I could not be happier. I’ll admit it; I have been in a serious funk since the World Health Organization announced a few weeks back that bacon causes cancer. But recently I got some health news redemption because I spent some time over the last few days perusing Facebook. In my recent feed were so many awesome additions to essential medical knowledge that I know it’s going to be a great New Year. It’s so helpful to find a reliable source for all the breaking medical news, especially when it’s good news.
For starters, I learned that scientists at my alma mater, UC Berkeley (Go Bears!) are busily working away on mind-reading. Apparently, some have figured out how to decode the words you say silently to yourself by reading how your neurons are firing. The theory is that covert speech (that which you say to yourself when reading, for instance), could provide the key to actual communication for those who have lost their ability to talk, perhaps as a result of stroke or paralysis.
Meanwhile, across town, another group of scientists at Northwestern University has figured out how to read the mind of a fly. Why is this exciting you ask? Well, if you can read the mind of a fly, you can surely read the minds of people, I figure. Flies are complicated; they fly, for goodness sake. They have to avoid flyswatters. They have to break in to people’s houses and find the kitchen. People are much simpler. This time of year people only need to figure out where to sit and eat before napping, so it has to be easier to read human minds than fly minds. And if you can read the minds of humans, we would clear up so much miscommunication and disappointment. It’s the holidays and many of us will be with our families. Wouldn’t it be amazing to know what they are really thinking as they look over the turkey at you? Oh wait, maybe that wouldn’t be so great.
In the business context, how awesome would it be if we could read people’s thought bubbles. So much time would be saved, so many bad deals averted. From a practical standpoint, Board meetings would become incredibly efficient. Within moments you might know what the CEO is actually thinking about next quarter’s performance and what the Board members are actually thinking about the CEO. I can imagine reclaiming massive amounts of time if I there is a way to productize these algorithms. Perhaps FitBit or Google are working on the mindreading wearable – a bracelet or band-aid or contact lens or headband – that can transmit our inner thoughts to an interested party’s iPhone? Talk about a useful holiday gift. Finally, a meaningful application for big data.
And speaking of the holidays, Facebook’s scientific archives also taught me today that drinking one glass of red wine is equivalent to an hour at the gym. According to the study’s lead researcher, the resveratrol in red wine, “…could help patient populations who want to exercise but are physically incapable.” Let me tell you, after the holiday diet, this will include a hell of a lot of people.
OK, it’s true that the study, undertaken at the University of Alberta, Canada, was performed on rats, not people, eh. But imagine how much easier it would be to get a person to drink a glass of wine. Rats take tiny sips. The research must have been so tedious. I have a bunch of friends who can knock back a glass in no time and would definitely be game to volunteer for the next round of research. One challenge is that I am actually allergic to red wine. As a result, I am currently seeking IRB approval to perform this study with bourbon. I do not believe that enrollment in the clinical trial will be challenging for this either.
It’s my birthday this month and thus I was also delighted to hear affirmation that coffee increases longevity. Specifically, coffee seems to reduce stroke, improve cognition and is associated with longer life span in non-smokers. This must be true because the research is from Harvard. Even better, the study included a majority of women, which may make it the first clinical study in the history of the universe to do so. This is particularly good news since the shopping center down the street from my house already has 2 Starbucks. And when I asked what was going into the one empty store in the mall last night while sitting at the pizza joint, the waiter thought it might be another Starbucks. So clearly I’m going to live forever.
And really, the best news of all: it turns out that if you have a big butt you are probably a genius. Also, your kids are geniuses. And your big butt has the potential to ward off cancer and diabetes. I haven’t checked the ICD-10, but maybe it sounds like there should be a new code for Baby Got Back. The research on this weighty topic (drum roll please) comes from no less than Oxford University, which somehow got the funding to study correlates of large derrieres. I am feeling especially good about this going into the holidays, as the odds of my butt getting even bigger are pretty strong. Not to brag, but at the rate I’m going my kid is going to unlock the secret to cold fusion.
So as you go into this holiday season, keep heart. Facebook will deliver us from evil, or at least bad health. If you try hard enough, you can find an article to justify any form of bad behavior you are contemplating. Hot chocolate improves your health! Cheese is good for you! The color red makes you more attractive (go Santa!) I haven’t yet found the study linking bacon to world peace or clearer skin, but I’m still searching.