Friday, May 20, 2022

BIG Exclusives

The third hand of fate

When a personally significant event occurs, human beings often wonder if there is a reason for it or if it is merely a coincidence. Let us call this the two hands of fate, with one hand being called causal, and the other chance. How do we determine which hand of fate we are dealing with? This article ties together the concepts of probability, coincidence, causality, and an evolutionary concept called exaptation. Why do we care about...

Analysis of the Pfizer COVID vaccine trial for children aged 5 to 11

On Oct. 29, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech (Pfizer) COVID-19 vaccine for those 5 to 11 years of age.Health Canada followed with its own approval on Nov. 19. These approvals were based on analysis of the vaccine’s effectiveness and safety. The number of participants in the trial for children was much lower than in the trial for adults, and a technique called immunobridging was used to provide additional...

Music, mathematics, and physics

Johann Sebastian Bach Part 1: why 12 notes? Although the picture at the top of this article is of my musical hero, J.S. Bach, I want to start by talking about a more contemporary figure, Jack White of the White Stripes. At the start of the video Play it Loud, White builds a simple guitar by using a piece of wire, a block of wood, two nails, and an old guitar pickup. Then he plays it through...

Climate change – environmental emergency or economic opportunity?

The 2021 UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), which started Oct. 31 and runs through Nov. 12 in Glasgow, will see further debate on the international scale about climate change and what can be done about it worldwide. The goals for the event include: securing commitments for global net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, protecting communities and natural habitats, mobilizing finances from developed nations to help developing countries reduce CO2 emissions, and to work on...

Is flu vaccination important this year?

Health officials and news headlines have announced that it has never been more important to get this year’s flu vaccine. The worry is that trying to accommodate influenza sufferers will snap health systems that are already seriously overstretched by COVID-19 patients. The 2021 northern hemisphere seasonal flu vaccine is now available, and many people are taking this warning seriously, wanting to do their part by staying healthy and preventing flu infections that could land...

Do you ‘believe the science’? How about starting with understanding the science?

Laurie Weston recently wrote a series of three very cogent articles in BIG Media addressing science – the scientific method (Science – there is method to the madness), the manipulation of science for various causes (Manipulating science – activism and advocacy), and moral and ethical issues around the practice of science (Science and morality – ethics and judgment). Often now when I read blogs, social media posts and even mainstream media, I think “this author...

Funeral for a glacier

The Icelandic glacier by the name of Okjökull – affectionately known as “Ok” – was declared dead in August of 2019. Allegedly killed by anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change, it was mourned in a ceremony attended by grieving scientists, sombre politicians and artists, and anxious children. A pair of Texan anthropologists memorialized the glacier-that-was in a short film, and famous local author Andri Snær Magnason wrote a “letter to the future” – Ok’s epitaph – on the plaque marking the spot where it...

Examining the ethics of triage in a pandemic

Pandemic-level medical crises have the potential to create intense and widespread pressure on medical systems and personnel, and the COVID-19 pandemic has done so in numerous jurisdictions across the world. Since its arrival in North America early last year, COVID has caused multiple episodes of such pressure on various health-care systems. In North America and many parts of Europe, vaccines are now plentiful and the latest wave of COVID-related pressure on the medical establishment...

Energy prices climb … no surprises here

World energy markets are in turmoil. Prices for electricity are climbing in many places, even where there are long-established modern electrical grids. Oil has risen to about US$70 per barrel, from levels less than a third of that in March and April of 2020, at the beginning of the COVID crisis. Natural gas prices in North America have more than doubled in the past year – the Henry Hub trading centre was quoting $4.97...

In search of the zone on the sharp end

When the rope is all below you, trailing down the vertical passage of hard and unforgiving rock, and you reach up to ascend another step toward the sky, it is said that you are on the sharp end of the rope. It is sharp with consequence and responsibility, for the consequence and responsibility are all yours. You are the author of your situation and only you can manage what happens next. You, the laws...