Friday Foolery #55 Entrance to the Maternity Ward

26 07 2013

This Picture speaks for itself, I suppose

Source: Facebook page of George Takei (link to picture)

26-7-2013 22-36-52 PUSH PUSH





Friday Foolery #54 The Best 404 Message ever?

25 01 2013

claimtoken-510ebd2ada419

Somebody send me a direct message via Twitter, asking me if he had missed any posts. Sorting his Google Reader feeds, he saw this blog was last updated October.

And he is right :(.

Just to assure you that this blog is not dead, but hibernating*, I would like to link to perhaps the BEST 404 message ever.

This 404 message aptly shows where you can turn to when you “Lost your sense of direction” at the ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine) website.

http://www.asrm.org/error.aspx?aspxerrorpath=/Media/Ethics/childrearing.pdf

——————————

Hattip: Bora Zivkovic (@BoraZ), @palmd) and Rebecca Weinberg (@sciliz)

* I have little spare time (and energy) at the moment to write my “usual” long exhaustive posts. Sorry. But I will come back!






Friday Foolery #51 Statistically Funny

1 06 2012

Epidemiologists, people working in the EBM field and, above all, statisticians are said to have no sense of humor.*

Hilda Bastian is a clear exception to this rule.

I met Hilda a few years ago at a Cochrane colloquium. At that time she was working as a consumer advocate in Australia. Nowadays she is editor and curator of PubMed Health. According to her Twitter Bio (she tweets as @hildabast) she is (still) “Interested in effective communication as well as effective health care”. She also writes important articles, like “Seventy-Five Trials and Eleven Systematic Reviews a Day: How Will We Ever Keep Up? (PLOS 2010), reviewed at this blog.

Today I learned she also has a great creative talent in cartoon drawing, in the field of …  yeah… EBM, epidemiology & statistics.

Below is one of her cartoons, which fits in well with a recent post in the BMJ by Ray Moynihan, retweeted by Hilda: Preventing overdiagnosis: how to stop harming the healthy. In her post she refers to another article: Overdiagnosis in cancer (JNCI 2010), saying:

“Finding and aggressively treating non-symptomatic disease that would never have made people sick, inventing new conditions and re-defining the thresholds for old ones: will there be anyone healthy left at all?”

I invite you to go and visit Hilda’s blog Statistically funny (Commenting on the science of unbiased health research with cartoons) and to enjoy her cartoons, that are often inspired by recent publications in the field.

* My post #NotSoFunny #16: ridiculing RCTs and EBM even led David Rind to sigh that “EBM folks are not necessarily known for their great senses of humor”. (so I’m no exception to the rule ;)





Silly Sunday #50: Molecular Designs & Synthetic DNA

23 04 2012

As a teenager I found it hard to picture the 3D structure of DNA, proteins and other molecules. Remember we didn’t have a computer then, no videos, nor 3D-pictures or 3D models.

I tried to fill the gap, by making DNA-molecules of (used) matches and colored clay, based on descriptions in dry (and dull 2D) textbooks, but you can imagine that these creative 3D clay figures beard little resemblance to the real molecular structures.

But luckily things have changed over the last 40 years. Not only do we have computers and videos, there are also ready-made molecular models, specially designed for education.

O, how I wished, my chemistry teachers would have had those DNA-(starters)-kits.

Hattip: Joanne Manaster‏ @sciencegoddess on Twitter: 

Curious? Here is the Products Catalog of http://3dmoleculardesigns.com/news2.php

Of course, such “synthesis” (copying) of existing molecules -though very useful for educational purposes- is overshadowed by the recent “CREATION of molecules other than DNA and RNA [xeno-nucleic acids (XNAs)], that can be used to store and propagate information and have the capacity for Darwinian evolution.

But that is quite a different story.

Related articles





Friday Foolery #49: The Shortest Abstract Ever! [2]

30 03 2012

In a previous Friday Foolery post I mentioned what I thought was the shortest abstract ever.

 “Probably not”.

