Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hand jobs, nose jobs

I watched a program on the National Geographic channel about the Hubble telescope, on which they mentioned that the supernova that led to the Crab Nebula was recorded by Chinese astronomers at around 1000 AD. The only other recorded one I'm aware of (with not even the minimal Google searching to find exceptions) is the one that occurred around 0 AD making the Star of Bethlehem. They sound pretty awesome, and going by this every-1000-years estimation it seems not unlikely that I'll get to see one in my lifetime. I sure hope so.

Item 2: On Health Care.
Everybody knows that preventative health care is cheaper and more effective than treatment of disorders allowed to come to the point of crisis. Everyone also knows that the USA's health care system needs some major revamping if it's not going to drag the country in to bankruptcy. There has to be some method of health care that improves the rate of regular checkups for preventative care, especially among the aging baby boomers. In "Predictably Irrational," the author devotes a section to procrastination, mentioning an experiment he performed that gave three groups of students due dates for four papers over the course of a semester that were either outwardly dictated (by the professor) to be evenly spaced over the course of the semester, outwardly dictated to be all due at the end of the semester, or freely decided but binding and enforced by grade penalties for each day late. The students who decided their own dates did fine, the ones who could turn in at any day up until the last day of the semester did worse, and the ones with the due dates dictated to be evenly spaced did the best. In other words, those who were given the freedom to procrastinate on all their papers ended up doing so and were eventually graded worse than those with due dates decided by their benevolent dictator.

You can apply this message to preventative health care. Checkups are a hassle, but perhaps if they were mandatory then people would take care of them with more regularity than if we were given the freedom to put them off indefinitely. Therefore, I propose a national health plan that one can opt in or out of, but imposes regular checkups on its members with a monetary penalty for failure to make them on time.

Supporting this, but requiring too much typing for me to summarize here to my satisfaction, is the work of this guy, who finds that people are indeed happier by means of a "psychological immune system" when terrible things happen to us beyond our control. Granted, in his book he finds that we are more unhappy about small irritations, which checkups might turn out to be, than world-shaking tragedies, but I think the line I'm thinking in is clear. Just as business and the financial markets need some regulation, people's habits might need some too.

Somewhere in my legions of readers there'll probably be someone of influence in the house of Obama to get this thing moving.