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November 25, 2008

The Secret Lives of Magnetic Fields

London-based artists Ruth Jarman and Joseph Gerhardt, aka Semiconductor, made this film during their recent residency at the NASA Space Science Laboratories at the University of California at Berkeley.

It's part of an ongoing exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum entitled "Black Box: Semiconductor," up through December 14, 2008.

November 25, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Nihilist Mints — 'No flavor'

Kj

"Nihilists don't believe in flavor. Each sleek black 3" x 3/4" x 5/8" tin contains 60 completely flavorless mints."

Wait a minute... isn't that an oxymoron: "flavorless mints?"

Says right here that a mint is "A candy flavored with mint."

"Objection: argumentative."

"Sustained."

Two tins for $4.95.

November 25, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Cyberchondria

Doctor_patient_relationship

Say what?

Just goes to show you how out of it I am: I first encountered this wonderful neologism (at least, it was such to moi) this morning when I read John Markoff's New York Times Business section story about the malady.

He wrote, "... the term 'cyberchondria' emerged in 2000 to refer to the practice of leaping to dire conclusions while researching health matters online...."

So I ask you: where the heck has my crack research team been all this time?

What, exactly, have they been doing for the past eight years?

Unfortunately, precisely what they're doing at the very moment, to wit: giving me good reason to doubt they'd pass the Turing test.

But I digress.

The Times article follows.

    Microsoft Examines Causes of 'Cyberchondria'

    If that headache plaguing you this morning led you first to a Web search and then to the conclusion that you must have a brain tumor, you may instead be suffering from cyberchondria.

    On Monday, Microsoft researchers published the results of a study of health-related Web searches on popular search engines as well as a survey of the company’s employees.

    The study suggests that self-diagnosis by search engine frequently leads Web searchers to conclude the worst about what ails them.

    The researchers said they had undertaken the study as part of an effort to add features to Microsoft’s search service that could make it more of an adviser and less of a blind information retrieval tool.

    Although the term “cyberchondria” emerged in 2000 to refer to the practice of leaping to dire conclusions while researching health matters online, the Microsoft study is the first systematic look at the anxieties of people doing searches related to health care, Eric Horvitz said.

    Mr. Horvitz, an artificial intelligence researcher at Microsoft Research, said many people treated search engines as if they could answer questions like a human expert.

    “People tend to look at just the first couple results,” Mr. Horvitz said. “If they find ‘brain tumor’ or ‘A.L.S.,’ that’s their launching point.”

    Mr. Horvitz is a computer scientist and has a medical degree, and his fellow investigator, Ryen W. White, is a specialist in information retrieval technology.

    They found that Web searches for things like headache and chest pain were just as likely or more likely to lead people to pages describing serious conditions as benign ones, even though the serious illnesses are much more rare.

    For example, there were just as many results that linked headaches with brain tumors as with caffeine withdrawal, although the chance of having a brain tumor is infinitesimally small.

    The researchers said they had not intended their work to send the message that people should ignore symptoms. But their examination of search records indicated that researching particular symptoms often led quickly to anxiousness.

    They found that roughly 2 percent of all Web queries were health-related, and about 250,000 users, or about a quarter of the sample, engaged in a least one medical search during the study.

    About a third of the subjects “escalated” their follow-up searches to explore serious illnesses, the researchers said.

    Of the more than 500 Microsoft employees who answered a survey on their medical search habits, more than half said that online medical queries related to a serious illness had interrupted their day-to-day activities at least once.

    Mr. Horvitz said that in addition to his interest in creating a Web search tool that would give more reliable answers, the research was driven by clear memories from his medical school education of what was often referred to as “second-year syndrome” or “medical schoolitis.”

    He said he remembered “sitting on a cold seat with my legs dangling off the examination table,” convinced that he was suffering from a rare and incurable skin disease.

    While the doctor was out of the room, Mr. Horvitz said, he took a look at his medical chart and saw that the doctor’s notes read, “Eric is in medical school, and he has been reading a lot.”

    The researchers said that Web searchers’ propensity to jump to awful conclusions was basic human behavior that has been noted by research scientists for decades.

    In 1974, the psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman wrote a seminal paper about decisions that are based on beliefs about the likelihood of uncertain events, like the outcome of an election or the future value of the dollar.

    They said that people usually employ common sense rules to aid in decisions. The rules can be quite useful, but they also frequently lead to systematic errors in judgment.

    The Microsoft researchers noted that reliance on the rankings of Web search results contributes a similar bias to the judgments people make about illness.

    At the same time, Mr. Horvitz said he believed that the Web would evolve to offer more reliable information.

    In the 1990s, Microsoft researchers built a health advisory system for pregnancy and child care. Mr. Horvitz said that in the future it would be possible to create search engines that were able to detect medical queries and offer advice that did not automatically make Web searchers fear the worst.

...................

"They found that Web searches for things like headache and chest pain were just as likely or more likely to lead people to pages describing serious conditions as benign ones, even though the serious illnesses are much more rare."

"For example, there were just as many results that linked headaches with brain tumors as with caffeine withdrawal, although the chance of having a brain tumor is infinitesimally small."

Cyberspace has a way of flattening things out, pressing mountains of likelihood flat until they're indistinguishable from sinkholes of infrequency.

