29 November 09 (pm)

I am back in Peoria; I decided to defer my first “welcome back” workout to tomorrow morning. This is the last full week of classes but I should be ready for it.

Travel notes
1. I-55 from St. Louis to I-155 (Lincoln, IL) was more crowded than normal. Otherwise, the trip back was uneventful.
2. On the way back, we listened to an unabridged version of The Kite Runner. I’ll say more in a later post.

Football I missed most of the games because I was on the road. But of note:

1. Houston creamed Rice 73-14; it was 59-0 at the half!
2. Hawaii upset Navy 24-17; well it was “sort of” an upset. That trip is seldom easy, at least in the regular season.

3. I love the USC-UCLA game. For one, I find the team colors (both sides, together on the field) to be dazzling. Perhaps this is because I cut my teeth as a football fan when I lived in Japan and my only contact to seeing the color of big time football were the color photos in Sports Illustrated. Yes, this was the big game that year:

This is from this year:

Of course, the action is often good and this year’s game featured a controversy: USC was up 21-7 with less than a minute to go and had the ball. The did a kneel down and UCLA called a time out. Hence, USC ran a play action pass and scored.

This lead to a spirited “discussion” between the two teams.
Cool uniforms, a long tradition and usually good play: what more can you ask for?

Sure, some rivalries mean more to me (Army-Navy, ND-Navy, ND-USC, Texas-Texas A&M) but this is my favorite “disinterested fan” rivalry.

Given the lighthearted nature of the above, I almost feel guilty about adding this to today’s posts.

But here goes: in Africa, albinos are often murdered and their body parts then sold on the black market because some witch doctors claim that the albino body parts have “magical powers”.

November 30, 2009 Posted by | books, college football, football, religion, superstition, travel | Leave a comment

In Joplin, MO,28 November 09

Workout notes 1 mile open water swim at Barton Springs in 35:41.

Travel: I-35 wasn’t that bad today (Austin to I-20 just south of Dallas.)

Some time ago (1996) a meteorite from Mars was found to have wormholes; the standard explanation was that these wormholes were the result of a inorganic process.

That hypothesis has been refuted; perhaps life (as we know it) formed these holes?

Times Online

New Scientist

In 1996, David McKay of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texax, and colleagues proposed that that a chunk of Mars rock found in Antarctica, called ALH 84001, contained possible signs of past life on the Red Planet, such as complex carbon-based molecules and microscopic objects shaped like bacteria

Many researchers doubt the claim, however, and various suggestions have been made for how the structures could have been created without life.

One area of disagreement centred around nanocrystal magnetites in the rock, some of which appear to have chemical and physical features identical to those produced by contemporary bacteria. Sceptics of the biological explanation suggested that the magnetites were created when carbonate decomposed under high pressures and temperatures, perhaps in the heat of the impact that ejected the meteorite 15 million years ago or deep beneath the Martian surface.

Now a fresh analysis by McKay and colleagues rules out the carbonate decomposition explanation.

The researchers have used high-resolution electron microscopy not available 13 years ago to study the physical and chemical make-up of the magnetites in detail, and found that no plausible geological scenario could explain the carbonate decomposition origin.

Hat tip: Peoria Pundit.

November 29, 2009 Posted by | Blogroll, creationism, politics/social, science, swimming, training, travel | 2 Comments

27 November PM

Book shopping: I bought Gwen Ifill’s book The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama and have managed a couple of chapters. So far it is very interesting.

Out of control shopping Brotherpeacemaker works next to a Best Buy; he noted that someone camped out overnight to be first in line when the store opened. He noticed that the back of the line took 3 minutes to get into the store:

So I had to ask myself, would I ever give up about twenty hours of my life in order to gain a three minute advantage on shopping at a Best Buy?

In the other part of the post he noted this on coming into work when the office was all but empty:

At the job, we had the choice of working on the day after Thanksgiving or not. If we didn’t take the holiday we could bank that time off as vacation. Thinking that hardly anyone would make the choice to come into the office on our national day of giving thanks, it was one of the simplest decisions I’ve ever made to come into the office when everyone else was gone. Having the building virtually to myself is a holiday all in itself.

But in order to make sure I spent some time with the family, I made the choice to forego the gym and a workout and go to the office far before the crack of dawn.

