Babbage: The fast and the spurious

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The Drugs and vaccines for Kobe, nineteen are appearing faster than ever. Put Our government's approving them to easily. The Klay Message to any other government is don't start dropping your citizens with vaccines do not properly tested. It's just not worth it. Hello, and welcome to baggage from economist radio our weekly podcast on technology and science. I'm Kenneth Kooky a a senior editor at the Economist and coming up on today's show. Musk's quest to wire a computer into the human brain. What they demonstrated. The other night was a device that can record from a thousands and twenty four, these the wise a thousand brain cells. And every breath you tank. Just, light breathing display over a couple of minutes youth can really feel this change in your body. But I Any new effective vaccine will be given emergency approval by the British government, which aims to move with unprecedented speed. In America Donald Trump has promised to deliver a vaccine before the end of the year. Yet this week he said the administration will not work with the World Health. Organization. Linked effort to develop distribute a covert nineteen vaccine. While drugs and vaccines are vital to controlling covid nineteen. The WHO warned that a vaccine that is only moderately effective could actually worsen the pandemic. On August Eleventh Vladimir Putin of Russia declared victory push the. Each potential. Another government made the claim that it was the world's first approve of Vaccine Sputnik Five. This involves injecting people with a harmless virus that has been modified to express one of the proteins made by SARS cough to the virus that causes covert nineteen. The approach is similar to other vaccine candidates around the world veteran trials. But the speed of sputnik five use raises troubling issues. We know very little about the testing of this vaccine such as how long it was tested for. In, for long because it was given to only seventy six people, Tasha loader is the economists health policy editor. The results of the tests have not been published. The Russian said they've also tested the vaccine animals. Those results have not been published either and so really we haven't information vacuum about his except for what the institute the did. The studies have said to us, which is very little. How did that come to be approved so quickly? Well, I mean. The Russian government simply decided that it didn't go through the sorts of normal trials that you would expect a vaccine. It redrew the finishing line. You know there are a lot of covert vaccines around the world going through was a called phase three trials and the pappas phase three trials is that you give them to thousands and thousands of people on you find out firstly, if the vaccine works secondly, if in thousands of people, it's still safe tested. Thousands of people that you really get a good signal in a large number of people to serve whether it is really well tolerated. So I suppose there is a thing called best practices in drug development and they're not actually adhering to it. Yes. Absolutely. But the Russians are not the only ones who have been doing this and they may not have been the first earlier this year. One of our correspondents in Beijing had told us that he'd heard. Anecdotal. Reports. Airport workers were being given a Chinese vaccine on the sort of reports that we're hearing now from China that some workers in state-owned industries had been given a vaccine seem to agree with those sort of anecdotal reports we were hearing. So I think it's quite clear that some countries willing to relax the normal requirements for medicine safety in order to just move quickly. Now, that's not something that we should expect to see in countries and regions with. Agencies that a much more independent that governments that makes you think about the governments of Russia and China. They have much more of a stranglehold if you like over the regulatory agencies, one would hope that the regulatory agencies in other countries have a bit more spine and will wait the results of phase three trials that is banned minimum trust to move ahead safely vaccine development. So what's the problem of rushing it? Will the problem is the vaccine could be unsafe and there's a couple of ways in which a vaccine could be safe one it could come with side effects thought all dodging dangerous. You do get ready neurological conditions triggered. The other concern is something cooled vaccine enhanced disease. This is where you give someone vaccine. and. Lowering the risk that someone gets sick or dies from a disease, it actually increases it and you know we've seen signs of vaccine enhanced diseases in talk development. In the past, it's not particularly common, but it is something that can happen and doctors y you put vaccines through phase three trials. You you need to rule out that problem you need to make sure that the vaccine you give to someone is not going to give him side effect ten it's not going to make Cova nineteen us. Now. It's not just Russia or China that's been rapidly improving vaccines and drugs without adequate trials. On August. Twenty third president trump announced approval of the use of convalescent plasma therapy to treat covid nineteen. The FDA has issued an emergency use authorization for re-treatment known as convalescent plasma. How does that work and why was that rush to? The convalescent plasma is essentially take blood from people who've coverage from covid nineteen. Do you extract out the antibodies that they've made in their blood in something called plasma, and then you give it to someone who's sick and plasma therapies been used for over one hundred years on