Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Make A Huge Impact Considering The "Law of Averages"

I love reading other blogs for the diversity of issues which range from hilarious to very serious.  On this spectrum is the category "thought-provoking."  Recently, I was reading a favorite blog site of Seth Godin.  Seth offers up humorous and sometimes serious bits of thought which he releases each day.  Instead of rambling on (like I do sometimes), he releases short, succinct, and thought-provoking blog posts which will add a little to your day.  Do you believe me?  Well, probably not without reading an example, right?  Below, I cut and pasted a recent post which is a perfect example of a typical post which will stick with you throughout the day -- called the "Law of Averages":

The real law of averages

If you want to raise the standards of any group, improving the top of the heap isn't nearly as effective as focusing your effort on the base instead.
Simple example: Getting a Prius to go from 50 miles per gallon to 55 miles per gallon isn't nearly as important as getting SUVs to go from 10 miles per gallon to 15. There are two reasons for this. The first is that there are a lot more SUVs than Priuses. The second is that they use far more gallons, so a percentage increase has far more yield. (You can't average averages).
If you care about health and a culture of performance, it's tempting to push Olympic athletes to go just a tenth of a second faster. It's far more effective, though, if you can get 3,000,000 kids to each spend five more minutes a day walking instead of sitting.
Organizations pamper and challenge the few in the executive suite, imagining that one more good decision in the biz dev group could pay off. The thing is, if every one of the 10,000 customer-facing employees was more engaged and kind, it would have a far bigger impact on the company and those it serves.
I think the reason we focus on the few is that it feels more dramatic, seems more controllable and is ultimately easier. But the effective, just and important thing to do is to help the back of the line catch up.

For those who are unfamiliar with the definition of the "Law of Averages," here is an excerpt from the "Wikipedia" page:

The law of averages is the law that a particular outcome or event is inevitable or certain simply because it is statistically possible.[1][2] Depending on context or application it can be considered a valid common-sense observation or a misunderstanding of probability. This notion can lead to fallacious thinking when one becomes convinced that a particular outcome must come soon simply because it has not occurred recently (e.g. believing that because three consecutive coin flips yielded heads, the next coin flip must be virtually guaranteed to be tails).
As invoked in everyday life, the "law" usually reflects wishful thinking or a poor understanding of statistics rather than any mathematical principle. While there is a real theorem that a random variable will reflect its underlying probability over a very large sample, the law of averages typically assumes that unnatural short-term "balance" must occur.[3] Typical applications also generally assume no bias in the underlying probability distribution, which is frequently at odds with the empirical evidence.[4]

Seth Godin makes use of the "Law of Averages" in different contexts than is traditionally used. Which makes the blog post more thought provoking.  Reading widely gives a person higher chance of stumbling upon some hidden gems.  This is a good example.

Motivating change is not easy on any level.  But as Seth alludes to, going after the majority to motivate a smaller change is larger than pursuing a smaller (but perceived to be more influential) minority is true in a variety of areas of society.  This is good food for thought for advocacy - in terms of 'grass roots' efforts.  Incorporating the 'law of averages' into our thinking while attempting to change the world would indeed do us some noticeable change.  Imagine the impact of pursuing a small amount of people for a small change instead of a larger group of people for a large change.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Republicans Take Away Undocumented Immigrants Tax Cuts?

I was dumbfounded the other day when I read the following excerpt shown below from 'Politico Education' regarding undocumented immigrants:

- Undocumented families: A clause in the House Republican tax bill would block most undocumented immigrants from claiming child tax credits and tax credits for college expenses, Pro's Ted Hesson reports. "Under current tax law, an undocumented immigrant can file taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN, in lieu of a Social Security number," Hesson writes. Under the House Republican bill, ITIN would no longer be acceptable to claim child tax credits or the American Opportunity Tax Credit that covers college expenses. The change was proposed by the White House in its fiscal 2018 budget.

