Teenage suicide is extremely difficult to predict. That’s why some experts are turning to machines for help.

In any given week, Ben Crotte, a behavioral health therapist at Children’s Home of Cincinnati, speaks to dozens of students in need of an outlet.

Their challenges run the adolescent gamut, from minor stress about an upcoming test to severe depression, social isolation and bullying.

Amid the flood of conversations, meetings and paperwork, the challenge for Crotte — and mental health professionals everywhere — is separating hopeless expressions of pain and suffering from crucial warning signs that suggest a student is at risk for taking their own life.

It’s a daunting, high-pressure task, which explains why Crotte was willing to add another potentially useful tool to his diagnostic kit: an app that uses an algorithm to analyze speech and determine whether someone is likely to take their own life.

It’s name: “Spreading Activation Mobile” or “SAM.”

Peter Holley, Washington Post, September 26, 2017

Being in a Good Mood Can Affect How Well The Flu Vaccine Protects You

A new study has found a link between being in a positive mood when you’re getting your flu shot and the vaccine’s protective effect.

It’s a curious finding, and these surprising results could really help researchers looking for new ways to boost the efficacy of the seasonal flu vaccine.

Sleep, stress, physical activity, mood, and even nutrition can serve as these ‘immune modulators’, prompting researchers to look into whether these could be targeted to improve vaccine effectiveness.

But we know little about the relative importance of these factors, and, until now, no research has looked at them simultaneously.

Signe Dean, Science Alert, September 26, 2017

Lightning storms triggered by exhaust from cargo ships

lightning strike

SHIPS spewing soot into the pristine ocean air are causing extra lightning strikes along busy maritime routes. It is a bizarre example of how human activities can change the weather.

When Joel Thornton at the University of Washington in Seattle and his colleagues looked at records of lightning strikes between 2005 and 2016 from the World Wide Lightning Location Network, they noticed there were significantly more strikes in certain regions of the east Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, compared with the surrounding areas. Unusually, they occurred along two straight lines in the open ocean, which coincided with two of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Along these paths there were twice as many lightning strikes as in nearby areas.

Lakshmi Supriya, New Scientist, September 19, 2017

Research Shows Birth Order Really Does Matter

Compared to older siblings, second-born boys are more likely to go to prison, get suspended in school and enter juvenile delinquency. Why? Parents of first-borns are more invested in their upbringing…Now, because you’re comparing older brothers against younger brothers, you can assume the family environment for both kids is more or less constant. The data come from two very different settings, the state of Florida and the country of Denmark. Lots of things are different in those two places. But the researchers find consistent evidence when it comes to crime and delinquency.

Shankar Vedantam, NPR, July 4, 2017

One Girl’s Mishap Led to the Creation of the Antibiotic Bacitracin

Peering through a microscope at bacteria taken from Treacy’s wound and grown in a lab dish, Johnson noticed that some staphylococcus germs were being killed off by another type of microbe, an unusual strain of the soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis. “The study of these bacterial antagonists in contaminated wounds and burns should be carried further,” urged a July 1943 report on the case that I found recently in a box of mimeographed records in a basement archive at Columbia University Medical Center.

At the time, doctors had just begun using penicillin, the revolutionary antibiotic derived from fungal mold. So Johnson and a surgeon colleague, Frank Meleney of Columbia, did carry on, and found that the B. subtilis from Treacy produced an “antibiotic substance.” In 1948, the Food and Drug Administration approved an antibiotic medication based on the discovery—bacitracin, after “Bacillus” and “Tracey,” a misspelling of the patient’s name.

Peter Andrey Smith, Smithsonian.com, June 2017


Women and Men Die of Different Causes in Middle Age

It may be uncomfortable to ponder, but elderly ladies and gentlemen worldwide die of very similar causes, notably cardiovascular disease. Girls and boys also succumb to a similar set of illnesses, mostly infectious diseases. Yet the death differences are pronounced for young and middle-aged women and men, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle (large graphic). Women are more likely to die from tuberculosis, diarrhea, respiratory illnesses and nutritional deficiencies. Men perish from substance abuse, injuries, self-harm and violence. As with so many issues related to the sexes, cause of death is determined much more by social factors than by biology (small graphs).

Mark Fischetti, Scientific American, September 1, 2017

How Fake News Goes Viral—Here’s the Math

NASA runs a child-slave colony on Mars!

Photos taken by a Chinese orbiter reveal an alien settlement on the moon!

Shape-shifting reptilian extraterrestrials that can control human minds are running the U.S. government!

What drives the astonishing popularity of such stories? Are we a particularly gullible species? Perhaps not—maybe we’re just overwhelmed. A bare-bones model of how news spreads on social media, published in June in Nature Human Behavior, indicates that just about anything can go viral. Even in a perfect world, where everyone wants to share real news and is capable of evaluating the veracity of every claim, some fake news would still reach thousands (or even millions) of people, simply because of information overload.

Madhusree Mukerjee, Scientific American, July 14, 2017

Americans in this field have the highest rate of divorce by age 30

Marriage problems are more likely for people in some career paths than others.

Workers in certain fields are seeing higher divorce rates by age 30, a new analysis of U.S. Census Data from career website Zippia found. The highest divorce rate was for first-line enlisted military supervisors, its analysis of Census Bureau’s Public Use Microdata Sample, or PUMS, data found. They had a divorce rate of 30%. The occupation involves leading operations and coordinating the activities of enlisted military personnel.

The next highest rates came from careers including logisticians, automotive service technicians and mechanics, followed by military-enlisted tactical operations and air weapons. In fact, military jobs took three of the top 10 spots in its listing. Across all fields, military workers of all ranks were most likely to be divorced by age 30, at a rate of 15%. (The average age for divorce is 30 and roughly 41% of first marriages end in divorce, studies show.)

People who serve often face a unique set of circumstances that can impact their home life. “Some of the most demanding professions can be hardest on marriage, either because of time spent away, persistent danger or insufficient pay,” said Mark Hamrick, a senior economic analyst at personal-finance site Bankrate.com. “These challenges can certainly pertain to those who serve in the armed forces, making or either willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.”

Military deployments have a profound effect on marriage, according to a separate study published last year in the Journal of Population Economics. It found divorce rates increased significantly when spouses spent each month away. Divorce rates for military members who have been deployed are higher:It’s 12.52% for those in the U.S. Navy, 8.9% in the Marines, 8.48% in the Army and 14.6% in Air Force, according to Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch data.


Kari Paul, Market Watch, August 31, 2017