February 28, 2020

Weekend reads: Was Syphilis a 17th century fashion influencer?

Daily Briefing

    Ben Palmer's reads

    'A spoonful of sugar makes the robots go down.' Robots are increasingly working in public areas, and many major retailers are working on ways to make customers and staff more comfortable around them. For instance, Giant Eagle grocery stores in Pennsylvania and Ohio have started using Tally, a robot that roams the store with digital, cartoon-like eyes and a screen that informs customers what it's doing. According to Jeff Gee—co-founder of Simple Robotics, who developed Tally—the eyes were placed on Tally to help customers feel more comfortable with the robot, especially customers in parts of the country "where a lot of people have never experienced robots in the wild before." Walmart has also developed a shelf-scanning robot named Wall-E, and at some stores, staff have given the robots a name badge. It's all done in an effort to make the automation transition easier. "It's like Mary Poppins," said Peter Hancock, a professor at the University of Central Florida, who has studied the history of automation. "A spoonful of sugar makes the robots go down."

    How to differentiate anxiety from stress and worry. It's easy to get worry, stress, and anxiety mixed up, but they're three distinct terms. Worry happens when your mind focuses on negative thoughts obsessively and repetitively, according to Melanie Greenberg, a clinical psychologist. Meanwhile, stress is what happens in your body in connection to specific event. There has to be a stressor for stress to occur, as it's "a reaction to environmental changes or forces that exceed the individual's resources," Greenberg said. As for anxiety, that is a phenomenon that occurs in both your mind and body, but in response to something that isn't a threat. "Anxiety in some ways is a response to a false alarm," according to Luana Marques, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

    Danielle Poindexter's reads

    Syphilis: a 17th century fashion influencer. Syphilis may have been behind some of the 17th century's biggest fashion trends. At the time, the disease had no cure, which meant people had to deal with often severe symptoms, including  growths, ulcers, and hair loss, as well as neurological and heart damage. Since the disease was reasonably common, fashion evolved to allow people to continue to work and socialize with severe syphilis. For example, according to Popular Science, the powdered wig likely became popular due to the disease. Researchers speculate that King Louis XIV, who popularized the trend after he started to lose his hair at age 17, may have lost his hair due to syphilis. "Regardless, the royal love of fussy wigs provided a great cover for the truly countless number of syphilis patients running around Europe at the time," according to Popular Science.

    As the new coronavirus spreads, this beer brand is taking a hit. Since the start of the outbreak, people have been confused about the origins of the coronavirus. But some internet searches show that people may be (wrongly) attributing the virus to a popular beer. In January, there was a spike in searches for "corona beer virus" in North America, western Europe, Australia, India, and other countries, indicating that some people may think the virus has something to do with the beer brand. And the brand has taken a hit. Shares of Constellation Brands, the maker of Corona beer, fell 8% in New York this week. In addition, Corona's "buzz score," a metric that tracks whether U.S. adults have heard positive or negative things about a brand, dropped from a high of 75 at the beginning of 2020 to a low of 51. While there are indications that the drop in popularity of the beer is related to the virus, YouGov reports that the beer always sees a drop in purchase intent in the winter.

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