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Gadget Allows You to Keep Bees In Your Apartment

ekrock Re:TIL (252 comments)

Who needs UserTesting.com when you've got the beekeeping design review board at /.? ;-)

more than 2 years ago
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How To Catch a Laptop Thief?

ekrock Re:XTract can be used (485 comments)

Your apology is very thoughtful, but completely unnecessary. I'm sure that when a Canadian businessman brings a MacBook Pro to the lower 48, some kindly American will return the favor ... ;-)

more than 2 years ago
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UK Controllers Say Air Traffic System 'Not Safe'

ekrock Re: paper strips, not ticker tape/cards (117 comments)

They're not talking about "ticker tape" or punchcards. I'm no expert on ATC technology, but I recall reading an article about a fiasco in which the US FAA hired IBM (IIRC) to try to create a digital ATC system, the effort failed, and they killed the entire project after spending $1B. Apparently, the old analog method involved having a physical piece of paper for each flight that was placed on a physical representation of the flight path, and somehow the paper helped them avoid collisions.

more than 3 years ago
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Would You Take a One-Way Ticket To Mars?

ekrock Re:Mars Need Women... (561 comments)

For starters, I suspect that someone who spends years 0-18 in a low-gravity environment (38% of Earth's) will wind up with lower bone density and muscle mass and would have problems when transported back to a higher-gravity environment like Earth. Loosely speaking, they'd probably wind up only half as strong as they needed to be. It might be possible to prevent brittle bones with Vitamin D supplementation and techniques like requiring them to spend part of each day on a vibrating platform, which has been proposed for prevention of brittle bones on Earth in children who don't get exercise and drink lots of carbonated beverages that bind to calcium. They could also work out a LOT with resistance training to try to make themselves stronger. But I wouldn't bet on this all working out smoothly. Once a Martian, always a Martian is my guess ...

more than 3 years ago
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Would You Take a One-Way Ticket To Mars?

ekrock Re:Mars Need Women... (561 comments)

The release notes I was given at my birth state that conception in a microgravity environment is not certified or supported. It *might* work, but the manufacturer won't provide technical support if it doesn't ...

more than 3 years ago
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Hard-to-Read Fonts Improve Learning

ekrock don't rewrite textbooks in Comic Sans just yet ... (175 comments)

There are a few more questions to answer. (1) How long did subjects spend reading the Comic Sans documents vs. the Arial documents? If they spent more time reading the Comic Sans documents, that could explain the difference. (2) If they spent longer reading the Comic Sans versions, what was their net learning productivity after factoring the additional time in? (3) Could novelty explain the effect by obtaining greater attention? If we reprinted all textbooks in Comic Sans and similar fonts from hell, would the effect go away? (4) What would be the effect on children of a childhood spent reading books in Comic Sans? Would they be willing to put up with reading if all their books were printed in fonts designed to slow and torment the reader?

The only way you'll get my Arial is by prying it out of my cold, dead hands!!!

The invention and proliferation of Comic Sans was essentially an accident. This study takes "unintended consequences" to a whole new level!

more than 3 years ago
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NASA Astronomers To Observe Hayabusa's Fiery Homecoming

ekrock Re:any contagion worries? (142 comments)

I'd forgotten about the hot space vampire until you mentioned her, but yes, that's the one, and Patrick Stewart hopes no one else notices he was in it either!

more than 4 years ago
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NASA Astronomers To Observe Hayabusa's Fiery Homecoming

ekrock Re:any contagion worries? (142 comments)

See also "Life Force" for a closely related scenario (and the bonus benefit of seeing certifiably the Worst Patrick Stewart Movie Ever).

more than 4 years ago
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NASA Astronomers To Observe Hayabusa's Fiery Homecoming

ekrock Re:Hayab USA! (142 comments)

> I really don't think NASA has done anything on human sexuality in space

Actually, they sent a married couple of astronauts into space on the same shuttle together. No word on whether they conducted any zero-G research ...

more than 4 years ago
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On the Efficacy of Flu Vaccine

ekrock Re:this article has many problems and is bad scien (430 comments)

OK, that's a nice nitpicking clarification. Yes, if we're going to be painfully precise, a vaccine prepares your body so that it will be able to rapidly respond to later infection from a virus. Vaccination primes the host's immune system so that it can respond to infection "by (1) neutralizing the target agent before it can enter cells, and (2) by recognizing and destroying infected cells before that agent can multiply to vast numbers." (Wikipedia, "Vaccine") When the host produces an effective immune response to the vaccination, when later exposed to the virus, the host will on average either have no perceptible signs and symptoms of infection or will have signs and symptoms that are reduced compared to what they would have been without vaccination.

