Archive for the ‘Student Blogs’ Category

Student_BlogScientist create a basis of truth through valid evidence. Without evidence or if there is doubt in the validity of the proof, scientists will not concur that a theory or study is acceptable. Since Newton’s laws to the tobacco case, there had to be convincing evidence for others to believe what these scientists said. However, skepticism is created when the evidence isn’t convincing or if the parties involved do not present all the evidence and create confusion. As for the Climate Change debate, it exists because of the individuals, including 3% scientist and politicians who do not believe in the validity of the evidence. Yet, as NASA has pointed out from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.” For example, there is a 95% probability that the current warming is due to human activity and the data from observations shows with certainty that there is a change in our climate.
The skepticism, however, can be dangerous. With the political right, including Trump, bringing up the existing division on climate change that was once part of Al Gore’s left ideals. The skepticism shows how easily politics can interfere with the scientific evidence and causes events such as the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and the budget cuts of the EPA. The question that persists is whether if it reflects politics or our society. The answer to that question is not a simple one, for it is seen in both and yet also heavily presented in politics. In addition, this question makes me think of a haunting future where it is too late to change the devastating effects from climate change. There is no harm in taking precautions and changing human activity that increases climate change, but if no actions are taken the results can cost us tremendously.
The future to the discussion on climate change revolves around the narrative that is presented. A narrative that doesn’t criticize skeptics and increase their denial or guilt, but centers around belief and presenting it through “contextual conversations.” The path of change should be a peaceful one that involves educating others the harms of global warming and that the validity of the evidence is rather overwhelming. As I have stated, there is more harm than good if the U.S. turns away from climate change, and it is one that unfortunately affects the balance in nature, endanger safety of individuals, and the economy among many other factors. Sadly, because it is not affecting us now it is not an urgent concern, but it should be, or the consequences can one day blow up in our faces.

Works Cited
Bertrand, Natasha. “Here’s Why People Don’t Believe In Climate Change.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 25 Nov. 2014, http://www.businessinsider.com/public-religion-report-climate-change-2014-11.
“Climate change evidence: How do we know?” NASA, NASA, 10 Aug. 2017, climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
Isakowitz, Lucas. “How Can We Convince Climate Skeptics That Global Warming Is Real?” Project Earth, Projectearth.us, 16 Aug. 2017, projectearth.us/why-you-shouldnt-call-climate-deniers-stupid-1797860254.
Runciman, David. “How climate scepticism turned into something more dangerous.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 7 July 2017, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/07/climate-change-denial-scepticism-cynicism-politics.


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Student_BlogSince mid-2016, America has witnessed three of the five largest mass shootings in American history . A majority of news outlets quickly jumped onto these shootings, with people either calling for strict gun control laws or for thoughts and prayers. With mass shootings seemingly increasing in frequency, there has been much debate and controversy surrounding the topic of how we can prevent gun-related deaths in America. On one side you have liberal democrats who plead for gun reform, while on the other side you have conservative republicans who adamantly claim MLu1it is a mental health issue rather than a gun issue. Regardless, mass shootings can easily dominate a news cycle for days making it easy to forget the entire picture of gun related deaths. Interestingly, homicides from firearms have actually been seeing a steady decrease in numbers throughout the last couple years. In contrast, Americans have been experiencing an increase in suicides by firearms, making it account for more than two-thirds of the firearm deaths that occur every year in America. Although firearm-related deaths are the third leading cause of death in American children and teenagers, there is, limited research available on the subject. This is primarily because of the Dickey Amendment, an amendment introduced by Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark) and supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA) that says that no funds can be “made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [that] may be used to advocate or promote gun control .” It begs the question: if gun violence is primarily due to mental health problems plaguing America, why can’t we study it?
According to Liza Gold, author of Gun Violence and Mental Illness, 75% of suicides occur in the household. On average, 40% of households in America have at least one gun, MLu2making access to a firearm incredibly easy . Unfortunately, research on how to prevent gun-related suicides is incredibly limited, making it difficult to enacted thoughtful means to prevent suicides via firearms. In 1993, Arthur Kellerman, a highly acclaimed American physician, published a paper that highlighted the association between gun ownership and homicide in the household . Kellerman received intense criticism from gun owners, many of whom were scientists, all over the United States, arguing that his methodology for his study was flawed. The NRA, backed by a loud and angry group of gun-owners who felt personally victimized by the study, lobbied for an amendment to bar funding from any scientific research that they deemed a violation of the 2nd amendment. In 1995, David Satcher, the director of the CDC at that time, wrote an Op-Ed about the dangers of the NRA’s assault of firearm research funded by the CDC on public health, the fundamentals of democracy, and the future of research involving controversial issues . Yet, in 1996 the Dickey Amendment was passed and the amendment was condemned by the American Psychological Association, the American College of Preventative Medicine, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and many others.

