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Comment "Boston-Based" Megabots? Not anymore AFAIK (Score 1) 107 107

I know Gui Cavalcanti and the merry band at MegaBots, and while I never asked directly about the specifics of their their business plan, it seemed like their relocation from Somerville, MA [Artisan's Asylum makerspace] to the SF area earlier this year was permanent "for the foreseeable future"

Comment Assuming a grand meaning seems to be overreaching (Score 3, Interesting) 188 188

As a former molecular biologist who happens to be in the middle of a course on the design/synthesis of biomolecular electronics (biological semiconductors, conductors, LEDs, solar etc.), I wonder if the solution isn't as simple as this:

Essentially all biomolecules are synthesized by enzymes. Most are acted upon by enzymes or have some enzymatic activity during their functional life. Quantum criticality could be a useful property to enhance binding and catalysis at enzyme clefts (or other active sites) by enhancing charge/electron transitions in/on a molecule. Criticality may allow transitions and thresholds to be sharper, snappier, more selective.

"Quantum criticality" is just a label we give to a group of mechanisms (and the structures that encourage them) based on some test. I might label the many things that scare my friend's neurotic but otherwise imposing German Shepard as "Fido-phobic". This category might even be scientifically interesting -- if pulling pranks or stealing from my friend were major scientific goals at this point in time. That doesn't mean that squeeze toys that groan, rubber cubes that bounce erratically, and electric toys that "awaken" at random or after a delay share a fundamental property. They simply have properties that have interesting effects toward a certain goal (keeping her dog from interfering in our hijinks)

Comment Complete Misunderstanding of Epidemiology (Score 2) 29 29

They can't validate a scale using unintervened progression or existing treatments, then pretend it says ANYTHING about a new/unknown treatment. The whole point of a new treatment is to alter the progression of the disease in a new/different way; the whole point of clinical trials is to determine the NEW course of the disease using the NEW treatment.

The claim made here is: a better tool to predict the time progression of headaches treated with aspirin (or beer or sex) can better predict the time progression of a headache treated with some yet-uninvented drug, so we needn't test the new treatment as thoroughly to characterize it. That's like saying "the more predictable sex with your partner is, the more you know about sex with a different partner"

And yes, I AM a physician and molecular biologist.

Comment I wish I could say this stage was unnecessary (Score 5, Interesting) 99 99

When I was in medical school (decades ago), we had a lecture by one of the pioneers of endoscopic gall bladder surgery (cut some 1-2cm slits and use long-handled tools and a tiny camera to cut/remove/etc) which I well knew was already preferable to the "open procedure" that slashed the patient open (classic surgical proverb: you can never have too much exposure) so you could have the working space to reach in and do it with your big mitts)

I was a big fan, but as a student of both philosophy and the history of science I had to ask how he justified performing the procedure *before* (until) he got the complication down to the level of the standard open incision. He was outraged (as were my classmates) and tersely stated that he had gotten consent (not knowing that I'd done a thesis on the inadequacies and inherent ludicracy of getting "informed consent", especially based on information from the surgeon who wishes to do the procedure).

It was a sincere question, one that I felt could not answer to my own satisfaction (his answer didn't help; he'd simply been looking to "the medical advance" and had never been trained in genuine ethics), but despite that, I feel that he had done the right thing, and that tens of millions have greatly benefited since.

Though not all would-be 'medical advances' end so salubriously, the sad fact is, we don't know any better way -- and I'd wager that we'll have workable fusion generators long before we have a better usable method for making medical advances. "First, do no harm" was a simplistic principle suited to the era before Christ when a doctor was as/more likely to do harm as/than good. (Note that the Hippocratic Oath forbids surgery outright)

We are now skilled enough that some of our advances seem "too good to deny to all comers" without full data -- but where are we to get that data, except by trial (and error). We are not yet advanced enough that MOST of our attempts at medical advance are so beneficial, nor are we advanced enough to have a much better alternative to "try it and see".

Comment Re:What could possibly go wrong (Score 2) 122 122

No, "critical mass" is defined as the amount that can create sufficient runaway escalation of the fission rate by capturing the energetic byproducts of fission to stimulate more fission in a positive feedback loop.

I'll tell you what: I'll give you 1 gram of the radioactive isotope of your choice, if you can stop its fission. You can't. You can only moderate its rate somewhat. Clearly it's self-sustaining on every level down to the individual atom

Comment Re:Variable rate of decay? (Score 1) 199 199

RTFA, which was a study done in Radon, and cited confirming studies with other isotopes.

That said, I personally think it is AT LEAST as likely that both solar processes and terrestrial decay rates are being influenced by some outside factor. This is supported by other decay rate correlations with e.g. the Earth position in it orbit relative to the galactic center.

Comment Prior scientific publication no longer prima facie (Score 1) 120 120

Under this years new "first to file" patent reform, prior publication, scientific or otherwise is not enough to void a patent, since the standard is explicitly NO LONGER "first to invent", no such claim need be made.

One hopes the courts act sensibly and close this loophole, but given the history of the matter (owners of IP-abusing patents settle or fold if they suspect a case will be ruled against hem, rather than risk a sensible precedent that would weaken their other IP holdings -- or deep-pockets third parties offer them cash behind th scenes to fold) I suspect that the first few lower court precedents to go all the way to a published decision will almost necessarily be silly ones (earnest plaintiffs can't afford to drop their cases even if they might lose) that will have to be reversed (perhaps in an unrelated future case) by higher courts or even the USSC.

