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Comment Re:It might be better than the Federal Reserve (Score 1) 1116

Unfortunately for minarchist libertarians, the money supply is subject to various strong positive and negative feedback loops. If someone is not actively managing it, fluctuations in the money supply lead to large, damaging boom-bust economic cycles. Cycles still occur with active management, but they are much more moderate.

A modest, stable rate of deflation causes problems not seen with a modest, stable rate of inflation. Disadvantages of deflation include reduced velocity of money with subsequent decreased economic growth, more difficult for central banks to stimulate the economy in a downturn, and the ratchet effect in wages.

Comment Re:Public Access requirement (Score 1) 191

You are correct that there are journals that both charge to publish (typically called "page fees") and also charge a subscription. In general, those fees are a lot lower than the publication charges at journals that do not charge for subscriptions.

As far as the selectivity, I don't see that as an intrinsic feature of the open access model, but more a reflection of the fact that right now, open access journals are newer. Since it usually takes time to build up the positive feedback loop that gives a journal high prestige and allows it to be more selective, most open access journals have not been around long enough.

Comment Public Access requirement (Score 4, Informative) 191

Most US Federal funding sources require that articles about research they support be available for public access by 12 months after publication. The MIT libraries have a good summary of the various rules. This includes the biggest funding sources for biomedical research: NIH and DoD.

What seems puzzling about the current situation is that because of features unique to academic publishing (the need for researchers to publish to advance their careers, the sources of funding) there is a fairly straightforward way to pay for open access (at least from within academia).

Under the traditional system, university libraries pay publishers for access to journals. The libraries, in turn, get at least part of their money from "indirect cost" charges from research grants. For those not familiar with that term, it is like a tax that a university (or other research organization) levies on research grants to pay for things that are needed to do research, but not a direct line-item cost included in the grant. For example, the salaries of researchers and research supplies are direct costs. Access to the university library and use of the building that the research is conducted in (and its utilities and maintenance) are indirect costs. Equipment or centralized services (e.g. statistical consulting) may be direct or indirect costs depending on university and the specific grant. Typical indirect cost rates are about 50%, so that if an investigator gets a grant for $200,000 of direct costs, the granting institution will pay the university an additional $100,000 to cover indirect costs.

Another way to route the money would be for publishers to make journals open access, but charge researches to publish articles. Publishing costs would become a direct cost line item on research grants, but the indirect cost rate would decrease since libraries would no longer be paying for access. For the system as a whole, the ultimate origin (granting agencies) and terminus (publishers) of publication costs would remain the same. I suspect there would also be major changes in how the money was distributed between researchers and institutions. For example, one worry about an open access system is that although it would make it easier for less well funded laboratories (either in less prestigious institutions or headed by junior researchers) to do work, there would be a bigger barrier for them to publish because it would cost a lot more than it does now. It would also require more of a commitment from universities to support publication of research that is not funded by grants (e.g. a lot of clinical research).

So my conclusion is that although open access is a viable alternative, changing completely to that model would involve a lot of disruption and would inevitably create winners and losers (both academically and financially) compared to the current model. Resistance on the part of the potential losers and inertia are what is slowing down or holding back the switch.

Comment Re:faster than light = time travel (Score 1) 226

There are a few ways (completely hypothetical) ways to salvage this situation, by imposing another limitation that allow FTL travel, but prevents the set up that allows causality violation. A (probably incomplete) list:

  1. Preferred FTL reference frame - The "default" proposition for an FTL jump-type drive is that you move across space in no time (or a very short time) as measured in the reference frame of the drive when you engage it. The fact that those reference frames can be different for two FTL drives moving at relativistic normal space velocities (or for one drive making successive jumps after a relativistic-scale velocity change) is what allows you to turn FTL travel into causality-violating time travel. If instead, all FTL travel takes place in a single, preferred reference frame (for example, the frame in which the cosmic microwave background radiation has no dipole component) regardless of the velocity of the drive when engaged, it is impossible to create those causality-violating paths.
  2. Virtual particle censorship of wormholes - A similar causality violation can occur with wormhole FTL if you have two wormholes (each with two ends), where the ends are moving at relativistic speeds relative to each other. The limitation that could prevent this is caused by virtual particles in vacuum (which are responsible for things like the Casimir effect). Simplifying greatly, you can "borrow" energy from vacuum to create a virtual particle pair (usually a particle and its antiparticle) as long as the virtual particle lifetime is short enough that the product of the that time and the "borrowed" energy is less than the Plank constant. Since the Plank constant is so small, that means that macroscopically observable virtual particle effects are typically secondary. However, as two wormholes move closer and closer to a condition in which you can loop through both of them and arrive at your start point in zero time, ever greater numbers of virtual particles will make that round trip, which increases the mass moving through the wormholes enough to collapse them before you get to a configuration that allows a zero or negative travel time (and thus leads to a causality violation).

