Dangerous Ideas

I’ve been reading Big Think for a while now, and it’s always pretty interesting. Perhaps their most thought-provoking articles are in the Dangerous Ideas series, which they describe as:

Brace yourself: these ideas may at first seem shocking or counter-intuitive—but they are worth our attention, even if we end up rejecting them.  Every idea in this blog is supported by contributions from leading experts, from the world’s top theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, to Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker, to linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky.

It’s worth a look. Some are definitely better than others, and none really explore the issues in much depth, but in general they’re good to get you thinking or to start a conversation. A few of my favorites:

Pharma Pictograms

7847_web.jpgFrench researchers have developed a potentially very useful set of graphical icons to depict disease and drug information:

Like road signs, the VCM graphical language uses a small set of graphical signs. The current dictionary contains about 130 pictograms displayed in 5 colors. For example, current conditions of a patient are shown as red icons while risks of future conditions are orange. The physicians who tested the system learned it in a couple of hours and think this system will reduce the number of errors in drug prescriptions.

I think a universal, simplified set of icons is a great idea. Of course they wouldn’t be a replacement for drug information sheets, etc., but they could allow doctors and pharmacist to quickly identify a substance and work more safely and efficiently.

FRONTLINE:sick around the world

FRONTLINE does yet another great job as one of the only remaining investigative journalism outfit in America. It’s kind of like Sicko without the persuasive slant, though it is done in an editorial/feature style. You can watch it entirely online (because PBS is awesome), and there’s even a little bonus footage at the end where he explores Ayurvedic medicine. One of the great things about watching Frontline online is the little text popups that link to informative pages, such as this one, that contained a few very interesting graphs (click for bigger):

graph1.jpg   graph2.jpg   graph3.jpg

You’ll notice that the US spends far more money to far less effect than the other nations gathered in these charts (data gathered from a 2007 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)). Another really interesting section is on how different countries compensate doctors and deal with malpractice. I thought the author made a really excellent point when he said that the current presidential candidates are mentioning health care reform, but not one is referring to how we can emulate more effective systems from other parts of the world.