I finished the book. I ended up giving it 3 stars on goodreads, but as I read the last half I mostly moved closer to a 2-star evaluation. Part of the book is great, part of it is very weak. It’s best when it just deals with the facts; what do we find when we look in the different kinds of tombs left behind (and why might we not always find what we’d expect to find?), how big were the dwellings they lived in and what were they made of, how did these guys procure the metals we’ve been talking about, what did they eat, what did they wear and how did they make their clothes – questions like that. It’s much weaker when he’s engaging in various forms of bigger-picture theorizing, or telling me about the theories other people have come up with for this and that; many of those theories are presumably discussed and forwarded by people I’d prefer got fired from the institutions they work at.
Overall there’s much good stuff and I learned a lot – and as I did point out through the goodreads rating, overall I liked the book. Here’s one of the parts from the last half of the book which answered one of the many questions I’d been curious about the answer to before starting out:
“As with most prehistoric populations, people in the Bronze Age did not live long. Disease, whether chronic such as arthritis, or epidemic, such as viral infections, must have been prevalent at all times and places. Mortality studies invariably show a pattern whereby perinatal and infant mortality was extremely high and child mortality high; for those who survived into their teens, the chances of making it into adulthood were quite good, but by the age of 35 the odds against further survival increased dramatically. People older than 45 were unusual. This can be demonstrated from the analysis of El Argar, where a large sample (563 individuals) was studied: life expectancy at birth was 19.9 years, but at age 20 it was still a further 15.9 years; the figures for Grossbrembach and Velika Gruda are not dissimilar. Brothwell estimated an average lifespan for British Bronze Age males of 31.3 years and for females of 29.9 years, with only 3.3% surviving beyond 50. [...] Given the incidence of disease, the quality of life must in many cases have been poor. Those with chronic arthritis would have been in constant pain, and dependent on other members of the community for the maintenance of daily life. Even so ‘minor’ an affliction as tooth caries could have caused ongoing pain, while a tooth abscess could even have been life-threatening. Fourteen of the Grossbrembach adults had tooth caries, in some cases extensive.”
Wikipedia does not at present have enough material on the stuff covered in this book for you to be able to learn anywhere near the same amount of stuff about this topic as you would learn from reading this book (and I’m sure reading the book would make retention much easier than reading random wikipedia articles) – for instance see the main article on Bronze Age Europe, there’s not much stuff here. However below a few more links to stuff (‘samples of the kind of stuff’) covered in the book:
“The production of charcoal is an aspect of metalworking that is often ignored.62 Charcoal was the ideal fuel for furnaces prior to the advent of coke because it promotes a strongly reducing atmosphere in the furnace, consisting as it does of almost pure carbon, and on burning creates an oxygen-starved atmosphere, essential if oxygen compounds are to be removed from the metal being worked. The forcing of air into an enclosed charcoal-burning furnace raises the temperature rapidly; charcoal has a calorific value about twice that of dried wood. To make charcoal, cut timber is ignited in a sealed heap or pit and allowed to smoulder; only sufficient oxygen is admitted at the start to get the fire going, after which the process continues without the addition of oxygen. By this means combustion is incomplete, no ash results, and almost everything except carbon is removed from the wood. Considerable quantities of timber would have been needed in the most prolific metal-production areas. It has been estimated that to produce 5 kg of copper metal one would need at least 100 kg of charcoal, which would in turn have required some 700 kg of timber, a considerable requirement in terms of labour.”
From European Societies in the Bronze Age (Cambridge World Archaeology), by A. F. Harding. I’ve roughly read the first half of this book today, and so far I like it – if it continues along the same lines, I’ll probably give it three stars on goodreads (where the average rating is currently 3.8). It’s easy to read and it has a lot of interesting stuff about things I do not know much about. Below I’ve added some wikipedia links to stuff related to what’s covered in the first six chapters – they should tell you a bit about what kind of stuff’s covered in this book.
I finished the book today. I’ve given it 4 stars on goodreads, where the average rating is 4.37.
The book was significantly easier for me to read than was the first one, in part because a lot of the main characters had already been introduced. There are plenty of new people joining the party in this book, but by now you have a basic framework to fit these people into which helps a lot.
I gather that there are characters for whom we’re supposed to feel sympathy featuring in this story, but they are few and sometimes it’s hard to like even the people whom you sort of assume you’re supposed to like. The types of people you’ll encounter in this narrative include mere children (many of the main characters are very young), and often children given way too much power way too early; dirtbags; fools; cowards; selfish jackasses; hateful ignoramuses; stubborn jerks; immature morons; greedy schemers, deceitful backstabbers; merciless murderers; and/or a combination of all of these things – an observation which I should point out, incidentally, is not meant as a criticism. This is rather part of what makes this book great, as is the fact that we’ll often learn people’s traits through their actions rather than through descriptions. People in these books to a significant extent behave the way you’d expect actual people to behave if they were to find themselves in the situations/settings/etc. the characters find themselves in – and we learn enough about the people and the social milieu to often understand quite well why they behave the way they do. But understanding why a person does something does not equate condoning said behaviour, which is part of why it may be hard to muster sympathy for a specific character and his/her actions. It should be noted that there are few ‘complete monsters‘ here; The Mountain and Sandor Clegane may be used as examples, as well as Joffrey – but at least the two of them we know most about (Sandor and Joffrey) are described in enough detail for us to understand at least something about how they’ve ended up the way they have, and why they behave the way they do. They are horrible people, and I’d be surprised to meet a person who’s read the first two books and didn’t have some non-trivial desire to see the Joffrey character dead (the Joffrey character is probably the most well-done hate sink I’ve ever encountered), but they are not (..to me) unrealistically horrible people given the setting and what we know. They are rather human, all too human. A great thing about the story is that whereas the huge number of characters involved makes it near-impossible to know why all these people behave the way they do, we do get close enough to some of them to understand what’s going on and we’re constantly reminded that they all have their reasons for behaving the way they do, even if we don’t always know those reasons. And given that Westeros is a pretty crappy place at this point (though I have no doubt it’ll likely get worse), it should not surprise us that most of the people involved in this narrative don’t exactly behave like angels – I’ve touched upon related themes before.
I feel the need to point out that the prose in this work is nothing extraordinary; sometimes the language felt excessively ‘rough’ and ‘raw’ and in need of ‘polishing’. Then again perhaps that’s just me, I’ve sort of taken a liking to works where the author deliberately plays around a bit with the language, like e.g. Pratchett is wont to do in his works – but it is part of why I only gave it 4 stars, rather than 5. I guess the semi-neutral position here would be to simply remark that you shouldn’t read this book for the quotes – the language isn’t what’s driving this story, nor should it be; and it does work well enough to tell the tale.
I’m toying with the idea of reading the rest of the published series this summer as well. We’ll see. The books are quite long, but they don’t actually take all that long to read and the page count should not scare you away; as I’ve noted before I consider myself to be a rather slow (well, another word to use is ‘careful’, but…) reader, yet I can read one of these guys during a long weekend (2-3 days) without problems. Then again I don’t have much of a social life – if you do and you can’t just take a few days out of your life to read books like these, it’ll probably take you a bit longer than that. On the third hand the best time of year for most people to read books like these is probably now, or soon. As noted in the comments earlier it’s certainly possible to ‘save time’ by just watching the tv series instead and skip the books, but what I can tell you at this point is that the books are worth reading on their own.
For anybody who does not know, there’s a simple version of wikipedia available, which tries to keep things as simple as possible so as many people as possible can understand what’s going on in those articles. The article I link to here is not from the simple wikipedia, but it is an in some sense ‘corresponding’ attempt by the wikipedia community to make general relativity more accessible to ‘the masses’. It’s a featured article, and there are lots of links. I read the main article on the subject matter (also featured) first, which is probably the wrong reading order if you plan on reading both.
“In mathematics, a transcendental number is a (possibly complex) number that is not algebraic—that is, it is not a root of a non-zero polynomial equation with rational coefficients. The most prominent examples of transcendental numbers are π and e. Though only a few classes of transcendental numbers are known (in part because it can be extremely difficult to show that a given number is transcendental), transcendental numbers are not rare. Indeed, almost all real and complex numbers are transcendental, since the algebraic numbers are countable while the sets of real and complex numbers are both uncountable. All real transcendental numbers are irrational, since all rational numbers are algebraic. The converse is not true: not all irrational numbers are transcendental; e.g., the square root of 2 is irrational but not a transcendental number, since it is a solution of the polynomial equation x2 − 2 = 0. [...]
The set of transcendental numbers is uncountably infinite. [...] Any non-constant algebraic function of a single variable yields a transcendental value when applied to a transcendental argument. [...] The non-computable numbers are a strict subset of the transcendental numbers.
All Liouville numbers are transcendental, but not vice versa.”
The article has more. Here’s a (very technical!) related article about the Lindemann-Weierstrass theorem.
iii. Diamond (featured).
“In mineralogy, diamond (from the ancient Greek αδάμας – adámas “unbreakable”) is a metastable allotrope of carbon, where the carbon atoms are arranged in a variation of the face-centered cubic crystal structure called a diamond lattice. Diamond is less stable than graphite, but the conversion rate from diamond to graphite is negligible at ambient conditions. Diamond is renowned as a material with superlative physical qualities, most of which originate from the strong covalent bonding between its atoms. In particular, diamond has the highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any bulk material. Those properties determine the major industrial application of diamond in cutting and polishing tools and the scientific applications in diamond knives and diamond anvil cells.
Diamond has remarkable optical characteristics. Because of its extremely rigid lattice, it can be contaminated by very few types of impurities, such as boron and nitrogen. Combined with wide transparency, this results in the clear, colorless appearance of most natural diamonds. Small amounts of defects or impurities (about one per million of lattice atoms) color diamond blue (boron), yellow (nitrogen), brown (lattice defects), green (radiation exposure), purple, pink, orange or red. Diamond also has relatively high optical dispersion (ability to disperse light of different colors), which results in its characteristic luster. Excellent optical and mechanical properties, notably unparalleled hardness and durability, make diamond the most popular gemstone.
Most natural diamonds are formed at high temperature and pressure at depths of 140 to 190 kilometers (87 to 120 mi) in the Earth’s mantle. Carbon-containing minerals provide the carbon source, and the growth occurs over periods from 1 billion to 3.3 billion years (25% to 75% of the age of the Earth). Diamonds are brought close to the Earth′s surface through deep volcanic eruptions by a magma, which cools into igneous rocks known as kimberlites and lamproites. Diamonds can also be produced synthetically in a high-pressure high-temperature process which approximately simulates the conditions in the Earth mantle. [...] The rate at which temperature changes with increasing depth into the Earth varies greatly in different parts of the Earth. In particular, under oceanic plates the temperature rises more quickly with depth, beyond the range required for diamond formation at the depth required. The correct combination of temperature and pressure is only found in the thick, ancient, and stable parts of continental plates where regions of lithosphere known as cratons exist. Long residence in the cratonic lithosphere allows diamond crystals to grow larger. [...]