After the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, President Barack Obama attempted to remove the amendment signaling what was thought to be the start of a new era of gun-violence research. Yet according to a spokeswoman for the CDC, while it was possible to research gun violence pertaining to domestic violence, sexual violence, and suicides, resources were scarce. President Obama requested $10 million from congress for gun-violence research twice, but both were rejected by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Furthermore, scientists are still hesitant to take up gun-related research, with interested young scientist being told it was impossible to receive grant-funding. Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in Duke University, states that the CDC is terrified of gun research, which instills an environment where scientists are afraid to embark on the topic.
It is the duty of the researcher to drive policy that benefits the public by engaging in thoughtful research. For example, research relating tobacco use and lung cancer was aggressively criticized by the tobacco industry that worked to undermine the importance MLu3of scientific evidence, yet brave scientist continued to push for reform and public education. I believe that pro-gun lobbies pushing the message that owning a gun makes a person safer, while evidence has shown us the contrary, are highly deceitful and immoral. Furthermore, scientists paid by the NRA to smear the work of Kellerman are engaging in unethical practices. What I believe to be even worse, however, is the complete censorship of necessary research via barring funding. This is especially problematic when politicians claim that the true problem is mental illness, yet they refuse to fund research that could possibly lead to policies that prevent more than half of the suicides in the United States. Instead, we are seeing large companies falsely advertise to consumers that gun ownership necessary for every household. Over half of the suicides by males involve a firearm, yet advertisements often show guns as a symbol of masculinity. Research and purposeful policy change has decreased the cigarette usages in the United States and restrictions have been placed on tobacco marketing. Will we ever see rules and regulations on how guns are advertised if we can’t even pursue gun-related research? Like the scientists that stood up against Big Tobacco, current scientists need to demand that they research topics pertinent to public health, which includes the real associations between mental health and gun-violence. Scientists need to publicly address the issue of gun violence and mental health because they are responsible for ensuring that the public understands the actual consequences from the lack of gun reform.


References –

[1] http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2017/nov/08/facts-mass-shootings-united-states/

[2] http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2013/02/gun-violence.aspx

[3] https://www.thetrace.org/2015/11/gun-suicides-mental-illness-statistics/

[4] Kellermann, A.L., et al., Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home. New England Journal of Medicine, 1993. 329(15): p. 1084-1091.

[5] https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1995/11/05/gunning-for-research/05b6584f-5c26-4a80-b564-cccf5f1c2ddd/?utm_term=.886373159155

[6] https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/06/untangling-gun-violence-from-mental-illness/485906/

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Student_BlogThe world today, is moving several times faster in terms of the advancement in technology. It’s the era where we wear the watch that not only shows the time but learns what music we like and plays it for us just listening to the words of mouth. Internet of things is progressing every second making a huge difference in our lives and bringing more ease and comfort.
It’s refreshing to come back home that is well-lit, food cooked and music all set by the commands you provide from your phone. Eventually your machine learns that this is the time I am supposed to set the environment of the house to a particular condition. My nephew who recently visited me was fascinated by the idea of a device assistant responding to him and whatever he spoke. However, when it also heard the commanding language a person, I observed that it began to be commanding too. It’s obvious that the machine learns from the data provided to it, in this case, the input data is the commands we give the machine as an input voice. This shows that the device is not capable enough to differentiate between the good and the bad. Devices analyze the situation and behave in a way that is statistically best. However, it has also become important to educate them ethically.
There is a fear of data breach which might lead to the total access to all the facilities that are connected to the device. This might result in the privacy of a person being lost. The range of devices and the various contexts in which they can be used make ethical considerations difficult. For example, they may be carried by us as individuals, or embedded in facilities such as care homes and hospitals. Using activity sensors, the lives of users can be easily recorded and analyzed by third parties, and while this has the potential to significantly improve healthcare, it also runs the risk of violating our expectation of personal and informational privacy.
Some applications of IoT technology can simultaneously violate and enhance privacy. For instance, a device could enhance privacy by not requiring in-person care, but also violate it by providing a monitoring device. As such, it’s likely to require a trade-off between privacy and safety (and quality of care). Healthcare IoT devices generate huge volumes of data about the health and lifestyle of users, and while this data can be hugely valuable for both research and provision, there are also ethical concerns to consider.
For all the IOT devices, Security is critical. If we want it to be used for benefit, we have to think about security. And we must think about privacy, too. What data is private and what isn’t, and are we engineering our systems so that they can support whatever privacy concerns we have?
Author Giulio Coraggio also suggests measure such as designing AI systems so that they are able to track and justify their conduct, disclosing to customers that the IoT or AI system have to be set up to also ensure ethical behaviors. This would require defining what is ethical not only in the Terms and conditions, but also in the customers’ settings, without ending up in too complicated definitions and establishing an internal ethical committee. There should be a shared responsibility between innovators, companies, the government, and the individual, to try and create and utilize a framework that assigns responsibility and accountability based on what promotes the public good. After all, good science is made up of every individual contributing towards the making of it.

