Dan has kindly invited me to step back into the lounge for a bit.
What's on my mind is the Winter Olympics, and rankings.
As a part of Olympic coverage, we see the medal count rankings.NBC always uses total medal counts. Last night’s NBC ranking had the U.S. at No. 1 with 23 medals. But total medal count treats all medals as equal; if Ecuador had had 24 Bronze medals, it would have led the rankings.
But the mettle of a team is measured by metal, not just counts; Gold medals are better than Silver medals, which are better than Bronze medals. The rankings on the official Sochi website last night ranked Norway No. 1, even though it had only 20 medals.
As most readers are probably aware, the past few years have seen considerable media and clinical interest in chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive, neurodegenerative condition linked to, and thought to result from, concussions, blasts, and other forms of brain injury (including, importantly, repeated but milder sub-concussion-level injuries) that can lead to a variety of mood and cognitive disorders, including depression, suicidality, memory loss, dementia, confusion, and aggression. Once thought mostly to afflict only boxers, CTE has more recently been acknowledged to affect a potentially much larger population, including professional and amateur contact sports players and military personnel.
CTE is diagnosed by the deterioration of brain tissue and tell-tale patterns of accumulation of the protein tau inside the brain. Currently, CTE can be diagnosed only posthumously, by staining the brain tissue to reveal its concentrations and distributions of tau. According to Wikipedia, as of December of 2012, some thirty-three former NFL players have been found, posthumously, to have suffered from CTE. Non-professional football players are also at risk; in 2010, 17-year-old high school football player Nathan Styles became the youngest person to be posthumously diagnosed with CTE, followed closely by 21-year-old University of Pennsylvania junior lineman Owen Thomas. Hundreds of active and retired professional athletes have directed that their brains be donated to CTE research upon their deaths. More than one of these players died by their own hands, including Thomas, Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, and, most recently, retired NFL linebacker Junior Seau. In February 2011, Duerson shot himself in the chest, shortly after he texted loved ones that he wanted his brain donated to CTE research. In May 2012, Seau, too, shot himself in the chest, but left no note. His family decided to donate his brain to CTE research in order “to help other individuals down the road.” Earlier this month, the pathology report revealed that Seau had indeed suffered from CTE. Many other athletes, both retired and active, have prospectively directed that their brains be donated to CTE research upon their death. Some 4,000 former NFL players have reportedly joined numerous lawsuits against the NFL for failure to protect players from concussions. Seau’s family, following similar action by Duerson’s estate, recently filed a wrongful death suit against both the NFL and the maker of Seau’s helmet.
The fact that CTE cannot currently be diagnosed until after death makes predicting and managing symptoms and, hence, studying treatments for and preventions of CTE, extremely difficult. Earlier this month, retired NFL quarterback Bernie Kosar, who sustained numerous concussions during his twelve-year professional career — and was friends with both Duerson and Seau — revealed both that he, too, has suffered from various debilitating symptoms consistent with CTE (but also, importantly, with any number of other conditions) and also that he believes that many of these symptoms have been alleviated by experimental (and proprietary) treatment provided by a Florida physician involving IV therapies and supplements designed to improve blood flow to the brain. If we could diagnose CTE in living individuals, then they could use that information to make decisions about how to live their lives going forward (e.g., early retirement from contact sports to prevent further damage), and researchers could learn more about who is most at risk for CTE and whether there are treatments, such as the one Kosar attests to, that might (or might not) prevent or ameliorate it.
Last week, UCLA researchers reported that they may have discovered just such a method of in vivo diagnosis of CTE. In their very small study, five research participants — all retired NFL players — were recruited “through organizational contacts” “because of a history of cognitive or mood symptoms” consistent with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Participants were injected with a novel positron emission tomography (PET) imaging agent that, the investigators believe, uniquely binds to tau. All five participants revealed “significantly higher” concentrations of the agent compared to controls in several brain regions. If the agent really does bind to tau, and if the distributions of tau observed in these participants’ PET scans really are consistent with the distributions of tau seen in the brains of those who have been posthumously-diagnosed CTE, then these participants may also have CTE.
That is, of course, a lot of “ifs.” The well-known pseudomymous neuroscience bloggerNeurocritic recently asked me about the ethics of this study. He then followed up with his own posts laying out his concerns about both the ethics and the science of the study. Neurocritic has two primary concerns about the ethics. First, what are the ethics of telling a research participant that they may be showing signs of CTE based on preliminary findings that have not been replicated by other researchers, much less endorsed by any regulatory or professional bodies? Second, what are the ethics of publishing research results that very likely make participants identifiable? I’ll take these questions in order.
A couple of years ago, the folks at The Big Bang Theory brought us the famous twist on the old schoolyard game "Rock, Paper, Scissors" by giving us their new improved version "Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock". According to Wikipedia the new version was not developed by the Big Bang Theory producers and was used in the show without permission of the developers.
Last week, my younsters came home from school with another version: "Rock, Paper, Scissors Builder". In this version the players get to add new items to the list and describe their powers and properties as they go.
This got me to wondering whatever happaned to those old schoolyard games we all used to play? Are there other 'new and improved' versions people have developed?
Is it time for a little trivia, perhaps? How about name that library trivia. I've asked about library buildings before. You may recall this trivia question about a Carnegie Library, which was absurdly difficult. Jason Mazzone got it -- I have no idea how. This one's likely a little easier. Beautiful building and setting isn't it? On what campus is this library located?
