Electricity for Africa: if it’s a moral imperative, must it be green?

In Electricity for Africa, Matt Ridley quotes a UN official who says, despite the troubles in Libya and the Sahel that make the news, the long-term problems are concentrated in Subsaharan Africa:

Just to get sub-Saharan electricity consumption up to the levels of South Africa or Bulgaria would mean adding about 1,000 gigawatts of capacity, the installation of which would cost at least £1 trillion.

Renewable generation will cost about 4-5 times what natural gas generation costs.

The economist Bjørn Lomborg has been making the case that getting energy and clean water to Africans is a higher moral priority than pursuing renewable energy. He still thinks climate change is a danger, but he thinks developing new energy technologies will get far better results than rolling out expensive and land-hungry renewables today.

Worth reading the whole thing.

Last Frontier for Obamacare Exchange

A week ago I asked prospective Democrat candidate for governor Hollis French if he, as governor, would enter Alaska in the new Medicaid program. He replied, “Absolutely, yes.” (The argument he made is depressingly common among the people here: you spend $28M and the Federal government gives you a $1000M bridge to nowhere.) So Hollis French won’t be getting my vote next year.

In other Obamacare news, since Alaska doesn’t have its own exchange for nobody to enroll in, they’ve all not enrolled in the Federal exchange:

Enroll Alaska chief operating officer Tyann Boling confirmed that no one has enrolled as of late last week.

“Now things are looking a little bit better this week,” she said. “It’s not for sure we’ve enrolled anybody yet, but things seems to be functioning a little bit better, but as of last week, we had not known of one person that had enrolled in the state of Alaska.”

Lit Nights Lead to Dark Days?

Depressed? Turn off the lights and go to sleep. That’s the conclusion of a study recently announced in Time magazine:

A study from Ohio State University Medical Center found that hamsters with chronic exposure to dim light at night showed signs of depression within just a few weeks: reduced physical activity compared with hamsters living in normal light-dark conditions, as well as less interest in sugar water (a treat for the hamsters), greater signs of distress when placed in water, and changes in the brain’s hippocampus that are similar to brain changes seen in depressed people.

I just spent the past three months in the Alaska summer. Hmmm.

But the upcoming Alaska night won’t be a solution, because I live in an age of cheap, bright LEDs, and all my gadgets have too many of them. See the story in Popular Mechanics.

The LED indicator proliferation is due partly to the litigious nature of consumer culture. (Hedge cites manufacturers’ fears of “failure to warn” lawsuits.) But most LEDs are added because product designers see no reason not to. “Often in the world of design, if you can afford to do something, you do it,” Hedge says. But even if a functional case could be made for each of these lights individually, in aggregate they just create sensory pollution and dilute the message each light ought to deliver: “Hey, something’s going on with this device.”

I love the accompanying illustration. It reminds me of my bedroom.

Alternative Medicine Isn’t

What was the New York Times thinking, running this piece (“Is your doctor open to alternative medicine?”).

I mean, I understand why quacks and charlatans promote “alternative” remedies: the same reason that Willie Sutton supposedly robbed banks.

I also understand why so many people are attracted to alternatives: because our healthcare delivery system is so messed up. The doctors created a system where they had a legal monopoly, in order to get rich. But it also encourages people to pursue alternatives. The poor do, of course, but even people with money, or insurance, avoid doctors. Our monopolist doctors overbook appointments, make us wait 1-2 hours after the scheduled time, and then try to cram our care into a 7.5 minute office visit. It’s like getting your medical care from the cable guy. By contrast, the quacks and charlatans have got nothing but time. They’ll listen to everything you say, nodding their heads sympathetically.

What I can’t understand is how the Times decided to run a story about being open to “alternative” medicine the same day they report Steve Jobs could have survived his cancer if he hadn’t wasted the first nine months pursuing “alternative” quackery like fruit juices, acupuncture, and herbal remedies.

Sadly, it’s not just geniuses like Jobs who fall for the nonsense that people are peddling. Just the other day, I met a woman who refused to get her kids vaccinated because of fears about mercury. She was just repeating things she heard, second-, third-, and seventeenth-hand. She is a victim of fraud, and her kids may become tragic victims.

I understand people selling these “alternative” medicines. But I don’t sympathize with them. They have a lot to answer for, and if there is any justice in the universe, someday they will.

(H/T: Althouse.)

Intelligence and Disease

Why are some places more blessed with smart people? (Yes, I assume that more smarter people is better for a society, and no, I won’t attempt to convince you.) Some recent studies suggest that disease may be the reason for uneven distribution of intelligence:

In our 2010 study, we not only found a very strong relationship between levels of infectious disease and IQ, but controlling for the effects of education, national wealth, temperature, and distance from sub-Saharan Africa, infectious disease emerged as the best predictor of the bunch. A recent study by Christopher Hassall and Thomas Sherratt repeated our analysis using more sophisticated statistical methods, and concluded that infectious disease may be the only really important predictor of average national IQ.

The researchers wondered if, since infant humans spend as much as 90 percent of their calories building and growing their brains, fighting disease detracts from that important work.

If this finding is correct, then the uneven distribution of intelligence may be a developmental matter rather than genetics or uncontrollable environmental factors like climate.

Pick Your Poison…

Apparently we get to choose whether we’ll die from cancer or heart attack:

The largest study ever to examine the association of dietary fats and prostate cancer risk has found what’s good for the heart may not be good for the prostate.

(Kudus: Instapundit)

1Q results

Every night (almost) I exercise while watching a video. Here’s how things shaped up during 1Q11:

days 90 exercised 86 (96%) skipped 4
total exercise: 2 days, 19 hrs, 25 min
avg daily exercise: 44.9 min/day
avg. wt. recorded: 214.23, 13 records

It’s kind of amazing to think I’ve spent almost three days exercising. Notice too that, out of 86 days in which I recorded my exercise, I chose to record my weight only 13 times. If you think that speaks volumes, well, shut up.

A Better Diet Plan

My doctor’s been on my back to lose a few pounds. That’s good, because it’s kept me from gaining any more. Otherwise, it hasn’t been very effective. But now I think I’ve figured out the secret:

After two weeks, the people who slept more lost more fat than the group who slept less. More than half of the weight loss during the 8.5 hours of sleep was fat versus only one quarter of the weight loss during the 5.5 hours of sleep. People literally burned fat while they slept.

I found this on the internet so it must be true. See the whole piece at Psychology Today.

Robotic Spiders? Sign me up!

In a couple of years, the doctor will tell me that I’m old enough for a colonoscopy. When that happens, I hope this new technology is ready:

A new way to scan for diseases, including cancer of the stomach or colon, using a remote contol ‘spider pill’ camera with moving legs, has been hailed by scientists in Italy.

Experts believe the device, which is swallowed by the patient and controlled by doctors using a wireless connection, could transform the difficult and invasive process of diagnosing serious conditions.

The pill, which contains a tiny camera, is also fitted with tiny legs that can be activated remotely once it is inside the colon or intestine.

The Telegraph, via Slashdot.

Back from the Doctor's

I really hate the “lipid panel.” For two years, mine has been wandering up and down, ranging anywhere from poor to bad. I’m gonna have to do something about that. Apparently the best thing for me to do would be to quit eating carbohydrates entirely.

On the upside, Doc Jaypee told me that glucosamine isn’t just a quack nutritional-supplement, but that it might actually help with my bad knee. I’ll have to give that a try.