Are you familiar with the trolley problem? It is an ethics dilemma first formulated by the great Philippa Foot as a part of a series of such dilemmas. Her formulation goes roughly like this. Imagine there is a tram hurtling down a track. If it keeps going straight, it will hit and kill 5 people who are working on that track. The conductor is able to ...

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I love when an article I read first thing in the morning gets me to think about itself all through my morning chores and then erupts into a blog post. So it was with this little gem in the statistical publication Significance. The author suggests making gambling safer by placing realistic odds estimates right on the poker machines in casinos. He even goes through the generation of the odds of ...

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"Twenty years ago, I helped save a man's life." So begins this New York Times essay by Peter Bach, MD, where he talks about the inadequacy of resource use at the end of life as a policy metric. Now, I am not very fond of policy metrics, as most of you know. So, imagine my surprise when I found myself disagreeing vehemently with Peter's argument. Well, to be fair, I did ...

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We have known for quite some time now that the patient's environment in a hospital matters to his/her outcomes. The concept of biophilia was applied by Roger Ulrich back in the 1980s to surgical patients in a series of experiments. Famously, this work showed that looking out your hospital room's window on a bunch trees is associated with better and less eventful post-operative recovery than staring at a brick wall, ...

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I like to poke fun at real estate agents (please, forgive me if you are one, it is all in good fun). My experience has been that, despite what I describe as my preferences, they always end up showing me what they have, even if it does not bear the remotest resemblance to what I need. This holds true for politicians, with this cardinal rule: always answer the question you want ...

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One of the top hits that comes up on the Oracle of Googlius for "astroturf" is for the original company, now renamed SYNLawn, but still proudly stating, "We invented synthetic grass," which is what astroturf is. More recently, this already synthetic term has become a verb, as in "astroturfing." My favorite of all credible information sources on the web, Wikipedia, has this to say about it:

Astroturfing denotes political, advertising, or public relations campaigns that are formally ...

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You know that joke about the farmer whose cows are not producing enough milk? A university panel gathers under the leadership of a theoretical physicist. They analyze each aspect of the problem thoroughly and carefully, and after much deliberation produce a report, the first line of which is "First, assume a spherical cow in a vacuum." This joke has become short-hand for some of the reductionist thinking in theoretical physics, but ...

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When I was in training as a resident and a fellow, I remember taking only a couple of sick days over the entire 6-year period. And I had to stay home because I could not stop praying to the porcelain Goddess during a bout of a particularly nasty flu, despite a vaccination. I actually took pride in my health record, and attributed it directly to being rather sickly as a child. ...

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My father passed away about two weeks ago after battling a brain tumor for some time. Initially diagnosed with an extensive inoperable mass one and one-half years ago, upon presenting with a focal seizure, he did well with only one medication for seizure control for about ten months. Around Christmas of 2009, however, he landed in the hospital in status epilepticus that took three days to control. After these days of ...

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It is not a secret that large sums of money have passed from the pharmaceutical and device manufacturers into physicians' hands. This money has been paid not only for such socially beneficial pursuits as research and consulting, but also for lavish gifts and junkets. And interestingly, despite disingenuous assertions to the contrary by many a stake holder, these gifts generated a return on investment -- surprise! It turns out that the ...

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