Archive for 'Research News'

Finger licking bad (in rehabilitation units)

Monday, February 12th, 2018

The nosocomial problems associated with healthcare professionals repetitively licking their fingers while reviewing hospital charts was first formally documented by Myron M. LaBan, MD FAAPMR – the lead author of a 2004 brief report for the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (Volume 83, Issue 1, pp. 75-78). The report encouraged healthcare professionals to :

1) Wash their hands before and after reviewing medical charts.

2) Become aware of (and ideally refrain from) licking their fingers.

See: • ‘Pertinacious Habit on a Rehabilitation Unit: Repetitive Finger Licking While Paging Through the Clinical Chart’

Also see: (from Dr. LaBan)

• “Numb Chin” Syndrome

• Lessons Learned Through Leadership: How to Avoid Looking Like an Onion With Your Head Stuck in the Ground and Your Feet Above

• Airport induced “cervical traction” radiculopathy: the OJ syndrome

Coming Soon:  Problems associated with solutions to problems associated with healthcare professionals repetitively licking their fingers while reviewing hospital charts.


Associations : LED street-lighting and breast cancer (new study)

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

Some things might help in preventing cancer. Some things might be found to be causing cancer.  And yet other things might be ‘associated’ with cancer – that’s to say they might occur along with rising cancer rates, and yet may, or may not, be a cause. For example, could there be a previously overlooked statistical association between breast cancer mortality rates in Los Angeles County and the recent introduction of high-efficiency LED street-lighting in the area? A new paper for the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management finds, surprisingly perhaps, that there is.

“[…] the LED program was associated with increased breast cancer mortality in LA County after a latency period. This result was robust to several validity checks.”

– explains Professor Benjamin Jones, of the Department of Economics at the University of New Mexico, US, who has discovered the association. The reasons behind a possible breast cancer association remain unclear – but the professor suggests that the blue-rich spectrum of the LED light might warrant further investigation. Reminding us however that :

“ […] the results from this work should be interpreted as being consistent with a causal spillover health effect story, if in fact one does exist, but are not proof of causation nor a demonstration of causal mechanisms by which LED light is linked to health.“

See: ‘Spillover health effects of energy efficiency investments: Quasi-experimental evidence from the Los Angeles LED streetlight program’ in Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Volume 88, March 2018, Pages 283-299. A full copy of which may be found here.

BONUS: Those interested in the implications of statistical associations might also like to see ‘Tim Harford’s guide to statistics in a misleading age’ in the Financial Times, 8th Feb 2018 (Note: if paywalled, a summary can be found here)

‘Optimally Vague’ contracts and their benefits to society

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Imagine that you’re just about to sign an important contract – would you prefer it to have been precisely drafted, or would you be happy for it to be “optimally vague” ? Authors Nicola Gennaioli (Bocconi University and IGIER) and Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto (CREI, Pompeu Fabra University, IPEG and Barcelona GSE) suggest not only that vagueness in contracts is endemic, but also that there is an optimal level for vagueness. Deliberate vagueness in the correct amount, they say, can provide at least two long-term benefits for society in general*.

“First, the optimal contract is vague, even if courts are very imperfect. Second, the use of vague clauses is a public good: it promotes the evolution of precedents, so future contracts become more complete, incentives higher powered, and surplus larger. Third, as precedents evolve, vague contracts spread from sophisticated to unsophisticated parties, expanding market size.”

See: ‘Optimally Vague Contracts and the Law’, Centre for Economic Policy Research working paper DP10700, Revised January 2017. Previously circulated (July 2015) as: ‘Contract Innovation and Legal Evolution under Imperfect Enforcement’.

* Note: Although society-at-large might eventually benefit from the prevalence of optimally vague contracts, in the short term they could prove expensive for those closely involved – i.e. if caught up in costly legal proceedings over disagreements about the meaning of unclear clauses.

BONUS: The Marx Brothers discuss contractual arrangements. Begins at roughly 1:20, or thereabouts, approximately.

Can Scrotal Gunshot Wound Result in Testicular Injury? [research study]

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Persons outside the professional medical world may be unfamiliar with the acronym “SGSW.” A new study may, as a side-effect, help such persons remember that item of information:

Utility of Preoperative Ultrasound for the Evaluation of Testicular Rupture in the Setting of Scrotal Gun Shot Wounds,” Ryan Powers, Stephen Hurley, Edward Park, Brian McArdle, Patricia Vidal, Sarah P. Psutka, and Courtney M.P. Hollowell, Journal of Urology, epub 2018. (Thanks to Ivan Oransky for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County, and at Northwestern University, report:

“Scrotal Gunshot Wound (SGSW) may result in testicular injury…”

Here is a further detail from the study:

Where and When Snow Comes Off a Moving Train

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

The snowfall from a snow-laden (from a snowfall) train is somewhat predictable—and so can be somewhat controlled, suggests this study:

Studies of Snow-Dropping from a Train on a Turnout due to Dynamic Excitations,” Tiia-Riikka Loponen, Pekka Salmenperä, Heikki Luomala, and Antti Nurmikolu, Journal of Cold Regions Engineering, vol. 32, no. 2, June 2018. The authors, at Tampere University of Technology, Finland, report:

Snow accumulated on a train underframe may detach itself in places where rail discontinuity causes an excitation to the train. In turnout areas, this may cause serious problems when snow buildup from beneath the rolling stock drops into the gap between the switch blade and the stock rail and disrupts the turnout operation….

Based on the research results, it can be said that turnouts are a considerable cause of vibration in rolling stock. Should snow accumulate on the rolling stock and detach itself exactly due to excitation originating from a point of discontinuity of the rail, the snow is likely to drop at the location of a turnout. It was clearly observed in 2009–2010 that snow tends to drop from rolling stock in turnout areas; this means that, in adverse weather conditions, the acceleration levels created at turnout locations are sufficient to drop snow from rolling stock. The acceleration levels established by the measurements may therefore be used to develop methods to drop the snow, such as introducing intentional points of discontinuity in the rail to drop snow from the rolling stock.

(Thanks to Tom Gill for bringing this to our attention.)