Diamond-bearing rock is carried from the mantle to the Earth’s surface by deep-origin volcanic eruptions. The magma for such a volcano must originate at a depth where diamonds can be formed [...] (three times or more the depth of source magma for most volcanoes). This is a relatively rare occurrence. These typically small surface volcanic craters extend downward in formations known as volcanic pipes. [...] The magma in volcanic pipes is usually one of two characteristic types, which cool into igneous rock known as either kimberlite or lamproite. The magma itself does not contain diamond; instead, it acts as an elevator that carries deep-formed rocks (xenoliths), minerals (xenocrysts), and fluids upward. [...]
Diamond is the hardest known natural material on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, where hardness is defined as resistance to scratching and is graded between 1 (softest) and 10 (hardest). Diamond has a hardness of 10 (hardest) on this scale. Diamond’s hardness has been known since antiquity, and is the source of its name.
Diamond hardness depends on its purity, crystalline perfection and orientation: hardness is higher for flawless, pure crystals oriented to the <111> direction (along the longest diagonal of the cubic diamond lattice). [....] Somewhat related to hardness is another mechanical property toughness, which is a material’s ability to resist breakage from forceful impact. The toughness of natural diamond has been measured as 7.5–10 MPa·m1/2. This value is good compared to other gemstones, but poor compared to most engineering materials. [...]
The production and distribution of diamonds is largely consolidated in the hands of a few key players, and concentrated in traditional diamond trading centers, the most important being Antwerp, where 80% of all rough diamonds, 50% of all cut diamonds and more than 50% of all rough, cut and industrial diamonds combined are handled. This makes Antwerp a de facto “world diamond capital”. Another important diamond center is New York City, where almost 80% of the world’s diamonds are sold, including auction sales. [...]
De Beers and its subsidiaries own mines that produce some 40% of annual world diamond production. For most of the 20th century over 80% of the world’s rough diamonds passed through De Beers, but in the period 2001–2009 the figure has decreased to around 45%. De Beers sold off the vast majority of its diamond stockpile in the late 1990s – early 2000s and the remainder largely represents working stock (diamonds that are being sorted before sale). [...]
80% of mined diamonds (equal to about 135,000,000 carats (27,000 kg) annually), unsuitable for use as gemstones, are destined for industrial use. In addition to mined diamonds, synthetic diamonds found industrial applications almost immediately after their invention in the 1950s; another 570,000,000 carats (110,000 kg) of synthetic diamond is produced annually for industrial use. Approximately 90% of diamond grinding grit is currently of synthetic origin. [...] Roughly 49% of diamonds originate from Central and Southern Africa, although significant sources of the mineral have been discovered in Canada, India, Russia, Brazil, and Australia.“
iv. Gropecunt Lane (featured – NSFW?).
“Gropecunt Lane /ˈɡroʊpkʌnt ˈleɪn/ was a street name found in English towns and cities during the Middle Ages, believed to be a reference to the prostitution centred on those areas; it was normal practice for a medieval street name to reflect the street’s function or the economic activity taking place within it. Gropecunt, the earliest known use of which is in about 1230, appears to have been derived as a compound of the words grope and cunt. Streets with that name were often in the busiest parts of medieval towns and cities, and at least one appears to have been an important thoroughfare. [...]
Although some medieval street names such as Addle Street (stinking urine, or other liquid filth; mire) and Fetter Lane (once Fewterer, meaning “idle and disorderly person”) have survived, others have been changed in deference to contemporary attitudes. Sherborne Lane in London was in 1272–73 known as Shitteborwelane, later Shite-burn lane and Shite-buruelane (possibly due to nearby cesspits). Pissing Alley, one of several identically named streets whose names survived the Great Fire of London, was called Little Friday Street in 1848, before being absorbed into Cannon Street in 1853–54. Petticoat Lane, the meaning of which is sometimes misinterpreted as related to prostitution, was in 1830 renamed as Middlesex Street, following complaints about the street being named after an item of underwear. [...] As the most ubiquitous and explicit example of such street names, with the exception of Shrewsbury and possibly Newcastle (where a Grapecuntlane was mentioned in 1588) the use of Gropecunt seems to have fallen out of favour by the 14th century. Its steady disappearance from the English vernacular may have been the result of a gradual cleaning-up of the name; Gropecuntelane in 13th-century Wells became Grope Lane, and then in the 19th century, Grove Lane.“
v. Mary Toft (featured).
“Mary Toft (née Denyer; c. 1701–1763), also spelled Tofts, was an English woman from Godalming, Surrey, who in 1726 became the subject of considerable controversy when she tricked doctors into believing that she had given birth to rabbits.”
If that introduction doesn’t make you want to read this article, we probably can’t be friends… Here’s the rest of the introduction:
“In 1726 Toft became pregnant, but following her reported fascination with the sighting of a rabbit, she miscarried. Her claim to have given birth to various animal parts prompted the arrival of John Howard, a local surgeon, who investigated the matter. He delivered several pieces of animal flesh and duly notified other prominent physicians, which brought the case to the attention of Nathaniel St. André, surgeon to the Royal Household of King George I. St. André concluded that Toft’s case was genuine but the king also sent surgeon Cyriacus Ahlers, who remained sceptical. By then quite famous, Toft was brought to London and studied at length, where under intense scrutiny and producing no more rabbits she confessed to the hoax, and was subsequently imprisoned as a fraud.
The resultant public mockery created panic within the medical profession and ruined the careers of several prominent surgeons. The affair was satirised on many occasions, not least by the pictorial satirist and social critic William Hogarth, who was notably critical of the medical profession’s gullibility. Toft was eventually released without charge and returned home.”
The story is completely absurd, but also quite funny. I laughed out loud when I read this part, “The timing of Toft’s confession [7 December] proved awkward for St. André, who on 3 December had published his forty-page pamphlet A Short Narrative of an Extraordinary Delivery of Rabbets.” Naturally this article is yet another gem from the wikipedia list of unusual articles.
vi. Small shelly fauna (‘good article’).
“The small shelly fauna or small shelly fossils, abbreviated to SSF, are mineralized fossils, many only a few millimetres long, with a nearly continuous record from the latest stages of the Ediacaran to the end of the Early Cambrian period. They are very diverse, and there is no formal definition of “small shelly fauna” or “small shelly fossils”. Almost all are from earlier rocks than more familiar fossils such as trilobites. Since most SSFs were preserved by being covered quickly with phosphate and this method of preservation is mainly limited to the Late Ediacaran and Early Cambrian periods, the animals that made them may actually have arisen earlier and persisted after this time span.
Some of the fossils represent the entire skeletons of small organisms, including the mysterious Cloudina and some snail-like molluscs. However, the bulk of the fossils are fragments or disarticulated remains of larger organisms, including sponges, molluscs, slug-like halkieriids, brachiopods, echinoderms, and onychophoran-like organisms that may have been close to the ancestors of arthropods.
One of the early explanations for the appearance of the SSFs – and therefore the evolution of mineralized skeletons – suggested a sudden increase in the ocean’s concentration of calcium. However, many SSFs are constructed of other minerals, such as silica. Because the first SSFs appear around the same time as organisms first started burrowing to avoid predation, it is more likely that they represent early steps in an evolutionary arms race between predators and increasingly well-defended prey. On the other hand mineralized skeletons may have evolved simply because they are stronger and cheaper to produce than all-organic skeletons like those of insects. Nevertheless it is still true that the animals used minerals that were most easily accessible.
Although the small size and often fragmentary nature of SSFs makes it difficult to identify and classify them, they provide very important evidence for how the main groups of marine invertebrates evolved, and particularly for the pace and pattern of evolution in the Cambrian explosion. Besides including the earliest known representatives of some modern phyla, they have the great advantage of presenting a nearly continuous record of Early Cambrian organisms whose bodies include hard parts. [...]
Small shelly fossils are typically, although not always, preserved in phosphate. Whilst some shellies were originally phosphatic, in most cases the phosphate represents a replacement of the original calcite. They are usually extracted from limestone by placing the limestone in a weak acid, typically acetic acid; the phosphatized fossils remain after the rock is dissolved away. Preservation of microfossils by phosphate seems to have become less common after the early Cambrian, perhaps as a result of increased disturbance of sea-floors by burrowing animals. Without this fossil-forming mode, many small shelly fossils may not have been preserved – or been impossible to extract from the rock; hence the animals that produced these fossils may have lived beyond the Early Cambrian – the apparent extinction of most SSFs by the end of the Cambrian may be an illusion. For decades it was thought that halkieriids, whose “armor plates” are a common type of SSF, perished in the end-Botomian mass extinction; but in 2004 halkieriid armor plates were reported from Mid Cambrian rocks in Australia, a good 10 million years more recent than that. [...]
Biomineralization is the production of mineralized parts by organisms. Hypotheses to explain the evolution of biomineralization include physiological adaptation to changing chemistry of the oceans, defense against predators and the opportunity to grow larger. The functions of biomineralization in SSFs vary: some SSFs are not yet understood; some are components of armor; and some are skeletons. A skeleton is any fairly rigid structure of an animal, irrespective of whether it has joints and irrespective of whether it is biomineralized. Although some SSFs may not be skeletons, SSFs are biomineralized by definition, being shelly. Skeletons provide a wide range of possible advantages, including : protection, support, attachment to a surface, a platform or set of levers for muscles to act on, traction when moving on a surface, food handling, provision of filtration chambers and storage of essential substances.“
Incidentally I’ve now read the first half of George Martin’s A Clash of Kings – I’ll probably blog it tomorrow.
I spent a bit of time on Statistikbanken, a site run by Statistics Denmark which gives you access to a lot of neat Danish data. Below a table I made from (SKI5), one of the databases; click to view full size:
The variable to the left is a marriage duration indicator at the time of measurement – note that the years at the top (1980, 1990,…) are not the years where the marriages were formed, but rather the years of measurement – and they’re looking back in time and implicitly include marriages which were dissolved decades ago. So if you take the year 1980 for example, back then 21 % of marriages which had been going on (/…would have been going on…) for 10 years had been dissolved through divorce, whereas 36 % of marriages which had been going on for 30 years had ended in divorce. When I last looked at this stuff, I didn’t include these particular numbers and I got curious (plus I was bored).
