Can you hear that colour?

30 05 2009

Next week on Wednesday (June 3rd) the University of Sydney is hosting a free lecture on synesthesia – the peculiar concept of cross-sensory stimulation.

Imagine a world of magenta Tuesdays, tastes of blue, and wavy green symphonies. At least one in a hundred otherwise normal people experience the world this way in a condition called synesthesia. In synesthesia, stimulation of one sense triggers an experience in a different sense. For example, a voice or music are not only heard but may also be seen.

Synesthesia is a fusion of different sensory perceptions: the feel of sandpaper might evoke a sensation of forest green, a symphony might be experienced in blues and golds, or the concept of February might trigger the perception of orange.

Hearing Colours, Tasting Sounds: The Kaleidoscope of Synethesia with Dr David Eagleman (Baylor) starts at 6:00pm at the New Law School, Lecture Theatre 101.

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Anti-vaccinationists winning the war against healthy children

21 09 2008

Re-emergence of diseases like measles and mumps amongst Canadian communities (see Respectful Insolence) is starting to show what the totally unfounded (see The Stats Blog)  fear surrounding the MMR and other children’s vaccines has the propensity to cause.

I also had a link to similar outbreaks emerging in the UK. Outbreaks in other parts of the world are also likely to happen.

Part of reading this stories has helped me learn another horrible fact about the ramifications of less children being vaccinated. It does not just affect children who aren’t being vaccinated. Vaccination relies upon a concept called “herd immunity”.

We all have heard how vaccines aren’t 100% effective in the first place. This is an anti-vaccinationists selling point. Every time you are exposed to the contagion there is a chance of your vaccine failing. Think of it like brakes on your car, you can only be in so many “near-miss” situations before you bang something.

The idea of mass vaccination is to reduce the number of gambles. If every child is vaccinated, there is virtually no entry point for the contagion to enter your community. Every unvaccinated child is a bad driver on the road with no brakes. Not only are they relying on the brakes on your car to reduce danger to their children, they are an additional risk that your children need to avoid.

Some savvy parents are taking this into mind. Daycares that allow unvaccinated children (or do not have data on enrolment vaccines) are seeing health informed parents remove their children to other institutions that provide. The link I lost had a story of a mother who found out one of her children’s friends mothers had bought into the anti-vaccinist screed – and promptly stopped their children playing. A similar incident is found on MSNBC:

Karey Williams [47, Chicago] never thought a parenting decision would come between her and a good friend. The two had known one another for a decade, supported each other through infertility treatment and had their first babies around the same time. But when she told the friend that she had stopped vaccinating her daughter at age 1, the relationship abruptly ended. “She said, ‘Well then, your child can’t come into my house,’”

You might think this is harsh. But these are serious deadly diseases, no parent should be reprimanded for ensuring the health of their children. Lifelong complications (such as deafness) are very very common amongst victims of these diseases.

The positive impact of mass vaccination has a very clear and positive record. Science-Based Medicine has put up the stats for major vaccines. All of them have efficacy rates of over 80%, and save thousands of lives every year (if not more). And none of them have autism as a proven side effect. Science-Based Medicine’s author, Mark Crislip also points out that if GP/Big Pharma was really some sort of evil diabolical institution, they’d be joining the anti-vaccinists. More vaccines, means less disease. Less disease, means less business.

“I am an Infectious Disease doctor. I make a living from treating diagnosing and treating infections. I don’t make dime one if people do not get infected, so I am against any and all vaccines as they cut into my bottom line” – Mark Crislip, Science-Based Medicine weblog

Mandatory safety measures such as bicycle helmets, seat belts, standardised testing of car breaks are important for road safety. Shouldn’t similar safety measures be mandated for children’s health and safety.