The News – 19 June 2014

Overview

  • AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, yesterday today condemned The Australian’s front page promotion of smoking and Big Tobacco, and its constant attacks on tobacco plain packaging legislation, one of the greatest public health initiatives in Australia’s and the world’s recent history.
  • The more robots and 3D-animated characters look like humans, the creepier we find them. This so-called ‘uncanny valley’ has major implications for the field of robotics, according to cognitive scientist Ayse Saygin, who is researching the phenomenon.
  • Most cancer vaccines are therapeutic. They are after the fact. That’s why they don’t work. Stephen Johnston is taking a different approach. He’s hoping to produce a vaccine to prevent cancer.


Stories Discussed
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 19th June 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.

Cancer vaccines, robots and tobacco feature in today’s news.
https://ama.com.au/media/ama-condemns-australians-promotion-smoking-and-big-tobacco

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, yesterday today condemned The Australian’s front page promotion of smoking and Big Tobacco, and its constant attacks on tobacco plain packaging legislation, one of the greatest public health initiatives in Australia’s and the world’s recent history.

A/Prof Owler said today that Australia’s leadership on tobacco control, including the plain packaging laws, has bipartisan support and has been applauded by public health advocates around the world.

“The smoking debate is not about politics or ideology, it is about life and death,” A/Prof Owler said.

“Smoking kills – the evidence is in and has been for a long time.

“Actions that stop people smoking save millions of lives around the world, and improve the lives and quality of life of millions more.

“Doctors see the horrific harms caused by smoking every day in surgeries and operating theatres, and it’s not pretty. We have to stop people throwing their lives and health away.

“As a modern responsible society, we must do all we can to help or convince people to stop smoking for the sake of their health and the health of others.

“We have come a long way, but there is still so much more to do.

“The actions of the tobacco industry in manipulating statistics and engaging in dirty tricks marketing are deplorable – and should not be promoted or encouraged.

“The key statistic is that the number of smokers in Australia fell in 2013 by 1.4 per cent (ABS).

“The AMA urges the Government to restate its support for the plain packaging laws and tobacco control generally, and we urge The Australian and other media to stop giving Big Tobacco a free ride in promoting its killer products,” A/Prof Owler said.

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/scienceshow/robotics-3d-animation-and-the-uncanny-valley/5529922

The more robots and 3D-animated characters look like humans, the creepier we find them. This so-called ‘uncanny valley’ has major implications for the field of robotics, according to cognitive scientist Ayse Saygin, who is researching the phenomenon.

Ogres, robots and clownfish have starred in some of the highest grossing films of all time. Yet 3D-rendered humans, such as those portrayed in 2004’s The Polar Express or 2007’s Beowulf were described by critics as ‘creepy’ and ‘unsettling’.

It’s an example of the ‘uncanny valley, a term coined by Japanese robotics professor Masahiro Mori in 1970. It refers to the revulsion people feel in the presence of avatars or androids that look and move almost like humans beings. In other words, the more human-like something appears without being human, the creepier we find it.

Outside of Hollywood, the uncanny valley has major implications for the field of robotics, where scientists are trying to design androids for everyday use.

‘People are working on these robots that are very expensive, they have very important application domains, they’re telling us all the time that robots will be used in healthcare and education,’ says Associate Professor Ayse Saygin of the University of California, San Diego. ‘If we design them in such a way that people get creeped out by them, then they’re not going to fulfil their intended purposes.’

Saygin’s UCSD Cognitive Science and Neuropsychology Lab is looking into why humans react the way they do to robots that aren’t quite right. In a 2011 study using medical imaging technology, Saygin and her team found that our response to uncanny robots is strongest in the parts of the brain that process bodily movement. That, according to Saygin, suggests that the brain is looking for its expectations of appearance and motion to be met.

The challenge, then, is to take what the UCSD team has learned about human perception and cognition and use it to design robots and artificial humanoid characters that are fluid, smooth and make us comfortable.

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/scienceshow/a-vaccine-for-cancer3f/5522642

Most cancer vaccines are therapeutic. They are after the fact. That’s why they don’t work. Stephen Johnston

– co-director of the Centre for Innovations in Medicine, Arizona State University –

is taking a different approach. He’s hoping to produce a vaccine to prevent cancer. Just as with infectious disease, the cancer vaccine would arm the immune system and allow it to fight cancer should it arise. The challenge is covering the wide variety of cancers. Stephen Johnston says all cancers make just a few of a small range of genetic mistakes, producing junk peptides. If these can be incorporated in a 
single vaccine, then the much hoped for 
vaccine against cancer may be possible.

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