Here’s what happens if you zoom in on the first 10 years of marriage:
The bolded ones are the cohorts with the highest divorce rate for that specific marriage duration. Interestingly, although the 2012 numbers are generally a bit smaller than the rest the 1990 numbers are in most cases marginally higher than the 1980 numbers; some constant, ‘rule-based’ (monotonous?) development in divorce risk over time is hard to identify when you demand it be consistent with the information provided in the two tables above. That said, the numbers are actually in my opinion very similar all things considered – I’d assume that if you could compare these cohorts with earlier cohorts, you’d see more dramatic differences.
Okay, what about cars, busses and so on? How many of those are there in Denmark? This is the kind of question children ask, but when you become an adult most people stop asking these questions. I (childishly..) had a look, here are the numbers for the entire country (Statistikbanken, BIL707):
Despite population growth there’s been a decrease in the number of Danish busses, vans, and lorries during the last six years – the number of lorries has dropped 15%, and the number of vans dropped by roughly 10 %.
Here are the numbers for Region Hovedstaden, the area around Copenhagen. With 1.7 million people, this area makes up almost a third of the Danish population:
Whereas the population share of the region is around ~30%, the 2013 share of car-owners is ~27% – quite close to the national average. This really surprised me; I’d have assumed the number of car-owners was smaller than this, and that people relied more on public transportation; but the proportion of all Danish busses committed to this region is actually around ~30% (28,7), close to the population share of the region. I’d have expected the numbers to look different; that a biggish proportion of all Danish busses were committed to this region and that the number of car-owners was lower.
Incidentally there’s roughly one bus per 400 people in Denmark.
How many people are actually caught violating the national gun laws (‘weapons laws’ – the laws also regulate the use of other weapons such as knives and explosives; e.g. in Denmark it’s illegal to carry a knife with a blade longer than 7 centimeters on you, and until last year a violation of that law would lead to a mandatory one week prison sentence in the absence of exceptional extenuating circumstances)? I didn’t know and so I got curious. I looked at the data included in STRAF11, and it turns out that there were 6808 violations of the weapons law in Denmark in 2007 (before the knife law mentioned above was introduced in 2008), and 6517 in 2012. This is close to 18 people per day over the course of the year.
Computer and internet? How many families own a computer and/or have internet access at home? Unfortunately there are some missing data problems here, but here’s what they got (VARFORBR):
As you’d expect internet lags computers a bit but there seems to have been convergence over time, and by now only a small minority do not have a computer at home. The above data is not, however, all the stuff they have when it comes to internet usage. I looked around and I found the DIS129 dataset, which deals with active internet subscriptions in Denmark. A funny thing is that if you compare the numbers you get from the two datasets, the numbers don’t really add up; internet penetrance is significantly lower if you base your conclusions on the register data from DIS129 than if you use VARFORBR, which is survey based (actually it’s clear from the description that the DIS129 dataset is also partly survey based, but it’s also made clear that the specific data I use here (there’s a lot of data in that dataset) are from the register-based part of the dataset).
I combined the DIS129 data – limiting myself to private (non-corporate) subscriptions and corporate internet subscriptions used by private individuals as well (i.e. ‘purely corporate’ internet subscriptions were excluded from the sample) – with the household data from FAM55N (we don’t care about internet subscriptions as such, we care about penetrance/adoption rates) to construct a variable indicating the proportion of households with active internet subscriptions. The DIS129 data has a data point for each six months; I decided I didn’t like that very much and so I averaged the data out in order to report only one data-point for each year – results are given below, first the ‘raw’ (averaged) subscription numbers, then the household data, and lastly the proportion of households with active internet subscriptions:
Maybe I should have included the word ‘estimated’ in front of ‘proportion’ in the title above, but all we have are estimates anyway, so… Do note that the x-axes are not identical for the figures based on the VARFORBR and the DIS129 data – unsurprisingly the growth rate was much higher in the 90es than it has been later on; what you want to compare is the last graph above and the part of the VARFORBR graph for which the two x-axes match each other. It’s obvious that the VARFORBR numbers are significantly higher than the DIS129 numbers. In case you were wondering why I don’t compare similar time periods; I figured the development in the 90es was interesting (most adoption took place in the 90es), however the register data didn’t go back further than 2003. If it had I’d have included the data, but I didn’t think it made a lot of sense to exclude the data from the 90es from the VARFORBR data set just because corresponding figures didn’t exist in the DIS129 data set.
Purely corporate subscriptions make up roughly 10 percent of the market share, so not excluding those when calculating adoption rates may lead to a significant overestimate of household internet use. I believe I’ve seen higher adoption rates than the ones derived from the DIS129 data set reported in the media before, but I also believe these estimates have all been based on surveys by Statistics Denmark – so presumably they’re derived from the VARFORBR data set or the source material of this data set. Note that if you’re basing your estimate on the DIS129 sample then you could probably argue that the numbers provided are overestimates of the actual penetrance rates; some households may have more than one active internet subscription, and this arrangement is presumably more common than is the one where different households share the same internet connection. On the other hand they note in the documentation that the registers, despite being very comprehensive, may not be complete and that some relevant data here may be missing from the registers.
Basing our analysis on the register data provided, in the second half of 2011 there were 1.94 million active internet subscriptions used by private individuals, and there were 2,58 million households. I think that I consider the data from DIS129 to be more reliable than the data from VARFORBR; register data is usually better than survey data, although measurement error is always a potential problem. I also think an overestimate of the adoption rate resulting from the use of survey data, which is likely here given the discrepancy, is more plausible from a theoretical point of view than would be an underestimate; people participating in surveys are more likely to say that they have an internet connection even though they don’t than they are to say that they don’t have an internet connection even though they do. I also believe that this bias is likely to increase in people’s estimates of the ‘true’ penetrance rate; when you think everybody else have internet access you become less likely to admit that you don’t if you don’t. But there are multiple ways to explain the gap – for now perhaps the important point is that there is a gap, and that this should be kept in mind the next time the media talks about the results of the latest survey they’ve conducted (people rarely talk about the results of the latest register update…).
“Daily Negations is exactly what the title suggests: a collection of negative thoughts, one for each day of the year. Like any other daily meditation books, it can be kept by the bed, on the coffee table or by the toilet. Daily Negations can be consulted first thing in the morning, or anytime during the day when a quick let-me-down is needed.
If you have a bleak view of life, Daily Negations will reinforce that view. The book may also be used by (or given to) people whose attitude in life is too sunny, too optimistic, too full of boundless strength and hope. Such people can come to a more normal, realistic world-view by daily consultation of Daily Negations.”
“Life doesn’t have to be something I actually live. Life can be something that happens while I am doing other things, like watching television or escaping into fantasy. The world won’t stop if I decide not to do anything. And it is easier not to do than to do. And the less I do, the less I can fail at.”
“All over the world, there are people much worse off than me who somehow manage to pick themselves up and go on. Their spirit should challenge and inspire me, but I prefer to believe that if they were in my position, they would be just as lazy and pathetic and useless as I am.”
“Each day brings me another 24 hours away from my youth. On the other hand, each day brings me 24 hours closer to my death. It will all be over before I know it.”
“In brief moments of clarity, it is plain to see that I can’t help myself, that no one else can help me and it will never get better. Fortunately, I am usually too deluded to ever face up to those simple truths.”
“Sometimes I console myself with the idea that even though I don’t do what I should do, at least I feel bad about it sometimes. At least I feel some guilt, and whenever I feel too much guilt, I can always overindulge in something that will distract me from my guilt, so that I dont’ really feel it. So I guess I’m really not very good at consoling myself.”
“I can see that it takes a lot of work to improve myself. Becoming the person I want to become will require enormous effort. I can recognize this, but I must always remember that deep down, I have no intention of doing what must be done: I won’t do anything today, and I probably won’t do anything tomorrow, or next week or next year. I will probably not improve very much, if at all. It is more likely that I will keep getting worse.”
“If I approach today with a negative attitude, I shouldn’t be surprised if things turn out badly. Similarly, if I approach today with a positive attitude, I shouldn’t be surprised if things turn out badly. As long as I’m alive, things will turn out badly.”
“Today will be a great day. Not for me of course—for me, it will be mediocre or terrible. But for somebody else, it will be an excellent day. I wish I were someone else. It sucks to be me.”
“Perhaps when I die, it will disappoint people who were counting on me. Perhaps something, or someone, will have trouble going on without me. Most likely though, my death won’t make any difference at all. Just like my life.”
“When I think of all the advantages I have had, I can feel even worse about how little I have accomplished. That is why it is so important to me to lie to myself, and tell myself that things were harder than they actually were, and that the obstacles in my way were not, for the most part, of my own making, and that all things considered, I did the best I could. These lies make me feel that I am better than other people (or at least as good), and that in turn makes me feel better about myself. It is so important to lie.”
“One thing I do is compare myself to other people: people I went to high school with who are more successful than I am, people in magazines and on TV who are better looking and more talented than I am, people at work who are smarter than I am and get promoted above me, and so on. I don’t like to do this, but I can’t help it, because I can’t control my bad habits, because I am an idiot.”
“Sometimes I think I’d like to get away for a while. But no matter where I go, there I am. There’s no escaping me. I might as well stay here.”
“There is no need to make excuses for myself when I make mistakes. Excuses involve creativity and energy. If I am too lazy and stupid to do something right, then I should be too lazy and stupid to explain myself.”
“Today I should try to do something I have never done before. Sometimes it is better to fail at something new, rather than to fail at the same old things.”
“Life may be looked at as a series of opportunities, but it is more accurate to look at life as a series of missed opportunities.”
This is great stuff! You can order the book here.
If you have any alternatives, especially ones which involve not-unpleasant interaction with other people, you should not follow these links or watch this stuff. Go interact with other people instead. Have fun, (try to) enjoy life. If you enjoy this kind of stuff, you’re likely doing things wrong and you’ll probably end up unhappy.
Geoguessr. It’s quite fun. My best score so far is 13165 (but who cares?).
As I believe I’ve pointed out before, the witch-books aren’t among my favourites; but there’s no such thing as a bad Discworld novel. Some quotes from the book, which I read yesterday and gave 3 stars on goodreads (where the average rating is 4.03):
“The people of Lancre wouldn’t dream of living in anything other than a monarchy. They’d done so for thousands of years and knew that it worked. But they’d also found that it didn’t do to pay too much attention to what the King wanted, because there was bound to be another king along in forty years or so and he’d be certain to want something different and so they’d have gone to all that trouble for nothing. In the meantime, his job as they saw it was to mostly stay in the palace, practise the waving, have enough sense to face the right way on coins and let them get on with the ploughing, sowing, growing and harvesting. It was, as they saw it, a social contract. They did what they always did, and he let them.”
“do you know what I found him doing in the old dungeons last week?’
‘I’m sure I couldn’t guess,’ said the Count.
‘He had a box of spiders and a whip! He was forcing them to make webs all over the place.’