I relate to the “get into the office when no one else is there” part, but well, I did swim the past two mornings. 🙂

Holiday Travel: Nate Silver analyzes everything. In this post, he points out that current airline travel (when adjusted for inflation) is cheaper than ever before, provided one travels between “hub” type airports. He also gives tips for this day and age.

What I can say: travel these days is cheaper, but far less pleasant. And, the airlines will do NOTHING to keep you from being screwed over.

Once, American Airlines let me board a flight from Austin to Dallas which was to connect to Peoria, even though the Dallas to Peoria leg had been canceled prior to my boarding at Dallas. Result: I ended up with having to stay overnight in Dallas (at my own expense, of course) and those a-holes wanted me to spend two nights.

November 28, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, Blogroll, books, politics, politics/social, Transportation, travel | Leave a comment

27 Nov 09 AM

Workout notes 2 mile swim at Barton Springs (35:00, 35:07 for 1:10:07). Air temperature 41, water 68.

I was a tiny bit bummed when I missed going under 1:10 when I got out of the water, but then the two ladies who had put their stuff next to mine got out of the water. They wore wet suits but took them off while in the water and they had little tiny black bikinis underneath.

One smiled at me and said….well….”uhhhhhh” though chattering teeth; I said “I agree” and she laughed. Their bodies were a sea of goosebumps.

As for me: I had put on a heavy terry-cloth robe and thought about offering to share it with them.. 😉


Science and religion: Jerry Coyne appears to be amused at those who claim that “science and religion are compatible….so long as the religious change their beliefs to fit science.” 🙂

As Coyne points out: it is possible to reconcile science with the existence a non-interfering deity (deism).

PZ Myers enjoys a laugh at the expense at those who believe that black holes (singularities in space time) are some sort of liberal conspiracy.

Cosmic Variance: gives thanks for the “conservation of momentum” principle in physics. 🙂
(every Thanksgiving they give thanks for a physical principle).

How does an atheist give thanks anyway? True, we don’t believe that some deity altered the Cosmos for our benefit but taking stock and realizing that we probably have it better than we realize can help our attitude and therefore make us more likely to help those who really don’t have it so good?


(from here)

Politics The health care battle in the Senate will be tough and reconciliation carries some problems.

November 27, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Blogroll, health care, mind, nature, politics, politics/social, quackery, religion, science, Spineless Democrats, swimming, time trial/ race, training | 1 Comment

26 November 09: Football PM

Thanksgiving dinner Two chickens (between 4 of us we ate, maybe, 1.25 of them), potato salad, mashed potatoes, salad. I just can’t eat that much any more.

Mom, Olivia (my daughter), Barbara (my wife) and I were there; it was intimate.

Of course, I caught a couple of football games:

The Cowboys overpowered the Raiders 24-7; they basically beat the Raiders at the line of scrimmage, though the Raiders had one good drive to cut the lead to 17-7 in the 3’rd. Otherwise, the Raiders were overmatched.

My mom and I are watching the Longhorn-Aggie football game.

At the half it was 28-21, Texas over Texas A & M. Neither team can stop the other, though the Aggies got a touchdown that was set up by a punt that hit a Longhorn player who had fallen down. Texas is running and passing well; A&M can pass it; at least they could in the first half.

I get the feeling that UT will pull away eventually (they are driving) but the Aggies do NOT look like a team that lost 62-14 (to Kansas State) and 65-10 (to Oklahoma). But the Longhorns are driving and have it first and goal at the 7; they are running and passing at will. Make that touchdown; this drive was set up by an Aggie fumble at the Longhorn 42; all of the yards came by running.

It is 35-21; the Aggies cannot fall further behind if they wish to stay in the game.

(photos from yahoo college and yahoo pro football)


It is now 35-32, Longhorns. The Aggies got a field goal but also threw an end-zone interception; but the Longhorns are still moving the ball well. There is 13:38 left in the game; we’ll see how it turns out.

Update Make it 42-32 Longhorns; the Aggies got it to the 9 but were pushed back by a penalty. There is 7:30 to go. Wow…touchdown Aggies; a beautiful end zone catch (reasonably good coverage). It is now 42-39 Longhorns. UT needs to keep scoring; they sure can’t stop A & M.

Update again: UT runs the kickoff back to make it 49-39. Track meet. 🙂

Update: The Aggies return it to midfield and a late hit puts it at the Longhorn 36. There isn’t a lot of defense as of yet.

This looks like a Pac-10 game.

