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Comment Pointless excercise (Score 1) 304

Anything that is used as often as a comparator doesn't really matter, because you will quickly learn to recognize and recall it. Call "greater than" "susan" and after a few days you will know what "A susan B" means without even thinking.

However, if anyone found a better way to memorize things that you use once in a while (say, once a week or once a month); things like obscure class names in Java or particularities of certain R statistical packages (which parameter changes the direction of labels, was it "las" or "lus"? Does 1 mean "bottom" or "left" in the "pos" parameter? What was the name of that package that did this little thingy and had this nice function to produce such great plots...) then I would find the discussion not a complete waste of time.

If only there was something to help us with that... like, if there were environments or editors that would enable us to quickly search available libraries, autocomplete, look up manuals...

Oh wait.

Comment Re:Issue is obvious if you're not a SJW (Score 2) 928


Except -- not even statistically. In real statistics, effect size matters; even a significant effect is unimportant if the effect size is small (see effect size in Wikipedia).

Psychological meta-analyses show that even though statistically significant gender effects may exist, their effect size is very small -- these differences are not important (see for example this paper by Janet S. Hyde, but also numerous other publications). There are few exceptions: males seem to have better dimensional orientation and women have a better ability to read other people's emotional state, but even in these cases the effect size is modest. The real difference is... the frequency of masturbation (Cohen's d ~ 1, but even that is not the largest effect that one observes on the daily basis in science).

Comment Re:Issue is more complicated (Score 1) 928

Excuse me, but having a penis or a vagina does not have anything to do with considering anyone calling me a "fuckwad" to be offensive, rude and unprofessional. I am male, but I will not interact with anyone on that level. Maybe that is acceptable in where you grew up or with some people that you are interacting with; however, you need to be aware that for most other people, regardless of their chromosomal setup, this type of interaction is not only offensive, but also a sign of your lack of general competence and intelligence. A "stay away" flag, if you will.

And yes, if you need this type of interaction to do anything productive, if you are unable to either express the same without being offensive or parse a comment that does not include the word "fuckwad", then it is you who has a problem and it is a much more serious problem than scaring away smart and professional individuals, whatever their genitals may be.

Comment Today, I would never have learned programming (Score 5, Insightful) 608

I got my first computer in 1986; I was 13, and it was a ZX Spectrum with a build-in BASIC interpreter. When you switched on, you could start away programming. In fact, the computer came with a little book with programming examples and little games. I spend countless hours typing in listings that I found in newspapers. To even load a simple game you had to enter a command.

Since then, I learned C, tcsh, C++, bash, Perl, much later also Python and R. It was a step by step process, and I would never have started it (and became what I am now, that is, computational biologist) if not for this one computer with the BASIC interpreter.

I have kids now, and they have Android tablets. The sheer power, their parameters and their capabilities are overwhelming. I don't know how many instances of a ZX Spectrum emulator I could run on one of these, a thousand?

But even though they run on a system that is related to the system I am using every day, I would not know how to write a program for them to save my life. In theory, I know how I would approach it, I even set up once an Eclipse environment once, but I never got to even start a Hello world program. If I were 13, I would not even know that I can write a program myself.

It is amazing, but I think that actually, my kids will have a much harder time to learn programming than I had, and they will get much less fun in return...

Comment Novel, it is not (Score 3, Interesting) 85

John Maynard Smith introduced the game theory to evolutionary biology in the early 70's. It was a breakthrough at that time, however today it is scarcely news. Evolutionary biology, and in especially population genetics has been a highly mathematized discipline ever since before WWII, when it was developed by Fisher, Wright and Haldane. Later you had Hamilton and Maynard Smith. It is nice that computer scientists noticed that something exciting is going on here, but don't fall for press releases and insubstantiated claims.

Comment They got it all wrong (Score 1) 634

Speaking as a scientist with 20+ years of experience in programming: we are unlikely to choose a programming language based on its elegance, ideas behind etc. Two primary factors are (i) who else is using a given language and (ii) what libraries for that language are out there. For example, exactly 0 of the languages mentioned in the original article are used by statisticians. Haskell might be cute to write a generic program with, but in R or SPSS I have all the cutting-edge statistical tools I need for my work.

Comment No, they did not (Score 4, Informative) 109

Again, the press release is misleading. Worse, it fires back on the real and great accomplishment by suggesting it is something that it is not.

The scientists managed to squeeze key enzymes into different minuscule compartments of a cell-like structure. That in itself is fascinating and a great achievement; but that doesn't make an eukaryotic cell. It does not replicate; it does not synthesize the lipid-like structures; it lacks a cytoskeleton and a complex organization; the reactions going on are few and very simple. It is as much an eukaryotic cell as a neural net algorithm is a working brain.

