Sunday, February 29, 2004
But now the bad news: Studies of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), best known for being a sexually transmitted cause of cervical cancer, seems to also cause oral cancer. As in, from oral sex. D'oh!
But there is good news: Scientists have found a protein, TRIM5-alpha, in monkeys which blocks HIV infection. So this is a veryveryvery good sign.
Saturday, February 28, 2004
Why we need a specific law against this, as opposed to just using the ones we have about kids and porn, is another question.
Friday, February 27, 2004
And also, some very, very good PR for biotechnology in its purest sense.
This may be, in its purest meaning, true: some scientists doubt some animal research. The spin, of course, is just what the anti-experimentation nutjobs want.
Now, I understand how the animal-rights types feel: that animal experimentation shouldn't happen, and if it must there ought to be stricter standards. The article talks about these scientists wanting said stricter standards, but, well, we already have them.
What the "anti-vivisectionists" refuse to realize, of course, is that modern science, particularly medicine, is simply not possible without animal research. Even they occasionally acknowledge that performing basic experiments on humans is even less acceptable than doing so on animals, but they always say "what about computer models?" Computer models are nice, but they'll never actually predict a biological system, which have the nasty habit of doing unpredictable things.
Thursday, February 26, 2004
The Ga. House of representatives has, however, rejected an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriages. There may be hope, after all.
(via OldDemocrat, at DKos)
Maybe they've never seen a teenage male looking for sex?
But seriously, this could lead to some cool studies. And bad parenting books. Oh well.
Dancers at Rio's Carnival this year:
"The school's 4,000 dancers wore outfits and danced in a manner depicting blood flow, atomic energy and
the double helix of DNA. Other parts of the display were more science fiction than science fact - some
dancers dressed as Frankenstein."
Very, very cool. If only science could be so cool to more people in this country.
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
And the bloody Log Cabin Republicans? Well, if there are any left after this, they deserve what they get. Sadly, the rest of us are gonna get it too. And if any of them still believes s/he is "changing the party from the inside," well, they're either stupid or naive, and I've no time or respect for either.
Monday, February 23, 2004
Sunday, February 22, 2004
Saturday, February 21, 2004
Problem is, I don't understand enough about quantum physics or computer chips....any readers care to enlighten me??
Friday, February 20, 2004
Lovely. The more this stuff happens, the more asinine the bigots sound. To everyone. And the less tenable their views are.
More monarchs like that!
So group activities, breaking up a workday and providing bond-making opportunities make people happier. Earth-bloody-shattering.
But new vaccines are generally good, anyways.
You gotta laugh...it's a bloody good idea. Probably not because it'll actually succeed in "signaling to society that nutritional content in food is important," but in that people buy cheaper foods, and right now fatty, unhealthy foods are much cheaper. But making them more expensive, without lowering other food prices, may just lead to price inflation. Oops.
We're pretty cash strapped here, and I think such a tax wouldn't be a bad idea (especially since I don't eat many of the things that'd be taxed!)
Thursday, February 19, 2004
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Pretty cool, I say.
I want more pictures!!!
Anyone know more??
Also in the BBC Brains department, Uppsala University researchers have used advanced PET techniques to track Alzheimer's, something which could previously only be done post-mortem. This opens all sorts of avenues into research. Cool!
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
"Dude, where's my country?"
I got the bill in .pdf at work (and can't post here, but I'm sure a google would turn it up). It's designed to be "the most comprehensive national initiative to address disparities in health care access and quality."
The bill focuses on a few areas: "Improved healthcare data and quality efforts," which seems essentially to be a provision for standardization of data collection and research reporting. Which may or may not be a good thing. Standardization often means details get lost in the mix. This section also calls for "Access and Awareness Grants" for promotion of healthcare access programs. The thing is, THIS IS TOTALLY REDUNDANT to current programs. We already have a thriving system of grants under HCAP ("Healthy Communities Access Program"), which award over 150 grants annually to increase healthcare access for the uninsured....why create a new program and more bureaucracy instead of just expanding current programs? I thought Republicans were into smaller government!
A bit of this bill I would really like if I thought it was going to get implemented as advertised is expansion of the HHS Office of Minority Health. OMH is currently just an ad-hoc subsidiary of ASPE (Office of the Assistant Secretary (HHS) for Planning and Evaluation), and ought to be made into a real thing. But coming from Bill Frist, well....I doubt it.
Another good idea is reauthorization of title VII of the Public Health Service Act, which gives federal support to increase diversity of medical and health professionals serving minority communities...plus giving better access to Higher Education Act funds to historically Black graduate institutions. Sounds good to me...whats a GOoPer doing sponsoring it??
My favorite part of this bill is the increased funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) for research into strategies for decreasing disparities...this agency funds a lot of good work, including my job!!! Also there's funding in this bill for NIH to do similar stuff.
The problem is, this bill just says "we should establish these programs," but says not one word about funding them. *oops.*
The idea is to create treatments for things like muscular dystrophy, but of course we all know it'll be used as a performance-enhancer by cheating athletes and thus banned before any actual patients get treated. It's a really cool application, and I hope it goes somewhere useful.
