Virus-Detecting "Lab On a Chip" Developed At BYU
DNA microarrays (also know as DNA chips) can already identify every virus ever discovered, and it can even identify undiscovered viruses by recognizing genetic sequences that are highly conserved among viruses. This type of chip first proved its worth in 2003 when it was used to identify SARS. The New York Times interviewed the inventor Joseph DeRisi about it:
We had just finished building the full version of our ViroChip, when we read about SARS in the newspapers. We literarily begged the C.D.C. to send us samples of the virus. Once we had it, we immediately put it onto a chip. In less than 24 hours we confirmed that this was a novel coronavirus. We confirmed the ViroChip’s finding by subsequently sequencing this virus’s genome. This had never in history happened before.
It is not yet evident what, if any, advantage this other chip that hopes to identify viruses by their size will have.
"Vegetative State" Patients Can Communicate
Of the 54 patients examined in the study most had suffered either from traumatic brain injury or anoxic brain injury. Anoxic brain injury for the most part means your heart had stopped for a prolonged period of time (although other things such as severe prolonged hypoglycemia or carbon monoxide can do the same thing). Anoxic brain injury is a diffuse process and its course is highly predictable. Depending on the severity of the initial event with anoxia patients will either improve after a relatively short period of time or they never will. Of all of the 'miracle' re-awaking cases that have occurred (extremely rare cases of people waking up to a severely disabled state) none of them have been by someone who has suffered anoxia.
Traumatic brain injury has a less predictable course as some of the parts of the brain are destroyed while other parts can be relatively undamaged. Of the five patients in the study who were found with some brain activity all of them were traumatic brain injury cases.
Schiavo suffered anoxic brain injury due to cardiac arrest. These patients never need fancy brains scan as their external findings accurately reflect what has happened to their entire brain. The current New England Journal of Medicine article actually serves to support that anoxia patients have no cognition.
FreeCreditReport.com Wins 1,017 Domains By UDRP
The New York Times recently did an extensive article on this scam.
The entire basis of their operation is to fool people into paying for something advertised as free. They claim that their site discloses its fees, but the disclosure is still discrete enough to fool massive numbers of people.
Any site where you make a purchase should disclose the fact that you are making a purchase with at least the level of clarity that you encounter on a reputable site such as Amazon.com. Also a service that advertises itself as "free" should never be allowed to charge -- even if they gratuitously disclosed their fee (which they don't) it would still be a bait an switch scam.
Verizon Doubles Early Termination Fee and More
Using the DROID as an example:
The DROID with no contract is $560.
Math with the current termination fee:
$200 for the phone +
$175 to immediately break your contract =
$375 (You save $185 over the no-contract price)
Math with the new termination fee:
$200 for the phone +
$350 to immediately break your contract =
$550 (You save $10 over the no-contract price)
Either way you save more than simply buying the phone without a contract. The new fee is high, but I can understand their reasoning.
Why do you blindly accept Verizon's word that the true cost of the DROID is $560? I don't know how much the DROID cost to manufacture, but the components of an iPhone 3GS cost $179. Assume the same for the DROID and toss in a generous amount for Motorola's assembly and R&D and I will guesstimate that Motorola can easily sell these things at $300 each and still make a reasonable profit.
Verizon wants to make it effectively impossible for people to leave so they slap on a ridiculous extra $260 to what they paid for each DROID and they announce that a no-contract phone costs $560. All of a sudden the price-gouging termination fees they charge for their plans are 'justified'.
Oh yeah, and if you pay the ridiculous termination fee you must trash your DROID as it is carrier locked. You don't even own the phone you paid for.
This is just another reminder of why we desperately need Net Neutrality to apply to wireless carriers -- Motorola would then be selling unlocked DROIDs directly to users regardless of cell phone provider. The retail price of the DROID would be determined by the open market in competition with every other model of cell phone.
Test of 16 Anti-Virus Products Says None Rates "Very Good"
If you look at the PDF of the report that the article references you will see that many of the products were completely successful at identifying and at least neutralizing the tested malware. The reason why none of them rated "very good" is because some of the programs required you to reboot your computer to remove some specific malware programs while for others the use of a boot CD was required. The report also criticizes when some anti-virus programs leave some non-malicious components behind instead of eliminating 100% of the program.
The article gives the impression that the programs are failing to combat the malware, but the criticism is more about the convenience of the malware removal process. And yeah, I think it is a nice thing to completely remove a piece of malware but the report doesn't explain why it is so tragic if some anti-virus programs sometimes fail to remove some of the non-malicious components of the malware.