One would believe that the news above is coming from another nation -- certainly not the United States.  Certainly not the United States with a President who believes and propagates that undocumented immigrants do not contribute to the economy but cause crime and take away jobs.  According to the excerpt above, not only are Republican representatives acknowledging that undocumented immigrants contribute to the economy, but also PAY TAXES - wow.  That must mean that they are contributing to the nation like a citizen.  Why all the negative news then?  We have known for quite a while that our nation is a nation made of immigrants and that everyone should be treated equally.

Now, the new tax bill seems to send a gut punch to undocumented immigrants.  Why are the tax credits being torn away which help families save for school expenses and college tuition?  This is quite amazing since the new tax bill stands to help out (with tax cuts) to the top earners of the nation.  What is wrong with our elected representatives?  At least undocumented immigrants are getting some respect by the news -- that they do (as we all knew all along) contribute to the United States economy like a normal citizen would along with paying their respective amount in taxes.  I am amazed that the credits which are being taken away from undocumented immigrants for education could generate enough to offset the cuts given up at the top.  Seems fishy.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veteran's Day -- A Day To Be Thankful

Today is Veteran's Day in the United States of America.  A day to pay respect to those who have served our wonderful country in the past, present, and who continue to do so.  A day to remember those who did not make the trip back home from the battlefield.  A day to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice (lost their lives for our country).  This is the cost of freedom in the USA.  I will share a memory (as a veteran) which arises every Veteran's Day in my mind.

I am a veteran.  I remember one of the greatest feelings in the world.  What might that feeling be?  When I would "deploy" to the Middle East (1996-200), I would miss the United States of America with each day (month) passing.  One of the best feelings was to feel the aircraft landing in South Carolina at Shaw Air Force Base.

When the wheels bounced slightly followed by the feeling of the entire airplane being grounded, I felt a rush surge through my body -- along with the other soldiers on board.  The excitement would run sky high to see those family members waiting to greet their respective soldiers back from a deployment.  My biological family was in California, but my military family would always find a way to have a fellow service member there to greet each of us back to the soil of the United States of America.  As I stepped off of the airplane, I would see a giant American Flag displayed in the hanger (the fuel shop hanger) in front of me with the following song by Lee Greenwood being blared in the background.  I will forever remember the image and sound until I die (here two examples of greeting ceremonies - Example 1 and Example 2).  Here is the song below:

Last but not least, there are those who have returned from the battlefield in physical person who are changed and have great trouble adjusting to life back home.  Below is a video which conveys the sense of despair and lost of those who suffer irreparable trauma in the service for your freedom.  Take a few minutes to think about the cost of freedom.

Not only do we need to think of them on this day, we need to look out for them when in need.  If you have a friend or a family member who is suffering from mental health problems associated with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), please do not hesitate but seek help from medical professionals immediately.  Their lives could depend on it.  Last but not least, there are those who have given the ultimate sacrifice (their lives) and will be remembered forever with gratitude for their service.  Additionally, last year, I wrote a short post which included promises to Veterans from the present Presidential Administration.  There is no harm in reminding our elected officials of the need to help those in need. 

Keep these images in mind as you go on throughout your busy day either working or celebrating the day off for Veteran's.  Have a safe but thoughtful Weekend.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

EPA Blatantly Suppresses Scientific Results Regarding Climate Change?

With the succession of each new presidential administration comes changes to policy which are motivated by the comments made on the campaign trail.  I understand that.  Further, I understand if the new administration would like to "hide" any comments made on federal agency websites regarding climate change.  Alright, I admit that I really do not understand the logic behind that, but I understand if that is a motivation.  Fine, but the results cannot be removed -- just hidden behind new language which suits the new administration's goals.

What recently baffled me was for the Environmental Protection Agency to completely suppress scientists from attending a scientific conference.  The main objective at such a conference is to update the scientific community on new scientific results.  By restricting the scientists from attending, the EPA Administration is effectively suppressing the dissemination of science.  Yes, these results had to do with climate change.  Below is the brief summary of the suppression on behalf of the EPA and the results which were suppressed.  This is not good and should not continue in the future.