All that being said, it's critical to realize that "reduced signs and symptoms of infection" includes absolutely critical things like:
1) reduced likelihood of death or disability from the primary viral infection and its side effects (which in the case of flu can include organ failure!)
2) reduced likelihood of death or disability from secondary infections that are side effects of the primary infection (such as bacterial pneumonia as a follow-on consequence of primary viral flu infection)
3) reduced risk of the body entering a state where it is capable of infecting others
4) reduced risk of death or disability in others who are exposed to the host since the host never becomes capable of infecting them in the first place

So although "minimizing the effects of the virus" may sound on the face of it like a minor thing, it can actually be tremendously important or even lifesaving!

I experienced the benefits of partial immunity a couple of seasons ago. I get vaccinated against seasonal flu every year. A friend of mine is skeptical of vaccines and didn't get vaccinated against flu; neither did his girlfriend, as far as I know. They came on a ski trip and stayed in a small ski cabin with me and friends while the girlfriend was coughing and hacking in the midst of full-blown flu infection. That year, the flu vaccine only provided partial protection against some, but not all of the strains that ultimately predominated that year. I knew I was going to contract flu given the confined cabin, state of her infection, and infectiousness of the flu. Sure enough, I came down with the flu, BUT it was mild and only lasted about three days vs. the much longer course it can frequently run otherwise, which was likely a result of the partial effective immunity I received via vaccination.

I wish my friends would get vaccinated for my benefit as well as their own!

more than 4 years ago
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On the Efficacy of Flu Vaccine

ekrock Re:this article has many problems and is bad scien (430 comments)

"What you seem to forget is that seasonal flu -*any* year's seasonal flu, is demonstrably lethal to children, healthy young adults, and people under 65 with common preexisting health conditions like asthma or HIV." I didn't forget that at all. I simply pointed out that even if it's true that seasonal or H1N1 flu vaccination doesn't reduce the mortality rate of people over 65 (which I'm not saying is the case), that's still not a valid reason to conclude that seasonal/H1N1 flu vaccination doesn't reduce the mortality rate or have other benefits for other groups--which is the invalid deductive leap the article makes. (The article doesn't rely SOLELY on this single study; they do try to selectively pull in some other evidence from other studies. But primarily, this article is driven by the study of mortality rates among people over 65.)

It's also worth pointing out that mortality rate is only one of many metrics that can be used to evaluate the efficacy of vaccination. For example, productivity gains from preventing or minimizing the duration/severity of seasonal/H1N1 flu infection are another benefit. Flu can lead to complications like pneumonia, which even if not fatal can lead to additional complications like liver, kidney, or heart damage, etc.

more than 4 years ago
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On the Efficacy of Flu Vaccine

ekrock Re:this article has many problems and is bad scien (430 comments)

gr8_phk: Considering your personal experience with the individuals you happen to have known is not a scientifically valid way of determining the severity of the threat that seasonal flu or H1N1 pose to different demographic groups. Only scientific studies of large groups and retrospective studies of particular groups (e.g. reviewing the demographics of those who die of flu/H1N1 vs. demographics of the population as a whole) can accurately determine risk levels. See http://www.flu.gov/individualfamily/parents/pregnant5tips.html, which notes "Pregnant women, even ones who are healthy, can have medical complications from the seasonal and H1N1 (Swine) flu."

