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Comment The trouble with non-antibiotics (Score 5, Informative) 135

Replacing antibiotics with proteins and possibly phage is a doomed proposition if done as a simple substitution. The advantage that antibiotics have that proteins can never match is they are low molecular weight chemicals. thus you don't have to give someone a high mass dose, it can be absorbed in the gut or membranes, and it can get into cells. Furthermore proteins are relatively easy to decompose without inventing any custom hardware, they are also easy to recognize specifically (which is also why they can provoke an immune response if not properly humanized). Thus proteins are not substitutes and start out with many many orders of magnitude handicap in molecular weight and accessibility. Therefore to overcome that one needs to exploit protein therapies in different ways. proteins are good at things like catalysis. The intital activity of a chemical is stochiometric in which one chemical binds one receptor. But an enzyme can turn over many many reactions, so one can, if used right, have a manyfold activity. (on the otherhand, this advanage is not clear cut, since the receptors bound by standard chemicals may amplify the signal as well, and many desired targets medical for proteins will be stochiometric binders not catalytic enzymes). A big big advantage of proteins is their potential for specificity which will both diminish their side effects and could concentrate them into a specific target area. Imagine for instance protein therapeutic which only affected a certain pathogen and left the other bacteria in your gut alone. Finally, if the protein is large enough then it can remain in the circulatory system longer before the body removes it. But that also means higher molecular weight which can be bad.

Phage are even higher molecular weight. But they can reproduce. And presumably they might be tailored to only infect the bad bacteria as their host for reproduction. But they also might become antigens and your own body would clear them.

Both of these therapies have killer applications and are not to be dismissed. Their extreme specificty will completely change medicine even more than antibiotics did. But they are not in the near future any sort of replacement for antibiotics.

Comment Adventures in Minecraft Book is awesome (Score 1) 168

I bought this book for my kids and it was total mission accomplished in getting the excited about what programs can do:
Adventures in Minecraft
by David Whale, Martin O'Hanlon

that book was created in the pre-microsoft era of minecraft. I suspect it wasn't even mojang sanctioned.

they have a less than complete version of minecraft with a python API exposed. It's amazingly simple to use it so other than unzipping the file it's easy for beginners to use. Works great on a raspberry pi. What you can do is somewhat limited. mainly on the input side of only being able to know where steve is not what he's doing. But by the time you are actually wishing for more you have a great understanding of basic programming in python. So it''s a fantastic first introduction to API programming in python. Kids might want to try scratch first since it's fully self contained without the need to couple to minecraft and thus simpler. But programming in minecraft with python is a very very very engaging experience for kids.

Comment Consider a Fractal Cow (Score 4, Interesting) 131

Imagine for a moment that instead of going from point A to point B, you instead Zigged at 45 degrees then half way you Zagged back on the slant path to point B. Clearly then your total trip is sqrt(2) times the straigtline distance. But you went needlessly off the path. Instead we shall imagine that we can detect when we have deviated by 1 foot from the straight path. So we now execute a zig zag (45 degree) path turning each time we deviate by 1 foot from the true path. How far did we go? Oh my, it's still sqrt(2) times the straight line. We work hard and improve the duidance system so we now can detect when we are 1 micron from the straightline path. How far? still sqrt(2) times the straight line.

Indeed no matter how accurate we can detect the deviation so that the true path is beyond the capacity of any instrument to measure the deviation, say 1/100th of angstrom the same logic holds.

ergo all paths between A and B including the straight path are 1.41 times the straighpath distance.

Fractal hamburger.

Neckties strangle clear thinking. -- Lin Yutang