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Friendly Fungus Protects Our Mouths From Invaders

resistant Colony Life Forms (63 comments)

We already knew ourselves to be essentially colony life forms riddled with remnant retroviruses and ancient symbionts such as mitochondria, but it's damn interesting to see just how deeply integrated we are into the extremely complex biosphere all around us. It's a little depressing, perhaps, but eventually the boffins will accumulate a body of knowledge that may finally sort out all the ridiculous little things that can and will go wrong with human bodies in the murk of general ignorance. Obesity, cancer and all manner of weird and supposedly unexplained ailments -- they could simply be unknown quirks of how our innumerable symbionts and parasites interact with our basic DNA programming. -_-

about 4 months ago

Gut Bacteria Affect the Brain

resistant Meat Tubes (162 comments)

I'm not surprised by this discovery. Evolutionarily, we're all really complex support systems for long meat tubes that ingest energy and building materials and excrete whatever is not useful. Even the mighty brain only exists to increase the odds of the tube surviving. Bacterial strains that also increase the chances of a meat tube surviving will be favored by simple Darwinian logic. Naturally, they will influence every body system, including the brain.

Admittedly, one doesn't like to feel like a puppet. I wonder what this means for the free will that humans supposedly possess.

about 5 months ago

ISP Fights Causing Netflix Packet Drops

resistant Incentive Structures (289 comments)

Basic incentive structures are a serious problem that will only grow worse over the years. The more successful become edge businesses such as for-profit streaming video providers and monetized social networks that go heavy on large images and video advertising, the more the data carriers will enviously demand a cut of the big pie that other businesses are dividing up.

I wish I knew of a good solution to this problem that still shows reasonable respect for the free market. Perhaps it's time to give heavy federal and state tax incentives to businesses that do absolutely nothing *but* provide consistently reliable, high-speed data-transmission channels. That means no end-user content provision or end-point Internet connections for individuals, businesses or other organizations. Let the innovators scramble to implement gigabit capabilities that end-point ISPs can resell to their customers. No doubt there are sorts of problems with this idea, but my brain has nothing better right now. :/

about 5 months ago

Kansas To Nix Expansion of Google Fiber and Municipal Broadband

resistant We Are Many; They Are Few. (430 comments)

I've been observing this sort of greedy corporatism for years. We seriously need to first set up a nationally recognized, "voluntary" standard that at least four competing broadband providers should be available in each jurisdiction and then start a national nonprofit organization that relentlessly pressures non-compliant local and state governments into abolishing laws and regulations that discourage or outright prevent this kind of minimum coverage. Constant lawsuits that dig up dirt about payoffs to politicians and expose semi-monopolies would be an excellent idea as well. It may be a little early to truly establish the idea that universal access to low-cost, high-speed Internet communications is a basic human right, but it's a good propaganda tool.

I'm a dreaming fanatic about free markets, but we don't have free markets for broadband Internet access. We have utterly corrupt corporatism. It's high time to savagely fight back against the greedy parasites at Time Warner and Cox and the rest who absolutely hate the idea of having to give up their bloated, government-protected profits.

about 6 months ago

Grand Canyon Is "Frankenstein" of Geologic Formations

resistant Definitely not the first post! (132 comments)

I tried to dream up a clever bon mot to utter about this scientific curiosity, but all that came out of this effort was a stupid joke about poor old Earth having peculiar skin problems across the geological ages. I'm sowwy. I weally am. -_-

about 6 months ago

SpaceX Falcon 9 Blasts Off From California

resistant The Manifold Hinderings of Mind (97 comments)

At the risk of enraging automatic supporters of bloated government programs like the old Space Shuttle, it doesn't surprise me that lean, privately funded space-exploitation outfits do so well. Reliable execution of rocket science is difficult enough already without burdening the principals with all the artificial fears and running annoyances of a crusty bureaucracy. "Could I be fired for departing from the top-down plan if I do this instead of that? Does this possible change meet the 400-page outline set down by a large committee run by political appointees?" Every millisecond squandered on peripheral distractions is a millisecond lost to the subtle considerations of consistently productive and reliable thought.

Additionally, the people who work at the private firms tend more strongly to be there for the love of it than with any government agency. That counts for a lot when it comes to repeatedly avoiding those little errors of ennui and fatigue that can build up into a disaster. Enthusiastic workers are also more prone to realizing with a joyful start that a small change that could make a real difference will likely be actually used by a quick, responsive management team. Rocketry is often about very small changes marking the difference between a successful mission and a flaming ball of fuel and rocket parts.