Update 49-39 UT, though A & M missed a chip-shot field goal and threw an end zone interception. An average team (6-6) put up 531 total yards against the Longhorn defense; they’d better do better than that against Nebraska and in their bowl game.

November 27, 2009 Posted by | college football, family, football | 1 Comment

26 November 09

Workout notes 2 miles at Barton Springs in 1:12:58 (36:07/36:51). 39 F air temperature (68 F water); not my fastest but this was in line with what I do when I am at the start of swim training; I’ll take it given I haven’t swam longer workouts lately.

The pool was almost empty at the start (6:30 am); some tri-geeks and old farts showed up when I left.

Travel Yesterday, traffic on I-35 from Dallas to Austin was HORRIBLE; that trip took about 4:30 when it normally takes 3; mind you there weren’t accidents. This was pure traffic. I hate this stretch of road; it is by far the worst part of the trip.

One note: in Dallas we stopped at a sports bar to eat; it was called the Sports City Cafe. The food was good and they had lots of TVs including one at each booth. The waitresses wore black cropped spandex shorts and pantyhose; young guys would have loved that.


Women’s spectator sports struggle to draw fans. Though men don’t watch women’s sports that much, they watch more than women do!

But that doesn’t explain why WNBA attendance was on a steady decline even in boom years. Doesn’t explain why, four decades after Title IX was supposed to bring an explosion of interest in women’s sports and 13 years after David Stern’s creation tipped off, that the league continues to struggle.

The play, by all accounts, has never been better. The attendance has never been worse, off nearly 30 percent from its peak in 1998.

Two franchises folded in the past year, and it could get worse as NBA owners such as the Maloof family in Sacramento shed their teams. The deciding game of the WNBA finals sold out only after Phoenix Suns players bought and gave away tickets in the upper bowl of US Airways Center, and television ratings remain minuscule.

The LPGA Tour, meanwhile, will have its smallest schedule in nearly 40 years, with 24 tournaments — and just 13 of them in the United States. There are huge gaps between tournaments and, although prize money has not been announced, it is likely to be down.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. New generations of women who grew up playing sports were supposed to be the foundation of fans who would rather go watch women play basketball or soccer rather than pay even more money to watch men do the same thing.

But it hasn’t happened.[…]

Interestingly enough, the reason professional women’s sports have struggled to survive isn’t necessarily that men don’t watch them — it’s that women don’t either.

A survey earlier this year by Scarborough Research, a marketing research company, revealed that 14 percent of adults had some interest in the LPGA. But 63 percent of those fans were men, and just 10 percent of women said they were interested in the sport.

The WNBA numbers are similar, if not so lopsided. Again, 14 percent of fans said they had some interest in the product, with men outnumbering women by a slight margin.

So what do women watch? Well, they’re big on the Olympics, but they also like sports involving men.

One out of every three women identify themselves as “loyal” NFL fans, while one in four feel the same way about major league baseball. Meanwhile, just 6 percent say they are “loyal” WNBA fans, the same percentage that identify themselves as fans of monster trucks.

With those kind of numbers, it’s easy to see why the Maloofs shut down the Monarchs, and why sponsors are shutting off the LPGA. There’s not nearly enough critical mass for either sport to grow past niche status.

Yes, some men will watch because some men will watch anything involving a ball.

Political Correctness in Academia gone mad: in Great Britian, some are proposing that the word “fail” not be used any more to describe academic performance and the phrase “deferred success” be used instead.

epic fail pictures
see more Epic Fails


President Obama verus Governor Palin in 2012? Nate Silver does some analysis of approval rating versus head to head poll numbers of Obama-Palin and Obama-Romney. Evidently, Romney is a bigger threat (but not much of one). Silver also goes on to address the practice of cherry picking data to back up one’s claims.

Speaking of President Obama, I certainly don’t agree with him on everything; I wish that he were a stronger advocate for civil liberties in the face of governmental power.

However, I strongly approve of his moves in the direction of clean energy.

Security: Schneier reports on the practice of computer users blowing off many computer security practices; it appears that security practices are often driven by things other than evidence.

Science Remember the guy who was in a vegetative state allegedly being able to communicate again? Don’t believe it; this was a case of someone typing messages from the guy, purportedly guided by the guy’s hand. I get sick of these woo-woos at times.

