"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

Science is best when discussed: leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!!

Friday, February 16, 2007

I Won't Grow Up: Power, Death, and Health Insurance 

Peter Pan wanted to never grow old, and to stay a boy forever. Well, in a sense, people eating Peter Pan brand peanut butter might have been given such a chance: a lot of the stuff has been recalled due to salmonella contamination. No one died in the outbreak (thus losing the chance to be 'young forever'), but I guess the more aware I get of all these things (studying public health as I am), the more of them there seem to be. Or I could be paranoid.

Speaking of dangerous foods, the British Medical Journal has made the astonishing discovery that swallowing swords is a dangerous profession. I just don't even know where to begin on this one, so I'll just say: "Still no cure for cancer."

On the upside, Swedish researchers have found that the human brain grows new neurons in the olfactory bulb well into adulthood, using stem cells harbored in the ventricles. This is really cool, and has all kinds of potential implications for dealing with all sorts of diseases.

Speaking of new connections, Berkeley scientists have found a way to put organic molecules together in such a way as to get the Seebeck effect (direct heat-to-electricity conversion between two pieces (formerly of metal) at different temperatures). While the voltages are really small, this is a major proof-of-concept that could lead to big changes in how we generate energy.

And finally, we have energy, waste, birth, injury and death (well, mostly just waste and injury) all wrapped up in one story: the American health care system. An editorial in the NYT points out what has been obvious all along: the US needs to embrace a single-payer system. The author gives all the usual citations about how we spend twice as much as every other country in the world for lower quality care that covers fewer people, etc., but the only real novelty is the strength of the position: "Does a candidate who couldn’t persuade voters to embrace the single-payer approach deserve to be president," he asks.

Good question, and I would say that the answer is a resounding "no." Yes, the candidate will have to be able to shout over the (inevitably Republican) detractors, who will fervently claim that "better and cheaper and more efficient" actually means "bureaucratic impersonal communism," and that the facts are not the facts, but that's frankly what you sign up for, running for president. I really hope that Hillarbama (or whomever) can make this happen.

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