Thursday, September 10, 2009

Michael Pollan's Take on The Healthcare Debate

Read this from NYTimes contributor, Michael Pollan.

We have known about the link between diet and health for such a long time, it amazes me that nothing is being done to address this side of the puzzle. Even with a perfect healthcare system, can we really hope to expect to take care of every fat ass? At least the cost of healthcare is an incentive against unhealthy life choices, all be it a poor incentive. Can we really hope to keep people healthy if they get out of bed, eat breakfast, get in a car, go to work, sit in their office chair, get in their car, sit and eat lunch, get in their car, sit in the office, get in the car, go home, eat dinner while watching TV, and goes to bed- oh wait, was that a question?

"But so far, food system reform has not figured in the national conversation about health care reform. And so the government is poised to go on encouraging America’s fast-food diet with its farm policies even as it takes on added responsibilities for covering the medical costs of that diet. To put it more bluntly, the government is putting itself in the uncomfortable position of subsidizing both the costs of treating Type 2 diabetes and the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup."

Personally, I don't see how it is possible to attack one issue (the system and its problems) while not addressing the lifestyle issues as well. We as a culture are over fed, over worked, under rested, and we exercise far too little. Add on to this the issues that Pollan has consistently raised regarding farm subsidization and the Big Agro which runs our sad food supply.

What really strikes me as depressing is how you immediately see the same logical chain as any other societal problem, only inversed. Normally, you have a group that has its corporate model tied to a piece of legislation that will typically harm the industry by creating restrictions on a part of their corporate model. They lobby the government by lining the coffers of the government officials in charge of making these decisions. This derails the legislation, and voila nothing is accomplished.
Trying to take a notch out of Big Agro means government deregulation of their industry. This means taking out legislation in order to remove the restrictions on the industry. These incentives are things like farm subsides encouraging the growth of #2 Monsanto Corn. Here we are back at the corporate/government interface; Monsanto and Cargil lobby the department of agriculture and the Congressional committee that is responsible for the Farm Bill each year, and voila you get no changes in policy.

The light that Pollan sees at the end of the tunnel is something like this; we have the insurance companies fight the agro companies because when the insurance companies cannot just boot out chronic illness like type 2 diabetes anymore, then they have to deal with the root of the problem- the food system:

"But these rules may well be about to change — and, when it comes to reforming the American diet and food system, that step alone could be a game changer. Even under the weaker versions of health care reform now on offer, health insurers would be required to take everyone at the same rates, provide a standard level of coverage and keep people on their rolls regardless of their health. Terms like “pre-existing conditions” and “underwriting” would vanish from the health insurance rulebook — and, when they do, the relationship between the health insurance industry and the food industry will undergo a sea change."

Friday, September 04, 2009

New Favorite Camera - What I've been doing

Is actually a microscope, and it doesn't use light but uses electrons.

This is a sample of CIGS (CdInGaSe) which is the newish cheap way to make solar cells.
This is an attached x-ray spectrometer which looks at the energies of the x-rays that spew off of the sample b/c of the electrons that are bombarding it. It can be used to determine what materials are being looked at because each element gives off a special spectrum which is like a fingerprint of that element.
Here is what is inside an LED. There is a gold (Au) ball bond (it's squished) on the top colored in yellow. Red is gallium (Ga), and blue is arscenide (As) which is what makes up the material that actually shines light and you can see there is a bunch of Ga at the top, and a mixture (purple) towards the bottom. The teal is silver (Ag) that electrically and thermally connects the whole thing to the lead at the bottom in red which is made of iron (Fe).

Kinda awesome!