and thus at the cost of future generations; and it may now be threatened by the consequences of our interventions in the Earth system. Knowledge produced in the traditional mode (as a by-product of cultural evolution through basic research and market-driven innovations) may turn out to be inadequate to cope with these challenges.

Renn, Jürgen. The Evolution of Knowledge (pp. 392-393). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
Human affairs inexorably get "regulated" one way or another. Apologies to my "Libertarian" friends.

A note on law and "regulation." Trump fatuously never tires of touting his talking-point insistence that "for every new regulation issued, at least two existing ones must be eliminated."

The bulk of federal regulations are "statutory" in nature, authorized "as the Secretary shall determine" in passed and signed legislation. Think of laws as "policies" and regulations as "procedures." The policies (laws) set forth the "what" and the "why." The procedures (regulations) specify the "who/how/where/when" actions via which to administer the laws. Federal regulations cannot legally exceed the scopes of the parent laws. When they do, they are quickly challenged and struck down or modified.

Are there ineptly promulgated laws and regulations? Of course. The remedy is to make them more rational, focused, and effective, not simply do away with them. Again, human affairs get regulated one way or another.
If there were only one man in the world, he would have a lot of problems, but none of them would be legal ones. Add a second inhabitant, and we have the possibility of conflict. Both of us try to pick the same apple from the same branch. I track the deer I wounded only to find that you have killed it, butchered it, and are in the process of cooking and eating it. 

The obvious solution is violence. It is not a very good solution; if we employ it, our little world may shrink back down to one person, or perhaps none. A better solution, one that all known human societies have found, is a system of legal rules explicit or implicit, some reasonably peaceful way of determining, when desires conflict, who gets to do what and what happens if he doesn’t.

Friedman, David D.. Law's Order: What Economics Has to Do with Law and Why It Matters (p. 3). Princeton University Press - A. Kindle Edition.

On deck. apropos of this post.
Per The New Yorker.

The Amazon blurb:
How organizations—including Google, StubHub, Airbnb, and Facebook—learn from experiments in a data-driven world.

Have you logged into Facebook recently? Searched for something on Google? Chosen a movie on Netflix? If so, you've probably been an unwitting participant in a variety of experiments—also known as randomized controlled trials—designed to test the impact of different online experiences. Once an esoteric tool for academic research, the randomized controlled trial has gone mainstream. No tech company worth its salt (or its share price) would dare make major changes to its platform without first running experiments to understand how they would influence user behavior. In this book, Michael Luca and Max Bazerman explain the importance of experiments for decision making in a data-driven world.

Luca and Bazerman describe the central role experiments play in the tech sector, drawing lessons and best practices from the experiences of such companies as StubHub, Alibaba, and Uber. Successful experiments can save companies money—eBay, for example, discovered how to cut $50 million from its yearly advertising budget—or bring to light something previously ignored, as when Airbnb was forced to confront rampant discrimination by its hosts. Moving beyond tech, Luca and Bazerman consider experimenting for the social good—different ways that govenments are using experiments to influence or “nudge” behavior ranging from voter apathy to school absenteeism. Experiments, they argue, are part of any leader's toolkit. With this book, readers can become part of “the experimental revolution.”

More to come...

Monday, February 17, 2020

Concerning the Electronic Health Record

Yeah, paper charts were "clearly" better.

None of which is to argue that the EHR is a workflow and outcomes panacea. I've been utterly clear on that multiple times across the years on this blog.




Pretty interesting. Wonder how much Epic made off the Meaningful Use program?

More to come...

Tuesday, February 11, 2020


As tracked at Johns Hopkins:

One week, from Feb 4th to just now, 8 am, Feb 11th. Click either screencap image to enlarge,

Here's the link to the Hopkins site. You can zoom in/out and pan around the map. Frequently updated.

World Health Organization Coronavirus Q&A link.


Spike in the numbers across two days.


More to come...

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

For Sama

Hospital care and daily life in Allepo, Syria.

I watched this in rapt, riveted attention today. Harrowing, heartbreaking, brilliantly and courageously done.