it works in some diseases and not in others we do think convalescent plasma is promising therapy this question of Shit and there are trials going on the planet but as yet they haven't been very conclusive. It still sane as an experimental therapy and president trump describe this as a very historic breakthrough. This is what I've been looking to do for a long time. This is a great thing today. I'm pleased to make a truly historic announcement and are. The FDA Looked at the results of one trial and said, there's enough evidence to authorize it to use. It's former drug approval, and there's a couple of problems with this one is the the evidence is really poor. It's not randomized controlled trial told those. nope. To See by group is just to trial where some patients would give convalescent plasmas sooner than others and some people are concerned that the group that had the high mortality actually had more sicker patients in it, and that's one of the problems when you're not doing randomized controlled trial. Another one of the issues is really that it was just so badly handled by the FDA the head of the FDA cutoff and announced that thirty five people of every hundred treated with compliment plasma with be saved on that number was just completely wrong he had. Gotten his statistics wrong heat confused, relative, and absolute risk on. The actual figure it was more like three lives saved cools that's worth having, but it certainly isn't very historic breakthrough and. We really do need to kind of white for proper randomized controlled trials to really answer the question of whether this therapy wax. The touch. It seems like there's a real paradox here because in the midst of the pandemic, we want governments to act quickly. But here we think they're doing it wrong. How do we square the circle? How can we have it both ways speed plus regulatory muster? Will we have got speed? That's the kind of insane thing is that we're? Moving incredibly rapidly and the results have phase three trials for vaccines could come in in the next three or four weeks. Nobody's ever move moved quickly. So what I would say is the every legitimate step has been taken to accelerate the speed with which drugs and vaccines have moved. What people are complaining about now is that these are unreasonable stops and that essentially governments behaving and slightly risky fashion and doing. So for political reasons if the British government all. The Europeans wanted to accelerate struck vaccines like this they could but they haven't, and why is that? Well, nobody here is coming up for reelection in November asked Mr. Trump is all in China they may wish Russia may wish to sort of show what strong powerful countries they are, how they're taking care of their citizens I mean there's all sorts of political dimensions to moves that have been made Tasha voter you very much. Thank you so much can. For, more pandemic and a wide ranging look at a fast changing world subscribed to the economist go. Economists Dot. com slash podcast offer for the best introductory offer and the link is in the show notes. Again, that's a communist dot com slash podcast offer. And don't forget to tell them. Can Censure. Next up pandemic or no twenty twenty has been a bumper year, for Elon, musk inmate space x became the first private company ever to send humans into orbit. While over the past eight months, Tesla's market capitalization has more than quadrupled making it the most. Valuable car company on the planet. Last Friday another musk venture, the Niro technology company neural link which connect to computer into the human brain notched up what seems to be another win with public demonstration of its technology at use in. Aches. Aren't welcome to the product. Emma. Of Real excited we've got I think it's going to. Blow your mind. Shoot a form, the demo captured the public imagination, and trended wildly online. But as a computer enhanced human brain, really within reach the near link team is working on what's called the brain machine interface, and that involves electrodes of very spoil wise placed into the brain to record the electrical activity from brain cells. Andrew Jackson is a professor of neural interfaces at Newcastle University and what they demonstrated the other night was a device that they've built that can record. From one thousand and twenty four of these little wives about a thousand brain cells and the activity is processed by an implant that sits inside the skull, and then realize that activity wirelessly out to a receiver and the case of New Orleans pig Gertrude. I. Think her name was what activities specifically was being detected and relaid in the pig that we saw the electrodes were placed in. A sensory part of the brain related to the Peace Now. So. You're hearing are real time signals from the link in Grocery had. So this year link and says what? Was the activity of sensory neurons that were relying information about the the paycheck sniffing at various objects. They also showed a video I think they had recorded from brain cells in the motor area of the brain. When we have. Of our picks on a treadmill. Funny concept really in that video, they were suggesting that they were able to infer the movement of the pigs. On a treadmill from listening to these brain signals. In classical style this has been very snazzy presented and Garner a lot of attention but from your perspective someone who's been a lot in this field as an academic, is there anything particularly new or innovative about what neural incas done with this technology thing what they've done a nice job on is. A lot of the engineering of the device itself. So to some extent, I think they've made a lot of progress in the areas that perhaps you might expect a tech company well resourced to make make progress on. So so previously, lot of the work that has been done in animals and also some work has been using these techniques in humans has tended to use a cables connecting the electrodes in the brain through the skin to large racks of equipment. Computers and so forth powered from the mains in order to process and make sense of this data and what they've done is taken a lot of that electronics shrunk it down, made it low power. Enabling it to be placed within the skull and relaying these signals. Wirelessly, the other thing that they showed which I think is very nice is. A robot a bit like a sewing machine. To. Insert these electrodes and apparently automatically avoid blood vessels to do a minimum amount of damage. So I think all of this is very impressive where I am more skeptical is. The the claims that they're making of being able to. Sort of read thoughts and enhance brain function through this technology. There's there's quite a big gap between being able to record these brain cells compared to some of the claims that became rather more outlandish about being able to read thoughts and and read memories and things like that because to some extent that require much more progress in actually understanding how these signals relate to complex mental and cognitive functions does this have the markings of a turf war between academics and entrepreneurs because I know that he on must recently responded to? A news report in which your own criticisms of neuro link had been quoted and he said basically that his view was academics, overweight ideas and underweight bring them to fruition or less kindly that they're all talking no trousers what do you say to that? So I I think it would be very unfortunate if this ends up being a sort of tribal arguments, Elon Musk I'm sure recognizes that he's following in the footsteps of some very pioneering work in the academic field that really pushed the idea of brain machine interfaces forward of basic. Fundamental neuroscience research into practical demonstrations of devices that could help people with spinal cord injury. I think that from the academic point of view, we ought to see this as a success story that a technology that for a long time has been being developed in in the academic research arena is capturing the attention of near technology companies. So I did not mean to any of the comments that I made I didn't mean to turn this into a turf war I think that we will. All benefit from from the exchange of ideas and working together. You heard it here. First Turf War averted and Professor Jackson to end with a look forward musk said that the ultimate goal of neuro link is to usher in an age of quote super, human cognition in your view, does that claim that view of the future really belong in the realm of science fiction as far ahead as we currently see so I think it's very hard to judge these things I think that clearly Ilan Musk likes big ideas and he likes big kind of visions. I think that at the moment, the state of the technology president is that there hasn't really been demonstrated and I think it will be quite a while before anyone demonstrates a cognitive enhancement using this kind of brain machine interface technology that doesn't mean we shouldn't try and that doesn't mean that there's probably not a lot of very interesting science and maybe all sorts of other benefits that we will get along the way but I think it's important to be somewhat kind of modest and accepting of the fact that there's still an awful lot. We don't understand about the brain how the brain works and how intelligence works Professor Andrew Jackson thank you very much. Thank you for having me. Up. This podcast is supported by a vast vast is a global leader in cybersecurity trusted by over four hundred, thirty, five million users of ask privacy solutions to keep your identity and actions hidden security solutions to stop malware phishing virus attacks, and performance enhancing solutions to clean up in speed up your devices avast empowers you to feel safer private and more confident online to do what you WanNa do in your connected life shop work browse confidently on all your devices learn more about a vast privacy security and performance products at avast dot com. In finally. Take our breathing almost entirely for granted. Like the beating of the heart or the work of digestive system, it feels like a process that's been taken care of by the body beyond the need of any conscious attention. But this may not be the case in his latest book breath. The new science of a Lost Art James Nestor argues that our species has actually lost the ability to breathe correctly. And that reconnecting with ancient and largely forgotten breathing practices could bring about a host of benefits both mental and physical. The one estimate I heard was that eighty percent of the population has some sort of dysfunction in their breathing. These people don't necessarily have sleep apnea or snoring even though a large percentage of the population has that but many of them may be breathed too much or struggled to breathe a little too much or their noses are constantly plugged up and once they fixed those issues they can find. How beneficial therapeutic healthy breathing really is, let's go right there. Why is breathing? So important that's something that we do twenty five thousand times a day, and if we aren't doing it properly, our bodies have to constantly compensate for instance I've heard a one estimate of about a quarter of the population suffers from chronic over breathing. We breathe way more than our bodies actually need and if we're constantly doing. That were causing a lot of wear and tear on our heart and other systems. So if you think about it, if you're