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

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Fat and Robots 

Weight loss is big business. Every time we turn on the TV, or peek into our SPAM folders, we're assailed by a million-and-one advertisements, calling us fat and cajoling us to buy [insert likely placebo here] to change all that. Those TV ads are expensive, and at least a few morons seem to still click on SPAM messages (buying things seen via SPAM should be a capital crime, IMHO), so the money is clearly there.

But what works?!?!? That's the big question. Well, a Stanford study (which may or may not be published, el WaPo doesn't say or cite) of about 300 women followed for a year suggests that Atkins may not have been all wrong. From the article it's really hard to glean what the data actually say, but it seems at least that Atkins didn't have the cataclysmic effects on blood lipids expected, and that it may have been associated with more weight gain than other diets tested. But then again, big money's involved here, so who knows who was futzing with the data.

Speaking of diet and fat, Michigan researchers are trying to validate one of my biggest research pet peeves: that BMI is a terrible measure of obesity. Good work y'all! Also, Pittsburgh researchers have found that increased omega-3 fatty acids in the diet may be linked to increased grey matter, especially in areas related to mood and memory. Interesting!

We've heard all the hoopla about circumcision as a method of slowing HIV spread in Africa (see here for a good, if rather shrill, discussion on how bad the discourse has been on this so far), right? Well, it turns out that the news might not be all good (duh!): men who go back to engaging in sex before their newly-cut-penises are fully healed may be spreading HIV to their female partners at a higher rate. The data are sparse and look pretty shakey, but this is potentially a MAJOR concern, so it's worth investigating ASAP.

Speaking of ethics, South Korea is working on a Code of Ethics for robots, beginning of course with the Three Laws. Their code will expand on Asimov's model, and include rules on how humans should treat robots as well. Hopefully members of the commission have done more than watch I, Robot and Blade Runner before considering all this.

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