‘I wondered why there were always so many, I must admit,’ said the Count.”
“cutting off the head and staking them in the heart is generally efficacious.’
‘But that works on everyone,’ said Nanny.
‘Er … in Splintz they die if you put a coin in their mouth and cut their head off …’
‘Not like ordinary people, then,’ said Nanny, taking out a notebook.
‘Er … in Klotz they die if you stick a lemon in their mouth—’
‘Sounds more like it.’
‘—after you cut their head off. I believe that in Glitz you have to fill their mouth with salt, hammer a carrot into both ears, and then cut off their head.’ [...]
‘And in the valley of the Ah they believe it’s best to cut off the head and boil it in vinegar.’”
“The result would have been called primitive even by people who were too primitive to have a word yet for ‘primitive’.”
“The local coachman used to warn visitors, you see. “Don’t go near the castle,” they’d say. “Even if it means spending a night up a tree, never go up there to the castle,” they’d tell people. “Whatever you do, don’t set foot in that castle.” He said it was marvellous publicity. Sometimes he had every bedroom full by 9 p.m. and people would be hammering on the door to get in. Travellers would go miles out of their way to see what all the fuss was about.”
“The castle gates swung open and Count Magpyr stepped out, flanked by his soldiers.
This was not according to the proper narrative tradition. Although the people of Lancre were technically new to all this, down at genetic level they knew that when the mob is at the gate the mobee should be screaming defiance in a burning laboratory or engaged in a cliffhanger struggle with some hero on the battlements.
He shouldn’t be lighting a cigar.
They fell silent, scyths and pitchforks hovering in mid-shake. The only sound was the crackling of the torches.
The Count blew a smoke ring.
‘Good evening,’ he said, as it drifted away. ‘You must be the mob.’
Someone at the back of the crowd, who hadn’t been keeping up to date, threw a stone. Count Magpyr caught it without looking.
‘The pitchforks are good,’ he said. ‘I like the pitchforks. As pitchforks they certainly pass muster. And the torches, well, that goes without saying. But the scythes … no, no, I’m afraid not. They simply will not do. Not a good mob weapon, I have to tell you. Take it from me. A simple sickle is much better. Start waving scythes around and someone could lose an ear. Do try to learn.’
He ambled over to a very large man who was holding a pitchfork.
‘And what’s your name, young man?’
‘Er … Jason Ogg, sir.’
‘Wife and family doing well?’
‘Er … Yessir.’
‘Good man. Carry on. If you could keep the noise down over dinner I would be grateful …”
“‘You look like a priest. What’s your god?’
‘Er … Om.’
‘That’s a he god or a she god?’
‘A he. Yes. A he. Definitely a he.’ It was one thing the Church hadn’t schismed over, strangely.”
“‘But you can hardly stand up!’
‘Certainly I can! Off you go.’
Oats turned to the assembled Lancrastians for support.
‘You wouldn’t let a poor old lady go off to confront monsters on a wild night like this, would you?’
They watched him owlishly for a while just in case something interestingly nasty was going to happen to him.
Then someone near the back said, ‘So why should we care what happens to monsters?’
And Shawn Ogg said, ‘That’s Granny Weatherwax, that is.’
‘But she’s an old lady!’ Oats insisted.
The crowd took a few steps back. Oats was clearly a dangerous man to be around.”
“He could just make out her face. It was a picture, but not one you’d hang over the fireplace.”
“Verence was technically an absolute ruler and would continue to be so provided he didn’t make the mistake of repeatedly asking Lancrastians to do anything they didn’t want to do.”
I finished Peter Jensen’s book, which I also mentioned in the previous post, this morning, and I decided to add a few comments and links to articles covering stuff he also covers in his book. I liked the book and gave it 3 stars on goodreads. It’s old – from 1998 – so a lot of stuff has happened since then in this field (e.g. ‘new’ genetic diseases, such as 17q21.31 microdeletion syndrome, have been ‘discovered’ – though I should caution here that according to Jensen a distinction is to be made between ‘chromosomal abnormalities’ and ‘genetic diseases’; unlike many genetic disorders, chromosomal abnormalities involve mutations which are large enough to be seen using an ordinary light microscope). However my working assumption has been that most of the stuff covered in the book is unlikely to have changed much; how a chromosomal abnormality affects the individuals who have it doesn’t change much from one decade to another, even though improvements in medical technology may have improved outcomes for some specific diseases.
Some links to stuff he talks about in the book, in no specific order: Chromosome abnormality (I should add that pretty much every link in that article is to an article on something which is also covered in the book), Aneuploidy, Robertsonian translocation, Klinefelter syndrome, Turner Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Patau syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, Angelman Syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Barr body, Non-disjunction, Amniocentesis, Trisomy 8, FMR1.
A few general remarks: It should be noted that autosomal chromosomal abnormalities are usually more severe than sex-linked chromosomal abnormalities. More than 95% of chromosomal abnormalities result in spontaneous abortion, and 60% of early spontaneous abortions (within the first trimester) are due to chromosomal abnormalities. Monosomies (including partial ones) tend to have more severe consequences than do trisomies. Even though people tend to think that way about genetic diseases not all chromosomal abnormalities are best thought of as inhabiting a binary event space (either you have it or you don’t); some of them display to a significant extent a dose–response relationship (see e.g. the articles on the FMR1 gene & Fragile X syndrome). As should be obvious from the number of associated abortions, many of the chromosomal abnormalities (particularly the autosomal ones) lead to really horrible outcomes: Among Pataus Syndrome sufferers less than 40% survive past [remember: 1998 numbers] one week after birth, and only 4,5% survive past 6 months [according to wikipedia's article on the topic, "More than 80% of children with Patau syndrome die within the first year of life" - so mortality is still very high]; when it comes to Edward’s syndrome likewise approximately 60% died within a week, and around 5% were still alive after a year back then – and this is just considering the variable survival, not stuff like blindness, polydactyli, organ malformation (brain, heart, kidneys, …), deafness, etc., etc., which are also very often present in people with these disorders…
Incidentally I read most of Carpe Jugulum today, but I won’t blog that one until tomorrow.
I finished the book. I gave it a 5 star rating on goodreads, where the average rating is 4.43. It’s a good book. I was considering whether it should have four or five stars, but in the end I decided that I probably give too few books 5 stars and this one kept me reading for many enjoyable hours, so…
It should go without saying that the second half is no worse than the first half; in retrospect it’s a natural plot development (some of it you can probably see coming, other things…), and Martin is quite good at this plot development stuff; after having read 800 pages you sort of feel that this story has only just really begun.
I’ll most likely read A Clash of Kings sometime this summer, but I won’t start reading that one this afternoon. I have yet to decide if I should start watching the tv-series before reading the second book, or if I should wait – I’ll probably wait. Anyway, these books are entertainment, not learning, and I feel a little bit guilty about not really having learned anything at all during the last few days; so I think I’ll read Kromosomafvigelser hos mennesket (‘Chromosomal abnormalities in humans’) by Peter Jensen next. I need a breather and this is my way to ‘breathe’. As that book is in Danish I’m not sure if I’ll cover it here in any detail, but I may say a word or two about it later on. I bought it on a sale (for 20 kroner ~$4..) and if it hadn’t been on sale I probably wouldn’t have bought it – there’s certainly no way I would have paid more than 100 kroners for it. I expect to finish it in a short amount of time as it’s quite short and as this is not the first book I read which deals with this topic.
By George R. R. Martin. I had an exam yesterday (which went well, thanks for asking..), and after the exam I decided that I just wanted to take time off and read something I didn’t have to read; something I actually wanted to read because I assumed the reading experience would be enjoyable. A friend recommended this (book) series and I’ve also been made aware that there’s a tv-series I may want to give a try.
I’ve read half of the book (400 pages) by now and I expect to finish it sometime tomorrow. I also have procured A Clash of Kings, the next book in the series, and if I’m not disappointed during the last half of this book I’ll move on to read that as well sometime soon.
It’s a very good read so far but/and that’s mainly due to the storyline and the imaginary world Martin has created for us; the greatest problem I have with the book is the fact that there are a lot of people to keep track of and that it’s not always easy to figure out right away which ones are ‘important enough’ for you to need to need to remember them and who they are and what their uncle did in that war a long time ago. But that said, this is not a major problem, and the stuff is interesting even though you can’t always quite remember just who this particular guy is; the major characters reappear again and again so you gradually familiarize yourself with the characters even though they’re sometimes a bit hard to keep track of. I find it hard to illustrate the page-turner aspect of this book with quotes, but below I’ve added a few quotes from the first half anyway:
“Daenerys said nothing. She had always assumed that she would wed Viserys when she came of age. For centuries the Targaryens had married brother to sister, since Aegon the Conqueror had taken his sisters to bride. The line must be kept pure, Viserys had told her a thousand times [...] yet now Viserys schemed to sell her to a stranger, a barbarian. [...] “Are you sure tha Khal Drogo likes his women this young?” [Daenerys is 13] “She has had her blood. She is old enough for the khal,” Illyrio told him, not for the first time. [...] “We go home with an army, sweet sister. With Khal Drogo’s army, that is how we go home. And if you must wed him and bed him for that, you will.” He smiled at her. “I’d let his whole khalasar fuck you if need be, sweet sister, all forty thousand men, and their horses too if that was what it took to get my army.”" [these last words were said by Viserys, the older brother of Daenerys - from what I've read so far, he seems like a very nice guy...]
[Her son (7 years old) lies paralyzed in a bed nearby, unconscious. The ('bastard') son of her husband, who has lived with the family all his life and been considered a brother by this woman's young children, visits in order to say goodbye as he's leaving the castle very soon, in all likelihood for the rest of his life. The last thing the woman says to him before he leaves:] “”It should have been you,” she told him.” [As in, she'd wish he was the one who'd broken his back and lay unconscious in that bed. And I still believe she's actually supposed to be one of the sympathetic characters in this story, though as you can probably gather these things are complicated too...]
“Sansa did not really know Joffrey yet, but she was already in love with him. He was all she ever dreamt her prince should be, tall and handsome and strong, with hair like gold. She treasured every chance to spend time with him, few as they were. [...] All she wanted was for things to be nice and pretty, the way they were in the songs. Why couldn’t Arya [her sister] be sweet and delicate and kind, like Princess Myrcella? She would have liked a sister like that.”
“As the others took their accustomed seats, it struck Eddard Stark forcefully that he did not belong here, in this room, with these men. He remembered what Robert had told him in the crypts below Winterfell. I am surrounded by flatterers and fools, the king had insisted. Ned looked down the council table and wondered which were the flatterers and which were the fools. He thought he knew already.”
