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Comment: Re:Sustainable? (Score 5, Informative) 328

by lazybratsche (#43577643) Attached to: Genetically Modified Plants To Produce Natural Lighting
This was my first concern. Some back-of-the-envelope calculations:

Photosynthesis is pretty lousy in terms of thermodynamic efficiency. About 1% of the light that hits a plant is converted to useful chemical energy. The plant will have to use most of that energy for its metabolic processes. Luciferase itself is a very efficient enzyme, however, so I'll generously assume that 10% of the energy that the plant captures can be turned into useful light. So the overall efficiency can't be much higher than 0.1%. By comparison, solar cells are around 10% efficient, and LEDs 20%, so at first glance the luciferase plant seems to be an order of magnitude less efficient than the solar powered flashlight my in-laws gave me for christmas.

In absolute terms, there is about 100 watts/meter^2 of energy in sunlight. If you've got a one-square-meter window full of the hypothetical plants sitting in sunshine all day, let's say they can absorb 1500 watt-hours, and then convert 1.5 watt-hours into useful light. That'd be comparable to running a 5-watt LED for an hourish, which could be useful if you could turn the luminescence on and off at will. But if the plant is glowing all night and only a portion of the light is emitted in a useful direction, maybe the window-full-of-plants would give off light comparable to the little cluster of LEDs on the front of my computer. So overall I'd say that the idea is not completely impossible, but still totally impractical.

Comment: Re:Four Years??! (Score 1) 140

by lazybratsche (#43198907) Attached to: How Scientists Know An Idea Is a Good One
A "four year thesis project" sounds just about right to me. My particular program in biology has an average completion time of 5.5 years, and the national average I believe is 6.5 years. But I don't even have a formal thesis project until I write a proposal for the end of my second year. I spent my first year taking classes and doing research rotations. I'm currently in my second year, I've picked a lab and started to do some productive research, but I still have classes and TA duties, and I spent a lot of time this year learning the techniques that I will need for my thesis. So yeah, I'm aiming for a "four year thesis project".

I'm a little shocked that 10 or 11 years is at all normal. In my experience, anything beyond 7 years is the stuff of horror stories. 10+ years must be in fields where a grad student has to do their research after working as a TA for 30+ hours per week to afford their ramen.

Comment: Re:Microscopes anyone? (Score 1) 71

by lazybratsche (#35161784) Attached to: NASA Invents New Technique For Finding Alien Life
Have you ever actually used a microscope? You can't just put one on an arm and wave it over a patch of dirt and expect to see anything interesting. Microscopes capable of resolving bacteria have a very tiny depth of field, so if you point it at a patch of ground there'd be nothing in focus. You have to take samples, mount them on a slide, stain them (usually), and then place them under a microscope. And on Mars, most potentially interesting microbes will probably be buried. To do that you have to have some fairly sophisticated sample handling mechanisms... which is exactly what this new mass spec instrument doesn't need. Now you just point it at an interesting patch of dirt, zap it with the laser, and suck all of the vaporized ions into the mass spec.

How To Make a Good Gaming Sequel 150

Posted by Soulskill
from the forward-to-square-enix dept.
Kantor48 writes "In today's world of unimproved gaming sequels and saturated franchises, Arthur Kabrick looks at the best and worst sequels in recent history, and compares the changes they've made to the formulae of their franchises. By doing this, he comes up with a list of lessons that any game developer creating a sequel should follow, if at all possible, to ensure that the new game is a step up, rather than a step sideways or, as in some cases, a step down. The criteria include ensuring the game does not spend too much time in development, updating technology, and trying not to change the development team, as well as being wary of changing the basic formula so much that fans of the franchise are alienated."

