Category Archives: Figure Stuff Out

Thoughts and observations about everything in the kitchen sink from the meaning of life to deep-fried sushi.

When Gut Instinct and Logic Work Together

After the recent presidential election, you are probably either particularly alarmed or especially excited about the outcome.  Regardless of your particular political predilection, it is fair to say that this election puts data science on its head when so many got so wrong.

On an earlier issue of Harvard Business Review, the venerable magazine shared a piece of research from the University of Southern California on forecasting. When forecasting sales, the best estimators use a combination of intuition and logic – with both the logic-heavy and intuition-heavy forecasters performing less accurately.

In the age of artificial intelligence and big data, it can be sobering to realize that despite the staggering volume of data we are now collecting, ignoring your gut instincts can take a heavy toll on your decision-making abilities.

 

Source: “What type of forecaster are you?” Harvard Business Review (March): 26.

 

 

6 Elements of a Data-Driven Informatics Solution (2/3)

The first part of this discussed the heterogeneity of data projects and how a uniform approach can help hone in the solution. The first post also discussed the first two elements: Refine the question, and identifying the right data.  Here we tackle the next two elements.

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Plan Your Approach

At this step, we begin to go into the technicalities of data science. This post is not designed to go into the detail of each approach, but it will attempt to ask the relevant questions.

How will you process the data that you now possess? In almost all cases, this step will involve data wrangling (also known as data munging or data cleaning). To determine how the “clean” form your data must take for proper analysis, it is important to determine the transformations and algorithms necessary for your question. Continue reading

More Important Than Doing Well

My wife and I take a routine monthly trip to Costco to refill the refrigerator. Now with less than two months from core exam, she said she can drive by herself so I can have more time to study. It was thoughtful of her to offer. I thought for a moment. Buying chicken and cheese may be routine and unexciting, but it is something we do together, and there are some things more important than doing well on a test.

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Doing Better Stems from Being Bored of Doing Good Enough

“The result of our approach,is that we end up with a team of people who will quickly become bored by performing tasks by hand and have the skill set necessary to write software to replace their previously manual work.”

Ben Sloss, Google

Google engineers are not afraid of automating themselves out of a job.  They embrace the challenge of finding the next best thing in machine learning, in big data, in medicine, or moonshots like longevity, because of this philosophy.

Are we bored with clicking and measuring things by hand yet?  Spell checking your report manually for semantic (i.e. error of meaning not spelling) errors? Making a differential diagnosis strictly from memory?  We should get bored.  Then we can start to improve it.

It’s when we are satisfied from “good enough” that we forget “doing better” is possible.

Programmable DNA Circuits Make Smart Cells a Reality – Sort of

… and imagine if you could program life itself.  Rather than 0’s and 1’s, you have four possibilities, a computing system performing quaternary arithmetics.

I still remember being dazzled as a freshman in college, during the first computer science lecture. The professor spoke of quantum computers, where improvements in speed of calculations can be measured in squaring time 2n rather than the traditional doubling time (i.e. Moore’s law) 2n.  And there was biologic computing, using simple building blocks of genetic material ACTG to perform calculations which take place in living cells.

Then, I spent the 15 years that follows writing them off as science fiction, pontifications of an old man.

I was, of course, wrong.

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The Value of Knowing What Lies Ahead

When I was in 8th grade, my English teacher wanted to give everyone a book to take into high school.  She had a cardboard box full of various books. There was literary fiction like Toni Morrison.  There was a memory aid for American presidents. But I came to class really late that day, so by the time I went up to the box, there were only a few books left.  I had the great choice between Billy Budd (dryest. book. ever.), Atlas Shrugged, and this book called Getting Things Done.

I picked up Getting Things Done because Atlas Shrugged didn’t fit in my bookbag.   It would be years before I realized that self-help productivity books is in itself a major genre of nonfiction.  At the time it just didn’t make sense why anyone would need such pathologic level of compulsion to keep things organized.

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Sway – The Way to Share Radiology Content in Web 3.0?

I stumbled upon Sway today.  Microsoft Sway promises to make creating web presentations easy, which is a fairly big claim.

I also happened to be studying MSK for the Core Exam, so I made a Sway approaches to mass lesions in bone. There will also be some comments on Sway.

Here’s the disclaimer: I am not an MSK expert, just some guy studying for the Core Exam!  Also, all images here belong to their original owners, not me.

Also, Sway’s navigation is a hybrid between ​PPT slide show and web-based scrolling. It takes a little getting-used-to.  Definitely try it in full screen, but it can also be embedded in a web page like this.

All in all, I was impressed with Sway, and I hope it continues to mature.

It did crash twice on me, but no content was lost as the app continuously saves your edits to the cloud the same way we have come to expect web apps.  Sway is the easiest way to create engaging content by removing the guesswork in design layout.  Whereas PowerPoint seems to encourage you to create bulleted lists after bulleted lists,  Sway encourages you to get your point across through pictures and videos.

I really like the direction the software is taking because this is how radiology content should be shared.

For someone who always needs to be doing something to keep focusing on the topic at hand, Sway kept me on task by providing an immersive environment for creating content. That’s always a plus.

Thinking of Snow

A friend did me a favor yesterday without being asked.  I asked him why.

He said earlier this week his neighbor decided to shovel snow for the entire block. The neighbor dug out everyone’s cars from several feet of deep snow.

The cynical might endorse The Chain of Screaming, but the opposite is equally true.  In the aftermath of the most severe blizzard the northeast has seen in recent years comes a warm act of kindness.

Cynicism and kindness are both contagious.  Which one will you spread?

The Best Time to Be A Radiologist   

Radiology is probably the most exciting field of medicine to be in right now.

Yes – reimbursements are less generous.
Yes – volume is paradoxically increasing, and we are busier than ever.
Yes – you spend most of your time away from patients.

Physicians are inherent scientists. We observe a pattern and draw a line of extrapolation. We do this subconsciously and assign value to these insights. If reimbursement decreased by 10% from last year, in 12 years we will be left with 35% what we started with!  However, we now know drawing lines using historical data requires a nuanced approach.

The best time to get involved in a profession as a young professional is at a time of rapid change. History records only times of conflict, of artistic or cultural debate, of Renaissance, the industrial revolution, and the digital age. Change is the enemy of stability and favors the adaptable. Change gives rise to new ideas and new efforts. Change is why Silicon Valley start-ups rise and fall with the ticking clock but yet remain some of the most exciting careers in today’s America.

It is in the midst of fluctuation, not stability, that we find the most fulfilling career opportunities. Radiology doesn’t guarantee success – your medical training did that for you. Radiology offers an environment to be creative precisely because so much of its future is in the air rather than in stone carvings.

So will you seize the unique opportunity and guide the flow of an entire medical discipline at a time of your life when you are best suited for it? If you have always been fascinated by medical imaging, now is the time to jump in.

You Don’t Have to Outrun The Bear

I had a wonderful discussion with an old friend from college who was trying to learn more about radiology. A computer scientist classically trained in a top US university for software engineering, she has years of experience in data science. She is now trying to apply her extensive expertise in analytics to healthcare. In our discussion, she began to express her concerns – having taken only 1 introductory biology course in college, she was worried that her limited knowledge in healthcare and medicine will prove to be the lynchpin of this transition.

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