FOR SAMA is both an intimate and epic journey into the female experience of war. A love letter from a young mother to her daughter, the film tells the story of Waad al-Kateab’s life through five years of the uprising in Aleppo, Syria as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth to Sama, all while cataclysmic conflict rises around her.

Her camera captures incredible stories of loss, laughter and survival as Waad wrestles with an impossible choice– whether or not to flee the city to protect her daughter’s life, when leaving means abandoning the struggle for freedom for which she has already sacrificed so much...
If you have any soul, this film will leave you rattled. Wiki entry here.


A number of my delusional fellow citizens never tire of dressing up and arming up with military weaponry to pose as "patriot" paramilitaries, most recently by invading the Kentucky statehouse, to "protest," via show-of-force intimidation, pending gun control legislation.

I'd be shipping these American ISIS wannabe clowns off to Syria so they can truly show off their Stones.

Click to enlarge.


More to come...

Friday, January 31, 2020

The European Pseudoscience Manifesto

Europe is facing very serious problems regarding public health. Over-medication, multi-resistant bacteria and the financial issues of the public systems are already grave enough, without the additional problem of gurus, fake doctors or even qualified doctors claiming they can cure any disease by manipulating chakras, making people eat sugar or using “quantic frequencies”. Europe must not only stop the promotion of homeopathy but also actively fight to eradicate public health scams…
More than 150 pseudo-therapies have been identified as being in use throughout Europe. Thousands of citizens lives depend on this being prevented. In fact, according to a recent research, 25.9 % of Europeans have used pseudo-therapies last year. In other words, 192 million patients have been deceived…
European manifesto against pseudo-therapies

Let’s be clear: pseudoscience kills. And they are being used with total impunity thanks to European laws that protect them.

They kill thousands of people, with names and families. People such as Francesco Bonifaz, a 7-year-old boy whose doctor prescribed homeopathy instead of antibiotics. He died in Italy [1]. People like Mario Rodríguez, who was 21 years old and was told to use vitamins to treat his cancer. He died in Spain [2]. People like Jacqueline Alderslade, a 55-year-old woman whose homeopath told her to stop taking her asthma medication. She died in Ireland [3]. People like Cameron Ayres, a 6-month-old baby, whose parents did not want to give their child “scientific medicine” [4]. He died in England. People like Victoria Waymouth, a 57-year-old woman who was prescribed a homeopathic medication to treat her heart problem. She died in France [5]. People like Sofia Balyaykina, a 25-year-old woman, who had a cancer that was curable with chemotherapy but was recommended an “alternative treatment”, a mosquito bite treatment.  She died in Russia [6]. People like Erling Møllehave, a 71-year-old man whose acupuncturist pierced and damaged his lung with a needle. He died in Denmark [7]. People like Michaela Jakubczyk-Eckert, a 40-year-old-woman whose therapist recommended the German New Medicine to treat her breast cancer. She died in Germany [8]. People like Sylvia Millecam, a 45-year-old woman whose New Age healer promised to cure her cancer. She died in the Netherlands [9]…
Hat tip to Science Based Medicine for the heads-up. If you're a clinician or medical scientist, sign the Manifesto. All others, please pay it forward.


I've been aware of and pushing back against this persistent medical mendacity since my late elder daughter was sick in the 1990's. 

More to come...

Saturday, January 25, 2020

The evolution of knowledge

Rethinking Science for the Anthropocene

On deck. I'm about 2/3rds through it as I post this. Read a review in my Science Magazine. Hefty, powerful book.
There cannot be any doubt: since the nineteenth century, science has dramatically changed the human condition in terms of energy provision and food production, through the introduction of new materials and new forms of transportation and communication, and with new pharmaceuticals and advances in medical care. Now the very survival of our culture in the Anthropocene may depend on the production of the appropriate scientific and technological knowledge. [pg 16]
Click the book cover image for the Amazon link. Goes to my climate change posts.


Speechless. Nine people gone in an instant.

More to come...

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Rx: Kindness?