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Student_BlogI came across an article that said a girl killed herself taking drug a website recommended and I was shocked. Firstly, because of her belief solely on website recommendation and on the other hand I being a Computer Science student and a website being one of the reason behind her death. Developer said that the clients’ requirements asked that the website always recommend their drug (unless you were allergic or already taking it). The programmer that built the website just followed instructions which apparently led to the death of a girl for which I felt IT Professionals should reconsider just doing as they are told and prompted me to write about the ethical dilemmas in IT. People working in Information Technology must be trusted with many things hence we look for people who are ethical. But who defines what is ethical or not? If you take an ethical action, you should not feel that someone is telling you what to do. Ethics is all about deciding for yourself what the right thing is to do. Conversely, if you believe an action is ethical, then you should take it regardless of what others tell you to do. Ethics is about having a methodology or thought process to help you decide the right actions. Most of us do not spend the time to develop that. We look at what others have come up with and if makes sense to us we use it. But having a methodology is not enough. Ethics also asks us to continue to question our standards and what they imply about our actions should be.
Another case is of a legal firm that billed two clients for same elapsed time. An IT professional was asked to make the time tracking software to be built such that starting a second timer should not stop the time being totalled on any currently running one. Billing two clients for the same elapsed time wasn’t right, but it was his job to listen to his clients. So, let us see how to handle ethical dilemma in these kind of situations. Ethical dilemmas often happen when two or more ethical issues urge contradictory actions. If you were working on software that managed an elevator or a car, how would you resolve any concerns about safety if you had signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA)? You need to protect the public good, but you must maintain confidentiality. You need a methodology for ethical decision making. You start the process by identifying the key ethical issues in the situation. Identify what ethical imperatives are relevant to the situation. Determine what ethical principles are of major importance to the situation and begin to implement some possible action by generating alternatives and examining the risks and benefits of each, consulting with colleagues, the CIPS Registrar, or with other appropriate sources.
IT must not discriminate. there will always be someone with a valid argument against our technology and their concerns are for a good reason. So good ethics say that we need to treat them with respect and work to address their concerns. Too often we get involved in our project and view anyone that objects to our plans as an obstacle. This is when we tend to treat those people like the bad guys or much worse terms. The CIPS code of ethics says that IT professionals must participate and act with integrity in a manner that upholds the reputation and good standing of CIPS, and the IT profession in general, in relationships with anyone with whom they work, must not discriminate in any manner based on grounds such as race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, social origin, family status, or disability.
In another case, I was very encouraged by the awareness of the new generation on ethical problems with Autonomous Vehicles (AV). Their paper was published as “A bump in the road”.
A man in China was killed when his autonomous Tesla drove into a truck. The car was in autopilot with no signs that brakes were applied. Tesla, unable to extract the vehicle’s data logs, claimed there was no proof to pinpoint system failure. Manufacturers must implement safeguards to ensure data can be accessed at all times. What happens when those safeguards fail? Consumers may believe that autonomous vehicles absolve them of liability, but must be prepared in case of emergencies. Insurers must facilitate the process of identifying causation, adding both time and complexity to settlements. Ethical decisions must be programmed into autonomous vehicles to check what guiding principles exist to justify the trade-off between a vehicle hitting a pedestrian or running into a ditch.
Overall, it is very important for developers to be able to make ethical decisions when they are facing dilemma and should encourage good science.