Why Video Game Movie Adaptations Need New Respect 283

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-more-fighting-game-movies-please dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Hollywood has yet to find any video game property it is willing to treat with the same respect as J.R.R. Tolkien or J.K.Rowling, arguably still following the principles that led to the appalling Super Mario Bros. movie in 1992: 'A game lacks the complexity that a movie requires.' Yet a modern gaming masterpiece such as Mass Effect has the depth and breadth to deserve better treatment in the proposed trilogy. Is Hollywood again going to disrespect fans who, in this case, have as much right to see a good plot respected as the readers of Lord Of The Rings? This article discusses why and how Hollywood should grow up regarding these adaptations."
PC Games (Games)

Witcher 2 Torrents Could Net You a Fine 724

Posted by Soulskill
from the dodging-legal-threats-now-a-valid-gameplay-mechanic dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this quote from Eurogamer: "Gamers who download upcoming PC exclusive The Witcher 2 illegally could receive a letter demanding they pay a fine or face legal action. If gamers refuse to pay the fine, which will be more than the cost of the game, they could end up in court, developer CD Projekt told Eurogamer. 'Of course we're not happy when people are pirating our games, so we are signing with legal firms and torrent sneaking companies,' CD Projekt co-founder Marcin Iwiski said. 'In quite a few big countries, when people are downloading it illegally they can expect a letter from a legal firm saying, "Hey, you downloaded it illegally and right now you have to pay a fine." We are totally fair, but if you decide you will not buy it legally there is a chance you'll get a letter. We are talking about it right now.' Interestingly, The Witcher 2 will be released free of digital rights management – but only through the CD Projekt-owned digital download shop That means owners will be able to install it as many times as they like on any number of computers – and it will not requite an internet connection to run."

Woman Develops Peanut Allergy After Lung Transplant 146

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-extra-charge dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A woman in need of a lung transplant got her new lungs from someone with a peanut allergy who died of anaphylactic shock. Seven months after the surgery, the woman was at an organ transplant support group when she ate a peanut butter cookie and had a violent allergic reaction. So how had the woman's new lungs brought along a peanut allergy? A blog post dives into the medical details and explains that immune cells in the donated lungs couldn't have lived in the new body for long enough to cause the reaction... however, if they encountered an allergen (i.e. something peanuty) shortly after being transplanted, they could have trained the woman's native immune cells to respond."

Valve Announces Dota 2 128

Posted by Soulskill
from the new-and-improved-ways-for-people-to-call-you-terrible dept.
RulerOf writes "Just over a year after hiring IceFrog, the lead developer of the wildly popular DotA Allstars mod for Warcraft III, and the speculation surrounding Valve's recent trademark filing for the 'DotA' name, Valve has officially announced Dota 2. Gameplay of Dota 2 is being ported 'exactly' from the current DotA Allstars and includes every hero, but vast improvements are being made to the game including VoIP, a coaching system, in-game rewards, and AI that takes over for disconnected players. Lastly, it all runs on top of the Source engine. (GameInformer's website appears to be struggling right now though, as they had an exclusive on this story.)"
United Kingdom

Badgers Digging Up Ancient Human Remains 172

Posted by samzenpus
from the someone-get-a-snake dept.
One of England's oldest graveyards is under siege by badgers. Rev Simon Shouler now regularly patrols the grounds of St. Remigius Church looking for bones that the badgers have dug up. The badger is a protected species in England so they can not be killed, and attempts to have them relocated have been blocked by English Nature. From the article: "At least four graves have been disturbed so far; in one instance a child found a leg bone and took it home to his parents. ... Rev. Simon Shouler has been forced to carry out regular patrols to pick up stray bones, store them and re-inter them all in a new grave."

BioWare On Why Making a Blockbuster Game Is a Poor Goal 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do dept.
BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk spoke at the 2010 Develop Conference about the current focus within the video game industry on making huge, blockbuster titles, and why that is the wrong approach. Quoting Gamasutra's coverage: "'While blockbuster game creation is everything that most game developers working today growing up wanted to do, it's precisely the wrong thing to chase in gaming's contemporary landscape.' Risk-taking from publishers and investors has dramatically declined in recent times, the Mass Effect and Dragon Age studio-runner noted: 'As a result, innovation and creativity [are] being squeezed. Where the bottom of the market had dropped out at one point, now it’s the middle of the market has dropped out. Unless you can be in the top ten releases at one given time, it's unlikely that a triple-A game is going to make money.'" Zeschuk also commented that consoles aren't necessarily the future of game platforms, and that BioWare is experimenting with smaller scale MMO development in addition to working on their much larger upcoming Star Wars title.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Internet 92

