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Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful?

Guppy "Cure Sometimes, Relieve Often... Comfort Always." (723 comments)

People can survive quite well without the care of physicians.

I am not a doctor (but will be in a few more months ;)

In this matter, you are certainly correct. In the past (and in some places, even today), there were human settlements in which there has never been a doctor -- at least not in the modern sense of a doctor. And for the most part, life went on. Humans managed to be born, grow up, and grow old. Occasionally those lives might be cut a bit shorter and harder than otherwise -- but on average, these occurrences were infrequent enough that we could be assured the younger generation would survive to repeat the next turn of the cycle.

Yet, in each of those villages, you would find a healer. A shaman, a medicine-man, or maybe some weird old lady living at the edge of the settlement. Sometimes their herbs and potions would actually be useful; mystical incantations probably somewhat less so. Regardless of how primitive these healers were, they would be summoned to offer up what they could. They were a source of comfort that could be turned to, when a loved one was sick or dying. And they were also one of the few educated people (whether formal education or by traditional teachings) in the village that could be turned to for knowledge and advice (clergy being the other major source).

Many of us on Slashdot do not have families of our own, or at least that's the stereotype. We often have only a dim understanding of what illness can do to the structure and functioning of a marriage, a family, a clan, or even an entire village. When people don't understand what is happening and begin to fear, when they believe nothing can be done and begin to despair -- the social bonds that hold us together fray and rip apart. This dynamic is why healers exist and are so highly valued in society, even in a modern age where miracles are commonplace and expected to occur on demand. And why post-apocalypse, they will continue to be valued.

That being said, I would agree that some doctors would be more useful than others. Rural Medicine, Wilderness Medicine (an uncommon specialty), General Surgery, and Veterinarians would be the most immediately useful. As for the rest of us, at least all doctors go through medical school and internship, have studied anatomy and physiology, dissected cadavers and such -- it might take some retraining, but it should be possible to get at least the more adaptable ones back up to speed on how to remove an inflamed appendix or gallbladder, perform a Cesarean, or set a broken bone. As for our other skills -- the skills of compassion, comforting, and guidance -- hopefully they practice these most basic Physician's skills on a daily basis (although sadly enough, I know not all of us do).

3 days ago

In-Flight Wi-Fi Provider Going Above and Beyond To Help Feds Spy

Guppy Re:The feds can have the data from my last flight. (78 comments)

The last time I used gogoinflight I was using it to search for and download freely available academic papers for work. I know I should be appalled at them giving up the data, but I wouldn't use a service like that for anything that I would be worried about the feds looking in on.

In my case, being a medical student -- what if I happen to be studying infectious diseases at the moment? Maybe some novel Influenza strains, or bacterial antibiotic resistance profiles, or epidemiological models of disease spread? Possibly even actual bio-terrorism agents, as these were a pretty big item on my board exams (probably someone at the federal level pushed the NBME/NBOME to emphasize them, there was way too much given the relative clinical utility of the topic).

My colleagues would find those topics perfectly normal and usual items of study, but I'd hate to end up on a watch list because MUH TERRORISM.

about a week ago

60 Minutes Dubbed Engines Noise Over Tesla Model S

Guppy Re:Continuously variable transmission (544 comments)

Cars with CVT don't shift either.

That actually brings up an interesting point -- some CVT cars now have electronically-controlled fake "gearshift" transitions, to mimic what Joe Customer expects to feel.

about two weeks ago

Scientists Solve the Mystery of Why Zebras Have Stripes

Guppy Re:Terrible summary (190 comments)

Biting flies can't evolve?

Maybe they have. If you were to obtain some biting flies from however many millions of years ago, back when the striped zebra trait first appeared -- would they be even worse at coping with stripes than their modern counterparts? All we know is that there is still some differential even today.

It's like asking why some arctic predators bothered to evolve white coats, when their prey should have out-evolved the ability to be fooled by the camouflage, or why some insects have eye-spots, when vision systems should have evolved to be able to distinguish real eyes from fake. Your system improves to some point, and then you hit some local maxima.

BTW, there is a type of biting fly trap, where the bait is basically a large dark-colored ball at the end of a pendulum, that swings back and forth. Apparently, the fly vision system is cued to look for the silhouette of a curved body of a certain size, in motion -- in the wild, it was apparently good enough to distinguish a large animal from swaying trees, grass, or other non-animal objects. Would use of such traps -- imagine if they were used widely for a long, long period of time -- lead to fly evolution (perhaps more reliance on scent cues, or CO2 like mosquitos use, perhaps)? Would such alternative cues completely over-ride the former visual system, or would there be a local maxima, at which the probability of being caught in a trap balanced out with enhanced ability to locate a target animal?

about two weeks ago

Russian GLONASS Down For 12 Hours

Guppy Re:How does this affect dual-system chipsets? (148 comments)

Newer phones have location chipsets that support both GPS and GLONASS. Do they figure out automatically that the GLONASS information is bad and switch to using GPS exclusively?