But a reader (Trollface”pointed out in a comment that there was an even shorter (and much older) abstract of a paper in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. It was published in 1974.

The abstract simply says: Yes.

It could only be beaten by an abstract saying: “No”, “!”, “?” or a blank one.





Friday Foolery #48 Brilliant Library Notices

13 01 2012

Today’s Friday Foolery post is handed on a silver platter by my Australian friend Mike Cadogan @sandnsurf from Life in the Fast Lane

Yes, aren’t these brilliant librarian notices from the Milwaukee Public Library?!

Note:

@Bitethedust, also from Australian rightly noticed: there’s no better place to stick @sandnsurf than in Friday foolery

Indeed at Life at the Fast Lane they have fun posts amidst the serious (mostly ER) topics. Want more Friday Fun than have a look at the Funtabulously Frivolous Friday Five Posts.





Friday Foolery #44. The Shortest Abstract Ever?

2 12 2011

This is the shortest abstract I’ve ever seen:

“probably not”

With many thanks to Michelynn McKnight, PhD, AHIP, Associate Professor, School of Library and Information Science, Louisiana State University, who put it on the MEDLIB-L listserv, saying :  “Not exactly structured …. but a great laugh!”

According to Zemanta (articles related to this post) Future Twit also blogged about it.

Related articles





Silly Sunday #42 Open Access Week around the Globe

23 10 2011

Open Access logo and text

Open Access Week, a global event now entering its 5th year, “is an opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access (OA) a new norm in scholarship and research”.

It takes place from October 24 to 30 in many places around the globe.

Benjamin Hennig, whose PhD research was built on the work of the Worldmapper project (see earlier post here) created and updated a map of this year’s OA- activities together with SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), who are the organisers of the event.
It is a positive trend that India and parts of Africa have many OA-activities next week. (they are relatively large on the map, especially when compared to proportion of scientific papers produced in the world, as shown on Worldmapper).

For further information see the blog post of Benjamin Hennig at his blog: Views of the Worlds.

You can follow Worldmapper at Facebook.





Friday Foolery #41. A Special Offer for the Major [#4square]

15 10 2011

Foursquare (4squareis a web and mobile application that allows registered users to connect with friends and update their location. Points are awarded for “checking in” at venues. The user with the most number of *days* with check-ins at a specific place within the past 60 days qualifies to become the mayor of that place.
To foster brand loyalty some businesses are offering specials for the mayor of the venues. Recently I received a USB-stick for becoming the major of a computer shop.

Today at Department X of our hospital, I saw this Special offer:

Apparently it was unlocked….

OCT = Optical coherence tomography





Silly Saturday #40. Explore, Examine, Discover using Google’s “Search by Image”.

18 06 2011

This week Google launched “Search by Image”.

Google already offered the possibility to search for certain characteristics like color, size, faces, or license-free images. See for instance this fabulous search of  “sea stars” limited to pink (never knew such sea stars exist).

But now Google also allows search by image. If you found an image that you’re curious about, you can start to “explore, examine and discover”. Thus you can use an image as a search query. You can drag and drop photos from the web or from your desktop, into the search box, you can upload photos or you can use a Chrome extension for this. Google will return results that show you where that image, and similar images, appear on the web.

Just go to images.google.com

On the same day that I read about this new tool @JoBrody asked at Twitter:

Anyone know this plant? Thank you :) RT @JoBrodie: My mate Yasmin’s wondering what plant this is – any suggestions? http://post.ly/2DTbX
(The photo is at the left)

I retweeted the message to my followers, so they could help too.  I thought that it was blaasjeskruid in Dutch, but @nadineboke immediately answered it was blaasjessilene or Silene vulgaris.

She referred to the Wikipedia entry of Silene vulgaris, with pictures clearly resembling the photo of Jo Brodie’s friend.

Now, since I had just learned about Images by Google, I checked Google Images in the meantime. I uploaded Yasmin’s photo to images.google.com and got this as result.