Gotta love the NLP bot audio track. Below, interview with David Fessler, Bedari Director.

We shall see. I applaud this effort. Lord knows we are living in increasingly unkind times.
The UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute seeks to advance scientific research into kindness and the barriers to it, and to share this knowledge through courses for UCLA students, and through information shared with the public...
Quite the faculty lineup.

A first paper (Creative Commons licensed pdf):
Elevation, an emotion for prosocial contagion, is experienced more strongly by those with greater expectations of the cooperativeness of others

A unique emotion, elevation, is thought to underlie prosocial contagion, a process whereby witnessing a prosocial act leads to acting prosocially. Individuals differ in their propensity to experience elevation, and thus their proneness to prosocial contagion, but little is known about the causes of such variation. We introduce an adaptationist model wherein elevation marks immediate circumstances in which generalized prosociality is advantageous, with this evaluation of circumstances hinging in part on prior expectations of others’ prosociality. In 15 studies, we add to evidence that elevation can reliably be elicited and mediates prosocial contagion. Importantly, we confirm a novel prediction–generated by our adaptationist account–that an idealistic attitude, which indexes others’ expected degree of prosociality, moderates the relationship between exposure to prosocial cues and experiencing elevation. We discuss how our findings inform both basic theorizing in the affective sciences and translational efforts to engineer a more harmonious world, and we offer future research directions to further test and extend our model… 
"Nature may be red in tooth and claw, but it is not merely so." --Sam Harris
Hmmm... Might there be any scholarly nexus between a "science of kindness" and that of "neuroaesthetics?" After all, the expressed moral value of "kindness" is in fact a cultural "aesthetic."

Truth and Nonviolence in Post-Truth Times: An International Conference on Mohandas Gandhi
January 30 @ 8:00 am - February 2 @ 5:00 pm

The UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute is a co-sponsor of Truth and Nonviolence in Post-Truth Times: An International Conference on Mohandas Gandhi, Thursday 30 January – Sunday 2 February 2020 at UCLA.

More information at
"Post-truth times." Yeah.

See also The Kindness Podcast.

BTW: My personal kindness coefficient is running at high tide this week.

Three weeks early. Momma and child doing fine.




See SBM's troubling "Is defending science-based medicine worth it?"
Pseudoscience, denialism, fake news, and disinformation about health are a bigger problem than ever, thanks to social media. As doctors and scientists join lay defenders of science on social media, will they be willing to pay the price in terms of harassment? Or will they decide it’s not worth the hassle. And what about our fellow docs who think that it’s beneath them to debunk quackery, that it is so easy as to be not worth their effort?
Read the entire post. I am a devoted daily SBM reader. I cite them frequently. From their astute commentariat:
So long as we are committed to improving the human condition and the condition of our planet it is worth standing up to the slings and arrows of quacks and profiteers. Many of us see this through the lens of science but the problem is widely pervasive. Political discourse at the highest levels of government is now little more than rabid attacks fueled with lies and innuendos leaving no oxygen for meaningful policy debate. Freedom of speech has dissolved into a sort of generalized license to say whatever one feels regardless of its grounding in fact or reality. This, my friends, is a descent into madness, into chaos.

A Cincinnati pediatrician who posted a pro-vaccine video on TikTok says she has been harassed by anti-vaxxers, including one who left the comment, “Dead doctors don’t lie.” Dr. Nicole Baldwin says the vaccine deniers deluged her office with calls and threats and gave her medical practice low ratings on Yelp. Baldwin said she won’t be cowed…

The day in Stupid.

More to come...

Friday, January 10, 2020

The 2020 Baltimore Science Fair

A call for participants, judges, and other volunteers.

Details here, including online registration and volunteer forms.

Support for the upcoming generation of scientists has never been more important or more rewarding. Join us.

Bobby Gladd, ASQ Section volunteer lead.


Monday, January 6, 2020



Apparently, that's a thing. Have to admit, I had a fleeting first reflexive, jaded reaction of "OK, stick the prefix 'neuro' on some word or phrase, and you've minimally got a VC Seed Round on Sand Hill Road."

