Take your vitamin D

Looks like there is now good evidence that vitamin D helps prevent various cancers, and other illnesses.

[Prof. Cedric Garland of University of California, San Diego] said: “A preponderance of evidence from the best observational studies... has led to the conclusion that public health action is needed. Primary prevention of these cancers has been largely neglected, but we now have proof that the incidence of colon, breast and ovarian cancer can be reduced dramatically by increasing the public's intake of vitamin D.”

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Why doesn’t cosmic expansion cause objects to expand?

That’s a question that is asked of me frequently when I happen to be talking about how gravitational waves cause spacetime to expand and contract. That question has been definitively answered by R. Price, a physicist at the University of Texas at Brownsville. You can read the actual preprint at the physics arXiv.

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Go, Brazil!

Brazil has decided to turn down a US offer of $40 million for AIDS programs because the money comes with a stupid ideological string: the aid is contingent upon Brazil condemning prostitution. So, Brazil decided to go with their empirically proven program of handing out condoms to prostitutes, and give up the $40 million. All I can say is, “Bravo!”

Experts here and abroad say the disagreement over how to deal with prostitution is symptomatic of a larger conflict between Brazil and the United States over AIDS policy. Brazil, which spends more than $400 million annually on what is regarded as the most successful AIDS program in the developing world, is taking a pragmatic approach in combating the global epidemic, the experts say, while the United States, increasingly, is not.

“It’s not as if you’re choosing between two neutral policy programs,” said Chris Beyrer of the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Brazil has good data to show that their approach works, and to ask them to change that, even if they get the additional money, to one for which there is no evidence, just because of moral squeamishness in the United States, is an extraordinary position to take.”

“Obviously abstinence is the safest way to avoid AIDS,” Dr. [Pedro] Chequer [, director of the Brazilian government's AIDS program,] said. “But it’s not viable in an operational sense unless you are proposing that mankind be castrated or genetically altered, and then you would end up with something that is not human but something else altogether.”

“If we increasingly focus the prevention of AIDS along these lines, we are generating carnage, a slaughter,” he said. “It's not a realistic vision, and the epidemic is going to grow larger and larger.”

Listening to Chillout Session Ibiza

Entering a dark age of innovation?

New Scientist has an article (Entering a dark age of innovation) which reports research by J Huebner at the Naval Air Warfare Center showing that the rate of innovation per capita has been slowing, and that it will reach an inflection point in 2024. A few other notables weigh in on the opposite side, primarily claiming that the metric chosen by is not as significant as it is made out to be.

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Creative Commons-Licensed Physics Textbooks

An instructor in physics at Fullerton College has written three sets of introductory physics textbooks, which have been adopted by a few schools, and seem pretty well-received. I haven’t gone through them, so I can’t say how I like them.

On the topic of books, I’m extremely happy that my university library card still works. I’ve been reading a bunch of fun novels they have (see my reading list at right). I also picked up a bunch of free books from a bin outside the Dawn Treader used bookstore.

Listening to The Hand That Feeds from the album “With Teeth” by Nine Inch Nails