Hmpf? No Silene vulgaris appears. Whereas similar photos are on the web (Wikipedia for instance). It is clear that Google just has a broad look at the composition of photo’s and that the distribution of colors is most important. So any whitish item on a green background becomes resembling, even shoes and tigers…. ;)

That was interesting. Besides that Twitter had beaten Google in time, it was also more reliable (no surprise btw).

Since Google has the possibility to search faces, I tried what Images by Google would make of a face. I choose my own photo, which I use as an avatar at Facebook (making it easy for Google because the very same photo is on the web).

Google had no problem in finding the photo at Facebook and (less nice) no problem identifying me on www.123people.nl (removed).

But now lets look at the resembling photos. Lets “Explore, examine and discover”.

Ooh yes! Stunning!

I would have never guessed I resembled males, colored people and above all….. Angela Merkel. ;)

To learn more about Search by Image, visit http://www.google.com/insidesearch/searchbyimage.htm





Friday Foolery #38. April’s Fools 2011

1 04 2011

How is (was) your April Fool Day (today)?

Mine was really quiet.

Only my youngest daughter (11) was fooled …. by her teacher. She has 2 teachers. Today (April 1st), one of them was to be replaced by another. When the class started,  the main teacher came in and said: “Sorry guys, the new teacher couldn’t make it: she is ill” . Then she left … to come back with the new teacher. A lovely April Fools day joke. And a good way to introduce the new teacher.

As usual, the web was full with jokes and hoaxes too.

According to Search Engine Land Google had already won April Fools day, even before  April 1st had reached Mountain View.

Indeed many Google jokes were really good. Like the gmail-motion (a new motion technology that interprets physical movements to translate it).
And the development of a new Android app that translates your pets words into human language.
This was also covered by GrrlScientist at Punctuated Equilibrium (Guardian Science)

Not mentioned at Search Engine Land, is what happens if you Google “helvetica” ….
(It also worked with “comic sans” by the way)

In the Netherlands, there was an advertisement for new SENSEO® beer pods giving you a full, cold glass of Heineken beer (only to be used in combination with the Philips SENSEO®  coffee pod system Hot ‘n Cold®). See http://www.bierpad.nl/ for the full advertisement.

More for insiders is the april Fools Blog Post by Scholarly Kitchen: The Free Lunch Is Over: Scholarly Kitchen to Erect Pay Wall Tomorrow. They reason: “If a pay wall is good enough for the New York Times, it’s good enough for us.”

Did you know, there is a web site that keeps track of the major April Fools’ Day Jokes that Web Sites have run each year (from 2004 till today): http://aprilfoolsdayontheweb.com/.
Besides the Google Jokes, there are several other good traps this year: A Blackberry with no screen, Pay what you weigh for your airline seat & All donations going to church of scientology (http://aprilfoolsdayontheweb.com/2011.html).

And just when you think it’s over and you save your last draft just before 00.00 am, you notice that WordPress puts in a word too.

I think it is the least successful joke I’ve seen today….

Have a nice weekend!





Frantic Friday #37. The Aftermaths of the Japanese Earthquake & Tsunami. With Emphasis on (Mis)information

19 03 2011

The Frantic Friday belongs to the same series as the Silly Saturday, Funny Friday etc. posts. These are not directly related to Science or library matters. Often these post are about  humorous things, but not in this case. Therefore the name of the series was adapted. It took me a week to write it down, so it reflects what happens over the entire period (and insights did change)

 

Aerial of Sendai, Japan, following earthquake.

Last week was overshadowed by the terrible earthquake in North East Japan, and the subsequent tsunami which swept away many villages in this part of the country. Some people see this as a sign of the world coming to an end, especially since the dates of the Twin tower attack (9-11-01) and the date of the Tsunami in Japan (3-10-11) add up to 12/21/12, the predicted date of the end of the world. Whether you believe in this omen or not (I don’t), the pictures and videos of this event sure do show the unprecedented power of nature, which is devastating beyond imagination. The Jazeera video below was shown on Dutch tv the entire morning: people, cars and boats have no time to escape and a large tsunami is engulfing various cities, eating anything on its path.