To promote their system, Russia decided to make new smartphones without GLONASS support illegal in their country -- so major manufacturers added that capability to all their phones (since there is almost no additional cost to each unit, once the capability is designed into the chipset). Not sure about CDMA chipset, since there is no major CDMA networking in Russia.

Would be nice if we got Galileo GNSS and Beidou support too, but I'm not expecting it to happen unless they pull a similar stunt with their markets (well, China might).


about two weeks ago

Gunshot Victims To Be Part of "Suspended Animation" Trials

Guppy Re:UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh (357 comments)

My question is this voluntary? How is exactly does one opt out if they prefer traditional care? Doesn't seem to be like a recent victim of gross trauma, can exactly make an informed decision.

Unfortunately, this is the problem with experimental therapies intended to be used on emergency patients in extremis, where most of which will be unable to give meaningful consent. It's a common issue in severe trauma and stroke trials. While implied consent for standard emergency treatment can be assumed, this does not hold for experimental therapies.

In such cases, the researchers will most likely ask a surrogate decision maker (the patient's family) for permission -- as you would for any other non-competent patient who needed a medical decision, and who did not leave written directives beforehand. There will also be an ethics board monitoring the whole thing (as with all human trials, but these types of trials more closely than most).

about three weeks ago

Homeopathic Remedies Recalled For Containing Real Medicine

Guppy Re:Many pharmacies carry these (173 comments)

I know them fairly well and this is a source of endless entertainment on my part (I'm a 'classic' MD)

Oh hey, it's nice to bump into a physician on Slashdot. I'm about to start my internship, ok if I add you to my friend list?

about three weeks ago

Facebook Buying Oculus VR For $2 Billion

Guppy Re:DO NOT WANT (535 comments)

Actually, let me amend my previous post, on second thought I don't think it's really the end-users that are the true targets of this acquisition.

It's would be the game devs. Imagine a world where all commercial Oculus games are required to be developed in such a way that they have some sort of social-media tie into Facebook. It won't happen at the official public release of course -- that would scare too many people off. I imagine they'll play nice until the Oculus achieves market dominance. Then, Facebook will start to creep into the arrangement, as devs find out they need to jump through more and more hoops to maintain access to the Oculus ecosystem.

about three weeks ago

Facebook Buying Oculus VR For $2 Billion

Guppy DO NOT WANT (535 comments)

So, who wants to bet whether or not the basic Oculus Rift will be permanently tied-into the Facebook ecosystem somehow?

Maybe some "cloud" features (required to access support forums, firmware updates, online configuration page, etc) that will be tied to your Facebook account -- none of which will make much sense, but somehow it will get shoe-horned in there.

about three weeks ago

St. Patrick's Day, March Madness, and Steve Jobs' Liver

Guppy Re:Fortunately for Jobs (129 comments)

GPL Sounds reasonable. In order to receive organs from other donors, you must also consent to be a donor.

I think you may want to put in an exception for pediatric patients. And, if you allow last-minute-converts, such a rule would mostly be symbolic.

about a month ago

NASA-Funded Study Investigates Collapse of Industrial Civilization

Guppy Malthusianism is only Wrong because we make it so (401 comments)

Yep, and it was crap the last time. For those of us old enough: overpopulation, environmental crisis, the collapse of capitalist societies and others are just boring memes that we've heard before.

Predictions of Global Malthusian Collapse have been proven wrong repeatedly, but only because many intelligent and hardworking humans have labored to prevent it. We defer a certain amount of gratification now, to invest in technologies, infrastructure, and institutions; we use our foresight to plan and avoid inauspicious outcomes.

My fear is that at some point, society as a whole will come to take all these things for granted. We'll pat ourselves on the back and say, "Malthus was and always is wrong because, uhh -- reasons", and we'll stop investing in the future. Because hey, I really need more shinies right now, and my voters are going to the polls right now, and the boss wants better numbers right now. And that's when tomorrow gets Fucked.

