Radioactive Ball

I thought they were talking about a dance, not a deadly pile of Cs137:
Officials told the BBC that they had detected what may be the missing Caesium-137, adding that it may have been melted down...The BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Beijing says China has an appalling record on industrial safety - there are around 30 cases of radioactive material being lost every year.

Earlier I posted about how radioactive sources are used in construction sites and old factories. I think this instance is interesting because the Chinese government controls the media, and I'm confused why they would admit something like this. I don't think an incident like this is very dangerous, but people panic when they hear the term radiation. Did the government decide it wasn't all that dangerous, and it would gain the trust of its citizenship if it gave out the information? Was there a leak? Are they worried about keeping quiet and something blowing up in their face? If you controlled the media, would you admit that someone lost a "ball" of radioactive material?

[Insert snarky joke about radioactive balls here]


Blame Condoms or Human Nature?

Do condoms spread HIV? Some recent comments by the Pope are causing quite a stir. But the Pope might be right. At play is something called the Peltzmann effect or risk compensation. When humans feel safer, they sometimes engage in riskier behavior. With the "safety" of a condom, people almost certainly engage in sex they would not normally have. Too much safer sex can be more dangerous than a little risky sex. Safer sex still has risks.

I wish I had time to dig into this, but I'm hosed.

EDIT: The exact comments under question are that HIV/AIDS in Africa is:
a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem

The part about condoms sounds reasonable to me. The part about money is pretty non-sensical. He asserts a bit of wackoness right after, when he claims:
the traditional teaching of the Church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids

That is bull$#!+.


Follow-up: Inches Overseas

Europeans measure the strangest things with inches:
... wearing six-inch heels confirm ... with four inches becoming the norm ... wore a five-inch-high pair ...
Does America really export that much fashion?

Earlier I posted pictures showing how monitor sizes are still quoted in inches.


Rants on Media Continued: Misleading Graphs

USA Today has a very misleading graph on the change in the American, Catholic population. The graph is meant to show the change in regional catholic population, but I found two problems between the graph and its mission. For the first problem, take a second and think about the circled states:

California and Texas have large increases in their Roman Catholic populations, and Florida has a sizable increase. These three states comprise 25% of the population of the US. This graph, which was supposed to represent growth in various regions, instead portrays a very inaccurate picture of overall growth. Yahoo! News breaks it down correctly:
Nationally, Catholics remain the largest religious group, with 57 million people saying they belong to the church. The tradition gained 11 million followers since 1990, but its share of the population fell by about a percentage point to 25 percent.

Would you have guessed, after looking at the graph above, that the Catholic population in the US increased? Or that the percentage of Catholics in the population dropped one percentage point, which is a drop in the portion of the population of roughly four percentage points (26 to 25)? By focusing on the four percentage point drop in the population portion data (even making this drop appear larger than it is), the graph misses both overall growth and the one percentage point drop in the overall population. USA Today's article text doesn't even mention the overall growth.

Forgoing the big picture to explain a less important point is the second problem with the graph. How would you visually show the information from the quote above? The more I have to create visual data, the more I'm struck by how much a sentence can communicate.

(Yahoo! News even links to the study. I still stand by my last rant, however.)


Short Rant: Lack Of Transparency in Online Media

Some Japanese scientists think that riding motorcycles is good for you. The study sounds pretty suspicious to me...funded by a motorbike company? Studying only twenty men? The other group rode either bicycles or cars? Only looking at whether scores go up, not starting levels?

So I want to call b$#!+ on this study....except I cannot find it. I googled "Kawashima motorcycle", but not one of the top five Google results links to the study or reports where the study is published. Kawashima's publication pages currently lack the study (hopefully this will change later on).

It drives me crazy when the media reports the results of a study without linking directly to it (or at least stating where said study was published). How can people state a conclusion without offering insight into the supporting process and information? This "internet" thing lets you link to the original data if it is available. At the very least there could be a link to a gated version.

Shame on Yahoo! News for failing to leverage the transparency of the internet.

And stay off my lawn!


Lost in Translation

Last weekend a few friends and I went skiing / snowboarding. I got up early to make pancakes, as there appeared to be pancake material available, but the pancakes tasted like cream of wheat. On close examination the "baking powder" looked a bit odd:

Perhaps I should have looked harder at that first word: mais-stärke.