How Scary Are Those Swine Flu Stats, Really?
The numbers that came out yesterday were downright alarming: up to 90,000 people could die from the swine flu this fall, and 1.8 million people could be hospitalized. So says a report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
But how scared should we be, really? For one thing, those numbers out of context don't mean very much. In truth, the White House numbers estimate the deaths would be between 30,000 and 90,000, while a normal year checks in between 30,000 and 40,000 flu deaths, though bad years like 1957 have reached as high as 70,000.
The scarier fact is that the vaccine against swine flu won't be ready until October, while flu season generally begins in force in September. As I recently wrote for DISCOVER, swine flu expert Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona says that failure was mostly caused by public health officials not having a wide database of flu genetics and being months behind the curve when swine flu jumped from pigs to humans.
As Worobey says in a Big Think/Discover/Pfizer-sponsored panel discussion, we have the genetic sequencing technology to build that database and be a step ahead in creating the vaccine. We just have to get our act together and start sampling not only people with the flu, but also populations of birds, pigs, and other animals closely related to us so we catch new strains jumping around.
Fortunately, Worobey says, he doesn't think there's sufficient evidence to believe swine flu will return with significantly greater virulence in humans when the Northern Hemisphere's flu season returns next month. But we should learn from the surprise of swine flu so we're more prepared for the next big species-jumping viral strain.
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We take fewer mental pictures per second.
- Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
- In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
- The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
In the face of seemingly unstoppable gun violence, Americans could stand to gain by looking to the Swiss.
- According to a recent study, the U.S. had the second highest number of gun-related deaths in 2016 after Brazil.
- Like the U.S., Switzerland has a high rate of gun ownership. However, it has a considerably lower rate of deaths from gun violence.
- Though pro-gun advocates point to Switzerland as an example of how gun ownership doesn't have to correlate with mass shootings, Switzerland has very different regulations, practices, and policies related to guns than America.
It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?
- Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
- Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
- Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.
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