Comment Re:Knowledge is the solution (Score 2) 1051

I am a physician who also performs clinical research. You have a naive faith in the ability of the United States health care system to collected aggregated data like this. There are a few diseases and complications which are reportable to public heath services (these are state-level government agencies) and also some mandatory reporting that occurs to Federal agencies, but it is very limited. There are some voluntary reporting programs, for example the FDA Medwatch site allows reporting of drug complications, but only a tiny fraction of them get reported.

I don't know off the top of my head, but I suspect a few of the vaccine-preventable diseases are rare enough that they are reportable. Most of the other data (specifically any data on complications) is not something that anyone aggregates. See Estimating Seasonal Influenza-Associated Deaths in the United States: CDC Study Confirms Variability of Flu to see the trouble the CDC has getting something as simple as the number of people in the US who die from influenza.

Comment Re:Knowledge is the solution (Score 1) 1051

You say, "government won't take responsibility for the (admittedly unlikely) consequences of a bad result." Please read up on the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, through which the United States Federal Government provides no-fault compensation to people injured by vaccines. The program is funded by a tax on vaccines.

Also, we are not talking about "making sure a few children don't get sick". Without vaccines, annual United States deaths from vaccine-preventable illnesses would likely range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands (higher in epidemic years). See What Would Happen If We Stopped Vaccinations? on the CDC web site for some data on historical death rates. The cost of treating people who came down with these infections would also lead to a massive spike in the cost of health care, which everyone would wind up paying for in the form of higher premiums, lower salaries (since employers would have to pay higher premiums), and higher taxes.

Comment Fee rather than market (Score 3, Insightful) 97

The problem described in the OP is one of several reasons why setting a fee for each ton of carbon dioxide emission is a much better idea that a cap-and-trade scheme. There are numerous other reasons, but I will only highlight the most important.

The entire purpose of either a fee or cap-and-trade scheme is to get carbon consumers to change their behavior (either doing less of things that emit greenhouse gases or by reducing the carbon intensity of the same activities). But almost all the reasonable mitigation measures have long time horizons (years to decades). In cap-and-trade, it is very difficult to predict what the price signal will be at any time in the future. So how can I, as a consumer, decide if it is worth it to buy a more efficient or electric car if there is great uncertainty in how much the carbon control scheme is going to add to my gasoline cost?

Comment Mass versus rest mass (Score 1) 48

The summary (and the referenced Wikipedia article) are sloppy about the use of the term "mass", sometimes using it when they should use the term "rest mass". Zero rest mass particles, such as photons, always move at the speed of light in vacuum. Moving at that speed, they do have mass. The relationship between their energy (E), mass (m), and momentum (p) is:

E = pc = mc^2,

where c is the speed of light in vacuum. They fit the definition of uniparticles because those three quantities all scale linearly relative to each other; if you double the momentum, you also double the energy and the mass.

In contrast, particles with non-zero rest masses (e.g. electrons) follow the equation:

E^2 = (pc)^2 + ((m0)c^2)^2 = (mc^2)^2,

where m0 is the rest mass of the particle. The rest mass of these particles does not change, but their mass does change when they are accelerated. Because of the presence of the rest mass term, the relationship between energy, momentum and mass is no longer linear.

Comment Re:we scrub at 5:30. (Score 1) 141

Actually, in the healthcare context, using scrub as a verb most specifically refers to scrubbing your hands in preparation for surgery or another sterile procedure. It can also be used as a synecdoche for the entire process of the provider getting ready for surgery, starting at changing from street clothes to scrubs and ending with donning the sterile gown and gloves (or for a subset of that process if you already put your scrubs on earlier in the day).

Comment Re:Subsidies (Score 1) 827

This is an example of price discrimination / price differentiation. It allows the seller (the college in this case) to increase revenue compared to charging the same price for everyone. This is a separate issue from student loans. See the Wikipedia article (or a microeconomics textbook) for a detailed explanation.

Comment Re:How about some other ideas (Score 1) 146

I think an issue with the gull wing design would be that it would significantly complicate and perhaps also weaken the design of the fuselage, especially given the need for it to be pressure tight. My idea for a similar concept would be to have a circular seam at the back of the fuselage. The plane would be backed into the gate, the seam opened, and the tail swung out of the way (I've seen cargo planes that have that kind of hatch). Then the entire inside of the fuselage (passengers and baggage) would be pulled out the back onto a receiver structure in the terminal.

You would need a system of rails to allow for this movement and to couple the interior to the fuselage shell. There would also be a safety issue during the movement (since the fuselage moves relative to the passengers next to it in the window seats). A lightweight, non-structural shell that is part of the inside could be used. Alternatively, if the inner surface of the fuselage was completely smooth, with nothing that passengers or gear could catch on, perhaps it would be safe to slowly move the interior out of the fuselage.

