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Comment: Re:"Security" (Score 1) 118

by the gnat (#47412935) Attached to: A Box of Forgotten Smallpox Vials Was Just Found In an FDA Closet

they were just samples of a common infection

A common infection that killed more people in the 20th century than all wars put together. It's shocking to think that someone would carelessly misplace a vial of an airborne infectious agent with a mortality rate above 20%, even in the mid-20th century. Smallpox is hands-down the deadliest disease in human history - the only reason it could be eradicated was the lack of non-human reservoirs. I'm not particularly afraid of nuclear war, but the thought of smallpox outbreaks scares the shit out of me.

Comment: Re:Bitcoin mining? (Score 1) 89

by the gnat (#47295287) Attached to: Computing a Cure For HIV

the results one would expect given the resources dumped into this one just are not there.

I don't know, what kind of results do you expect? HIV is a really tough bug to fight - it's almost the opposite of smallpox where a universal and exceptionally effective vaccine was found early on. Tricking the immune system into killing a virus that is evolved to prey on the immune cells was never going to be easy. But the leading antiviral therapies allow most infected patients to live almost indefinitely while maintaining relatively high quality-of-life, whereas 30 years ago they would nearly all have been doomed (and some of the earlier therapies were debilitating). I consider that a pretty impressive achievement of medical technology.

Now, the fact that millions of Africans (and others) still have AIDS is less impressive, but the reasons for that are entirely social and political, not technological.

Comment: Re:Bitcoin mining? (Score 1) 89

by the gnat (#47291611) Attached to: Computing a Cure For HIV

It's because the Republicans won't let them work on that research.

The National Institutes of Health - the single largest government sponsor of biomedical research in the world - spends
approximately $3 billion per year on AIDS research. That's about 10% of their entire budget. In comparison, they currently spend about $5.5 billion per year on cancer, which affects vastly more Americans than AIDS, and also kills more in wealthy countries (because AIDS patients - or their insurers - can afford the treatments that enable long-term survival with low viral load). Due to federal budget issues, both funding pools have declined since 2010, but AIDS research only slightly - cancer funding is significantly lower.

As for treating the cure versus the symptoms, it is extraordinarily difficult to "cure" viral infections with drugs, and HIV has proven to be incredibly difficult to vaccinate against.

Comment: Re:Bitcoin mining? (Score 1) 89

by the gnat (#47291571) Attached to: Computing a Cure For HIV

There is more money in treating a medical condition than in curing it.

Not for the insurance companies or government, there isn't. And given the immense cost of long-term treatment for many conditions, pharma companies would be able to charge much more for a drug that completely stopped a disease.* In reality, the reason most medications merely treat rather than cure diseases is that actually eliminating the root cause of a disease without debilitating side effects, for instance death of the patient, is usually really fucking hard.

(* For instance, the common cold is estimated to be a $40 billion per year drain on the US economy. This suggests that if a drug company could come up with a cure, they would be fabulously rich. Every time I get a cold, my employer loses hundreds of dollars in lost productivity; a $100 pill that returned me to work after a day would be a huge savings, far more effective than $10 of Nyquil.)

Comment: Re:Bitcoin mining? (Score 1) 89

by the gnat (#47291507) Attached to: Computing a Cure For HIV

Year in, year out, 75-80% of new drugs are invented privately in biotechs/pharma. The remainder are invented by academia.

Correct; what government grants pay for is the majority of the basic research that informs efforts to find a cure. Naturally, private companies are (mostly) free to use this information when searching for new drugs - this is part of the point of federal funding for basic research. The vast majority of that research won't directly lead to a cure, of course, but it does contribute to our overall knowledge of biomedicine. In contrast, I've heard the drug development process at some companies compared to "piling up stacks of money and setting it on fire", which is why I'm really, really glad the universities and governments don't try to get deeply into the drug development business.

Comment: Re:Bitcoin mining? (Score 1) 89

by the gnat (#47291477) Attached to: Computing a Cure For HIV

it's the lack of people who have the rare combination of skills of a programmer, mathematician, chemist, biologist and drug engineer coming up with novel and unique ideas to combat disease who will sacrifice industry paychecks to work in academic fields.

Guess what: there are vastly more jobs like this available in academic groups than in industry. (I know this firsthand, because I work in a related field and am basically stuck in academia unless I can change careers somehow.) The bigger problem is that given the limitations of the simulations and our knowledge of human biology, there is still a huge leap from docking results or MD simulations to working drugs. Effective in silico is light years away from effective in vivo.

Comment: Re:Yawn (Score 1) 179

by the gnat (#47243761) Attached to: Russian RD-180 Embargo Could Boost American Rocket Industry

So what you are saying is that it is fine for say China (sorry Chinese people) to migrate a few hundred thousand, or even millions of its people into neighbor regions of neighbor countries, and then annex those territories because majority of the populace are Chinese? Then do the same again, and again, and again... Did you hear that Chinese government, get to it NOW!