“”Your sister sits beside the king. Your brother is a great knight, and your father the most powerful lord in the Seven Kingdoms. Speak to them for us. Tell them of our need here. You have seen for yourself, my lord. The Night’s Watch is dying. Our strength is less than a thousand now. Six hundred here, two hundred in the Shadow Tower, even fewer at Eastwatch, and a scant third of those fighting men. The Wall is a hundred leagues long. Think on that. Should an attack come, I have three men to defend each mile of wall.” [...] He was in deadly earnest, Tyrion realized. He felt faintly embarrased for the old man. Lord Mormont had spent a good part of his life on the Wall, and he needed to believe if those years were to have any meaning. “I promise, the king will hear of your need,” Tyrion said gravely, “and I will speak to my father and my brother Jaime as well.” And he would. Tyrion Lannister was as good as his word. He left the rest unsaid; that King Robert would ignore him, Lord Tywin would ask if he had taken leave of his senses, and Jaime would only laugh.”
“”the common people are waiting for him. Magister Illyrio says they are sewing dragon banners and praying for Viserys to return from across the narrow sea to free them.” “The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends,” Ser Jorah told her. “It is no matter to them if the high lords play the game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace.” He gave a shrug. “They never are.”
“”Is there a man in your service that you trust utterly and completely?”"Yes,” said Ned.
“In that case, I have a delightful palace in Valyria that I would dearly love to sell you,” Littlefinger said with a mocking smile. “The wise answer was no, my lord, but be that as it may. [...]
“Lord Petyr,” Ned called after him. “I … am grateful for your help. Perhaps I was wrong to distrust you.”
Littlefinger fingered his small beard. “You are slow to learn, Lord Eddard. Distrusting me was the wisest thing you’ve done since you climbed down off your horse.”
“I will not keep you long, my lord. There are things you must know. You are the King’s Hand, and the king is a fool.” [...] “Your friend, I know, yet a fool nonetheless … and doomed, unless you save him. Today was a near thing. They had hoped to kill him during the melee.”
For a moment, Ned was speechless with shock. “Who?“
Varys sipped his wine. “If I truly need to tell you that, you are a bigger fool than Robert and I am on the wrong side.”
“Varys will quietly let it be known that we’ll make a lord of whoever does in the Targaryen girl.”
Ned was disgusted. “So now we grant titles to assasins?”
Littlefinger shrugged. “Titles are cheap. The Faceless Men are expensive. If truth be told, I did the Targaryen girl more good than you with all your talk of honor. Let some sellsword drunk on visions of lordship try to kill her. Likely he’ll make a botch of it, and afterward the Dothraki will be on their guard. If we’d sent a Faceless Man after her, she’d be as good as buried.”
Ned frowned. “You sit in council and talk of ugly women and steel kisses, and now you expect me to believe that you tried to protect the girl? How big a fool do you take me for?”
“Well, quite an enormous one, actually,” said Littlefinger, laughing.
“Do you always find murder so amusing, Lord Baelish?”
“It’s not murder I find amusing, Lord Stark, it’s you. You rule like a man dancing on rotten ice.”
i. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” (Samuel Beckett)
ii. “The fact is, it seems, that the most you can hope is to be a little less, in the end, the creature you were in the beginning, and the middle.” (-ll-)
iii. “In me there have always been two fools, among others, one asking nothing better than to stay where he is and the other imagining that life might be slightly less horrible a little further on.” (-ll-)
iv. “no need of a story, a story is not compulsory, just a life, that’s the mistake I made, one of the mistakes, to have wanted a story for myself, whereas life alone is enough.” (-ll-)
v. “You are responsible for all of your successes, and the lack thereof. And that is the essential point that failure, your ever-faithful friend, wants to make: that your failure could not exist without you—without your stupidity, without your lies, without your mistakes, your uselessness, your lack of faith, your ineptitude, your unjustifiable confidence in your alleged abilities, you stupid loser—failure is your only friend. Failure is your only lover. Failure is your only hope.” (John Hall)
vi. “Today, I should think of something about myself that really annoys me, and I should try to change it. Then, when I fail to change it, I can be annoyed by that as well. Then, I can be annoyed about how easily I get annoyed. Then I can get angry.” (John Hall, Daily Negations)
vii. “Today, I will try to remember to regret the past. I will think of how many mistakes I have made throughout my life. I will say to myself, “If only I could go back in time and make different choices, so that my life could be the way it should have been.” Then I will remind myself that I cannot.” (-ll-)
viii. “The fact that many people overindulge, and lose themselves in excess, and make fools of themselves and act like idiots, is no reason for me to do these things. The reason for me to do these things is that I, too, am an idiot.” (-ll-)
ix. “Today, life will offer me many lessons. I will learn nothing.” (-ll-)
x. “I can read books and news articles about people who have excelled, people who have done extremely well in their chosen field, or made a lot of money, or married well, or what have you. When some people read this stuff, they get inspired, but when I read it, it makes me feel worse. Sometimes I wish I had never learned to read.” (-ll-)
xi. “When I’m feeling proud of myself, I should remember to ask myself why I think I am of any value at all. I have done nothing that a hundred thousand other people couldn’t do, and most of them would probably do it better, and they probably wouldn’t feel so self-important about it. I should always be ashamed of myself.” (-ll-)
xii. “When I am tired, it is easy to believe that my exhaustion is the reason I am depressed and lonely and uninspired. But when I am well-rested, I can realize that these negative feelings are not a result of too little sleep. They are a result of my being a miserable, hopeless, misanthropic wretch.” (-ll-)
xiii. “Many people talk as if they have all the answers, whereas I know I don’t. That’s probably why no one listens to me.” (-ll-)
xiv. “Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can.” (Emerson)
xv. “Do you wish to find out a person’s weak points? Note the failings he has the quickest eye for in others. They may not be the very failings he is himself conscious of; but they will be their next-door neighbors. No man keeps such a jealous lookout as a rival.” (J. C. and W. A. Hare, Guesses at Truth)
xvi. “The first Degree of Folly, is to conceit one’s self wise; the second to profess it; the third to despise Counsel.” (Benjamin Franklin)
xvii. “He that speaks much, is much mistaken.” (-ll-)
xviii. “If you desire many things, many things will seem but a few.” (-ll-)
xix. “Well done is better than well said.” (-ll-)
xx. “The fool is happy that he knows no more.” (Pope)
I won’t talk much about these links or cover them in any detail – but I do encourage you to have a closer look if some of this stuff sounds interesting:
Given how long people have known about stuff like the Hawthorne effect, I almost can’t believe nobody ever got the idea of doing something like this at some point in the past. I however have no problem believing the results.
ii. Finnish war pics. Fascinating stuff.
iii. The kind of people who apparently receive elite research prizes in Denmark these years – exhibit B: Claudia Welz (Danish link). Unfortunately I couldn’t find a good English webpage describing her activities, in order to illustrate just how mad it is that a person like that receives that kind of money from the Danish taxpayers in order to do the kind of ‘research’ she does, and my life is definitely too short to translate the crap that’s put up at the Danish site.
Exhibit A is of course Milena Penkowa. Naturally more deserving people have received the prize as well this year – at least most of the recipients probably won’t feel any strong need to talk about imaginary entities in their publications.
Here’s a related link (in Danish). It’d be a lot cheaper to just give these people unemployment insurance. I’m sure not all of this research is equally useless, but even so my willingness to pay for this kind of stuff is, well, let’s put it diplomatically – not exactly super high. I don’t really understand why people can not just study that kind of stuff (and less useless stuff…) themselves, during their own time, when they’re not working.
iv. A few more Steven Farmer pharmacology lectures:
There’s a bit of annoying microphone-related noise in parts of the second video and parts of the third one, but aside from that they’re quite good and this should not stop you from watching the videos if you find the topics covered interesting.
Some reviews I had a look at after browsing the site:
i. Omega 3 fatty acids for prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease (Review), by Hooper et al.
“Main results Forty eight randomised controlled trials (36,913 participants) and 41 cohort analyses were included. Pooled trial results did not show a reduction in the risk of total mortality or combined cardiovascular events in those taking additional omega 3 fats (with significant statistical heterogeneity). Sensitivity analysis, retaining only studies at low risk of bias, reduced heterogeneity and again suggested no significant effect of omega 3 fats. [...]
Authors’ conclusions It is not clear that dietary or supplemental omega 3 fats alter total mortality, combined cardiovascular events or cancers in people with, or at high risk of, cardiovascular disease or in the general population. There is no evidence we should advise people to stop taking rich sources of omega 3 fats, but further high quality trials are needed to confirm suggestions of a protective effect of omega 3 fats on cardiovascular health.”
(The review has 196 pages, so naturally there’s more stuff here if you’re interested…)
A total of 53 trials met inclusion criteria for one or more of the comparisons in the review. Thirteen trials compared a group programme with a self-help programme; there was an increase in cessation with the use of a group programme (N = 4375, relative risk (RR) 1.98, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.60 to 2.46). There was statistical heterogeneity between trials in the comparison of group programmes with no intervention controls so we did not estimate a pooled effect. We failed to detect evidence that group therapy was more effective than a similar intensity of individual counselling. There was limited evidence that the addition of group therapy to other forms of treatment, such as advice from a health professional or nicotine replacement, produced extra benefit. There was variation in the extent to which those offered group therapy accepted the treatment. Programmes which included components for increasing cognitive and behavioural skills were not shown to be more effective than same length or shorter programmes without these components.
Group therapy is better for helping people stop smoking than self help, and other less intensive interventions. There is not enough evidence to evaluate whether groups are more effective, or cost-effective, than intensive individual counselling. There is not enough evidence to support the use of particular psychological components in a programme beyond the support and skills training normally included.”
“36 trials were included but most were small and of duration less than three months. Nine trials were of six months duration (2016 patients). These longer trials were the more recent trials and generally were of adequate size, and conducted to a reasonable standard. Most trials tested the same standardised preparation of Ginkgo biloba, EGb 761, at different doses, which are classified as high or low.
The results from the more recent trials showed inconsistent results for cognition, activities of daily living, mood, depression and carer burden. Of the four most recent trials to report results three found no difference between Ginkgo biloba and placebo, and one reported very large treatment effects in favour of Ginkgo biloba. There are no significant differences between Ginkgo biloba and placebo in the proportion of participants experiencing adverse events. [...]
Ginkgo biloba appears to be safe in use with no excess side effects compared with placebo. Many of the early trials used unsatisfactory methods, were small, and publication bias cannot be excluded. The evidence that Ginkgo biloba has predictable and clinically significant benefit for people with dementia or cognitive impairment is inconsistent and unreliable.”