Everyone's working very hard this weekend -- lots of studying for finals (or in my case writing one) -- and so perhaps it's time for a short break. How about library trivia? Where is this library building? (It was a Carnegie library, though it's not still used as a library building.)
This one is really tough -- but given how quickly Jason solved the Lynchburg Cemetery trivia a couple weeks back, perhaps not completely impossible.
As I'm getting ready to watch the Alabama-LSU game this evening, I'm reminded of the little-known (or at least little-discussed) fact that before he became famous in the Civil War, William T. Sherman was the superintendent of the Lousiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy. That is what became LSU. Unexpected, no?
Anyway, as long as I'm on the topic of pre-Civil War schools, I thought that I'd ask this question: What Civil War general was married twice to daughters of college presidents? Who were the women he married and who were their fathers?
In the 60s, my grandmother got me interested in coin collecting. I am not even close to being a numismatist. Even coins from the 60s are starting to be 50 years old, but there were so many minted that a coin not in mint condition has little value. But still, when I pull out some change, the older-looking coins always catch my eye. Most of the the time, the coin is recent, but just dirty.
Today, I was about to slide a nickel into a soft-drink machine, but stopped to check the date. It was a 1942 D! I thought of my grandmother, who died in 1974, and slipped it into another pocket for safekeeping.
Oh, and "always check, it might be mate"? That's horrible chess advice!
Now I've truly outed myself as a nerd. Interested in math. Collected coins. And, yes, President of the Chess Club in high school.
Update: According to Cointrackers, that nickel has an estimated minimum value of $2.00. That's probably less than the inflation-adjusted value of $0.05 in 1942 vs. now. But better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
Well, because lawyer house trivia was so successful, I thought I'd try another one. This time it's "judge house trivia." The house at right was owned by a justice on the Georgia Supreme Court. It's in Athens.
Today marks the 75th anniversary of the first marketing of the Parker Brothers game of Monopoly. A fascinating history of the original board game and associated lawsuits may be found here. Last year, a 26-year-old lawyer from Buffalo, NY, won $20,580—the total funds available in Monopoly—for winning the game’s national championship in Washington, D.C. He reportedly used his winnings to pay off student loans. When was the last time you played Monopoly, or any other board game?
About 10 years ago, I wrote an article about “Marketing and Policy Considerations for Violent Video Games,” and the issue has recently reached the U.S. Supreme Court. At the time of my article, the Columbine shootings had just happened, and people were struggling to figure out why and how such a horrible thing could happen. Through my research, I quickly learned that the little white ball of yesteryear had been replaced with realistic images of graphic violence, and legislation to curb minors’ access was slow to follow for a variety of reasons. The issue remains as charged today as it was a decade ago. How should the High Court rule?
How in the world has ESPN's new facebook game, "ESPNU College Town," escaped comment here so far? Perhaps because none of us know what it is?
This is absolutely awesome, though. Check out this description:
Players start out in ESPNU with a two-fold goal. First, to build a successful college campus, and second, to create a top set of college sports teams. Right off the bat, players get to choose their school affiliation, by selecting any actual college to associate with their virtual school. This choice doesn’t appear to do much functionally, but it does give the user access to that school’s colors as well as a few virtual goods associated with it (e.g. their mascot). There is also a nice section that grants access to the top college team leaderboards, letting players see how their affiliated team is doing in reality.
The property professor (and student of monument law) in me loves this:
Once their team is selected, users can get down to the core of the game. To veterans of any of Playdom’s past city-builders, the game is rather familiar from here. Though the names and visuals have changed, players still build structures to complete contracts (here they are venues such as a football stadium), housing to increase population, and decorative elements to increase happiness. Additionally, there are entertainment structures that will periodically earn small sums of money.
As one would expect, contracts are mostly sporting events and the longer they take, the more money is earned. There’s also the basic resource management element of what structures to buy, as when the students aren’t happy, population (enrollment) cannot grow. Thus far, the only noticeable difference is the idea of upgrading certain buildings.
Everyone's been working mighty hard of late; lots of serious work going on in the 1L classes and in the faculty offices, too. And we've had a lot of sad and tragic news -- the passing of Richard Nagareda, Rhys Isaac, and now Louis Henkin.
It's time for a break and something less serious, like lawyer house trivia.
What famous lawyer owned the house at right? Here are a couple of hints. The house is in Richmond, Virginia. Its owner was an important antebellum lawyer and he was also a novelist and, sort of, historian. In fact he wrote a famous work of "history" in this house. I put "history" in quotes because it's sort of unclear how much of the "history" was fact and how much fiction.
Due to the Icelandic volcano, my friend Prof. Susan Franck(W&L) finds herself living out a contracts problem.During the past semester, Susan has been in Geneva, as a Scholar in Residence at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.Recently, she signed a contract to buy a car for European delivery on 5/25 (to have the car then shipped to Virginia). She sent the signed contract and her down payment by airmail and receipt is required by BMW by 4/25 (arguably a material term).If delivery is delayed due to the volcanic eruption, is there a contract, is it breached, and are there any defenses?Discuss.
p.s. I just read a story online indicating that some European airports are starting to re-open.However, for purposes of this hypo, assume that delivery is delayed past the 25th.
CNN today posted the news that Walter Morrison, the original inventor of the Frisbee, died at age 90 at his home in Utah. The article gives an interesting history of the development and commercialization of the famous flying disc...