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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 /.

Comment: Re:The conclusion may be wrong. (Score 1) 1010

by Alopex (#45828787) Attached to: New Study Shows One-Third of Americans Don't Believe In Evolution
Another way to put this, and an observation I constantly make as a biologist, is that there are many people who claim to "believe in" or "follow" evolution, but if pressed to define what it is, are completely off the mark. Evolution, like so many things, has gained a following (or not) largely due to inertia and cultural fads, not because the scientific principles behind it have impressed everyone.

"Well hello there Charlie Brown, you blockhead." -- Lucy Van Pelt

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