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Scientists Find Rats Aren't Smarter Than Mice, and That's Important

kaliann Re: So don't use mice or rats for experiments. (154 comments)

The paper actually doesn't even make the claim that rats and mice are equivalently intelligent, just that they were able to train mice to do the same things that they could train rats to do.

Their data show: 1) it took twice as long for the mice to learn as it did for the rats, 2) mice benefited from an additional basic learning stage that the rats did fine without, and 3) mice were more variable in their learning speed, while rats were more consistent.

However, they were working with tasks that had been designed for rats, so maybe there are tasks that mice learn faster and more consistently. (The comparison you make with dogs versus cats is very apt here, the two species have different behavior and motivation profiles that vary the ease of training specific tasks.)

A more accurate headline would have been "Mice can learn the same behaviors as rats". The hope is that mice will be trainable to a level of complexity that is competitive with the levels useful in research on rats, since mouse modelling of genetic diseases is so much more advanced.

about 2 months ago

Researcher Fired At NSF After Government Questions Her Role As 1980s Activist

kaliann Re:Wrong Title (499 comments)


Barr answered “no” when asked if she had ever been a member of an organization “dedicated to the use of violence” to overthrow the U.S. government or to prevent others from exercising their constitutional rights.

But since the government decided that the activist groups she had been a member of 30 years ago were "affiliated" with a terrorist group, they considered that a lie. Despite the fact that there is no evidence the groups she was a member of had any violent mission statements, actions, or tenets.

Unfortunately, there were terrorist groups whose members were also members of otherwise peaceful groups. If someone in your church/gaming guild/book club/political group/fantasy football league is also a member of a terrorist organization, your group is not necessarily also a terrorist organization.

about 3 months ago

$10 Bet Brings Researchers Closer to Industrial Scale Graphene Production

kaliann The horror (74 comments)

I live in fear of still being a lab rat in someone else's lab 14 years after I've earned my PhD and contributed pioneering advances to my field.

Oh science, I love you, but there is some scary shit out there for those of us who don't get tenure. Or even a faculty position. Yikes.

about 3 months ago

Tesla Plans To Power Its Gigafactory With Renewables Alone

kaliann Re:Musk worship (260 comments)

I get a little tired of the Musk worship.

That's reasonable. Geeks are often excited about new innovative technologies, especially when they are disruptive to existing systems. People, not just geeks, are also susceptible to appealing narratives, which Musk has managed to develop.

Why does his company need a huge pile of tax breaks to succeed?

Companies who provide jobs are incentivized by tax breaks. It may or may not be a horrible, corrupt system, but is a very well-established one. This is not a Tesla issue, it's a capitalism/politics issue. As an aside, taking advantage of tax breaks is so expected that if a company doesn't find ways to use them, they could conceivably be liable for failing their fiduciary duty to shareholders. It's simply poor business practice to not seek tax incentives. As an aside, there was some chatter about loosening environmental strictures, but I believe those were rejected by Tesla as poor return on mission.

If I open a company tomorrow, how can I get away with not paying taxes?

Employ a bunch of people with a company that states and municipalities want to bring in.

Why are Tesla's debt bonds in Junk status but he continues to get freebies from states?

Because a young, narrowly focused, small company is pretty risky. The entire house of cards could fall apart if another company comes out with a battery that outcompetes anything they can make. That said, lots of auto-makers have "junk bond status": "Even though the traditional U.S. automakers have now been profitable for the last four years, GM and Fiat Chrysler both still have junk bond status on their debt from S&P. Ford was only upgraded to the lowest investment grade rating last August." ~From the CNN article on S&P's Tesla bond rating.

Why are Tesla's cars so rudely expensive?

They are luxury vehicles. Those are very expensive. Why did the company choose to start with luxury vehicles? To gain capital when they still have low production capacity, to establish a luxury brand name, and to offset the cost of fairly new production methods and expensive components.

Is there a plan for a 4 door sedan that a real family can afford in the 20K - 30K range like the Prius?

The third generation vehicle is predicted to have a starting price around 35K. It is likely that later models will follow the trend of lower prices, but a cheap 4-door sedan will be dependent on both the success of the model 3 and the success of gigafactory production as well as improvements in battery tech. Is there a plan? Probably. Is it something I'd expect in the near future? Nope. My bet would be a decade, if Tesla is still around making cars then.