Along these lines, I've always thought that China has consistently lagged behind the West in leading-edge technology for much the same reasons. The Chinese have no lack of smart people, but they're subtly and powerfully burdened with the habit of "self-censorship" to avoid offending the Communist Party and with the Confucian habit of observing "face-saving" deferment to the opinions of their alleged superiors. Sounds similar to and worse than just about any government agency in the West, eh?

These are my own thoughts, and only one puppy was temporarily scared into hiding under the couch during the production of this post. I also killed a small spider, but the dratted thing was trying to crawl into my coffee cup.

about 10 months ago

Mitsuku Chatbot Wins Loebner Prize 2013

resistant Ridiculously Easy to Trip Up (78 comments)

I checked out the website for the Mitsuku chatbot and took a rather pessimistic poke at it.

Chatbot: [boilerplate noises omitted] ... "What is your name?"
Myself: "I'm the fiddler."
Chatbot: "Who made you the fiddler?" [A reasonable, albeit somewhat peculiar, response.]
Myself: "I took too long once to feed my peckish cat."
Chatbot: "Where did you take it?" [Instant FAIL.]
Myself: "I took it to new heights of frustrated noises." (Bonus straight-man response.)
Chatbot: "Where did you take it?" [Parrot-like repetition raises the chat to new heights of FAIL.]

As always, two lines were enough to trip it up. The third line was a bonus that only amplified its shortcomings. I'll admit to cheating a little by using a couple of words ("peckish", "frustrated") that might have required contextual glossing by less educated individuals, but those words were still relatively common. All known chatbots seem to rely on fairly simple-minded word triggers, and even a minor requirement for context sensitivity is enough to make them fall flat on their nonexistent faces. Anyone possessing even remote familiarity with efforts at artificial intelligence knows this, of course, but hope springs eternal.

(Notes for the lazy: The word "peckish" is a common slang term for "hungry", and is the website for the chatbot in question.)

about 10 months ago

How To Communicate Faster-Than-Light

resistant Back to the Future ... or Past ... or Something (265 comments)

That's pretty cool. Of course, I knew about this post yesterday, before you'd even thought about writing it up on Slashdot. I'm not exactly how that worked, but thinking too hard on it makes my head hurt. I think I'll go lie down for a while and hope the future catches up with the past or something weird like that.

about a year ago

Samsung Laptop Bug Is Not Linux Specific

resistant Extortionist Heaven (215 comments)

We all know perfectly well that malware makers will start including a module that purposefully bricks Samsung laptops so that extortionists can threaten to wipe out a batch of corporate-owned laptops in one blow if the company refuses to cough up a substantial amount. No matter how this affair plays out, I can't see it ending well for Samsung.

about a year and a half ago

Specific Gut Bacteria May Account For Much Obesity

resistant Mass-Media Report (470 comments)

In retrospect, I guess it couldn't hurt to mention at least one mass-media report that doesn't seem too excitable:

Researchers in Shanghai identified a human bacteria linked with obesity, fed it to mice and compared their weight gain with rodents without the bacteria. The latter did not become obese despite being fed a high-fat diet and being prevented from exercising. The Shanghai team fed a morbidly obese man a special diet designed to inhibit the bacterium linked to obesity and found that he lost 29 per cent of his body weight in 23 weeks. The patient was prevented from doing any exercise during the trial. Prof Zhao said such a loss in an obese patient using this diet was unprecedented. The patient also recovered from diabetes, high blood pressure and fatty liver disease.

It will be fascinating to see what happens when other teams try to replicate these results with larger, more statistically significant groups than just one individual. ^^;

about a year and a half ago

Specific Gut Bacteria May Account for Much Obesity

resistant Mass-Media Report (1 comments)

In retrospect, I guess it couldn't hurt to mention at least one mass-media report that doesn't seem too excitable:

Researchers in Shanghai identified a human bacteria linked with obesity, fed it to mice and compared their weight gain with rodents without the bacteria. The latter did not become obese despite being fed a high-fat diet and being prevented from exercising.

The Shanghai team fed a morbidly obese man a special diet designed to inhibit the bacterium linked to obesity and found that he lost 29 per cent of his body weight in 23 weeks. The patient was prevented from doing any exercise during the trial.

Prof Zhao said such a loss in an obese patient using this diet was unprecedented. The patient also recovered from diabetes, high blood pressure and fatty liver disease.

