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U.S. Biomedical Research 'Unsustainable' Prominent Researchers Warn

the gnat Re:The problem is that too much of it is state bas (135 comments)

This is the thing. Its like the abortion debate. MY body.

Again, you're not understanding my point. I'm not arguing with patient choice, I'm against companies marketing snake oil, which is one of the specific reasons that the FDA exists. The difference between these drugs and most other phony cures is that the drugs can actually kill you. I feel the same way about tobacco - I think people should be allowed to do anything they want as long as they don't harm anyone else, but I'm totally in favor of bans on cigarette ads. The distinction is between allowing potentially unsafe behavior, versus encouraging it.

2 days ago
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U.S. Biomedical Research 'Unsustainable' Prominent Researchers Warn

the gnat Re:The problem is that too much of it is state bas (135 comments)

I am a HUGE believer in individual choice. If the consumer chooses to buy or use something that isn't government approved... that is their choice. Obviously make it clear to them so they don't do it by accident... but that's about it.

I don't disagree with this, but a key issue is marketing and insurance coverage, not availability. Drugs that are legally available to consumers can't be marketed for purposes other than the conditions they were approved to treat, and companies have paid billions of dollars in fines for violating these rules. That doesn't prevent doctors from prescribing the drugs off-label, but insurance companies usually won't cover this (I know, I've tried), and because these uses can't be marketed, the revenues are vastly lower. I am 100% in favor of experimentation and consumer choice, but I don't like seeing companies push drugs with potentially debilitating side effects on people without actual evidence that they work.

3 days ago
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U.S. Biomedical Research 'Unsustainable' Prominent Researchers Warn

the gnat Re:The problem is that too much of it is state bas (135 comments)

consider that we might do well to push a lot of these bio medical researchers at the private sector

Many of us would love to move to the private sector. There's just aren't a lot of jobs there either. In my current specialty, there are hundreds of postdoctoral fellowships (and maybe a dozen faculty openings) for every industry position. I have much broader expertise than that, but employers typically aren't interested in anyone who doesn't fit the exact list of criteria that HR prepared. I've basically spent the last 6 years working as a full-time software developer but I can't even get responses to job applications because I'm still in academia, and competing with CS graduates with the right buzzwords on their resumes.

Obviously my choice of career path was poor, but there isn't some magic solution that can retroactively fix that problem.

3 days ago
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U.S. Biomedical Research 'Unsustainable' Prominent Researchers Warn

the gnat Re:The problem is that too much of it is state bas (135 comments)

They say that they spend so much money complying with the FDA that they have very little for anything else.

That's because the FDA requires actual proof that a drug does what it's claimed to do before they'll let it be marketed as such - oh, and it has to not have debilitating side effects. If we got rid of the FDA, the barriers to market would be vastly lower, but we'd be flooded with a huge number of placebos with deadly side effects. Really, it's shocking how often drug candidates make it to Phase III trials only to discover that they're effectively useless. Do you really want to get rid of that filter?

3 days ago
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U.S. Biomedical Research 'Unsustainable' Prominent Researchers Warn

the gnat Re:No shit, Sherlock (135 comments)

The pernicious influence of this 'Federal technical complex' has led to an entire generation of scientists who believe that the only credible source of funding must be the federal government.

Actually, none of us really believe that. In fact, most of us would love to have more options than crawling back to the NIH every five years, and would also prefer not to worry about whether the hacks in DC will fuck everything up for us. The problem is that the governments really are the largest source of funding and there are limited prospects to replace that. Wealthy philanthropists are great but it's hard to find enough of those to shell out the equivalent of the NIH budget. Companies are rarely interested in spending money on anything they can't turn into a product in the shortest possible amount of time - in the life sciences, only a tiny handful of them do anything resembling "basic research".

The comparison to the "solitary inventor" of the past is irrelevant, because up until recently you didn't need much technology to make some pretty important discoveries. Unfortunately, as science advances, each incremental discovery tends to require steadily greater investments in equipment and infrastructure, which creates a huge barrier to entry. Additionally, the body of knowledge is so immense that it takes years to acquire the technical knowledge to tackle most research projects independently.

3 days ago
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Jenny McCarthy: "I Am Not Anti-Vaccine'"

the gnat Re:They do have a point (584 comments)

The mercury level in a dose of a vaccine is less than the amount you might get from eating a tuna steak.

It's also in a different form - fish contain methylmercury, which is extremely toxic, while thimerosol is metabolized to ethylmercury, which isn't something you want to have a lot of in your system, but isn't as awful.