Why is it that a guy with a big mouth and political friends on all sides gets so much tax subsidy, loans, breaks and deals?

Money. Corporations make it. Employees get it, and employed people are very happy to have it, which makes politicians happy to facilitate it. Then election campaigns get money from corporations and pols get votes from constituents. Also, the narrative of renewable energy, American products, and energy independence sells exceedingly well to people on all sides of the political spectrum.

Why are guys who run factories employing tons of US citizens in US based factories (like Toyota) who produce super reliable product with great mileage get slapped by the media when a bogus story about a gas pedal getting stuck?

I don't know. It could be that the 24 hour news cycle thrives on sensationalizing things like killer floor mats and batteries that catch fire when pierced at the right angle, and media have no interest in presenting informative, risk/benefit analyzed news. But maybe not. It's probably Musk's fault.

Not sure why people need a super-hero.

People like narratives. This has a lot of hallmarks of a really neat story and a pretty neat car. It is clearly not a story you dig. That's cool too. It'd be excellent if you didn't act like Tesla is an abnormally terrible company because you dislike the attention other people give to it.

3.8 million priuses have been sold and cab drivers will tell you they easily go into the 300K range and even if the battery runs out the car is still useable.

But instead we continue to give money to the cartoon guy.

We understand you love your Prius or Priuses in general. That's cool, they seem like solid cars. A lot of people who buy Model S Teslas are apparently coming from Toyota (about 15%, google for tesla conquest data). I would bet that the same people who love the efficiency of a Prius are attracted to the all-electric Tesla. Now, for many people, a Prius is still by far the better choice. However, there's plenty to be excited about regarding vehicles that reduce oil consumption. BMW and VW are also doing amazing things. Tesla is just one of many, but it's only one of a few in the all-electric market producing a product people seem to covet. So far, it's made very pretty vehicles that are apparently quite nice to drive (never been in one). And, as mentioned, people like a narrative. So Tesla gets a lot of press.

about 3 months ago

UK Team Claims Breakthrough In Universal Cancer Test

kaliann Great progress, hasty generalization. (63 comments)

This could be a giant step forward in cancer diagnostics, but media reports are - of course - sensationalizing beyond evidence.

In the study, the types of tumors tested share some similarities that might mean findings true of them would not be true of "all cancers". Specifically, none of the lesions tested were tumors of mesenchymal origin. No sarcomas, no fibromas, no leukemias. That's a broad range to not examine, and it means that generalizing this as a test for "all cancers" is premature. Additionally, none of the tumors tested were types that tend to show up in places that lymphocytes have trouble getting to (like the brain, eye, and portions of the reproductive tract).

It is good that they tested against COPD (a chronic inflammatory condition), but it does not appear as if they could distinguish between less-aggressive tumors and inflammatory conditions (I can't tell for sure because of the paywall). It may be that this is a test that is a good indicator of chronic inflammation (seen in many cancers as well as other conditions) rather than a cancer-specific test.

Regardless of the limitations of the preliminary sample set, the findings are very exciting and a potentially amazing discovery in cancer medicine. Kudos to the hardworking scientists involved!

about 5 months ago

Study: Whales Are Ecosystem "Engineers"

kaliann Re:Yep. (64 comments)

"Ecosystem engineer" is an ecology term, and it's meant to be descriptive not precisely literal. It doesn't necessarily indicate any intention. TFA did a poor job of conveying the fact that this is a field-specific usage, not a description of "engineering" by animals.

Some animals have disproportionately large effects on the integrity of their ecosystem - disproportionate to their biomass and physical presence, at least. These animals are called "keystone species". Apex predators are often keystone species due to their effects on prey behavior and their strong actions as selective pressure.

Some keystone species provide specific metabolites that are critical to their ecosystem. You could argue that the organisms that allow termites to digest cellulose are probably keystone species. Nitrogen-fixing organisms would be there as well. Those examples, though have very localized effects.

Some species are keystones for reasons other than simple predator-prey relationships. Animals who significantly physically change their environment are frequently referred to as "ecosystem engineers". Burrowing animals whose dens are required by other critters are one example (in the US, tortoises and ground squirrels are notorious for this). Beavers, as mentioned above, are as well. Underwater, the composition of the water itself is the environment, and changing that composition can have a huge effect on the ecosystems involved. Use of the term "ecosystem engineer" in this context is simply meant to convey how critical whales are to maintaining a healthy and diverse ocean ecosystem, despite previous assumptions that their relatively low biomass (because of their rarity) implied that they were not particularly integral.

about 5 months ago

Stem-Cell Research Funding Institute Is Shuttered

kaliann Re:Well (86 comments)

They shouldn't be.

