Wednesday, July 30, 2014

MOOC Philosophy?

In a recent New York Review of Books piece the author writes about the film Ivory Tower, a work commenting on contemporary higher education. At one point he makes the observation:

At the heart of the MOOC model is the idea that education is a mediated but unsocial activity. This is as strange as the idea—shared by ecstatic communities of faith—that the discovery of truth is a social but unmediated activity.

 This is a truly powerful observation. It is McLuhan in insight. It is the essence of the "peer review" process.

Do Instructor have value, besides the "stars". My classic example is Lander and Biology, he has no equal. But what of those others whose influence made us what we are today. I recall two, both in my secondary school, both sort of Mr Chips, at two extremes. Brother Edward set my mathematics career aflight, and Mr Brown made me think. Mr Brown made us work in Middle English, do Chaucer, see the future through past. Brother Edward taught how mathematics really was, discovering cause and effect.

Would a Lander on video have replaced them? No. They were essential. Without Mr Brown taking us for drinks before my final French exam, I would never have become fluent in French, and as for Brother Edward, he created the ability to "see" the answer.

The group, the mass, the consensus of opinion, it is useless, it is the insight of the individual into something new. The person willing to use their intellect to see the world in a different manner is the person who creates a difference. Truth is all too often destroyed by the social and unmediated activity. The individual is destroyed, the individual is silenced by the opinions of those without knowledge. Worse those without knowledge are empowered to apply their ignorance as truth. That is the evil in "peer reviews" by those without knowledge. Just a thought for the end of July.

Monday, July 28, 2014

MOOC Style Preference

MIT just posted a note as to what "styles" were working best for EdX. They argue:

In a paper published this spring, the CSAIL team outlined some key findings on what online learners want from videos. These include:
  • Brevity (viewers generally tune out after six minutes)
  • Informality, with professors seated at a desk, not standing behind a podium
  • Lively visuals rather than static PowerPoint slides
  • Fast talkers (professors seen as the most engaging spoke at 254 words per minute)
  • More pauses, so viewers can soak in complex diagrams
  • Web-friendly lessons (existing videos broken into shorter chunks are less effective than ones crafted for online audiences)
Now this should be really segmented by the market demographics. Any credible market research effort segments the demographics by enough dimensions to make it work and then seeks what is most desirable for each segment of the demographic. Usually a sophisticated task. Yet this report just assumed that everyone was the same. The results are generally interesting but a good demographic and psychographic set of dimensions would make it useful.

In my experience, I will leave my demographic and psychographic to the reader, I want:

1. A short lecture and six minutes is good.

2. A Lander approach with the Prof in front of a class, makes you feel it is real and you are pert of the process. Also it paces the instructor. It appears that Lander was the only one I used that did this.

3. I really liked the white board approach. I had the notes and could then annotate them as the lecture proceeded.

4. The rate at which a person speaks is not as critical and the rate which the transfer information. Again Lander is sine qua non, he had one to three points to get across and he did it simply.

5. Pauses, if the lecture is in front of a class they take control.

6. "Web friendly", again Lander was spot on, you did something with genes, you learned by your mistakes, my dyslexia came to the fore so I had to do a work around. This did Python program to read and translate the gene structures.

It would really be worthwhile to do real market research on these courses and not just a computer science approach. Yet that means you have to know your "students".

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I Remember the Electric Car

There are times when I read some comments by Academics that I am very glad that I wandered astray and did something real.

First, I remember the Electric Car, it was a Department of Energy project dating back to the 1960s, yes the 1960s. There was always a group of folks who tinkered with electric motors and batteries and tried to stuff them in cars.

Second, there was and is the Air Traffic Control System. In the early 1970s I spent time developing a new digitized system. Any change, not really, we still use WW II systems to track aircraft.

Third, then there is GPS. I remember GPS well, I taught the first course on GPS at GWU in the mid 70s as it was being developed. Yes the mid 70s. What made GPS a consumer product, Trimble, the Gulf War and mothers who sent their sons low cost GPS units so they did not get lost!  What held GPS back, well I argued at Sen Kennedy's staff in the mid 70s since they saw it as a strategic threat at the time. I saw it as a commercial opportunity.

