Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

U.S. workers are among the most stressed in the world, new Gallup report finds

leave a comment »

The finding is not all that surprising, given (a) the adversarial relationship most companies have with their employees and (b) the finance sector’s encouragement of that aversarial relaationship — for example, Wall Street constantly pressures Costco to cut employee wages.

Jennifer Liu writes in CNBC MakeIt:

U.S. workers are some of the most stressed employees in the world, according to Gallup’s latest State of the Global Workplace report, which captures how people are feeling about work and life in the past year.

U.S. and Canadian workers, whose survey data are combined in Gallup’s research, ranked highest for daily stress levels of all groups surveyed. Some 57% of U.S. and Canadian workers reported feeling stress on a daily basis, up by eight percentage points from the year prior and compared with 43% of people who feel that way globally, according to Gallup’s 2021 report.

This spike isn’t surprising to Jim Harter, Gallup’s chief workplace scientist, who tells CNBC Make It that rates of daily stress, worry, sadness and anger have been trending upward for American workers since 2009. Concerns over the virus, sickness, financial insecurity and racial trauma all contributed to added stress during the pandemic.

But stress spikes were especially acute for women in the last year: 62% of working women in the U.S. and Canada reported daily feelings of stress compared with 52% of men, showing the lasting impact of gendered expectations for caregiving in the household, ongoing child-care challenges and women’s overrepresentation in low-wage service jobs most disrupted by the pandemic. By contrast, the daily stress levels for women in Western Europe went down in the last year, which researchers attribute to social safety nets for parents and workers to prevent unemployment.

And while employee engagement dipped in the rest of the world, it rose to 34% in the U.S. The correlation of higher engagement but also higher stress can result in burnout and mental health challenges and indicates “the intersection of work and life needs some work,” Harter says.

Young people expect their workplace to improve their overall well-being

These sentiments come at a time when younger generations expect their workplaces to provide more value than just a paycheck, Harter says, drawing on previous Gallup research. And in turn, he says organizations have a responsibility to help improve employee well-being if they want to support a resilient workforce; improve learning and performance; and attract top talent.

He points to five elements workplaces can focus on to improve employee engagement and help individuals thrive: career well-being, social well-being, financial well-being, physical well-being and community.

Stress in any one of these areas, such as financial stress due to inequitable pay, or community stress due to an unsafe work environment, can negatively impact a worker’s mental health.

Leaders can do an audit, like through surveys and focus groups, to see if any of their company policies, structures, communications or programs negatively impact their employees’ overall well-being. And when leaders introduce new programs or benefits, Harter says, leaders should connect the value of them to “those five elements, so people understand why you’re providing various benefits, and why you’re trying to provide an overall culture of thriving.”

Who plays the biggest role in employee well-being

It’s crucial CEOs communicate this priority from the top, Harter says, but managers play the biggest role in actually helping improve worker well-being throughout all levels of an organization.

“The most important thing employers can do is to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2021 at 12:07 pm

Climate Change Batters the West Before Summer Even Begins

leave a comment »

And still there are people who deny that it’s happening and fight against efforts to combat it.  Brad Plumer, Jack Healy, Winston Choi-Schagrin, and Henry Fountain report in the NY Times:

A heat dome is baking Arizona and Nevada, where temperatures have soared past 115 degrees this week and doctors are warning that people can get third-degree burns from the sizzling asphalt.

At Lake Mead, which supplies water for 25 million people in three southwestern states and Mexico, water levels have plunged to their lowest point since the reservoir was filled in the 1930s. In California, farmers are abandoning their thirstiest crops to save others, and communities are debating whether to ration tap water.

In Texas, electricity grids are under strain as residents crank their air-conditioners, with utilities begging customers to turn off appliances to help avert blackouts. In Arizona, Montana and Utah, wildfires are blazing.

And it’s not even summer yet.

“We’re still a long way out from the peak of the wildfire season and the peak of the dry season,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Things are likely to get worse before they get better.”

Global warming, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, has been heating up and drying out the American West for years. Now the region is broiling under a combination of a drought that is the worst in two decades and a record-breaking heat wave.

“The Southwest is getting hammered by climate change harder than almost any other part of the country, apart from perhaps coastal cities,” said Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Michigan. “And as bad as it might seem today, this is about as good as it’s going to get if we don’t get global warming under control.”

With temperatures expected to keep rising as nations struggle to rein in their planet-warming emissions, the Western United States will need to take difficult and costly measures to adapt. That includes redesigning cities to endure punishing heat, conserving water, and engineering grids that don’t fail during extreme weather.

This month has offered glimpses of whether states and cities are up to that task and has shown they still have far to go.

From Montana to Southern California, much of the West is suffering from unusually high temperatures. Some 50 million Americans face heat-related warnings. Records have been tied or broken in places like Palm SpringsSalt Lake City and Billings, Montana.

As 115-degree temperatures cooked Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row Arts District on Tuesday, Timothy Medina, 58, was perched on a black metal platform 12 feet above the sidewalk, finishing the blue lettering of a sign for a coffee shop. “It’s brutal — that heat against the wall,” he said. “Let me take a quick swig of water.”

Construction workers, landscapers and outdoor painters like Mr. Medina have few options but to bear the heat. He wore jeans to avoid burning his skin, along with a long sleeve fluorescent yellow shirt and a $2 woven hat. But soon the heat was winning.

“I start feeling out of breath, fatigued,” he said.

Extreme heat is the clearest signal of global warming, and the most deadly. Last year heat killed at least 323 people in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, a record by far. . .

Continue reading. There is a lot more, and many photographs.

And from here on, it’s going to get worse. What we’re seeing now is mild compared to what’s coming. But inaction seems attractive to most. An article by Catherine Garcia in Yahoo News, “NASA: Earth is trapping ‘unprecedented’ amount of heat, warming ‘faster than expected’,” spells it out. From the article:

Since 2005, the amount of heat trapped by the Earth has roughly doubled, according to a new study by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers.

This is contributing to warming oceans, air, and land, the scientists write in the study, published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “The magnitude of the increase is unprecedented,” NASA scientist and lead author of the study Norman Loeb told The Washington Post. “The Earth is warming faster than expected.”

Using satellite data, the researchers measured the planet’s energy imbalance, which is the difference between how much energy the planet absorbs from the sun and how much is radiated back into space. If there is a positive imbalance, the Earth is absorbing more heat than it is losing; in 2005, there was a positive imbalance of about half a watt per square meter of energy from the sun, and in 2019, the positive imbalance was one watt per square meter, the Post reports.

