Author Topic: Scurvy and Vitamin C  (Read 1227 times)

rukawa

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Scurvy and Vitamin C
« on: April 14, 2018, 10:56:00 AM »
A very nice article on how the cure for Scurvy was repeatedly discovered and repeatedly forgotten with awful consequences:
http://idlewords.com/2010/03/scott_and_scurvy.htm

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Now, I had been taught in school that scurvy had been conquered in 1747, when the Scottish physician James Lind proved in one of the first controlled medical experiments that citrus fruits were an effective cure for the disease. From that point on, we were told, the Royal Navy had required a daily dose of lime juice to be mixed in with sailors’ grog, and scurvy ceased to be a problem on long ocean voyages.

But here was a Royal Navy surgeon in 1911 apparently ignorant of what caused the disease, or how to cure it. Somehow a highly-trained group of scientists at the start of the 20th century knew less about scurvy than the average sea captain in Napoleonic times. Scott left a base abundantly stocked with fresh meat, fruits, apples, and lime juice, and headed out on the ice for five months with no protection against scurvy, all the while confident he was not at risk. What happened?


Cigarbutt

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Re: Scurvy and Vitamin C
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2018, 05:01:00 PM »
Thanks for sharing.

The story shows the induction problem which can be applied to investing as well. Like Spekulatius describes now in a separate thread, we have to make decisions on incomplete information and to use best possible process. And, invariably, biases will seep into the process (confirmation bias, recency bias, halo effect etc). Also, a classical potential trap when correlation and causality are mixed.

Perhaps important to underline that scurvy was likely not the cause of Mr Scott's failure to return home. Here's a complementary article:
https://www.rcpe.ac.uk/sites/default/files/butler.pdf

Also interesting to see how the status of "hero" over time changed for Mr. Scott. At the time of his exploits, he was considered a national champion. Over time, it was discovered that, as a leader, he was far from perfect and got a fair share of criticism. More recently, his status has been given redemption to some degree by serious authors who suggested that critics should try to put themselves in the extreme conditions that the explorers were submitted to. Maybe, we should do the same when we retrospectively evaluate how people were dumb before.

For those interested in the topic (South Pole expeditions), the article, that rukawa refers to, mentions Mr. Shackleton as somebody who accompanied Mr. Scott initially. Both became fierce competitors after and led parallel expeditions.

Mr. Shackleton is a fascinating character and an atypical leader.
I had referred to him in a book review that I submitted some time ago:
http://www.cornerofberkshireandfairfax.ca/forum/books/forged-in-crisis-nancy-koehn/msg321901/#msg321901

rukawa

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Re: Scurvy and Vitamin C
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2018, 11:05:37 AM »
Thanks for sharing.

The story shows the induction problem which can be applied to investing as well. Like Spekulatius describes now in a separate thread, we have to make decisions on incomplete information and to use best possible process. And, invariably, biases will seep into the process (confirmation bias, recency bias, halo effect etc). Also, a classical potential trap when correlation and causality are mixed.

Perhaps important to underline that scurvy was likely not the cause of Mr Scott's failure to return home. Here's a complementary article:
https://www.rcpe.ac.uk/sites/default/files/butler.pdf

Also interesting to see how the status of "hero" over time changed for Mr. Scott. At the time of his exploits, he was considered a national champion. Over time, it was discovered that, as a leader, he was far from perfect and got a fair share of criticism. More recently, his status has been given redemption to some degree by serious authors who suggested that critics should try to put themselves in the extreme conditions that the explorers were submitted to. Maybe, we should do the same when we retrospectively evaluate how people were dumb before.

For those interested in the topic (South Pole expeditions), the article, that rukawa refers to, mentions Mr. Shackleton as somebody who accompanied Mr. Scott initially. Both became fierce competitors after and led parallel expeditions.

Mr. Shackleton is a fascinating character and an atypical leader.
I had referred to him in a book review that I submitted some time ago:
http://www.cornerofberkshireandfairfax.ca/forum/books/forged-in-crisis-nancy-koehn/msg321901/#msg321901

Another interesting character is Amundsen:
https://www.amazon.com/Last-Place-Earth-Amundsens-Exploration/dp/0375754741/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1523815373&sr=8-2&keywords=POLAR+EXPLORATION

A commentor from Amazon summarizes:
Quote
Very excellent look at the personalities of two polar explorers, their journeys, and their fateful competition finally to reach the South Pole. I was fascinated by the differences between these two people, Amundsen and Scott. Amundsen was methodical to an extreme. He learned about every aspect of polar travel, through visits with explorers, volunteering on expeditions, reading, and direct training about skiing, running dogs, nutition, sailing into polar waters, etc. etc. He was conpulsive about understanding everything possible about everything that might have an impact on an expedition. Amundsen also valued the knowledge of indigenous people about traveling in polar regions, food, clothing, etc. He didn't see them as savages with nothing to teach. Scott was haphazard and careless in his approach. He took the attitude that a large and well-funded team could wing it and overcome problems as they occurred. He didn't value the knowledge of indigenous people who had lived in the Arctic for eons. He took ponies to the Antarctic as pack animals. He hated sled dogs. What is there for a pony to eat in the pack ice? Nothing. What can a dog eat? Seals. Penguins. In the worst case even another dog. The author also discusses the more general differences between Norwegians and the English as regards exploration and even behavior toward subordinates.

stahleyp

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Re: Scurvy and Vitamin C
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2018, 05:16:53 AM »
This lost knowledge stuff is interesting. Have you guys read about the Antikythera mechanism?
Paul

Cigarbutt

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Re: Scurvy and Vitamin C
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2018, 10:36:30 AM »
This lost knowledge stuff is interesting. Have you guys read about the Antikythera mechanism?

First time I see this. Interesting.
Ancient Greece is when math, physics and astronomy started.
Civilization can indeed fall asleep for very long periods.
Not reassuring when one sees statistics and surveys showing that beliefs about paranormal, esoteric and astrology are on the rise, even in the groups having scientific backgrounds.
Goes in cycles.