Category Archives: Class Post

Week 6 – Medical Advances…and Setbacks?

How do we heal medicine?

A_GawandeOur medical systems are broken. Doctors are capable of extraordinary (and expensive) treatments, but they are losing their core focus: actually treating people. Doctor and writer Atul Gawande suggests we take a step back and look at new ways to do medicine — with fewer cowboys and more pit crews.
New → Books by Gawande, Atul

…. A next-gen cure for killer infections

K_MullisDrug-resistant bacteria kills, even in top hospitals. But now tough infections like staph and anthrax may be in for a surprise. Nobel-winning chemist Kary Mullis, who watched a friend die when powerful antibiotics failed, unveils a radical new cure that shows extraordinary promise.


Related Resources

August 29, 2014. Superbug NDM could ‘change face of healthcare’ experts warn New_Delhi_Metallo-_2894695b A study by Public Health England found that most bacteria carrying the NDM enzyme were resistent to the ‘last resort’ antibiotics. Only one drug, from the 1950s, remains effective against infections carrying New Delhi metallo, and it will soon become resistant to that as well, researchers said. ….

NDM-1 facts

NDM-1 stands for New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase, which is an enzyme produced by certain strains of bacteria that have recently acquired the genetic ability to make this compound. The enzyme is active against other compounds that contain a chemical structure known as a beta-lactam ring. Unfortunately, many antibiotics contain this ring, including the penicillins, cephalosporins, and the carbapenems.

PBS: Frontline. Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria


This PBS program, first aired in October, 2013, is available for viewing online,  It will be re-broadcast on Tuesday, March 6, 2014 on APT. The Frontline website also has the latest on the nightmare bacteria, superbugs, and related issues.

…. ….

More → Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) Infections
Gram-negative bacteria infections in healthcare settings
Emergence of KPC-producing bacteria
Eight ways to protect yourself from superbugs


Week 5 – Data & Stats: To Inform & Control You

Data and statistics, effectively displayed, can inform us about the world and our condition.  They can also be used to control us, i.e., determine what we see on the internet, what shape our worldviews. Today’s discussion leader with be Auburn faculty member (and Linda’s husband), Chris Shook.

The best stats you’v ever seen 3_18_14__2_01_PM_png

You’ve never seen data presented like this. With the drama and urgency of a sportscaster, statistics guru Hans Rosling debunks myths about the so-called “developing world.”

Beware of online “filter bubbles” filter_bubble_2

As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there’s a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a “filter bubble” and don’t get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Eli Pariser argues powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy.

Related Resources

[click images for larger views]

Use data to build better schools

education_stats   educations_stats_2

How can we measure what makes a school system work? Andreas Schleicher walks us through the PISA test, a global measurement that ranks countries against one another — then uses that same data to help schools improve. Watch to find out where your country stacks up, and learn the single factor that makes some systems outperform others.

Healthcare Statistics

‎The U.S. health system in perspective: a comparison of twelve industrialized nations www_commonwealthfund_org___media_Files_Publications_Issue_20Brief_2011_Jul_1532_Squires_US_hlt_sys_comparison_12_nations_intl_brief_v2_pdf

Abstract: The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) tracks and reports on more than 1,200 health system measures across 34 industrialized countries. This analysis concentrated on 2010 OECD health data for Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Health care spending in the U.S. towers over the other countries. The U.S. has fewer hospital beds and physicians, and sees fewer hospital and physician visits, than in most other countries. Prescription drug utilization, prices, and spending all appear to be highest in the U.S., as does the supply, utilization, and price of diagnostic imaging. U.S. performance on a limited set of quality measures is variable, ranking highly on five-year cancer survival, middling on in-hospital case-specific mortality, and poorly on hospital admissions for chronic conditions and amputations due to diabetes. Findings suggest opportunities for cross- national learning to improve health system performance.

Probability of Death for Boys and Men 15 to 60 Years of Age in Sweden, Australia, and the United States, 1970–2007. — The New England Journal of Medicine

World Health Organization Ranking; The World’s Health Systems

Some people fancy all health care debates to be a case of Canadian Health Care vs. American. Not so. According to the World Health Organization’s ranking of the world’s health systems, neither Canada nor the USA ranks in the top 25.

