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Science

Submission + - Drug Testing in Mice May Be A Waste of Time, Researchers Warn 1

An anonymous reader writes: A group of researchers including Dr. H. Shaw Warren of Mass. General Hospital and Stanford genomics researcher Ronald W. Davis have published a paper challenging the effectiveness of the "mouse model" as a basis for medical research, based on a decade-long study involving 39 doctors and scientists across the country. In clincal studies of sepsis (a severe inflammatatory disorder caused by the immune system's abnormal response to a pathogen), trauma, and burns, the researchers found that certain drugs triggered completely different genetic responses in mice compared with humans. The Warren-Davis paper was rejected by both Science and Nature before its acceptance by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, perhaps suggesting the degree to which the "mouse model" has become entrenched within the medical research community. Ninety five percent of the laboratory animals used in research are mice or rats. Mice in particular are ideal subjects for research: they are cheap to obtain and house, easy to handle, and share at least 80 percent of their genes with humans (by some reckoning, closer to 99 percent). Over the past twenty five years, powerful methods of genetically engineering mice by "knocking out" individual genes have become widely adopted, so that use of mice for drug testing prior to human clinical trials has become standard procedure.
Piracy

Submission + - Indie Game Dev Delights Pirate Bay (torrentfreak.com) 1

jones_supa writes: Over the weekend a torrent of the game Anodyne was uploaded to The Pirate Bay and to the delight of observers was greeted with a positive attitude from its creators. 'It’s neat that Anodyne’s here and I’m glad that means more people can play it, though of course we’d love it if you bought the game,' the author Sean Hogan commented. Adding to the fun, Hogan posted up some codes so people could download the game for free from Desura. In an interesting turn, the torrent has later disappeared. The Pirate Bay is well-known for not removing torrents to any content — maybe the uploader started to feel bad about his act later?
Hardware

Submission + - Home server or VPS? (blogspot.com)

toygeek writes: Which is cheaper: Running a server from home, or renting a VPS (Virtual Private Server)? We're trying to pinch pennies where we can, and my son Derrick suggested upgrading an extra PC we have and running his Minecraft server at home. Would it save enough money to be worth it? I wanted to share with the results of my analysis with my Slashdot brethren.
Privacy

Submission + - EU Data Protection proposal taken word for word from US lobbyists (computerworlduk.com)

Qedward writes: Computerworld UK open enterprise blogger Glyn Moody looks at the proposed EU directive on Data Protection — and how some of the proposed amendments seem to be cut and pasted directly from the American Chamber of Commerce — that well-known European organisation...

You might ask, Glyn writes, who are these MEPs representing — some 500 million EU citizens that pay their salary or a bunch of extremely rich US companies intent on taking away our privacy?

Comment Re:I knew some people like him (Score 1) 39

When I read the Slate article, my thought was that he simply landed at the wrong university. He would have fit in well over at Berkeley when I was a student there in the late 90s & early 00s, and the focus of our classes matched what it sounds like he craved. That said, I ddin't feel like the Slate article was necessarily terribly accurate; among many other discrepancies, I've run across too many articles now (like Cory Doctorow's) that say he was well-liked, had quite a few friends that he collaborated with, and that his big problem was more that he had trouble dealing with the disappointment when his friends/mentors didn't live up to his expectations.

Comment He earned the Internet elite's respect first (Score 1) 39

From everything I've read, he was already well-known & respected among the Internet elite (plus becoming close friends with many of them) as he'd been actively contributing to projects like the Semantic Web since he was 13-14 years old, and was easily mistaken for an adult online due to how well-spoken and bright he was.

He'd then ended up gaining the respect of people active in intellectual property reform by releasing a massive number of public/government law documents with others in the PACER/RECAP project, rallying people with his own activist org Demand Progress, and then by acquiring & intending to release a massive amount of scholarly articles that weren't available outside affluent libraries & universities.

The public didn't hear about him (and people like me aware of IP activism but not involved in it didn't know his name/identity) until his suicide, yes. However, just killing oneself or being made 'an example' by the government doesn't get that kind of attention -- in order to do that, a person has to do something to gain the respect of some fairly influential people first.

Comment Re:Aaron did NOT sound suicidal in his last vid.ta (Score 1) 39

Severely depressed & even suicidal people often can hide it dangerously well, especially around others that aren't close enough to know little tell-tale signs. Also, at least 2-3 people that were extremely close to him wrote that he was known among friends to have been fighting repeated bouts with depression for years. He evidently was known among his close friends as the sort that hated to accept help, and that he believed it was crucial to appear to the world as if the prosecution wasn't getting to him.

Speaking as somebody that has been close to severely depressed people, there's also the huge problem that eventually the repeated mood crashes look normal & un-alarming -- so it's very common for loved ones to be caught off-guard by a suicide (or attempt). From the outside, we can only see a rough outline of just how bad the depression is, and a non-dangerous "very badly depressed" tends to look a hell of a lot like "suicidally depressed" unless the person wants us to know. If that person isn't the demonstrative sort, or the depression has convinced them (as often happens) that they're a horrible burden everyone would be better without, then we only see it in involuntary/unintentional actions, and that's if we know what to look for.

