Tag: day

World book and copyright day, 23 April

Today is World book and copyright day. UN mentions a lot about books and the diversity of values they bring along but very few words are written on copyright per se. It’s true that books are vectors of values and knowledge, depositories of the intangible heritage. But in a world progressively going towards digital books, it could be worth having a real debate about what type of knowledge we want to preserve for the next generations, in which formats, under what types of conditions.

I was in New York recently and I was happily surprised to see the number of people still reading something (real books but also magazines, e-books, and of course their e-mails). E-book readers are more and more common, especially in planes and other public transport. Every big book store on 5th Avenue has its own e-reader, even web-based book stores promote their own e-readers. Most if not all of those e-readers promote its own closed, freedom-depriving file format.

Bill Blass Public Catalog Room - NYPL

We’ve all in mind pictures of the Rose Main Reading Room of the NYPL Schwarzman Building, where the beautiful room is packed with people reading and their laptops. I was also surprised to see the amount of computers available in other rooms (like the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room above). Books – real ones, made of paper and cardboard – are consigned to the walls, very few people are actually browsing through them. We now look for books in electronic catalog ; these books are stored in more functional room for librarians to find them. We now expose our collection of books in “social bookshelves” like librarything.

It’s not a reaction of an old man (well, maybe …). It’s more that we should think about what we want to create and what we want to leave for the next generations. It’s good to have a business plan to allow customers to have the best possible experience while reading your e-books for the next 2 years ; it’s even better if you would allow the same customers to keep their library open, transparent and “sharable” with others. Gutenberg’s invention allowed books and knowledge to be widely shared ; don’t let the “digital revolution” take that freedom back!

Today is World Population Day

Today, 11th of July 2011, is World Population Day. For that occasion, and as the world population is expected to surpass 7 billion this year, the UNFPA is launching a new campaign: 7 billion people – 7 billion actions.

7 billion actions poster - UNFPA

They highlight 7 key issues to explore:

  1. Poverty and inequality: reducing poverty and inequality also slows population growth.
  2. Women and girls: unleashing the power of women and girls will accelerate progress on all fronts.
  3. Young people: energetic and open to new technologies, history’s largest and most interconnected population of young people is transforming global politics and culture.
  4. Reproductive health and rights: ensuring that every child is wanted and every childbirth safe leads to smaller and stronger families.
  5. Environment: all 7 billion of us, and those who will follow, depend on the health of our planet.
  6. Ageing: lower fertility and longer lives add up to a new challenge worldwide: providing for aging populations.
  7. Urbanization: the next two billion people will live in cities, so we need to plan for them now.

These issues are not new. They are not even original: most bodies or meetings looking at issues for the future have approximately the same issues. But at least it’s another initiative to raise awareness, to think about them. And, most importantly, to act to tackle them.

I don’t think it’s wishful thinking to write that everyone can help. Besides being in the introduction brochure, teaching a child to read, planting a tree, visiting a senior, finding a cure, standing up for others and making someone smile are all simple actions we can do (even if we can’t do all of them, we can do some of them). We can start with our own kids, our own family, our own environment.

What will be your unique story?

March 24th was world TB day

TB stands for tuberculosis. It’s an infectious bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which most commonly affects the lungs. It is transmitted from person to person via droplets from the throat and lungs of people with the active respiratory disease.

Like all other World Days regarding infectious diseases, it is meant to raise awareness about its global epidemiological aspects and the efforts to eliminate it. For tuberculosis, March 24th was chosen because Robert Koch first described Mycobacterium tuberculosis on March 24th, 1882. He then received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for this in 1905.

On the WHO website, there is a huge amount of data that can be easily parsed (here too).

I was first interested in the estimated TB incidence per 100 000 population in 2009 (per 100,000 population) in the BRIC countries (see table below). Clearly, there is Brazil with a low incidence (compared to others, it’s still around 10 times values found for “occidental” countries) then Russia and China around 100 cases/y and finally 168 cases/y for India. I added their respective Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the table as it’s often considered as an indicator of a country’s standard of living (in 2009, numbers from Wikipedia/IMF). I also added the annual growth rate of GDP per capita (in 2006, numbers from EarthTrends/World Resources Institute). The only interesting thing I see is that if your annual growth of GDP per capita is low, your estimated TB incidence per 10,000 is also low.

Country Est. incidence GDP per capita Annual growth rate …
Brazil 45 11,289 2.4
China 96 7,518 10.1
India 168 3,290 7.7
Russian Federation 106 15,807 7.2

Now if we look at some occidental countries (table below, same sources), this seems right.