Induced stem cells are the huge area of research devoted to finding ways around using embryonic stem cells. Basically, it's everything but embryonic stem cells in stem cell research.

We will, eventually, have reliable, cheap mechanisms for inducing stem cell potential in non-embryonic-derived cells, but only by continuing research on how to make them.

This is a travesty.

about 8 months ago

Meat Makes Our Planet Thirsty

kaliann Re:Alfalfa (545 comments)

You've failed to account for what happens to dairy cattle in this country after they are not useful producers. They become ground beef.

It's likely that much of the beef served in fast food restaurants has extensive historical alfalfa input - from the many years those cows spent in a dairy.

about 9 months ago

Should programming be a required curriculum in public schools?

kaliann Incorporated option (313 comments)

What about treating it like other "literacy" types? Many subject include projects include the option or expectation of writing, speaking, mathematically analyzing, and or graphically illustrating topics. Why shouldn't dedicated education in this modality be supplemented by incorporating it in the other classes?

Mathematical and computer modelling is a huge educational and research tool. It'd be nice to see a bit more of that in our classrooms.

about 10 months ago

Does Crime Leave a Genetic Trace?

kaliann Re:Lamarck Vindicated? (160 comments)

In the broad general understanding that the environment can induce acquired changes that can then be inherited, yes. It's called epigenetics, and it's a fascinating field, wherein modification of packaging on DNA affects how and when it is read.

In the specifics of pretty much any of the claims made by Lamarckian adaptation, no, that's bunk.

One of the major differences is that epigenetic changes aren't always adaptive; that is, they aren't necessarily helpful to the organism's reproductive success. These changes can result from environmental stresses as a kind of "side effect", and the change affects later generations. Epigenetic changes are inherited, but they can be reversed in as little as a generation or passed on, and they are never responsible for new transcripts or proteins being produced. They modify amounts and timing of products from existing genes - and that's impressive - but they do not introduce novel products on a cellular level, the way changes in genetic code does.

about 10 months ago

Iconic Predator-Prey Study In Peril

kaliann Re:Morons (84 comments)

The ice bridges aren't the sole human-related reason for decline of the population.
Disease from domestic dogs and human-created changes to the environment have also directly diminished the number of wolves.

From TFA:
"Many scientists familiar with Isle Royale support genetic rescue, especially because human activity has contributed to the current population crash. Climate change has led to the decreasing frequency of ice bridges. Canine parvovirus, probably caught from a domestic dog, caused the wolf population to fall from around 50 to 14 in the early 1980s. And in 2012, three wolves were found dead in an abandoned mining pit. Given this history of human influence, the argument that leaving the wolves alone would be allowing nature to take its course does not sway most ecologists."

(Bolding is mine.)

about 10 months ago

The Death Cap Mushroom Is Spreading Across the US

kaliann Re:Last link is misleading. (274 comments)

The deliciousness is in the previous link, not the last one. Poor choice of linkery.

about 10 months ago

House Committee Approves Bill Banning In-Flight Phone Calls

kaliann Re:If it's just "common sense and common courtesy" (366 comments)

Remember that part of the safety spiel regarding compliance with all "lighted signs, posted placards, and crewmember instructions "?

I'm pretty sure that only applies to health/safety stuff (seat belts, seat backs, tray tables, smoking), but if a legal change is really necessary, just add cell phone use to the list of things crewmembers can give you orders about.

Honestly, though, I think making piddly stuff like this illegal is an unnecessarily intrusive example of legislative zeal.

about 10 months ago

House Committee Approves Bill Banning In-Flight Phone Calls

kaliann Re:Hooray for common sense (366 comments)

Let the airlines decide their own policy, but there's no reason something like this needs to be illegal. Talk about overreach (isn't this guy a Republican, one of the folk who despise intrusive "nanny state" meddling?).