Another impressive video shows how a small stream grows to a wild turbulent flood and sweeps away cars and even houses. Sadly, many commenters to this video see the disaster as a punishment for “those that have turned there backs on HIM etc”. Videos like these can now be found anywhere, like at BBC news Asia.

Here are photo’s before and after the tsunami, and here are some photos, not only showing the violent streams, but also the consequences. I was especially moved by this photo of what appear to be mother and child. For after all, this natural disaster is mainly a human tragedy. Lets hope many beloved (human and animal) have found or find each other in good health again, like this reunion of a dog owner and his dog.

As if it wasn’t enough there was also a volcano eruption last Sunday, and the initial small problems with the nuclear plants near to the tsunami area seem now to get out of hand (see below).

Indirectly, there are some library, web 2.0/social media & science aspects to this natural disaster. I will concentrate on (medical and scientific) information

Google immediately reacted  to Japanese tsunami with a Person Finder tool (Engadget). As in the Haiti earthquake (see earlier post), Cochrane makes Evidence Aid resources available.

Immediately after the earthquake we could learn some scientific facts about earthquakes and tsunamis. On thing I learned is that the more superficial the earthquake the more devastating the effects in the area surrounding it. I also learned that a tsunami can have a speed of 800 km per hour, i.e. “flies” with the speed of an airplane, and that a wave can be 1 km long and have an incredible force. Science writers further explain why Japan’s tsunami triggered an enormous whirlpool.

These are facts, but with the nuclear effects we are unsure as to what is happening and “how bad it will be”. I’m a scientist, but surely no expert in this field, and I find the information confusing, contradictory and sometimes misleading.

Lets start with the misleading information. Of course there are people who see the hand of God in this all, but that is so obviously without any foundation (“uit de lucht gegrepen”), that I won’t discuss it further.

First this nuclear fallout map. (it is a lie!)

I saw it on Facebook and took it seriously. Others received it by mail, with an explanation that 550-750 rads means “nausea within a couple of hours and no survivors.” Clearly that is nonsense (fallout killing all people in the US East Coast). Also disturbingly, the makers of this map “bored” the logo of the Australian Radiation Services (ARS). (see Snopes.com, thanks to David Bradley of Sciencebase.com who mentioned it on Facebook).

But the pro-nuclear people come with equal misinformation. There is a strange link on Facebook leading to a post : “MIT scientist says no problems”. The post was blogged by an australian teacher in Japan, who wrote up the words of a friend, family member and MIT-scientist Josef Oehmen (@josefoehmen on Twitter)… But the post really seems to be a repost from something called The Energy Collective, and written by Brooks, a strong proponent of nuclear power. The site is powered by Siemens AG, which recently became an “industry partner” of MIT/LAI. (and the circle is round). Read about this and more at Genius Now in : The Strange Case of Josef Oehmen (access the cache if the site can’t be reached). The German translation of the official piece is here. The comments (permitted) are revealing….

Another misleading claim is that of attorney Ann Coulter in a column and in the O’Reilly show:

With the terrible earthquake and resulting tsunami that have devastated Japan, the only good news is that anyone exposed to excess radiation from the nuclear power plants is now probably much less likely to get cancer.” We shouldn’t worry about the damaged Japanese reactors because they’ll make the locals healthier”

She refers to the hormesis effect, the effect that under certain conditions low doses of certain chemicals/drugs can have opposite effects to high doses in certain experimental models. See PZ Myers at Pharyngula for an excellent dissection of this nonsense.

And -help!- here is a post of a CAM doctor who advises people from the US to immediately take the following (because Japanese Nuclear Radiation Plume Has Reached the United States):

Ample amounts of necessary minerals such as magnesium, iodine, selenium, zinc, and others, Saunas, both infrared and far-infrared, Raising core energy levels with botanical formulas, Supporting and improving individual capacities to mobilize and eliminate toxins, Therapeutic Clays to remove positively charged particles, Solum uliginosum products from Uriel Pharmacy – also available directly from us etcetera.