Scientific Results?

Recently, the results of a scientific study were suppressed as mentioned above.  In an article titled "EPA Keeps Scientists from Speaking About Report on Climate" from the trade journal "Laboratory Equipment" comes the news regarding the EPA preventing their staff from speaking at a conference:

The Environmental Protection Agency kept three scientists from appearing at a Monday event about a report that deals in part with climate change.
The scientists were expected to discuss a report on the health of Narragansett Bay, New England’s largest estuary. The EPA didn’t explain exactly why the scientists were told not to.
“EPA supports the Narragansett Bay Estuary, and just this month provided the program a $600,000 grant,” agency spokeswoman Nancy Grantham said in a statement Monday. “EPA scientists are attending, they simply are not presenting; it is not an EPA conference.”
Thomas Borden, program director of the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, which published the report, told The Associated Press that Wayne Munns, director of EPA’s Atlantic Ecology Division, called him Friday afternoon to say two staffers who work out of its research lab in the town of Narragansett had been advised that they could not attend. Munns did not give him an explanation, but Borden said he understood that the decision came from EPA headquarters in Washington.
One of the staffers, Autumn Oczkowski, was scheduled to give the keynote at an afternoon workshop session. Another, Rose Martin, was scheduled to speak on a panel.
“We’ve been working with more than five researchers in that lab who have contributed substantial elements to our report,” Borden said.

WOW!! This should stand out in anyone's mind who is affiliated with a scientific organization as a dangerous act by the government.  Evidently, the EPA Administration is allowing the scientists to attend the conference.  Although, the scientists are not allowed to present or attend a specific session on climate change.  Take the paragraph taken from above shown below regarding funding and the conference:

“EPA supports the Narragansett Bay Estuary, and just this month provided the program a $600,000 grant,” agency spokeswoman Nancy Grantham said in a statement Monday. “EPA scientists are attending, they simply are not presenting; it is not an EPA conference.”

This is deceptive on part of the EPA Administration.  The EPA is playing on the fact that a majority of the public does not understand that science (scientific data - scientific results) is presented at "non-EPA" conferences.  Any EPA Scientist could give a talk or present results at any scientific conference -- as long as the conference was in the specific field.

For instance, a conference regarding the field of atmospheric chemistry would be a perfect place for a scientific talk by the EPA on environmental issues regarding the atmosphere.  For instance, possibly a talk on regulating industries which contribute large amounts of greenhouse gases.  The conference does not necessarily have to be funded or hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency itself.


In the case above, the EPA is clearly overstepping its ethical boundaries by suppressing the dissemination of science.  Especially, since the science is funded by tax-payer money.  Meaning that any attendees who pay their taxes are entitled to the results of the study which are funded by the tax money paid to the U.S. government.  This act is very dangerous and should be sounding alarms among the public.  Simply for the reason that in the current situation the research is regarding an estuary.  What happens if future research is suppressed which contains scientific results regarding a disaster at a chemical plant which the EPA did not properly regulate?  Your health could be at stake potentially by the suppression of scientific data.  Generally speaking, keeping a transparent channel of dissemination of scientific results regardless of outcome is a great idea for a democratic society.

Monday, November 6, 2017

A Virtual Tour Of A Plant Cell? Really?

Have you taken a tour through a cell in the human body?  How about a tour through a cell in a plant?  Probably not because you are composed of billions of these cells.  In order to tour them, your size would have to be on the 'nanoscale' -- 1/1,000,000,000.  -- that is 1 divided by 1 billion.  That is really small.  Although, if you were able to scale yourself (for the purpose of touring only of course) to that level, here is a short tour via a video (about 6 minutes in length) of what you would see:

Crazy cool right?  In case you missed the tour of the human cell, I embedded a video in a post with a short tour of a human cell -- check it out.  The virtual tour above along with the tour in the previous post are the beginning of a new way to utilize technology (comparable to that used by the gaming industry) to teach critical instruction to the students of today and tomorrow.