Four trials with a combined total of 44,012 patients met the inclusion criteria and are included in this review. Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) did not reduce stroke or ’all cardiovascular events’ compared to placebo in primary prevention patients with elevated blood pressure and no prior cardiovascular disease. In one large trial ASA taken for 5 years reduced myocardial infarction (ARR 0.5%, NNT 200), increased major haemorrhage (ARI 0.7%, NNT 154), and did not reduce all cause mortality or cardiovascular mortality. In one trial there was no significant difference between ASA and clopidogrel for the composite endpoint of stroke, myocardial infarction or vascular death.
In two small trials warfarin alone or in combination with ASA did not reduce stroke or coronary events.
The ATC meta-analysis of antiplatelet therapy for secondary prevention in patients with elevated blood pressure reported an absolute reduction in vascular events of 4.1% as compared to placebo. Data on the 10,600 patients with elevated blood pressure from the 29 individual trials included in the ATC meta-analysis was requested but could not be obtained.
Antiplatelet therapy with ASA for primary prevention in patients with elevated blood pressure provides a benefit, reduction in myocardial infarction, which is negated by a harm of similar magnitude, increase in major haemorrhage.
The benefit of antiplatelet therapy for secondary prevention in patients with elevated blood pressure is many times greater than the harm. [...]
Further trials of antithrombotic therapy including with newer agents and complete documentation of all benefits and harms are required in patients with elevated blood pressure.”
I should point out that a lot of good stuff has been added to the world history category since last I visited that part of the site – especially stuff about World War 1.
Some videos from the site:
Some related numbers from wikipedia (Khan also briefly covers this aspect in another video):
“The Serbian Army declined severely towards the end of the war, falling from about 420,000 at its peak to about 100,000 at the moment of liberation. The Kingdom of Serbia lost 1,100,000 inhabitants during the war (both army and civilian losses), which represented over 27% of its overall population and 60% of its male population. According to the Yugoslav government in 1924: Serbia lost 265,164 soldiers, or 25% of all mobilized people. By comparison, France lost 16.8%, Germany 15.4%, Russia 11.5%, and Italy 10.3%.”
There are huge error bars around these numbers, but that World War 1 was ‘a bloody affair’ for Serbia probably doesn’t even begin to cover it…
I’ve put the rest below the fold.
I recently added the Cochrane site to my sidebar, but I figured a post was in order as well – people almost never click the links in the sidebar. I’ve blogged reviews from the Cochrane foundation a couple of times before, but I’ve only ever read studies via links from other channels; I’ve never really sat down and had a good long look at the stuff available at the site. I have had a closer look now, and I like what I see.
If you care about evidence-based medicine and health stuff more generally this site is a goldmine. Let’s say you want to know something about “organ transplantation” – one search later and the results of 602 reviews on the topic are now available to you.. “Cancer” gives you 695. “Type 2 diabetes” – 1759.
In my opinion more people should know about a site like this, and more people should use it to obtain greater knowledge about health matters. It would be very surprising if some of the reviews did not contain troublesome flaws and inaccuracies, but compared to the type of information and -information sources most people make use of when making health-related decisions in their everyday lives this stuff is pure gold.
i. History of evolutionary thought (featured).
It’s hard to quote from this article but I decided to anyway; it’s an excellent overview article and you should really read it all even though it’s a rather long article. An interesting aspect here is how close to Darwin some people were back in the past, and how reasonably similar ideas have popped up again and again throughout history – to take some examples:
“Epicurus (341–270 BC) anticipated the idea of natural selection. Lucretius explicated these ideas in his De rerum natura. In the Epicurean system, it was assumed that many species had been spontaneously generated from “Gaia” in the past, but that only the most functional forms survived to have off-spring. The Epicureans do not seem to have anticipated the full theory of evolution as we now know it and seem to have postulated a separate abiogenetic events for each species rather than postulating a single abiogenetic event coupled with the differentiation of species over time from a single (or small number of) originating parent organism(s).” [...]
“the Afro-Arab writer al-Jahiz, wrote in the 9th century. In the Book of Animals, he considered the effects of the environment on an animal’s chances for survival, and described the struggle for existence. Al-Jahiz also wrote descriptions of food chains. Al-Jahiz speculated on the influence of the environment on animals and considered the effects of the environment on the likelihood of an animal to survive. The Book of Animals states,
Animals engage in a struggle for existence; for resources, to avoid being eaten and to breed. Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming into new species. Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to offspring.”
“In 1377 Ibn Khaldun wrote the Muqaddimah in which he asserted that humans developed from “the world of the monkeys”, in a process by which “species become more numerous”" [...]
The article points out this aspect explicitly and notes that: “It is possible to look through the history of biology from the ancient Greeks onwards and discover anticipations of almost all of Charles Darwin‘s key ideas. [...] but such anticipations should not be taken out of the full context of the writings or of cultural values of the time which could make Darwinian ideas of evolution unthinkable.“
A little more from the article; here’s a quote on the role of the church in the Middle Ages (and later):
“During the Early Middle Ages, Greek classical learning was all but lost to the West. However, contact with the Islamic world, where Greek manuscripts were preserved and expanded, soon led to a massive spate of Latin translations in the 12th century. Europeans were re-introduced to the works of Plato and Aristotle, as well as to Islamic thought. Christian thinkers of the scholastic school, in particular Abelard and Thomas Aquinas, combined Aristotelian classification with Plato’s ideas of the goodness of God, and of all potential life forms being present in a perfect creation, to organize all inanimate, animate, and spiritual beings into a huge interconnected system: the scala naturæ, or great chain of being.
Within this system, everything that existed could be placed in order, from “lowest” to “highest”, with Hell at the bottom and God at the top—below God, an angelic hierarchy marked by the orbits of the planets, mankind in an intermediate position, and worms the lowest of the animals. As the universe was ultimately perfect, the great chain was also perfect. There were no empty links in the chain, and no link was represented by more than one species. Therefore no species could ever move from one position to another. Thus, in this Christianized version of Plato’s perfect universe, species could never change, but remained forever fixed, in accordance with the text of Genesis. For humans to forget their position was seen as sinful, whether they behaved like lower animals or aspired to a higher station than was given them by their Creator.
Creatures on adjacent steps were expected to closely resemble each other, an idea expressed in the saying: natura non facit saltum (“nature does not make leaps”). This basic concept of the great chain of being greatly influenced the thinking of Western civilization for centuries (and still has an influence today). It formed a part of the argument from design presented by natural theology. As a classification system, it became the major organizing principle and foundation of the emerging science of biology in the 17th and 18th centuries.“
As I pointed out above it’s hard to choose what to quote because there’s so much good stuff here; if you find this topic interesting you really should read it all. The article is probably easier to read if you’ve heard about people like Hutton, Mendel, Lamarck etc. before and have some familiarity with the concepts mentioned and the (diverse sets of) fields involved; but as the excerpts also illustrate there’s always a link (or several links) if a specific concept is unfamiliar, and I actually believe the article is very readable even if you don’t know a lot about this stuff – though I should note that I may be mistaken, given that I’ve read about most of the concepts and topics covered in the article before.
I should probably point out here that I believe this is really wikipedia at its finest – the featured rating is well-deserved. And note that this part of wikipedia in general contains some really great stuff; the article on evolution, the article about Darwin, and the article about genetics, to take but three other relevant articles about related topics, are also all of them featured. There’s a lot of stuff here. Another place to look is in the archives of Razib Khan’s blog; he’s written some good stuff on related topics.
ii. Triceratops (featured). I doubt there’s a reader of this blog who has not heard the name of these animals or could not tell me roughly how they looked like, but how much do you actually know about those guys? After reading this article you’ll know more..
iii. Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (‘good article’). A lot of interesting lives have been lived by people in the past, and many of the stories of these people never get told. This guy lived a remarkable life:
“Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (French pronunciation: [maʁki də la fajɛt]; 6 September 1757 – 20 May 1834), often known simply as Lafayette, was a French aristocrat and military officer born in Chavaniac, in the province of Auvergne in south central France. Lafayette was a general in the American Revolutionary War and a leader of the Garde nationale during the French Revolution. [...]
Lafayette was the most important link between the American and the French Revolutions. As an ardent supporter of the United States’ constitutional principles he called on all nations to follow the American example. [...] Under Lafayette’s influence Louis XVI issued the edict of toleration in 1787 (Edict of Versailles), which particularly benefitted the Huguenots. Back in France in 1788, Lafayette was called to the Assembly of Notables to respond to the fiscal crisis. Lafayette proposed a meeting of the French Estates-General, where representatives from the three traditional orders of French society—the clergy, the nobility and the commoners—met. He served as vice president of the resulting body. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was largely based on his draft. Lafayette was appointed commander-in-chief of the Garde nationale in response to violence. During the French Revolution, Lafayette attempted to maintain order—to the point of ordering the Garde nationale to fire on demonstrators at the Champ de Mars in July 1791—an action for which he ultimately was persecuted by the Jacobins. In August 1792, as the radical factions in the Revolution grew in power, Lafayette tried to flee to the United States through the Dutch Republic. He was captured by Austrians and spent more than five years in prison.
Lafayette returned to France after Napoleon Bonaparte secured his release from prison in 1797. He refused to participate in Napoleon’s government, but was elected to the Chamber of Deputies under the Charter of 1815, during the Hundred Days. With the Bourbon Restoration, Lafayette became a liberal member of the Chamber of Deputies in 1815, a position he held until his death. [...]
In France, Lafayette worked with Thomas Jefferson to establish trade agreements between the United States and France. These negotiations aimed to reduce U.S. debt to France, and included commitments on tobacco and whale oil. He joined the French abolitionist group Society of the Friends of the Blacks, which advocated the end of the slave trade and equal rights for free blacks. In 1783, in correspondence with Washington, he urged the emancipation of slaves; and to establish them as tenant farmers. [...]
King Louis XVI convoked the Assembly of Notables on 29 December 1786, in response to France’s fiscal crisis. The King appointed Lafayette to the body, in the comte d’Artois’ division, which met on 22 February 1787. In an address first read to the assembly, then signed and endorsed by Lafayette, it was proposed to lower unnecessary spending, which included, among other things, purchase of useless estates and gifts to courtiers. He called for a “truly national assembly”, which represented the three classes of French society: clergy, nobility, and commons. On 8 August 1788, the King agreed to hold an Estates General the next year. Lafayette was elected to represent the nobility (Second Estate) from Riom in the Estates General.
The Estates General convened on 5 May 1789; debate began on whether the delegates should vote by head or by Estate. If voting was by Estate then the nobility and clergy would be able to overturn the commons; if by head, then the larger Third Estate could dominate. Before the meeting, he agitated for the voting by head, rather than estate [...]
