Digital Exhaust #183
The disease scales; the cure does not
Welcome back to Digital Exhaust, a 33c weekly digest. Browse below the button for the most interesting links, rumors and ephemera coursing through the ether. As usual, the letter has a healthtech focus with attention to the human beings that use it. Enjoy.
In search of the impossible machine
Nothing shows more clearly the perfect engineering of the heart than our own failed attempts to imitate it. An interesting excerpt from The Exquisite Machine - The New Science of the Heart. A dive into the history of innovation and failure around the artificial heart, from MIT Press. I want to read this one.
The rhythm of his heart
Speakin’ of hearts, this synthesizer transforms the heartbeats of kids with congenital heart disease into musical rhythms.
The mask wars have a winner?
A rigorous assessment of 78 studies published by Cochrane found “little to no” evidence that masking at the population level reduced COVID infections. The metaanalysis held when they compared surgical masks with N95 masks. Or no mask.
Cochrane, I’ll add, has long been considered the final word in big meta analyses like this. Critics of the Cochrane review have suggested the conclusion might have been different if there were higher-quality studies available.
Of course, we all like the studies that confirm our bias.
+ And in case you were wondering, AI can’t diagnose COVID based on the sound of a cough.
Medicine and baseball occasionally disappoint me
Such a great reflection on medicine and baseball fromon .
Neither medicine nor baseball can be mastered and both take a whole lot of time to even approach mastery.
Like most loves, medicine and baseball occasionally disappoint me. I wish medicine progressed faster and I wish baseball would stop feeling the need to change. I wish money had less of an influence in both.
Dr. Cifu is an evolving renaissance man of medicine. The same week he penned this he published new guidelines in JAMA on the management of thoracic aortic dissection.
Last week you heard that GoodRx had sold your medical information to Facebook. This week they published a rebuttal. It’s worth a look, but for all the wrong reasons — It’s a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo. Which tells me what I need to know. But if you have any idea what it really means, let me know.
Along these lines, I’m finishing up Beyond Data - Reclaiming Human Rights in the Age of the Metaverse by Elizabeth Renieris (2023, MIT Press). It’s a great read if you wanna geek out in the area of data privacy.
+ In related news, the European Union has figured out that Amazon acquired Roomba only to scrape information about your house. And they have questions.
27 hour clinical workday
This is a good story in the New York Times covering the problem of creeping demands on clinicians. Specifically, time consuming recommendations and guidelines that never seem to stop. Docs are required to do more and more stuff. And there is a cameo from Digital Exhaust community member, Victor Montori. BTW, you should read his excellent book, Why We Revolt.
Overheard: If it’s all in bold…
…None of it’s in bold, via the shortest blog post I’ve ever seen from Seth Godin. Reminds me of my medical student classmates that used to highlight every sentence of their class handouts. Our micro professor, in a subtle act of defiance, began distributing handouts printed on yellow paper. Because it was ‘all important.'
The disease scales; The cure does not
Found this quote while digging through some old notes. I can’t get it out of my head.
There’s a Sting lyric in “All This Time” that’s always broken my heart: “Men go crazy in congregations / They only get better one by one.” Contemporary women, for instance, are all dunked into the same mass-media dye bath of body-image issues, and then each, individually and idiosyncratically and painfully, has to spend some years working through it. The disease scales; the cure does not. & dash; Brian Christian, The Most Human Human - What Artificial Intelligence Teaches Us About Being Alive, 2011
Written well over a decade ago, Christian was way ahead of his time with this book. I’d kill to get his insight around GPT and where it’s headed.
Retro look at David the bubble boy
From 2015, but still a great overview of the life of David Vetter, the famed bubble boy — we’ve all heard bits and pieces about David but this video captures his life trajectory in just a few minutes. It’s worth a peek if you don’t know his whole story. Carol, David’s mother, lives a few minutes from Texas Children’s Hospital - The Woodlands, where I currently work. She’s a wonderful woman and a tireless advocate for our hospital and kids with severe combined immune deficiency. Our allergy/immunology clinic is dedicated to David.
I never knew how painful the Simpsons and Seinfeld ‘bubble boy’ jokes were to these families. And I can’t imagine what it was like as a mother to see these kinds of references. But to Carol’s credit, she recognizes how much awareness this ultimately drew to children with SCIDS.
A sign of The Times
The Financial Times has appointed an artificial intelligence editor.
Apple is folding
…or their phones are. They were granted a patent for foldable screens.
I appreciate your being a member of this amazing list. We’ve had some growth recently due to your generous sharing post sharing. Thank you. More later and have a great weekend!