“Seeing What Everybody Has Seen and Thinking What Nobody Has Thought”

Szent-Györgyi is onto something important below. But I think it would be more accurate to say that we all experience dissonant events (but usually not the same dissonant events, as Szent-Györgyi implies), and that most of us let the events pass without noticing, or remembering, or making use of them. What is rare is to notice the events, remember them and make use of them. Those who carry around with them the burden of unsolved problems, and unfixed frustrations, are more likely to see in unexpected events solutions to those problems and fixes for the frustrations. This all takes the effort of our better self (what Kahneman calls our System 2). It takes effort to carry around the problems, to bear the dissonant observations, and to suffer the indifference of friends and the ridicule of experts. But it is through such effort that we better understand the world and, most importantly, that we improve the world.

(p. 12) “Discovery (p. 13) consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought,” according to Nobelist Albert Szent-Györgyi.14
. . .
(p. 324) 14. Albert Szent-Györgyi, Bioenergetics (New York: Academic Press, 1957), 57.

Source:
Meyers, Morton A. Happy Accidents: Serendipity in Modern Medical Breakthroughs. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2007.
(Note: italics in original.)

For Health Entrepreneurs “the Regulatory Burden in the U.S. Is So High”

(p. A11) Yo is a smartphone app. MelaFind is a medical device. Yo sends one meaningless message: “Yo!” MelaFind tells you: “biopsy this and don’t biopsy that.” MelaFind saves lives. Yo does not. Guess which firm found it easier to put their product in consumers hands?
. . .
In January 2010, Jeffrey Shuren, a veteran FDA official, was appointed director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, the division responsible for evaluating MelaFind. Dr. Shuren, Dr. Gulfo writes, had “a reputation for being somewhat anti-industry” and “an aggressive agenda to completely revamp the device approval process.” Thus in March MELA Sciences was issued something called a “Not Approvable letter” raising various questions about MelaFind.
. . .
The letter sent the author into survival mode. He battled the FDA, calmed investors, and defended against the lawsuit all while trying to keep the company afloat. Under stress, Dr. Gulfo’s health began to decline: He lost 29 pounds, his hair began to fall out, and the pain in his gut became so intense he needed an endoscopy.
. . .
The climax to this medical thriller comes when, in “the greatest 15 minutes of [his] life,” Dr. Gulfo delivers an impassioned speech, à la “Twelve Angry Men,” to the FDA’s advisory committee. The committee voted for approval, 8 to 7, and, perhaps with the congressional hearing in mind, the FDA approved MelaFind in September 2011.
It was a major triumph for the company, but Dr. Gulfo was beat. He retired from the company in June 2013– . . .
. . .
Google’s Sergey Brin recently said that he didn’t want to be a health entrepreneur because “It’s just a painful business to be in . . . the regulatory burden in the U.S. is so high that I think it would dissuade a lot of entrepreneurs.” Mr. Brin won’t find anything in Dr. Gulfo’s book to persuade him otherwise. Until we get our regulatory system in order, expect a lot more Yo’s and not enough life-saving innovations.

For the full review, see:
ALEX TABARROK. “BOOKSHELF; It’s Broke. Fix It. MelaFind’s breakthrough optical technology promised earlier, more accurate detection of melanoma. Then the FDA got involved.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Aug. 12, 2014): A11.
(Note: ellipses added, except for the one internal to the final paragraph, which is in the original.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Aug. 11, 2014, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; Book Review: ‘Innovation Breakdown’ by Joseph V. Gulfo; MelaFind’s breakthrough optical technology promised earlier, more accurate detection of melanoma. Then the FDA got involved.”)

The book under review is:
Gulfo, Joseph V. Innovation Breakdown: How the FDA and Wall Street Cripple Medical Advances. Franklin, TN: Post Hill Press, 2014.