Android 2.0 SDK Released, Google Maps Navigation Announced
Apple rejected Google Voice because it would "duplicate features that come with the iPhone". Google Latitude was rejected "in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone".
Don't you realize how dangerously confused iPhone users might become if they have access to this free navigation program?
AT&T Suggests To 300K Employees To Lobby the FCC
AT&T urged its employees to post on the FCC's net neutrality website. You can do the same, you have until Thursday to post.
New Nanotech Helps Detect Early-Stage Cancer
Cancer can affect the levels of various proteins in the blood: prostate cancer can raise prostate specific antigen, carcinoembryonic antigen is associated with colon and other cancers, alpha-fetoprotein is associated with liver and other cancers... the list goes on and on.
The problem is that these proteins are produced by normal cells but cancer cells often produce them in excess. The ability to detect these proteins has never been a problem. The problem is that they often only reach a very high level when the cancer has spread. The only protein used in cancer screening is prostate specific antigen and the benefit of this test is very contentious as its use has resulted in many a false negative and false positive diagnosis.
A real discovery would be to identify a blood marker that is useful for screening. It must be sensitive enough to enable detection while the cancer is curable but still maintain a very low false positive rate - as of today this doesn't exist for any cancer.
For Some Medical Workers, a Flu Shot Or Possible Job Loss
"151 dead from Swine Flu in Mexico", on recounting, turned out to be 6.
I don't know where your non-cited figure of "6" deaths from the original swine flu outbreak in Mexico came from, but maybe it was from a misinterpretation of a report detailing the deaths of 7 patients at a single tertiary care hospital in Mexico city during a single month. The New England Journal of Medicine article that detailed the fate of the 98 patients acutely ill with the swine flu in that hospital at that time also references that 85 people in Mexico were known to have died as of May out of 4910 confirmed cases, a fatality rate of 1.7%.
Fortunately only Mexico during the initial outbreak reported such a high fatality rate. This is very fortunate as almost no young person in the world had any kind of immunity to this strain. In all likelihood when you come down with it you will be 'lucky' enough to only have to suffer a few days of bed-bound misery.
Skepticism is good, but you've jumped way beyond that into conspiracy theories and paranoia.
I'll stick with preventative measures, as opposed to a shot that may or may not be effective this season
Doing nothing does not count as a preventative measure. It is true that usually with the seasonal flu vaccine scientists must guess months beforehand what strains to put in the vaccine and since they don't always guess right the vaccine is usually only about 70% effective, but as for pandemic H1N1 the vaccine is an excellent match and it should give almost everyone who gets it protection.
Why AT&T Should Dump the iPhone's Unlimited Data Plan
The concept of "unlimited" plans is obviously a fiction, but there are problems presented by selling customers a fixed monthly data allotment because people who download at off peak hours will unfairly pay as much as someone who downloads during peak hours, and regardless of the time of day someone who downloads from a cell site with a huge excess of capacity will be penalized just as much as someone who downloads from a cell site that is breaking under overwhelming demand.
The best solution is for the cell phone companies to sell customers 'shares' of bandwidth. It would work something like this:
With your cell phone plan you own one 'share' of bandwidth and you are allowed to download 10 Gb/month of peak demand data. You have an unlimited monthly allotment of non-peak data that you can download.
Say that the cell phone company defines 'peak' data usage as anytime an individual customer for an individual cell site is unable to download at a rate of at least one Mbps.
Now say a given cell site has a capacity of 10 Mbps. If two different customers are accessing this site simultaneously (each has one share) then each one will be able to download at a rate of 5 Mbps. This cell site obviously has a lot of excess capacity - neither of these two users will have eaten into their 10 Gb/month data allotment.
Now say that the same cell site has twenty users - each user's share will come out to 0.5 Mbps of bandwidth. The data that is being downloaded will be deducted from their 10 Gb/month allowance because the available bandwidth per share is now less than one Mbps.
What happens when a user exceeds their monthly allotment? They get throttled down to... well let's say 0.5 shares. Now when they download they will only get 0.25 Mbps at the same time that other users are getting 0.5 Mbps from the same site.
Users who want more capacity can purchase more shares from the wireless provider.
The cell sites should give real-time feedback to the smartphones when the cell site is operating at peak capacity and deducting from their 10 Gb/month limit.
