Friday 16 December 2011

Natural cures for Asthma?

About two years ago, I was diagnosed with asthma. After some changes to my lifestyle, the last whole body plethysmography measurement showed that my lungs are fine again although I do not use any medication anymore. The asthma is gone!

I would like to share these changes with you, hoping they may also benefit you and also to hear back what benefited others and what not. My personal experiment is a little small (n=1), thus it may well be that some improvement were just by accident and not because of lifestyle change. I have to say that I only had very light asthma. I never had an asthmatic attack, but regularly did wheeze lightly when exhaling at night, my voice was not so strong anymore and my lungs produced too much mucus (leading to some coughing and a coated tongue). Another sign was that the reliever medication (Bronchodilators) made jogging a lot easier.

Asthma is on the rise the last 50 years in the West. Already this points to lifestyle factors being important. Not much seems to be known about which factors these are. It has been noted that children growing up at farms as less affected by asthma as urban children. Based on this, it has been theorized that childhood contact with microbes is beneficial, but I guess there are quite a few other differences between the life on the country side and in cities.

The main changes I made are that I started with intermittent fasting, and nowadays sleep on a firm surface, and do much more walking/hiking. Also important may have been that I do not any grains any more, do less jogging and more sprinting and that I regularly tanning for more vitamin D.

Monday 5 December 2011

Plan B for our planet

The Kyoto protocol is running out and the climate conference in Durban will likely end without a new stronger protocol to reduce (the growth) green house gas emissions. Maybe we need a plan B.

Under the Kyoto protocol a cap on the greenhouse gas emissions for the participating industrialized countries is set. Within this group emission rights can be traded, so that emissions are cut in the most efficient way. With a similar aim, emission can also be reduced by financing emission reductions in emerging economies and developing countries.

The problem of the Kyoto protocol is that the cap on the greenhouse emissions only makes sense if everyone is participating, or at least will participate as soon as they are rich enough. It is possible to do so, the Montreal protocol to curb emissions of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) to protect the ozone layer works well. In case of the Montreal protocol only the producers of fridges, air conditionings and spray cans were affected. Greenhouse gasses are emitted by the energy, agricultural and building sectors. These are very powerful agents with an interest in the status quo. With propaganda and by encouraging conflicts, they can makes sure that there are always some large greenhouse gas producers not participating.

Maybe a global cap is not needed. Maybe we can see the problem as a dynamical one. How can we develop cost efficient technologies to reduce green house gas emissions. These technologies will be developed if there is a clear price signal; emitting CO2, wasting energy should be costly. Furthermore, economies of scale will be important to reduce the price and the increase competition.

For this, all we need are higher prices for greenhouse gas emissions (for non-renewable energy, etc.) in a large part of the world, but not necessarily all of the world. This part of the world should be allowed to protect itself against imports produced with cheap energy. That is all that the world would need to agree upon.

I expect that Europe would be the region that would start working this way. Due to the import levies, the playing field would be levelled and Europe's industry would be able to compete in the here and now with industries from the outside. In the long run, the Europe's industry would be come more efficient and would be world leader in green technologies. Technologies that will be needed everywhere once the prices of energy, concrete and fertilizer will start to rise due to shortages.

This is a quite attractive position. No disadvantage now, due to the levy, and likely advantages later, due to a technological leading role. It might well be that many countries would like to cooperate, get into this green region to be able to export without levies and to be part of the future.

An agreement that climate import levies are allowed may be easier to achieve as a global cap on greenhouse emissions.

Further reading

More posts on economics.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Where good ideas come from

Steven Johnson wrote a book on creativity and innovations "Where good ideas come from - The seven patterns of innovation". The book is very well written, very captivating. In fact, I was reading another book (written by a scientist), which I put on hold to be able to read Good Ideas.

Afterwards, I am somewhat disappointed by the book. It was captivating, the examples where interesting and many references worth diving into, but I did not learn much about innovation and creativity. I expect that many people who were already interested in the topic, will feel the same.

In the last chapter Johnson tries to do some science himself. He takes a long list of innovations and divides them up along two axis: individual versus team work (networked) and market versus non-market. Most of the innovations are in the category networked and non-market. He finds this interesting as markets are supposed to be so great and market incentives should lead people to make more inventions, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

If you look at the innovations themselves, you quickly notice that the market innovations include some services and are mainly product and their components: airplane, steel, induction motor, contact lenses, etc. The non-market innovations do include some consumer products, but are mainly scientific ideas, theories, discoveries and instruments: Braille, periodic table, RNS splicing, Chloroform, EKG, cosmic background radiation, etc.

Depending on how much consumer products and how many scientific ideas you put into the list, you can get any ratio of market to non-market innovations. Furthermore, wouldn't the Western societies give most money for basic research to universities, the list would also have been very different. Thus it is not possible to conclude from this list, whether market or non-market forces are best at innovating.

I like Johnsons conclusion, I think he is right from an understanding of what motivates people to innovate, but you cannot reach this conclusion from the analysis in the last chapter.

Want to read something good by Steven Johnson? Read his book Emergence or go to his blog, with many interesting ideas on innovation on the internet.