Join geneticist Kevin Folta and GLP editor Cameron English on this episode of Science Facts and Fallacies as they break down these latest news stories:
National coronavirus test shortages have emphasized testing’s critical role in containing and mitigating the pandemic, but these inconvenient truths remain: A test result is rarely a definitive answer… The result itself may be falsely positive or negative, or may show an abnormality that doesn’t matter. And even an accurate, meaningful test result is useless (or worse) unless it’s acted on appropriately.
How do these tests work, and how confident can we be in their ability to accurately detect COVID-19 infection? Understanding the limitations of coronavirus testing, and disease diagnosis more generally, could help us better mitigate future pandemics before they become pandemics.
- Viewpoint: Halo Band not ready for primetime – Amazon’s invasive wearable health tracker gets a poor review
The device offers similar functionality to its popular competitors, but has a few unhelpful or, dare we say, even downright creepy features. To help watch your weight, the Halo takes naked pictures of your body and uploads them to the cloud, which invites all sorts of privacy concerns. The device also monitors your tone of voice to help identify what state of mind you may be in—though it apparently badly misinterprets the data it analyzes. As the Post put it in a recent review, “the Halo collects the most intimate information we’ve seen from a consumer health gadget — and makes the absolute least use of it. This wearable is much better at helping Amazon gather data than at helping you get healthy and happy.”
- Viewpoint: ‘Celebrate pesticides!’ Why farmers should defend technology that produces our abundant food supply
With so many consumers confused and misinformed about agriculture, scientists have sometimes struggled to convince the public that their food is safe to consume. Farmers can help solve the problem by engaging on social media and, crucially, taking on the tough questions that people need answered, for example questions about the safety of GMOs and pesticides. Advocating for the use of important technologies farmers use to grow our food is perhaps the best way to do this, says farmer Michelle Miller:
Let’s be transparent and celebrate advances; celebrate pesticides! Wait, that sounds totally weird right? But it’s true! Because it’s no different than spraying ourselves with chemicals like bug spray and sunblock, plants are just as living as we are and also need to be protected.
Kevin M. Folta is a professor in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. Follow Professor Folta on Twitter @kevinfolta