“It is a massive amount of energy,” NOAA oceanographer Gregory Johnson, a co-author of the study, told the Post, adding that this energy increase is equivalent to everyone on Earth using 20 electric tea kettles at the same time. The team needs to . . .

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 5:19 pm

Mathematicians Prove 2D Version of Quantum Gravity Works

leave a comment »

Charlie Wood writes in Quanta:

Alexander Polyakov, a theoretical physicist now at Princeton University, caught a glimpse of the future of quantum theory in 1981. A range of mysteries, from the wiggling of strings to the binding of quarks into protons, demanded a new mathematical tool whose silhouette he could just make out.

“There are methods and formulae in science which serve as master keys to many apparently different problems,” he wrote in the introduction to a now famous four-page letter in Physics Letters B. “At the present time we have to develop an art of handling sums over random surfaces.”

Polyakov’s proposal proved powerful. In his paper he sketched out a formula that roughly described how to calculate averages of a wildly chaotic type of surface, the “Liouville field.” His work brought physicists into a new mathematical arena, one essential for unlocking the behavior of theoretical objects called strings and building a simplified model of quantum gravity.

Years of toil would lead Polyakov to breakthrough solutions for other theories in physics, but he never fully understood the mathematics behind the Liouville field.

Over the last seven years, however, a group of mathematicians has done what many researchers thought impossible. In a trilogy of landmark publications, they have recast Polyakov’s formula using fully rigorous mathematical language and proved that the Liouville field flawlessly models the phenomena Polyakov thought it would.

“It took us 40 years in math to make sense of four pages,” said Vincent Vargas, a mathematician at the French National Center for Scientific Research and co-author of the research with Rémi Rhodes of Aix-Marseille University, Antti Kupiainen of the University of Helsinki, François David of the French National Center for Scientific Research, and Colin Guillarmou of Paris-Saclay University.

The three papers forge a bridge between the pristine world of mathematics and the messy reality of physics — and they do so by breaking new ground in the mathematical field of probability theory. The work also touches on philosophical questions regarding the objects that take center stage in the leading theories of fundamental physics: quantum fields.

“This is a masterpiece in mathematical physics,” said Xin Sun, a mathematician at the University of Pennsylvania.

Infinite Fields

In physics today, the main actors in the most successful theories are fields — objects that fill space, taking on different values from place to place.

In classical physics, for example, a single field tells you everything about how a force pushes objects around. Take Earth’s magnetic field: The twitches of a compass needle reveal the field’s influence (its strength and direction) at every point on the planet.

Fields are central to quantum physics, too. However, the situation here is more complicated due to the deep randomness of quantum theory. From the quantum perspective, Earth doesn’t generate one magnetic field, but rather an infinite number of different ones. Some look almost like the field we observe in classical physics, but others are wildly different.

But physicists still want to make predictions — predictions that ideally match, in this case, what a mountaineer reads on a compass. Assimilating the infinite forms of a quantum field into a single prediction is the formidable task of a “quantum field theory,” or QFT. This is a model of how one or more quantum fields, each with their infinite variations, act and interact.

Driven by immense experimental support, QFTs have become the basic language of particle physics. The Standard Model is one such QFT, depicting fundamental particles like electrons as fuzzy bumps that emerge from an infinitude of electron fields. It has passed every experimental test to date (although various groups may be on the verge of finding the first holes).

Physicists play with many different QFTs. Some, like the Standard Model, aspire to model real particles moving through the four dimensions of our universe (three spatial dimensions plus one dimension of time). Others describe exotic particles in strange universes, from two-dimensional flatlands to six-dimensional uber-worlds. Their connection to reality is remote, but physicists study them in the hopes of gaining insights they can carry back into our own world.

Polyakov’s Liouville field theory is one such example.

Gravity’s Field

The Liouville field, which is based on an equation from complex analysis developed in the 1800s by the French mathematician Joseph Liouville, describes a completely random two-dimensional surface — that is, a surface, like Earth’s crust, but one in which the height of every point is chosen randomly. Such a planet would erupt with mountain ranges of infinitely tall peaks, each assigned by rolling a die with infinite faces.

Such an object might not seem like an informative model for physics, but randomness is not devoid of patterns. The bell curve, for example, tells you how likely you are to randomly pass a seven-foot basketball player on the street. Similarly, bulbous clouds and crinkly coastlines follow random patterns, but it’s nevertheless possible to discern consistent relationships between their large-scale and small-scale features.

Liouville theory can be used to identify patterns in the endless landscape of all possible random, jagged surfaces. Polyakov realized this chaotic topography was essential for modeling strings, which trace out surfaces as they move. The theory has also been applied to describe quantum gravity in a two-dimensional world. Einstein defined gravity as space-time’s curvature, but translating his description into the language of quantum field theory creates an infinite number of space-times — much as the Earth produces an infinite collection of magnetic fields. Liouville theory packages all those surfaces together into one object. It gives physicists the tools to measure the curvature —and hence, gravitation — at every location on a random 2D surface.

“Quantum gravity basically means random geometry, because quantum means random and gravity means geometry,” said Sun.

Polyakov’s first step in exploring the world of random surfaces was to write down an expression defining the odds of finding a particular . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 2:15 pm

Posted in Daily life, Math, Science

How to think about pleasure

leave a comment »

Sam Dresser has an interesting article in Psyche:

Need to know

Over breakfast one April day in 1778, James Boswell asked Samuel Johnson why he gave up booze. Dr Johnson replied that he didn’t like to lose power over himself, but assured his friend that he would one day drink again when he grew old (he was 68 at the time). Boswell replied: ‘I think, Sir, you once said to me, that not to drink wine was a great deduction from life.’ To which Dr Johnson answered: ‘It is a diminution of pleasure, to be sure; but I do not say a diminution of happiness. There is more happiness in being rational.’

It is a common notion, even in our own day, that pleasure is in some sense a distraction from happiness – or that it doesn’t lead to the kind of happiness that really matters. Pleasure, in and of itself, is ‘lower’ than the real heavy hitters, such as Truth and Virtue and Wisdom and God, those hallowed founts of authentic happiness. It is universal – indeed inherent – that we humans are drawn to pleasure. Yet pleasure-seeking itself is often seen as an indulgence, and therefore rings with a kind of selfishness, even a kind of confusion. Pleasure doesn’t last, the idea goes, but Truth does, or Rationality does, or Wisdom does, and so those are the things that we ought to seek.

