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Comment: Re:Use TaxAct instead (Score 3, Informative) 450

by pesho (#48800117) Attached to: Intuit Charges More For Previously Offered TurboTax Features, Users Livid
I switched to them couple of years back when Intuit decided that it will not allow web browsers running linux to the online version of TurboTax. Beats me why they did it. It worked perfectly the previous years. Anyway, TaxAct is cheaper and does the job just as well.

Comment: Re:Training... (Score 5, Informative) 84

by pesho (#48760135) Attached to: Microbe Found In Grassy Field Contains Powerful Antibiotic

If we keep taking natural antibiotics from nature, mass manufacture them, won't we just train the world's bacterial populations to be immune to practically anything we can throw at them?

You are making a very good point. Currently antibiotic resistance is a serious problem, mostly because we are very slow in discovering new antibiotics. What is very exciting about this research is that it significantly shifts the odds in our favor by allowing very large scale screens for new antibiotics. It will allow us to outpace the rate of resistance development. The probability that a particular infection will be resistant to multiple different antibiotics drops exponentially with the number of antibiotics you have. If you have a tool chest of 5-6 antibiotics sooner or later you will have pathogens that are resistant to a significant proportion of these antibiotics. Make the tool chest 10 times larger, and you will have a lot less to worry about.

Comment: Re:The hard part is yet to come (Score 5, Informative) 84

by pesho (#48760021) Attached to: Microbe Found In Grassy Field Contains Powerful Antibiotic

You didn't read the paywalled article, did you?

The antibiotic blocks the bacterial cell wall synthesis. Animals don't have this particular cellular component, so the drug is essentially inactive against humans. This was shown by doing tests on mice. There is the possibility that the drug may elicit allergic response in humans (penicillin often does), but this will be tested in clinical trials.

The more exciting part of the work that did not get any mention in the summaries is how they found the antibiotic. They developed an approach to grow on a large scale microorganisms that were previously impossible to culture in lab conditions. They capture the microorganisms on a chip and then put the chip back into the environment from which the samples was isolated. This means that they did not need to guess what kind of nutrients each microorganism will need (they tested ~10,000 different microbes). The approach allowed them to grow 50 fold more microorganisms compared to what was possible using the current state of the art. To me this is the big news, because antibiotic discovery has been limited by our ability to grow microorganisms in the lab.

Comment: Are getting ready to bomb them? (Score 2) 182

by pesho (#48624917) Attached to: US Links North Korea To Sony Hacking
Ah, the unsubstantiated assertions ... The pile of bad links to unrelated hacks by Iran, Russia and China ... Where have I seen that before? Wasn't that a part of preparing the public opinion to some other war? BTW, why isn't the fact that Sony's IT security was simply laughable not front page in NYT? They even have their CIO talking obvious nonsense on in an interview titled Your guide to good enough compliance. And we are not talking any sophisticated stuff here. Just basic things like changing you password and not keeping a file titled "passwords" on your hard rive.

Comment: Re:"Generalized Life" (Score 1) 221

Generalization on the very basic level has also been applied to the definition of life. In my opinion one of the best definitions of life boils down to defining life as a dynamic system which increases and maintains its order in expense of increasing the entropy of its surroundings. Needless to say this definition was put forward by physicists (Bolzman, Schrodinger). Biologist would probably like to add ability to reproduce and evolve, but I don't think this is fair. A mule is a life form, right?

Comment: If there ever was a nebulous article... (Score 3, Informative) 221

The original article is pure speculation. Can life exist that is so different from the stuff we know, so that we can't detect it with current molecular biology techniques?

Sure why not. What the article fails to mention is that we can find life in other ways. Even if we can't sequence the DNA in many cases we can culture microorganisms from environmental samples. We can also use microscopy to directly examine environmental samples. In fact both the microbial cultures and microscope have been done on large scale over many years. Not once have we seen an organism that does not conform to our current understanding of life on earth. Life can also be identified by the changes in the environment it create. Again nothing we have seen so far has suggested that there is a life form so unusual that we can't detect it with our current techniques.

Where authors of the original article fail most miserably is their solution: high throughput sequencing techniques. Huh? How would those techniques lead to the discovery of life that is fundamentally different if they are dependent on the standard properties of DNA and DNA replicating enzymes??

Comment: Re:Just what any parent knows (Score 1) 154

by pesho (#48084451) Attached to: Genes Don't Just Predict Intelligence, But Also How Well You Do In School
No, I want a citation(s) for the sources in which the statements that

Everyone is exactly as intelligent as a human, unless they're brain damaged by disease or defect. Any child, any adult, properly motivated, with proper practice and effort, can be a genius.

have been proven to be true.

Comment: Re:Just what any parent knows (Score 1) 154

by pesho (#48083459) Attached to: Genes Don't Just Predict Intelligence, But Also How Well You Do In School

Everyone is exactly as intelligent as a human, unless they're brain damaged by disease or defect. Any child, any adult, properly motivated, with proper practice and effort, can be a genius. It is just that simple.

Citation please

The rest of your post describes how memorization works. Are you implying that intelligence is the ability to reproduce facts, rather than the ability to process information and derive abstract representations?

Comment: The perverse incentives in biomedical research (Score 2) 167

by pesho (#47974265) Attached to: Anonymous Peer-review Comments May Spark Legal Battle

My experience is that most of the work is done by the first one or two authors under the direct supervision of the last author (there are exceptions when the lab is very big and the PI has delegated most of the supervision to postdocs or staff). Generally, the corresponding author on the paper bears much of the responsibility for the data being published under the assumption that he is supervising the research and is intimately involved in analyzing the results and writing the paper. Many journals now require a statement, which briefly outlines the authors contributions. Having said that it is not unheard of that a student or a postdoc will manipulate data and the PI in his willingness to prove a hypothesis will not be overly critical.

The deeper problem is that there is a huge pressure in the biomedical field to publish often. The PI will not be able to receive grants unless he/she has demonstrated a track record of productivity. If he/she doesn't get grant funding he/she will not be receiving full salary and will not get tenure. At the same time the competition for funding is furious. The percent of applications being funded by NIH are in the low teens and for some NIH institutes they are under 10%. So not only you have to publish, but you have to publish more and in better journals than 90% of the people in the field to be competitive. All this puts huge pressure on the PIs to publish. Few of them publish rubbish and some resort to fraud. Students and postdocs are under similar pressure to be "productive" not only from their PIs, but also because their future prospects depend on the research they publish.

The irony is that the current situation is to a large degree caused by the expansion of the NIH budget in the past. Public and private research institutions rushed to build lab space, recruit scientist and train students to take advantage of the NIH grants (this expansion still continues!). The incentive for the institutions is that they get 40% or more (up to 100%) on top of the grant award as an overhead. So a typical $250K per year grant from NIH will pay directly to the university at least $100K per year in overhead in addition to sponsoring the PI and staff salaries from the direct costs. The NIH budget, however, did not continue to grow rapidly after the initial jump during president Clinton's time in office and has actually shrunk in the past year. The result is that now you have a large number of scientist desperate for grant money and not enough grants to fund even a small fraction of them. The current incentives do not reward the quality of the research, but the speed by which it is done and its quantity. This is a very perverse situation. It also creates a negative feedback loop where the poor quality of the published data prevents people from defining valid hypotheses or identifying viable lines of research. As a result they waste time and are subject to even more pressure to publish junk.