Malthusianism is only wrong because we work hard to make it wrong.

about a month ago

Nanoscale Terahertz Optical Switch Breaks Miniaturization Barrier

Guppy Re:Isolation, Reflection and Cross-talk (35 comments)

You have to take into account the potential of the new technology as well. Consider the transition from DC to AC power - initially there wasn't much in it, because voltages were low and transmission distances were short. It was only after the whole electricity industry scaled up that AC really showed its strengths

And ironically enough, we're now at the point where further developments in technology have meant that DC is now superior for high-power transmission over long distances, thanks to lower power losses and the ability to run high-voltage cables underground/underwater (no capacitive coupling losses).

about a month ago

EU Votes For Universal Phone Charger

Guppy Quantum Spin 1/2 (358 comments)

You put it in, and it doesn't fit, so you turn it over.
You put it in again, it doesn't fit, so you turn it back over.
Now it fits.

That's because USB connectors have a quantum spin of 1/2!

Oh, and http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id...

about a month ago

The $100,000 Device That Could Have Solved Missing Plane Mystery

Guppy Re:-1 Flamebait (461 comments)


Right, it's the sort of schmaltzy emotion-based argument I expect from some politician or tabloid rag. Timothy, I am disappoint.

about a month ago

New Blood Test Offers Early Warning for Alzheimer's Onset

Guppy Alzheimer's assay in 2011 (86 comments)

Professor Bob Nagele (from the med school I'm attending now) has had a blood-based Alzheimer's test since 2011: http://www.plosone.org/article...

Using human protein microarrays to characterize the differential expression of serum autoantibodies in AD and non-demented control (NDC) groups, we identified potential diagnostic biomarkers for AD. The differential significance of each biomarker was evaluated, resulting in the selection of only 10 autoantibody biomarkers that can effectively differentiate AD sera from NDC sera with a sensitivity of 96.0% and specificity of 92.5%.

about a month ago

3D Maps Reveal a Lead-Laced Ocean

Guppy Incinerators and Trash-to-Energy (266 comments)

Banning lead in solder - Worst environmental law ever passed. Lead in solder never escaped in the environment, was at worst destined for a lined landfill.

I didn't understand the seemingly poor cost-benefit trade-off either, until I realized it was the European Union that pushed for this. In Europe, they incinerate a much larger portion of their trash than we do -- thus, the lead in the garbage stream was actually a big problem for them.

about a month and a half ago

Ancient Chinese Mummies Discovered In Cheesy Afterlife

Guppy Re:And Modern Chinese have no Native Cheese (64 comments)

Indeed that is correct, Chinese do not like cheese.

Although, there's been quite a push in recent times to increase consumption of dairy products, coming from several different directions. From the government, who would like to introduce a new revenue source to farming (the urban-rural income gap is an increasing problem), as well as a new protein source to their citizens; from consumers with increasing exposure to Western influences (and the advertisers that would like to sell to them); from parents wishing their children would grow up taller than the previous generation. Even from young girls hoping to grow bigger boobs.

The most successful cheeses thus far seem to be the milder-tasting types. Things like mozzarellas, or soft cheeses suitable for desserts and cheesecakes. Unfortunately, these are also the cheeses highest in lactose -- the great majority of Chinese are lactose intolerant.

about a month and a half ago

Ford Dumping Windows For QNX In New Vehicles

Guppy Bluetooth OBDII Readers (314 comments)

When you pay at least $18,000 for a car, spending less than $150 for an OBDII reader that can be used on any car is, well, something you should have no problems doing.

Definitely. Get a cheap Bluetooth OBD reader, pair it with a smartphone, then add one of several OBD Smartphone Apps out there -- I use Torque Pro for Android -- and you have a decent reader that will also do logging, although the information that you can get out of it varies with your reader, and the make and model of car.

I recently made emergency use of my reader just a few months ago, when my light came on. Some idiot-light problems can be post-poned for later, while others would have destroyed the the engine if I had kept driving. With a reader in the car, I was able to just pull over to the side of the road and make a quick determination that it was safe to finish my trip.

about 2 months ago

Safety Measures Fail To Stop Fukushima Plant Leaks

Guppy Comparing Like with Like? (157 comments)

You are not comparing like with like. The potassium in a banana is mostly passed through the body harmlessly, as only enough to maintain the normal level is absorbed.

Mostly correct. Instead of only absorbing "only enough to maintain the normal level", what you will actually get is absorption of a bit more than enough to maintain the normal level, coupled with increased elimination (mostly via urine) to maintain that normal level. Either way there is no difference -- there is no long-term storage of Potassium in the body, it is all present as the soluble, highly-mobile aqueous ion. So any increased level of from a radioactive source will relatively rapidly come back down to equilibrium levels of radioactivity, once you return to your intake from your regular Potassium sources.

