Christmas-Evening Links

  • Quick overview of gamification from The New York Times’ Nick Wingfield. I think people are right to be skeptical of gamification in general – it’s not a cure-all and in many circumstances it’s just flashy. But, applying gamification to social networks (a la CafeWell, the wellness startup I may work for one day) could be a recipe for success; competition, team dynamics, and “leveling up” may be pretty powerful together 
  • Great article on the placebo effect, and how researchers are just now beginning to understand that the way the placebo is administered changes the placebo’s power. Something I hadn’t thought of before, that this article mentioned: now that providers are increasingly being paid for performance (ACOs and the like), they’re interested in harnessing the power of the placebo effect – pretty interesting, and a huge shift. For more on placebos, listen to Radiolab’s fantastic episode on them (quick fact via Radiolab: the color of a pill influences its effect – mind-numbingly interesting). 
  • Dengue fever (also known as “Breakbone Fever” because of the pain it causes) is back in the United States, and the conditions are right for it to spread. While globally it is much less deadly than malaria (25,000 vs. 660,000 per year, respectively) it sends 500,000 people to the hospital, and is debilitating for weeks (or months). The A. Aegypti mosquito is the main vector for dengue (as with malaria) – and is a species that is currently being targeted by researchers for genetic modifications that make reproduction impossible. For more, read this fantastic New Yorker article

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