Humor (sort of) Hey ladies, do you complain that your butt is too big? Not only does Sir Mix A Lot like Big Butts, but some women pay to have implants to get a bigger butt (and sometimes there are problems with those implants)

So, hey, ladies, if you have a big butt, put on spandex and do those deep bending stretches!

I remember my big-butted wife wearing black spandex tights and doing the above stretch in the gym; but being in public I couldn’t react the way that I wanted to. She flashed me a sly grin and said that I needed to focus on my own workout. 🙂

November 26, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, big butts, civil liberties, economy, education, politics, politics/social, ranting, sarah palin, science, spandex, superstition, swimming, time trial/ race, training, travel | 7 Comments

Checotah, Oklahoma, 24 November 09

Workout notes 5 miles: 1 AMT, 2 elliptical, 2 Stairmaster. On the stairmaster I am learning to do without the rails for balance.

We had a pleasant drive to Checotah, Oklahoma from Peoria. We stopped to eat at Bandana’s Barbecue just outside of St. Louis and at Maggie’s Mexican in Pryor, Oklahoma.

Football: here is a nice article about the human side of the Notre Dame football coach, Charlie Weis:

“Sunday is the most excruciating day,” Weis says, referring to the pain that he feels in both legs, “because I’ve been standing up at least four hours the day before. It’ll start feeling better by Monday night.”

The ravaged knees are the result of an accidental blindside hit Weis took during last season’s Michigan game (although he has nerve damage in his lower extremities dating back to 2002, the result of a botched gastric bypass surgery).

Weis’s catastrophically impaired limbs are just one unforeseen trauma of his encore return to South Bend. During his first go-round, as a student from 1974-78, he was anonymous and single. Now the most visible and highly compensated person on campus, he has a family: his wife, Maura, son Charlie Jr., and daughter Hannah.

“The damage to Maura and Charlie Jr. is irreparable,” says Weis, referring to the personal nature of the attacks he has been subject to for years now. “It’s watching me get hammered. I’ll never forgive the people who character-assassinated me without even knowing me. Those people did irreparable damage to my wife and son, and I’ll never forgive them.”

On Saturday, Maura Weis, for the first time since her husband was hired, opted not to attend a Notre Dame home game.

“They have the right to criticize the coach for being 6-5,” says Weis. “They have that right. It’s all the other stuff. You think I don’t know that I’m fat? Duh!”

Asked if he should be gone, where would Charlie Jr. would go to college, the coach reponded: “I know where he won’t be going to college.”

I am sorry for the personal troubles. And I have to admit that I was surprised that his teams didn’t play better, especially on defense. Then again, I was surprised that the previous coach (Tyrone Willingham) didn’t work out either, given his success at Stanford.

I wonder if it is Notre Dame’s special set of circumstances or something else.

Education It appears that the Obama administration is serious about mathematics and science education:

President Obama announced on Monday a campaign to enlist companies and nonprofit groups to spend money, time and volunteer effort to encourage students, especially in middle and high school, to pursue science, technology, engineering and math.

“You know the success we seek is not going to be attained by government alone,” Mr. Obama said kicking off the initiatives. “It depends on the dedication of students and parents, and the commitment of private citizens, organizations and companies. It depends on all of us.”

Mr. Obama, accompanied by students and a robot that scooped up and tossed rocks, also announced an annual science fair at the White House.

“If you win the N.C.A.A. championship, you come to the White House,” he said. “Well, if you’re a young person and you’ve produced the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too.

“Scientists and engineers ought to stand side by side with athletes and entertainers as role models, and here at the White House, we’re going to lead by example. We’re going to show young people how cool science can be.”

The campaign, called Educate to Innovate, focuses mainly on activities outside the classroom. For example, Discovery Communications has promised to use two hours of the afternoon schedule on its Science Channel cable network for commercial-free programming geared toward middle school students.

Science and engineering societies are promising to provide volunteers to work with students in the classroom, culminating in a National Lab Day in May. […]

Speaking of mathematical literacy, my guess is that man will miss Eugene Robinson’s point here:

ntellectually, it’s simple to understand why it might make sense for women — those who have no special risk factors for breast cancer — to wait until they’re 50, rather than 40, to start getting mammograms. The analysis by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which made the recommendation, looks sound. According to the panel, a whopping 10 percent of mammograms result in false-positive readings that can lead to unjustified worry and unneeded procedures, such as biopsies. In a small number of cases, women are subjected to cancer treatment or even a mastectomy they didn’t need.