1 France

2 Italy

3 San Marino

4 Andorra

5 Malta

6 Singapore

7 Spain

8 Oman

9 Austria

10 Japan

11 Norway

12 Portugal

13 Monaco

14 Greece

15 Iceland

16 Luxembourg

17 Netherlands

18 United Kingdom

19 Ireland

20 Switzerland

21 Belgium

22 Colombia

23 Sweden

24 Cyprus

25 Germany

26 Saudi Arabia

27 United Arab Emirates

28 Israel

29 Morocco

30 Canada

31 Finland

32 Australia

33 Chile

34 Denmark

35 Dominica

36 Costa Rica

37 USA

38 Slovenia

39 Cuba

40 Brunei

41 New Zealand

42 Bahrain

43 Croatia

44 Qatar

45 Kuwait

46 Barbados

47 Thailand

48 Czech Republic

49 Malaysia

50 Poland

51 Dominican Republic

52 Tunisia

53 Jamaica

54 Venezuela

55 Albania

56 Seychelles

57 Paraguay

58 South Korea

59 Senegal

60 Philippines

61 Mexico

62 Slovakia

63 Egypt

64 Kazakhstan

65 Uruguay

66 Hungary

67 Trinidad and Tobago

68 Saint Lucia

69 Belize

70 Turkey

71 Nicaragua

72 Belarus

73 Lithuania

74 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

75 Argentina

76 Sri Lanka

77 Estonia

78 Guatemala

79 Ukraine

80 Solomon Islands

81 Algeria

82 Palau

83 Jordan

84 Mauritius

85 Grenada

86 Antigua and Barbuda

87 Libya

88 Bangladesh

89 Macedonia

90 Bosnia-Herzegovina

91 Lebanon

92 Indonesia

93 Iran

94 Bahamas

95 Panama

96 Fiji

97 Benin

98 Nauru

99 Romania

100 Saint Kitts and Nevis

101 Moldova

102 Bulgaria

103 Iraq

104 Armenia

105 Latvia

106 Yugoslavia

107 Cook Islands

108 Syria

109 Azerbaijan

110 Suriname

111 Ecuador

112 India

113 Cape Verde

114 Georgia

115 El Salvador

116 Tonga

117 Uzbekistan

118 Comoros

119 Samoa

120 Yemen

121 Niue

122 Pakistan

123 Micronesia

124 Bhutan

125 Brazil

126 Bolivia

127 Vanuatu

128 Guyana

129 Peru

130 Russia

131 Honduras

132 Burkina Faso

133 Sao Tome and Principe

134 Sudan

135 Ghana

136 Tuvalu

137 Ivory Coast

138 Haiti

139 Gabon

140 Kenya

141 Marshall Islands

142 Kiribati

143 Burundi

144 China

145 Mongolia

146 Gambia

147 Maldives

148 Papua New Guinea

149 Uganda

150 Nepal

151 Kyrgystan

152 Togo

153 Turkmenistan

154 Tajikistan

155 Zimbabwe

156 Tanzania

157 Djibouti

158 Eritrea

159 Madagascar

160 Vietnam

161 Guinea

162 Mauritania

163 Mali

164 Cameroon

165 Laos

166 Congo

167 North Korea

168 Namibia

169 Botswana

170 Niger

171 Equatorial Guinea

172 Rwanda

173 Afghanistan

174 Cambodia

175 South Africa

176 Guinea-Bissau

177 Swaziland

178 Chad

179 Somalia

180 Ethiopia

181 Angola

182 Zambia

183 Lesotho

184 Mozambique

185 Malawi

186 Liberia

187 Nigeria

188 Democratic Republic of the Congo

189 Central African Republic

190 Myanmar

Source: World Health Organization


One Percenters Control Online Reviews

Contrary to appearances, online reviews reflect the opinions of the few.

Nautilis: One Percenters Control Online Reviews - Issue 12

University of Illinois computer science professor Bing Liu estimates that roughly 30 percent of all reviews online may be fraudulent.

Logo Turtle & MicroWorlds

Yesterday, I mentioned the robot Logo turtle in class. For those of you who are curious or might want to introduce yourselves or grandkids(±) to programming and robots, below are a few links.