Whenever and wherever they are found, moralists and their dreary ilk often describe their own times as characterised by debauched hedonism. But does it accurately describe our time? Are we in the thrall of a love affair with pleasure? I don’t think so. Even if more people are more comfortable than they used to be, it’s still hard to admit to doing something pleasurable just because it’s pleasurable. More often, pleasure is excused as a little reward, a diversion, a break from the demands of the ‘real world’. Pleasure is something that will allow you to work harder, to catch your breath before returning to the turmoils of life. Searching for pleasure for pleasure’s sake is an act tinged with shame and, when it’s admitted to, excuses ought be made.

Lord Byron gave our tense relationship with pleasure a memorable couplet: ‘O pleasure! you’re indeed a pleasant thing / Although one must be damn’d for you, no doubt.’ Those who give in to pleasure have often been compared, unkindly, to animals. The Roman Stoic Epictetus told those who identified pleasure with goodness to go ‘lead the life of a worm, of which you judged yourself worthy: eat and drink, and enjoy women, and ease yourself, and snore.’ Friedrich Nietzsche located a being that, for him, was perhaps even lower than the worm: ‘Man does not strive for pleasure,’ he wrote. ‘Only the Englishman does.’

This isn’t true of all pleasures, however. The trouble for Dr Johnson, as he was quick to explain, was ‘sensual pleasure. When a man says, he had pleasure with a woman, he does not mean conversation, but something of a very different nature.’ (You can almost see the wink on his vast face.) The pleasures he disdains are the bodily pleasures, the ones we get from aged whisky and taking off your boots after a long hike. The pleasures that count, for Dr Johnson and for many other thinkers, are the pleasures of the mind. These are the pleasures that are pure, unmarred by the Earth. They’re to be kept clean and separate from the pleasures of the body, which are for the lower sorts of people. Or, as Dr Johnson rather flatly put it: ‘[T]he greatest part of men are gross.’

The purpose of this Guide is simple: I want to talk about some of the ways that people have thought about pleasure over the years. Pleasure is a surprisingly slippery idea, surprising because it seems so obvious what it is. But trying to actually nail it down is like nailing down a cloud. Regardless, that makes it more important to reflect on pleasure – its value, its nature, and the places that people have found it. My hope is that, by thinking through what pleasure is, by analysing and probing and querying it, perhaps you’ll be more likely to find it in the places you least expect (but no promises, of course).

Think it through

Pleasure is everywhere and yet it’s hard to work out quite what it is

The sheer variety of ways that people procure pleasure is unsettling, as well as a testament to the plasticity of our species. The differences can be small – I can’t understand why people like to watch golf – and the differences can be great, especially across cultural and temporal gulfs – the pleasure people once got in attending the afternoon execution seems, to me, a bit odd.

Think of pleasure in your own life. What is common to all of the things that give you pleasure? The throughline between warm scarves and charity work and calling your grandmother; between the cool side of the pillow, the sad-happiness of nostalgia, the pop of a champagne bottle opening – what could it be other than that these are all, in their way, pleasing? So, the question is: if pleasure can be found in all these sundry ways, then what is it? And the most common answer is a tad ho-hum: stuff that feels good. Stuff that you like. The experiences that make you say: ‘Yep! There it is.’

Many philosophers have accepted this, or a version of it, and have taken it to mean that there’s not a whole lot more to be said about the nature of pleasure (moralising about how others go about getting pleasure, of course, is a different story). Pleasure is what it is. Its very heterogeneity, its inconceivable variety, has led many to conclude that it’s an elementary component of our existence, or an absolutely simple experience. Edmund Burke said it was so simple it was ‘incapable of definition’. John Locke held that pleasure ‘cannot be described … the way of knowing [pleasure] is … only by experience.’

This view of pleasure as unanalysable, it seems to me, makes the nature of pleasure even stranger given its ubiquity in our lives. Can it really just be, as William James held, that . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2021 at 2:16 pm

The ‘20-5-3’ Rule Prescribes How Much Time You Should Spend Outside

leave a comment »

Michael Easter, author of The Comfort Crisis: Embrace Discomfort to Reclaim Your Wild, Happy, Healthy Self, has an extract from the book in Prevention:

The herd of 400-pound caribou was running 50 miles an hour and directly at me. The 30 animals had been eating lichen in the Arctic tundra in Alaska when something spooked them. I was sitting in their escape route. The ground began to vibrate once they cracked 100 yards. At 50 yards, I could see their hooves smashing the ground and kicking up moss and moisture. Then they were at 40 yards, then 35.

I could hear their breathing, smell their coats, and see all the details of their ornate antlers. Just as I was wondering if the rescue plane would be able to spot my hoof-pocked corpse, one of the caribou noticed me and swerved. The herd followed, shaking the earth as they swept left and summited a hillcrest, their antlers black against a gold sky.

That moment when those caribou shook the earth also shook my soul. It was transcendent, wild as a religious experience. And it’s not even the most intense thing I did in Alaska. I experienced savage weather, crossed raging rivers, and faced a half-ton grizzly. My brain was feeling less hunkered down in its typical foxhole—a state I’d compare to that of a roadrunner on meth, dementedly zooming from one thing to the next. My mind felt more like it belonged to a monk after a month at a meditation retreat. I just felt . . . better. The biologist E. O. Wilson put what I was feeling this way: “Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive, and even spiritual satisfaction.”

When I returned from the wild, my Zen-like buzz hung around for months. To understand what was happening, I met with Rachel Hopman, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Northeastern University. She told me about the nature pyramid. Think of it like the food pyramid, except that instead of recommending you eat this many servings of vegetables and this many of meat, it recommends the amount of time you should spend in nature to reduce stress and be healthier. Learn and live by the 20-5-3 rule.

20 minutes

That’s the amount of time you should spend outside in nature, like a neighborhood park, three times a week. Hopman led a new study that concluded that something as painless as a 20-minute stroll through a city botanical garden can boost cognition and memory as well as improve feelings of well-being. “But,” she said, “we found that people who used their cell phone on the walk saw none of those benefits.”