As I used to tell residents, there's a reason common things are common: it's because they happen more often.

Or, as has been said on rounds since before Hippocrates, "when you hear hoofbeats, don't think of zebras."

I have long believed most people would be much better off if they didn't read the fine print on the medication package insert.

Suggestibility — especially when you're feeling badly — is very powerful.

In a similar vein, back in the day when I was an anesthesiology resident and had to get a signed separate (from surgery) consent for anesthesia as part of my preoperative visit, I began offering patients a choice: "I can tell you in detail about all the risks of anesthesia — or I can tell you that they happen very rarely and you're very unlikely to have a problem. It's up to you."

About one patient in 20 would opt for the risk lecture — but very, very few made it to the end.

Most of the time, after about five or ten minutes of horrifying detail, just as I was getting into the particulars of paralysis and brain damage, they'd say, "That's enough — where do I sign?"

Precisely.

If you can't trust your anesthesiologist to get you through the procedure, you're better off not having it.

That's just my opinion, of course....

"Mr. Horvitz said that in addition to his interest in creating a Web search tool that would give more reliable answers, the research was driven by clear memories from his medical school education of what was often referred to as 'second-year syndrome' or 'medical schoolitis.'"

"He said he remembered 'sitting on a cold seat with my legs dangling off the examination table,' convinced that he was suffering from a rare and incurable skin disease."

For me, it was waiting on a hard plastic chair in student health, certain beyond any doubt that the swollen lymph nodes in my neck were a harbinger of Hodgkin's disease, which we'd just covered in pathology and whose symptoms as well as signs I had in toto: fever, malaise, the whole shebang.

The doctor who examined me drew some blood and told me to wait for the results.

I was already wondering what to do with what little remained of my life.

Then he called me back into the examining room: "Joe, you've got mono — positive spot test."

He told me to take it easy until I felt better, and then go about my business.

Huh.

November 25, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bike Handcuffs

1ghjkg

Nice mashup.

From the website:
....................

Master Lock Street Cuff — 9 Link Bike/Motorcycle Lock

4ghwr

Sick of taking off the rim for full-bike lockdown?

Now you don't have to.

Like handcuffs, but for your bike, these cuffs are virtually impossible to cut because they fit snugly, leaving no room for pry bars.

3uyt6t

You know leverage is a bike thief's best friend.

9-link, 3-inch cuffs fit fork legs or frames and can be secured to sign posts, parking meters or another bike.

Pivoting action combined with 22-inch length provides lockdown versatility.

Heat-treated patented lock core and push-button keyless locking convenience.
....................

2ygyg

$49.99 (bike not included).

November 25, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

bookofjoe World Exclusive: Life Clock 3— Episode 2: The perceived acceleration of time as we age

1gcf356

In designer Bertrand Planes' very limited edition (a total of seven) Life Clock 2, featured in Episode 1 on August 15, 2008, "each number represents years elapsed since birth."

But who among us has failed to note that a year seems to pass increasingly quickly as we get older?

Thus, Planes' new iteration (top), news of which arrived here at 7:51 a.m. ET direct from the Paris-based designer himself.

His email follows.

    hello!

    you have shown "life clock" — a slowed time clock, here is the new life clock version.

    this one: www.bertrandplanes.com/pages/LifeClock3.htm

    seems to be relative time based (acceleration to match with time
    perception).

    sincerely,

    bertrand planes

....................

From his Life Clock website:

    Life Clock

    Life Clock 2 is absolute time based — each number represents years

    Life Clock 3 is relative time based — time speed increases with age

....................

Once again, this latest edition is limited to seven pieces.

The clock is 51cm (20 inches) in diameter, the same as Life Clock 2 (pictured below).

3tgyutu

Apply within.

November 25, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What is it?

Gjhgh
2tyrur

Answer here this time tomorrow.


November 25, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Pepsi White — Is that yogurt in your drink, or...?

Pepsiwhite

In fact that's precisely the not-so-secret ingredient in this Japanese iteration of Pepsi, one of the many variations such as Ice Cucumber available there.

Not gonna be in Japan anytime soon?

Me neither.

Cloudy

For us, there's A.V. Club's taste test and review.

[via So Good]

November 25, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

LED Screwdriver Light — Episode 2: Price Break

1tewtr

When I first featured this item over two years ago I thought it was pretty nifty and worth the $14.95 price.

I was therefore delighted to see it pop up last week elsewhere, this time for $8.95.

3dfgw

Especially since the original site has now boosted its price to $19.95.

Hats off to my crack research team for doing what they're paid to do.

From the item's low-price website:
....................

Screwdriver Light

4fgega

If you've ever gripped a flashlight between your teeth while working with a screwdriver in a dark space, you'll appreciate this simple disc light.

Designed with three LEDs to brightly illuminate your work, the 1-5/8" diameter by 5/8" thick disc has a series of small, flexible grippers to fit on any driver with a shaft diameter between 3/16" and 7/16".

Rotating the yellow ring turns it on and off.

7fhg

It even has embedded rare-earth magnets so you can attach it to any ferrous surface for general work illumination.

6hghgfghf

Button-cell batteries included.
....................

8hgihgi

$8.95 (screwdriver not included).

November 25, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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