Anyway, the ratio of radioactive Potassium (to non-radioactive Potassium) in your body will be equal to the average level of radioactive Potassium in Bananas (and other dietary sources, mostly plant-derived materials); the Potassium-40 isotope to non-radioactive isotopes is mostly at equilibrium concentration in the environment. For a 70kg human this means approximately 160g of total Potassium in the body, with 0.0187 grams of 40K, producing 4,900 disintegrations per second (becquerels).

The strontium in this water is absorbed by the body like calcium, accumulating in the bones where it will sit for years or decades slowly irradiating you, which is why is causes cancer and leukaemia.

Partially correct. Like Potassium, Calcium is regulated at a "normal" level, and the body will reduce absorption (from the gut), and increase elimination (mostly through urine) to eliminate excess. Accumulation happens if there is a deficit, or with active deposition of osseous material. However, due to constant turn-over of bone Calcium, at any given time a small amount of material is simultaneously being both absorbed and released from long-term storage. So this means a small amount of the ingested material will go into long-term storage, even when your body is not actively increasing Calcium stores.

However, note that while Potassium-40 and non-radioactive Potassium are chemically identical (well, almost identical -- some tiny kinetic effects may be present, negligible), Calcium and Strontium are not. They are grossly handled the same by the body, but there may be some differences in absorption / retention / excretion rates between the two substances -- so the radioactive Strontium will not be a straightforward constant fraction of the Calcium pool as it moves around in the body.

I'm disappointed. I expect more than this level of scientific illiteracy from +4 Slashdot comments.

I'm not disappointed; I never had any expectations to begin with :)

about 2 months ago

Safety Measures Fail To Stop Fukushima Plant Leaks

Guppy Re:It will just continue like this... (157 comments)

there is no significant CS-137 contamination even ten miles from Fukushima. Not a danger to humans, and the levels now are less than 1/10,000 from when the disaster happened.

Thanks to the magic of bio-accumulation, trace concentrations can be increased by many orders of magnitude:

Tourism industry officials and restaurant operators have been aghast to learn that wild mushrooms picked far from the site of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture last year are showing high levels of radioactive cesium.

Last year, only wild mushrooms picked in Fukushima Prefecture were found to have cesium levels that exceeded legal standards.

This year, however, wild mushrooms from as far away as Aomori, Nagano and Shizuoka prefectures, all more than 200 kilometers from Fukushima, have been found to be contaminated with cesium.


about 2 months ago



Smaller Testicles correlated with Better Parenting Behavior

Guppy Guppy writes  |  about 7 months ago

Guppy (12314) writes "A recent paper appearing in PNAS (Paywalled) measured Testicular volume and Testosterone levels in fathers of children aged 1-2 years. This information was compared against parenting surveys reported by the children's mothers, as well as MRI imaging of brain activity in the men's Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA), taken while the men were viewing photographs of their children.

The results appeared consistent with past studies hinting of correlation — both Smaller Testicles and lower testosterone levels were found to correlated with both greater reported Nuturing-type behavior, as well as greater stimulated VTA activity. The authors commented that further research was required, given the limited scope of past investigations into the subject, saying "Testicular imaging is sort of a unique niche right now."

Free Summary appearing in Nature here."

Link to Original Source

Slashdot Poll Submission: "R"

Guppy Guppy writes  |  about 9 months ago

Guppy (12314) writes " R:
  • Type
  • Project for Statistical Computing
  • Daneel Olivaw
  • Dorothy Wayneright
  • Kelly
  • "...Shiver me timbers, matey!"

Tylenol may ease pain of existential distress, social rejection

Guppy Guppy writes  |  about a year ago

Guppy (12314) writes "Does Tylenol reduce existential distress? Acetaminophen (Paracetamol) has been used to relieve mild-to-moderate physical pain for over a century, yet its actual mechanism of action continues to be debated; modern research has demonstrated an intriguing connection with the body's endocannabinoid system, raising the question of whether it may also have subtle psychological effects as well. A recent paper claims Acetaminophen can alter our response to existential challenge; previous findings have suggested that it may blunt the pain of social rejection as well."

Training an Immune System to kill Cancer: A Universal Strategy

Guppy Guppy writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Guppy writes "A previous story reported widely in the media, and appearing both on Slashdot and XKCD described a novel cancer treatment, in which a patient's own T-cells were modified using an HIV-derived vector to recognize and kill leukemia cells. In a follow-up publication, a further development is described which allows for a nearly unlimited choice of target antigens, broadening the types of malignancies potentially treatable with the technique."
Link to Original Source


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