BB King has passed away. His style wasn’t my favourite, but he was a truly great musician and performer.
I’ve seen a couple of articles recently that give me faith that medical science – and medical sense – are causing a reversal of some worrying trends.
Treatments that don’t work
In 2012 the previous Australian federal government asked the Australian chief medical officer for a review of “natural” therapies that were – and still are – covered by Medicare and many private insurance policies. Those treatments included naturopathy, aromatherapy, ear candling, crystal therapy, flower essences, homeopathy, iridology, kinesiology, reiki and rolfing.
This was welcomed by anyone who approves of taxpayer money being spent on treatments for which there is clinical evidence.
The Australian newspaper has posted a couple of articles in recent days (which I haven’t linked because they’re behind paywalls) about leaks that that review will be released soon, and it will not be good for those alternative therapies. Homeopathy got an early knocking already last year. Bravo, I say. This letter to the Australian agrees.
It’s a shame that practices like acupuncture, chiropractic, and Chinese medicine were explicitly omitted from the review, but it’s still a very good step.
Anti-vaccine movement declines
In other good news, the Guardian reports that “the income and membership of the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network (AVN) has significantly diminished in the past three years”. Both media and governments are treating the AVN appropriately (that is, they’re not pretending that theirs is an informed or balanced view), and people are responding.
Now for immunisation rates to climb back up.
I’ve harboured dreams of going back into a more scientific job in a few years. I miss doing science. But I’ve realised that to do so in Australia today would be foolish.
Earlier this year I mentioned that CSIRO had had to make significant cuts following government reductions in their funding.
The bad news continues. Cuts of support staff mean that CSIRO scientists aren’t spending all their time on doing actual science. And one of our Nobel-tipped researchers has been let go.
CSIRO isn’t the only agency being affected, though; these groups are losing nearly $310m between them:
- The Australian Research Council (ARC)
- The Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO)
- Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)
- Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS)
- Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) program
While there was to be a new $110m+ medical research fund, the unwise doctor’s visit co-payment the Liberal government proposed to deliver it is likely to be abandoned.
An opposition party will always spin hyperbole, but the Australian Labor Party makes a reasonable case that cuts to university and preventative health programs means the overall cuts to science are much bigger, despite their attempt at funding medical research. Someone who has been involved in research grant administration in North America agrees strongly with this view.
The ABC’s Fact Check department estimates that it’s true that science research spending as a percentage of GDP in Australia is as low as it’s been since they started keeping records.
It just doesn’t feel like an environment that values science.
Whether you’re a student learning about the elements or just a chemistry nerd, this interactive periodic table of elements is pretty neat.
I’ve heard a song I really liked on triple j in the last couple of weeks. It’s bluesy, cool, and with some rockin’ guitar. The group is called Harts, and this is the song:
Turns out it’s not a group at all. It’s a guy, and he plays, records, and mixes his songs all by himself in his bedroom in Melbourne. I think he rocks. He incorporates a lot of the things I like most about music: blues, funk, falsetto singing, bass, and guitar riffery. Check this out:
And he likes a Hendrix cover. Amazing.
I’m off to buy his album.
Tonight was my seventh time seeing Bob Dylan play live. I continued my lucky streak of never seeing Bob on a really bad night.
The man is a legend. He’s 73 years old, still writing great albums, and is reinventing old songs all the time.
Anyone hoping for greatest hits would be disappointed. He played for over 2 hours but until the encore produced only 3 songs written before 1997 (“She Belongs To Me”, “Tangled Up In Blue”, and “Simple Twist of Fate”). That’s OK, I’ve seen plenty of the classics before.
Songs like “Things Have Changed”, “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'”, and “Love Sick” pack a lot of punch with me. I was amazed that even recent songs like “Duquesne Whistle” have already been reworked into nearly unrecognizable versions.
The band is perfect. There are, as always, no frills. It’s an otherworldly combination of loose and laser-sharp, of legendary music and classics that are only a year old. It’s every bit of blues, jazz, rock, country, and folk Americana music on one stage.
Highlights? Bob playing at a grand piano instead of the little keyboard he’s used in the past, and “High Water (For Charley Patton)”. The full setlist is here.