Speaking of too many hormones.....women at the most fertile part of their menstrual cycles rate other women more harshly than do women at less fertile stages.
How bout some fun debate about the sociobiology of this finding, please?
(via Neil Gaiman)
Sunday, February 15, 2004
Calcium gradients are very important in all systems...too much of it can activate apoptosis, or "cell suicide," and with too little cells die, or fail to develop. All in all, this sounds pretty cool, and hopefully there'll soon be a full paper to read.
I mean, are the kids really going to notice?
As I noted earlier, there's this maddeningly persistent habit scientific journalists (and scientists) have of assuming that life everywhere has to conform to what it looks like on Earth: organic compounds, cells, electricity, etc.
Come on guys! Have a little imagination...that's the fun of being a scientist!
Saturday, February 14, 2004
Researchers seem to have found a link between lead exposure (from leaded gasoline) and schizophrenia. This will have the immediate effect of furthering the push to ban leaded gas worldwide, but may not really be such a big deal in terms of schizophrenia research (an area in which I worked for a few years): there are tons of things linked to schizophrenia, including genetics, virus infections, and traumatic events. Inhaled pollution (i.e., smog) was in fact already one of those things. It would be nice if a key ingredient in said smog were identified, but the thing about schizophrenia is: there's almost certainly more than one cause. This is a disease so ridiculously complicated we don't know, as the article mentions, whether it's even a disease or if it's a number of diseases.
But it's cool nonetheless.
Suicide prevention could be said to be the basic goal of clinical psychology. I'm not sure how meaningful this study is, but it's certainly interesting. Seeing how governments might generalize the finding to other events could get bizarre, though.
It sounds from CNN's summary that this process would require lots of ethanol, and we needn't look much farther than Brazil to see that an ethanol economy is less than ideal. (second thoughts: Brazil's ethanol is from sugar cane, a much more problematic crop than the corn-based ethanol used at UM for this....)
For the cheez-fans, there's a silly graphic of the thing.
So, if a guy offered you that thing on a ring, would you say 'yes'??
I think this is a cool idea, in as much as it ought to help keep the show going (a nearly $10000/week savings!), but then again....synthesized music, no matter how good it is or how well it's done, never sounds like a real orchestra.
And I'll be very sad when this sort of thing starts going all the way.
Friday, February 13, 2004
(via Making Light)
Thursday, February 12, 2004
I agree with that, but more importantly, he touches on something less discussed in ET circles: we have a pretty narrow definition of life. Oxygen and carbon are not the most common elements in the universe. Why should other life be so based? And why should it look like anything we see on Earth, or even like anything we can comprehend?
Good read. Describe ET.
The article touts how this can be used as evidence in drabs driving cases, post-facto, but I fail to see how. These sorts of tests may easily detect if you've had a drink within their sensitivity range but not necessarily when in that period. I was in a car accident once. It wasn't my fault, and I wasn't drunk. But I went home and had a drink to calm my nerves. By these tests, I'd have been "drunk driving."
Plus, it's kindof creepy, ever more insidious ways to monitor people. The necessary effect of technology, it's true, but as much as I like Asimov and Heinlein and Bradbury, I wish they weren't right so often about certain things.
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
In a related yet completely opposite field, Japanese scientists seem to have found a way to use stem-cell enriched fat to....make bigger boobs. Which of course is the goal of all modern science and technology. Bigger and better and younger-longer boobs.
Too bad boobs aren't my cup of tea. Looks like there will be much more of them soon. Although hopefully they at least won't be attached to Jacksons.
A computer program is supposed to sense frustration with automated phone answering menu systems.
I'll believe it when it works.
The CDC seems to have some, uhm, *issues.*
Take hyperlipidema, aka high cholesterol, for example: the drugs used to treat this are "statins." Statins have a pretty good track record, but are associated with liver failure, require biannual blood tests (in excess of those otherwise recommended), and may or may not have been tested thoroughly in younger (under 40 years) patients. They are costly. And it's debatable how well they really prevent heart attacks.
Then there's treating pre-diabetes. I don't know, but it seems that pharmacological treatments there would potentiate the disease.
Anyone know anything?
Probably it's more due to random chance (a twin neither fully formed nor fully reabsorbed, a la Stephen King's abysmal The Dark Half) than mutations, but why can't we get a few superpowers from all this shit, hmmmm????
Sunday, February 08, 2004
In this very strictly gender-segregated society, some women can achieve some level of power and self-determination...by ceasing to have one of the most basic powers of self-determination. It's all well and good that the Sworn Virgins get to have many of the rights and privileges of being a man, but they give up sexuality. And companionship, it seems. While it sounds 'better' on the surface than most repressive societies' systems, I'm not sure I buy that. At all.
Saturday, February 07, 2004
Friday, February 06, 2004
But the brain is a funny place that way, I guess.
Even I generally view the GAO as a force of good, and so this is distressing.
More to come.
It's on my reading list, add it to yours.