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Student_BlogIn the 1950s, death rates due to Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) were disproportionally high in the United States. In fact, deaths by CHD increased by a factor of three in the first 50 years of the 20th century. This hike in mortality rates led to the start of many studies examining the roles of dietary factors, such as cholesterol, fats, and excessive calories in the risk and development of heart disease. By the late 1950s many researchers and physiologists could agree that saturated fats and sugars, sucrose in particular, were, at least, equally important factors in increasing the risk CHD. [1] The Sugar Research Foundation (SRF), founded in 1943 and presumably set up to conduct research and report back to sugar industry insiders, challenged these findings and focused on promoting the idea of low-fat diets to reduce serum-cholesterol levels to prevent CHD. Dr. Mark Hegsted, a Harvard professor of nutrition, co-directed the first heart disease research project funded by the SRF’s from 1965 to 1966. He and his colleagues published a literature review in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1967 which identified fat and cholesterol as the primary dietary causes of heart disease, undermining the sucrose studies of the 50s. They concluded that there was “no doubt” that the only dietary intervention required to prevent CHD was to adopt a low-fat diet. [1] By shifting the conversation from sugar to fat consumption, the sugar industry was able to stay out of the spotlight when it came to placing blame for the increasing death rates by heart disease. The US Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Agriculture released the first Dietary Guidelines in 1980. Using the results out of Harvard and other SRF reports, the U.S. government recommended that Americans limit their consumption of cholesterol and saturated fats. An advisory note to avoid too much sugar was included but not in relation to heart disease.
In 2016, researchers at the University of California in San Francisco (UCSF) published results in JAMA Internal Medicine highlighting the role of the sugar industry in shaping the many of our national dietary recommendations. While going through confidential documents, correspondence, and other materials, UCSF researchers found evidences of relationships between the sugar industry and medical researchers throughout the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. The documents revealed that in the 1960s, a leading sugar industry trade group paid three Harvard researchers, including Dr. Hegsted, $48,900 in today’s currency to publish results that would link cholesterol to increased risk of heart disease instead of sugar. [1] Conflict of interest disclosure was not yet required at this time so industry insiders could redraft the publication until they were satisfied with the message without disclosing their involvement.
The same group of UCSF researchers also found documents that indicated that sugar industry representatives worked closely with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) throughout the 1960s and 70s. They worked together to develop a federal program that would find approaches to reduce rates of tooth decay in children without limiting sugar consumption. [2] While the dental community had known for decades that preventing tooth decay required a reduction in sugar intake, policy makers, influenced by the sugar lobby and their “research findings”, seemed to focus on anything but sugar restrictions. The result presented by the industry and their collaborators have shaped our public health approaches to nutrition and consumption for years.
As more evidence is recovered and coming out linking excess sugar consumption with heart disease, diabetes and tooth decay, there is a growing consensus that sugar, not fat, has been the problem all along. The evasion tactics of the sugary industry are strikingly similar to those used by the tobacco industry in the same era. The UCSF’s findings should be a wake-up call for government officials and public health advocates in charge of protecting the health of the people to understand that the sugar industry puts their profits over public health concerns. This is a recurring lesson that shows what can happened when we don’t uphold scientific integrity.
In an ideal world, science and discovery could work independently from business and profit. Scientist would work for the benefit of the people and improving quality of life for all, without the pressures of industry and having their jobs at stake. Policy makers can then take are findings and make informed decisions to protect the well-being of their people. Since we cannot live in such an ideal world, it falls on us as scientists to work extra hard to maintain integrity, honesty, and ethics in the things we work on and the things we present to the world. People look up to us as scientists for answers and it is up to us to answer those questions to the best of our ability with the best of intentions.

[1] Kearns CE, Schmidt LA, Glantz SA (2016). “Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents”. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(11)
[2] Kearns CE, Glantz SA, Schmidt LA (2015). “Sugar Industry Influence on the Scientific Agenda of the National Institute of Dental Research’s 1971 National Caries Program: A Historical Analysis of Internal Documents”. PLoS Med 12(3)

