Daily Archives: 23 Jan 14

In Syria, immunizations are withheld as an act of war and polio is on the rise

Bashar and Asma al-Assad, President and first-...

‘Syria was once one of the countries where polio was no longer a problem. The government began mandatory, free immunizations in 1964 and declared victory in 1995. But now, polio is back, writes Annie Sparrow in the The New York Review of Books, and she builds a case that Bashar al-Assad is to blame. Imagine if, instead of causing a traffic jam, Chris Christie’s aides had prevented towns that didn’t support him from getting access to basic childhood immunizations. According to Sparrow’s research, that’s exactly what the Assad regime did. And now, children are paying the price.’ (Boing Boing).

Astronomers rush to study new supernova

‘Overnight, astronomers spotted what may be a very close white dwarf supernova—close in cosmic terms at least. This bright explosion, seen in the M82 “Cigar” galaxy, is roughly 12 million light-years away—close enough to be seen with small telescopes and observed in detail by larger instruments. Even amateur astronomers and astrophotographers can see an explosion this bright and close.

By 08:47 UT (3:47am US EST) on January 22, 2014, astronomers working with the ARC 3.5-meter telescope at the Apache Point Observatory reported they had measured the spectrum of the supernova. Based on that data, they identified it as a probable type Ia supernova, meaning it has little hydrogen, but significant amounts of silicon and other heavier elements.’ (Ars Technica).

Fighting homelessness by giving homeless people houses

‘A program in Salt Lake City decided that it would be smarter — and more humane — to spend $11K/year each to house 17 chronically homeless people and provide them with social workers than it would be to waste the average of $16,670/year per person to imprison them and treat them at emergency rooms. As Nation of Change points out, this commonsense, humane and economically sound way of dealing with homelessness works, unlike the savage approaches taken by other cities (like the Waikiki rep Tom Bowker who smashed homeless peoples’ carts with a sledgehammer, or cities like Tampa, which banned feeding homeless people). Here’s more on Utah’s Housing First program.’ (Boing Boing).

Facebook Could Die Out Like an Infectious Disease By 2017

‘If you view Facebook as a plague on social dynamics, you might not be far wrong. Researchers from Princeton University claim that the social network’s popularity has spread like an infectious disease—but, as we slowly become immune to its charms, it will die out.

By comparing the uptake of Facebook to growth curves of epidemics, the scientists claim that—just like the bubonic plague—Facebook will gradually begin to fade away. They go further than that, too, claiming that Facebook will lose 80 percent of its peak user base within the next three years. The researchers write in a paper currently published on the arXiv servers…’ (Gizmodo)