Thus what does the above tell you? Government is not really good at commercializing anything!

Now comes the Guardian and some Brit Academic which states:

Mazzucato points out the state played a role in financing nearly every key technology in an iPhone, from GPS to the touch screen. She says that, even now, the lion’s share of funding for climate change technologies comes from state investment banks and public utilities, with just 6% coming from private capital. The problem is, the modern state sees this as accidental and residual. It avoids major projects, and their associated risks, seeing its role as mainly to act where the market “fails” – as with the near evaporation of venture capital funding for technology startups in the UK. Mazzucato, in a paper with LSE professor Carlota Perez, points out the danger of leaving tech to the private sector. In an economy bloated with printed money and cheap credit, if capital can’t find real-world, high-growth, high-profit opportunities to invest in, it will pool into the finance system, creating one bubble after another.

You have to be kidding us! The opposite is true, leaving anything to the Government will stifle the economy! GPS would never have prospered had it been left to the Government, and as for the authors claim on the iPhone, perhaps they are looking at a different universe!

Climate: Policy, Technology and Reality

I just read a piece in CFR by a Former Banking and Government official bemoaning what we do not know about Climate Change. What surprised me is that he says the following:

What we already know is frightening, but what we don't know is more frightening still. For example, we know that melting polar ice sheets will cause sea levels to rise, but we don't know how negative feedback loops will accelerate the process. As polar ice melts, the oceans absorb more heat, which causes more ice to melt. And the polar ice sheets have already started to melt.

But negative feedback often stabilizes systems, depending on where the poles of the system may lie. Yet he appears to be describing positive feedback which may often tend to destabilize a system.

If one forgot remeber:

Negative Feedback:

Out=GainForward*In- GainReverse*Out

Note that Negative Feedback reduces output variation.

Positive Feedback:

Out=GainForward*In+ GainReverse*Out

Note that Positive Feedback increases output variation.

Now this may be a nit but it does tend to demonstrate the problem we have with "Policy Types" who take words without meanings. Moreover the technical people all too often throw the words about as if they have both meaning and understanding.

This is a cooler summer than usual, but that is weather and not climate. Climate seems to be warming, but is that good or bad, depends one guesses where one is. But it would help if the Policy Types would get their words right or abstain from pretending they know whence they speak.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Who Would Have Guessed?

The USDA just issued a report that listed the land mass per state covered by trees. Above is the set of states where it exceeds 50% of the land mass. There are seven at 70% ore more and New Jersey has almost 60%! That is 60% for the most populated state per square mile! California is half that number!

It is interesting to examine the report and consider the data. New Hampshire is almost 90%. A century ago it we near total deforestation due to rampant cutting. Maine is at 85% and lumber is one its main industries!

One wonders how the current Bishop of Rome seems to worry that we Americans have deforested our lands. As VoA stated:

In an address at the University of Molise, an agricultural and industrial region in southern Italy, Francis said the Earth should be allowed to give her fruits without being exploited. “This is one of the greatest challenges of our time: to convert ourselves to a type of development that knows how to respect creation,” he told students, struggling farmers and laid-off workers in a university hall. “When I look at America, also my own homeland [South America], so many forests, all cut, that have become land... that can longer give life. This is our sin, exploiting the Earth and not allowing her to give us what she has within her,” the Argentine pope said in unprepared remarks.

With this data one really questions that assertion. Perhaps on his proposed trip to Philly he could cross the Delaware and see the trees! The facts can be so disconcerting.

Vive La France, Ou est La France?

Le Monde observed that the LA Times showed a map of three air crashes but in the process eliminated France, exactement! As they state:

Sauf que le journal californien y dévoile une audacieuse image du monde... où la France a purement et simplement disparu, noyée sous les eaux :

 I guess out there in California Europe begins with Germany. Or we now have some new scheme in Geography, we can just imagine what it looks like.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Does This Make Any Sense?

The City of LA has issued an RFI for a fiber build for the city. The intents are:

  1. Ensure that every home and every business in Los Angeles can be served by an advanced communications network that will provide a high-speed, high quality broadband connection to the Internet.
  2. Ensure that areas of the City that are currently underserved are promptly served.
  3. Ensure that the City is served by an open network, so no one is prevented or blocked from taking full advantage of the Internet’s capabilities; and
  4. Ensure that every Angeleno can enjoy the benefits of broadband, regardless of income or the area in which they reside. 