But, wait...
"Everything is aesthetic. The environments in which we live and work, the sounds we hear, sights we see, and smells we encounter are the pathways through which we experience the world around us. And aesthetics is so much more than enjoying beautiful things. The uniquely human response to aesthetics constantly influences our mental and emotional states. We know more than ever before about the sensory systems that enable us to process and decode the world around us. Still, we are just on the cusp of understanding the potential of aesthetics to maximize those systems for improved health, wellbeing, and learning.

Today, as the incidence of chronic disease and depression, anxiety, and stress rise, and the gaps in health, wellbeing, and learning outcomes expand, we turn most frequently to the medical profession for traditional and pharmaceutical solutions. Despite great advances, these approaches still fall short in offering preventive, non-invasive, timely, and sustainable solutions. What if we could incorporate other interventions that are engaging, empowering, and affordable?

There is much promising evidence that a variety of arts approaches work to improve mobility, mental health, speech, memory, pain, and learning, potentially improving outcomes and lowering the cost and burden of chronic disease and neurological disorders for millions of people. These approaches, including visual arts, dance and movement, music, and expressive writing are timely, responsive, and cost-effective. Moreover, research suggests that other types of aesthetic experiences, including immersive and virtual reality and architecture are also associated with improved health, wellbeing, and learning outcomes. 

To date, neuroscientists, social scientists, and practitioners interested in these topics have largely operated in isolation, lacking high-quality data sets, standardized measures and implementation protocols, and statistical power to make any causal claims regarding impact or influence evidence-based practice broadly. With rising acknowledgement of the limitations of this disparate effort, researchers and practitioners are calling for an approach that brings together studies of the behavioral outcomes of arts experiences with biological markers to map the neurological bases for various aesthetic experiences. This approach would enable researchers and practitioners to document, refine, replicate, and scale successful interventions.

For this shift and collaboration to take root, research questions must be defined across diverse disciplines. The growing and interdisciplinary field of neuroaesthetics is a logical home for this work, exploring the role of the arts, music, architecture, and natural environments as they alter and shape individual brain responses. Beyond a disciplinary base and theoretical frame, this work needs an organizing mechanism that facilitates collaboration across disciplines and sectors, builds a common research vocabulary and approach, houses a centralized database for researchers and practitioners, and leads field-building and dissemination efforts..."
"Everything is aesthetic." Yeah. Assuming a sentient neurological structure via which to perceive, comprehend, and recall it. Invertebrates need not apply.

Hmmm... will AI develop aesthetic sensibili(ties?), with human-compatible ethics?

Got onto this stuff via a re-post by Danielle Ofri, MD over at LinkedIn.

As anyone who has heard “their song” can attest, the right music has the power to make you move. Now healthcare providers are trying to harness this power to help patients with a neurological motor disorder, Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Over the past three decades, researchers have begun to uncover the neural basis of music’s effect on the brain with an eye toward treating diseases like PD. A growing body of research reveals that the influence of music is far-reaching—shaping connections in the brain, improving our senses and movement, and enhancing our mood.

The Many Disharmonies of Parkinson’s Disease
As the second-most common neurodegenerative disease following Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects more than 10 million people worldwide and is projected to afflict almost 1 million Americans by 2020…
Well, I am unhappily now in that clinical cohort. And, I am "an old washed-up guitar player," one now wrestling with the anxiety attending the prospect of perhaps losing my hard-won chops of more than 60 years' acquisition (my episodic left-hand tremor is increasingly messing with me). Just at a time when I've looked forward to getting active again in the fray.

Johns Hopkins, man. They have their mitts in everything. We now live just a couple a miles from them. Wonder if this Hopkins IAM Lab needs a lab rat LOL..

Interesting history, the whole Hopkins empire. My son bought me this book for Christmas.

A compelling read. interesting town I now call home. We are now a few weeks out from the arrival of our new Grandson.

