JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Humans live from -50C to +40C, but two more degrees will kill us. Panic now.

Humans can adapt to live in locations where the monthly average is over 40°C, and as low as -50°C. That’s a 90°C range. The world has warmed by 0.9°C in 100 years (or less, depending on adjustments). This warming was so dangerous that global population only expanded from 1.7 to 7 billion.

Now, if the IPCC are right, we might heat up by another half a degree by 2100 — shifting those extremes from -49°C up to 41°C.

Prof. Andy Pitman, one of Australia’s leading climate scientists, responds to this risk with all the usual careful analysis we’ve come to expect from mainstream climate experts. Here’s another “children won’t know what snow is” type of Global Panic quote:

“I expect by 2050 … people just don’t go outside,”

– Professor Andy Pitman, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at UNSW.

So that’s the end of golf, surfing, and picnics then. Somewhat confusingly, he also said (in the same interview) that we won’t necessarily notice that extra warmth: “… because humans acclimatise to heat quite quickly”. This is what 95% certainty looks like in 2015, ladies and gentlemen — abject panic and [...]

Chocolate is the fountain of youth, eat blocks, live long, be slim

We have found the holy grail and it is chocolate. Lo, “Eating 100 g of chocolate daily linked to lowered heart disease and stroke risk”. One hundred grams a day! That’s about a quarter of the average adult woman’s total daily calorie intake. (About one sixth for a man).

So much for the 99% certain consensus that chocolate was junk food.

ScienceDaily:

Eating up to 100 g of chocolate every day is linked to lowered heart disease and stroke risk. The calculations showed that compared with those who ate no chocolate higher intake was linked to an 11% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 25% lower risk of associated death.

They base their findings on almost 21,000 adults taking part in the EPIC-Norfolk study…

Around one in five (20%) participants said they did not eat any chocolate, but among the others, daily consumption averaged 7 g, with some eating up to 100 g.

Chocolate was associated with younger age… (we want some of that, right?)

Higher levels of consumption were associated with younger age and lower weight (BMI), waist: hip ratio, systolic blood pressure, inflammatory proteins, diabetes and more regular [...]

Does global warming make your baby smaller? 800 years from now babies may weigh 17g less!

A new study uses a  ‘high resolution air temperature estimation model’ to figure out (guess) the daily air temperature pregnant women in Massachusetts might have been exposed to during their pregnancy. A whopping increase of 8.5C in the last three months was associated with a 17 gram drop in birth weight. Given that global temperatures have risen by about 1 C in the last 100 years, at the current rate, that amount of warming will arrive in 850 years. Then if this correlation has any causal role, the average 3kg baby will weigh about 0.5% less. Scared yet?

Since the researchers are talking about outdoor temperatures, I’m guessing this study will especially concern pregnant women who will be homeless, or without electricity in the year 2850. Obviously the solution is cheap coal powered air conditioners

 

. Why risk it?*

The Daily Mail  h/t Colin

Is climate change affecting birth weights? Exposure to warmer weather during pregnancy leads to smaller babies, study claims Researchers uncovered a link between air temperature and birth weight Found exposure to high air temperature during pregnancy increases the risk of lower birth weight and can cause premature birth An increase of 8.5 °C (47.3°F) in the last [...]

Cholesterol — how the web and books are years ahead of “Consensus”

Consensus — slowing real science for decades

There is a surprising amount of interest in the cholesterol story of Matt Ridley’s in The Times and The Australian last week. Surprising to me anyway, because 15 years ago the other benevolent side of cholesterol was pretty clear online.  Fifteen years is not a long time in human civilization, but it’s a long time in a human life. And in the case of the war on cholesterol, it’s been running for 40 years. How many people died sooner than they would have, because they followed expert advice?

Finally the official consensus on cholesterol is admitting defeat:

“Any day now, the US government will officially accept the advice to drop cholesterol from its list of “nutrients of concern” altogether. It wants also to “de-emphasise” saturated fat, given “the lack of evidence connecting it with cardiovascular disease”. “

In the late 1990′s it was widely known online (among health zealots) that our livers are mostly in charge of our cholesterol levels, not what’s on our dinner plates. Something like 80% of the cholesterol in our blood came from our own livers, not the food we eat.  Way back then, it was also known [...]

Study on 74 million deaths: Cold weather kills 20 times more than heat does.

Of seventy four million deaths (that is quite some study) 7.7% of all deaths could be blamed on “non-optimal” temperatures according to Gasparrini et al in the Lancet. But look closely, and 7.3% of deaths were due to the cold and only 0.4% were due to the heat.

This may be part of the reason people retire to Florida, and not so much to Barrow, Alaska.

The biggest killers were not the heat waves that score the headlines, but the moderate cold. Winter kills. (Time to ban winter?)

Cold weather kills far more people than hot weather

Cold weather kills 20 times as many people as hot weather, according to an international study analyzing over 74 million deaths in 384 locations across 13 countries. The findings, published in The Lancet, also reveal that deaths due to moderately hot or cold weather substantially exceed those resulting from extreme heat waves or cold spells.