Now this is projected to cost well in excess of several billions, to be controlled by the city, at no cost to the city, and to provide free service to those who cannot afford it. This has the signs of a total disaster.

First, there are two strong players there already; cable and telco.

Second, wireless is a clear winner in LA, it is flat for the most part.

Third, the costs are extraordinary and the revenue is problematic.

Fourth, litigation will just explode for a variety of reasons.

Fifth, well its LA.

And we thought Washington had the hold on most dumb ideas!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

TDRSS for Mars

TDRSS was and is the satellite relay system for collecting and communicating satellite data. NASA has announced an RFI for a TDRSS like system for Mars.

The above from NASA is a conception of such a system. The objective is overall Mars coverage and its ability to transmit back and forth to the earth. It is intended for controlling Martian robots and is considered as a joint commercial venture. The commercial side is interesting.

Worth following.....

Monday, July 21, 2014

Fulvablastoma Multiforme

The plant H fulva has a subspecies which is a triploid and is sterile. It is the common orange daylily and as one looks around each year this time and see them everywhere in the world one should remember that they are all the same plant! Yes, the one very same plant since they propagate only vegetatively.

Now they seem to attack weak hybrids. Let me explain.
Here is the root structure of what was at one time an attractive fertile hybrid. It is not totally invaded by H fulva, which managed to kill off the hybrid, I suspect it took 2 years to do that, and then sent out its runners to an adjacent hybrid.
These are some runners left behind. Even a little piece of this is capable of total regeneration. It is like glioblastoma multiforme or an ovarian cancer. Just one cell spreads out everywhere.
Now washing the roots one see the pathognomonic orange colored root and runner structures. One can see the attack on the former plant. The H fulvas seem to focus on certain hybrids. I have lost about a dozen so far to this attack. Species seem to be immune at least as of now.
Here is a closer look and the poor old hybrid, just gone! How did it die? Starved or consumed. It the plant a herbivore? That could be a first.

Its behavior seems directed and its method of attack seem quite effective.
Here is an array of the above plant after it has been separated.

There are some interesting questions here. I now know the what and how, I am still trying to figure out the why!


1. Why do the H fulvas target existing hybrids. The runners are almost directed to clusters of a hybrid which they then attach to, devour, and spread from there.

2. Is it a chemical attractant or random. My analysis seems to indicate it is targeted. I have now seen it on three dozen hybrids. However there are some on which there is nothing.

3. How can it be prevented? Good question since I believe just one H fulva cell, yes one cell, is enough to regenerate.

Interesting problem.

Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and Some Recent Writings

I was interested in two recent papers on Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity. The first paper really startled me. The paper by Rolls starts out by saying:

Systematic studies have shown that providing individuals with larger portions of foods and beverages leads to substantial increases in energy intake. The effect is sustained over weeks, supporting the possibility that large portions have a role in the development of obesity. The challenge is to find strategies to effectively manage the effects of portion size. One approach involves teaching people to select appropriate portions and to use tools that facilitate portion control….A more effective strategy may be to encourage people to increase the proportion of foods low in energy density in their diets while limiting portions of high-energy-dense foods. If people lower the energy density of their diet, they can eat satisfying portions while managing their body weight.

In reality this is common knowledge. I am reminded of the day I brought one of my Czech partners and his family out to lunch in Boston. The portions arrived and they were aghast. The plate was about 18” across in an oval and it was piled high with food. I explained that they were not expected to finish the meal. Then I turned around and saw the Americans devouring the plates and then ordering deserts, all of them obese or morbidly obese. In Prague our lunch was on a small plate and like almost all Czechs they had a 6 oz glass of beer. Portion size is both cultural and personal. Just because it is placed in front of you there is no need to eat all of it. Thus in my opinion the Rolls paper is typical of many, an attempt to shift the blame.