Regarding the boarding order, what you are forgetting is that because of the scramble for overhead bin space, airlines allow higher priority passengers (more expensive tickets, frequent fliers, etc) to board first, and those people tend to have the better seats near the front of the plane. I never understood why when the airlines started charging for baggage, they didn't charge for carry on and make checked baggage free (or at least significantly cheaper than carry on). The current system on most US airlines (charge for checked baggage, carry on is free) obviously encourages people to carry more bags on the plane and, IMHO, is a major source of boarding delays.

Comment Clinical Perspective (Score 3, Informative) 83

I am a pediatric blood & marrow transplant physician. I have read the article abstract, but I don't subscribe to Science Translational Medicine, so I won't be able to read the article until my hospital library orders & acquires the article. These comments are based only on the abstract.

The Slashdot summary is misleading about what is novel in research. Unrelated donor bone marrow transplants (or hematopoietic stem cell transplants (HSCT), which are a superset) have been done routinely since the 1990's.

Allogeneic (meaning the stem cell source is another person, rather than the patient himself/herself) HSCT patients take immunosupressive medications to try to prevent (or to treat) graft versus host disease (GVHD). If the patient does not develop GVHD, they are usually weaned off the immunosuppressive medications by 6 months after transplant. Patients who do develop GVHD can require years (sometimes 5-10 years) of immunosuppression. In contrast, patients who receive common solid organ transplants (heart, liver, kidney) are usually on immunosuppressive medications for life, although the immunosuppression is typically stronger for the first few months after transplant. The article reports on patients who received simultaneous kidney and HSC transplants from the same donor. Some of these patients could be weaned off of immunosuppression. Although this type of simultaneous transplant is not common, it has been reported before, as well as the finding that patients could come off immunosuppression.

What is novel is the ability to perform unrelated donor transplants using donors who were not good HLA matches (the matching system that is used for HSCT) and not have the recipients develop GVHD. This was accomplished by manipulating the stem cell product after it had been collected from the donor, but before it was infused into the recipient. The majority of HSCT done today are done with unmanipulated stem cell products (I'm not counting processing that often needs to be done when the donor and recipient don't have the same red cell type - which is controlled by a different genetic system than HLA). However, some forms of stem cell product manipulation (T-cell negative selection and CD34+ cell positive selection) have been around for a few decades. They can be successfully used to decrease the risk of GVHD, but at the price of increasing the risk of graft rejection, relapse (for leukemias) and infection. In the end, almost all studies of those methods show that the overall survival or disease-free survival is unchanged.

This article describes a more sophisticated form of stem cell manipulation, in which the graft is enriched in hematopoietic stem cells and tolerogenic graft facilitating cells. There have been past reports of other sophisticated stem cell manipulations giving good results in a study, but these techniques require elaborate facilities to perform, and often when they have been replicated by groups other than the original group, the patient outcomes have not been as good as those in the original report.

So my bottom line is that this result is exciting, but needs at minimum validation in a multicenter study before it starts to look like a game changer.

To address some of the other comments:

1) The concern about graft-versus-leukemia effects is a valid one and it will need to be studied. However, that is not an issue when doing a transplant for a non-malignant disease, so it would be a definite win for those patients. For leukemias, the GVL effect is strongest in CML, then AML, and weakest in ALL (kids don't get CLL, so I don't know much about that disease). Ultimately it would take clinical trials to determine if the benefit from less GVHD outweighs increased relapse risk (if any) from decreased GVL.

2) The article uses reduced-intensity radiation / chemotherapy, which isn't exactly a picnic, but it is less toxic than standard-dose (10-14 Gy) total body irradiation and 120 mg/kg cyclophosphamide (or 4 day busulfan and 120-200 mg/kg cyclophosphamide).

Comment Re:One question (Score 1) 332

IANAL, but the short answer is basically judges can order whatever they want in theory, although in practice there are significant limitations (more on that below). Another big point to mention is that the United States uses a common law system, meaning that large parts of the law have never been defined by a statute (i.e. a law passed by a legislature). The major limitations:

1. The judicial selection process almost always picks people who are not going to go off the deep end and start issuing crazy orders, but generally stick close to what is authorized by statutory, regulatory, or case law.

2. Orders from lower courts can be appealed and overturned by appellate courts.

3. There are mechanisms in place to impeach judges.

Within the law, there are various factors that limit orders judge are supposed to issue, and I suspect a relevant one here is jurisdiction. Divorce is a matter for state courts, and if the divorce is occurring in a state where Facebook doesn't have enough of a presence to bring it under the judge's jurisdiction, ordering the parties to swap passwords may be a lot simpler (from a legal perspective) compared to whatever they would have to do to bring another action in Federal court or in a state court with jurisdiction over Facebook to compel Facebook to turn over the data. I'm not sure why the court didn't just ask Facebook to turn over the relevant data. Of course it's also possible they did and Facebook refused, or the court knows that Facebook has refused similar requests (as distinguished from orders) in the past.

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