“It’s often assumed that extreme weather causes the majority of deaths, with most previous research focusing on the effects of extreme heat waves,” says lead author Dr Antonio Gasparrini from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the UK. “Our findings, from [...]

Hypothesis contradicted? Fatter people get *less* dementia

Researchers were sure fatter people would get more dementia, so they studied two million middle-aged people for nearly a decade but were “baffled to find the exact opposite. Their sample included 45,000 cases of dementia and the obese were 30 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with it.

This contradicts previous studies and was not at all what the researchers expected, so they analyzed the data every which way they could think of but can’t explain the results. Need I say “experts” and “consensuses”?

Scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said they were baffled by the results as previous studies have shown that being overweight raises the risk. –Telegraph

Risk factors such as alcohol and smoking made little difference to the results, published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.  — Mirror

Dr Qizilbash said the findings held despite attempts to adjust for other causes of dementia and the tendency of obese people to die earlier. “We did a lot of analysis to see if we could explain it but just seems to persist. We couldn’t get rid of it so we’re left with this apparent protective effect,” he said. [...]

New small study: Wind farms show health effects – why wasn’t this done before?

This is the tiniest of most preliminary studies on the health effects of wind turbines, but it made it to the front page of a major newspaper.  It is really just laying the groundwork for setting up a proper study.  But at the end of 2012, according to the Global Wind Energy Council, there were 225,000 wind turbines operating around the world. So the real question is why has it taken so long to do an eight week study on six people in three houses looking at the effects of very low frequency ultrasound?

The Greens and Labor Party are supposed to be concerned about the effect of industry on people and cuddly animals, so where was their angst? If wind turbines ran on uranium, or the turbines were erected in inner-city areas, would the Greens have been so quiet?

Pacific Hydro deserves credit for funding and cooperating with the study which took place at Cape Bridgewater in Victoria.

Turbines may well blow ill wind

Graham Lloyd, The Australian

PEOPLE living near wind farms face a greater risk of suffering health complaints caused by the low-frequency noise generated by turbines, a groundbreaking study has found.

Very small trial appears to reverse Alzheimers symptoms

I like to keep an eye on research on keeping our brains intact (even if it’s not far past the leeches-and-arsenic stage). Here is a tiny trial showing a bit of promise. After years of testing drugs on Alzheimer plaques without much luck, as far as I can tell, this study had the radical idea of doing a bit of everything that had seemed to delay Alzheimers — like exercise, dumping the carbs, mini-fasts, fish oil, meditation and things like that. Unlike the drug trials, this one actually seemed to work and surprisingly for as many as 9 out of 10 patients (there were only ten patients, that’s not a ratio). It’s quite neat that it did work. It has lots of potential (though not much in the way of profits for big-pharma). However it was only six months long. It may not be slowing the plaques, but then if it restores functional memory, that’s  rather the point (though I worry those plaques are coming back later).

Nonetheless, if you like the idea of saving  your brain. Worth reading the list below, just so you know and pass it on to those with an interest. Anything that helps, especially when [...]

The fat police won’t be happy about this…

Remember the experts who said we should drink skim milk? A new large study suggests that full fat milk is healthier. So much for that consensus about saturated fat. There have been signs things were amiss. A few studies recently have shown that milk, yogurt and cheese consumption were associated with a lower incidence of Diabetes Type 2. Dairy didn’t seem to make the heart attacks more likely either. Hmm. So this new study of 26,000 women looked at high fat versus low fat dairy products. Over 14 years the highest consumption (which is 8, crikey, portions of full fat dairy a day) is associated with … a 23% reduction in risk compared to the low fat dairy consumers. Time to eat more Brie? Maybe, maybe not.

I won’t be taking up 8 portions of full fat dairy myself –  the 23% figure is not seismic, is based on a modeled estimate (so is open to debate). I suspect it’s not the fat content that is the most important thing here, but something else entirely. The “displacement effect” confounds this sort of  study. It might not be that dairy fat is so helpful, just that it is less bad that [...]

Ebola — time for action

I trained in microbiology so I’ve watched the Ebola situation unfold with quiet dread.  When my favourite lecturer was asked what was worst of the worst infectious epidemics he could imagine, he responded that the sum of all fears would be a cross between Ebola and Newcastle’s disease. It would be a highly fatal hemorrhagic disease, combined with a highly contagious virus spread by birds. It’s time to talk of the dark dark possibility that one mutation could bring — the aerosolization of Ebola.

As long as this Filovirus stays in its current form, spread only through direct contact with an infected and obviously ill person, we have a chance to limit the spread. Quarantine is effective. If it goes airborne, the task becomes like preventing the flu, but without clinically tested vaccines, in a totally unprotected population, and with a 60% fatality rate. This is the nuclear option.

The Ebola virus has several different forms, and at least in animal studies, it has “gone airborne” before. Theoretically, it’s an odds game. The more times the virus is copied — the better the odds are that the right mutation will occur. To be brutally blunt, every infected person is another [...]