Rolls concludes:

In an obesogenic environment where large portions of energy-dense foods are pervasive and viewed as appropriate, it is challenging to find effective strategies to help people consume portions that match their energy requirements. Although there are a number of tools to teach people to recognize appropriate portions, it is not clear that these tools produce sustained changes in eating behavior that facilitate weight management.

 There is a simple tool, the scale. Weigh yourself. The problem is that we all too often shift the blame to some third party. The solution lies within themselves, self-control.

Now to the second article by Suh et al. As VoA remarks[1]:

Scientists have known about the protein, called FGF1, for several decades. But researchers discovered the potential of the molecule, which is part of a family of so-called growth factors, when they injected it into mice that were engineered to have Type 2 - or adult-onset - diabetes. The blood sugar levels of the experimental animals were restored to a healthy range for more than two days after a single injection.

Now Suh and the authors state:

Fibroblast growth factor 1 (FGF1) is an autocrine/paracrine regulator whose binding to heparan sulphate proteoglycans effectively precludes its circulation. Although FGF1 is known as a mitogenic factor, FGF1 knockout mice develop insulin resistance when stressed by a high-fat diet, suggesting a potential role in nutrient homeostasis. Here we show that parenteral delivery of a single dose of recombinant FGF1 (rFGF1) results in potent, insulin-dependent lowering of glucose levels in diabetic mice that is dose-dependent but does not lead to hypoglycaemia. Chronic pharmacological treatment with rFGF1 increases insulin-dependent glucose uptake in skeletal muscle and suppresses the hepatic production of glucose to achieve whole-body insulin sensitization. The sustained glucose lowering and insulin sensitization attributed to rFGF1 are not accompanied by the side effects of weight gain, liver steatosis and bone loss associated with current insulin-sensitizing therapies. We also show that the glucose-lowering activity of FGF1 can be dissociated from its mitogenic activity and is mediated predominantly via FGF receptor 1 signalling. Thus we have uncovered an unexpected, neomorphic insulin-sensitizing action for exogenous non-mitogenic human FGF1 with therapeutic potential for the treatment of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

The problem is that many of the insulin stimulating drugs for Type 2 Diabetes do not solve the underlying problem of chronic inflammation. That seems only solvable by a restricted dies and weight loss. Thus FGF1 is an interesting approach it still may not solve the underlying set of issues found in obesity. The problem is first obesity and then its sequella, increased blood sugar.


Rolls, B., What is the role of portion control in weight management? International Journal of Obesity (2014) 38, S1–S8.

Suh, J., et al, Endocrinization of FGF1 produces a neomorphic and potent insulin sensitizer, Nature, July 2014.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

July Days

I have a few thousands of these in bloom and each day I have to record what has bloomed and then proceed to select several dozen possible crosses. To select a cross one looks for a good paternal pollen contributor and then wanders about thinking of the maternal recipient. One considers the possible offspring but like humans there is always a great deal of luck.
Thus across a wide field one wanders thinking of great parents for great offspring knowing that at best it would be two years hence and most likely four years before one sees anything.
Hybridizing requires patience and commitment. It is real genes in action, not that lab stuff with little mice but nature at its wildest.
Then there is always the battle with nature. The triploid H fulvas are like cancerous tumors, targeting weaker hybrids, surrounding them, killing off their nutrients and taking over. One must be vigilant, seeing them and then performing surgery. First the removal from the ground, then identification of the malignant cells, carefully separating them from the hybrid and destroying them, and then setting them aside for growth till the fall. In many ways it is akin to being a cancer surgeon, knowing what to cut and what to keep and then bringing the patient back.

Nature is the same everywhere, just in different forms.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Ethical" Manipulation

I was an early user of Facebook thanks to the prodding of my Grad students and I soon became an early ex-user. It had zero value as far as I was concerned and moreover had negative value relating to the postings of people who I somehow had befriended. These friends were bemoaning their personal and/or love lives and frankly that was not at my level of interest. So Farewell Facebook.

Now the manipulation of Facebook participants without their knowledge has caused a bit of a flurry. If this were say a clinical trial in medicine then I would be very concerned. It would clearly violate a bunch of standards. But alas it is beyond my kin of expertise in the wild world of Social Sciences.

Yet some person from a New York Hospital alleges that we are all wrong in our assessments, in fact she is right and we appear to be just ignorant naysayers. In Nature she states:

Let us be clear. If critics think that the manipulation of emotional content in this research is sufficiently concerning to merit regulation or charges of unethical behaviour, then the same concern must apply to Facebook’s standard practice — and many similar practices by companies, non-profit organizations and governments. But if it is ethically permissible for Facebook to offer a service that carries unknown emotional risks, and to alter that service to improve user experience, then it should be allowed — and encouraged — to try to quantify those risks and publish the results. Much has been made of the issue of informed consent, which the researchers did not obtain. Here, there is some disagreement even among the six of us. Some think that the procedures were consistent with users’ reasonable expectations of Facebook and that no explicit consent was required. Others argue that the research imposed little or no incremental risk and that informed consent might have biased the results; in those circumstances, ethical guidelines, such as the US regulations for research involving humans, permits researchers to forgo or at least substantially alter the elements of informed consent. Although approval by an institutional review board was not legally required for this study, it would have been better for everyone involved had the researchers sought ethics review and debriefed participants afterwards. The Facebook experiment was controversial, but it was not an egregious breach of either ethics or law. Rigorous science helps to generate information that we need to understand our world, how it affects us and how our activities affect others. Permitting Facebook and other companies to mine our data and study our behaviour for personal profit, but penalizing it for making its data available for others to see and to learn from makes no one better off.

Now the tone, "Let us be clear" is a bit off putting.  She is not lecturing to some collection of inmates at Sing Sing, this is in Nature. As to the Review Board, perhaps someone should have given a thought. Is this mind-manipulating? I see no reason why it is not. Yes, "much has been made of informed consent" . They disagree amongst each other. If so then there should have been some addressing the issue, any disagreement indicates a concern.

In my opinion this write-up is near callous and appears to reflect in my opinion a level of arrogance that one should be seriously concerned with. Should on-line sites who have very manipulable audiences try out the manipulation. They apparently do so with Ads but with the News we may be seeing for example what may be going on in Russia as we speak. Is that a good idea? Hardly.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Je Pense Francais

The NY Times has a piece about learning French. Now being a rainy Wednesday in July I thought why not comment. Languages are a bit complex. I agree, but as a kid growing up in a mixed New York neighborhood I was exposed to Italian ( really Sicilian but I did not know that until I tried it in Florence), Spanish (my father's first job was as a Spanish-English translator for a shipper in New York, and my friends were Puerto Rican so my accent is a Brooklyn-Spanish), and of course like any good Catholic School Boy in the 1950s a great wealth of Latin, all before High School. In fact I was great at Latailian, that mix of Latin and Italian we spoke at Mass.

Now in Secondary School we had French, after all it was the French Christian Brothers, Latin, it was Catholic, and Greek, it was a Prep School.

In Grad School for some reason I chose Russian for my language, the last person perhaps at MIT having to take a language exam. By then you could bring anything you wanted and the translation was some electronics paper and all you had to do was kind of get close. Actually I learned some Russian from a fellow Life Guard in New York, one Jimmy Bula, a Ukrainian, who taught me pronunciation and the vernacular. Little did I know but half the words were Polish.

So when I went off to Europe and Asia for my companies I had been exposed to Homeric Greek, Latin, Sicilian Italian, Puerto Rican Spanish, Ukrainian Russian, and some semblance of American English. I tried my Homeric Greek in the Marriott in Athens, and well, the waitress was from Astoria Queens working for her uncle for the summer so we went to English and I decided I would come up to speed. You see Greek is real easy, if you had medical and scientific training you were halfway there.

The solution, 3X5 index cards, 20 words a day, and trying to get around Athens by Taxi. You are surrounded by Greek, signs, people, papers, and after a week it starts to be absorbed. You get the first 100 words, here, there, this, that, where, how much, thank you, please, etc. The most important is "where is the bathroom?". For my wife it was "How much is it?" She knows that in 22 languages, and that is all.

But the language steps are simple:

1. Go to where it is spoken.

2. Lern the first 100 words

3. Learn the present, past, future of to be and to have

4. Get 20 verbs in present past and future.

5. Get 25 adverbs

6. Every day write and memorize 20 new words. Look fr them

7. Try your skill on the locals. They will enjoy it and at first you will not.

8. Repeat the steps again and again.

9. Watch television, except in France. Somehow French TV is too intellectual. Spanish TV is great!

10 Realize that for some reason you will learn some languages and others will be impossible. I am good at Russian but Czech and Polish are impossible. Too old to wonder why.

Now the Times piece state:

Last year researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Northwestern University in Illinois hypothesized that language study should prove beneficial for older adults, noting that the cognitive tasks involved — including working memory, inductive reasoning, sound discrimination and task switching — map closely to the areas of the brain that are most associated with declines due to aging. In other words, the things that make second-language acquisition so maddening for grown-ups are the very things that may make the effort so beneficial. The quest for a mental fountain of youth, pursued by baby boomers who fear that their bodies will outlive their brains, and who have deeper pockets than Juan Ponce de León, has created a billion-dollar industry. There is some evidence that brain exercise programs like Lumosity and Nintendo’s Brain Age can be beneficial, but if my admittedly unscientific experience is any indication, you might be better off studying a language instead. Not only is that a far more useful and enjoyable activity than an abstract brain game, but as a reward for your efforts, you can treat yourself to a trip abroad. Which is why I plan to spend the next year not learning Italian.

 Frankly it seems that the author has missed all the steps. You want to learn French, go live in France, and work at it. You want to learn Spanish, ride the NY Subways, do garden work in the summer, or watch soccer.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Net Neutrality and the FCC

It appears that the FCC may be entering a state of chaos. Internet Neutrality is a simple concept. The local carrier, CATV or Telco, provides an interconnection service. It enters into an agreement with a customer to provide them access to what is termed a "meet point" with some other entity afar. The local customer then pays for the use of the facility between their location and the meet point. Simple. Like a bus taking you to the airport. The bus company does not want to charge you based on what city you are flying to but only the fact that you got from your home to the airport.

We have written extensively on Internet Neutrality over the years. We conclude that the local carrier for the purposes of interconnecting a customer to a meet point is a common carrier. There should be no doubt.

Now the FCC is trying to square the circle. As the Hill states:

An avalanche of net neutrality comments have been dumped on the Federal Communications Commission, highlighting the passions stirred over whether Internet service providers like Comcast should be allowed to charge companies more money for quicker delivery of their movies and television shows....FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency is “mining through” the submissions from lawmakers, content providers, public interest groups and citizens who have seen fit to tell the FCC what is on their mind......In a blog post Monday, prefacing comments to be filed with the FCC on Tuesday, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association representing cable companies such as Comcast, Time Warner and Cox Communications doubted the need for new rules at all. 
“We remain skeptical that new rules are necessary to achieve that result, but if new rules are considered, we feel strongly that they should be built within a framework that encourages continued investment and innovation in broadband networks,” the group said. The group also pushed back on calls for reclassification, which would “be misguided from a policy perspective” and “likely fail to survive judicial scrutiny.” Tech companies — through their trade group, the Internet Association — are asking for broader new rules. The group includes Google, Netflix, Amazon and Facebook.
They want new net neutrality protections preserving access to the Internet to be extended to cellphone networks. The rules also should protect websites when they fight with Internet providers over traffic, the group said.

Now in my experience of dealing with the FCC it is clear that they already have decided and some lobbyist has already written the rules. The whole ruse of asking for public comment is a front. One further suspects that the CATV folks will prevail since they control the news channels. Further in my experience Comcast is not the nicest entity to compete with.

The result will be a loss of a voice for the American people  and a step closer to a rather ugly end.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bacterial Immune System

Each time one finds a new and innovative biological mechanism one finds another twist and turn. CRISPRs have been explored for a short while but they were understood to be an immune system for bacteria against viral phages. But now there is evidence that they are also used against antibiotics.

Eureka states:

The CRISPR system has attracted considerable attention for its potential uses in genetic engineering and biotechnology, but its roles in bacterial gene regulation are still surprising scientists. It was discovered by dairy industry researchers seeking to prevent phages, viruses that infect bacteria, from ruining the cultures used to make cheese and yogurt. Bacteria incorporate small bits of DNA from phages into their CRISPR region and use that information to fight off the phages by chewing up their DNA. Cas9, an essential part of the CRISPR system, is a DNA-chewing enzyme that has been customized for use in biotechnology. 

The interesting question is that CRISPRs must have developed this capability in bacteria over the past fifty years or so. If so this adds a dynamic to CRISPs that is quite startling.

Happy Bastille Day

Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé (bis)
Entendez vous dans les campagnes mugir ces féroces soldats
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras, égorger vos fils, vos compagnes
Aux armes citoyens ! Formez vos bataillons !
Marchons, marchons, qu'un sang impur abreuve nos sillons 

But remember the consequences.

Blood Tests and Cancer Diagnosis

There are a multiplicity of tests for cancer diagnosis, mostly genetic in nature, but a recent example details the use of the immune system.

In a recent paper in The Scientist they report:

Researchers from Arizona State University in Tempe have created an inexpensive blood test that can detect several common cancers based on the immune responses they evoke. They used arrays of randomly generated peptides to bind antibodies from human blood samples belonging either to healthy controls or to people with one of five different cancers. Based on the binding patterns—or immunosignatures—the researchers were able to distinguish between all five cancer types. The team also used another array of randomly generated peptides to differentiate among a broader range of cancers and other diseases. 

However there were some doubts expressed:

But Vlahou and Mischak argued that such a general cancer screen has limited clinical relevance, as doctors tend to test specific at-risk populations rather than the general population. Vlahou said that doctors would be more interested in validating biomarkers to differentiate between bladder cancer and benign bladder conditions, for instance, rather than administering a catch-all cancer test. “I don’t think finding a multi-cancer test is going to make a clinical impact,” she said.

There is such a proliferation of tests that one wonders what the clinical significance is.

Cancer and Single Payer Systems

Cancer Research UK presents a troubling report of the dramatically higher moralities to cancer in the UK as compared to the rest of the OECD.

They conclude:

Delay in Diagnosis:

You are more likely to survive cancer if it’s spotted early. But the ICBP studies showed that for lung cancer and, to a lesser extent, bowel cancer, UK patients are often diagnosed at later stages compared to other similar countries. This could help explain the lower survival we see for those cancers.

Lower Access to Treatment:

But early diagnosis alone does not explain the UK’s lower survival; access to the best treatment has increasingly been shown to be a problem. And this is particularly true of treatment rates in older people. Both the EUROCARE and ICBP studies have shown the survival for older patients in the UK is lower than in comparable countries.

It appears as if the problem is a poorly organized and over-controlled centralized system rationing health care. Sounds like the VA or perhaps the ACA.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Guest Blogger

I (See Bella's Big Blog) looked at flower cells with my grandfather today. It was cool to see the chamber like organisms. You could see the nucleus in some pictures. We also looked at cells in a fish scale. They actually look like cells in a prison cause of their shape. We also crossed some flowers and looked at parts under a microscope. The female part is the one with the hair parts and the male part has the pollen. In the morning we took pictures of some flowers and used my grandfather’s book to make a log about some. 

  This is a flower that we took a picture of. Isn’t it pretty?

  You can see cells in this picture at the top part but you can’t see that many nuclei.

  In this picture you still can’t see a lot of cells but you can see a one very nice nucleus.

  This is the male part of the flower it’s got the pollen on it.

  This is a closer picture of the pollen. It looks a little like rice.

  This is the female part of the flower. It has the hair like parts on it. I think it’s a little longer than the male part.

Friday, July 4, 2014

There are Times When This Is Reality

We Must Believe In Magic (Crystal Gayle)

Mad is the captain of Alpha Centauri
We must be out of our minds
Still we are shipmates bound for tomorrow
And everyone here's flying blind
Oh, we must believe in magic
We must believe in the guiding hand
If you believe in magic
You'll have the universe at your command

Mad is the crew bound for Alpha Centauri
Dreamers and poets and clowns
Bold is the ship bound for Alpha Centauri
Nothing can turn it around
Oh, we must believe in magic
We must believe in the guiding hand
If you believe in magic
You'll have the universe at your command

In many ways this seems to be the way we are drifting. Happy 4th.