Aaron Swartz's behavior the day before & day of his death was a textbook example of red flags for looming suicide. He abruptly shifted from miserable to upbeat, and took one of the people closest to him out to a special meal and indulged in his absolute favorite foods... The next morning, he was visibly depressed and said that he was going to stay at home alone to "rest" and pretended to not notice when asked why he had (evidently out of character) gotten fully dressed as if going out in public. Somebody as depressed as he evidently was won't have the energy to get totally dressed for no reason at all.

Yes, it's possible that he was murdered, but there'd be little reason for anyone to bother: MIT & JSTOR had dropped charges, while the prosecution fully believed at that point that they were guaranteed to win, either in a court trial or by forcing him to accept a pretty vicious plea bargain. I don't believe that it's an act of freedom or anything other than a tragic loss, but depression is the emotional equivalent of profound hallucination -- and I don't think we do his memory or others fighting the disorder justice by favoring conspiracy theories over recognizing just how deadly it can be to even the brightest, strongest, most rational people.

The Internet

Submission + - "We the People" API to be released (whitehouse.gov)

Kwyj1b0 writes: The Whitehouse plans to open up the APIs to its "We the People" initiative. The first set of Read APIs (allowing anyone to read data on petitions) will be released in March 2013. In addition, selected people will be invited to attend the White House Open Data Day Hackathon on February 22nd. Write APIs will follow, allowing people to extend petition capabilities to their own sites.
Privacy, of course, should be an important concern that needs to be addressed.

Comment Re:And of course ... (Score 1) 240

First, only parents of minors, severely disabled people, and the elderly get those things -- in the case of the parents, they're only allowed to get it for at most 60 months. Those groups also are barely given enough money to sustain life (shitty section 8 housing, low-quality food, clothes from the dollar area, maybe a POS car that gets horrible gas mileage)... It's not enough to result in a decent quality of life: there's no dental coverage (which is expensive even if you're willing to rely on dental students' work), it's extremely difficult to find most medical specialists and most are low-quality (which disabled/elderly citizens tend to need), the nutritional quality of food tends to be subpar for disabled/elderly citizens as many physically/mentally can't cook full meals entirely from scratch, it takes YEARS of being on a waitlist in many states for a section 8 voucher and then the housing tends to be the places you'd lock your car doors...

That's just for starters. Trust me, it's pretty damn heartbreaking to watch one's own mother age 10 times faster than anyone else in the family, lose her teeth plus all of her energy/spunk & seem mentally 20 years older than she is because of the effects of chronic poverty -- and be unable to do anything about it because you're also far too disabled to hold any job. I can't imagine anyone remotely sane *wanting* to live this life that has actually experienced it.

If you're wondering, I'm able to be online because I have my 10-year-old college laptop and share a $20 Internet connection with my mother (she uses a computer that my brother got when his employer was about to toss it).

Comment Re:And of course ... (Score 1) 240

more and more people are leeching off the few people who actually produce something tangible.

Or intangible -- well, that is, unless you dedicate yourself to a professional level of ability in every form of entertainment you use, producing every form of information you've relied on, and learned everything you know (including formal education) entirely on your own from the ground up. Otherwise, guess what: you've been "leeching" off the creative & academic professions as much as anyone "leeches" off the creators of the tangible items they have.

Of course, that's ignoring that a person only "leeches" if they fail to give the creator/owner something of similar value in return -- buying services or goods doesn't qualify.

Submission + - Paper on conspiratorial thinking invokes conspiratorial thinking (shapingtomorrowsworld.org) 1

Layzej writes: Last summer a paper investigating the link between conspiratorial thinking and the rejection of climate science provoked a response on blogs skeptical of the scientific consensus that appeared to illustrate the very cognitive processes at the center of the research. This generated data for a new paper titled "Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation" The researchers reviewed the reactions for evidence of conspirational thinking including the presumption of nefarious intent, perception of persecution, the tendency to detect meaning in random events, and the ability to interpret contrary evidence as evidence that the conspiracy is even greater in scope that was originally believed. Some of the hypotheses promoted to dismiss the findings of the original paper ultimately grew in scope to include actors beyond the authors, such as university executives, a media organization, and the Australian government. It is not clear whether the response to this paper will itself provide data for further research, or how far down this recursion could progress. I fear the answer may be "all the way"
Operating Systems

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: Buying a Laptop that Doesn't Have Windows 8 8

Sagan's Pie writes: I'm starting to look for a laptop for college, and the only thing I seem to find are laptops or tablets that have Windows 8. I have used Windows 7 for a long time now, and would not have a problem giving it up, but not for Windows 8. After visiting many major online retail sites, I've found that finding either a Windows 7 laptop, or even a laptop without an operating system is nearly impossible. So where should I go if looking for laptops sans os, or at the very least sans Windows 8?

Comment Re:Dot matrix (Score 1) 266

I'm surprised more people here don't still use a dot matrix... Very low cost per page for general output...

Especially if you take the approach I did with the Imagewriter II I used in high school, and just use a black Sharpie marker to "re-ink" the black ribbon whenever it started to fade too much. It's also better than refilling an inkjet cartridge because if you do it wrong, it can't slowly 'redecorate' the bottom of the printer, desk, and floor. (Or at least, that's "better" if you aren't a kid hoping to convince their parents to replace the tired old inkjet... *whistles innocently*)

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