Lafayette was unwilling to cooperate with Napoleon’s government. In 1804, Napoleon was crowned Emperor after a plebiscite in which Lafayette did not participate. He remained relatively quiet, although he spoke publicly on Bastille Day events. After the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson asked if he would be interested in the governorship. Lafayette declined, citing personal problems and the desire to work for liberty in France. [...] As the restored monarchy of Charles X became more conservative, Lafayette re-emerged as a prominent public figure. [...] Throughout his legislative career, he continued to endorse causes such as freedom of the press, suffrage for all taxpayers, and the worldwide abolition of slavery. [...]
American President Andrew Jackson ordered that Lafayette be accorded the same funeral honors as John Adams and George Washington. Therefore, 24-gun salutes were fired from military posts and ships, each shot representing a U.S. state. Flags flew at half mast for thirty-five days, and “military officers wore crepe for six months”. The Congress hung black in chambers and asked the entire country to dress in black for the next thirty days. [...] Lafayette reputation in America has always stood very high, and both the popular mind and the scholarship. [...] Lafayette reputation among French historians is more problematic. François Furet includes him among the 14 most important actors of the French Revolution, where he played a critical role in 1789-92. He is praised as the embodiment of the liberal ideals of 1789, but he had few eulogies. French historians have said he was too ambitious and yet too mediocre an intellect to play a bigger role. [...] To historians on the left, he was a traitor to the glorious cause. To historians on the right, he was too ineffective to be their hero. “
Although I’ve blogged some of them before, I guess I should point out that Khan Academy has some quite good videos about the French Revolution and related stuff here.
iv. Klondike Gold Rush (‘good article’).
“The Klondike Gold Rush, also called the Yukon Gold Rush, the Alaska Gold Rush, the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush and the Last Great Gold Rush, was a migration by an estimated 100,000 prospectors to the Klondike region of the Yukon in north-western Canada between 1896 and 1899. Gold was discovered here on August 16, 1896 and, when news reached Seattle and San Francisco the following year, it triggered a “stampede” of would-be prospectors. The journey proved too hard to many and only between 30,000 and 40,000 managed to arrive. Some became wealthy; however, the majority went in vain and only around 4,000 struck gold. The Klondike Gold Rush ended in 1899 after gold was discovered in Nome, prompting an exodus from the Klondike. [...] To accommodate the prospectors, boom towns sprang up along the routes and at their end Dawson City was founded at the confluence of the Klondike and the Yukon River. From a population of 500 in 1896, the hastily constructed town came to house around 30,000 people by summer 1898. Poorly built, isolated and unsanitary Dawson suffered from fires, high prices and epidemics. Despite this, the wealthiest prospectors spent extravagantly gambling and drinking in the saloons. The Native Hän people, on the other hand, suffered from the rush. Many of them died after being moved into a reserve to make way for the stampeders.”
An estimated 100.000 people tried to reach the goldfields. The 1900 United States Census put the population of the US at 76.2 million at that time so the estimated number of people leaving their homes in order to dig for gold corresponds to ~0,13% of the total population of the United States at that time; more than one in a thousand of the entire population… (not all prospectors were Americans, but a great majority – ~60-80%, according to the article – were).
“The region was mountainous, the rivers winding and sometimes impassable; the short summers could be hot, while from October to June, during the long winters, temperatures could drop below −50 °C (−58 °F).[n 10]
Aids for the travelers to carry their supplies varied; some had brought dogs, horses, mules or oxen, whereas others had to rely on carrying their equipment on their backs or on sleds pulled by hand. Shortly after the stampede began in 1897, the Canadian authorities had introduced rules requiring anyone entering Yukon Territory to bring with them a year’s supply of food; typically this weighed around 1,150 pounds (520 kg). By the time camping equipment, tools and other essentials were included, a typical traveler was transporting as much as a ton in weight. [...]
Of the estimated 30,000 to 40,000 people who reached Dawson City during the gold rush, only around 15,000 to 20,000 finally became prospectors. Of these, no more than 4,000 struck gold and only a few hundred became rich. By the time that most of the stampeders arrived in 1898, the best creeks had all been claimed, either by the long-term miners in the region, or by the first arrivals of the year before. [...]
Skagway rapidly became famous in the international media; the author John Muir described the town as “a nest of ants taken into a strange country and stirred up by a stick”. [...] the White Pass leading from Skagway to the Klondike closed in late 1897 and around 5,000 prospectors found themselves stuck in the town, unable to progress or to return home. [...] The town was effectively lawless, dominated by drinking, gunfire and prostitution. The visiting NWMP Superintendent Sam Steele noted that it was “little better than a hell on earth … about the roughest place in the world”. Nonetheless, by the summer of 1898, with a population—including migrants—of between 15,000 and 20,000, Skagway was the largest city in Alaska. [...]
In late summer 1897 Skagway and Dyea fell under the control of Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith and his men, who arrived from Seattle shortly after Skagway began to expand. He was an American confidence man whose gang, 200 to 300 strong, cheated and stole from the prospectors traveling through the region.[n 23] He maintained the illusion of being an upstanding member of the community, opening three saloons as well as creating fake businesses to assist in his operations. One of his scams was a fake telegraph office where one of his men dressed as a telegraph operator would charge to send messages all over the US and Canada, often pretending to receive a reply. Opposition to Smith steadily grew and, after weeks of vigilante activity, he was killed in Skagway during the shootout on Juneau Wharf on July 8, 1898. [...]
Prices remained high in Dawson and supply fluctuated according to the season. During the winter of 1897 salt became worth its weight in gold, while nails, vital for construction work, rose in price to $28 ($760) per lb (0.45 kg). Cans of butter sold for $5 ($140) each. The only eight horses in Dawson were slaughtered for dog food as they could not be kept alive over the winter.[n 27] The first fresh goods arriving in the spring of 1898 sold for record prices, eggs reaching $3 ($81) each and apples $1 ($27).
Under these conditions scurvy, a potentially fatal illness caused by the lack of vitamin C, proved a major problem in Dawson City, particularly during the winter [...] Dysentery and malaria were also common in Dawson, and an epidemic of typhoid broke out in July and ran rampant throughout the summer. [...]
Gambling was popular, with the major saloons each running their own rooms; a culture of high stakes evolved, with rich prospectors routinely betting $1,000 ($27,000) at dice or playing for a $5,000 ($140,000) poker pot. [...] Wealthy prospectors were expected to drink champagne at $60 ($1,600) a bottle, and the Pavilion dancehall cost its owner, Charlie Kimball, as much as $100,000 ($80 million) to construct and decorate. Elaborate opera houses were built, bringing singers and specialty acts to Dawson. Tales abounded of prospectors spending huge sums of money on entertainment — Jimmy McMahon once spent $28,000 ($760,000) in a single evening, for example. Most payments were made in gold dust and in places like saloons, there was so much spilled gold that a profit could be made just by sweeping the floor.“
v. Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit. A very (advanced? sophisticated? expensive?) aircraft.
“The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit, also known as the Stealth Bomber, is an American strategic bomber, featuring low observable stealth technology designed for penetrating dense anti-aircraft defenses; it is able to deploy both conventional and nuclear weapons. The bomber has a crew of two and can drop up to eighty 500 lb (230 kg)-class JDAM GPS-guided bombs, or sixteen 2,400 lb (1,100 kg) B83 nuclear bombs. The B-2 is the only aircraft that can carry large air-to-surface standoff weapons in a stealth configuration.
Development originally started under the “Advanced Technology Bomber” (ATB) project during the Carter administration, and its performance was one of the reasons for his cancellation of the B-1 Lancer. ATB continued during the Reagan administration, but worries about delays in its introduction led to the reinstatement of the B-1 program as well. Program costs rose throughout development. Designed and manufactured by Northrop Grumman with assistance from Boeing, the cost of each aircraft averaged US$737 million (in 1997 dollars). Total procurement costs averaged $929 million per aircraft, which includes spare parts, equipment, retrofitting, and software support. The total program cost including development, engineering and testing, averaged $2.1 billion per aircraft in 1997.
Because of its considerable capital and operating costs, the project was controversial in the U.S. Congress and among the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The winding-down of the Cold War in the latter portion of the 1980s dramatically reduced the need for the aircraft, which was designed with the intention of penetrating Soviet airspace and attacking high-value targets. During the late 1980s and 1990s, Congress slashed plans to purchase 132 bombers to 21. In 2008, a B-2 was destroyed in a crash shortly after takeoff, and the crew ejected safely. A total of 20 B-2s remain in service with the United States Air Force.
The B-2 is capable of all-altitude attack missions up to 50,000 ft, with a range of more than 6,000 nautical miles unrefuelled and over 10,000 nautical miles with one refueling. Though originally designed primarily as a nuclear bomber, it was first used in combat to drop conventional bombs on Serbia during the Kosovo War in 1999, and saw continued use during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.“
I handed in my paper today – so I’ll have more time for blogging and similar activities this week than I did last week.
A few of the pieces below are not actually that unknown, but I guess I’d still like them to see them reach a wider audience..
I have a paper deadline approaching, so I’ll be unlikely to blog much more this week. Below some links and stuff of interest:
“we surveyed the faculty and trainees at MD Anderson Cancer Center using an anonymous computerized questionnaire; we sought to ascertain the frequency and potential causes of non-reproducible data. We found that ~50% of respondents had experienced at least one episode of the inability to reproduce published data; many who pursued this issue with the original authors were never able to identify the reason for the lack of reproducibility; some were even met with a less than “collegial” interaction. [...] These results suggest that the problem of data reproducibility is real. Biomedical science needs to establish processes to decrease the problem and adjudicate discrepancies in findings when they are discovered.”
ii. The development in the number of people killed in traffic accidents in Denmark over the last decade (link):
For people who don’t understand Danish: The x-axis displays the years, the y-axis displays deaths – I dislike it when people manipulate the y-axis (…it should start at 0, not 200…), but this decline is real; the number of Danes killed in traffic accidents has more than halved over the last decade (463 deaths in 2002; 220 deaths in 2011). The number of people sustaining traffic-related injuries dropped from 9254 in 2002 to 4259 in 2011. There’s a direct link to the data set at the link provided above if you want to know more.
iii. Gender identity and relative income within households, by Bertrand, Kamenica & Pan.
“We examine causes and consequences of relative income within households. We establish that gender identity – in particular, an aversion to the wife earning more than the husband – impacts marriage formation, the wife’s labor force participation, the wife’s income conditional on working, marriage satisfaction, likelihood of divorce, and the division of home production. The distribution of the share of household income earned by the wife exhibits a sharp cliff at 0.5, which suggests that a couple is less willing to match if her income exceeds his. Within marriage markets, when a randomly chosen woman becomes more likely to earn more than a randomly chosen man, marriage rates decline. Within couples, if the wife’s potential income (based on her demographics) is likely to exceed the husband’s, the wife is less likely to be in the labor force and earns less than her potential if she does work. Couples where the wife earns more than the husband are less satisfied with their marriage and are more likely to divorce. Finally, based on time use surveys, the gender gap in non-market work is larger if the wife earns more than the husband.” [...]
