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Cheese Ends, 20240519

I’ve been in a cranky mood the last couple of weeks. Health issues have been rearing their ugly heads and the world hasn’t been particularly pleasant to read about.

Then, several articles came across my desk that clearly came under the why-we-can’t-have-nice-things category. In pure pseudoscientific babbalese, I interpret this as the universe telling me to go with it.

So, here we go.

(Picture from here.)

**

In the old days—back, say, in the thirties—about twenty-five percent of foodborne diseases came from the ingestion of raw milk. This was just as true in Europe and the reason Louis Pasteur invented the means by which milk could be mostly sterilized without ruining the flavor—called, of course, pasteurization.

That hasn’t stopped people from deciding that raw, unpasteurized milk, has unprovable and dubious health properties.

I have a little skin in the game on this as my father’s family raised milk cows. The stories he told were quite funny and interesting and suggested that unfiltered, unpasteurized milk was something to be avoided.

Recently, some dairy cows have been exhibiting H5N1 bird flu infections. It doesn’t seem to hurt the cow much but the virus does seem to preferentially infect the udders. Some cats have ingested infected raw milk and died of brain infections. One could deduce that maybe drinking infected raw milk might be dangerous.

That hasn’t stopped raw milk enthusiasts from demanding to get raw milk from infected cows in order to get some kind of imaginary immunity to H5N1 flu.

*sigh*

Moving on.

**

What is the economic impact of the new weight-loss drugs?

The United States has a bizarre and unique drug pricing mechanism. For some reason, people seem to believe that market forces will prevail in a system where the patient has to have a particular drug. This is called, in economic terms, an inelastic demand: where demand remains unchanged whether price rises or falls. Health care falls largely within this system.

Many other countries recognize this problem and fix prices or otherwise handle the issue.

Not in America.

The other item in this discussion is obesity—well shown to be a strong factor in health issues. Enter the new GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy.

Wegovy costs $809/month/patient in the USA. In Denmark, it’s $186/month. Yale researchers have estimated that the drug can be manufactured profitably at $5/month.

Adult obesity in the USA is about 35%. It’s been estimated that if half (looking to the future) the adults in the US started taking Wegovy, the collective cost would be around $411 billion/year—more than all other drugs combined. It’s projected that by 2031, cost of purchase of all drugs (including weight loss drugs) will exceed 1 trillion dollars. The drugs have long ranging health effects but are so expensive that the cost/benefit ratio is not in their favor.

Remember, these prices were decided on. They are what the manufacturers figure Americans are willing to pay. Note the Yale study and the concept of inelastic demand.

**

One of the continuing problems I have is how science is perceived. Like the colloquial concept of theory versus the scientific concept of theory. “Well, it’s just a theory…” is a common phrase. As if a scientific theory wasn’t backed up by evidence, mathematics, and laboratory studies. It’s scientific theory that can reassure you that during the night the sun hasn’t gone nova on the other side of the world.

This issue of language isn’t limited to the word “theory.” It covers other words, too. Like “believe.”

I might say, I believe in Divine Right of Kings. I am stating that I support the idea that Kings rule based on the derived power of God incarnated in them. You could say that’s dumb. You believe in the concept of democratic representation: the will of the people to allow some to govern in their name. We both might adhere to these beliefs to the point we will die for them—or, at least, die for the symbols that represent them like King and Country.

These are beliefs in the common sense of the word.

When scientists say they believe in, say, the Cosmological Principle, they are saying they believe in a principle that can be inferred by other, provable, mechanisms. And they are committing to a rejection of that belief if it becomes falsified.

As long as one understands the difference, all fine and good. But that doesn’t seem to be happening in the media. If you say—to use the article’s example—that scientists know the earth is warming, that is far closer to the truth than to say those same scientists believe the earth is warming. “Believe” in scientific vernacular is far closer to “know” in the common vernacular.

This is a big problem in media. Most scientific reporting is commitment phobic. Media folks are not stupid. I believe they know the difference but squishy reporting is more comfortable. Less vulnerable.

And it makes a difference. Research has shown that content presentation is as important—or even more important—than the content itself. To quote them: “’Know’ presents [a statement] as a fact presupposing that it is true, ‘believe’ does not.” This was supported in their experiments.

I’m a writer and I know words are important. People who use words nefariously know it, too. So should readers.

**

There’s a whole youtube channel devoted to unexpected consequences to well-intentioned action. I won’t link to it here because I don’t always agree with the agenda behind the videos. But it’s fun.

As far back as 1953 laws in North Carolina prohibited public masking. This was done in order to prevent actions of secret societies like the Ku Klux Klan and others. Best of intentions, right? Of course, masks can be used for public health situations, right? Recently, however, demonstrators have been showing up wearing surgical and other kinds of public health masks.

This last week, the North Carolina Senate voted to repeal a legal exemption, enacted during COVID, for public health masking. The immuno-compromised, sick, and those that didn’t want to get sick, would not be able to wear masks in public.

**

Did you know there was such a thing as a zombie fire? I did not—well, sort of. I knew about smoldering coal fires in Pennsylvania and other places. But a zombie wildfire?

Turns out that the drought in Canada is bad enough that fires can smolder through the winter and wake up in the spring. Canadian Zombie Fires.

The reason this is in the why-we-can’t-have-nice-things category is that this is clearly due to global warming. Just like the models say it is. Just like the scientists believed would happen. Just like we should have expected.

**

Okay. Okay. Okay! Some positive things.

China has created the worlds first high-definition lunar geologic atlas. This is the best collection of lunar geographic data since the Apollo missions. Fully public. Accessible. Usable across the world by anyone. And published by China. This is a big deal.

NASA is doubling down on advanced concepts for space exploration. These include:

  • Pulsed Plasma Rocket: fission powered propulsion that could get humans to Mars in two months.
  • Radioisotope Power Cells: for missions that require power long and far beyond solar cells.
  • FLOAT: A lunar railway for Moon settlements. Flexible Levitation on a Track. Far and away the best acronym of all time. Roll out the track and you have an instant cargo carrier.

One last thing.

Every year fish swim up the river in the center of Utrecht where they meet a lock preventing them from going further. The lock is closed in the spring. The Utrechtians (?) set up a camera at the bottom of the boat lock and put the live feed up and a button. (A doorbell.) Watch for the fish and if you see one, press the doorbell. That alerts the lock keeper that there are fish waiting. When enough fish are detected, the lock keeper opens the lock and lets them proceed to their spawning grounds.

Here. Go free the poor waiting fish. (Note: Sorry about wrong link before.)

Happy now?

 

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