It will be fascinating to see what happens when other teams try to replicate these results with larger, more statistically significant groups than just one individual. ^^;

about a year and a half ago

DARPA's Headless Robotic Mule Takes Load Off Warfighters

resistant A Jingoistic Sentiment (210 comments)

Many of the the superstitious, ill-educated tribesmen that U.S. ground troops regularly encounter already think the Americans are witches. A headless donkey scampering along with supplies will really mess with the heads of the rag-heads. Maybe some of them will flee in terror instead of shooting at our soldiers. Really, what's not to like? You'll excuse me for a moment whilst I cackle in wicked laughter and stroke my black cat with the unnaturally intelligent glow in its eyes. ^_^

about a year and a half ago

Taking Sense Away: Confessions of a Former TSA Screener

resistant Modern Shunning (354 comments)

One wonders what would happen if an ad-hoc, "name and shame" reputation network were to identify TSA agents everywhere they went. It's easy to imagine the near-universal environment of hate stares, extreme rudeness and occasional violence from victims of the TSA's Orwellian tactics putting direct pressure on TSA employees themselves to drastically reform their arrogant policies.

about a year and a half ago

Meat the Food of the Future

resistant Playing Games With Names (705 comments)

The marketing problem with insect consumption for Western audiences could probably be addressed by focusing a non-objectionable label on one particular kind of insect, much in the way that "beef", "pork", "chicken" and "fish" are labels for specific kinds of animal. The relatively innocuous term "cultured grasshopper meat" sounds a lot better than the generic term "squashed, processed bugs", for example. Once the idea of eating bugs ... pardon me, "cultured insect meat" gains traction, acceptance for this new food will naturally expand over time to other insects.

Admittedly, I expect the idea of eating yucky wormies will catch on very, very slowly indeed with Americans, no matter how enthusiasts try to make them sound appetizing by frying them up or making delicious-looking meat pies out of them. Personally, worms will always make me think of the squishy, nasty messes on the sidewalk after a hard rain, and I'll smack anyone who tries to get me to actually eat them.

about 2 years ago

Why Bad Jobs (or No Jobs) Happen To Good Workers

resistant Blame Ain't the Real Game (1201 comments)

Many small companies with tight cash-flow situations and overworked owners simply do not have the resources to train new workers for the specifics of a job, and the human-resources departments of a fair number of bigger companies probably fear being blamed for new hires who take a long time to become genuinely productive. That's not to say some employers aren't being unreasonably picky, but as with most human affairs, closely examining the matter will inevitably reveal it to be more complex than the pictures drawn by simplistic answers. Frankly, I'd look at burdensome, complex regulations and a risky legal environment as major contributors to stubborn unemployment.

more than 2 years ago

Every Day's a Tax Holiday At Amazon

resistant Shipping Costs, Etc. (377 comments)

I've always wondered why when irate brick and mortar retailers yell about an "unfair advantage" with no sales tax, they invariably fail to mention shipping costs, which don't exist for direct in-person brick and mortar store purchases. Admittedly, Amazon (for example) these days has free shipping for many orders of $25.00 or over, and intense competition over the past few years has put great pressure on all on-line retailers to not play games with charging excessive shipping fees to pad their profits, which used to be a huge problem.

Frankly, I gloat over not having to pay sales taxes (when possible). That's the free market. Amazon certainly has no moral obligation to levy sales taxes if there's no direct legal obligation to do it. It's up to the individual states to decide how badly they want to drive out business or attract it with varying tax treatment.

more than 3 years ago

Spray-On Liquid Glass

resistant Possibly Risky But Highly Useful Nonetheless (293 comments)

I saw this news item as well, albeit at PhysOrg, which has linked a few interesting related articles. From the comments, it struck me that a concern is indeed the possibility that stray particles from applying this stuff might get into your lungs or on your eyes, causing all sorts of problems since it apparently binds well to organic substances. Also, one wonders what happens if the coating is degraded on food-handling surfaces. Do fragmented microparticles rip up your insides after being carried into your body within contaminated food?

Even with these concerns, of course, I'd love to test this stuff on various less risky surfaces, such as bathroom tiles and shop tools, with appropriate respiratory and eye protection. Being able to use it on a kitchen countertop would just be a welcome bonus if it turns out to be safe for that use after all. (As an aside, I think that use wouldn't breed resistant bacteria since it simply discourages any bacteria at all from growing on the protected surfaces).

more than 4 years ago

DVRs Help Some TV Shows Improve Ratings

resistant Actual Target Advertising Audience (297 comments)

It occurs to me to wonder if a person who is strong-willed and motivated enough to take the trouble to skip commercials on a DVR, is of the sort who weren't listening to the commercials anyway even if they did occasionally stare at the screen during commercial breaks before the era of DVR, and further, whether the sort of person who passively listens to commercials with or without a DVR is the sort of person who tends to be influenced by commercials with which to begin. Perhaps worried advertisers and network executives realistically aren't losing nearly as much of their actual, receptive (if hard to measure) audience(s) as they fear.

