Author Archives: Josh Witten

Pi Day 2015

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

If we make the very traditionally assumption that the year is a circle (technically it is an ellipse) with a circumference of 365 days (366 on a leap year):

daum_equation_1425048322145

HAPPY PI DAY!

*14 March as Pi Day is superficial fluff that teaches us nothing about π. Tau Day is also silly, especially since τ unnecessarily complicates the calculation of the area of a circle.

Science for the People: Superstorm

sftpThis week, Science for the People is exploring the evolving frontier of extreme weather, and how it’s influenced by our warming planet. Desiree Schell talks about the largest Atlantic storm system ever recorded with Kathryn Miles, author of Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy. She will also talk about the relationship between climate change and hurricane strength and frequency with Christopher Landsea, Ph.D, Science and Operations Officer at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center.

*Josh provides research & social media help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

More than One Way to Vaccinate a Cat

No, this isn’t about cat vaccinations, but you should make sure all your pets’ shots are up to date, too. It is what we like to call, in the business, word play (technically, the term is “god-awful, hacky word play”).

With the focus placed on vaccinations by the measles screwing with Disneyland, there has been a lot of pessimistic coverage of the research showing that there is not a single, magic bullet, public service message (out of an exhaustive set of four options) that will convince everyone to vaccinate.

Over at Science News, Bethany Brookshire has an excellent post discussing the many ways to persuade people to vaccinate and why certain strategies are more likely to work for some, but not for others.

Research has begun to examine why people fear vaccines, and what can be done about it…But in all of the research, one thing is clear: There is not a single, foolproof way to convey that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the harms.

-Bethany Brookshire at Science News

In the conclusion, Bethany raises the critical point that our public health approaches to vacccination have actually been pretty effective. Vaccination rates remain high, even if they have slumped a bit recently.

We may be at the limits of what can be achieved through public service messaging and need to focus on one-on-one interactions, while keeping the public pro-vaccination message strong.

Luckily, parents who adamantly refuse to vaccinate are in the minority. Unluckily, as the Disneyland outbreak shows, that tiny minority is still needed to keep infectious diseases from rising again. “The reality is that most people do get vaccinated, “Wilson says. “Maybe it’s 90 percent, but you need 95 or 100 percent. It’s challenging to get 100 percent of the population to agree to something. It’s not that there’s a disastrous failure of messaging. It’s that the threshold for success is so high.”

-Bethany Brookshire at Science News

Having been in many men’s restrooms, I can state confidently that we are doing a better job on vaccination than we are on hand washing.

Distribution

At current levels, not only does the rate of unvaccincated individuals in the population matter, but their distribution, including which vaccines they are missing (ie, clusters are bad).

Science for the People: Struck by Genius

sftpThis week, Science for the People is looking at brain injuries, and the ways they change the lives of patients. They talk to Jason Padgett and Maureen Seaberg, authors of Struck by Genius: How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel. They also speak to neuroscientist Dr. Adrian Owen about his brain imaging research detecting awareness in vegetative patients.

*Josh provides research help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.