Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Which superhero power would you choose?

It appears that scientists have a hunch about how to make things invisible. Figure that flight has already been taken care of--just strap on a jetpack or something, right? Once there's a pill that confers the strength of a hundred men, then we might really get somewhere in answering that age-old debate.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Does capitalism kill?

A while back a series of studies reported that socio-economic status is related to health and mortality rates. The first of these actually came as a surprise to people--it concerned coronary heart disease, and until that time people thought heart attacks were an ailment of the workaholic corporate executive set. Nowadays, we take the connection between poverty and health for granted, though even so, the raw data is pretty sobering. Here's researcher Michael Marmot, in a JAMA article from this past March that I can't show you because of copyright laws, summarizing findings by these researchers:
[W]hen traveling along the distance of nearly 12 miles on the Washington, DC, Metro from downtown to Montgomery County, Maryland, life expectancy of the local population segment rises about a year and a half for each mile traveled. Poor black men at one end of the journey have a life expectancy of 57 years, and rich white men at the other end have a life expectancy of 76.7 years.
That's a shocking gap between the ends of the spectrum. The other notable thing, however, is the continuum he describes in-between. As the suburbs get more and more affluent, life expectancy goes up--there's a social gradient in health. So being able to afford healthcare certainly has something to do with it, but it's also a lot more complicated than that, because the uber-rich appear to be healthier than the just plain rich. The current prevailing explanation is that the psychological changes associated with these smaller steps up the status ladder--things like sense of autonomy and social influence--affect human biology. This interpretation seems to have been solidified by a recent study which indicated that subjective social status is actually a better predictor of health outcomes than is objective social status. Finally, quite logically, the researchers report that the steeper the income gradient within a country, the steeper the gradient in health outcomes. So, while the effect still exists as nations veer closer to welfare-state status, it's less marked. You can imagine where that leaves us in the United States. Get rich. Or die trying.

For the Man Who Has Everything. Except Taste.

Pink, the famous English shirtmaker, has created a tie with a pocket on the back for an iPod Nano. According to the company, “It's the latest solution for today's busy man who needs to carry more than one gadget at any one time”.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Do the tabloids call them 'Billary'?

A few days ago the NY Times published this piece about the current state of the Clinton marriage. I took it as an account of limelight-sharing in a two politician marriage, topped off with a little bit of liberal spin about how well they're doing post-scandal. Slate, however, offered this analysis of the article, leaving me to think that maybe I don't read between the lines too well.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The End of the Internet?

Normally I would pass this off as fear mongering on the part of the press, but after hearing Verizon's CEO Ivan Seidenberg support it at Harvard Business School, I'm beginning to believe that we should be taking "Net Neutrality" seriously. CNN has a good summary of what it all means in layman's terms. From the article, "What if the Internet were like cable television, with Web sites grouped like channels into either basic or premium offerings? What if a few big companies decided which sites loaded quickly and which ones slowly, or not at all, on your computer?"

Friday, May 26, 2006

3G Phones Banned in Anti-Porn Drive

Ok, folks, the Daily Irk is back. Perhaps if Kover and I post enough, even Andrew and will find time to contribute. In the meantime, to get us started, you should know that you'll be out of luck if you try to use your 3G cell phone in Cambodia. According to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, "We can wait 10 more years [for 3G] until we have managed to improve morality in society." It must be nice to be able to shut down all 3G networks in the country when your wife complains about receiving pornography. Deepa also informs me that I will not be able to watch Polish tampon advertisements for a while. What is going on here?