This harm, the task force reasoned, outweighs the benefits of discovering relatively few cases of fast-growing, life-threatening breast cancer in women in their 40s through annual mammography. It is also true that waiting to begin regular mammograms until a woman reaches 50 — and reducing the frequency to once every two years, as the task force recommended — would save a portion of the more than $5 billion spent on mammography in the United States each year.

Most people won’t know what “10 percent false positives” means. It means that out of every 100 tests performed, 10 will show “positive” but be false! It is unlikely that there will be any “true positives” out of 100.

Or, put another way:

The probability that an abnormal mammogram is due to cancer increases with age. A large study in Northern California estimated positive predictive values for abnormal mammograms at 2 percent to 4 percent among women aged 40-49, 5 percent to 9 percent among women aged 50-59, and 7 percent to 19 percent among women aged 60 and older.3,9 Positive predictive values were also higher among women with a family history of breast cancer in two studies.3

That is, among women 40-49, a positive mammogram means that the person who had the positive reading has about 2-4 percent chance of actually having breast cancer; the similar number rises to 5-9 percent for women over 50. Keep in mind that the typical 40-49 year old woman has a 1.5 percent chance of developing breast cancer within 10 years; that is, having a positive result conveys only a tiny bit of information!

November 25, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, education, health care, mathematics, obama, politics, politics/social, science, statistics, training, travel, walking | 1 Comment

23 November 09 (pm)

Just some random stuff:

College Parents: help cut the umbilical cord when your kid goes to college:

(via Rate Your Students)

Sarah Palin: Ok, you probably could have done the same with some Obama supporters; the point is that people really get sold on an image and not on substance. Sure, I might have known what then Senator Obama had done and where he stood, but many of his supporters did not.

(and ok, it is fun to laugh at conservative idiots) 🙂

Security article: An article makes claims:

Decertifying “Terrorist” Pilots

This article reads like something written by the company’s PR team.

When it comes to sleuthing these days, knowing your way within a database is as valued a skill as the classic, Sherlock Holmes-styled powers of detection.

Safe Banking Systems Software proved this very point in a demonstration of its algorithm acumen — one that resulted in a disclosure that convicted terrorists actually maintained working licenses with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

The algorithm seems to be little more than matching up names and other basic info:

It used its algorithm-detection software to sift out uncommon names such as Abdelbaset Ali Elmegrahi, aka the Lockerbie bomber. It found that a number of licensed airmen all had the same P.O. box as their listed address

Schneier (the author of the security blog that I am linking to) goes on:

Although I’m all for annoying international arms dealers, does anyone know the procedures for FAA decertification? Did the FAA have the legal right to do this, after being “made aware” of some information by a third party?

Of course, they don’t talk about all the false positives their system also found. How many innocents were also decertified?

Oh yes, the good old “false positives”. 🙂 You’d be surprised at how many people don’t take these into account in not only security and drug testing areas, but in medical testing areas as well. For example, many years ago, I asked my doctor if I should be stress tested. He said that while I had a remote chance of having a heat attack, any positive stress test result he might obtain on me would almost certainly be a false positive; in short, a stress test would reveal almost no information!

But I digress; I love the final line of Shneier’s article:

they don’t mention the fact that, in the 9/11 attacks, FAA certification wasn’t really an issue. “Excuse me, young man. You can’t hijack and fly this aircraft. It says right here that the FAA decertified you.”


November 23, 2009 Posted by | civil liberties, education, morons, politics, politics/social, republicans, sarah palin, science, statistics | Leave a comment

23 November 2009

Workout notes I stayed up too late watching the Bears loose to the Eagles; the Bears basically lost it when they had to settle for field goals 4 different times; thrice in the first half. The final was 24-20, Eagles.

So I ended up swimming 2200 yards; the form felt ok; 500 warm up, 500 drill/swim (fins), 5 x (25 3g, 75 free) on the 2 (first rep was 1:47, then the rest: 1:43-1:45), 5 x (25 fly, 25 free, 25 back, 25 free) on the 2 (1:50-1:53), 200 paddle cool-down.

Note: my wife actually made it to the gym. She got there earlier than I did!

The wingnuts were having shirts printed up with a Psalm reference:

We’ve seen a lot of comment about a new twist on the right, a whole campaign (t- shirts, bumper stickers, e-mails and more) all built on the biblical passage in Psalms 109 which says in part:

May his days be few;
may another seize his position.
May his children be orphans,
and his wife a widow.