The FCC will need to put out some rules to prevent the usual predictable abusive wireless provider behavior. We don't want AT&T to suddenly charge you one dollar per Mb that you use in excess of the 10 Gb/month limit. In my view it is criminal when companies generate revenue via 'gotchas' instead of honest practices.
Nanomedicine Kills Brain Cancer Cells
Sorry, I meant curatively resect. I may have been too bold to even suggest that by removing half the brain it might be possible to cure GBM. GBM can never be cured, and it is not even clear if currently practiced 'palliative' resections extend life. Anyway therapies that use antibodies to target antigens expressed on target cells are promising, but the idea of requiring focused light to target glioblastoma cells that are sprinkle around the brain is pretty futile.
Nanomedicine Kills Brain Cancer Cells
The article states that "cultured human GMB cells" were "killed up to 80 percent... after 5 minutes of exposure to focused white light".
How exactly are you going to expose a malignant tumor that has diffusely infiltrated the parenchyma of the brain to focused white light? You can't surgically resect a GBM unless you are willing to remove an entire cerebral hemisphere. If you scooped out part of it and exposed the remaining cavity to white light you would barely effect any of the remaining tumor.
Now if brain tumors only occurred in petri dishes then this treatment would result in a brief remission.
FCC Chairman Warns of Wireless Spectrum Gap
T-Mobile offers a service called Hotspot@home whereby a WiFi enabled cell phone will automatically receive and place calls over your home WiFi. This would enable everyone to make and receive limitless free phone calls while at home and subsequently shift a lot of the burden off of the cell phone network, and everyone would have perfect reception in their house.
This should also be a free service included with every cell phone plan - it is only because of the cell phone oligopoly that T-Mobile is able to charge you a monthly fee for the right to NOT use their network, and similar abuses explain why other carriers won't even allow this option. We need network neutrality.
AT&T To Allow VoIP On iPhone
More like how important it is to AT&T not to have network neutrality codified into regulation. This move is only to mollify the FCC and get them off their backs so they can still double-dip by charging companies running popular sites for "preferential" (read non-degraded) access to AT&T subscribers.
AT&T is trying to mollify the FCC so that they can maintain multiple other abusive practices that would be eliminated if the same network neutrality standard that is applied to wired connections is applied to the cell phone networks. The wireless providers don't want to become mindless providers of bandwidth.
-They want to be able to charge $0.20 for each text message.
-They want to force you to purchase a phone from them. They will justify their high rates by explaining that they are subsidizing your phone but even after you've paid off your phone after 1-2 years they will still force you to pay the same inflated rate. If you leave the network you can't take your phone with you because the phone YOU paid for is locked to their network.
-They want to be able to force you to purchase a data plan with certain WiFi phones.
-They want to continue to cripple phones that offer highly desired features unless they can charge for them (e.g. gps chips are common in cell phones but users are not allowed access to the information unless you give the wireless provider cash).
The list goes on and on. I hope that the American public and the FCC isn't fooled by this bone that AT&T tossed our way.
IBM Researchers Working Toward Cheap, Fast DNA Reader
The New York Times published an article in August about a technology that decoded a human genome for less than $50,000. The inventor speculates that the technology will be able to decode a genome for just $1,000 in 2-3 years.
That being said it will be amazing to see the IBM project succeed. Either way the cost of decoding a genome is dropping so quickly it puts Moore's Law to shame.
Seasonal Flu Shots Double Risk of Getting Swine Flu, Says New Study
There is a misconception that being "healthy" will prevent you from getting a primary viral infection, but this is not true. For example if you have never been exposed to varicella-zoster virus (the virus that causes both chicken pox and shingles) and if you inhale viral particles then you WILL come down with chicken pox - I don't care how "healthy" you think you are. Being healthy will, however, usually limit the severe the primary infection.
Being healthy will also allow you to build up a strong specific immune response after exposure to an antigen, so secondary infections by the same or similar viruses can be prevented. As we age and our immunity wanes then the varicella-zoster virus that has been stored in our nervous system for decades will have a chance to erupt again - now you have a case of shingles.
Being "healthy" can prevent a primary bacterial infection, just not a viral one.
If you are young and healthy and think that you don't need the vaccine because you "never get the flu" then you need to realize that you are actually the most likely person in the world to get the flu. Older people are more likely to be resistant to swine flu because many have been exposed before and they carry specific neutralizing antibodies.