Pause in Global Warming Invalidates Climate-Change Models

(p. A13) When the climate scientist and geologist Bob Carter of James Cook University in Australia wrote an article in 2006 saying that there had been no global warming since 1998 according to the most widely used measure of average global air temperatures, there was an outcry. A year later, when David Whitehouse of the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London made the same point, the environmentalist and journalist Mark Lynas said in the New Statesman that Mr. Whitehouse was “wrong, completely wrong,” and was “deliberately, or otherwise, misleading the public.”
We know now that it was Mr. Lynas who was wrong. Two years before Mr. Whitehouse’s article, climate scientists were already admitting in emails among themselves that there had been no warming since the late 1990s. “The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998,” wrote Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia in Britain in 2005. He went on: “Okay it has but it is only seven years of data and it isn’t statistically significant.”
If the pause lasted 15 years, they conceded, then it would be so significant that it would invalidate the climate-change models upon which policy was being built. A report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) written in 2008 made this clear: “The simulations rule out (at the 95% level) zero trends for intervals of 15 yr or more.”
Well, the pause has now lasted for 16, 19 or 26 years–depending on whether you choose the surface temperature record or one of two satellite records of the lower atmosphere. That’s according to a new statistical calculation by Ross McKitrick, a professor of economics at the University of Guelph in Canada.

For the full commentary, see:
MATT RIDLEY. “OPINION; Whatever Happened to Global Warming? Now come climate scientists’ implausible explanations for why the ‘hiatus’ has passed the 15-year mark.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., Sept. 5, 2014): A13.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 4, 2014.)

The article mentioned above by economist McKitrick is:
McKitrick, Ross R. “HAC-Robust Measurement of the Duration of a Trendless Subsample in a Global Climate Time Series.” Open Journal of Statistics 4 (2014): 527-35. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojs.2014.47050

For a possible deeper explanation of the McKitrick results, you may consult:
McMillan, David G., and Mark E. Wohar. “The Relationship between Temperature and CO2 Emissions: Evidence from a Short and Very Long Dataset.” Applied Economics 45, no. 26 (2013): 3683-90.

Theory Said Giant Bird Could Not Fly, But It Flew Anyway

(p. A3) Scientists have identified the largest flying bird ever found–an ungainly glider with a wingspan of 21 feet or more that likely soared above ancient seas 25 million years ago.
Until now, though, it was a bird that few experts believed could get off the ground. By the conventional formulas of flight, the extinct sea bird–twice the size of an albatross, the largest flying bird today–was just too heavy to fly on its long, fragile wings.
But a new computer analysis reported Monday [July 7, 2014] in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that the bird apparently could ride efficiently on rising air currents, staying aloft for a week or more at a stretch.
. . .
“You have to conclude that this animal was capable of flapping its wings and taking off, even though it is much heavier than the theoretical maximum weight of a flapping flying bird,” said Luis Chiappe, an expert on flight evolution at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum, who wasn’t involved in the project. “Our modern perspective on the diversity of flight is rather narrow,” he said. “These were very unique birds.”
. . .
“This was a pretty impressive creature,” said avian paleontologist Daniel T. Ksepka at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Conn., who conducted the analysis of the bird’s biomechanics. “Science had made a rule about flight, and life found a way around it.”

For the full story, see:
ROBERT LEE HOTZ. “U.S. NEWS; Giant Bird Was Able to Fly, Scientists Find; Computer Analysis Shows Ancient Glider Could Get Off the Ground, Defying Conventional Theories of Flight.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., July 8, 2014): A3.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the article has the date July 7, 2014.)

Serendipitous Discoveries Are Made by “Accidents and Sagacity”

(p. 6) “Accident” is not really the best word to describe such fortuitous discoveries. Accident implies mindlessness. Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the American continent was pure accident–he was looking for something else (the Orient) and stumbled upon this, and never knew, not even on his dying day, that he had discovered a new continent. A better name for the phenomenon we will be looking at in the pages to follow is “serendipity,” a word that came into the English language in 1754 by way of the writer Horace Walpole. The key point of the phenomenon of serendipity is illustrated in Walpole’s telling of an ancient Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip (set in the land of Serendip, now known as Sri Lanka): “As their highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”
Accidents and sagacity. Sagacity–defined as penetrating intelligence, keen perception, and sound judgment–is essential to serendipity. The men and women who seized on lucky accidents that happened to them were anything but mindless. In fact, their minds typically had special qualities that enabled them to break out of established paradigms, imagine new possibilities, and see that they had found a solution, often to some problem other than the one they were working on. Accidental discoveries would be nothing without keen, creative minds knowing what to do with them.