Furthermore, think of using the technology presented above during a visit to your physician.  Exploring the pathway of disease progression or mitigation through various treatments (on display) would clarify the need to stick to strict protocol prescribed by your physician.  Regardless, videos like these have a tremendous promise in providing a visually stimulating atmosphere to the students of the present classroom and those in years to come.  The future of technology incorporated into the classroom along with society continues to amaze and inspire new avenues of learning.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Dr. Francis Collins and Bill Gates Discuss Global Health And Genomics

Technology has driven many recent advances in medicine and global health (on a larger scale).  In the decades to come, the role of 'big data' will only become increasingly important.  Currently, global health is largely based on advances from developed and technologically advanced nations such as the United States.  The current administration is trying to shift funding for science and research into the private sector.  Of course, there is natural push back from Congress (which is great - never put your eggs into one basket). Relying on either government science research or private science research entirely is not a good idea in keep a top notch research program for a given country.

In the discussion (in the video) below, a discussion is shown between two giants.  The first is from the government sector -- Dr. Francis Collins.  Dr. Collins is head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  The NIH is a major avenue of research funding for science in the United States.  Money is awarded through congress to research from either the NIH or the National Science Foundation.  Of course, other government agencies exist, although, these two are specifically associated with research primarily.  This makes Dr. Collins a perfect representative with whom to have a discussion with regarding the future of research in global health and genomics.  As for the private sector, one person stands out in particular due to their efforts and successes in funding research and producing staggering results -- Bill Gates.

With that being said, the 'Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation' has made great strides in pushing global health research.  From a private sector funding standpoint, Bill and Melinda Gates have had substantial success in gathering up other organizations to offer up funding for important scientific research.  Basically, together they have formed what makes up the "private sector" research funding.  We are grateful to them.  In light of that, Bill Gates has a tremendous amount of insight into the future of 'global health'.  Especially, from the standpoint of funding and executing successful science research which results in results in the field.  The interview below is a great example of success from the private sector along with insight from the government sector (from Dr. Francis Collins).

Without further ado, here is the video of the conversation shown below - which is roughly an hour in length:


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Virtual Tour Of A Human Cell?

With the leaps and bounds that technology has taken over the decades comes new fascinating ways of viewing science.  Yes, traditionally, these 'cool graphics' have been reserved mainly to the video game industry.  Now, a graduate student -- Tyler DeWitt has teamed up with Google and made a virtual tour of the human cell.  Yes, a grant had to be written to support the work.  What is amazing about the virtual tour is the clarity and visualization that is possible. The name Tyler DeWitt should be familiar to you (if you have kept up with the posts written on this site) -- you will remember him from a previous post of mine on communicating science.    Without further ado, here is an 8 minute tour of the cell shown below:

Was that not amazing?  I have been a proponent of virtual reality in teaching chemistry for quite a while.  Although, there remain a considerable amount of 'kinks' to be worked out until each student finds themselves in a 'virtual classroom.'  Videos like the tour above give us a glimpse into the possibilities of the future in teaching rather difficult concepts to students.

Furthermore, the concepts discussed in the video above tie in quite nicely with the mechanisms of disease from the medical community.  Imagine if the two were tied together to show a patient how a drug works?  Or if the mutation of a gene resulted in the formation of an incomplete protein?

A perfect example would be a visit to the doctor who uses the technology above in educating the patient.  If a doctor were to use the visualization above to convey that the drug a person was prescribed to was interacting with another active site, then educating the patient to change to a different medication might be much easier.  In the future, the role of virtual reality will only increase not decrease.

Examples like the video above inspire confidence in changing toward a more educated public regardless of the what concept is being conveyed.   As is often said..."a picture is worth a thousand words..."  Until next time, have a great day.