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Comment Re:How it works (Score 1) 238

...Many other antibiotics are based on small molecules that interrupting some metabolic process of bacteria. Bacteria develop resistance by making enzymes that will break down these small molecules once inside the cell. This new method attacks the outside of the cell directly, not something inside the cell. It wouldn't be impossible for bacteria to develop immunity to this, but it would be comparably very improbable.

It may be less probable, but not improbable. Bacteria are so abundant, reproduce so fast, and can have such high mutation rates that probability is almost always on their side. They also can develop resistance in many ways other than "making enzymes." The likelihood of them developing resistance is proportional to the selection acting on them. If we put this stuff everywhere, selection will be very strong. They will develop resistance.

Comment Re:Why cross-disciplinary? (Score 1) 487

What is the evidence that considering those factors has increased our ability to deal with "real world problems"? I am not saying that real problems do not have multiple dimensions. I am asking why all scientists should be required to work in cross-disciplinary groups. I don't see evidence that this approach has been more productive. At the very least, I think we should examine the evidence. Training a few people in the right specialties might be a better approach. As other posts on this thread have made clear, innovative "basic" research on obscure topics have often made a huge difference when later applied to "real" problems. Training future scientists to focus on only cross-disciplinary approaches to "real" problems will cut off an important source of innovation.

Comment Why cross-disciplinary? (Score 2) 487

Precisely why should we emphasize cross-disciplinary research? What is the evidence that this approach is better than more narrowly focussed research? I would agree that we have too many PhDs, too few jobs for them, and or too little incentive for real innovation. I would also agree that the system needs reform. I don't agree that we should all be doing cross-disciplinary research.

Are you a virtual scientist if you work on a computer?

Birdsong Studies Lead To a Revolution In Biology 117 covers research that began with the study of birdsong and ended by overturning the common belief that adult animals can't produce new brain cells. "Deconstructing birdsong may seem an unlikely way to shake up biology. But [Fernando] Nottebohm's research has shattered the belief that a brain gets its quota of nerve cells shortly after birth and stands by helplessly as one by one they die — a 'fact' drummed into every schoolkid's skull. [Nottebohm] demonstrated two decades ago that the brain of a male songbird grows fresh nerve cells in the fall to replace those that die off in summer. The findings were shocking, and scientists voiced skepticism that the adult human brain had the same knack for regeneration. ... Yet, inspired by Nottebohm's work, researchers went on to find that other adult animals — including human beings — are indeed capable of producing new brain cells. And in February, scientists reported for the first time that brand-new nerves in adult mouse brains appeared to conduct impulses — a finding that addressed lingering concerns that newly formed adult neurons might not function."

Teenager Invents Cheap Solar Panel From Human Hair 366

Renoise writes "Milan Karki, 18, who comes from a village in rural Nepal, believes he has found the solution to the developing world's energy needs. A solar panel made from human hair. The hair replaces silicon, a pricey component typically used in solar panels, and means the panels can be produced at a low cost for those with no access to power. The solar panel, which produces 9 volts (18 watts) of energy, costs around $38 US (£23) to make from raw materials. Gentlemen, start your beards. The future of hair farming is here!"

Comment Re:Physics (Score 4, Informative) 112

I would second this opinion. I am a Biologist with, as I sometimes say, "a penchant for the virtual". I have spent much of the last 8 years writing programs, sometimes rather clumsily, to answer questions or demonstrate complex concepts. I have often wished I had a programmer to help me. I cannot pay one now, but I do write $$ into grant applications for someone with more programming chops than me. Your age would not affect my willingness to hire you.

My suggestion would be to look at Bioinformatics. There is more money in that field now and a huge need for programmers. Also check for an example of a broader effort to develop software to deal with rapidly growing large sequence and gene expression datasets to answer evolutionary questions. The hire people like you fairly often.

"Survey says..." -- Richard Dawson, weenie, on "Family Feud"