Thus various examples of misinformation by seemingly well-informed scientists, experts & doctors.

Perhaps this is the downside of Social Media. Twitter and Facebook are very well suited to spread the news fast, but they can also easily spread false information or hoaxes fast-via “your friends”. It is important to check where the news actually comes from (which can be hard if one misuses logo’s and institutions) and if the writer has any biases pro or con nuclear power. But an other disadvantage of Social Media is that we hurry through it by speed-reading.

Besides real lies there is also something called bias.

I have to admit that I have a bias against nuclear power. I was teenager when learned of the Club of Rome, I was in my twenties when the Dutch held large Peace Marches with “Ban the bomb” placards, I was in my thirties when the Dutch cattle had to be kept in stables and we couldn’t eat spinach, because of the Chernobyl nuclear fallout. At the University, my professor in Physics spend one or two lectures talking about the danger of nuclear power and the connection with poverty and the arms race, instead of teaching the regular stuff. During environmental studies I learned about the pitfalls of other energy sources as well. My conclusion was we had to use our energy sources well and I decided to use my feet instead of driving a car (a decision I sometimes regret).

The opinion piece by By David Ropeik “Beware the fear of nuclear….FEAR!” in Scientific American seems a little biased in the opposite direction. This guest post, written soon after the trouble at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, mainly stresses that:

“… the world is facing the risk of getting the risk of nuclear power wrong, and raising the overall risk to public and environmental health far more in the process.”

As if nuke-o-noia that is the most worrying at the moment. He also stresses that in addition to being actually physically hazardous, nuclear power has some psychological characteristics (odorless, man-made) that make it particularly frightening: It is all in the mind, isn’t it?

I do get his point though and agree as to the quiet danger of fossil fuels and the risk of being too dependent upon other countries for energy. But as a commenter said: two wrongs don’t make a right. And isn’t there something like renewable resources and energy saving?

Furthermore the nuclear problems in Japan do show what happens if a country is reliant on nuclear power. The lack of electricity causes great problems with infrastructure. This not only affects Tokyo commuters, but a lack of fuel, electricity, food and the cold weather also hampers the aid efforts. There might also be insufficient fuel to evacuate refugees from the exclusion area, a problem that will grow if the government has to widen the evacuation zone around the plant again (Nature News). Not the most important, but  the japanese quake will likely affect our supply of gadgets and other industries, like the auto-industry.

So we now have polarized discussions between pro- and contra- nuke movements. And it has become an irrational political issue. China has suspended approval for all new nuclear power stations, Germany’s government has announced a safety review of its 17 nuclear power plants, and is temporarily shutting down the seven oldest and the Dutch Government will take the Japanese experience into account when deciding on the Dutch nuclear power program.

It is surprising, that minds have changed overnight: all (potential) risks of nuclear plants were long known.

Regarding misinformation, TEPC, the utility that runs the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and supplies power for Tokyo, has a long history of disinformation: here were many incidents (200) which were covered up  (Dutch: see NRC-handelsblad, Thursday 2011-03-17; non-official forum here).

There are also signals that the Japanese government, and even the IAEA (according to a Russian nuclear accident specialist) aren’t or weren’t as transparent as one would like them to be. The government seems to downplay the risks and is late with information. The actions are not consistent with what is said: Everything was said to be in control, while people were being evacuated etc. Also the American analysis of the severity of the nuclear was much graver than that of the Japanese government. When the Japanese advise to keep a distance of 30 km, the United States and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommend that citizens stay at least 80 km from the nuclear plant. (Discussed in the NY-Times and The Great Beyond (Nature).
The last days the Japanese government has become more open. It publishes The Japanese science ministry, MEXT, has  its publishes the radiation levels throughout the region and gives more background info about the health risks (source: The Great Beyond). Today, it has also raised the warning level from 4 to 5 on a 7-level international. Outside experts have said for days that this disaster was worse than that at Three Mile Island — which was rated a 5 but released far less radiation outside the plant than Fukushima Daiichi already has. Level 4 means only “local effects”.
The Prime Minister’s Office of Japan now also has an official English account on Twitter: @JPN_PMO.