So one of the reasons that the conclusion of the article is unlikely to hold up under analysis is that if you've never been exposed to the pandemic H1N1 virus then you are completely vulnerable. Getting the seasonal flu vaccine can't make you any more vulnerable than you already are. Actually I think that the best reason not to draw conclusions from the article is the fact that multiple other countries failed to observe what the Canadians observed.
There is so much paranoia about vaccines that people will seize on any bizarre pseudo-scientific reason not to get one. Unless you are anaphylactic to egg proteins (and I know you aren't) the only non-paranoid reason you should be giving for not getting vaccinated is that you are too lazy and unmotivated, or maybe you have a crippling phobia of needles. Everyone else who gives a different reason is just wearing a tin-foil hat.
The Fresca Rebellion
I strongly support government intervention to discourage any harmful product or behavior as long as such intervention is supported by appropriate evidence and as long as the risk/benefit ratio of what the government is trying to discourage is sufficiently high.
The increasing severity of the obesity epidemic over recent decades is alarming as demonstrated by the Center for Disease Control's map of obesity prevalence in the United States from 1985-2008. A government intervention to stop this epidemic is warranted, but that intervention must be backed by evidence.
The authors of the New England Journal of Medicine article cite the evidence demonstrating a correlation between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity. They then cite the results of the four long-term randomized controlled trials that studied the effect of discouraging these beverages on weight gain in school children. A one-year United Kingdom study did not show a significant change in body mass index although a decrease in the overweight rate was statistically significant. The authors failed to mention, however, that a follow-up of these subjects two years after completion of the study showed that this difference in the overweight rate was not sustained. It would seem that this dietary intervention had no more than a transient effect without impacting the long-term propensity of these children to become obese.
The other three long-term studies cited by the authors all failed to meet their primary endpoints. Instead the authors rely on the results of sub-group analysis of these studies to conclude that there is a benefit to discouraging these beverages. The conclusions of the sub-group analysis between these studies don't even match up as one study suggested that only the more overweight kids would benefit, another study suggested that only the more overweight girls would benefit, and the last study suggested only a benefit of increased lean body tissue. These mismatched results of subgroup analysis are only useful as a basis for designing future clinical studies.
So which dietary interventions work? Well, all of them... and none of them. Clinical studies have show a wide variety of diets to be effective (e.g. low fat diets, low carbohydrate diets, etc.) but the most a population of highly motivated obese people can expect to keep off in the long term with any diet is about 5% of their body weight (although there is a lot of individual variability). No diet has been shown to effect the long term propensity to be obese - i.e. you must keep on the diet forever. I think that discouraging sugar-sweetened beverages probably will have some effect, but it is unlikely to be superior to any other intervention. Even if restricting sugar-sweetened beverages does cause weight loss we cannot assume that combining it with another dietary intervention such as a low-fat diet will result in an additive benefit.
Body weight is exquisitely regulated and "will power" can only be used to vary ones weight within a very narrow range. We need to admit to ourselves that we do not understand the etiology of the current obesity epidemic and we should not be distracted by trying to fix it via unproven interventions like restricting beverages. Maybe then we can focus more on basic science to find the true etiology.
FCC Backs Net Neutrality, Chairman's Full Speech Posted
The speech states "Network operators cannot prevent users from accessing the lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their choice, nor can they prohibit users from attaching non-harmful devices to the network."
Specifics are forthcoming: "I will soon circulate to my fellow Commissioners proposed rules prepared by Commission staff embodying the principles I've discussed, and I will ask for their support in issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking. This notice will provide the public with a detailed explanation of what we propose to do and why."
We will need to wait for specifics, but I hope that in part this means that cellphone service providers will have no say over what devices can access their networks. I'm curious to know the answers to the following questions:
Will the FCC invalidate existing exclusivity agreements with cellphone manufacturers? Obviously it wasn't Apple's decision to restrict the iPhone to just AT&T. Will the iPhone (and every other 'exclusive phone') be available in unlocked form for all carriers?
If exclusivity agreements are eliminated will cellphone service providers still be able to force you to pay for their "subsidized" phones even if you don't want to? Example - Will Verizon force all of their subscribers to continue to pay the same inflated monthly fee so that a "subsidize" Blackberry Storm is "free" while a non-preferred smartphone costs $500 to purchase?
Will cellphone providers be able to change you differently based on the type of data sent via a cellphone instead of just charging you based on bandwidth? What I am really asking is will they be able to selectively charge price-gouging rates for SMS when it effectively uses no bandwidth? Can cellphone providers ban VoIP over 3G and other cellphone frequencies? I hope the FCC specifically bans them from discriminating based on the type of data transmission.