“In our preferred specification [...] we find that if the wife earns more than the husband, spouses are 7 percentage points (15%) less likely to report that their marriage is very happy, 8 percentage points (32%) more likely to report marital troubles in the past year, and 6 percentage points (46%) more likely to have discussed separating in the past year.”
These are not trivial effects…
iv. Some Khan Academy videos of interest:
“Relative to developed countries, there are far fewer women than men in India. Estimates suggest that among the stock of women who could potentially be alive today, over 25 million are “missing”. Sex selection at birth and the mistreatment of young girls are widely regarded as key explanations. We provide a decomposition of missing women by age across the states. While we do not dispute the existence of severe gender bias at young ages, our computations yield some striking findings. First, the vast majority of missing women in India are of adult age. Second, there is significant variation in the distribution of missing women by age across different states. Missing girls at birth are most pervasive in some north-western states, but excess female mortality at older ages is relatively low. In contrast, some north-eastern states have the highest excess female mortality in adulthood but the lowest number of missing women at birth. The state-wise variation in the distribution of missing women across the age groups makes it very difficult to draw simple conclusions to explain the missing women phenomenon in India.”
A table from the paper:
“We estimate that a total of more than two million women in India are missing in a given year. Our age decomposition of this total yields some striking findings. First, the majority of missing women, in India die in adulthood. Our estimates demonstrate that roughly 12% of missing women are found at birth, 25% die in childhood, 18% at the reproductive ages, and 45% die at older ages. [...] There are just two states in which the majority of missing women are either never born or die in childhood (i e, [sic] before age 15), and these are Haryana and Rajasthan. Moreover, the missing women in these three states add up to well under 15% of the total missing women in India.
For all other states, the majority of missing women die in adulthood. [...]
Because there is so much state-wise variation in the distribution of missing women across the age groups, it is difficult to provide a clear explanation for missing women in India. The traditional explanation for missing women, a strong preference for the birth of a son, is most likely driving a significant proportion of missing women in the two states of Punjab and Haryana where the biased sex ratios at birth are undeniable. However, the explanation for excess female deaths after birth is far from clear.”
“The finding of abnormal lung function in some diabetic subjects suggests that the lung should be considered a “target organ” in diabetes mellitus; however, the clinical implications of these findings in terms of respiratory disease are at present unknown.”
Malcolm Sandler wrote this almost 25 years ago. What’s happened since then? Well, I should perhaps point out that you still today have a situation where highly educated individuals who’ve had diabetes for decades may not even be aware that their disease may affect the lung tissue – I should know, because until a few years ago I didn’t know this. You care about the kidneys, you care about the feet, the eyes, the heart, sometimes the autonomous nervous system – but your lungs aren’t very likely to be brought up in a discussion with the endocrinonologist unless you happen to be a smoker, and in that case the concern is cancer risk and cardiovascular risk.
One main explanation is likely that the effects of the disease are minor, and so do not have much influence on the quality of life of the patient:
“Clear decrements in lung function have been reported in patients with diabetes over the past 2 decades, and many reports have suggested plausible pathophysiological mechanisms. However, at the present time, there are no reports of functional limitations of activities of daily living ascribable to pulmonary disease in patients with diabetes. Accordingly, this review is directed toward a description of the nature of reported lung dysfunction in diabetes, with an emphasis on the emerging potential clinical implications of such dysfunction.” (my emphasis, quote from this review)
I am interested in this matter because, well, at least partly because I’m just the kind of person who takes an interest in such matters. But recently I’ve also started to become a bit curious about whether the disease may have already have had an impact on my own lung function, ‘compared to baseline’. It’s far from certain – most studies find that microvascular complications are correlated (say if your eyes start to display signs of damage, it’s more likely that one may also observe damage to the kidneys) and that the link between those complications and metabolic control is strong; and my metabolic control is close to optimal, and my eyes and kidneys look fine.
I’m a long-distance runner. I run ~35 km/week now (and increasing with ~3 km/week), so of course I should not have breathing difficulties walking up and down stairs, and I don’t. And as the quote above makes clear even for patients who may be impacted, the damage is not likely to be all that major. So the fact that I don’t have any overt lung problems isn’t relevant – we wouldn’t expect such to present anyway. But it is worth asking whether I perform as well as I would do without my disease when I run. The obvious answer would be ‘of course not’ – for reasons unrelated to my lungs (taking blood samples take time, loading up on carbohydrates during a run after the blood sample is taken takes time – and I can’t do these things while running). But is there an impact from the lungs as well? I don’t know. Maybe. You can’t observe the counterfactual.
Which is why I thought this recent-ish meta-analysis was interesting:
“Background: Research into the association between diabetes and pulmonary function has resulted in inconsistent outcomes among studies. We performed a metaanalysis to clarify this association.
Methods: From a systematic search of the literature, we included 40 studies describing pulmonary function data of 3,182 patients with diabetes and 27,080 control subjects. Associations were summarized pooling the mean difference (MD) (standard error) between patients with diabetes and control subjects of all studies for key lung function parameters.
Results: For all studies, the pooled MD for FEV 1 , FVC, and diffusion of the lungs for carbon monoxide were -5.1 (95% CI, -6.4 to -3.7; P<.001), -6.3 (95% CI, -8.0 to -4.7; P<.001), and -7.2 (95% CI, -10.0 to -4.4; P<.001) % predicted, respectively, and for FEV 1 /FVC 0.1% (95% CI, -0.8 to 1.0; P = .78). Metaregression analyses showed that between-study heterogeneity was not explained by BMI, smoking, diabetes duration, or glycated hemoglobin (all P<.05).
Conclusions: Diabetes is associated with a modest, albeit statistically significant, impaired pulmonary function in a restrictive pattern. [...]
Our metaanalysis shows that diabetes, in the absence of overt pulmonary disease, is associated with a modest, albeit statistically significant, impaired pulmonary function in a restrictive pattern. The results were irrespective of BMI, smoking, diabetes duration, and HbA1c levels. In subanalyses, the association seemed to be more pronounced in type 2 diabetes than in type 1 diabetes. Our study adds evidence for yet another organ system to be involved in bothtype 1 and type 2 diabetes. As a consequence of exclusion criteria, the levels of functional impairment fell within values that are generally considered to be normal. However, to place this in perspective, the magnitude of impairment found in our study closely resembles that of smoking per se.57 Similarly, given the relatively high prevalence of diabetes in COPD,58 it is tempting to speculate that (uncontrolled) diabetes may accelerate progressive lung function decline. However, from our metaanalysis summarizing crosssectional studies, it is difficult to draw conclusions on causality and progression into overt pulmonary diseases.” (my emphasis)
Whether you smoke or not is certainly not a trivial effect when you’re considering the fitness level of a long-distance runner! I know the effects are smaller for T1′s, but this is most certainly an effect to have in mind. Back when I ran my marathon three years ago both me and my brother were surprised that he did so much better than I did (he came in more than half an hour before I did, despite the fact that we both assumed beforehand that I was the one who was in better shape).
I consider some of the findings quite weird, and it’s hard to make heads or tails of some of this stuff:
“One would expect that a longer exposure to diabetes would proportionally increase the chance of connective tissue being nonenzymatically glycated. However, our study suggests that a longer duration is not necessarily associated with additional loss of pulmonary reserves. This is in line with previous longitudinal studies on this topic.59,60 [...]
It is intriguing to observe that the pulmonary system remains relatively spared in diabetes when compared with other organs with wide microvascular beds. It is speculated that the large pulmonary reserves protect against severe pulmonary dysfunction.
Because neither the duration of diabetes nor glycemic state appeared to influence the association in our study, one might question whether there is a causal relationship between diabetes and impaired pulmonary function.”
I’ll try to keep my eyes open for updates on this stuff – although the estimated effects may not be big enough for people to seek out medical advice, they’re huge if you’re a long-distance runner considering whether it’s even worth it to participate in future official runs solely for the sake of improving your performance in such competitions.
On a sidenote I should point out that I don’t (/no longer) run in order to obtain a faster time in an official run – I run because I like to run, and I no longer have much desire to participate in official runs – but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care at all about that stuff some years back when I started out participating in such runs. Imagine what happens with your desire to participate in such official runs if you don’t seem to be able to improve your time much even with strict adherence to running schedules, especially considering the fact that other people who in other respects are similar to you can out-perform you without doing a lot of work. I was above 70 km/week and had several 30+ kilometer runs behind me before my marathon; my brother never even crossed the 40 km/week threshold. And he beat me by more than half an hour. Go figure. I had a bad run for diabetes-related reasons so during the day this was not a surprising outcome, but it was a profoundly annoying outcome. And no, I was not ‘overtraining’; I was rather at the point where a 25+ km run was the ‘standard running distance’ – you know, that distance you managed without thinking much about it every Tuesday, and Saturday, with a short 20 km run in between – and I decreased the kilometer count up to the run as advised by the plan I was following (more or less stringently, but compared to the people whom I entered the goal line with the word ‘more’ is by far the more accurate one). And no, it’s not like I hadn’t heard about interval training, and it’s not like this stuff is hard to implement in a hilly place like Aarhus.
I did make progress from I started running to the point where I decided not to really consider ‘official runs’ to be be worth it anymore – the first half-marathon took me more than 2 hours, the best one I did in an hour and 47 minutes (this performance was achieved at a point in time where I ran 65 km/week and at least cared somewhat about speed and time taken – so, yeah… Compare this again with my brother, whose next goal is 1.35, without ever having been near 50 km/week). Right now my ‘standard running distance’ is 12-15 km – I like to run, but I have a very limited desire to participate in official runs in the future. It’s not worth it – if I go back to very-high intensity training I may improve my official performances, but that could just as easily be due to factors completely unrelated to my actual shape, like whether I was lucky about the starting blood glucose (fewer tests during the run, less time wasted on that), or whether I’d slept well. Who cares? And it’s not like I need to participate in these runs to motivate myself to get out there – I find running enjoyable as it is, especially in the summer when the weather is nice.
But in case you’d forgotten because of all the personal stuff in the end – to just reiterate the main points that made me start out writing this post:
“Diabetes is associated with a modest, albeit statistically significant, impaired pulmonary function in a restrictive pattern. [...] the magnitude of impairment found in our study closely resembles that of smoking”.
This is perhaps also a good illustration of how dangerous diabetes is; the fact that the disease may impact the performance of the lungs in a manner not too dissimilar from smoking is not even considered clinically relevant; the patients have much bigger problems to worry about as it is.
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