Other research discovered that 20 minutes outside three times a week is the dose of nature that had the greatest effect on reducing an urban dweller’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

In nature, our brains enter a mode called “soft fascination.” Hopman described it as a mindfulness-like state that restores and builds the resources you need to think, create, process information, and execute tasks. It’s mindfulness without the meditation. A short daily nature walk—or even a walk down a tree-lined street—is a great option for people who aren’t keen on sitting and focusing on their breath. But turn off your phone—alerts from it can kick you out of soft-
fascination mode.

5 hours

The minimum length of time each month you should spend in . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2021 at 1:55 pm

This Weirdly Smart, Creeping Slime Is Redefining Our Understanding of Intelligence

leave a comment »

Michelle Starr writes at ScienceAlert:

Imagine you’re walking into a forest, and you roll over a fallen log with your foot. Fanning out on the underside, there is something moist and yellow – a bit like something you may have sneezed out, if that something was banana-yellow and spread itself out into elegant fractal branches.

What you’re looking at is the plasmodium form of Physarum polycephalum, the many-headed slime mold. Like other slime molds found in nature, it fills an important ecological role, aiding in the decay of organic matter to recycle it into the food web.

This bizarre little organism doesn’t have a brain, or a nervous system – its blobby, bright-yellow body is just one cell. This slime mold species has thrived, more or less unchanged, for a billion years in its damp, decaying habitats.

And, in the last decade, it’s been changing how we think about cognition and problem-solving.

“I think it’s the same kind of revolution that occurred when people realized that plants could communicate with each other,” says biologist Audrey Dussutour of the French National Center for Scientific Research.

“Even these tiny little microbes can learn. It gives you a bit of humility.”

P. polycephalum – adorably nicknamed “The Blob” by Dussutour – isn’t exactly rare. It can be found in dark, humid, cool environments like the leaf litter on a forest floor. It’s also really peculiar; although we call it a ‘mold’, it is not actually fungus. Nor is it animal or plant, but a member of the protist kingdom – a sort of catch-all group for anything that can’t be neatly categorized in the other three kingdoms.

It starts its life as many individual cells, each with a single nucleus. Then, they merge to form the plasmodium, the vegetative life stage in which the organism feeds and grows.

In this form, fanning out in veins to search for food and explore its environment, it’s still a single cell, but containing millions or even billions of nuclei swimming in the cytoplasmic fluid confined within the bright-yellow membrane.

Cognition without a brain

Like all organisms, P. polycephalum needs to be able to make decisions about its environment. It needs to seek food and avoid danger. It needs to find the ideal conditions for its reproductive cycle. And this is where our little yellow friend gets really interesting. P. polycephalum doesn’t have a central nervous system. It doesn’t even have specialized tissues.

Yet it can solve complex puzzles, like labyrinth mazes, and remember novel substances. The kind of tasks we used to think only animals could perform.

“We’re talking about cognition without a brain, obviously, but also without any neurons at all. So the underlying mechanisms, the whole architectural framework of how it deals with information is totally different to the way your brain works,” biologist Chris Reid of Macquarie University in Australia tells ScienceAlert.

“By providing it with the same problem-solving challenges that we’ve traditionally given to animals with brains, we can start to see how this fundamentally different system might arrive at the same outcome. It’s where . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Later in the article:

Although it’s technically a single-celled organism, P. polycephalum is considered a network, exhibiting collective behavior. Each part of the slime mold is operating independently and sharing information with its neighboring sections, with no centralized processing.

“I guess the analogy would be neurons in a brain,” Reid says. “You have this one brain that’s composed of lots of neurons – it’s the same for the slime mold.”

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2021 at 1:48 pm

Why People Fall For Conspiracy Theories

leave a comment »

In FiveThirtyEight Kaleigh Rogers and Jasmine Mithani have a clear explanation of why people succumb to conspiracy theories. They write:

Think of a conspiracy theorist. How do they see the world? What stands out to them? What fades into the background? Now think of yourself. How does the way you see things differ? What is it about the way you think that has stopped you from falling down a rabbit hole?

Conspiracy theories have long been part of American life, but they feel more urgent than ever. Innocuous notions like whether the moon landing was a hoax feel like child’s play compared to more impactful beliefs like whether vaccines are safe (they are) or the 2020 election was stolen (it wasn’t). It can be easy to write off our conspiracy theorist friends and relatives as crackpots, but science shows things are far more nuanced than that. There are traits that likely prime people to be more prone to holding these beliefs, and you may find that when you take stock of these traits, you aren’t far removed from your cousin who is convinced the world is run by lizard people.

Flying to conclusions

Let’s begin our tour of cognitive fallacies by going bird-watching. Picture, if you will, avid bird-watcher Fivey Fox at their two favorite spying spots. In one habitat, there are more cardinals than bluebirds — a 60:40 ratio — so Fivey calls that habitat “Big Red.” In the other habitat, “Big Blue,” there is an opposite ratio of bluebirds to cardinals (60 bluebirds, 40 cardinals).

In the interactive below, you initially can’t see which spot Fivey is bird-watching in, but you can see what bird they spot. After each sighting, Fivey notes the bird in their notebook, and then you decide whether you have seen enough to guess the correct habitat or you’d like to see more birds. Have a go! . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2021 at 1:38 pm

Black-bean-and-black-rice tempeh a great success

leave a comment »

I had a temperature scare when the batch, once it started, got very hot (internal temperature of 100ºF), but as it turns out, I needn’t have worried. And come to think of it, I doubt that the fungus would generate so much heat it would harm itself. Natural selection would work strongly against that.

So after 3 days 23 hours — let’s just call it 4 days — the tempeh came out beautifully. it felt solid, like a styrofoam board. It smelled good and the mold was very soft and nice to the touch. Note the excellent marbling. 🙂

I wanted to try the tempeh, so I made:

Tempeh minichili test

I diced two of the small slabs shown above — sliced them down the middle, then across into cubes. I was just cooking one serving, so i used my 8″ nonstick skillet. It does have a lid so I could do some of the cooking covered (the simmering, for example).

• 1 Tbsp olive oil
• 1/2 cup chopped red onion
• 1 red Fresno pepper, chopped
• Salt
• 12 mini-San-Marzano tomatoes, chopped
• 1 piece of tempeh, diced as above
• garlic powder
• Worcestershire sauce
• Yuzu ponzu
• Liquid Smoke
• Mexican Oregano
• Ground cumin would be right, but I didn’t feel like it so skipped it — but it really belongs
• California Sweet Paprika (couldn’t find my Smoked Spanish Paprika, so just used this)
• pinch of dried Thyme
• splash of Shaoxing wine

Sauté onion and Fresno pepper in olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add tomatoes and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook until tomatoes start to soften.  Add remaining ingredients and stir to mix. Then cover the pan, reduce heat,  and let simmer a few minutes.

