Links 2/16/08

Cell Phone Use Linked To Increased Cancer Risk Information Week. But the absolute risk is not very high.

“Like giving a drink to an alcoholic” New York Times. Bloomberg on the stimulus plan.

Idle parenting means happy children Telegraph

Goldman Sachs’ Friedman: 80 Cents is ‘The New Par’ Peter Lattman, Deal Journal, Wall Street Journal

American pays $50,000 to clone dead dog Financial Times. And a pit bull at that.

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  1. jm

    Note that the putative increase in risk is only 50% on a very rare disease, and that “… a Swedish salivary gland study, “Mobile Phone Use and Risk of Parotid Gland Tumor,” … found no increased risk of tumors caused by cell phone use.”

    About 15 years ago I analyzed the underlying numbers in a study that claimed to show an increased risk of leukemia among electric power company employees with higher than median exposure to power line EMFs. What I found was that the number of leukemia cases among the higher-exposure group was less than you would expect from the average incidence of the disease in the general population. In fact, the claimed increase in risk was entirely due to the fraction of the “control” group that happened to fall into the lower-than-median-exposure class — but the degree to which that was so was entirely within the range one could expect to see by chance.

    After a lot of spreadsheeting and Monte Carlo simulation runs, I concluded that unless the apparent increase in risk is more than 100%, the results of any such cancer study have to be treated with great skepticism. This is especially so when other studies — such as the Swedish study quoted — have not found similar effects.

    Usually these studies state that the variation they have seen is “statistically significant at the 95% confidence level”. Note that all that apparently impressive claim really means is that you wouldn’t expect to see the result by pure chance more than once in 20 studies.

    But those are about the same as the odds against getting two pair on the draw in 5-card draw poker.

    Note that there are at least 30 types of cancer that can be covered in these studies (that was the number in the power line EMF study). So the odds of getting a result that appears “significant at the 95% confidence level” is very high.

    To teach my kids about what such stats really mean, I had them take a poker deck and deal 30 5-card poker hands. The result? Two hands with two pair, and one three-of-a-kind!

    Every study looking for evidence of increased cancer risk among cellphone users is like the dealing of yet another poker hand. Deal enough hands and eventually you’ll get three-of-a-kind.

  2. Anonymous

    Welcome to the World Of Quantum Financing, where nothing makes sense, and the people in charge have no clue about what they are doing!

    The flaw in the Copenhagen interpretation is that it has no basis in theory—it is more like a story that scientists tell to make sense of facts that otherwise would seem nonsensical. It also suggests that the universe does not become fully real until someone observes it. Einstein found this idea abhorrent. “I like to think that the moon is there even if I am not looking at it,” he fumed in response to Bohr. Nevertheless, the Copenhagen interpretation was voted the preferred explanation of quantum weirdness by physicists at a conference in 1997.

    The stability of a system depends on the amount of energy involved: The higher the energy required to sustain a system, the less stable it is. Over time, an unstable system tends to settle back to its simplest, lowest-energy state—in this case, one object in one location producing one gravitational field. If Penrose is right, gravity yanks objects back into a single location, without any need to invoke observers or parallel universes.
    How long the process takes depends on the degree of instability. Electrons, atoms, and molecules are so small that their gravity, and hence the amount of energy needed to keep them in duplicate states, is negligible. According to Penrose, they can persist that way essentially forever, as standard quantum theory predicts. Large objects, on the other hand, create such significant gravitational fields that the duplicate states vanish almost at once.
    The situation calls to mind one of Zeilinger’s favorite books, the humorous novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, in which a mighty computer crunches the meaning of life, the universe and everything and spits out the number 42. So its creators build a bigger computer to discover the question.
    A few months ago Zeilinger reported implementing a new kind of statistical Bell test, devised by Leggett, that pits quantum mechanics against a category of theories in which entangled photons have real polarizations but exchange hidden particles that travel faster than light. In principle, such faster-than-light theories might have perfectly mimicked quantum strangeness and let realism go unmolested. Not so, according to the experiment: the results could be explained only by quantum unreality.
    At the celebration of his 65th birthday on January 8, 2007, Hawking announced his plans for a zero-gravity flight in 2007 to prepare for a sub-orbital spaceflight in 2009 on Virgin Galactic’s space service. Billionaire Richard Branson pledged to pay all expenses for the flight, costing an estimated £100,000.[10] Stephen Hawking’s zero-gravity flight of Zero Gravity Corporation, during which he experienced weightlessness eight times, took place on April 26, 2007. [11]
    He became the first quadriplegic to float free in a weightless state. This was the first time in 40 years that he moved freely beyond the confines of his wheelchair. The fee is normally $3,750 for 10-15 plunges, but Hawking was not required to pay the fee. Before the flight he was quoted as saying “Many people have asked me why I am taking this flight. I am doing it for many reasons. First of all, I believe that life on Earth is at an ever increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers.

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