Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×

Comment The best part (Score 1) 225

In the BBC video, around 1:10, the vet holds up a roll of black duct tape and proceeds to duct tape the original painstakingly manufactured prostheses because "I can't put brown feet on a black cat." I like the newer ones in PopSci better, although they don't quite match his colour scheme. I wonder if he licks them and wonders why he doesn't have claws or true sensation on his back feet any more?

Comment My experience with Dragon (Score 1) 342

I would have to agree with the contents of the original posted article. The hospital at which I presently work is switching slowly from transcriptionists to Dragon as a 'cost-saving' move. Maybe it has saved money, but it's cost a lot in frustration.

It's made it a lot harder to dictate reports. In plain text, it's almost able to cope, although I've seen embarrassing mistakes slip through ('and in' once came out as 'anus'). Even when I try to 'teach' and 'train' it, it consistently records 'core needle biopsy' as 'corneal biopsy' and the letters A, B, E, and C are absolute crapshoots. Template reports, which are in vogue in my field, are a headache to dictate. Often Dragon misunderstands my command to move to another template field as a request to add in the words 'next field.' If I have the patience, and speak to the Dragon as I would to a mentally retarded but well-meaning child, I can hope for only two or three errors per report. When I'm in a tearing hurry, as I am most of the time, I type out my own reports.

The worst part is that all the transcription errors come out as correctly spelled words, so they're even harder to detect than they were before. 80% accuracy seems about right to me. Luddite as it sounds, I'd rather have a human transcribing my speech over a machine.

Comment News at 11 (Score 2, Informative) 118

While the HIV's preferred target cells are T-cells, macrophages (which tend to be long-lived cells) and microglia (macrophage-like cells that live in the brain) also take up the M-tropic strains of the virus. As these cell types derive ultimately from hematopoietic stem cells, it is not a great surprise to read about this. Sounds like the so-called journalist from AP news was having a slow day.

As for transplants being the great new cure-all for HIV infection: no. Transplantation substitutes one batch of problems for another batch of medical issues. A good HLA match is still required, and finding someone with the right CCR5 or CXCR5 mutation would make the situation doubly difficult. Then, because the engrafted immune system will recognize the host's antigens as foreign (even with HLA typing), the recipient would still require immunosuppression, putting them at risk for the kinds of infections and tumours that HIV patients tend to get. Not to mention the costs of actually doing and maintaining a transplant patient. Can't do that for millions of people, it's hugely expensive.

What this study probably implies is that autologous stem-cell transplantation (capturing the patient's own stem cells, eradicating their immune system, and putting back the stem cells to reconstitute the patient's immune system -- a treatment sometimes used in some lymphomas) would not be feasible as a last-ditch treatment for HIV/AIDS. It wouldn't solve the problem of HIV hiding in 'privileged' sites such as the brain (microglia) anyways, and being a source for viral replication/release even when virions are banished from the blood.

Comment Cash cow (Score 1) 261

Zenph has cleverly tried to duplicate the recordings of classical artists who recorded in the early parts of the 20th century. There is a valid market out there, given the poor sonic quality of many of these supposedly classic recordings. Tuning out all the hiss and crackle of Casal, Rachmaninoff or Gershwin can be a major headache.

That being said, I don't think that this is the end of human musicians and human recordings, and I frankly don't think all that much of these re-recordings. I'll confine myself to commenting on the Gould and Rachmaninoff. IMHO the Zenph re-recording fails to 'improve' on Gould's sonic qualities. The sound is muddier and dirtier than the cleaned-up versions Sony offers. Part of this comes from the use of a Yamaha grand; Gould preferred pianos that sounded like 'emasculated harpsichords', probably because it allowed sonic clarity. In his later recordings, Gould did tend to sing along (off-key, which is odd, considering that he had perfect pitch), but that is part of the charm of his music. The Zenph doesn't offer any new insights into the art of the piano, Gould, or Bach, and frankly is a marketing gimmick.

I have fewer issues with the Rachmaninoff, because his compositions were built around the modern concept of the piano, with its sonority and power. Sadly, no chills run up my spine when I listen to the recording. This hiss is gone, and I can hear all the mistakes more clearly now (there are quite a few). Pity that part can't be changed.

Comment how conventional (Score 1) 470

Somehow I doubt that the author of the article is truly geeky. Those ideas sound forced and artificial, not to mention somewhat inarticulate.

And, what the hell, Valentine's day shouldn't just be about pandering to the girl's whims. Leaving aside the fact that Valentine's is a completely artificial holiday designed to boost retail sales of chocolate, bad lacy red lingerie, plant genitals, etc., there are many more genuine, simple ways of showing togetherness than eating out at an overpriced restaurant with bad service and worse food.

- cuddling
- stargazing (works best if it's a bit cold outside, and of course the weather must cooperate)
- buying that second PS3/XBox360/other console, form a clan and go whoop n00b a$$ together (be careful to let each other make a few game-winning kills though)
- watch some movies and criticize plot holes and movie science together
- foreplay
- bubble bath for two
- read mathematical proofs to each other
- turn off the heater and stave off hypothermia together

Comment Jurassic Park redux (Score 5, Interesting) 536

All we need to do now is to take that DNA, splice it back together with human 'junk' DNA and breed Neanderthals for the next great Disney theme park! Instead of being entertained by people walking around in giant suits pretending to be cartoon characters, it could be the greatest edutainment center in the world!!