Remove lid and greatly reduce liquid — evaporate most of the wine. Then serve. I added:

• 1 teaspoon Bragg’s nutrition yeast
• about a tablespoon of pepitas

The tempeh held its shape remarkably well. It tasted good and had a good mouthfeel, with some chewiness. The mold is like the mold on Camembert or Brie: totally inoffensive, eminently edible. And a nice soft touch, like suede.

I was worried about this batch, but it could not have turned out better. Still, I’m going to stick to 2-cup batches: I think they would handle heat better. OTOH, there was definitely nothing wrong with this batch. So: maybe. I have to say a 2-cup batch is probably a better size for things like my next experiment: chickpeas and peanuts.

Stay tuned.

 

Written by Leisureguy

15 June 2021 at 10:35 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Non-animal diet, Recipes

Tagged with

Some Hospitals Kept Suing Patients Over Medical Debt Through the Pandemic

leave a comment »

There is something deeply wrong with the US healthcare system. Jenny Deam reports in ProPublica:

Last year as COVID-19 laid siege to the nation, many U.S. hospitals dramatically reduced their aggressive tactics to collect medical debt. Some ceased entirely.

But not all.

There was a nearly 90% drop overall in legal actions between 2019 and the first seven months of 2020 by the nation’s largest hospitals and health systems, according to a new report by Johns Hopkins University. Still, researchers told ProPublica that they identified at least 16 institutions that pursued lawsuits, wage garnishments and liens against their patients in the first seven months of 2020.

The Johns Hopkins findings, released Monday in partnership with Axios, which first reported the results, are part of an ongoing series of state and national reports that look at debt collections by U.S. hospitals and health systems from 2018 to 2020.

During those years more than a quarter of the nation’s largest hospitals and health systems pursued nearly 39,000 legal actions seeking more than $72 million, according to data Johns Hopkins researchers obtained through state and county court records.

More than 65% of the institutions identified were nonprofit corporations, which means that in return for tax-exempt status they are supposed to serve the public rather than private interest.

The amount of medical debt individuals owe is often a small sliver of a hospital’s overall revenue — as little as 0.03% of annual receipts — but can “cause devastating financial burdens to working families,” the report said. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has estimated medical debt makes up 58% of all debt collection actions.

The poor or uninsured often bear the brunt of such actions, said Christi Walsh, clinical director of health care and research policy at Johns Hopkins University. “In times of crisis you start to see the huge disparities,” she said.

Researchers said they could not determine all of the amounts sought by the 16 institutions taking legal action in the first half of 2020, but of those they could, Froedtert Health, a Wisconsin health system, sought the most money from patients — more than $3 million.

Even after Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers declared a public health emergency on March 12, 2020, hospitals within the Froedtert Health system filed more than 100 cases from mid-March through July, researchers reported, and 96 of the actions were liens.

One lien was against Tyler Boll-Flaig, a 21-year-old uninsured pizza delivery driver from Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, who was severely injured June 3, 2020, when a speeding drag racer smashed into his car. Boll-Flaig’s jaw was shattered, and he had four vertebrae crushed and several ribs broken. His 14-year-old brother, Dominic Flaig, tagging along that night, was killed.

Days after the crash, their mother, Brandy Flaig, said she got a call from a hospital billing office asking for her surviving son’s contact information to set up a payment plan for his medical bills.

Then on July 30 — less than two months later — Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee filed a $67,225 lien against Boll-Flaig. It was one of seven liens the hospital filed the same day, totaling nearly a quarter of a million dollars, according to the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access website used by researchers and reviewed by ProPublica.

“It’s during the pandemic, we’re still grieving, and they go after Tyler?” Flaig said. “It’s predatory.” Tyler Boll-Flaig declined to be interviewed.

Froedtert Hospital is the largest in the Froedtert Health system, which includes five full-service hospitals, two community hospitals and more than 40 clinics. The health care system reported more than $53 million in operating income during the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2020 — double the amount from the previous year, according to its financial filings. It has also received $90 million in federal CARES Act money to help with its COVID-19 response and operating costs, a spokesperson said.

Only Reedsburg Area Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, pursued more legal actions in the spring and summer of 2020, with 139 lawsuits and 22 wage garnishments, the study showed. Medical center officials did not respond to a request for comment.

In contrast, Advocate Aurora Health, the top-suing health network in the state before the pandemic, dropped to zero court filings after February 2020, the report found.

Stephen Schoof, a Froedtert Health spokesperson, said in an email he . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 June 2021 at 2:17 pm

The Food That Can Downregulate a Metastatic Cancer Gene

leave a comment »

This is the third video on how diet relates to metastasis of cancer. The first one is here, the second here.

Written by Leisureguy

15 June 2021 at 1:40 pm

News headline: “Coronavirus infections dropping where people are vaccinated, rising where they are not”

leave a comment »

I don’t think that pattern is merely a coincidence. The Washington Post report by Dan Keating, Naema Ahmed, Fenit Nirappil, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Lenny Bernstein begins:

States with higher vaccination rates now have markedly fewer coronavirus cases, as infections are dropping in places where most residents have been immunized and are rising in many places people have not, a Washington Post analysis has found.

States with lower vaccination also have significantly higher hospitalization rates, The Post found. Poorly vaccinated communities have not been reporting catastrophic conditions. Instead, they are usually seeing new infections holding steady or increasing without overwhelming local hospitals.

As recently as 10 days ago, vaccination rates did not predict a difference in coronavirus cases, but immunization rates have diverged, and case counts in the highly vaccinated states are dropping quickly.

Vaccination is not always even within each state, and The Post found the connection between vaccine shots and coronavirus cases at the local level comparing more than 100 counties with low vaccination rates (fewer than 20 percent of residents vaccinated) and more than 700 with high vaccination rates (at least 40 percent vaccinated).

