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The Grassroots Future of Biohacking

clawsoon Synbiota ScienceHack 2014 (63 comments)

I'm doing a biohacking-ish workshop next week, as it happens. The Synbiota people are taking care of all the bureaucracy so that I can play with DNA. It's part of a bigger experiment, so it's not like I'm going full-mad-scientist, but it's a fun way for an IT guy with an interest in biology like me to do some experiments.

4 days ago

Microsoft Releases Replacement Patch With Two Known Bugs

clawsoon Stack ranking quality? (140 comments)

Is this mess possibly the long-term result of Microsoft's previous embrace of stack ranking? Too much cultural focus on back-stabbing and ladder-climbing instead of writing solid code and testing it properly?

about two weeks ago

New Research Suggests Cancer May Be an Intrinsic Property of Cells

clawsoon Cool research, strange conclusion (185 comments)

It's too bad that this very interesting research - cancer in hydra! - is being overshadowed by sweeping statements about cancer. There are a number of species which experience little to no cancer, from naked mole rats to some whale species. There are a number of different ways that different species reduce or prevent cancer, from additional cell-death signalling via hyaluronan in naked mole rats to additional cell-death signalling via p53 pathways in blind mole rats to replicative senescence in many large mammals, to who-knows-what in eastern grey squirrels and elephants and whales.

The cancer-fighting idea in each case is something that should be near and dear to systems administrators: Redundancy. The more cell-death pathways there are, the harder it is for a series of mutations to result in immortal cancer cells. Redundant Arrays of Immortality Suppression, if you will.

This doesn't mean that we'll ever get rid of cancer in humans, mind you, because evolving a new cancer-prevention signalling pathway takes a couple of million years. But the fact that hydra get cancer doesn't have anything to do with whether we'll ever get rid of cancer in humans, either.

about three weeks ago

The Daily Harassment of Women In the Game Industry

clawsoon You can create your own data (962 comments)

It's easy to pretend you're a woman online. You should try it, as an experiment. It'll get you a sample of the actual numbers that you're looking for. After you do, your opinion on the subject will be a lot more interesting, whatever it is that you discover.

about 2 months ago

Researchers Successfully Cut HIV DNA Out of Human Cells

clawsoon Re:With all this progress on HIV, (64 comments)

Look into Gleevec and other tyrosine kinase inhibitors for examples of a few highly specific cancer treatments that we've managed to developed for a few of the "whole bunch of diseases" that cancer is.

about 2 months ago

Pixar To Give Away 3D RenderMan Software

clawsoon Renderman old news, Presto new news (147 comments)

It might be that Pixar considers rendering old news, considering what they've come up with for animators:

If you're not familiar with computer animation, that might not seem like much. To the animators where I work, though, it induced a weird combination of frenzy (as they lusted after it) and depression (once they re-opened the scenes they were working on in Maya). The rest of the industry has to spend hours rendering (in Renderman, or Vray, or whatever) to get a result that Pixar is now creating in-house in real time.

about 3 months ago

Your Old CD Collection Is Dying

clawsoon Re:Small bits die quickly (329 comments)

The only energy that has "gone into preserving them" is the energy wasted when they mutate and result in a lifeform that doesn't survive long enough to reproduce.

Incorrect. Every day, your body corrects fifty quadrillion or more DNA mutations that happen as the result of random bumping around inside the cell. See, for example DNA Repair. 5000 purine bases lost every day from every cell in the human body that have to be repaired, and that's only one type of mutation which has to be constantly corrected.

about 4 months ago

Your Old CD Collection Is Dying

clawsoon Small bits die quickly (329 comments)

I have a half-baked theory that, to a rough approximation, the physical size of a bit and the amount of energy put into creating it is roughly correlated to the length of time it will last. Stone inscriptions, or baked clay cuneiform? Big bits, high energy, long life. CDs, or 148 Gb/in^2 tape media? Small bits, low energy, short life. There are ways to create big bits that are short-lived (e.g. drawing figures in the sand on a beach), but in general, a small bit cannot be made to last longer than a big bit given the same process and energy inputs.

You might say, "but look at highly-conserved DNA sequences!", to which I would answer, think about how much energy has gone into preserving them over hundreds of millions of years.

about 4 months ago

Study: Happiness Improves Developers' Problem Solving Skills

clawsoon Stress lowers IQ - randomized control trial (91 comments)

This is reminiscent of another study which found that asking people how they'd deal with a big car repair bill - just getting them to think about it - lowered their IQ by an average of 13 points, "comparable to the cognitive difference that’s been observed between chronic alcoholics and normal adults".

The advantage of the car-repair-bill study is that people were randomly assigned to the control and experimental groups, as opposed to being an observational study like the one in the story (with all the complications that brings). Same basic conclusion, though.

about 6 months ago

Turing's Theory of Chemical Morphogenesis Validated 60 Years After His Death

clawsoon Re:Details? (74 comments)

Coincidentally, I was reading Chapter 21 of Molecular Biology of the Cell by Alberts et al last night, which discusses some of the many experiments which have been done to demonstrate the effect. Intercellular chemical gradients involving counteracting exciters and inhibitors are only one of many effects that control differentiation, however. There are also:

  • - intracellular gradients leading to asymmetric cell division (e.g. the place where the sperm enters the egg creates a protein gradient across the egg that determines the future head/ass orientation of the body)
  • - timing mechanisms (e.g. the on-off cycle that appears to be responsible for the development of vertebrae)
  • - cell-to-cell contact, either directly with neighbours or over longer distances through tubes or spikes

So Turing figured out one of the mechanisms, and it was certainly an important accomplishment. If Google Scholar is telling the truth, his paper has over 8000 citations, including around 1,500 that mention "embryo", so his accomplishment hasn't been ignored. The claims of this new paper for novelty, though, seem a bit weaker.

about 6 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Interviewing Your Boss?

clawsoon If they're threatened, you don't want them (219 comments)

If a candidate finds technical questions threatening or condescending, you probably don't want them as your boss. You want someone who's okay with the fact that you have more technical knowledge than they do, but is still able to speak (and listen) intelligently about technical subjects.

about 2 years ago

Are Teachers Headed For Obsolescence?

clawsoon Re:I'm a teacher . . . (570 comments)

According to the Gates Foundation Student Survey, the best predictors of a teacher's success are a) keeping control of the classroom and b) continuously challenging the students, keeping them focused and busy.

