Redefining pediatric malnutrition to improve treatment

A new article, published today in Nutrition in Clinical Practice, a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition that publishes articles about the scientific basis and clinical application of nutrition and nutrition support, reviews the new definition of pediatric malnutrition; identifies populations where the new guidelines can be problematic in clinical practice; and describes the implementation of a malnutrition identification program within a large tertiary care children’s hospital. —> Read More

The U.S. Smoking Rate Just Hit A Historic Low

Chalk up another big win for public health: The smoking rate among U.S. adults appears to have hit a new low.

New survey data, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Tuesday morning, suggests that just 15.2 percent of American adults are now using cigarettes on a regular basis. That smoking rate is nearly 2 percentage points lower than what the same survey reported for calendar year 2014.

The basis for the findings are responses to the National Health Interview Survey, which the Census Bureau operates on behalf of the CDC and is among the most reliable instruments government has for measuring health habits and status. The data is preliminary, because it comes from January through March and the smoking rate might yet creep up before the year ends. Among other factors, people have been known to quit in January, after making a New Year’s resolution, and then resume a few months later.

But even allowing for that possibility, and the margin of error that all surveys have, it’s likely the adult smoking rate for the full 2015 calendar year will be lower than it was in 2014.

“This result is absolutely exciting and maybe even astonishing, if this decrease holds up when we see data for the full year,” Kenneth Warner, a professor of health policy and management at the University of Michigan, told The Huffington Post.

Warner, who is among the nation’s leading experts on tobacco and anti-smoking policy, explained: “With smoking responsible for 500,000 American deaths every year — one-fifth of all deaths — every decrease in smoking prevalence of this magnitude will ultimately translate into many thousands of premature deaths being avoided. This is a great development for public health.”

This year’s reduction is part of a long-term trend that dates back at —> Read More

The secret life of scientific ideas

Many of the most memorable stories in the history of science revolve around the conscious realization of an idea – the “Eureka!” moment. But what triggers these moments? Is there always some serendipitous event preceding a sudden epiphany, such as when Isaac Newton famously figured out gravity when he saw a falling apple? —> Read More

Future of AI at SciFoo 2015


Every year approximately 200 people meet at Google in Mountain View, California for an event called SciFoo, probably one of the most famous unconferences. Innovators from various disciplines are given access to Google’s cafeterias, to rooms with funky names such as neuralyzer, flux and capacitor and are left to organize sessions where they discuss freely, present bold ideas, give demos of gadgets etc. No topic is considered too crazy or taboo, and half-baked thoughts and ideas are encouraged rather than rebuked. The outcome is a glorious mess of ideas and inspiration that one needs weeks to digest afterward.

One of the sessions at SciFoo this year, organized by Nick Bostrom, Gary Marcus, Jaan Tallin, Max Tegmark, and Murray Shanahan, discussed the future of artificial intelligence. Each of the organizers presented a 5-minute thought piece after which the floor was open for discussion. SciFoo operates under a “frieNDA” policy where people’s comments can only be reported with their permission – I’m grateful to the five speakers for consenting.

Murray Shanahan began by delineating the distinction between on one hand specialist AI (being developed with certainty in the short term, on a time frame of 5-10 years), and general AI (with a long time horizon, the full development of which for now pertains to the domain of science fiction visions). Then Shanahan raised three question-ideas:

1. Do we want to build properly autonomous machines or do we want to ensure that they are just tools?
2. If we could create a powerful AI that could give us anything we wanted, what would we get it to do?
3. Should we create our own evolutionary successors?

While Murray Shanahan opened with philosophical idea-questions, taking as a given the development of general, strong AI, Gary Marcus adopted the position of the skeptic —> Read More

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