Counties with high vaccination had low coronavirus rates that are going down. In counties where few people are vaccinated, not only are there higher case rates, but the number of cases there also is growing. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, including this chart:

Written by Leisureguy

15 June 2021 at 11:35 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

Walking vs. fasting blood glucose

leave a comment »

I resumed daily walks on 6 June — normally, I don’t walk on Sunday, but since I hadn’t been doing any real walking, I figured I should just start.

I noticed an immediate effect on by fasting blood glucose levels, which I graphed for that first week: steps each day and fasting blood glucose level the next day.

And you can see from last week’s steps-per-day chart, I wasn’t really doing all that many steps — I wanted to ramp up gradually. Still, I was using Nordic walking poles, which increase calorie burn by 20% (with no perceptible increase in effort, an attribute I like).

What surprises me is the impact the walking has had on my average fasting blood glucose readings. As of this morning (June 15), here’s what the averages look like:

These readings are all still in the “pre-diabetic” range, but observe the trend. (The readings in mg/dL, the measure commonly used in the US: 103, 106, 108, 114 mg/dL.)

My goal is to get all the averages below 5.5 mmol/L (99 mg/dL). That would be comfortably within the normal range.

Of course, this result is not due solely to exercise, since diet also plays a major role. I’m convinced that my whole-food non-animal diet is also essential. But (as the figures show) diet alone is insufficient. Exercise also is required, and I believe aerobics exercise (Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s term), or cardio exercise — sustained exercise — works best. I’ll continue Nordic walking, and I’ll soon be doing 1-hour walks, 6 days a week.

Written by Leisureguy

15 June 2021 at 10:32 am

Our Little Life Is Rounded with Possibility

leave a comment »

Chiara Marletto, author of The Science of Can and Can’t: A Physicist’s Journey Through the Land of Counterfactuals and research fellow at Wolfson College, University of Oxford, has an extract from her book in Nautilus:

If you could soar high in the sky, as red kites often do in search of prey, and look down at the domain of all things known and yet to be known, you would see something very curious: a vast class of things that science has so far almost entirely neglected. These things are central to our understanding of physical reality, both at the everyday level and at the level of the most fundamental phenomena in physics—yet they have traditionally been regarded as impossible to incorporate into fundamental scientific explanations. They are facts not about what is—“the actual”—but about what could or could not be. In order to distinguish them from the actual, they are called counterfactuals.

Suppose that some future space mission visited a remote planet in another solar system, and that they left a stainless-steel box there, containing among other things the critical edition of, say, William Blake’s poems. That the poetry book is subsequently sitting somewhere on that planet is a factual property of it. That the words in it could be read is a counterfactual property, which is true regardless of whether those words will ever be read by anyone. The box may be never found; and yet that those words could be read would still be true—and laden with significance. It would signify, for instance, that a civilization visited the planet, and much about its degree of sophistication.

To further grasp the importance of counterfactual properties, and their difference from actual properties, imagine a computer programmed to produce on its display a string of zeroes. That is a factual property of the computer, to do with its actual state—with what is. The fact that it could be reprogrammed to output other strings is a counterfactual property of the computer. The computer may never be so programmed; but the fact that it could is an essential fact about it, without which it would not qualify as a computer.

The counterfactuals that matter to science and physics, and that have so far been neglected, are facts about what could or could not be made to happen to physical systems; about what is possible or impossible. They are fundamental because they express essential features of the laws of physics—the rules that govern every system in the universe. For instance, a counterfactual property imposed by the laws of physics is that it is impossible to build a perpetual motion machine. A perpetual motion machine is not simply an object that moves forever once set into motion: It must also generate some useful sort of motion. If this device could exist, it would produce energy out of no energy. It could be harnessed to make your car run forever without using fuel of any sort. Any sequence of transformations turning something without energy into something with energy, without depleting any energy supply, is impossible in our universe: It could not be made to happen, because of a fundamental law that physicists call the principle of conservation of energy.

Another significant counterfactual property of physical systems, central to thermodynamics, is that a steam engine is possible. A steam engine is a device that transforms energy of one sort into energy of a different sort, and it can perform useful tasks, such as moving a piston, without ever violating that principle of conservation of energy. Actual steam engines (those that have been built so far) are factual properties of our universe. The possibility of building a steam engine, which existed long before the first one was actually built, is a counterfactual.

So the fundamental types of counterfactuals that occur in physics are of two kinds: One is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 June 2021 at 2:00 pm

A deep look at a speck of human brain reveals never-before-seen quirks

leave a comment »

Nerve cells that resided in a woman’s brain send out message-sending tendrils called axons (shown). A preliminary analysis has turned up some super-strong connections between cells. – Lichtman Lab/Harvard University, Connectomics Team/Google

Laura Sanders writes in Science News:

A new view of the human brain shows its cellular residents in all their wild and weird glory. The map, drawn from a tiny piece of a woman’s brain, charts the varied shapes of 50,000 cells and 130 million connections between them.

This intricate map, named H01 for “human sample 1,” represents a milestone in scientists’ quest to provide evermore detailed descriptions of a brain (SN: 2/7/14).

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” says neuroscientist Clay Reid at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. “In the best possible way, it’s the beginning of something very exciting.”

Scientists at Harvard University, Google and elsewhere prepared and analyzed the brain tissue sample. Smaller than a sesame seed, the bit of brain was about a millionth of an entire brain’s volume. It came from the cortex — the brain’s outer layer responsible for complex thought — of a 45-year-old woman undergoing surgery for epilepsy. After it was removed, the brain sample was quickly preserved and stained with heavy metals that revealed cellular structures. The sample was then sliced into more than 5,000 wafer-thin pieces and imaged with powerful electron microscopes.

Computational programs stitched the resulting images back together and artificial intelligence programs helped scientists analyze them. A short description of the resulting view was published as a preprint May 30 to bioRxiv.org. The full dataset is freely available online.

For now, researchers are just beginning to see what’s there. “We have really just dipped our toe into this dataset,” says study coauthor Jeff Lichtman, a developmental neurobiologist at Harvard University. Lichtman compares the brain map to Google Earth: “There are gems in there to find, but no one can say they’ve looked at the whole thing.”

But already, some “fantastically interesting” sights have appeared, Lichtman says. “When you have large datasets, suddenly these odd things, these weird things, these rare things start to stand out.”

One such curiosity concerns  . . ..