I get that people on phones would be annoying, as would people singing "The Song that Never Ends" or discussing the Kardashians, but there is no need to legislate this issue. A well-timed "Sir/Ma'am, it is the policy of the airline to restrict calls in-flight, thank you for your consideration of your fellow passengers" should take care of those who decide they MUST call someone in the air.

about 10 months ago

Tesla's Having Issues Charging In the Cold

kaliann In Norway this is a problem (476 comments)

Yes, it's related to the cold, but it also appears to be related to the specific issues of Norway's grid.

Some speculation is that the problem involves too-extreme fluctuations in the electricity provided by that grid and a charger-side software-mediated shutoff of charging. If that's the case, then this might be another charger issue that can be solved with an over-the-air "patch" like some of the previous problems.

While this is definitely a concern for Tesla and their Norwegian customers, it doesn't seem to be relevant to cars in North America.

about a year ago

Ars Test Drives the "Netflix For Books"

kaliann Re:Looks familiar (108 comments)

Absolutely true. Many libraries use programs like Overdrive to "lend" digital media to anyone with a valid library card (sign in with card number on library's website).

Ebooks or audiobooks can be downloaded onto various internet-connected devices. As long as you are connected, you can check out a book from thousands of miles away, 24/7 (excepting maintenance).

I personally use the audiobooks as entertainment while driving (iPhone) and crank through plenty of ebooks on my tablet (Android).

Libraries are free to use as a public service. Might as well make the most of them!

The current library setup I have access to is far too convenient for me to pay a subscription for the recommendation service.

about a year ago

What's Stopping Us From Eating Insects?

kaliann Re:and a) mammals aren't poisonous b) cats are use (655 comments)

Depends on what you're feeding your beef, but a respectable feed conversion from grain is generally around 5:1. Higher conversion ratios are usually found when animals are grazing, owing to the lower nutrient density of forage versus concentrated energy foods like grain.

But insects are remarkably efficient, particularly with regards to water!

I'm pretty curious about that cricket flour now. :)

about a year ago

X Chromosome May Leave a Mark On Male Fertility

kaliann Re:3.5 Billion years of hacks (124 comments)

The appendix may not be as useless as we once thought.
Recent investigations have suggested that the appendix acts as a kind of "wildlife preserve" for our gut microbes. Throughout much of our evolutionary history (and much of the modern world) massive diarrhea has been a disease with two distinct issues: the likelihood of death from dehydration, and the disruption of intestinal flora in the survivors. A rapid recolonization with "good bugs" would have helped keep survivors from the kinds of recurring and chronic conditions that can result from microbial imbalance.

Testing of this hypothesis has shown that individuals with an appendix are four times less likely to have recurrences of C. diff infections compared to those without: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21699818

However, the way the recurrent laryngeal nerve runs around major thoracic vessels before ending up in the larynx is preposterous. That totally needs a redesign. Also, can I request a functional nictitating membrane? Those things are sweet!

about a year ago

The Book That Is Making All Movies the Same

kaliann Shakespeare and Tropes (384 comments)

Several of these themes and structures are found in Shakespeare, and a few echo Greek tragedies. It's not just this one book, though it's convenient, I guess, that he broke it down for screenwriters rather than leaving it in the realm of Theater and Literature Liberal Arts classrooms.

The author of the article would probably get lost if he ever stumbled into TVtropes.org.

Thematic elements recur. Surprising absolutely no one. The originality is in where things buck trends or subvert expectations, or in how they execute classic themes in fresh and exciting ways.

Harry Potter and Star Wars weren't thrilling because the themes were original, they were fun because they brought a fresh and intriguing context to classic themes.

about a year ago

TV Programmers Seek the Elusive Dog Market

kaliann Re:why ? (199 comments)

Cooked and not all meat, for several reasons.
1) Dogs are not wolves. Dogs are domestic animals and have significantly smaller teeth than their forebears. Throughout their time in domesticity they have predominantly eaten what we have - cooked food, and a mix of meat and vegetable matter. We have bred them to be easy to keep on food that is similar to ours. You are encouraged to explore some of the peer-reviewed publications on the matter.

2) Many canids - such as coyotes, jackals, and foxes - are omnivores, and various populations of Canis lupus have current or historical evidence of dietary diversity. See previous link. The dentition of modern dogs is closer to that of omnivorous coyotes than modern wolves.