You are correct that infants do get a partial immune boost from antibodies they receive from the mother. However, you are not correct in concluding that infants therefore have "very good immunity" to seasonal flu, H1N1, or pathogens in general. In fact, infants younger than 6 are both more generally vulnerable to disease (because they have not yet been exposed to germs and developed the diverse immunity of an adult) and also particularly vulnerable to seasonal flu and H1N1. That is why cdc.gov notes that "people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age" are one of the priority groups for H1N1 vaccination: not to protect them, but to reduce the risk of transmission to their infants under 6 months who are especially vulnerable. See http://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2009/r090729b.htm

It's true that you could volunteer to participate in a study, and I'm glad you're willing to help advance science in that way. However, consent from the subjects is not (alone) sufficient to guarantee that conducting a study is ethical. Scientific ethics guidelines require that the study be deemed inherently ethical by a Human Subjects Research review board. Regardless of what level of risk the subjects are willing to accept, it's only ethical to conduct a study that exposes them to a level of risk that is commensurate with the scientific benefit to be achieved, and not in excess of some absolute limits as well. For example, even if there were human subjects willing with full informed consent to allow their syphilis to go untreated, it would not be ethical to conduct a study that studied the long-term effects of untreated syphilis by deliberately denying available treatment to participants with syphilis (a la the infamous Tuskegee study, which of course compounded the injustice further by using prison inmates as subjects, not getting their informed consent to boot, and selectively using subjects from a particular ethnic group rather than others, among other issues).

more than 4 years ago
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On the Efficacy of Flu Vaccine

ekrock this article has many problems and is bad science (430 comments)

Read the Atlantic article. The researchers' data set was specific to seasonal flu in people 65 and older!!! Yet did the article highlight this or confine the discussion to efficacy against seasonal flu among people 65 and older? No--it mentioned it once and then made general statements about the potential efficacy of vaccination for ALL PEOPLE for both seasonal flu and H1N1! Even if vaccination against seasonal flu doesn't reduce the death rate of people over 65 at all, H1N1 flu is demonstrably lethal to children, healthy young adults, and people under 65 with common preexisting health conditions like asthma or HIV. By getting vaccinated against H1N1, you not only reduce YOUR risk of death, but also the risk that you'll contract and pass on H1N1 to someone else who will then die of it. Get vaccinated!!! Also, look at how the article selectively hypes the credentials of the vaccine skeptics. They say Jefferson "knows the flu-vaccine literature better than anyone else on the planet." Really? There are 7 billion people on the planet; that's a bold statement. They say the Cochrane Collaboration is "a highly respected international network." That may be true, yet they fail to apply corresponding adjectives to Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was highly respected and the director of the NIAID the last time I checked. Selective, arbitrary hyping of the credentials of skeptical researchers on one side of the debate only is a classic pop science writing technique to sell magazines and create controversy. Where have I seen this before? Cecilia Farber's horrendous Harper's magazine article promoting HIV denialism (and nearly all other HIV denialist writing, incidentally). Selective credential hyping makes me doubt the authors' impartiality and trustworthiness on the whole topic. The article also states that young, healthy people "aren’t the people who die from seasonal flu." That's a wild overgeneralization. Young, healthy people have a lower risk of dying from seasonal flu but no guarantee it won't kill them. Many will read that statement and forget that (a) it excludes pregnant women, who are young and otherwise healthy but not defined as "young, healthy people" because they are immune suppressed during their pregnancy and highly vulnerable to death from the flu, and (b) the statement is about seasonal flu, not H1N1 which is already killing healthy young people today! The researchers are reasonable in calling for more studies on this question and pointing out the problem in rolling out treatments not tested in controlled trials, but Fauci is right in pointing out that giving people a placebo in a traditional prospective, double-blinded trial could be unethical. There is a potential perfect solution to this problem alluded to already by ColdWetDog. Since we have a shortage of the H1N1 vaccine at this time anyway, set up a study that looks at the death rate of people depending on what date they are vaccinated, before and after vaccination. The people waiting for vaccination (due to the shortage) become the controls for themselves (after vaccination) as well as for the people who get vaccinated earlier. Since we're UNABLE to vaccinate everyone right away due to insufficient availability of the vaccine, there's no ethical problem. This is called a "waiting list control." This would require a large study size and more statistical care than a traditional treatment/placebo protocol, but would be an ethical way to get the data we want for H1N1. I'd fully support doing such a study. Popular magazines should either stop covering science or should get scientists to review their articles written by lay journalists for scientific and statistical accuracy before they publish. The editors at magazines like The Atlantic and Harper's clearly do not have the scientific or statistical literacy to do the job themselves. I'm sick and tired of seeing popular magazines make selective and incorrect use of data and invalid logic to draw incorrect conclusions that mislead the public and cause people to doubt that HIV is the cause of AIDS, fear and doubt vaccines when they should welcome them, etc. Creating FUD and misconceptions is harmful to public health, leads to the deaths of innocent people who can't decipher misinformation, and drives up health care costs for us all.