What these morons didn’t know is that if one reads the whole Psalm, King David was lamenting that people were saying the above about him!!! The psalm writer was NOT saying this about anyone else:

For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,
speaking against me with lying tongues.
They beset me with words of hate,
and attack me without cause.
In return for my love they accuse me,
even while I make prayer for them.
So they reward me evil for good,
and hatred for my love.

The wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me. He goes on:

They say, Appoint a wicked man against him;
let an accuser stand on his right.
When he is tried, let him be found guilty;
let his prayer be counted as sin.
May his days be few;
may another seize his position.
May his children be orphans,
and his wife a widow.
May his children wander about and beg;
may they be driven out of the ruins they inhabit.
May the creditor seize all that he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil.

In short, these idiots don’t know what they are talking about. Surprised?

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, football, morons, NFL, politics, politics/social, religion, republicans, swimming | Leave a comment

22 November 09

Workout notes 10 mile McNaughton loop in 3:13; note that I missed the Golf Hill turn and doubled back and cost myself about 5 minutes. The trail was slightly dryer.

Note: after the fact, my right leg (lower hamstring/calf area) is a bit achy. Two 10 milers in a weekend was pushing it a bit.

Posts You’ve heard about the change on the recommendations on mammograms. Of course, there are some complaints. But here is a nice explanation as to what is going on:

On Monday evening, the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) released new recommendations for screening mammography, which it published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, that have, let me tell you, shaken my specialty to the core. I must admit I was surprised at the recommendations. No, I wasn’t surprised that recommendations to scale back mammographic screening were released. I saw it coming, based on a series of studies, some of which I’ve discussed right here on this very blog. What surprised me is how much of a departure from current mammography guidelines the USPSTF recommendations were and, even more so, that they were released this year. I hadn’t expected recommendations like this this soon. But I have to deal with them, and so I might as well try to help my readers understand them too.

The first thing that women need to understand is that these recommendations are for asymptomatic women at average risk for breast cancer undergoing routine screening for breast cancer. They are not for women judged to be at high risk due to genetic mutations, strong family history, or other factors producing a high risk for breast cancer. Neither are they for women who are not completely asymptomatic. If you’re a woman, particularly if you’re over 40, and have felt a lump, it needs to be worked up. Period. Screening by definition is administering a test to an asymptomatic population. These recommendations should not be used as a reason to delay or forego the evaluation of masses or other breast abnormalities. I mention this because I sometimes see confusion between screening and diagnostic mammography.


The summary for patients states:

The USPSTF found fair evidence that women who have screening mammography die of breast cancer less frequently than women who do not have it, but the benefits minus harms are small for women aged 40 to 49 years. Benefits increase as women age and their risk for breast cancer increases. However, there are relatively few studies of mammography for women aged 75 years or older. The potential harms of mammography include anxiety, procedures, and costs due to false-positive results and receiving a diagnosis and treatment of cancer that never would have surfaced on its own within a woman’s natural life time. They found that the benefit of mammography every 2 years is nearly the same as that of doing it every year, but the harms are likely to be half as common. They found no evidence that self- or clinical examination reduces breast cancer death rates. […]

n the meatime, screening asymptomatic people for disease always comes down to a balance of risks and benefits, as well as values. In the case of breast cancer, starting at 40 appears only to modestly increase the number of lives saved but at a high cost, while screening yearly only increases the detection of breast cancer marginally compared to screening every other year, also at a high cost in terms of more biopsies and more overdiagnosis. Whether the cost is worth it or not comes down to two levels. First and foremost, what matters is the woman being screened, what she values, and what her tolerance is for paying the price of screening at an earlier age, such as a high risk for overdiagnosis, excessive biopsies, and overtreatment in order to detect cancer earlier and a relatively low probability of avoiding death from breast cancer because of screening. Then there’s the policy level, where we as a society have to decide what tradeoffs we’re willing to make to save a life that otherwise would have been lost to breast cancer. Although screening programs and recommendations should be based on the best science we currently have, deciding upon the actual cutoffs of who is and is not screened and how often unavoidably involves value judgments. Such decisions always will.

Surf to the article to see some numbers.

November 22, 2009 Posted by | hiking, injury, mathematics, politics, politics/social, science, training, walking | Leave a comment