But now for reliable information? Where can we get it? What about the health risks? Again, I’m no expert in this field, but the following information at least helped me to get an idea about the situation and the actual danger.

  1. It looks like that the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is getting out of control (Nature News, March 16th).
  2. It is possible that it the will not be confined to leaks of radioactivity and explosions, but that a nuclear meltdown may occur.
  3. A nuclear meltdown or nuclear reactor explosion is a grave event, but is NOT a nuclear explosion. As explained at Sciencebase:  “There is a risk of particles of radioactive material entering the atmosphere or the ocean, but this does not amount to the impact of an actual nuclear explosion.” Thus even in a worst-case scenario the effects are not as severe as a nuclear explosion.
  4. One major difference with Chernobyl is that radioactivity at Fukushima remains largely contained within the reactor and that we know the problems from the start (not surprised by fall-out).
  5. Still radioactive fumes leak from the power plant. March 16th there was “an alarmingly high dose rate of 0.08 millisieverts (mSv) per hour, 25 kilometres away from the plant (Nature News). March 17th is 17 mSv/hr, 30 kilometres northwest of the reactor. There are also reports of .012 mSv/hr in Fukushima City, 60 km away from the plant. (The Great Beyond). Sanya Gupta monitored that his radiation levels quadrupled, even in Tokyo (see CNN-video).
  6. The time of exposure is as important as the dose. Thus exposure to a  4 to 10 times higher radiation than normal during a couple of days, poses little extra health risk. But if you would receive 4 to 10 times more radiation than usual during months or years it could pose a health risk (cumulative effect). On the other hand peak doses recorded at Fukushima of 400 mSv per hour are enough to induce radiation sickness in about two hours’ time ((The Great Beyond)
  7. Radiation sickness is a (more or less) acute effect of irradiation. It can occur in the immediate surroundings of the radioactive leak. A single dose of 1000 mSv causes radiation sickness and nausea but not death. But 6000 mSv (chernobyl-workers) kills people within a month (see picture in The Guardian)
  8. Over the long term, exposure to radiation, may increase the risk of developing cancer. An exposure rate of 100 mSv/yr is considered the threshold at which cancer rates begin to increase.
  9. To put this into perspective: we are all exposed to 2 mSv natural irradiation per year, one full body CT-scan gives 10 mSv and a flight from New York – Tokyo polar route gives 9 mSv.
  10. The most worrisome on the reported releases of radioactive material in Japan are radioactive cesium-137 (gamma emitter, high energy radiation, penetrating deep) and Iodine-131, a beta emitter (can be easily shielded, dangerous when ingested or inhaled).
  11. Iodine-131 has a short half life of 8 days, but is dangerous when it is absorbed, i.e. through contaminated food and milk. It will accumulate in the thyroid and can cause (mostly non-lethal) thyroid cancer. An easy form of protection is potassium iodide (KI), but this should only be taken by people in the emergency zone, because it can cause serious adverse effects and should not be taken unnecessarily. (For more info see CDC).
  12. Over the long term, the big threat to human health is cesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years. It is cesium-137 that still contaminates much land in Ukraine around the Chernobyl reactor. Again it can enter the body via food, notably milk.

Note: this is a short summary of what I’ve read. Please go to official sites to get more detailed scientific and medical information.

There are several informative charts or FAQ:

Credits:





Friday Foolery #36 : Friends on Facebook

15 10 2010

I found this hilarious South Park video about Facebook Friends on Jud’s Education Emporium.

It was used to illustrate that “friending” doesn’t mean a lot, although in this video it does mean an awful lot to some real-life friends of Stan.

In real life this happens too. See Paul’s “outpouring” on Facebook…..

(relatie=relation(ship))

Paul has a relation (on Facebook)

 








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