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Comment: SSRI withdrawal (Score 1) 329

We won't know the exact position of the British Psychological Association until Monday, but I can offer one example of how a psychiatric diagnosis can cause harm. Look up "SSRI withdrawal". SSRIs like Prozac slow down the reabsorption of serotonin, leaving more serotonin available in the brain. The body isn't static, and it reacts to the drug by overstimulating serotonin absorption. The body and the drug eventually reach a balance, and the overall amount of serotonin returns to the original levels. The problem occurs when SSRIs are stopped abruptly. The body's compensation mechanism continues for a while, and your serotonin levels drop dramatically. You get VERY depressed. You may feel like killing yourself. Some people do commit suicide at this point. Seen from the outside, it looks like you were very ill, and stopping the drug unmasked the illness. But the opposite is true. Stopping the drug CAUSED the illness. In fact, studies have shown that depressed people's serotonin levels are no different from those of normal people. Taking SSRIs doesn't change your levels because your body compensates and returns your serotonin to pre- treatment levels. The SSRIs don't do anything. Except that if you stop taking them you might die. Better off not taking them. And better off not being diagnosed in the first place. Diagnosis can kill.

Comment: Oil and coal are here to stay (Score 2) 262

Sadly, there are lots of reasons why renewable sources won't solve our energy needs. Tom Murphy, a physics prof at UCSD, has a great blog http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/02/the-alternative-energy-matrix/ where he works out the details. This was covered a while ago here: http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/11/08/02/2315207/limits-on-growth-of-energy-use-and-economies

Comment: Re:World of Goo (Score 1) 279

by AlejoHausner (#42892803) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Really Short Time Wasters?
Awesome puzzle collection. I am also currently hooked on signpost, but I still like pattern, netgame, loopy, galaxies, dominosa, and magnets. All are highly configurable to suit your time-wasting budget. Classic puzzles like mastermind, sudoku (regular, jigsaw, killer), minesweeper, black box, and kenken are there too! The iOS port does suck, but hey Simon's puzzles are open source, so you could port them yourself. Android, Mac, and Windows ports are all well done. I even use it on my old Palm device! Yay open source!

Comment: Because Phrma has no drugs for it (Score 1) 602

by AlejoHausner (#42171059) Attached to: No More "Asperger's Syndrome"
Don't take the DSM so seriously. There are many people who feel that syndromes and disorders are added to the manual largely to provide a reason to sell psychiatric medications. It can argued that the DSM is a codification of marketing fashion. There was an epidemic of anxiety during the 1950s, coincident with the marketing of "Miltown", a mild tranquilizer. This epidemic resurfaced in the 1970s when Valium was being promoted as a harmless, non-addictive anti-anxiety drug. Then suddenly large swathes of the population fell into depression, just in time for Prozac.

Prozac is the most obvious fabrication. In many studies, its effect can't be distinguished from placebo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluoxetine#cite_note-78). Of course, if you ARE on prozac and stop taking it suddenly, you will likely get depressed (and sometimes suicidal), but that's most likely withdrawal symptoms, not a manifestation of an underlying condition.

I suspect that pharmaceutical researchers can't think of a way to mask the symptoms of Asperger's, so there is no need to list it in the DSM. Call me cynical if you like.

Comment: Re:What about the other planets? (Score 1) 49

by AlejoHausner (#42122413) Attached to: Spectacular New Views of Saturn's Polar Vortex
Only the Voyager 2 probe flew past Uranus, and I don't think it took pictures of the poles. The Galileo probe orbited Jupiter for many years, but I don't think its orbit was high enough (in terms of latitude) to get clear views of the poles. For example, this site includes a polar view of Jupiter: http://thebigfoto.com/jupiter-from-space but it's a composite of many pictures, and the fuzziness of the polar region suggests that it's a re-projection of oblique views taken from a lower-latitude images.

Comment: But what did they SAY? (Score 1) 1198

Doesn't Steve Mann record audio too? The way his page explains it, it feels like strange mute men assaulted him and tried to forcibly remove his glasses. Surely those men weren't mute. They must have said something. Of course, they were speaking French, but Mann's daughter understands French. It would be nice to get her point of view, so we could get a better grasp on what happened. There's something missing here. It's like a silent movie.