Posted by samzenpus
from the vicky-who? dept.
MMBK writes "Our friends at JESS3 have unveiled The Ex-Blocker. It's a Firefox and Chrome plugin that erases all name and likeness of your ex from the Internet, even if they become a meme, or the president. You'll no longer have to threaten to delete your Facebook account or concoct an elaborate e-hoax to assuage the reality-shattering complications that are born from break-ups. Simply construct an Internet that omits bad vibes all together."
Role Playing (Games)

Dragon Age 2 Announced 183

Posted by Soulskill
from the enchantment?-enchantment! dept.
Today BioWare announced a sequel to Dragon Age: Origins, titled Dragon Age 2. They've opened an official site for the game, which shares some vague details and concept art, and promises a trailer in mid-August. The story will apparently span an entire decade and involve a new hero, but it will be located in the same world as the original game. The site says there will be "dynamic new combat mechanics," though the same three basic classes will be available. More information should be forthcoming in this month's issue of Game Informer.

First Photos From the European Solar Decathlon 26

Posted by timothy
from the cool-little-houses dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The 2010 Solar Decathlon Europe kicked off today in Madrid, Spain, with a stunning array of solar-powered prefab homes. Seventeen teams from around the globe are battling it out in the center of the city to see who has the most efficient solar-powered and eco-friendly house. Just as in the competition in Washington DC, the teams will be graded on minimal energy use, innovative architecture and engineering, sustainability, and more. Check out these exclusive photos from the event for a first look at the most exciting houses in this year's competition."

Comment: Re:Does this mean... cyborgs? (Score 1) 71

by lazybratsche (#29656117) Attached to: Startup Offers Pre-Built Biological Parts
Part of the problem in my experience is that there isn't a single, reliable cloning manual out there that provides start-to-finish logical guidance. Most people do their projects in an ad-hoc sort of way. If I have a particular cloning project, my resources are (in order) my PI, my labmates, the NEB catalog, and whatever I can google up.

You'll probably want a decent background in molecular biology -- equivalent to one or two intermediate college courses, or whatever you can self-learn from the right textbooks. Molecular Biology of the Cell is one of the better textbooks out there. There are some relevant manuals on cloning out there, but mostly they're concerned with the gory details on what biologists do at their bench. One is written by Maniatis. It doesn't really present a unified, logical approach, but is really just a collection of protocols and recipes for accomplishing individual steps, without providing much guidance for a whole project. Still, if you have access to a university library, it's probably in the reference section, and it has a lot of good information covering the basic theory of all sorts of techniques. Another good resource is the New England Biolabs website -- they sell reagents and kits for subcloning, and their technical references are excellent. So good, in fact, that their catalog was passed around one of my undergrad lab classes as a supplemental textbook of sorts.

The big challenge for you is to put all of that crap together -- distilling the accumulated lab superstition and hodge-podge of tools into a flowchart of decisions that outputs useful cloning advice.

Unfortunately, most such attempts are written by biologists with a bit of coding background... and end up being the crappy sorts of projects that I could do myself, if I wanted to put the time in. The better computer scientists making their way into biology are all going into bioinformatics, which involves big sexy problems like analyzing and comparing whole genomes. The routine concerns of everyday biologists haven't attracted the right talent.

Comment: Hordes of clueless freshman (Score 1) 447

by lazybratsche (#29304497) Attached to: Back-to-school time means ...
Back to school time for me means I have to elbow my way through hordes of clueless freshman on the way to my building, and I have to put up with smaller hordes of clueless first year grad students coming through my department. Luckily I live off the beaten track, so I only have the battle the usual hordes along my commute. Thankfully for now, that's the extent of my contact with the "school" part of academia.

A LISP programmer knows the value of everything, but the cost of nothing. -- Alan Perlis