The International Arts + Mind Lab (IAM Lab) is a multidisciplinary research-to-practice initiative from the Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University that is accelerating the field of neuroaesthetics. Our mission is to amplify human potential.

IAM Lab is pioneering Impact Thinking, a translational research approach designed to solve intractable problems in health, wellbeing and learning through arts + mind approaches. IAM Lab brings together brain scientists and practitioners in architecture, music and the arts to collaborate in research and foster dialogue. We spur continued innovation by sharing these findings with a broader community.
So, yeah, "neuroaesthetics."
Impact Thinking
Developed by the International Arts + Mind Lab at Johns Hopkins University, Impact Thinking is a translational research approach to enhance human potential in health, wellbeing and learning through the arts...
What makes Impact Thinking different and essential?
Impact Thinking makes the translational scientific process inclusive, relevant and actionable. It moves beyond studies that begin and end in a lab to solve real-world, urgent problems and pave a path for broad implementation. For example: How can playing music ease the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease? How can architecture and design reduce chronic stress in the workplace?

Impact Thinking is based on the fundamental values of collaboration, transparency and follow through and the belief that applied neuroaesthetics can change the world. Impact Thinking projects are initiated by an Impact Team of a brain scientist and a practitioner in an arts discipline. Each project is facilitated by a project coordinator and supported by advisors, dissemination experts and community stakeholders…
As usual, I have much to learn.


Yeah, PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act) by any other name.


Watch all of it.Seriously.

Below: of specific, direct interest to me:
Impact Thinking Projects
Guitar PD
In partnership with the Center for Music and Medicine at Johns Hopkins, this project brings together neurologists and musicians for a unique series of guitar lessons specifically designed for people with Parkinson’s disease. During an 18 week period, participants are randomly assigned to treatment and control groups and assessed at the outset and every six weeks on a variety of self-reported and performance-based measures. These include mood, social participation, cognition and arm and hand function.

Hypothesis: Moving hands, arms and fingers rhythmically on the guitar to make music will benefit arm and hand function and cognition in individuals with Parkinson’s disease.
"Impact thinking," the deeper dive, here

I will be doing my own uncontrolled "research," given that I know how guitar playing benefits me (takes me "out-of-body"), and, as I've mentioned, I'm having trouble of late with some of my more difficult chords, and a bit freaked out at the prospects of losing this ability. I mostly play my jumbo 12-string these days--an imposing axe in its own right.

So, I will have to be assiduously 'shedding my guitar (and bass, for that matter) going forward as part of my PT/OT amid my new world of Parkinson's. Along with stepped-up gym rat time comprised mostly of pickup hoops and the next available class of Parkinson's "shadow boxing."

Want to eschew the PD meds as long as possible, given the side-effects and other limitations.

It's interesting. In addition to the usual online Parkinson's patient education rescources--e.g., WebMD, Mayo, Wiki, the major Parkinson's Foundations, etc--I studied four initial books coming from patient and caregiver perspectives.

Now this stuff is all "upside my head" to where I'm feeling the symptoms more acutely.

At least I know what I'm facing, from a variety of insightful perspectives.

Guess I'll have to write some more songs.



 Just saw Daniel J. Levitin on the CBS Morning News. Bought his new book.
...When I was in college, one of my favorite professors was John R. Pierce, a former director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the inventor of satellite telecommunication, a prolific sci-fi writer, and the person who named the transistor when a team under his supervision invented it. I met him when he was eighty, in the second iteration of his “retirement,” giving classes on sound and vibration. He invited me to dinner at his house once; we became friends and went out to dinner regularly. Around the time John turned eighty-seven, he grew depressed. One of the pastimes he enjoyed most was reading, but now his eyesight was failing. I bought him some large-type books and that perked him up for a few weeks, but much of what he wanted to read—technical books, science fiction—was not available in large type. I’d go over and read to him when I could, and I arranged for some Stanford students to do the same. But he still kept slipping. Then he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. His shaking bothered him. His memory was failing. He no longer found pleasure in things that he used to enjoy. And he was growing increasingly disoriented. 