3) Yes, they have molars. And premolars. They are shown quite nicely in the link you gave. They don't have grinding molars (like most herbivores do), but most non-primate omnivores don't have those. Feel free to examine the dentition of raccoons and brown or black bears for molars of omnivores who don't grind.

4) Wild animals are rarely as healthy as you'd like your domestic dog to be. They die of starvation, illness, exposure, and parasites. So even though wolves ate raw meat, they also didn't live as long as the average dog. In other news, please deworm your dog and have it vaccinated, even though it's "natural" to let it be infested with parasites or die of distemper.

5) Raw meat from a grocery store has a high likelihood of having surface contamination with Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter, and other fun pathogens responsible for food-borne illnesses. Dogs are not immune to these, and they can range from merely unpleasant to fatal. Freshly killed raw meat doesn't have the same level of surface contamination that grocery store meat does (industrial farming and meat packaging are different from fresh-killed whatever), but wild game is at higher risk for parasites. Feel free to disregard the cooked-meat warning if you hunt your own meat, feed it fresh, and have your dog on a monthly dewormer. They may still get Toxoplasmosis, flukes, tapeworms, or Salmon poisoning (if you are feeding raw salmon)... monthly dewormers rarely address flatworms, and they don't prevent protozoal infections.

6) Hyenas are not closely related to dogs, they are in Feliformia (the group is pretty much all carnivores or insectivores). Bears are closer to dogs (in Caniformia), however, and most are omnivores. Some of the Caniformes (like red pandas and giant pandas) are herbivorous.

about a year and a half ago



MIT Researchers Develop Broad-Spectrum Anti-Viral

kaliann kaliann writes  |  more than 3 years ago

kaliann (1316559) writes "Researchers from MIT have cobbled together a chimerical protein called DRACO that causes virus-infected cells to self destruct. Cell defenses already recognize long double-stranded RNA, a form of genetic material not normally produced in mammals, but which is a starting or intermediate step for most viruses. Viruses have numerous mechanisms for evading detection, but this new technique directly couples the recognition of dsRNA to a domain that initiates cell death when crosslinked. This technique affects almost all viruses except, sadly, retroviruses, which don't have a dsRNA stage. Still, an impressive step in the fight against viral diseases; it has already shown to be effective against influenza, adenovirus, and several others in vitro, and effective in mice against influenza."
Link to Original Source

Google's helps locate Japan disaster survivors

kaliann kaliann writes  |  more than 3 years ago

kaliann (1316559) writes "Google's well-known habit for allowing employees to develop side projects has been quite useful in the aftermath of Japan's quake and tsunami. By creating a searchable database that allows people to post information and search for those they've lost, Google was doing what several other disaster-relief sites were doing. But by also integrating other databases, standardizing format, and incorporating Picassa, they are stepping up to provide what appears to be an invaluable tool in reuniting families in disaster-struck locations. Way to not be evil."
Link to Original Source

Toys for Telekinesis?

kaliann kaliann writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Kaliann (1316559) writes "Toys that respond to brainwaves are the next generation of unique user interfaces. The Washington Post looks at the current market appeal and future uses of technology that can meaningfully respond to the thoughts of a user. Currently the toys have a fairly simple basic idea: the harder you concentrate the more the object moves. A sensor on the forehead picks up brain waves that are associated with concentration, then levitates a ball in response: basic biofeedback. While this may seem to be a rather humble beginning, progress in this field could have astounding consequences in the advancement of technologies devoted to thought-controlled devices. As the author points out, Jedi Beer Pong is within our grasp."
Link to Original Source

The rise of the netbooks & Linux for lightweig

kaliann kaliann writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Kaliann (1316559) writes "Somewhere between laptops and smartphones, the netbooks are creeping in, according to this NY Times article. The trend is towards using hardware from phones (chips from Qualcomm and Samsung) and lightweight, cheap software: Linux. The primary goal is enough computing power to operate a web browser, stream some video on it, and maybe do some word-processing stuff. Needless to say, Intel (who are likely to lose out on the chip market) and Microsoft (can't image why they are upset) are a bit tetchy about the whole thing."
Link to Original Source

Solar power from home curtains.

kaliann kaliann writes  |  more than 6 years ago

kaliann writes "With the push for more sustainable energy, easy DIY kits for alternative energy sources are likely to become quite popular in the coming years. We may see some big improvements in our ability to "green up" if these photovoltaic curtains become widely available."
Link to Original Source


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