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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 three weeks ago
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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 a month and a half ago
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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 4 months ago
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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 5 months ago
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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 6 months ago
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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 6 months ago
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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 6 months ago
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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 6 months ago
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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 6 months ago
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House Committee Approves Bill Banning In-Flight Phone Calls

kaliann Re:Hooray for common sense (366 comments)

Exactly!
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 6 months ago
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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 7 months ago
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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
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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. :)

1 year,22 days
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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
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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
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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 ago
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TV Programmers Seek the Elusive Dog Market

kaliann Re:why ? (199 comments)

The splintering of cooked bones is definitely a good point, and worth keeping in mind. Raw bones can splinter too, but cooked are more brittle. There's still a lively debate as to whether raw bones are as safe as once thought (for splintering as well as pathogen concerns and GI obstructions), but there is virtually no debate that cooked bones are a worse choice.

about a year ago
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TV Programmers Seek the Elusive Dog Market

kaliann Re:why ? (199 comments)

Steak is not complete nutrition for a dog. Muscle meat is important but lacks many of the vitamins and minerals found in organ meats and vegetable matter. Additionally, while dogs are taxonomically in Carnivora, they are functionally omnivores. Straight meat isn't ideal for them. (This is in contrast to cats and ferrets, which are obligate carnivores and have trouble digesting vegetable matter.)

As an aside, if you are feeding your pet meat, please cook the meat as thoroughly as you would for human food safety. Domestic animals are not immune to the food-borne pathogens that cause nasty illnesses, and no one wants their pet (or their carpet) to go through that drama.

about a year ago
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Boeing 777 Crashes At San Francisco Airport

kaliann Re:Survivor Story (506 comments)

Not empty, just not carrying passengers.

Initial speculation included the possibility that it was a cargo run, as many trans-pacific airlines have cargo flights. Asiana has a cargo center in SFO. There was hope - particularly among the emergency response community - that the flight was cargo, with fewer people at risk, all in the relative safety of the front of the plane. The last crash Asiana had was a cargo flight.
However, I can't find any indication that Asiana flies the 777 into SFO as a freighter; all I see are 747s.

about a year ago
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Electric Vehicles Might Not Benefit the Environment After All

kaliann Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (775 comments)

Do we also have a way to count the foreign policy costs of oil-based energy? I mean, we've been fighting or enforcing no-fly zones in Iraq for most of the last 25 years (8-9 years of straight up war, 12 years of zone enforcement), and there's pretty good reason to think that oil was a contributing factor in our interest.

This may have contributed to the "bad rap" that oil-based ICE gets.

You want to talk about environmental damage, keep this in mind. Whenever they talk about the BP spill, they qualify it as the largest accidental oil spill.

The Kuwait oil fires burned a million more gallons than the entire BP spill each day, and burned for ten months.

about a year ago

Submissions

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MIT Researchers Develop Broad-Spectrum Anti-Viral

kaliann kaliann writes  |  more than 2 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
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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
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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
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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
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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."
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