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Comment Re:Don't worry. Be Happy now. (Score 1) 193

Some bacteria replicate every 20 minutes. That's 72 opportunities a day for them to catch onto at least the beginnings of a method to bypass an antibiotic. And mutations are to increasing environmental survivability as brute force cracking is to opening a file with 2056-bit XYZ+ encryption. It'll work eventually, but 99.99999% of the time (literally) you and your entire family tree are long dead before anything significant happens.

You are underestimating the mutation rate of bacteria, as vertical inheritance is not the only mechanism for mutations. Look up Horizontal (or Lateral) Gene Transfer. Living cells can acquire genes from other cells. In bacteria, it was measured at one successful transfer per generation (in E. Coli). Genes can be acquired from environment, through plasmids, injected by viruses, recombined with other bacteria (a.k.a. bacterial sex), etc. Transfer doesn't have to be from the same species (whatever definition of species you use). Transfers can be cross-species, cross-phyla or even cross-domain. A useful trait like resistance will spread very very quickly.

The problem with antibiotics is that they a very strong selection pressure on bacteria: they kill them. And a stressed cell will have enhanced mutagenesis (look up stress-induced mutagenesis). No living being likes to be killesd, so we all have mechanisms to adapt to that situation. When you have anitbiotics, not only the bad bacteria can develop resistance. Also the harmless bacteria can develop resistance, and then transfer it to bad ones.

An alternative is not to kill bacteria, but to trick bad bacteria into expressing their pathogenicity (a very energetically demanding process) when their numbers are very small, so the other harmless bacteria can outnumber them to irrelevance. A way to do this is called Quorum Sensing Spoofing (hijacking of inter-bacterial communication), which is in very early research stages.


Debian Gets FreeBSD Kernel Support 425

mu22le writes "Today Debian gets one step closer to really becoming 'the universal operating system' by adding two architectures based on the FreeBSD kernel to the unstable archive. This does not mean that the Debian project is ditching the Linux kernel; Debian users will be able to choose which kernel they want to install (at least on on the i386 and amd64 architectures) and get more or less the same Debian operating system they are used to. This makes Debian the first distribution, and probably the first large OS, to support two completely different kernels at the same time."

Comment Re:Dumb idea (Score 1) 951

Well, of course, as any of my students would immediately ask "what about lamarckian evolution?" (an alternative explanation for the process of evolution, largely rejected or falsified by observations)

...and then you start looking at microbes, which show evolution patterns that can be described as Lamarckian (e.g. antibiotic resistance gathered through horizontal gene transfer, phenotypic switching (a.k.a. phase variation) in biofilms).


Submission + - US wants to track vehicles for a "mileage tax&

zarathud writes: The News&Observer reports that the U.S government and 15 states have commissioned a trial of a satellite-based vehicle tracking system. The intent of the system is to monitor highway use in order to tax it. Participants will have "GPS computers" mounted in their cars and receive mock state and federal tax bills for their mileage. The justification for the proposed tax is that alternative energy cars sidestep the gas taxes that help fund roads. This system appears to be quite different from the tracking system Slashdot covered last month. This idea has been considered by Oregon and California before. Economist Mike Moffatt has a few criticisms.

Mass Effect DRM Still Causing Issues 593

An anonymous reader writes "There was some discussion last month about the proposed DRM for Mass Effect and Spore that required the game to phone home every ten days. They backed down from that, but have left in that a user is only allowed 3 activations per license key. A license key is burned up when the O/S is reinstalled, when certain hardware is upgraded (EA refuses to disclose specifics of what), and possibly when a new user is set up in Windows. Only in its first month, some users are already locked out of their games from trying troubleshooting techniques to get the game running."

Anti-P2P College Bill Moving Through House 334

An anonymous reader writes "A article is covering an amendment to the College Opportunity and Affordability Act (pdf) that should make folks in Hollywood, the RIAA, and the MPAA well pleased. The tiny section seeks to hinge government approval of an institution of higher learning on whether or not they adequately dissuade Peer-to-Peer filesharing of copyrighted materials. The Act came out of the House Education and Labor Committee, which agreed on the terms unanimously. There is still some question, though, as to what penalties should be handed down for institutions that don't do enough to protect intellectual property. 'Some university representatives and fair-use advocates worry that schools run the risk of losing aid for their students if they fail to come up with the required plans. "The language in the bill appears to be clear that failure to carry out the mandates would make an institution ineligible for participation in at least some part of Title IV (which deals with federal financial aid programs)," Steven Worona, director of policy and networking programs for the group Educause, said in a telephone interview Thursday.'" Update: 11/16 16:36 GMT by Z : PDF link corrected.

Stem Cell Targeting Wins First Nobel of 2007 48

An anonymous reader writes "'Gene targeting,' which allows scientists to isolate stem cells in mice and reproduce genetically modified offspring, has won the Nobel Prize for medicine. Having allowed pathologists to better understand diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and cystic fibrosis for close to 20 years, the technology is just now getting its big day in the sun. From Nobel's full how-it-works: 'Their [i.e. ES cells] use as a vehicle for the transfer into the mouse genome of mutant alleles, either selected in cell culture or inserted into the cells via transformation with specific DNA fragments, has been presented as an attractive proposition. In many of these studies the use of pluripotential cells directly isolated from the embryos under study should have great advantages.'"

Australia to Offer Widespread ISP-level Filtering 208

Phurge writes "According to a Sydney Morning Herald article, the Australia government has decided to take the controversial step of having internet service providers filter web content at the request of parents, in a crackdown on online bad language, pornography and child sex predators. 'The more efficient compulsory filtering of internet service providers (ISPs) was proposed in March last year by the then Labor leader, Kim Beazley. At the time, the Communications Minister, Helen Coonan, and ISPs criticised his idea as expensive. Three months later Senator Coonan announced the Government's Net Alert policy, which promised free filtering software for every home that wanted it. She also announced an ISP filtering trial to be conducted in Tasmania. That trial was scrapped. Today Mr Howard will hail the ISP filtering measure as a world first by any Government, and is expected to offer funding to help cover the cost. Parents will be able to request the ISP filter option when they sign up with an ISP. It will be compulsory to provide it. The measures will come into effect by the end of this month.'"

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Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards. -- Aldous Huxley