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

13 June 2021 at 12:12 pm

Posted in Evolution, Science

These ferns may be the first plants known to share work like ants

leave a comment »

Many of this fern colony’s fan-shaped nest fronds (growing closer to the tree trunk) are sterile, while the thinner strap fronds (sticking up and out from between the nest fronds) lift more of the reproductive load for the colony. – Ian Hutton

Jake Buehler writes in Science News:

High in the forest canopy, a mass of strange ferns grips a tree trunk, looking like a giant tangle of floppy, viridescent antlers. Below these fork-leaved fronds and closer into the core of the lush knot are brown, disk-shaped plants. These, too, are ferns of the very same species.

The ferns — and possibly similar plants — may form a type of complex, interdependent society previously considered limited to animals like ants and termites, researchers report online May 14 in Ecology

Kevin Burns, a biologist at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, first became familiar with the ferns while conducting fieldwork on Lord Howe Island, an isolated island between Australia and New Zealand. He happened to take note of the local epiphytes — plants that grow upon other plants — and one species particularly caught his attention: the staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum), also native to parts of mainland Australia and Indonesia.

“I realized, God, you know, they never occur alone,” says Burns, noting that some of the larger clusters of ferns were massive clumps made of hundreds of individuals. 

It was soon clear to Burns that “each one of those individuals was doing a different thing.”

He likens the fern colonies to an upside-down umbrella made of plants. Ferns with long, green, waxy “strap” fronds appeared to deflect water to the center of the aggregation, where disk-shaped, brown, spongey “nest” fronds could soak it up.

The shrubby apparatus reminded Burns of a termite mound, with a communal store of resources and the segregation of different jobs in the colony. Scientists call these types of cooperative groups, where overlapping generations live together and form castes to divide labor and reproductive roles, “eusocial.” The term has been used to describe certain insect and crustacean societies, along with two mole rat species as the only mammalian examples (SN: 10/18/04). Burns wondered if the ferns could also be eusocial.

His team’s analysis of frond fertility revealed 40 percent couldn’t reproduce, and the sterile colony members were predominantly nest fronds. This suggests a reproductive division of labor between the nest and strap frond types. Tests of the fronds’ absorbency confirmed that nest fronds sop up more water than strap fronds do. Previous research by other scientists found networks of roots running throughout the colony, which means that nest fronds have the ability to slake strap fronds’ thirst. The fronds divided labor, much like ants and termites.

The team also analyzed genetic samples from 10 colonies on Lord Howe Island and found that eight were composed of genetically identical individuals, while two contained ferns of differing genetic origins. High degrees of genetic relatedness are also seen in colonies of eusocial insects, where many sisters contribute to the survival of the nest.

Taken together, Burns thinks these traits tick many of the boxes for eusociality. That would be a “big deal,” he says.

An assumed requirement for eusocial colonial living is behavioral coordination, because it allows different individuals to work together. But ferns are plants, not animals, which so often coordinate their behaviors. Seeing eusocial living in plants “seems to indicate to me that this type of transition in the evolution of complexity doesn’t require a brain,” Burns says.

The study opens up the . . .

Continue reading. There’s more. Evolution arrives at amazing solutions.

It occurs to me that some meme clusters show eusociality.

Written by Leisureguy

13 June 2021 at 12:04 pm

Holding diet constant, increasing exercise — look at what happens to fasting blood glucose

leave a comment »

Starting last Sunday I resumed my Nordic walking. My fasting blood glucose, as I mentioned in an earlier post, held steady (in the “pre-diabetic” range) for three days, and then dropped into the normal range (a fasting BG reading of 5.5 mmol/L (99 mg/dL) or less). In fact, the past 3 days my readings have been 5.4, 5.3, and 5.2 (in mmol/L — in mg/dL, that’s 97, 95, and 94).

Obviously, my fasting blood glucose cannot continue dropping (or I’m in serious trouble), nor will the number of steps per day monotonically increase. For one thing, I don’t walk on Sundays as a rule (last Sunday was an exception), and once I get to 8000 I’ll level out since I see no need to go beyond that. (The 10,000 step guideline was a marketing ploy by Japanese pedometer manufacturers.)

But even in this short sample, I’m impressed by the impact that exercise (Nordic walking) has made. It certainly wasn’t due to diet, since I held my (whole-food plant-only) diet steady — and indeed, I’ve kept my fasting blood glucose readings relatively low (though still in the “pre-diabetic” range) simply by diet. But to get to the next level — readings in the “normal” range — exercise is clearly required.

I’ll go one more day to complete the week. It was a good experiment.

Written by Leisureguy

12 June 2021 at 9:41 am

Free lithium from seawater

leave a comment »

Mining.com has an interesting article. The lithium is free because the by-products pay for the process.

Researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology developed what they believe is an economically viable system to extract high-purity lithium from seawater.

Previous efforts to tease lithium from the mixture the metal makes together with sodium, magnesium and potassium in seawater yielded very little. Although the liquid contains 5,000 times more lithium than what can be found on land, it is present at extremely low concentrations of about 0.2 parts per million (ppmTo address this issue, the team led by Zhiping Lai tried a method that had never been used before to extract lithium ions. They employed an electrochemical cell containing a ceramic membrane made from lithium lanthanum titanium oxide (LLTO).

The cell itself, on the other hand, contains three compartments. Seawater flows into a central feed chamber, where positive lithium ions pass through the LLTO membrane into a side compartment that contains a buffer solution and a copper cathode coated with platinum and ruthenium. At the same time, negative ions exit the feed chamber through a standard anion exchange membrane, passing into a third compartment containing a sodium chloride solution and a platinum-ruthenium anode.

Lai and his group tested the system using seawater from the Red Sea. At a voltage of 3.25V, the cell generates hydrogen gas at the cathode and chlorine gas at the anode. This drives the transport of lithium through the LLTO membrane, where it accumulates in the side-chamber. This lithium-enriched water then becomes the feedstock for four more cycles of processing, eventually reaching a concentration of more than 9,000 ppm.

To make the final product pure enough so that it meets battery manufacturers’ requirements, the scientists then  . . .

Continue reading.

Concluding paragraph:

According to the researchers, the cell will probably need $5 of electricity to extract 1 kilogram of lithium from seawater. This means that the value of hydrogen and chlorine produced by the cell would end up offsetting the cost of power, and residual seawater could also be used in desalination plants to provide freshwater.

Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2021 at 9:31 pm

Type 2 diabetics: Diet modification PLUS walking has helped me

with 2 comments

Some things I have to relearn. I have type 2 diabetes, and I can keep it under control if I do the right things. I found that modifying my diet was necessary but not sufficient. Getting good control also requires exercise (Nordic walking for me), and I believe cardio exercise — what Kenneth Cooper called “aerobics” — is the best approach from a health perspective, though certainly resistance training (for muscular strength) is a good complement.

I first changed my diet to a low-carb high-fat diet — not excessively high fat, just enough additional fat to make up the calories lost by reducing carbs, the idea being not to increase the protein level but keep it moderate. So if net carbs are reduced by 100g, fat is increased by 45g — the same caloric amount.

But after I learned of various health risks of a low-carb diet and that saturated fat increases insulin resistance, I took another look at my diet and did more reading and research. It was then that I read Michael Greger’s How Not to Die, which discusses what we know about the relationship between diet and chronic diseases from scientific studies. In Part 2 of the book, he recommends a diet based on that research, and that’s the diet I adopted.

His recommended diet is what I call a “whole-food plant-only” diet, though I also include fungi (as pesudo-plants). That means no meat, fish, dairy, or eggs (though on rare occasions I’ll have a modest amount for one meal). No meat, fish, dairy, or eggs is the same as a vegan diet, but the other restriction — whole foods — means that I avoid refined foods (refined sugar, flour, fruit juice — whole fruit is fine — and so on) and also avoid highly processed foods that are manufactured using industrial methods from refined ingredients and various additives (preservatives, coloring, flavors, and so on — usually with substantial salt and refined sugar). The vegan diet does not preclude those, though of course some vegans do avoid them and in fact follow a whole-food plant-only diet, even though the vegan diet per se does allow for refined and highly processed foods so long as they are free of animal products — and indeed a supermarket will often have a fairly large section of highly processed vegan food products.

My blood glucose readings improved remarkably on that diet, and when I also included exercise (Nordic walking is what I like), things got even better. But winter came, walking faded, and my fasting blood glucose readings slowly drifted up — my 90-day average right now is 6.4 mmol/L (115 mg/dL).

This past Sunday I started walking again.  My daily step counts starting last Sunday June 6: 2288, 2861, 3995, 4564, 4660, and 5527 steps per day — and my fasting blood glucose readings for the following days, starting Monday: 6.3, 6.3, 6.5, 5.4, 5.3, and 5.2 mmol/L. That is pretty convincing to me. Walking did seem to make a big difference (after a startup lag). The last three readings — 5.4 mmol/L = 97 mg/dL, 5.3 mmol/L = 95 mg/dL, and 5.2 mmol/L = 94 mg/dL — are well within “normal.” (“Pre-diabetic” starts at 5.6 mmol/L (101 mg/dL), and 7.0 mmol/L (126 mg/dL) is the starting point for “diabetic.” Update: See graph below, which I’ll continue to update for a while.

It seems that after four days of walking (gradually increasing the distance), the exercise effect kicked in and — with my diet staying constant — my fasting blood glucose dropped back to where it should be. I see I must walk.

Luckily, I live in a good neighborhood for walking. And it’s also lucky I enjoy the foods included in my diet (and enjoy cooking).

Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2021 at 11:05 am

Time for some good news: A Pivotal Mosquito Experiment Could Not Have Gone Better

leave a comment »

Ed Yong reports in the Atlantic:

Adi Utarini had her first of two bouts of dengue fever in 1986, when she was still a medical student. Within a few hours, she spiked a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit and couldn’t stand up, because her knee was shaking so badly. Within a few days, she was in the hospital. That experience is common in Utarini’s home city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia: It has one of the highest rates of dengue in the country, which itself has one of the highest rates of dengue in the world. “Here, when you ask people if they know someone who’s had dengue, they can always name someone,” says Utarini, now a public-health professor at Gadjah Mada University.

Thanks to her work, that might soon change.

Dengue fever is caused by a virus that infects an estimated 390 million people every year, and kills about 25,000; the World Health Organization has described it as one of the top 10 threats to global health. It spreads through the bites of mosquitoes, particularly the species Aedes aegypti. Utarini and her colleagues have spent the past decade turning these insects from highways of dengue into cul-de-sacs. They’ve loaded the mosquitoes with a bacterium called Wolbachia, which prevents them from being infected by dengue virusesWolbachia spreads very quickly: If a small number of carrier mosquitoes are released into a neighborhood, almost all of the local insects should be dengue-free within a few months. It’s as if Utarini’s team vaccinated a few individuals against a disease, and soon after the whole population had herd immunity.

The World Mosquito Program (WMP), a nonprofit that pioneered this technique, had run small pilot studies in Australia that suggested it could work. Utarini, who co-leads WMP Yogyakarta, has now shown conclusively that it does. Her team released Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes in parts of Yogyakarta as part of a randomized controlled trial. The results, which were unveiled last year and have now been published, showed that Wolbachia rapidly spread among the local mosquitoes, and reduced the incidence of dengue by 77 percent. “That provides the gold standard of evidence that Wolbachia is a highly effective intervention against dengue,” says Oliver Brady, a dengue expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who was not involved in the study. “It has the potential to revolutionize mosquito control.”

The trial’s results were so encouraging that the researchers have since released Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes over all of central Yogyakarta—a 32-square-kilometer zone that’s home to more than 400,000 people. They’re now expanding into the densest surrounding provinces, aiming to protect 4 million people by the end of 2022. If they succeed, they should be able to prevent more than 10,000 dengue infections every year, Katherine Anders of the WMP told me. And the team is optimistic enough that it’s daring to think about an even grander goal: eliminating dengue from the city altogether.

“Dengue is a particularly challenging virus,” Natalie Dean, a statistician at the University of Florida, told me. It comes in four distinct versions, or “serotypes.” People who recover from one serotype can still be infected by the other three; if that happens, they’re more likely to develop severe and potentially lethal symptoms. For that reason, the only existing dengue vaccine also increases the risk of severe dengue in people who’ve never been infected, and is recommended only for people who’ve already encountered the disease.

Then there’s the mosquito. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 June 2021 at 7:17 pm

4700 steps and a grandson graduates from high school — a good day

leave a comment »

Baltimore School for the Arts, which draws students from across the city. Good weather save for cicadas. And the walks do seem to have an effect on blood glucose. No change in diet, and the fasting reading this morning was 5.4 mmol/L (97 mg/dL).

Written by Leisureguy

10 June 2021 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Health

%d bloggers like this: