ramen and pickles

science, technology, and medicine served up with some tasty noodles

Monthly Archives: June 2010

Educational Model


In Desperately Poor Rwanda, Most Have Health Insurance – NYTimes.com


Rwanda has had national health insurance for 11 years now; 92 percent of the nation is covered, and the premiums are $2 a year.

For Forgetful, Cash Helps the Medicine Go Down – NYTimes.com

There is a nice implementation of behavioral economics here, and not in the giving of money part, but the use of a lottery system of variable prizes being returned.  I suspect, with careful tuning this could be made substantially cheaper.  

This guy kind of blows my mind:  “Skeptics question if payments can be coercive or harm doctor-patient relationships. ???Why should people who don???t want to take medication be paid, when prudent people who take medication are not???? said Dr. George Szmukler, a psychiatry professor at King???s College London.”

He does not get the point of designing systems that interact with humans at all, something deeply disturbing in a someone who studies the mind.  The point is that one individual or a small group of individuals work out a system that makes things easier/better for everyone else.  This allows everyone to put their attention and efforts into other projects and so forth.  This is the way we move forward.  

The point of design is to engineer things around the way people work whenever we can.   Working against (human) nature is always counter productive and foolish, much better to work with nature, and channel it in the direction you want.



It has long been one of the most vexing causes of America???s skyrocketing health costs: people not taking their medicine.


Patients who do not take their prescriptions properly can build up big medical bills.
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One-third to one-half of all patients do not take medication as prescribed, and up to one-quarter never fillprescriptions at all, experts say. Such lapses fuel more than $100 billion dollars in health costs annually because those patients often get sicker.

Now, a controversial, and seemingly counterintuitive, effort to tackle the problem is gaining ground: paying people money to take medicine or to comply with prescribed treatment. The idea, which is being embraced by doctors, pharmacy companies, insurers and researchers, is that paying modest financial incentives up front can save much larger costs of hospitalization.

What is the Best Way to Represent Directionality in Network Visualizations? – information aesthetics

What is the Best Way to Represent Directionality in Network Visualizations?


Networks are often visualized using points and interconnecting lines, with triangular arrowheads at one or both ends to show any directionality between the different points. Although such a standard arrow representation seems intuitive, it can lead to problems in dense graphs that contain many incoming or outgoing relationships. Furthermore, since the arrowheads often have approximately the same size and aspect ratio as the small circles they connect, the graph as a whole might be perceived as cluttered with so much visual detail to the point of being distracting.
Several alternatives of depicting lineair directionality do exist. For instance, lines can vary their hue, luminance or width, along their length. But are these depictions significantly better than just using standard arrows? Which technique performs the best? These questions formed the main focus of the scientific research described in the recent paper “A User Study on Visualizing Directed Edges in Graphs” (PDF) [win.tue.nl] by Danny Holten and Jarke J. van Wijk at the Eindhoven University of Technology.
Their experiments consisted of testing the different visual techniques (or combinations of the techniques), on which participants performed specific tasks in which they had to answer whether or not there were directed connection from one point to another in a randomly generated graph. Response times and accuracy were measured and analyzed. The different techniques tested were: “arrow”, “light-to-dark”, “dark-to-light”, “green-to-red”, “curved”, and “tapered”.
So, you might ask, what can information designers learn from the results from this research?
. A “standard arrow” representation should be avoided whenever possible. Although this representation is straightforward and intuitive to most users, the performance of this popular representation is quite low, which is probably due to the use of arrowheads that cause occlusion problems and visual clutter.
. A “tapered representation” in which the width of an edge is gradually varied along its length – wide at the start and narrow at the end – proved to be the best representation in terms of performance.
. For an “intensity-based” representation (which is still a better choice than the standard arrow representation), a dark-to-light representation has a performance advantage over a light-to-dark representation.
. There does not seem to be a clear performance benefit associated with combining 2 techniques together. Therefore, the researchers recommend to use a single technique instead.