I can go on and on, but hopefully the specific FCC rules will turn cellphone providers into the mindless provides of bandwidth pipe that they should be.
Google CEO Schmidt Leaves Apple Board
Schmidt resigning from the Apple board was obviously necessitated by the Google/Apple/AT&T conflict that is being reviewed by the FCC. I argue that AT&T is forcing the hand of Apple. Apple has no reason to be concerned about Google Voice, but AT&T and the other wireless carriers have good reason to be terrified of Google Voice if network neutrality is applied to wireless carriers.
In its current incarnation the worse thing Google Voice can do to AT&T is to conveniently allow iPhone users to make inexpensive international calls without going through AT&T. Google Voice uses VoIP to transmit calls, but Google is not a phone service provider.
But what if the logical thing happened and Google became a phone service provider? And what if AT&T lost the right to cripple cell phones that use their network? And what if, in the absence of AT&Tâ(TM)s arm-twisting, Apple now allowed Google to create an optimized app?
Given the above the following will likely occur:
-Since Google is now a phone provider I can now port my current iPhone number over to Google. I then acquire a brand new cell phone number from AT&T. I have Google Voice forward my calls to my original number to my new AT&T number; I can now completely forget about my new number.
When people call my old number I can now seamlessly receive the call on my iPhone. When I use my iPhone to dial a friends number the Google Voice app will automatically call a local number instead that belongs to Google and then Google will connect me to my friends number. My friend's caller ID will see my original old phone number!
Since the phone is no longer crippled full use of WiFi will be enabled. Whenever you are in a WiFi hotspot all calls made either from or to your iPhone will go over WiFi. You can seamlessly use your iPhone at home making a limitless number of free calls. Does AT&T have spotty reception in your house? Problem solved! You don't even have to pay hundreds of dollars for AT&T's idiotic upcoming femtocell. The capacity of the cellular network is also improved as so many people are now bypassing it.
-Let's take this further and apply the potential of Google Voice to the international traveler. Let's say that you plan on going to several European countries and you want to take your iPhone; you will be robbed blind by AT&T if you casually used your phone.
But what if before you paid Google a nominal fee to use your phone in any country you might potentially go to? Google voice should be able to download onto your phone the SIM card data for a locally purchased pay-for-use SIM card. Each account will have one minute of talk time on it. The moment you arrive in a country your iPhone will automatically use that cell phone time to call a local Google number; Google will then add local minutes to that particular account. When you call a US number your phone will actually dial a local Google number that will then use VoIP to allow you to call anywhere in the world at the cheapest possible rate. People in the US will seamlessly reach you by calling your usual number. If you need to give your phone number to locals who don't want to make an international call to reach you then you can give them the local SIM phone number. Once again WiFi calls will be free and seamless.
-Let's apply this again to the US. Your iPhone can contain SIM card info from multiple providers so that your phone can seamlessly switch between providers based on signal strength/capacity/price.
The FCC is also considering forcing the large cell phone providers to sell capacity to smaller providers at non price-gouging rates. Google can purchase bandwidth at a far cheaper price than a private individual can. Now this iPhone with the Google Voice app can pick the cheapest/best cell service available at a particular location. (I picture more combination GSM/CDMA phones being sold).
The cell phone companies, for the first time, will be forced to let an honest market decide the price of their services instead of their abusive oligopoly-driven price gouging. The consumer will get a much better product at a much cheaper price. It is easy to see why all of the wireless providers would be terrified of such a future.
Google Latitude Arrives For the iPhone — As a Web App
AT&T wants to sell their 'AT&T FamilyMap' plan to its users. Subscribers are charged $9.99 for the ability to locate up to 2 other people with AT&T phones $14.99 to locate up to 5 people. Google latitude will do this for free only better because users can locate as many people as they want and it can locate non-AT&T users.
I think that Apple would be happy to allow this but the problem is that wireless providers abuse their oligopoly status to cripple cell phone features so that users are forced to give the wireless carriers money for things that they otherwise would have been free and better.
For example Verizon forces smart phone manufacturers to rip out WiFi so users are forced to pay Verizon to access the internet.
MP3 players are ripped out of cellphones and replaced by silly paid services such as VCast.
Banning Latitude is almost certainly just another mundane example of carrier oligopoly abuse. The federal government needs to legislate to stop cell phone carriers from crippling phones.