What I'm Reading (Apr. 29)

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The tyranny of those who speak up, what contact lenses can tell us about monopolies, Snap! Crackle! Pop! - the science behind the sound, and what anthropology and DNA can tell us about COVID-19

“Elections are a measure of ordinal preferences. As long as you care enough to vote, it doesn’t matter how much you care about the election outcome, as everyone’s voice is the same. But for everything else – who speaks up in a board meeting about whether a corporation should take a political position, who protests against a company taking a position one side or the other finds offensive, etc. – cardinal utility matters a lot. Only a small minority of the public ever bothers to try to influence a corporation, school, or non-profit to reflect certain values, whether from the inside or out.

In an evenly divided country, if one side simply cares more, it’s going to exert a disproportionate influence on all institutions, and be more likely to see its preferences enacted in the time between elections when most people aren’t paying much attention.”

I have written in the past about the tyranny of the minority; the reason you no longer find peanuts on air flights or Coca-Cola is considered kosher. Here a similar rule of thumb is applied to our politics. Perhaps it is true that we vote with “our feet,” or in this case, with actions over words. Why is Everything Liberal?

Monopolies are back, big time! Often, they are in the places least expected – in this case, contact lenses.

“In Alcon Vision v. Lens.com we see first-hand how large, multinational corporations leverage their resources to control competition and limit sales of their market competitors. Alcon has engaged in anti-competitive tactics to push contact lens discounters out of the market by implementing a Unilateral Pricing Policy (UPP) which mandates a minimum retail price for certain lenses. For non-economists, a UPP is a type of price fixing that keeps the cost of a product artificially high.”

From RealClearHealth, A Bad Deal on Contact Lenses

“The puffed rice cereal stayed true to its Snap! Crackle! Pop! slogan that has since become synonymous with the Kellogg’s cereal. The marketing slogan first appeared on the box in 1932 and later in the jingle in television ads. 

Naturally, the boys asked why the cereal made the popping sound. Much to my surprise, I couldn’t come up with a good answer, which prompted my search to find out what makes Rice Krispies go popHere is an article that describes what occurs and the food scientist who investigated the Rice Krispies matter. I couldn’t believe I had not asked the same question as a child myself (or at least I don’t think I did, as far as I can recall).”

Dr. Peter Attia describes what brings the snap, crackle, pop to Rice Krispies – and oh yes, a little about their glycemic index. Spoiler alert, it is high 

“Today, plague is still found in nearly every continent. We found that the Black Death is literally the common ancestor, the mother of 80 percent of the strains that circulate in the world today. And that’s pretty important, because it tells us that, biologically, the Black Death strain was not special. It’s not that it was more infectious, more virulent. It’s actually more or less what you have circulating today in the Grand Canyon in squirrels or in groundhogs or what you find in Madagascar.

If the bacteria are largely the same, why don’t we have Black Death anymore or big outbreaks of bubonic plague?

First of all, we changed our lifestyle quite a bit. We are just living in much more hygienic conditions. Plague is actually not usually transmitted between people, but between animals and people, and usually the vector is a flea. We don’t live with mice and rats in the house as much.”

This is an excellent read on DNA and anthropology, which finds echoes in today’s pandemic. From The Atlantic, A Revolution Is Sweeping the Science of Ancient Diseases