Comment: Obesity is a proxy for POVERTY (Score 1) 655

by AlejoHausner (#40023765) Attached to: The Mathematics of Obesity
There is a lot of opinion here, and very little data. Here is a simple bit of research everyone can do: find a map of the USA, showing rates of poverty, and another showing rates of obesity. Bingo! They match one-for-one!

Obesity: http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/The-312/October-2011/The-Low-Poverty-Diet/

Poverty: http://visualecon.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/percent_in_poverty.gif

The correlation is especially marked in Appalachia, the lower Mississippi and the coast of the Carolinas and Georgia. What's going on here? Do poor people exercise less? I doubt it. Most poor people have physical jobs, while rich people sit in offices. I think the problem is that most poor people can't afford much beyond spaghetti, potatoes, and bread (cheap starches), whereas rich people can afford protein, butter, and vegetables.

We have to be careful about making statements about obese people's lifestyles. Usually our statements about fat people are little more than racial and class prejudice: "those people eat too much" really means "they're uncontrolled gluttons", and "those people don't get enough exercise" really means "they're lazy slobs". As long as social classes have existed, the rich and comfortable have justified their privilege by claiming that the poor are weak and immoral.

Comment: Nothing wrong with Black-Scholes (Score 3, Informative) 371

by AlejoHausner (#39834519) Attached to: The Math Formula That Lead To the Financial Crash
Actually, the Black-Scholes formula is innocent. Sure, it assumes that stock movements follow a standard distribution, but that's not as big a sin as is being made out in the article. The formula computes the fair price for an option contract. Such a contract gives its owner the right (or "option") to buy or sell some asset up to a future date (the expiry date), at some given price (the "strike" price). The formula uses the following values:

1. The time remaining until the contract expires
2. The current price of the undelying asset
3. The strike price (the contract gives its buyer the right or "option" to buy the asset at the strike price)
4. The risk-free rate of return on cash (return that could be earned by putting your money into, say, treasuries rather than stock)
5. The volatility of the underlying asset.

At the time the contract is written, the first four of these values are known (assuming of course that the risk-free rate stays constant, which is pretty close to a sure bet). The LAST value is the problem. It says how much the stock will fluctuate, between the present time and the time of expiry. This is unknown, because, after all, it requires knowledge of the future. Usually, PAST volatility is used in its place, going with the assumption that the stock will behave in the future the same way it behaved in the recent past.

If the stock suddenly becomes very quiet, and stops fluctuating, the buyer payed too much for the contract, on average. If the stock gets very wild, the buyer got a bargain, on average. In either case, the contract buyer and seller guessed wrong. They should have used a different volatility to price the option.

Of course, stock fluctuations do NOT follow a normal curve, after all. And option traders do NOT follow Black-Scholes exactly either (see "volatility smile"). But the much bigger flaw, I think, is lack of clairvoyance. The formula requires knowledge of the future.

+ - Flying Dutchman flaps wings like a bird, takes off->

Submitted by AlejoHausner
AlejoHausner (1047558) writes "Dutch engineer Jarno Smeets built flapping power-assisted wearable wings, using videogame controllers and an Android phone. In his video, he manages a controlled flight of 100 meters. Some commenters think it's a fake, but http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/03/human-bird-wings/ says it looks real."
Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:I have the solution, guaranteed (Score 1) 479

by AlejoHausner (#39333017) Attached to: X-Prize Founder Wants Ideas For Fixing Education
I kinda see where you're coming from. I attended two different high schools: one in the suburbs of Toronto, which served children of working-class parents (many worked at the local auto assembly plant). It was hell. Few students valued academic subjects, and if you excelled in math or English you got persecuted. Shop class was highly valued, though. Then we moved to downtown Toronto, where students were well off (Toronto reverses the American pattern of rich suburbs and poor downtown). It was lovely: students valued learning. What I experienced was class solidarity: if you try to step outside your class (eg, if you value book learning when your peers value mechanical skills), you will be ostracized. The instinct to fit in and conform is very powerful, especially during adolescence.

Administration: An ingenious abstraction in politics, designed to receive the kicks and cuffs due to the premier or president. -- Ambrose Bierce

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