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Comment: Re:What about efficiency? (Score 1) 90

by the gnat (#48556225) Attached to: Berkeley Lab Builds World Record Tabletop-Size Particle Accelerator

Anyone know what the efficiencies are on these sorts of "tabletop" laser particle accelerators versus say a linac? I'm curious as to whether it'd make an effective "tabletop" spallation neutron source

I don't know about efficiency, but the problem with the tabletop synchrotrons (which accelerate electrons, but X-rays are the primary product) is that their X-ray flux is much lower than the football-field-sized rings, which means they're not as useful for molecular imaging applications. My guess would be that the same problem would apply to a tabletop neutron source.

Comment: Re:"Physics" (Score 1) 289

by the gnat (#48492731) Attached to: Physicist Kip Thorne On the Physics of "Interstellar"

I'd even say there has been very little fundamentally new stuff for the last 100 years.

Depends on what area of technology, and what you consider "new" as opposed to a "technical refinement" or "manufacturing advance". Does the transistor count, or is that just an incremental improvement on vacuum tubes? The physics required to build, say, an iPhone were mostly understood by the 1920s, and I don't think there was any theoretical work suggesting that it was impossible. On the other hand, the concept of ubiquitous handheld multi-functional computing and communication devices connected by a global network containing nearly all human knowledge required levels of technology that couldn't even be guessed at.

If you consider the life sciences instead, our background knowledge is as far beyond 1920s biology as the iPhone is beyond the telegraph, and revolutionary discoveries and technical advances are still being made.

Comment: Re:Recognize the crisis in US Big Pharma... (Score 1) 70

by the gnat (#48467849) Attached to: Canada's Ebola Vaccine Nets Millions For Tiny US Biotech Firm

Free market indeed, it's funny when the market is far freer in a politically communist nation

China has a huge number of trade barriers, including price caps on pharmaceuticals. The other half of the "free(er) market" you're describing is a failure to enforce IP rights (or, possibly, failure by companies to file the relevant patent applications in China, but that seems unlikely), so that pharma companies are having to compete with generic products that would be illegal in the US. You can applaud this if you like, but it's not generally considered a good environment for inventing new drugs.

Comment: Re:50 MILLION DOLLARS! (Score 1) 70

by the gnat (#48467789) Attached to: Canada's Ebola Vaccine Nets Millions For Tiny US Biotech Firm

Of course an experimental ebola vaccine wasn't worth that much in 2010 since the Africans needing it then didn't have lots of cash to pay for it.

Also: it's experimental, which by definition means that someone has to invest a lot of time and money figuring out if it actually works. Drug companies license experimental therapies like this all the time. Nine times out of ten (probably more), they're buying something that turns out to be worthless. When they actually get hold of something that really works, of course it looks like a steal in retrospect, but there's no way to predict that in advance. (Although I do sometimes wonder why academic IP holders don't push for profit-sharing agreements more often.)

Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level. -- Quentin Crisp