As you say, good luck with a video (or even a reasonably sophisticated computer program) doing either of those things.

about 2 years ago

Global Christianity and the Rise of the Cellphone

clawsoon Re:New technology, old mindsets (559 comments)

You've slandered the Romans, I'm afraid. Even at their most expansionist, they insisted that their wars have a strong moral underpinning, based on the idea of self-defense and/or defense of an ally. Each new war was passionately debated in those terms in the Roman republic. Not that they weren't sometimes (often? always?) hypocritical in their moralizing and warmaking, just like the Crusaders and modern Americans were and are. Gibbon had his famous sarcastic quip about the Romans and their moralizing, that they "conquered the world in self-defense." But, hypocrisy acknowledged, St. Augustine wasn't working from a blank slate when he codified things for Christians.

more than 2 years ago

Big Brother In the Home Office

clawsoon Link? (298 comments)

I'd like to read the article, too. Link?

more than 2 years ago

Human Powered Helicopter Aims To Break Records

clawsoon Re:Easier by design but still very hard (87 comments)

If the Yuri I is anything to go by - and this craft looks almost identical to the Yuri I - the ground effect at these low power levels - even for this size of rotor - don't extend much above 1 meter or so. They're going to have a hard time climbing above that.

more than 3 years ago

Human Powered Helicopter Aims To Break Records

clawsoon Too heavy, not big enough (87 comments)

This looks like a near-clone of the Yuri I (the last successful human-powered helicopter), but slightly bigger and heavier:

My quick back-of-the-envelope calculations say that it won't get more than 1 meter off the ground for any significant length of time. If it was much bigger (2 or 3 times) it might have a chance, but at this small size it will be depending too much on ground effect for extra lift, just like the Yuri I did. Fly too high - over 1 meter or so, if the Yuri I is our guide - and that effect disappears.

They also haven't added any twist or taper to the rotors, so they're not getting any extra efficiency gains there, either.

more than 3 years ago

Senate Votes To Replace Aviation Radar With GPS

clawsoon Re:Finally Congress gets down to business (457 comments)

Name one this century, or last.

I'm afraid I won't be able to limit myself to just one. Remember, we're talking absolute monarchs, otherwise what I said makes no sense. Here's a quote about the Empress Dowager Cixi, who was the supreme ruler of China until 1908:

"During Cixi's time, she used her power to accumulate vast quantities of money, bullion, antiques and jewelry, using the revenues of the state as her own. By the end of her reign she had amassed a huge personal fortune, stashing away some eight and a half million pounds sterling in London banks. The lavish palaces, gardens and lakes built by Cixi were hugely extravagant at a time when China was verging on bankruptcy."

If you want a more contemporary example, do some reading on the only absolute monarch left: His Royal Highness, King Mswati III of Swaziland.

If we go further back in history, when absolute monarchs were more common, the examples come a'tumblin'. Under Phillip II, Spain went bankrupt multiple times. Louis XIV drained the treasury of France: "Some estimates suggest that by the end of Louis' reign half of France's annual revenue went to maintaining Versailles." The Emperors of Russia and Austria bankrupted their respective empires - and ultimately lost their empires - by entering WWI. I'm sure if I knew more history, I could dredge up more examples. If you want, I'll make the attempt.

more than 4 years ago

Senate Votes To Replace Aviation Radar With GPS

clawsoon Re:Finally Congress gets down to business (457 comments)

This quote bugs me every time it's trotted out. Why? Because it doesn't consider the alternative forms of government. An absolute monarchy? Monarchs are notorious for voting themselves largess from the public treasury that bankrupts the rest of the country, and subsequently losing most of their power to aristocrats. Then the aristocrats do the same thing. Military dictatorships pump money into the military and bankrupt the country. Oligopolies are no different. The list of governments who've bankrupted their countries and themselves is very, very long. As soon as a person or a group of people realize they have their hands on the levers of power and thus the nation's funds, they'll milk it for all it's worth.

more than 4 years ago

Google Previews New Search Infrastructure

clawsoon Try to get a date older than the Bible (129 comments)

Try out the timeline view. It's pretty cool.

Then try to input a search query that makes the timeline go back further than 4500BC.

You can't do it, can you?

We reason thusly:

1. Google knows everything.
2. Google says nothing happened before 4500BC, which is very close to the date calculated for creation in the Bible.
3. Therefore, the universe must have been created by God about 6000 years ago.


(Did I do better or worse than an ID troll?)

more than 5 years ago

Navigating a Geek Marriage?

clawsoon The research disagrees (1146 comments)

Making a marriage work requires three things:

Communication, communication and communication.

The dude at the Love Lab disagrees. In his research - which is more serious and rigorous than I'm making it out to be - he's found three marriage styles that last, and in which the partners are satisfied. One of the lasting marriage styles involves two partners who desire low communication levels. They have to respect each other for the marriage to last, but they don't have to communicate, communicate, communicate.

Diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks.

more than 5 years ago


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