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When it comes to staying at home, what is the most significant driver, our government, or our beliefs? A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research teases out the different effects of fear and policy in lockdowns. The study is based upon cellphone data reporting our movements and looks at neighboring areas where shutdown policies differed. The study's beauty lies in its granularity; it looked at a county-wide rather than state-wide level, letting the variability, in this case of government policies, always lost in aggregation shine through.

Cellphone data geolocation data was collected from March 1st to May 16th and identified the businesses visited and the amount of time spent. It assumes that visits equate with economic activity.

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Background

Did the use of lead pipes for drinking water cause the collapse of the Roman Empire? Although historians no longer believe that lead poisoning caused the Roman Empire's collapse, the Romans did have an extensive plumbing system upgraded about 2,200 years ago to include lead pipes. In the U.S. in the 1800s, cast iron pipes were used, but with the growth of cities came the need for more flexible piping to connect buildings to water mains. Lead became the perfect material for this task, and by the 1900s, most of the largest cities in the U.S. installed lead piping. Amazingly, many of these pipes are still in use today.      

On March 31, President Biden released The American Jobs Plan, also known...

According to provisional 2020 year-end statistics, Alzheimer’s disease remained among the leading causes of death, increasing last year by almost 10%. Indeed, deaths from all types of dementia increased last year, accounting for many nursing home deaths and reflecting a lack of family visitation and stimulation.  Canada was especially hard hit. A report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that as of May 25, 2020, 80% of COVID-19 related deaths were people in long-term care facilities and retirement homes, many of which instituted lockdowns and restricted or...

Radiation was a concern during the Apollo space program, where we barely crossed the street in cosmic terms – the trajectory of the craft traveling to the Moon was partially based on minimizing the amount of time the astronauts spent traversing the van Allen radiation belts that surround the Earth. Since the end of the Apollo program, human beings have remained safely ensconced within the protection of Earth’s magnetic field – but that half-century is about to end. 

This is the first in a series discussing the subject of radiation exposure in space. This article will dwell on the biological effects of radiation exposure, including the sort of radiation to which our astronauts will be exposed. Then we will look at how radiation safety is practiced in space and finally consider...

Unless your head is firmly implanted in your rectum, there can be little doubt about how COVID has devastated the world (if it is implanted up there, please let us know how the view is).

It may be of little comfort, but if you think about it, some positive developments have arisen from the pandemic. Here is an arbitrary and capricious list of 4 of them. Enjoy.

1. Good news for germaphobes!

Think about it. How many colds did you get this winter? How about norovirus ("stomach flu") cases? Or real flu (influenza). The first two can be answered, but only anecdotally. I don't know a single person who got a cold or the dreaded stomach bug. I have a "norovirus" Google news alert that was strangely quiet all winter. And the flu season "never happened" ...

If you're lucky enough to have died at age 49, there is no need to read this. But if you reach 50, welcome to the beginning of old age, where icky things start to happen to you. One icky but hugely important thing will be a birthday gift called a colonoscopy, which people fear mightily. They shouldn't. Although the image of a bassoon being force-fed into your anus isn't especially comforting, a colonoscopy is nothing more than a really good nap, thanks to the wonder drug propofol, something I wrote about in 2020...

 

 

 

 

This plot shows the growth of daily new COVID-19 cases since March 2020 with 3 “waves” and the possible beginning of a 4th. The red line is the trend created by the virus spreading throughout the nation and represents the nation's baseline growth rate of about 5,000 cases per month. The baseline values are similar to the lowest seen among large cities. Retroactive extrapolation sets the beginning of the pandemic at about January 1, 2020, which is realistic. The peaks increase over time because they multiply the baseline values through exponential growth. 

The ratios of successive peak daily cases are...

In recent months, the mainstream press has been on a crusade against COVID vaccine skepticism, tenaciously promoting science-based medicine and expressing little tolerance for anybody who holds a contrarian opinion. “Covid vaccine does not affect fertility but misinformation persists,” The Guardian announced in February, addressing a common concern about coronavirus immunizations. “A big reason we might never reach herd immunity,” an equally zealous CNN recently reported, “because not enough people are willing to get vaccinated.” 

These claims are perfectly...

I wrote about AstraZeneca’s vaccine problems a little over three weeks ago, mainly about the “unforced errors” in reporting. At that time, concerns about abnormal blood clots were being investigated and thought to be unanticipated but not abnormal, at least statistically. The situation seems to have changed.

The Background

Let’s talk for a minute about platelets, a cellular element that circulates in our bloodstream and provides the scaffolding for the formation of clots. If you view our arteries and veins as a plumbing system, you know that leaks, small or large, are bound to happen. In those instances, and they occur throughout our day, platelets plug the leak as other...

The same group of researchers that brought us the understanding of why our hair turns grey has released another study looking at a reason, beyond genetics, for hair loss. For those of you who missed my initial report, let’s get you up to speed.

Stem cells are responsible for hair growth and coloration, and the milieu of hormones and cell mediators controls where hair grows along with its texture. Hair follicles go through stages, of growth (anagen), rest (telogen), loss (catagen and exogen), as well as renewal (kenogen). The bulbous area at the bottom of the follicle contains those previously mentioned stem cells. Hair follicle stem cells (HFSC) derived embryologically from the same layer as our...