Oct

28

Cafe Bwog Science

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Intrepid research correspondent Rahul D’Sa waded through a lot of science jargon to find out what Columbia researchers have been up to in their fancy-schmancy laboratories. Did you know that? Now you know!


Researchers at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health recently published a study that claims rises in the annual average temperature might cause a dramatic increase in heat-related deaths by the 2050s. They project a temperature increase of up to 6.5 degrees Fahrenheit, with summer temperatures rising by as much as 7.6 degrees (Then again, they might only rise as little as 2.5 degrees, or 2.7 degrees in the summer, but either way we’re screwed.) When the heat rises, they say, the number of heat-related deaths will too– setting themselves a wide margin of error, they estimate anywhere between a 47- and 95-percent increase in fatalities.

But wait, there’s more. When temperatures rise, urban counties—like, say, New York City—will be particularly vulnerable, according to Patrick Kinney, the director of the study. There, the “urban island heat effect” coupled with a high population density may result in the highest number of heat-related deaths, even though the worst of the heat waves will probably occur in rural areas. Kim Knowlton, the lead author of the study, adds that New York’s large population of people over 65, large population of people living in poverty, large population of people with cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses, and large population of people living in un-air-conditioned apartments (or in Wien) might actually make the Mailman School’s estimates of heat-related deaths conservative.

In another Mailman School study about even more people dying in the future than are dying now, Dr. Ian Lipkin and a team from Peking University in Beijing discovered even more unsettling information about H5N1, which you know as bird flu. By studying how the disease works in the body, they found that it starts with the lungs and then goes crazy, harming the liver, gastrointestinal tract, brain, blood cells, and, as a result, the immune system. Researchers actually found that the virus both suppresses the immune system and over-stimulates it, causing a “cytokine storm” of chemicals that eventually kill the person. So, according to the new study, the bird flu virus either kills its victim or causes its victim to kill itself—basically, H5N1 doesn’t fuck around.

Finally, in a less science-y (but still science-y enough to appear on sciencenews.org) study, Barnard Professor Rajiv Sethi, Brown University Professor Glenn Louries, and Sam Bowles of the Santa Fe Institute concluded through sociological research that segregation leads to inequality. Sethi and others developed a mathematical model where historical discrimination between two groups ended and the same skills received the same income, regardless of which group one was in. The study assumed that parents would “invest more heavily in giving their children the skills that employers value when they expect that investment to pay off later in higher wages.” It also assumed that children are more likely to excel when they’re surrounded by other children who are also doing so—an assumption supported by numerous other studies.

Because of their history, researchers say, those who are subject to discrimination are less likely to have the “skills that employers value,” so their children are less likely to acquire those skills in their homes. Because social segregation causes children to remain within their own socio-economic group, who collectively face the problem of not acquiring the skills that employers value, children are less likely to acquire those skills from each other as well. As a result, parents’ investments in those children are less likely to result in an increase in earnings, and so, parents will be less likely to invest in them, and children will be less likely to have economic success in the future. The study does, however, serve as a testament to the power of integration, sufficient amounts of which, according to Sethi, can overcome those same inequalities over generations.

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1 Comment

  1. thanks ra ra!

    informative and readable, good job!

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