I suggested that he ask his doctor about taking Prozac, which was new at the time, and just being prescribed for the kinds of age-related problems he was facing. (Prozac helps to boost levels of serotonin in the brain—one of those mood-enhancing hormones I mentioned previously.) It was transformative. Although it didn’t help the Parkinson’s specifically, his attitude changed. He felt younger. He started holding dinner parties again, and lecturing to students, something he had given up doing just a year earlier. A simple chemical change in his brain gave him a second wind. John lived to ninety-two, and much of those last five years were filled with joy and satisfaction for him...

Levitin, Daniel J. Successful Aging (pp. xv-xvi). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Interesting. I started on Sertraline HCL (Zoloft) in 2017 when Danielle was ill and dying. Weaned myself back off it earlier this year.

Just started back a week ago, after consulting my docs. We shall see.

I've cited Dr. Levitin before, some years back.


More to come...

Saturday, January 4, 2020

JUST "the facts?"

With the election cycle in full swing, it’s open season for journalists hell-bent on catching candidates out in lies and misrepresentations. In a world that has become relentlessly “truthy,” to borrow Stephen Colbert’s apt neologism, we need journalists, scientists and other experts to stand up for facts and keep the public debate honest. But when it comes to climate change

One such zone has been on display since the release of a 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report entitled Global Warming of 1.5 °C, whose authors concluded that we had 12 years left (now 11) to achieve radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming. This alert has been widely cited, and politicians who have invoked it have been repeatedly fact-checked. But some of this checking makes the dialogue feel more like ice hockey—where “checking” is intended to disrupt play and establish dominance—than like an e ort to help the public understand a complex but crucial issue…

But let’s not fact-check things that aren’t facts. There is a world of interpretation—and therefore a range of justifi able readings— built into any expert judgment. We should discuss that reasonable range and fl ag claims that are obviously unreasonable. But we should not confuse judgments with facts…

- Naomi Oreskes, PhD
From Scientific American.

apropos, again, "Define Evidence." "Define Expert." Define Science."


Australia’s bushfires are a wake-up call: we must build a more humane economy before it’s too late
Economists used to admire scientists. Now they ignore them at our peril.

Back in the 1800s, scholars in the field of economics cast an envious glance at their colleagues in science.

They envied physics, with its laws of gravity. They looked with green-eyes at those studying chemistry, with its elements and atoms. And they longingly admired their biologist chums with their categorisations and evolutionary adaptation.

Now more than a century on, as we begin the third decade of the third millennium, economics no longer seems to take heed of science, let alone defer to scientific realities.

It is (invariably mainstream) economists with their contentions and blind spots that drive so much policy making, not scientists with their evidence-based models and forecasts.

The tables have well and truly turned. And nowhere is this so sorely – and painfully – acute as in Australia in the summer of 2019 and 2020.

Bushfires rage across the country, fuelled by record heat, and are now surging through acres of parched land dryer than ever after the worst drought in a generation.

In response, the Australian Prime Minister has held fast to a vision that a growing economy is the only option. He told a national TV station that "What we won't do is engage in reckless and job-destroying and economy-crunching [green] targets which are being sought".

What Morrison is effectively asserting is that the economy matters more than the science – in fact, that a certain model of the economy matters more, one in which the sole purpose of the environment is as an input to production and where it is assumed that growth will translate to benefits for all. This positions the economy at the top of the food chain, dropping crumbs to communities and extracting from the planet rather than something that is dependent on society which operates as a sub-set of the natural world…

More to come...

Wednesday, January 1, 2020


Happy New Year to all. Hope you had a safe and sane evening. Hope you have a great 2020.

Below, online registration for this opens today. Baltimore middle and high school students.

[Click the image.] I have agreed to serve as my technical society's local section lead volunteer for the event (ASQ Baltimore Section 0502). Should be very interesting. Towson U. is right up York Road a few miles from our house.

The Science Fair is affiliated with this organization.

Given my ongoing interest in issues of science and tech, this will go right to my wheelhouse. "Why trust science?"

More to come...