In the mid 1960s Seymour Papert, a mathematician who had been working with Piaget in Geneva, came to the United States where he co-founded the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory with Marvin Minsky. Papert worked with the team from Bolt, Beranek and Newman, led by Wallace Feurzeig, that created the first version of Logo in 1967.  Ref: Seymour Papert, Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas



Children learned to program the Logo turtle to draw TurtleArt by first playing the part of the turtle to draw a design, then using the commands of the Logo language to program the robot turtle to create amazing graphic designs. In the process they learned mathematical, geometric, and logical thinking. Some of TurtleArt in the gallery, here, is quite intricate and colorful, the result of current implementations of Logo utilizing the color graphics capabilities on modern computing devices (e.g., desktop and laptop computers and, now, the iPad.)


iLogo for the iPad

iLogo is one implementation of Logo available for the iPad. For $2.99 you, your grandkids, and others can begin to explore the world of programming and the Logo turtle.






If you don’t have an iPad, you can conduct similar explorations with the the free MicroWorlds Web Players for Windows and Macintosh computers/laptops.





BTW, here’s a very brief b&w video of early Logo turtles. The one I ‘inherited’ at Syracuse University and used in classes on computers in education was one of two in existence at the time; the other was at MIT where both were hatched. It looked similar to the second turtle in the video, with a clear acrylic dome encasing its mechanical and electrical parts. The computer controlling it was a PDP10 minicomputer (see image, below), located in the machine room of the engineering building and connected via phone dial-up with a control box the size of a cluster of four shoe boxes. Bruce Sherry

PDP10 minicomputer – We’ve come a long way, baby!

[Please comment, below, if you explore any of these.]

– Tom

Week 4 – Flying Fools

How a dead duck changed my life

Published on Apr 1, 2013. One afternoon, Kees Moeliker got a research opportunity few ornithologists would wish for: A flying duck slammed into his glass office building, died, and then … what happened next would change his life.

Robots that fly … and cooperate

In his lab at Penn, Vijay Kumar and his team build flying quadrotors, small, agile robots that swarm, sense each other, and form ad hoc teams — for construction, surveying disasters and far more.

Related Links

Drones Over America

March 16, 2014, 7:23 PM. Will the skies of the future be filled with buzzing drones? On 60 Minutes, Morley Safer explores the new, hardly regulated world of commercial drones.

Judge strikes down small drones ban

March 14, 2014. A federal judge slapped down the FAA’s fine for a drone operator, saying there was no law banning the commercial use of small drones.
The judge’s decision could open up the skies below 400 feet to farmers, photographers and entrepreneurs who have been battling the FAA over the use of the unmanned aerial vehicles.

And, of course, for your entertainment … Flying Fools.

NOTE: This class was originally planned for Week 1, April Fool’s eve, ergo the ‘fools’ theme. We hope you enjoy it even if it’s a few weeks later.

Week 3 – TED-Ed Lesson: On Science & Morality

This week we introduce you to TED-Ed Lessons Worth Sharing.
We can use engaging videos to create customized lessons, adapting
and editing any lesson featured on TED-Ed, or or creating lessons
from scratch around any TED or YouTube video. You can take the
TED-Ed tour to watch the video and learn how.

AU’s 2014-15 Common Book. We will also introduce you
to William Kwamba’s How We Built A Wind Mill.

Science can answer moral questions

Questions of good and evil, right and wrong are commonly thought unanswerable by science. But Sam Harris argues that science can — and should — be an authority on moral issues, shaping human values and setting out what constitutes a good life.

  • Watch the video
  • Think about answers to related questions
  • Dig Deeper by exploring additional resources

How I harnessed the wind

At age 14, in poverty and famine, a Malawian boy built a windmill to power his family’s home. Now at 22, William Kamkwamba, who speaks at TED, here, for the second time, shares in his own words the moving tale of invention that changed his life.

Related Resources

Sam Harris: Talk to Me About Morality, Not Your Superiority

Sam Harris is offering $20,000 to anyone who can refute, disprove the central thesis of his book The Moral Landscape.