Country Est. incidence GDP per capita Annual growth rate …
Belgium 8.6 36,274 2.6
France 6.1 34,092 1.4
Germany 4.9 35,930 2.9
Japan 21 33,828 2.2
UK 12 35,053 2.2
USA 4.1 47,123 1.9

The treatment involves medications for long period and is usually accompanied by antibiotics. Regarding prevention, Bacille Calmette Guerin (BCG) is the only current vaccine for tuberculosis and contains a live attenuated (weakened) strain of Mycobacterium bovis. TB eradication is part of the UN Millenium Development Goals (Target 6c: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases). It is also part of the WHO Global Plan to Stop Tuberculosis.

Recently (because of this World TB Day?), two interesting research papers were recently published in the litterature:

Today is *not* World Epilepsy Day

I continue in the serie of “World x Day” and for a reason still unknown even to myself, I thought today was the World Epilepsy Day (it’s in fact on March 26th, called Purple Day). But, anyway, epilepsy is “a common chronic neurological disorder characterized by seizures. […] Epilepsy is usually controlled, but cannot be cured with medication, although surgery may be considered in difficult cases.” (Wikipedia).

Out of curiosity, I was looking for mathematical models for the description of the epidemiology of epilepsy. But unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything. Probably because epilepsy is not an infectious disease for which tentative mathematical models have more predictive power (in terms of the population scale and time scale). The epidemiology of noninfectious diseases is primarily a study of risk factors associated with the chance of developing the disease. Nothing very fancy for a mathemarical model! 😉 (But if you find something, feel free to share! Thanks in advance!)

According to Wikipedia, the next World [Infectious Disease] Day is on APril 25th (malaria).

So today is just Valentine’s Day 🙂

World Cancer Day

It doesn’t seem jolly but last Friday, it was the World Cancer Day. About this, the WHO set up a nice website about cancer control.

Following my previous post on Jamie Oliver and the top 15 causes of death in the USA, I started to collect similar data from other countries. Linking this to cancers, the annual statistics on cancers in Belgium can be found on the Belgian Cancer Registry. The latest numbers are however from 2006. Here are the top 15 cancers in Belgium in 2006 (all sexes and regions mixed):

Rank Classification Cancer type Cases Remark
1. C50 Breast 9556  
2. C61 Prostate 9254 male only
3. C34 Bronchus and lung 6956  
4. C18 Colon 5233  
5. C44 Malignant neoplasms of skin 3110  
6. C20 Rectum 2264  
7. C67 Bladder 1986  
8. C82-85 Non-Hodgkin-lymphom 1925  
9. C43 Malignant melanoma of skin 1572  
10. C64 Kidney 1377  
11. C16 Stomach 1356  
12. C54 Corpus uteri 1320 female only
13. C25 Pancreas 1172  
14. C80 Unknown primary site 1168  
15. C15 Oesophagus 920  

It’s interesting to note a few things:

  • These figures represent cases of cancer and not deaths by cancer. Note also that prostate cancer is in third position but only concerns males.
  • The latests data is from 2006. The website doesn’t seem to be updated since 2008 (and 2008 seems to be the year when data from 2006 are available ; if we follow the 2-years-gap logic, I guess the data from 2009 are available somewhere but not on this website)
  • Data accessibility seems to be average. Data is there in Excel format (and PDF which is pretty useless if you want to reuse the data). On one side, these Excel files can be opened by almost every office suite. On the other side, some open format would have been preferred. And some direct interaction with the data on the website is now the norm (ok, I just wrote it doesn’t seem to be updated since 2008)
  • The classification is quite good since it uses the “Classification Internationale des Maladies” which is the “International Classification of Diseases” in English better known as ICD-10 (online).

March 25th, 2009: Document Freedom Day

This 25th of March, 2009 is Document Freedom Day. Although it’s not as important as starvation in parts of the world, the economic crisis or the continuous deterioration of our privacy and civil rights (in UK and elsewhere), it’s good to take a break and think about our use of electronic documents in our everyday live. Let me just give you an example …

A few days ago, I was trying to retrieve data from an experiment. As a well-formatted student, I stored my data in a then state-of-the-art, proprietary statistical software my dear statistical professor taught me to use. As long as I had this software, it was fine. Now that my university stopped to pay the license, that I didn’t installed this software on my new computer, I am stuck with a serie of 1, 0 and other delirious characters in that file. Does that mean I lost all my data? Yes.

Fortunately, I thought to save a backup of my data in a simple text file with CSV format. This saved my day because although I don’t have more information in this file, I don’t have less information than in the proprietary format either. And this simple CSV format allows me to enjoy processing my data with any spreadsheet software I want along with some more serious statistical packages like R.

What is open? by Paul Jacobson

If you want to know more about Open Documents (and more broadly about Open Standards), you can start by reading what are Open Standards. Wikipedia has a more technical article about them.

Photo credit: Slide0001 by Paul Jacobson on Flickr (licence by-nc-sa)