Monthly Archives: February 2012
A new study in the British Medical Journal looked at the mortality rates associated with the use of “hypnotic drugs,” or sleeping pills. Older studies have looked at this before and found that people using sleeping pills were more likely to die, but had some shortcomings which this study corrected. The results:
Patients receiving prescriptions for zolpidem, temazepam and other hypnotics suffered over four times the mortality as the matched hypnotic-free control patients.
Even patients prescribed fewer than 18 hypnotic doses per year experienced increased mortality, with greater mortality associated with greater dosage prescribed.
Among patients prescribed hypnotics, cancer incidence was increased for several specific types of cancer, with an overall cancer increase of 35% among those prescribed high doses
The researchers adjusted the data to remove effects caused by age, gender, smoking, body mass index, ethnicity, marital status, alcohol use and prior cancer. However, without more effort, research like this finds correlation, not causation: it’s hard to tell whether the sleeping pills caused the higher risk of death, or whether the patients with sleep problems have a higher risk of death to begin with and would’ve ended up the same without the sleeping pill.
To combat this problem, the study also controlled for known causes of death and the association between sleeping pill use and mortality remained significant. Or, in science speak: “neither the level of individual health nor the presence of particular categories of comorbidity explains the bulk of the hazard associated with the use of hypnotic medications.” However, they still can’t be sure that they didn’t leave something out, and an unknown factor is causing both the insomnia and higher mortality. Still, about 8% of Americans use sleeping pills, so caution is warranted. The paper closes with this — emphasis added:
The meagre benefits of hypnotics, as critically reviewed by groups without financial interest would not justify substantial risks. A consensus is developing that cognitive-behavioural therapy of chronic insomnia may be more successful than hypnotics. Against meagre benefits, it is prudent to weigh the evidence of mortality risks from the current study and 24 previous reports, in order to reconsider whether even short-term use of hypnotics, as given qualified approval in National Institute for Clinical Excellence guidance, is sufficiently safe.
These two things are not related, except for the fact that doing both properly will save you a lot of frustration. Firstly, the USB cable: there are seams on one side of the cable’s connector; the seams should be pointing down, or if it plugs in vertically, left. Remember that fact and you’ll be doing USB hole-in-ones in no time.
Secondly, tying your shoes: there are two ways to make the rabbit go around the tree, and the one most of us do is slightly easier, but results in the weak version of that knot. Do it the opposite way, and you get the strong version which not only looks better, but is a stronger knot. The 3 minute TED video below explains in pictures:
Here’s a new thing that’s happening: some kid‘s been bringing a giant cutout of a funny-looking face he makes to Alabama basketball games, in order to distract the opposing team’s players.
Here’s a short YouTube video someone shot of their TV while he was on ESPN:
And here he is on Jimmy Falon:
Update, 30 March 2012: Now he’s running for president of the University of Alabama, vis-a-vis this funny election video:
Via Laughing Squid
Back in September of 2011, experiments at CERN showed neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light. This would imply that we could send messages backward in time, so it should come as no surprise that the whole thing was an error, in this case due to a loose cable. Since the cable in question wasn’t tightened enough, the data arrived 60 nanoseconds later than it should’ve; the neutrinos in question arrived 60 nanoseconds earlier than they should’ve. So it looks like carelessness wins again. Of course, they’ll have to confirm this with a new round of experiments, but for now, the dinosaurs are still safe.
Update, 17 March 2012: more evidence that neutrinos can’t travel faster than light has been uncovered.