But seriously. People have sex across interspecies barriers all the time; animal, vegetable, mineral, it doesn't matter. I doubt that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals looked at each other and said, Hey, I can't have sex with you, you're obviously a different species! Probably they thought to themselves, Two arms, two legs, looks about right, the bits are in the right places, why not?

Comment Non-story (Score 1) 101

The linked article could only have been written by a surgeon with incoherent longings for stardom and filthy lucre.

This technology offers no increased assistance for surgeons. It really doesn't matter when you're that close in a laparoscopy. It's not like the structures you need to see are that small for most laparoscopic procedures. I would have been more impressed if they'd hooked this up for use in neurosurgery, eye surgery, vascular surgery, something where real resolution and delicacy is required.

Big MEH.

Comment Re:Interesting .. but.... (Score 1) 112

Cancer below the elbow or below the knee is medically unheard of ...

Actually there are soft tissue malignancies (epithelioid sarcoma; clear cell sarcoma; probably rare cases of Ewing's sarcoma) which have a predilection for the distal extremities. You perhaps have not heard of them because they're uncommon and haven't generated the same kind of political/public attention that other cancers have. They're also more difficult to treat, with fewer chemotherapeutic options than breast, colon or prostate cancer, so yes, sometimes amputations are necessary.

I thought the Luke arm was awesome when the videos for it were posted, but getting that sensory feedback is even cooler. Unfortunately with an artificial implant there's always a risk of infection, so it would be even cooler if somehow the next iteration should somehow provide a scaffolding for natural tissue to regrow...maybe we'll see that in a couple of years. Or at least we can hope.

Comment Problem with clinical trials (Score 1) 430

The problem with a clinical trial for H1N1 vaccines is that they take too long to set up and analyze. By the time the data collection closed, we'd be into the summer of 2010, and then what good would have come of it? To accumulate enough data, it would have to be a multicenter trial (i.e. conducted in many different cities). Given the public policy enforcing vaccination, it would be extremely difficult (impossible) to get approval from a hospital research ethics board to even run the trial.

Unfortunately medicine is not a 'hard' science, in spite of our best efforts the systems are too complex and difficult to completely control (unlike physics or chemistry). Not to mention the fact that most doctors trained in the life sciences and do not understand the mathematics well enough to analyze a clinical trial, so unless they have sought out additional training in epidemiology/statistics, their grasp of numbers is always suspect.

That being said, if most doctors are numerically challenged, journalists tend to be both numerically and scientifically illiterate, which I suppose is even worse.

Comment Not as revolutionary as it seems to be (Score 1) 43

Cool, although it has to be said that tumours (from the Latin, for 'swelling') can often be felt by the surgeon and often it is not difficult to delineate the margins required for a tumour. This would be most useful in cases of nonpalpable lesions (like a very tiny breast cancer or pre-cancer). The linked article does not reference any original publications, so it is difficult to know what they used as a control, what compounds they tested for (as the above posters have mentioned), if they were just comparing signatures against each other, etc.. Many methods have been touted themselves as the magic one for cancer detection/analysis: analysis of proteins in the serum (prostate specific antigen, I'm talking about you), compounds in urine, etc. etc. And the initial studies always look great. But time and again, when put into practice, the picture is never quite so clear as in the pilot studies. In the case of PSA, yeah, an elevated PSA says that there's something wrong with your prostate, but maybe it's just that your prostate's gotten larger, or it has a subclinical infection, or maybe there's cancer. There is a similar information about CA-125 for ovarian cancer. There is a bit more hope in this case, because this method actually samples tissue.

Comment Mainframes and the refrigerator thing (Score 1) 422

In using fridges to measure mainframe size, are we talking about a beer fridge, Maytag fridge, JennAir double-door fridges with the funky LCD and ice dispenser with the glistening stainless steel doors that smudge the moment you touch them, or the kind of uber-fridge that slaughterhouses use to store cow carcasses on hooks?

I demand a car analogy.

Comment Why doctors hate... (Score 1) 1064

I wish non-scientific journalists would not attempt to comment on scientific matters. "No cervix, no cancer," writes this journalist.

Perhaps she should consider the scenario where a woman had a radical hysterectomy for cervical cancer. In this scenario, this patient would remain at risk for vaginal and vulvar carcinoma. Perhaps the cancer is incompletely excised and a few cancer cells remain in the vaginal vault. A Papanicolau smear would pick that up. That is a completely justifiable Pap smear.

Consider further the scenario where a patient reports to you, her doctor, that she had her uterus removed. Only she didn't tell you that her that it was just her uterus that was removed, not her cervix -- a subtotal, not a total hysterectomy. I have found that clinicians are sometimes careless with their terminology. Such a woman might be lumped in under the category of 'woman with hysterectomy' without further thought. But she would still have a cervix and still require screening

The devil is in the details. Outsiders to the profession often have false expectations, or do not realize that the reality more granular and confusing than it first appears to be.

Coming from a country with socialized medicine, I find the US health care system mind-boggling. I used to think that the amount of paperwork in my country was bad, but I can hardly understand why anyone would choose to put up with endless reams of paperwork and contracts and co-pays and deductibles, plus the anxiety all of this must entail, for the luxury of 'choice' in health care. Yes, there are issues with socialized health care, but if you need investigations done on an urgent basis, they generally get done here on an urgent basis.

Slashdot Top Deals

On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog. -- Cartoon caption