A technical note to myself here, but may help others as well. When I imported .mp3 files from my Olympus Digital Voice recorder WS-831 to my PC it was no longer possible to play the files. The solution is to go to Windows Explorer and change the extension of the file from filename.MP3 (MP in capitals) to filename.mp3 (mp in small letters). Then they should play on the PC. They can also then be imported into other applications (e.g. audacity) without any problems.
Coincidentally I was reading through the Chronicle of Higher Education Forum yesterday and came across this gem from 1994. “A Mathematical Model for the Determination of Total Area Under Glucose Tolerance and Other Metabolic Curves”, Mary M. Tai, Diabetes Care, 1994, 17, 152–154. The paper outlines a ‘new’ way of measuring the area under a curve by adding up areas of rectangles and triangles which the author calls Tai’s method. In fact the method described has been understood for centuries as is known as the trapezoid rule. (I use this method in statistics for humanities for calculating the Gini co-efficient.)
I’ve not heard about the paper before and the journal quickly published responses pointing out that this method was not new. However, the paper continues to be cited… and not only by people talking about it.
There is an interesting discussion of the paper on Stack Exchange about what should have happened to the paper. The first question might lie in wondering why no one out of the author, her colleagues, the reviewers or the journal editor had ever seen this before or something like it (I first remember coming across it in A-level Geography—pre 1994). On the other hand this demonstrates that it is perfectly possible for someone who has never seen as wheel to ‘invent’ the wheel, and the technique has been brought to a new audience, albeit about four centuries late.
This might be an extreme example, but I’m sure it’s not the only one of its kind. It begs the question though how much published research is genuinely innovative and how much is non-innovative stuff discovered independently.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing though is that twenty years later the paper is still being cited, and not just by people pointing out that this paper is nothing new. This paper from 2009 reads "Glucose and insulin areas were determined using Tai's model" (p.1046).
Yesterday, I was fortunate to attend a talk by David Pencheon of the NHS’s sustainable development unit.
A few of Dr Pencheon’s questions, thoughts and observations I noted:
1. Climate change not always best entry point for talking about sustainable development. We need to listen to what people are saying. He showed some of the usual graphs about past and projects CO2 emissions etc. – these don’t really engage people.
2. Intelligent life from another planet would be surprised about how much we know about ‘fouling our own nest’ and how little we are doing about it.
3. Climate change is a public health issue.
4. People have difficulty with numbers smaller than 0.5 and bigger than 25. Using huge numbers to provoke reaction not helpful.
5. Humans find it difficult to deal with things a long way away, things in the future and things which happen incrementally.
6. In the Paris heatwave of 2003 the biggest predictor of death was social isolation, not age. Even couples were found dead together.
7. Most surgical instruments used by the NHS are produced by child labour in Pakistan.
8. Hospitals are paid for activity, not outcomes.
9. People in ‘caregiving’ professions are no better than people in other professions. Often feel they are going it in ‘day jobs’. He includes educators and faith groups in this.
10. We need innovation, not increased efficiently. Increasing efficiency often means doing bad things differently.
11. Dr Penchoen visited a community in China where the people paid a small amount for the doctor only when they were well. This gave a the doctor an incentive to keep people well—in the NHS GPs and rewarded for doing certain sorts of activity.
12. Dying well – good health practices to extend the middle of life, not the end of it. Dr Pencheon was recently at a conference where GP’s indicated that helping people to die better was something of a priority.