Category Archives: Science

Sweden’s COVID Measures Have Been a Disaster

A colleague keeps posting (on the work messaging system) analysis and opinion on how well Sweden is doing on COVID without the lockdown imposed by other nations and notes that it’s unclear whether policy decisions make a difference. I find this annoying because the effect of policy decisions on COVID cases and deaths is very clear, as shown by Sweden’s numbers compared to those of other Nordic nations.

Denmark, Finland, and Norway each have a little more than half Sweden’s population (~5 million vs ~10 million for Sweden). Denmark has the second most cases and deaths, with Sweden most afflicted. Denmark has only ~11% the deaths and ~18% the cases of Sweden, with Finland and Norway faring even better.

As bad as the numbers are, a University of Virginia analysis indicates that Sweden implemented ICU bed triage/rationing that prevented some of the sickest from getting ICU treatment.

Fatality per capita, cases per capita, and Infection Fatality Rate are the major metrics I see tracked right now, but with this virus there are considerable long term health consequences for many people (I don’t see any good data on this, but assume people are working on it) so people not dying is a good but not great indicator of the pandemic’s impact.

Reasonable people can differ on the balance point between economic damage and human health damaged and lives lost, but those discussions should focus on the value of individual human life and health versus the economic health of a nation. The two are interdependent, but we need to be honest about what we’re discussing.


Crank Magnetism

If you’re interested in critical thinking and the remarkable ability of many people to delude themselves and others, it’s worth reading this short reference on crank magnetism, which may remind you of several people you know. We certainly have some people among our relatives and my kids’ friends who are walking demonstrations of crank magnetism.

RationalWiki is a good resource for critical thinking and research on ideas and people you encounter. I’ve found it well written and have not found any obvious false or misleading statements in my occasional visits to the site.



Wearable Pulse Oximeter Can Detect and Warn of Impending Opioid Overdose

Students at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) have created a wrist oximeter that monitors blood oxygen levels and can warn the wearer and others of an impending opioid overdose. Opioids such as heroin depress the central nervous system, including respiration, and an overdose kills by suppressing respiration to the point that a person’s heart and brain dies from insufficient oxygen. The CMU wrist oximeter continuously monitors oxygen levels and when low blood oxygen is detected, it will warn the wearer and can also send a text message to an emergency contact.

The Harm Reduction Coalition has a set of web pages explaining the principles behind an overdose and how the drug Naloxone (Narcan®) works to quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and prevent death by restoring the central nervous system to normal operation and thereby restoring normal respiration.

For those interested in a more in depth exploration of the effect of heroin on mammals (rats are used in this experiment), I found the study Intravenous Heroin Induces Rapid Brain Hypoxia and Hyperglycemia that Precede Brain Metabolic Response helpful.

It’s worth noting that Naloxone is relatively easy to administer (with training available) and can be purchased without a prescription. This Time article has details on the legality and availability of Naloxone. If you’re around someone who uses opioids, having Naloxone available could save their life.

We Hate Wasps and Love Bees – Should We?

I was surprised to learn that wasps also pollinate. I thought they were just hateful murderbugs. I like bees because they’re prolific pollinators and (in my experience) not as prone to stinging us.

It’s worth reading this short piece to learn how important wasps are to the environment and how poorly they’ve been treated relative to bees by the scientific community.