Source:
Meyers, Morton A. Happy Accidents: Serendipity in Modern Medical Breakthroughs. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2007.
(Note: italics in original.)

Insider Reports on Crony Journalism at CBS and ABC

You hear a lot these days about ‘crony capitalism’ which no-one, including me, much likes. (The version I like is entrepreneurial capitalism.) But we too often forget that adjective “crony” can modify other nouns besides “capitalism.” Here are a couple of examples of crony journalism.

(p. A11) . . . skip to the second part, which is mostly a memoir and almost all about journalism. It includes one of the toughest critiques of television news ever written by an insider. From 1977 to 1989, Mr. Lewis worked for ABC News and then for CBS’s news program “60 Minutes.”
. . .
The most acute of Mr. Lewis’s frustrations came when Hewitt, the executive producer of “60 Minutes,” refused to broadcast a Lewis report on former government officials profiting as U.S. lobbyists for foreign interests unless the name of Hewitt’s good friend Pete Peterson, then chairman of the Blackstone Group, was excised from the script. In the story, a photograph showed five smiling Blackstone executives, all former federal appointees, in a Japanese newspaper advertisement seeking business for their lobbying efforts. Mr. Peterson was singled out by name in the voice-over narrative. Correspondent Mike Wallace, for whom Mr. Lewis worked directly, implored him in a shouting match to remove Mr. Peterson’s name, to no avail. But Hewitt was more subtle, simply refusing to schedule the piece for airing. Mr. Lewis bitterly relented to Hewitt’s implicit demand and quit the day after the story was broadcast.
As for ABC, Mr. Lewis reports that its legendary news chief Roone Arledge killed a tough story on tobacco at the request of “the Corporate guys,” who were fearful that the network could complicate its position in a libel suit that Philip Morris had already filed against the broadcaster.

For the full review, see:
RICHARD J. TOFEL. “BOOKSHELF; Media Manipulation; At ABC News and CBS’s ’60 Minutes,’ producers would regularly kill stories critical of the powerful and connected.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., July 16, 2014): A11.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date July 15, 2014, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; Book Review: ‘935 Lies’ by Charles Lewis; At ABC News and CBS’s ’60 Minutes,’ producers would regularly kill stories critical of the powerful and connected.”)

The book being reviewed is:
Lewis, Charles. 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity. New York: PublicAffairs, 2014.

Less Time in Office Leaves Workers Happier, Less Stressed and Equally Productive

(p. 4) A recent study, published in The American Sociological Review, aimed to see whether the stress of work-life conflicts could be eased if employees had more control over their schedules, including being able to work from home.   . . .
The study, financed by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, involved the information technology department of a large corporation.   . . .
As part of the research, department managers received training to encourage them to show support for employees’ family and personal lives, said Erin Kelly, a sociology professor at the University of Minnesota and one of the lead authors of the study. Then employees were given much more control over their schedules than before. They “were free to work where and when they preferred, as long as the work got done,” she said.
The results: The employees almost doubled the amount of time they worked at home, to an average of 19.6 hours from 10.2 hours. Total work hours remained roughly the same. Focusing on results rather than time spent at the office, and cutting down on “low value” meetings and other tasks, helped employees achieve more flexibility, Professor Kelly said.
Compared with another group that did not have the same flexibility, employees interviewed by the researchers said they felt happier and less stressed, had more energy and were using their time more effectively, Professor Kelly said. There was no sign that the quality of the work improved or declined with the changed schedules, she added.

For the full story, see:
PHYLLIS KORKKI. “Yes, Flexible Hours Ease Stress. But Is Everyone on Board?.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., AUG. 24, 2014): C4.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 23, 2014.)

The study mentioned above is:
Kelly, Erin L., Phyllis Moen, and Eric Tranby. “Changing Workplaces to Reduce Work-Family Conflict: Schedule Control in a White-Collar Organization.” American Sociological Review 76, no. 2 (April 2011): 265-90.