Too Simple to Be Wrong: Atheism’s Bronze-Age Goat Herder Conceit

Harris’ words [in his 2004 book The End of Faith] are indicative of a profoundly anti-intellectual conceit that holds an alarming amount of influence within contemporary scientifically motivated atheism.

→  Science, Religion and ‘The Breakfast Club’ Conceit 

Moving Windmills: The William Kamkwamba Story (video 6:07)

New documentary traces William Kamkwamba’s journey from rural Malawi to the TED Stage

William Kamkwamba is the subject of a new documentary, William and the Windmill, which made its world premiere at the SXSW film festival on Sunday, March 10. It is up for the festival’s Documentary Competition.

Week 2 – BANNED! TED Standards & Practices

In the United StatesStandards and Practices (also referred to 
as Broadcast Standards and Practices) is the name traditionally 
given to the department at a television network which is responsible 
for the moral, ethical, and legal implications of the program that 
network airs. - Wikipedia

The TED Talks is a phenomenon not without its critics. One issue is a possible standard that pitches and panders to an elite audience. Another is the practice of banning Talks because some vocal groups find the topics or ideas objectionable.

What’s Wrong with TED Talks?

Published on Dec 30, 2013. Benjamin Bratton, Associate Professor of Visual Arts at UCSD and Director of The Center for Design and Geopolitics at CALIT2, asks: Why don’t the bright futures promised in TED talks come true? Professor Bratton attacks the intellectual viability of TED, calling it placebo politics, middlebrow megachurch infotainment, and the equivalent of right-wing media channels. Does TED falsely present problems as simply puzzles to be solved by rearranging the pieces?

BANNED: Rich People Don’t Create Jobs

Via Business Insider: “As the war over income inequality wages on, super-rich Seattle entrepreneur Nick Hanauer has been raising the hackles of his fellow 1-percenters, espousing the contrarian argument that rich people don’t actually create jobs. The position is controversial — so much so that TED is refusing to post a talk that Hanauer gave on the subject. National Journal reports today that TED officials decided not to put Hanauer’s March 1 speech up online after deeming his remarks “too politically controversial” for the site…”.

TIME: Was Nick Hanauer’s TED Talk on Income Inequality Too Rich for Rich People?

FORBES: The Real Reason That TED Talk was Censored? Its Shoddy and Dumb

TED’s Chris Anderson Offers Up Tepid Defense For Blocking Hanauer Video

BANNED: The Science Delusion

TED’s Chris Anderson censored Rupert Sheldrake, along with Graham Hancock, and removed this video and Hancock’s from the TEDx YouTube channel. They dared question the Scientistic Orthodoxy, and for that they have been publicly castigated and defamed.

More on the controversy:

TED Blog ( >2,000 comments) 

Dear TED, Is it ‘bad science’ or a ‘Game of Thrones’?

Chris Anderson: TED, censorship, consciousness, militant atheists, and pseudo science!

Deepak Chopra: Reply to Chris Anderson, TED 

Deepak Chopra: TED relents, but whose hash has been settled?

BUT NOT BANNED: Dawkins on militant atheism

AND NOT BANNED: Chopra 2002 talk at TED

AND NOT BANNED: How economic inequality harms societies

We feel instinctively that societies with huge income gaps are somehow going wrong. Richard Wilkinson charts the hard data on economic inequality, and shows what gets worse when rich and poor are too far apart: real effects on health, lifespan, even such basic values as trust.

Week 1 – Minds & Brains

The world needs all kinds of minds.


Temple Grandin, diagnosed with autism as a child, talks about how her mind works — sharing her ability to “think in pictures,” which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids.

The most important lesson from 83,000 brain scans


Clinical psychiatrist Daniel Amen tells us how and why brain imaging is essential for diagnosis and treatment in psychiatry.

Related Resources

Temple Grandin’s Website

Temple Grandin – The Movie [8.4]

March 28, 2014 (CNN) — One in 68 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a 30% increase from 1 in 88 two years ago, according to a new report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  More →

Study warns of higher risk of autism for kids born to men over 45 [Video 3:21]

The Puzzle of Neuroimaging and Psychiatric Diagnosis: Technology and Nosology in an Evolving Discipline