Alzheimer’s, Autism & the NCAA: Science News for 3/17

Do vaccines give Somalis autism? Can diabetes give you Alzheimer’s? Does losing make you win? Anyone scanning the science news articles this week would know the answers to these questions.

First, Freakonomics has a discussion of a recent paper showing that NCAA basketball teams are more likely to win if they are 1 point behind at halftime than if they are 1 point ahead. It seems that when people are slightly behind in a game at halftime, they work even harder in the second half relative to people who are way behind, slightly ahead or way ahead.

Second, the New York Times (byline: Donald McNeil Jr.) discusses the abnormally high rate of autism among Somali immigrants in Minneapolis. The article gives several explanatory hypotheses (including a statistical fluke), but a lot of time is spent on the “possibility” that these cases of autism are caused by vaccinations. The fact that the article doesn’t mention that this is simply absurd is glaring (though it does mention “some children” had autistic tendancies before being vaccinated). More interesting is that many of these kids appear to have had seizures, something which is mentioned only in passing.

Finally, Amanda Schaffer at Slate discusses the possible relationship between insulin and Alzheimer’s (Diabetes of the Brain: Is Alzheimer’s disease actually a form of diabetes?).

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