President Bush must now defend on
Capitol Hill his $2.4 trillion budget
proposal for fiscal year 2005
Since I doubt more than three of my readers have any reason to know what a Duchene Smile is, here's the story:
1862: Neurophysiologist and scientific photographer Duchene was interested in facial muscle structure. He used electrodes to artificially stimulate different facial expressions, and examined their relationships to natural emotional expressions.
The Duchene Smile: A genuine (natural) smile can be distinguished from a fake one by ‘wincing’ of the eyes: they (and/or the cheeks) bunch up in real smiles. The concept pretty mucdisappeareded until resurrected by Paul Ekman eighty years later.
Pretty cool, huh?
Thursday, February 05, 2004
States I've visited,
Link to your results in comments, so I can be jealous!
Chi-squared is a measure of how much observed cell counts in a 2-way table diverge from the expected cell counts.
Thus, a large chi-squared value indicates a big difference, and provides evidence against a null hypothesis.
The chi-squared distribution is what's used to test the difference for significance. Use the chi-squared statistic, with df = (#rows-1)(#columns-1)
Pretty cool, huh?
By the way, Chi-squared was developed in 1900 by Karl Pearson, and is the oldest inference procedure still used in its original form. Pearson's work really set stats off as a separate discipline.
Civil rights are crucial, and that's what we're talking about here. Anyone who says different can move someplace like Saudi Arabia or Kazakhstan, where they don't have constitutions protecting citizens from discrimination, or really much of anything.
The problem is: this is really major ammo for Republican wingnuttery. They know that if they scream loud and long enough, enough people are too stupid (due to poor education, as per Republican policy) to question or even know the difference.
Plus, the Post has gotten embarrassing. "The impending reality of court-ordered same-sex marriage in a U.S. state..." Could they spin it a little more obviously please?
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
"While sitting in your chair, lift your right foot slightly off the ground and move it in clockwise circles. Now draw the numeral “6” in the air with your right hand. Your foot will involuntarily reverse direction."
Here, Canadian psychologist Ronald Rensink has shown a pre-attentive "mindsight" in some subjects, whereby they detect a change or abnormality in a situation, without being able to say what's going on. A 'feeling' or 'sixth sense' if you will. I'd like to read the actual paper, as opposed to the NS summary, but I'm not buying bits of it. First of all, small sample size (N = 40). Second, I don't like trying to find an effect, like 'proving' or 'disproving' psychic abilities, or sixth senses. Often leads to really shaky science. But we'll see if it gets replicated or elaborated on.
Ecopaint goes on sale in Europe next month. The paint's base is a special polymer and mineral complex which absorbs and neutralizes NOx gases, which are common smog-causing pollutants. Pretty cool idea, but I worry when they say it produces "harmless quantities of carbon dioxide," because one car only produces harmless quantities of NOx, but 5 million...... Ditto for the nitric acid it releases. I guess gardens are gonna go out of fashion pretty soon then!
I'm not sure how I feel about eating fish-oil laden beef or chicken. That's the next step from this research producing the famously healthy omega-3 fatty acids in mice. One consideration not mentioned there, or really in any health-fad writing about these oils, is that while yes, they're good for you and most people don't get enough for optimal health benefit, too much of them is a bad thing. The cardiovascular benefits of omega-3's are quickly outweighed by oxidative liver damage when you get too much of them. I used to work in a biochem lab that did work on this stuff, so if there's interest, maybe I'll track down and review a few papers.
The BBC reports that US scientists have gotten monkey testes grafted onto mice's backs to produce functional sperm, with lots of potential applications, from infertility therapies to male birth control experiments.
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
The article further discusses how economists and neuroscientists are working together to get a better picture of (on the economists' side) how people make decisions and (the neuroscientists) how the brain controls things. Ventral midbrain dopamine seems to be involved. No big surprise there.....it's crucial to reward-based activities.
Further discussion of humans being hard-wired for cooperation, and thus not acting purely rationally in economists' terms.
Best quote: "This is starting to give economists a way to loop back into experimentsÂ—they realized they've got to crack the head open."
Monday, February 02, 2004
But anyway, come morning and more important news (at least in terms of front-page headline material) than bombings in Northern Iraq, all that I heard was about Janet's tit. Ho-frikin-hum. And not just because I'm gay and not swayed by breasts. Seeking Irony has the best comments I've seen on this.
most horrifying thing I have ever heard.
Please let them be kidding.
They must be kidding.
Sunday, February 01, 2004
Thing is, they were produced at a facility of dubious repute. But more elements is a very cool concept, especially now that my periodic-table-memorizing days are over.
Similarly, Italian scientists have produced hypernuclei. Which are apparently very amazing, but I'm a biologist and don't really understand the physics here. Informative comments welcome!
Maybe not as good as the Merck Manual, but probably good enough for most non-medical-professionals.
According to The BBC, the grapefruit diet popular so many years ago may actually work. People who ate lots of grapefruit lost more weight than those who didn't. Pretty cool, and I love grapefruit too so yay.
The effect is hypothesized to result from lowering of insulin levels. The thing is, one of the properties of grapefruit, which may or may not be related to its diet-aiding powers, is that it alters the effects of many drugs, causing potentially lethal side effects.