4 days ago
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Jenny McCarthy: "I Am Not Anti-Vaccine'"

the gnat Re:This is an ancient one... (584 comments)

There is no credible evidence that the vaccines are unsafe.

Minor pedantic quibble: some vaccines are unsafe for a very small subset of the population, mainly people with compromised immune systems or severe allergies to components of the vaccines. I'm pretty sure doctors check for this before sticking the needle in. These people are one of the reasons why herd immunity is so important, because the only thing protecting them from certain diseases is the fact that the rest of the population can't act as carriers. Most of us won't be harmed if one of Jenny McCarthy's kids coughs on us, because we've had the shots - but the unlucky few who really can't get vaccinated are screwed.

4 days ago
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Elite Violinists Can't Distinguish Between a Stradivarius and a Modern Violin

the gnat Re:I'm an OK violinist (469 comments)

My wording was probably unclear - what I meant was "a few tens of thousands of dollars". $100k for three new violins is about the range I would expect.

about two weeks ago
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Elite Violinists Can't Distinguish Between a Stradivarius and a Modern Violin

the gnat Re:I'm an OK violinist (469 comments)

Bassoonist here too - I'm currently saving for a new Fox, since I'll never be able to afford a house where I live anyway. But we're unusual; none of the other winds cost nearly that much, although those players are more likely to buy auxiliary instruments.

String players definitely have it much worse, but a really top-of-the-line new violin isn't going to cost that much more than a new Heckel bassoon. Anyway, these are still orders of magnitude less than some of the older instruments. Simply the name "Stradivarius" inevitably counts for somewhere near $1 million regardless of quality (the same way the Heckel label guarantees a buyer for anything that isn't rotting from the inside).

about two weeks ago
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Elite Violinists Can't Distinguish Between a Stradivarius and a Modern Violin

the gnat Re:The value of a Stradivarius (469 comments)

This is 100% about entertainment, so the Strad may be better IF you are allowed to tell the audience that is what you are playing.

You can be certain that if a string player is using an instrument by a famous maker, it will be specifically mentioned in the program. Wind players only mention the brand of instrument they play on if they're paid to endorse it - of course most wind players seldom play on anything more than a few decades old.

about two weeks ago
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Elite Violinists Can't Distinguish Between a Stradivarius and a Modern Violin

the gnat Re:Moo (469 comments)

If that were the case, then you'd expect them to think the older, more valuable one sounded better right away, not the newer, less special one; so this seems to be a statement against confirmation bias.

The problem is that the quote I was addressing was comparing a more subjective, post-hoc judgment to an approximately objective evaluation. (I say "approximately objective" because it's hard to do something like this perfectly objectively; the article addresses a number of the limitations involved.) The blind test showed that the violinists' preferences - based purely on sound qualities - after an hour of playing had no correlation to the provenance of the violin. The complaint of the quoted study participant was that this was unfair because she only understood how special the Strad she used after months of playing it. The difference is that she knew exactly what that instrument was, and her knowledge almost certainly informed her feelings about it.

about two weeks ago
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Elite Violinists Can't Distinguish Between a Stradivarius and a Modern Violin

the gnat Re:Article Is Wrong (469 comments)

The older violins are worth several million of dollars and they were loaned on the condition that they could not be tuned.

First, your link refers to an earlier article (also in PNAS) with a smaller sample size. Second, the condition wasn't that they couldn't be tuned, it was that "tonal adjustments" like moving the bridge or replacing the strings were not allowed. I would assume that simply tightening the pegs was permissible.

about two weeks ago
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Elite Violinists Can't Distinguish Between a Stradivarius and a Modern Violin

the gnat Re:Out of context (469 comments)

Articles and comments like this are made by people who are not musicians, let alone people who play violin professionally.

This probably isn't what you meant, but the actual PNAS article makes it clear that the authors have some real expertise:

The team thus included several scientists, a violin maker and researcher who builds and sells new violins, a violin soloist who owns and plays an Old Italian violin, a professional violist and instrument dealer who owns several Old Italian instruments, and a string engineer and amateur violinist who owns and plays an Old Italian violin.

And of course the actual players used for the study were all professional violinists.

about two weeks ago
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Elite Violinists Can't Distinguish Between a Stradivarius and a Modern Violin

the gnat Re:I'm an OK violinist (469 comments)

I can tell the difference between my crappy violin and nicer ones in the store. Do you know how much a top quality modern violin costs?

