"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

Science is best when discussed: leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Wishful Thinking, Cow-Man 

Today's science has a little bit of an "if-only" ring to it - things look like really good news, and could be, but I wonder how real the effects in question are. Sometimes an effect can be real, without having any useful applications.

To wit: Mathematicians have devised the "perfect" way to cut a cake, or divide up a contested area. It's an interesting-sounding algorithm, but I'm sure as hell not pulling out my copy of Notices of the American Mathematical Society at my next birthday party, and I'd guess no one else is either.

The ultimate hope is that all the stuff I love that is probably bad for me is good for me, and all that I hate that is probably good for me is bad: boozing should make me rich, meetings should be banned, and caffeine will prevent Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Researchers may have some evidence to support these claims, and much of it may be good, but the likely story is that caffeine has some protective effects which you will never get from drinking coffee. Meh, I'm still gonna keep at the grinder!

A really cool idea that may, in the (annoyingly distant) future make for real hope is gene therapy. A new study has used genetically engineered HIV to fight ... regular HIV. This research is fantastically cool: they infected 5 multiple-drug-resistant HIV patients with crippled, antisense HIV viruses, and that seems to no only have slowed the disease, but maybe even improved health in 4 of them! So. Cool.

And, because we didn't have enough "stem cell debate" to fight about, UK researchers want to create a human-cow hybrid cell line for research. I don't really have any problems with this, as I believe it'll not only advance science amazingly, but also hold no pretensions that humans are "different" from other animals, or "special." That's a bit that gets ethicists' panties in a bundle, and I think it ought to be taken less seriously. This technology could really pave the way for things like lab-grown organs for transplant, among other treatments.

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