Archive for the 'science' Category

The dangers of “Fight Club”… someone might actually break a spine?

Ok, so it has been some time since I last posted on Broken Spines but it is with good reason.  Just over ten weeks ago I actually broke my spine… I woke up to sure agony.  I thought I had pulled a muscle in my neck/back and waited it out over night.  The next morning the pain was still there and I made an appointment to see my doctor and a chiropractor and a colleagues suggestion.  The chiropractor proceeded to tell me how messed up my neck/back was and gave me an alignment adjustment with no improvement.  My doctor saw me and thought that it was a pulled muscle and prescribed muscle relaxers and Vicodin.  After a week on the drugs, more chiropractic “help” and even acupuncture I was without sleep and still in excruciating pain (so much so that on some nights I honestly would have preferred amputation).  Talking with friends and colleagues I was convinced that I needed to see a specialist.  I called the recommended neck & back specialist the next morning and was told that I needed a referral from my primary doctor and an MRI before the he would see me.  I  called my primary doctor and after some pleading I was able to get an appointment the next day.  My doctor ordered x-rays, did an exam, and agreed to give me the referral and MRI request.  At the scheduling area for the MRI I was told that there was a mobile unit that came to the clinic on Mondays and Thursdays… and of course today was Tuesday – I had to make it clear to the scheduler that Thursday was not soon enough.  Sure enough there was one at a local hospital and their MRI was available that evening.  After the most painful 30 minutes in an MRI machine I get to go home and wait until the next morning for the results.  In the meantime, I called the specialist back and told his staff that I my referral and my MRI – how soon could they get me in?  The answer – three weeks!  I wasn’t going to last three more weeks with this pain and lack of sleep!  I explained that to the scheduler and she suggested that I leave a message with the doctor’s assistant and they would get back to me.  I decided to pull out all of the stops and left the voicemail informing them that my neighbor worked with the specialist, two other neighbors had seen the doctor and one had surgery with him, and that I was in EXCRUCIATING pain.  What do you know… they found room for me within seven days.  The next morning the MRI report was available online and I come to find out that I had herniated a disc in my neck/spine: C6-C7.  I meet with the specialist the next week and after three weeks of the most excruciating pain I have ever felt (even with the aid of the finest narcotics man has made) I was finally prescribed oral steroids (a.k.a. Prednisone).  Within hours the amazing anti-inflammatory medicine in Prednisone had started kicking in and the pain was almost gone.  The only lingering effect was numbness or tingling in my first two fingers of the my left arm.  I proceeded with six weeks of physical therapy which helped strengthen my neck and arm but still left the numbness.  The only problem now was the persistent numbness… my specialist suggested that I did not want it to go beyond 12 weeks or I could risk permanent nerve damage.  Last week was week 10 and I decided to proceed with surgery to remove the herniated portion of the disc that was causing the pressure on the nerve (posterior microdiscectomy)… five days in and still waiting for a final verdict if the numbness has gone away for good.  I’ll keep you posted…

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Why We Will Perish

velasquezEduardo Velasquez’s “Consumer’s Guide to the Apocolypse” investigates the culture wars with improbable evidence from angst ridden pop songs from Cold Play and Tori Amos and the writings of Tom Wolfe and Chuck Palahniuk.

“we discover that the antagonisms that fuel the current cultural wars stem from the same source. Enthusiastic religions and dogmatic science, the flourishing of scientific reason and the fascination with mystical darkness, cultural triumphalists and multicultural ideologues are all sustained by the same thing: a willful commitment to the basic tenets of the Enlightenment.”

“we need a new genesis to go with our contemporary apocalypse”

We are all atheists about most of the gods… some just go one god further?

This is one that I started writing over a month ago when my PC locked up… I didn’t even realize that it saved it as a draft… here goes.

I thought I would share this video from Richard Dawkins at the 2002 TED conference.  Richard’s presentation titled “An atheist’s call to arms” discusses his view that there needs to be a militant uprising of atheists.  With roughly 30 million citizens (Americans – added for clarity) who claim to be “non-religious/secular,” why is this voice so dormant in our society?  I personally liked his suggestion that we are all atheists of some sort… we don’t believe in the god of the golden calf, we don’t believe in the god of tooth fairies, or we don’t believe in God / Allah… and some of us just go one god further.

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/113

Happy National Atheist’s Day?

Mike B. brought up the topic of religion in his post “Breastplate of Righteousness” detailing how Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) displays an extremely conservative posture in public in an attempt to deflect any accusations that he might be gay.  He went on to suggest that “God Is Not Great” as a possible future Fight Club selection?  Well, on National Atheist’s Day I thought I would share a quick video from Richard Dawkins discussing his book the God Delusion.  Enjoy!

Dark Data

A while back there was a lively debate on Broken Spines about whether or not it is possible to succeed without failing.  In the end, the pugilists involved resorted to name calling and feelings were hurt.  So, we didn’t get to explore a more interesting idea: do we put too much emphasis on success – when learning from our failures is what’s truly valuable?

Google, in their Palimpsest project, will soon provide a home for terabytes of open-source scientific datasets.  This will hopefully correct “publication bias”, where science gets skewed because only positive correlations see the light of day.  Thomas Goetz sums this up best in a Wired article called  Freeing the Dark Data of Failed Scientific Experiments”.  Here are some exerpts:

So what happens to all the research that doesn’t yield a dramatic outcome — or, worse, the opposite of what researchers had hoped? It ends up stuffed in some lab drawer. The result is a vast body of squandered knowledge that represents a waste of resources and a drag on scientific progress. This information — call it dark data — must be set free.

in this data-intensive age, those apparent dead ends could be more important than the breakthroughs. After all, some of today’s most compelling research efforts aren’t one-off studies that eke out statistically significant results, they’re meta-studies — studies of studies — that crunch data from dozens of sources, producing results that are much more likely to be true. What’s more, your dead end may be another scientist’s missing link, the elusive chunk of data they needed. Freeing up dark data could represent one of the biggest boons to research in decades, fueling advances in genetics, neuroscience, and biotech.


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