The above applies only to the US, of course, but MOST matters of law are jurisdiction dependent

Comment Re:fuck CBS. (Score 3, Informative) 149 149

A Falcon 9 can lose not just one but two of its engines *after* launch and still complete its mission.

It's just not going to take off when it spots a problem when it's still on the ground. The Saturn V couldn't spot such a problem, much less abort half-a-second before lift-off. It would have been past the point of no return

Comment Re:What this really means (Score 1) 284 284

How is that 10%?

Nukes are measured in kilo-or mega TONS, 1 ton = 1000kg, so 1 kt = 1,000,000 kg not 1000kg.

Yes, I know the original article screwed up on this point. I wrote that off as a typo, but let's not extend the error here, where future junior-high geeks will find it via search engine and contaminate their intuitions

Comment Re:Yawn. (Score 2) 490 490

It was ironic back *in* 1984.

I was an Apple developer pre-Mac, and THAT is when it began looking like Big Brother. The Apple II/III had been open (not quite as open as today's open source, but the principles hadn't yet been firmed up) but everything Mac, hardware and software was locked down. Apple forbade early Mac owners from using ANY hard disk for 18-24 months until they developed their own. Even an external HDD voided the warranty which you *needed* because Mac's expensive non-user-replaceable power supplies blew out every 6 mos, even without the load of an HDD

Comment Re:But... its fiber?!? (Score 4, Interesting) 153 153

I'd think pole-strung Fiber would need steel strands for structural strength in high winds and other potent weather -- underground fiber has less need of structural strength.

The steel strands, however, happen to be conductors which need to follow proper isolation procedures.

Comment sorry, don't want my page-by-page reading stored (Score 3, Informative) 56 56

After a year of increasing interest, I'll be buying a reader or tablet this week. I almost pulled the trigger 3x this weekend, but each time found a better deal on a better model -- though ultimately, *any* of the the three, in hand by the end of next week, will be adequate

I was excited to read about this release. It felt like a serendipitous alignment until I realized that I wouldn't have actual possession of ANY file, just a 'service' feeding me a page at a time -- and Google is quite clear that it logs each page I read and when (it touts this as a feature, saying they record it so I can pick up on the same page of each of my ebooks on any other device).

Do I want to be cut off from all my eBooks in wifi or wireless outage? No. That's when I'll want a book or manual most --- during an outage, in a plane, in the woods, in a lab or shielded room... Do I want anyone monitoring and recording exactly what pages I read or re-read and how often, tech or fiction? Nope.

I'm amazed /.ers take this so lightly

So much for serendipitous fortune. This reader is off my list, until it's hacked to keep Google OUT unless invited

Comment DISCOVERED? (Score 1) 49 49

Discovered? This behavior was discussed in great depth in my sophomore cell bio text 30 years ago.

That course inspired me to get a degree in molecular bio, and I've posted about this behavior often, here and elsewhere. It's remarkable and inspiring in many ways, but any reference to farming -- or sudden surprise that a microbial organism is capable of doing anything but grazing to death is ... sad and ill-informed

Comment You can easily experiment with this yourself (Score 1) 119 119

I've been experimenting with this for quite some time now, using off-the-shelf parts from Linear Technologies, specialty micro transformers from Coilcraft, and standard junkbox parts. Both companies offer free samples, but the chips and associated coils are each under $5 each anyway.

I found the LTC3108 (or the LTC3801-1 variant) best suited most of my projects, but the LTC3588/LTC3588-1 is better for capturing energy from ambient sound or vibration via a piezoelectric transducer. (Their evaluation kit, which includes all the parts and a selected PZT, is a bit pricey for a hobbyist, so just get some free sample ICs and roll your own)

Their online specs, designs and datasheets provide everything you need to build your own test rig. These chips even come with built-in support for auxiliary capacitor/ultracap storage, including bucking/boosting the ultracap voltage to the programmed output voltage, which I'd expected to have to implement externally. It's all there in one cheap package with a minimal of external components.

Comment Re:Open Notes & Well-Designed Exams (Score 1) 870 870

Why must a dictionary be electronic? A paper dictionary eliminate the wireless issue.

Why is an unfamiliar calculator such an issue? Are tests really written in a way that requires maximal calculator throughput? If so, doesn't that penalize students who don't work hard at maximizing their calculator speed during their less-strictly time-constrained homework problems? If you tell them they can only use a calculator (which you provide, and make available for prior inspection) with add/sub, mult/div, roots/powers, logs/exps and standard trig/inv-trig functions and algebraic entry (i.e. not RPG or stack based) then they have all the info they need.

I encourage accommodations, but inevitably, at some point, one is merely drawing a line between the failed and the all-but-failed (even if "failure" is failure to reach the threshold for an A). No reasonable-length college exam can discriminating to 1% accuracy consistently. Period. Our best studied, and slowly evolved multiple choice exams with sample sizes in the millions don't pretend to 1% accuracy/precision (and measurably fail to achieve it)

Will anyone will ever accept the "unfamiliar calculator" defense for a bridge failure? If a bridge, probe or key presentation failed due to picayune calculation/computer issues, it's always been unacceptable, not excusable

You want an A or a Pass? Show that you deserve one, not that under other circumstances you may have squeaked by

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