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Student_BlogThe wireless devices have become the integral part of our everyday life. These devices are being used for many purposes such as accessing internet, making video calls, sending emails etc. These devices have become so inevitable that we cannot stop using them even though we know that they are harmful. A study conducted on the effects of wi-fi radiation found that they cause diseases like male infertility, brain tumor, hearing impairment, effect on eyes etc.
Nowadays the usage of wireless devices have seen a great surge as they offer cable free connection and almost near performance as wired devices. Every major electronic device manufacturer pushing themselves to move from wired connectivity to wireless connectivity for every single purpose. Apple removing headphone jack in its latest iphones to make its user go wireless for audio connectivity is one such example. Different types of radiation are used for different types of wireless connecting devices and have different wavelengths and frequencies ranging from 3KHz to 300GHz. These devices use electromagnetic radiation to send and receive data through air and these radiations show effect on human body as they penetrate into our body without even us feeling its sense. These radiations have an ionizing effect on our body cells and show great impact on DNA changing its structure and identity.
While the effect of radiation is seen on everyone its effect on children and pregnant women is significantly high compared to others. An article published in the Journal of microscopy and ultrastructure gives the following conclusions.
 Children absorb a greater amount of radiation than adults.
 Fetuses are even more vulnerable than children. Therefore, pregnant women should avoid exposing their fetus to radiation.
 Cellphone manual warnings make clear an overexposure problem exists.
 Government warnings have been issued but most of the public are unaware of such warnings.
 Current exposure limits are inadequate and should be revised.
 Wireless devices are radio transmitters, not toys. Selling toys that use them should be monitored more closely.
It is suggested that one should avoid the use of wireless devices or to minimize the timing as possible to save from their ill effects. But, it is not an easy task to completely avoid using wireless devices and depend on wired communication for day to day usage. In the later, case there are few recommendations to be followed which greatly reduces the effect of radiation on human body.
 Don’t place the laptop on a lap when it is connected to Wi-Fi because it is harmful for sperms and also effect on the fetus, specially pregnant women avoid to use tablet, PC, laptop and cell phone.
 Don’t use the cell phone for long-term which is harmful to health because doctors suggesting the use of cell phone for 1 hour in a day which cause of brain tumor within 10 years.
 Avoid the long-time conversation, use head phone when you have to talk for long call.

Although it is clearly known that the effect of radiation on human body over the long period time is high we are in a position where we cannot completely stop using them. So, its in the hands of everyone to protect the man kind from these radiations. It’s better to rely on alternative communication techniques liked wired communication and a strong movement has to come to stick back to the traditional wired communication rather than moving to fancy and dangerous wireless communication. Manufacturing companies has to take this as a responsibility and public has to welcome this for the better living space for the future.

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Student_BlogThe horror of a dreadful mistake during a surgery may haunt everyone who goes under the knife. What if the question of safety arises with everyday medical and wearable technologies? Startling but true. The issue of privacy and security is raised in devices starting from simple wearable technologies to advanced medical equipment installed in a human body. A basic activity monitor 2to a complex ICD (implantable cardio vascular defibrillator that delivers shocks to patients who go under cardiac arrest) could be easily hacked. A fictional defibrillator attack may sound dramatic when shown in an episode of the TV show Homeland but the risks of such attack are real. Former Vice President Dick Cheney had the wireless connection of his defibrillator disabled to prevent terrorists from attacking him by hacking the device.
The examination of the medical equipment used in health care facilities has led to the discovery of many ambiguities in the level of security provided for the medical devices ranging from drug infusion pumps to Bluetooth enabled defibrillators. It came as utter surprise to the world that most of the hospitals use weak and hardcoded vendor passwords for system security. Also, by infecting the computer of a single employee the hackers are found to gain access to almost all of the internal equipment in the hospital, hence jeopardizing the personal data of all the patients. Hospitals take consent of the patients for using their personal data stating that data would be used only by the required physicians, never mentioning the possibility of a hack and release of the personal data to the entire world. The ethical issues of conducting an identifiable human research are voiced over the decade leading to the implementation of many techniques to mask the identity of the participant, but the possible compromise of entire patient medical history is going unnoticed by today’s medical society. Cyber security experts found that hospitals do not perform necessary testing of the equipment before using it on a patient risking the lives of many innocent patients who solely trust their physicians placing their lives into the hands of easily corruptible equipment.
The advent of technology risking the privacy of the individuals is not restricted to just hospitals and medical devices. The new wave of wearable technology allows users to record and photograph everything they see. Employers are working on devices to monitor the activities and postures of the employees. It is the right of the employer to know if the employee is working hard, but not by monitoring their every movement and activity. As a student of engineering and technology, I will always be upfront in the support of technological advancement but not to the extent of jeopardizing our personal life. These wearable technologies have the potential to educate us, protect our health but also infringe our privacy in various ways.
The science and technology innovations which are meant to advance the human life are endangering our existence. In many cases society had no option but accept the technological advances. One such example is automation of cars which was questioned and ethically challenged by many experts in the past but is widely accepted today pushing back all the ethical dilemmas. If the trend continues then the boundaries of ethics and personal life will be deteriorated with the advent of infringing technologies. As an aspiring generation of young scientists it is our responsibility to develop technologies that could only be of use to the society but not exploit the human life.

1. http://www.nature.com/news/what-could-derail-the-wearables-revolution-1.18263

2. https://www.americanbar.org/publications/aba_health_esource/2015-2016/september/hackattack.html

3. https://www.wired.com/2017/03/medical-devices-next-security-nightmare/

4. https://www.biosciencetechnology.com/news/2014/12/10-emerging-ethical-dilemmas-science-and-technology


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