more than 4 years ago

Commercial Fuel From Algae Still Years Away

resistant Inherently Promising (134 comments)

The more there are pie-in-the-sky technologies out there that have been researched over many years, the more promising and immediately useful (if currently marginally feasible) technologies there will be on hand to frantically improve at the last minute when ever-growing demand for energy peaks and readily available oil has become unaffordable for less important applications. Algae is particularly promising because it relies on a billion years of evolution focussed on minimal-energy solutions to extracting power from sunlight, and because it has relatively little background pollution associated with it (as compared to the array of toxic chemicals used to manufacture solar cells, for example). Plus, understanding of genetic engineering can only improve greatly.

I still strongly prefer nuclear energy (safe fission designs for now, fusion later if that ever gets off the ground), but the political controversy surrounding nuclear power plants appears set to make nuclear energy a minor part of future energy provisions. Algae looks to be uncontroversial and usable everywhere there is decent sunlight, with almost no toxic chemicals or proliferation concerns.

more than 4 years ago

Is Cloud Computing the Hotel California of Tech?

resistant Walled Gardens (250 comments)

I don't really have much to say on this, but what the hell, I'll say it anyway.

Walled gardens result from the natural desire of business operators to hold on to customers once they've spent a remarkable amount of money per head to get those customers. That the tactics they use, including purposeful obstruction of data migration, are often appalling is simply irrelevant. Ethics can be hard to define for such a relatively nebulous matter as data storage formats, and most people aren't all that ethical about money with which to begin, especially in a poor economy.

This situation will continue until there is a sustained and vigorous effort on the part of customers to insist that businesses use a standard, probably XML-carried, format for customer data, preferably with legal sanctions such as fines for businesses that refuse to play ball. I've thought on this sort of thing for a few years, but don't yet have a more specific proposal. One thought is to make customers the sole legal owners of their own information, with all that implies.

more than 4 years ago



Specific Gut Bacteria May Account for Much Obesity

resistant resistant writes  |  about a year and a half ago

resistant writes "A limited study from China offers the tantalizing possibility that targeting specific gut bacteria in humans could significantly reduce the scope of an epidemic of obesity in Western countries:

"The endotoxin-producing Enterobacter decreased in relative abundance from 35% of the volunteer’s gut bacteria to non-detectable, during which time the volunteer lost 51.4kg of 174.8kg initial weight and recovered from hyperglycemia and hypertension after 23 weeks on a diet of whole grains, traditional Chinese medicinal foods and prebiotics."

As usual, sensationalist reports have been exaggerating the import of this very early investigation, and one wonders about that "diet of whole grains." Still, there could be meat in the idea of addressing pathogenic bacteria for the control of excessive weight gain. After all, it wasn't too long ago that a brave scientist insisted in the face of widespread ridicule that peptic ulcers in humans usually are caused by bacterial infections, not by acidic foods."

Link to Original Source

The Neuroscience of Screwing Up

resistant resistant writes  |  more than 4 years ago

resistant (221968) writes "As the evocative title from Wired magazine implies, Kevin Dunbar of the University of Toronto has taken an in-depth and fascinating look at scientific error and the scientists who cope with it and sometimes transcend it to find new lines of inquiry. Three key passages follow:

"Dunbar came away from his in vivo studies with an unsettling insight: Science is a deeply frustrating pursuit. Although the researchers were mostly using established techniques, more than 50 percent of their data was unexpected. (In some labs, the figure exceeded 75 percent.) 'The scientists had these elaborate theories about what was supposed to happen,' Dunbar says. 'But the results kept contradicting their theories. It wasn't uncommon for someone to spend a month on a project and then just discard all their data because the data didn't make sense.'" [...]

[...] "The scientific process, after all, is supposed to be an orderly pursuit of the truth, full of elegant hypotheses and control variables. (Twentieth-century science philosopher Thomas Kuhn, for instance, defined normal science as the kind of research in which 'everything but the most esoteric detail of the result is known in advance.') However, when experiments were observed up close — and Dunbar interviewed the scientists about even the most trifling details — this idealized version of the lab fell apart, replaced by an endless supply of disappointing surprises. There were models that didn't work and data that couldn't be replicated and simple studies riddled with anomalies. 'These weren't sloppy people,' Dunbar says. 'They were working in some of the finest labs in the world. But experiments rarely tell us what we think they're going to tell us. That's the dirty secret of science.'"