in a car and you're just reading at every stop light eventually, that's going to cause a lot of wear and tear on that car an on the engine and our bodies in many ways worth the exact same way. Did we ever do it? Well did we ever? Breathe in the best way possible and if we did, how did we ever stop or forget? Well, it's hard to breathing from ancient populations. But what we can do is we can look at the skele- pitcher of all of these ancient faces and all of these mouths and what we find is that people about five hundred years ago when industrialization of food really start ramping up, they had these huge. These huge mouse in these forward growing faces. So they had larger airways in their nasal apertures were much larger than ours, and that's why ancient people didn't have crooked teeth about ninety percent of the modern population has some sort of misalignment or crookedness in their teeth. That's because we have smaller mouths without smaller mouth with a smaller away, which is one of the reasons we have so many chronic breathing problems right now how does one breathe properly? What scientists have found is that very good resting breathing rate is about six breasts five breaths per minute. That's about five to six seconds in five to six seconds out when you do this, all of the systems in the body start to synchronize your heart rate's GonNa slow down, it's going to beat more easily your blood pressure's GonNa go down if you have high blood pressure and all of this allows the body to. Do it naturally wants to do more easily over an extended amount of time and just by breathing this way over a couple of minutes, you can really feel this change in your body. You can imagine if you do that for a couple of days or a couple of weeks or a COUPLA months, and that's what I went out to find people who had done that and had really transform their health and some miraculous way. I. James. That was incredible. That's about the worst way you can possibly breath. Okay. So. I have tried seeing other Maria breathing as well, and it seems like that really did slow me down explained to me what's going on with that? Well, you're a good Catholic So what the scientists did about twenty years ago they looked at different prayers they looked at the other Maria, they looked at satire NAMA which is a Kunda leany mantra. They looked at own money pod Meeham, which is Buddhist mantra when the most famous Buddhist mantras of all and they found that all of. These prayers locked in at that same about five to six breaths per minute because that's about that the mean of all of these different prayers and they have prophesized that these prayers not just for the religious method. But because they placed the body in this state of peace and then allowed all the systems of the body to work at peak efficiency. Now, you experimented on yourself for the book or at least you took part in research by plugging up your nostrils for days on end. Tell me about this. Yeah, just hearing that gives me a little PTSD. So I had been working with the Chief of radiology research down at Stanford and we had had many conversations and he's a nose guy. So he was saying that you know the noses is this miraculous organ were not using it as much as we should and because we're not using it, we could be suffering from all of these health problems on and on and on I said, well, how soon does the damage from mouth breathing come on and he didn't know because no one had tested it. So we developed this little experiment to where me and one other. Subject to plug our noses and just breathe through or mouths for ten days and I know that sounds like some sort of cloudy Jackass stunt that wasn't the intention because fifty percent of the modern population chronically breathes through its mouth. So we were really rolling ourselves into a state that my body already knew and that most of the population already knew but testing and within a day, I went from not snoring snoring we both got sleep apnea, my blood pressure went through the roof I mean I could give you a whole laundry list of other problems now, for listeners who want to improve their health and through their breathing. How. Quickly does this transformation take place if we start being conscious and practicing nasal breathing when can we start becoming more charismatic, handsome richer and? I can't guarantee any of those things. But if you can place your hand safely, don't do this while driving over your heart and take an inhale him to account about five or six. And then to exhale and keep exiling five six, maybe seven or eight, you're gonNA feel your heart rate. Slow down and you'RE GONNA feel. If you keep doing this take another very slow inhale Halen and a longer xl. You'RE GONNA. Probably feel some circulation to your fingers and your toes. You'RE GONNA be getting more oxygen to your brain. So this transformation that I just lead you through happened in about fifteen seconds. So if you're able to control your breathing and do it in a healthy way and allow your body to work. So efficiently, these problems so many problems attached to allergies and asthma, and they've found even with autoimmune disease and anxiety and depression. Symptoms of these problems can be abated and in some cases, people no longer report suffering from them and not sound like huge claims. But this is coming from leaders in the field at top institutions. Gyms Esther. Thank you very much This was a breath of fresh air. Thank you for having. And thank you for listening to badge while you're with us, please give us a rating on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. I'm Kentucky and in London where I'm breathing in five seconds intervals. This is the.

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