Perhaps a few multiples of $10,000; I've never heard of new instruments going for significantly more than this. (Only the best grand pianos cost that much.) If you're a professional musician, an investment like this isn't unreasonable, and is certainly much more attainable than a Strad. I also know amateurs who play on instruments (not just violins) that cost as much as a decent new car; obviously these are all upper-middle-class people for whom music is a huge part of their life (even if they aren't being paid for it), but they're never, ever going to be able to afford a Strad either.

about two weeks ago
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Elite Violinists Can't Distinguish Between a Stradivarius and a Modern Violin

the gnat Re:Moo (469 comments)

A modern instrument may sound better right away she says, but an old Italian may be able to produce more colors of sound that only become apparent after months of use, she says.

The phrase "confirmation bias" springs immediately to mind. People hear what they want to hear, and the knowledge that they're playing on a three-century-old, million-dollar violin gives them certain expectations.

about two weeks ago
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How Many People Does It Take To Colonize Another Star System?

the gnat Re:Why send people? (392 comments)

Perhaps, we'll develop incubators capable of replacing women's wombs

At the current rate of development, I think it's a pretty safe bet that we'll figure out that technology long before we have the tech to launch interstellar colonization methods.

about two weeks ago
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Jimmy Wales To 'Holistic Healers': Prove Your Claims the Old-Fashioned Way

the gnat Re:You know what they call alternative medicine... (517 comments)

Willow bark used for minor aches and pains works this is where aspirin was discovered. Quinine came from the bark of another tree and was used to treat fevers and malaria. I am not aware of any studies that show these to be nothing more than a placebo they actually led to some of the real medicine you speak of.

These certainly aren't homeopathic medicine, and I don't think they count as "holistic" either (whatever that means). They're naturally occurring remedies that have been through extensive scientific testing, which means they're simply "medicine". No one, here or anywhere else, is claiming that natural remedies are invalid - we're simply demanding that they be held to the same standard of evidence as other medical treatment.

about three weeks ago
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Creationists Demand Equal Airtime With 'Cosmos'

the gnat Re:Free points! (667 comments)

I think these people only exist in your own mind. It's like many things that Tea Baggers like to believe in.

You can actually find a handful of people who do believe that we should apply the fairness doctrine to Fox News - none of whom matter, of course. Juan Cole was the most famous, but I haven't heard a peep out of him for years. The remainder are the usual handful of trolls on Daily Kos, Democratic Underground, etc. They have about as much influence with the Democratic party as the militia movement has with the GOP, but they make convenient bogeymen.

about a month ago
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Creationists Demand Equal Airtime With 'Cosmos'

the gnat Someone missed the point of "1984" entirely (667 comments)

Emmanuel Goldstein was a proxy for Trotsky - a caricature of a villain on whom the ruling clique blamed everything bad to deflect attention from their own incompetence and violence. Of course Trotsky was utterly powerless once exiled, and in "1984" there's nothing to suggest that Goldstein was any different. Goldstein could just as well have been dead at that point; it was simply convenient for the party to keep him in the popular consciousness.

So, do you have any evidence that the creationist movement is actually some fiction (possibly loosely inspired by real people) foisted upon us by the scientific community to distract us? Because from where I sit, it's quite obvious that creationists are not only a large and loud fraction of the American public, they're winning election to school boards and congressional seats, and attempting to refashion the primary school curriculum to include thinly-disguised proselytizing. (Meanwhile, their co-religionists, who may or may not be Biblical literalists, still account for more than 80% of Americans, if you believe the polls.) But maybe it's all a farce and that Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate was actually staged using a Hollywood character actor, and the real Ken Ham (if he ever existed) is actually living in a mud hut in Patagonia with a handful of peasants calling themselves "Answers in Genesis". And meanwhile, the scientific community, which is apparently powerless to stop federal budget cuts to basic research, nonetheless pulls the strings from behind the scenes...

So, are you just terrible at analogies, or is that what you really believe? Because it's taking conservative paranoia about liberal media control to the point of self-parody.

about a month ago
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Up To 1000 NIH Investigators Dropped Out Last Year

the gnat Re:Good (111 comments)

Most of the drugs they use to treat AIDS and cancer come from NIH research (although usually the pharmaceutical companies managed to squeeze in and get a patent for them).

I don't know the breakdown per-disease, but FYI, only about a quarter of all drugs were invented with public funding. In most cases academic research greatly informed the development of new drugs (as intended), but there's a huge gap between "this mutation causes bowel cancer, maybe if we inhibit that protein it will stop progression" to "this drug stops bowel cancer". (Huge gap = many years, at least hundreds of millions of dollars.) In the case of AIDS, academic research has been focused on vaccines, whereas the current best-in-class anti-HIV drugs really have been mostly the work of the drug companies.

about a month ago

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