The Depression Gene

The risks of large-scale testing, and the potential for false discovery, can be seen in the “discovery” of the genetic basis for anxiety and depression.  Specifically, serotonin transporter gene 5-HTTLPR. Color Genomics sells a genetic testing product that supposedly can predict which anti-depressant drug works…

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Preliminary Paper

Here is a preliminary paper that suggests that RNA extraction kits, one of the main bottlenecks to Covid-19 testing in the US, can be skipped altogether and the next part of the assay (RT-qPCR) still works.  If confirmed, this result would have a major impact…

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Coronavirus: To Test or Not to Test

In recent years, under the influence of statisticians, the medical profession has dialed back on screening tests.  With relatively rare conditions, widespread testing yields many false positives and doctor visits, whose collective cost can outweigh benefits.  Coronavirus advice follows this line - testing is limited…

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Google Zooms Out on Microtargeting

Google recently announced that it would further limit its election ads to audience targeting based on age, gender, and general location (postal code level) context targeting (i.e. showing ads based on the content being viewed) Up to this point, the application of predictive modeling to…

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Operations Research (O/R) For Sewage

Older urban sewer systems are not sealed, dedicated route networks leading to sewage treatment plants.  Rather, to save money when they were built decades ago, in some places they shared pipes with storm water drainage systems that lead to creeks, rivers and bays.  As a…

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e-cigarettes

Last week, the Trump administration announced a forthcoming ban on e-cigarettes, following news stories of a spate of deaths from vaping.  The Wall Street Journal, on Friday the 13th, published both an editorial and an op-ed piece suggesting that any harm from e-cigarettes is minor…

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“Islands in Search of Contents”

“Islands in Search of Continents” is the subtitle of an article by Michael Clarke and Iain Chalmers in the Journal of the American Medical Association (1998; 280: 280-282).  It refers to the fact that many studies are conducted and reported in isolation from other studies on the…

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Superusers

“Superusers” of medical services are the small fraction of patients that account for huge consumption of medical services.  An article published August 14, 2019 in JAMA Surgery (online) reports on the application of machine learning methods to Medicare data on 1,049,160 Medicare patients who underwent surgery,…

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