Diagnosis is Not Enough, Measuring Medical Outcomes is Critical

Question: How important is measuring outcomes?

 

Paul Nurse: Measuring outcomes, particularly in cancer, is actually crucial because if you make incorrect assumptions in the way you're doing analysis, things go bad rather quickly actually because you get statistics that show certain cancers, or certain diseases, are dramatically increasing, when it may be only that we are diagnosing them better, and then everything goes wrong in trying to think about it.

What I think about this public health issue is that by having better diagnosis, I have talked a little bit about how you can use molecular tools to get better diagnosis, which I think will classify disease better, by using more modern techniques and applying them in sensible ways, I believe we are likely to get better information upon which public health statistics can be acquired. I do think it's important because that public health information is going to be important for the population-based studies that are necessary to understand prevention better, the genetic effects and environmental effects. If we have imprecise information there, we're going to get deeply misled. And, once again, will give rise to quackery because people will read, maybe allergies have increased tenfold or something, and then they say this is due to pollution or whatever, because this is how the way people think when in fact it may have nothing to do with that, and we get campaigns in favor of certain approaches which is simply totally misplaced.

One example, which was really close to a tragedy, was the so-called "triple jab" for immunization of young children against several diseases. There was very flawed research which suggested that giving the three vaccines together would cause autism. This was barely taken seriously by the clinical community because the data was not very good. But because it got such public support, this changed the way immunizations were being carried out, and then led to a rise of the very diseases that you're trying to eliminate. That's a consequence of not reporting properly the data that you have, because autism was seen to be on the rise, in particular circumstances, when in fact it was simply being diagnosed better and it appeared at a certain time in life when these inoculations were given.

Accurate information about disease and disease onset is crucial for good prevention and good heath care delivery.

 

Recorded on: May 20, 2009

 

Biochemist Paul Nurse says that if you make incorrect assumptions in analysis, things can go bad quickly for public health.

China's "artificial sun" sets new record for fusion power

China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

The science of sex, love, attraction, and obsession

The symbol for love is the heart, but the brain may be more accurate.

Videos
  • How love makes us feel can only be defined on an individual basis, but what it does to the body, specifically the brain, is now less abstract thanks to science.
  • One of the problems with early-stage attraction, according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, is that it activates parts of the brain that are linked to drive, craving, obsession, and motivation, while other regions that deal with decision-making shut down.
  • Dr. Fisher, professor Ted Fischer, and psychiatrist Gail Saltz explain the different types of love, explore the neuroscience of love and attraction, and share tips for sustaining relationships that are healthy and mutually beneficial.

U.S. Navy controls inventions that claim to change "fabric of reality"

Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.

Credit: Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
  • Pais came up with technology that can "engineer" reality, devising an ultrafast craft, a fusion reactor, and more.
  • While mostly theoretical at this point, the inventions could transform energy, space, and military sectors.
Keep reading Show less

There never was a male fertility crisis

A new study suggests that reports of the impending infertility of the human male are greatly exaggerated.

Sex & Relationships
  • A new review of a famous study on declining sperm counts finds several flaws.
  • The old report makes unfounded assumptions, has faulty data, and tends toward panic.
  • The new report does not rule out that sperm counts are going down, only that this could be quite normal.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast