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Comment: Re:How fucking tasteless (Score 1) 341

by Alopex (#49335859) Attached to: Feds Attempt To Censor Parts of a New Book About the Hydrogen Bomb

Not sure why this was voted down as this was exactly what I was thinking.

A 20 or 30 year old represents a large investment of resources in society. Also, a young adult is far more productive than a child. If children as a group or adults as a group magically vanished from society, society would be come to a halt if you lost the adults, whereas losing children would be a much smaller waste of time and money.

Comment: Re:A continent of difference (Score 1) 304

by Alopex (#49141921) Attached to: I ride a bike ...

It might blow your mind to learn that my idea of riding my bike is attaching it to a car, driving it to a bike trail, biking, and then driving it back. The roads here aren't safe for cyclists unfortunately, unless you participate in one of those huge, thousand+ cyclist events which effectively shuts down traffic (usually on rural streets).

Comment: Re:this is not a black and white issue (Score 1) 740

by Alopex (#48970331) Attached to: New Jersey Gov. Christie: Parents Should Have Choice In Vaccinations

Wanted to toss in my anecdotal experience here.

I work as a biochemist in a research-intensive hospital. Practically speaking, what this means is that I do science in buildings that are adjacent to patient care buildings. Depending on the day, I may wander through the actual hospital, but ~98% of the time I am in a research-only building and avoid patients altogether.

The university, medical school, and hospital are all affiliated, and their policy on flu vaccination had been that it was required for anyone who had direct patient contact. A couple of years ago, this policy was revised to make the flu policy mandatory for anyone who worked in a patient care building (regardless of direct contact). This past year (2014) everyone here received a flurry of rather harshly worded emails saying that flu vaccination would soon become mandatory for all employees, students, and faculty regardless of where they worked or what their position was, so long as they were affiliated with the hospital.

These emails were threatening enough that my boss (a principal investigator scientist) got the vaccine for the first time in his life. Coincidentally, like my boss, I have never received a flu vaccine because I am skeptical about how much it would benefit me or "the herd", and I intentionally avoided receiving the vaccine. For the record, I am pro-vaccine when it comes to things like MMR, polio, and HPV.

Did I lose my job? Funnily enough, the end of 2014 had a major flu outbreak in the hospital. Dozens if not hundreds of people contracted the flu, the majority of whom were vaccinated against it. Oddly have not received any more emails about their new vaccination policy...

Say what you want about how flu vaccines still help by knocking down the common strains or sometimes reducing the severity of an outbreak. I liken flu vaccination (or vaccination against any genetically labile virus) to the same situation we have with antibiotic resistance: the more you select against the common strains, which is clearly an imperfect process, the higher the likelihood that some nastier and resistant form of it will appear.

The point I'm trying to make is that it's not just uneducated dimwits who are skeptical about vaccination, and that each vaccine needs to be evaluated independently based on its merits. As a scientist myself, I trust my judgment over the government's as to what I put into my or my kids' bodies, but at the same time I appreciate the argument for protecting others through vaccination.

Comment: Re:"new" research (Score 2) 185

by Alopex (#47723887) Attached to: New Research Suggests Cancer May Be an Intrinsic Property of Cells

I agree that the title is misleading. The reason that this paper is in one of the highest-impact scientific journals is not because it suddenly dawned on scientists that cancer is pervasive and just a fact of how cells work, but because they found tumors in early (in evolutionary terms) species that had never been discovered before.

Scientists have known since the dawn of knowing what cancer was that this was an intrinsic property of life. When the error-checking machinery is error-prone, things can get out of control.

Comment: As a grad student, it is utterly depressing (Score 3, Interesting) 123

by Alopex (#47445417) Attached to: Elite Group of Researchers Rule Scientific Publishing

Knowing that you could be putting in 70-80 hours a week, and potentially stumble across some major discovery (imagine: cure a kind of cancer discovery). That discovery would be published by your boss, who, adding to his life's work, would cumulatively take most of the public credit for the work. Meanwhile, it doesn't matter if you had some amazing insight or designed the actual experiment to solve the problem.

Look at Nobel laureates and their age and their contributions. How many nameless people enabled them to win that award?

All you can hope for is that you publish a couple papers in top journals that will enable to you to get a solid job in industry, or jump onto the tenure track treadmill, so that one day you can be in a position of exploiting others' work and creativity, potentially in a field completely unrelated to your PhD.

The young have no power to change, and the old have no reason to give up their advantageous position.

Comment: Re:Disagree with first sentiment (Score 2) 105

by Alopex (#47335145) Attached to: Fixing Faulty Genes On the Cheap

This is patently false. There is a whole swath of biological research under the banner of "basic science" which, while it may purport to address a far-off disease application (for the sake of grant $$$), is only aimed at understanding how life functions at the most fundamental levels. Thousands upon thousands of researchers in this country are funded by the NSF and NIH (among others) precisely to figure out things we know that we don't understand.

For an anecdote, I did this kind of research for a few years. My lab was trying to understand what the function of a motor protein was because we could see it, we could see processes it was involved in, but had no idea how or why it was behaving the way it did. There was no disease focus. Part of research is cataloging the natural world so that, maybe, we will one day use that knowledge for our benefit (not necessarily for disease).

Disease is one of many applications of basic research. The amount that goes into producing chemicals through engineering bacteria and producing food through engineering plants is staggering. These applications are currently enabled by CRISPRs. I'll be interested to see how eugenics develops in the next few decades.

Comment: "He's not alone" (Score 2) 43

Judging by how awful the job prospects are in STEM relative to the amount of effort being put in, I'm going to hate the world in 10-20 years if the job market becomes even more flooded. Also, I find it incredibly hard to believe that a kid is a competitive engineer at that age, at least based on individual merit. I've seen a lot of smart kids, and then I've seen smart kids who are pushed/enabled by ambitious parents to take more credit than they're due. If I took a shot every time some fifteen year old "scientist" made a significant discovery, I wouldn't be writing frustrated posts on /.

The Force is what holds everything together. It has its dark side, and it has its light side. It's sort of like cosmic duct tape.

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