Well, I can think of another country that famously does this, but I don't want to stir up that shit-storm...

But your description isn't too terribly different from the CCP's actual policy in Tibet and Xinjiang, which has been to move large numbers of Han Chinese (which historically were not present in either province in large numbers, aside from relatively small occupying forces), and then use their presence as one of many justifications for denying self-determination to the Tibetans and Uighers. (It also encourages a sense of ownership among the remainder of Chinese who don't live their, but whose nationalism is an important factor in the survival of the CCP.) But neither China nor Russia has ever been shy about claiming the territory of other ethnic groups as "theirs", which is one reason why so many former Warsaw Pact nations have joined NATO (as Georgia and Ukraine wished to at one point). Not that this makes them unique among nations, of course.

Comment: Re:Yawn (Score 1) 179

by the gnat (#47242973) Attached to: Russian RD-180 Embargo Could Boost American Rocket Industry

And there are WMDs in Iraq and no one's planning an invasion there. Sure think, Chekov!

Iraq is a good point of comparison: the US perceived a security threat where none existed - or at least not enough of one to be worth thousands of lives and trillions of dollars - and rushed to invade in the face of international condemnation, while making absurd claims about "liberating" the Iraqi people. We are still dealing with the fallout from that disaster, obviously. Putin has now invaded a sovereign nation under similar delusions and/or pretenses, and I can only hope that fewer people die in the process. Unlike the US, however, he actually annexed the territory. (Although it already worked once in Georgia, so perhaps he was encouraged by that precedent.)

Comment: Re:Yawn (Score 1) 179

by the gnat (#47242741) Attached to: Russian RD-180 Embargo Could Boost American Rocket Industry

NATO expanding means NATO troops/infrastructure there. You're thinking just the obvious, but that's what CNN/BBC writers like glossing over, yadda yadda yadda.

According to a Russian news agency, this is not happening either: "NATO has no plans to deploy troops on the territory of Ukraine". This was one of the first links that came up when I Googled for "nato troops ukraine".

Comment: Re:Congress (Score 3, Insightful) 179

by the gnat (#47241993) Attached to: Russian RD-180 Embargo Could Boost American Rocket Industry

does anyone seriously think that Congress will pass funding for anything related to NASA and the space programs

If it's sold as a matter of national security and economic competitiveness, and especially if it's sold as an uplifted middle finger to the Russians, I can imagine this happening. Rocket launches are used for lots of other things besides climate science, most of which aren't terribly controversial. And right now the US rocket industry couldn't possibly hire a better lobbyist for its cause than Vladimir Putin.

Comment: Re:Yawn (Score 3, Informative) 179

by the gnat (#47241959) Attached to: Russian RD-180 Embargo Could Boost American Rocket Industry

NATO expansion to the Ukraine

NATO never expanded to the Ukraine. Their government asked to join in 2008 but was turned down; it's never been seriously considered since then. Perhaps you're confusing NATO, a US-dominated military alliance, with the European Union, which has nothing to do with the US (militarily or otherwise). It's the kind of distinction I can imagine the Russia Today writers glossing over, but these things do actually matter in the real world.

Comment: Re:second best (Score 1) 84

Perhaps a decade from now, when the vaccine is available, the poor folks living in these areas can stop cursing at the western do-gooders who got DDT banned.

DDT isn't actually banned in the countries where malaria is endemic - the US isn't one of these, obviously. In fact, mosquito control is still agreed to be a valid use for DDT, unlike agricultural pest control. I know "environmentalists kill people" is a fun meme but would it kill you to get your information from someone other than Michael Chricton?

Comment: Should have added screen cap support into Firefox (Score 2) 406

by grumbel (#47033633) Attached to: Did Mozilla Have No Choice But To Add DRM To Firefox?

Bending over and adding DRM might not exaclty be a good thing, but I can see how it might be necessary if they want to stay relevant. Though I have to say they really should have waited with that until DRM actually becomes relevant to the Web, jumping on the DRM train this early is really sending the wrong signal. Anyway what they should have done it also just ship the anti-DRM messures right in the browser as well. Add a function to screen capture videos of your browser interaction isn't all that difficult and would have nicely shown just how pontless the whole DRM thing is.

Comment: Re:Comparative advantage is BS (Score 2) 522

by the gnat (#46993181) Attached to: Russia Bans US Use of Its Rocket Engines For Military Launches

the US needs to stop antagonizing Russia and China. If our leaders want to play global bully

It's worth pointing out that many of the countries bordering Russia and China desperately want to be our friends right now, because they're worried about their local bullies. Many of these countries have been on the receiving end of Russian or Chinese imperialism in the past, and are anxious not to be come satellite states. Even Vietnam, which as as much reason to hate the US as just about anyone, is on increasingly good terms with us.

This hardly justifies anything else the US does, but it's not like Russia and China aren't doing plenty to antagonize the world without our help.

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