"While the scientific process is typically seen as a lonely pursuit — researchers solve problems by themselves — Dunbar found that most new scientific ideas emerged from lab meetings, those weekly sessions in which people publicly present their data. Interestingly, the most important element of the lab meeting wasn't the presentation — it was the debate that followed. Dunbar observed that the skeptical (and sometimes heated) questions asked during a group session frequently triggered breakthroughs, as the scientists were forced to reconsider data they'd previously ignored. The new theory was a product of spontaneous conversation, not solitude; a single bracing query was enough to turn scientists into temporary outsiders, able to look anew at their own work."

Mentioned in the article itself is mysterious radio interference from the heavens, a huge error by Aristotle that is commonly repeated even today, and a quote from the late physicist Richard Feynman."
Link to Original Source


NASA Researchers Worried About Huge Sun Flares

resistant resistant writes  |  more than 5 years ago

resistant (221968) writes "Wired reported recently that a group of researchers assembled by NASA issued a "chilling" report expressing great concern about the potential for solar flares in 2012 to coincide with "the presence of an unusually large hole in Earth's geomagnetic shield", potentially virtually collapsing national power grids. Complicating the matter is the lack of current plans to replace the sole early warning satellite on which power grid operators rely, and the poor state of readiness in general. Full recovery from such a catastrophe might take four to ten years, and cost trillions of dollars.

The report was largely ignored at first because of the unfortunate overlap with an ancient Mayan prediction of a major "turning point" in the year 2012 (by the Western calendar)."

Link to Original Source

Look, Mommy! I Made a New Life Form!

resistant resistant writes  |  more than 5 years ago

resistant (221968) writes "

The Apple computer was invented in a garage. Same with the Google search engine. Now, tinkerers are working at home with the basic building blocks of life itself. Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering — a field long dominated by Ph.D.s toiling in university and corporate laboratories. .... In Cambridge, Mass., a group called DIYbio is setting up a community lab where the public could use chemicals and lab equipment, including a used freezer, scored for free off Craigslist, that drops to 80 degrees below zero, the temperature needed to keep many kinds of bacteria alive. Co-founder Mackenzie Cowell, a 24-year-old who majored in biology in college, said amateurs will probably pursue serious work such as new vaccines and super-efficient biofuels, but they might also try, for example, to use squid genes to create tattoos that glow. ....

Personally, I'd like to whip up a reasonably long-lasting and durable paint made with dye based on squid genes that glows brightly enough to allow "guide lines" to be daubed along hallway baseboards, powered by a very low trickle of electricity. Plus, a harmless glowing yogurt would make for a cool prank."


Illusion of Not Being Yourself Is Easy

resistant resistant writes  |  more than 5 years ago

resistant (221968) writes "In findings that have fascinating implications for personality and individuality, Swedish neuroscientists have presented a study of making people see themselves as other people, almost literally.

... At the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience last month, Swedish researchers presented evidence that the brain, when tricked by optical and sensory illusions, can quickly adopt any other human form, no matter how different, as its own. ... In one experiment, the Stanford team found that people inhabiting physically attractive avatars were far more socially intimate in virtual interactions than those who had less appealing ones. ... In the experiments, said Dr. Ehrsson, the Swedish researcher, "even the feeling from the squeezing hand is felt in the scientist's hand and not in your own; this is perhaps the strangest aspect of the experience."


resistant resistant writes  |  more than 7 years ago

resistant (221968) writes "This is for the story I gave you guys recently, which is now at: /16/218236

I apologise for having not thought that the actual Cell Journal article might have been already posted to the Web. It was: =PIIS0092867406014656

If you prefer, you can use this paragraph already formatted for HTML (please indicate in additional text that it's an update):

I apologise for not realising that the actual Cell Journal article had been already been posted as a PDF as well as in plain text."

resistant resistant writes  |  more than 7 years ago

resistant (221968) writes "Researchers at a Toronto hospital have stumbled upon a dramatic treatment for mouse diabetes, with large implications for the treatment of diabetes in humans. From the article: "[...] The islet inflammation cleared up and the diabetes was gone. Some have remained in that state for as long as four months, with just one injection. [...] They also discovered that their treatments curbed the insulin resistance that is the hallmark of Type 2 diabetes, and that insulin resistance is a major factor in Type 1 diabetes, suggesting the two illnesses are quite similar.""

resistant resistant writes  |  more than 7 years ago

resistant (221968) writes ""Your honor, the defendant mayonnaised his sandwich in a manner that infringes one or more of of our patents. We ask that the court award us 20,000,000 fish filets in compensatory and punitive damages." Yay, more patent madness, this time from the clown joint."



"SCO Lawyers Are Turds"

resistant resistant writes  |  more than 10 years ago

Enough has been said, but those shysters keep on and on pooping all over Linux.

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