more than 4 years ago
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Do Retailers Often Screen User Reviews?

ekrock Amazon.com systematically deletes negative reviews (454 comments)

I can state this from personal experience. They systematically deleted most negative reviews of "The Courage to Heal" and similar books (reviews that followed ALL of Amazon.com's reader review guidelines and were concise, on-topic, free of obscenities and misspellings, and made specific reference to the book's contents) while leaving up all positive reviews and only a few token negative reviews that were short and nonspecific. As a result, the "average user ratings" on Amazon.com should be considered biased and misleading and the selection of written reviews that survives should be considered biased and unrepresentative as well. The Amazon.com "user reviews" feature exists to help Amazon sell more books by selectively filtering and presenting user-generated reviews that serve that purpose, not to actually help its customers make an informed choice based on accurate information. See "Gaming the System: A Case Study Manipulation of Online Consumer Reviews" by Bruce Fulton at http://www.u.arizona.edu/~bfulton/ierposter/overview.html for a rigorous analysis of including statistical analysis of the bias their selective censorship of reviews introduces. Amazon.com is like a bookstore in Lake Wobegon where most of the books are above average! ;-)

more than 4 years ago
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How To Keep Rats From Eating My Cables?

ekrock Use a RodelSonix ultrasonic mouse/rat repeller (1032 comments)

I cannot believe that in a community of people who love technological solutions that no one has suggested this yet. I speak from experience and have NO financial interest in RodelSonix. I do have a home with an addition (master bedroom) where the contractor didn't bother to provide a way for humans to access the attic. Naturally, rats found a way to access the attic and began waking me up like clockwork at 2 a.m. (sliiiiide ... THUNK! as they came down a vent) and 6 a.m. when they did Olympic running training. Then they came down the wall into the crawlspace. NOT GOOD! I paid an exterminator to "ratproof" my house. That worked ... for 30 days. Three more free visits didn't help. We used traps, poison ... I began de-ratting Sunnyvale one rat at a time. They kept coming like lemmings. In despair, I began to think of using an infrared night vision camera hooked to a VCR to tape my roof at night and figure out which vent they were coming through, or Delta Force-style optical scopes to go through a small hole in the corner eaves to see inside the attic, or using chlorine gas to kill them. Finally, I saw an ad for a RodelSonix ultrasonic rat repeller for $89. I figured, after six months of open war and $750, what did I have to lose? Ordered it, put it in the closet pointed at the ceiling, turned it on ... BINGO, dead silence thereafter. It was like throwing a switch! Six months later, I heard a rat again. WHAT? I checked, and discovered that the cleaning service had unplugged the power cord. I plugged it back in, and no more rat sounds. It totally works!!! The device secures about 2500-5000 square feet IIRC. If you have a large facility, obviously the number of devices might get cost-prohibitive. Also, you can't use it if you have guinea pigs, etc. in the area since it bothers them too. FYI.

more than 5 years ago
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Scientists Build Possibly The First Man-Made Genome

ekrock Re:synthetic smallpox virus now within our reach? (264 comments)

Yes, polio virus is one of the shortest known, which is why they chose it for that experiment. Venter's technology appears to put far longer viral genomes within potentially easy reach.

more than 6 years ago

Submissions

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moon mission for only $496!

ekrock ekrock writes  |  more than 2 years ago

ekrock writes "The good news: two space probes are arriving at the Moon this weekend. The better news: the mission only cost $496! (if you believe the text of the attached MSNBC article) Could MSNBC take us to Mars for under $1000?"
Link to Original Source
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Is your company the next BP or PG&E?

ekrock ekrock writes  |  more than 3 years ago

ekrock (736908) writes "Will your company, product, or project have a major disaster like the BP gulf oil spill, the PG&E gas pipeline explosion, or the Heartland Payment Systems credit card security breach? Have you made the right amount of effort and spent the right amount of money to identify and prevent events that have a low probability of occurring but a high impact if they happen? And how do you know what’s the right amount? The blog entry discusses ways product and project managers can reduce the risk of catastrophic failures and the problem of low probability events with high impact."
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