However, it has working enzymes within little bubbles within other bubbles, which can be called "compartmentalization", a feature of eukaryotic cells that distinguish them from bacterial cells.

Nonetheless, this is a considerable achievment that has both a practical side and is a working model with potential to make in vitro experiments helping to understand the processes that go on in the real cells.

Comment Am I missing something? (Score 2) 134

"fully enclosed mini desktop computer that could be taken anywhere without the need for cabling or setup"

So, basically, a laptop?

Seriously -- how is that news? People have been doing it for years now. Here is a random google link from 2012:

Comment Re:Dr. Fred Klenner cured polio with Vitamin C (Score 2) 105

The problem is that anything above 400mg / day gets quickly removed from our organism. So no, we are not chimps (and btw, chimps also can't synthesise vitamin C naturally), and our organisms know pretty well how much vitamin C is needed.

Pauling specifically believed that overdose of vitamin C can prevent cancer. It was a very interesting hypothesis, and it was very important to test it. However, several large prospective studies undertaken in the 80's have, unfortunately for all of us, falsified that claim.

Klenner's observations from the 30's-50's have also not been confirmed by any kind of systematic study.

Comment Re:I take 6 grams a day (Score 3, Informative) 105

6000 mg vitamin C daily, not counting vitamin C in the food? That is a lot. Consult your physician and be very, very cautious about suggesting medical advice if you are not prepared to take moral and financial responsibility for it. Yes, vitamin C is important. Yes, increased intake of vitamin C has been show to have several health benefits, including reduced stroke and cardiovascular disease risks, especially in smokers. However, "increased intake" means "well below 1g/day".

6000 is 30-100 times the recommended daily dose. Although studies indicate that vitamin C intake at 2-4 g/day may not have large adverse effects (1), one has to be extremely cautious when recommending supplementing your diet by a 100x of a daily dose. The fact that you don't experience any adverse effects such as kidney stones (at least yet) does not mean that a person reading your comment will not suffer from that either.

Apart from the problems with the digestive tract, vitamin C can hamper endurance in physical exercises (2). Moreover, vitamin C not used by the organism (which requires as little as 100-200mg / day) is excreted (3). For that, it is metabolised to oxalic acid, which in turn can cause kidney stones (4 and the references therein). So yes, although problems with vit. C overdose do not seem to be common and are not comparable to overdoses of some other vitamins, at 6g/d saying that "C can't hurt" is very risky (especially as supplements can contain other vitamins as well, and the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K can cause severe adverse effects -- vitamine poisoning -- when overdosed).

The highest risk-free level of daily intake for vitamine C has been recently proposed to be 1000 mg (1g) (5, 6). People, before you install some shady software someone recommends at a biology-oriented website, ask your IT friend for advice. Before your follow medical advice from Slashdot, consult your physician.

"Rational by choice."

Prove it. Read the evidence based medical studies rather than trusting and spreading anecdotes.


Comment Why is M.tb. a problem and other clarifications (Score 4, Informative) 105

Mtb is an intracellular pathogen. It invades our cells, the very same cells that are supposed to kill bacteria (the macrophages). This is why treatment of TB takes six months. Vitamin C, at a dosage lethal for Mtb as described in the article, cannot be used to kill the bacteria in our cells. The importance of the article is that it identifies a potentially intereseting difference between Mtb and other bacteria.

As for vitamin C, this is not some kind of a miraculous drug; it is just a co-enzyme required for a few particular reactions in our metabolic pathways. We, humans, are mutants, we lack the ability to synthetise vitamin C -- along with our cousins, the monkeys, although most animals do synthetise it on their own. Lack of vitamin C impedes the metabolism. However, only little of the co-enzyme is needed, and once vitamin C is no longer a limiting factor, it has barely an effect.

Think about that in terms of a network. If your wireless router is extremely slow, buying a new one will increase the speed of your connection. But what good is a super fast wifi router, if the outgoing connection runs at 10Mbit?

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, and this is why some people (quite incorrectly) think that taking large doses of vitamin C are beneficial. However, there are two forms of this compound, L-ascorbate (vitamin C) and D-ascorbate; both are antioxidative, but only one is a co-enzyme. D-ascorbate, however, shows no beneficial effects.

Big pharma has not much interest in preventing the use of vitamin C in Mtb treatment. Mtb drugs are cheap, generic, and effective; the main reason why Mtb is a problem for much of the world is lack of fast and cheap diagnostic tools. You see, 2 billions (2e9, one third of worlds population) are infected with Mtb, and of these, only 10% will develop tuberculosis during their lifetime. However, we don't know which, why, and when. Also, when a person falls ill, it is not a quick process like a flu; rather than that, a person starts feeling unwell, caughing and becomes infectious over weeks before she finally decides to see a doctor. Here is a review article I wrote on TB and biomarkers: (full text behind a paywall, unfortunately).

Pauling believed that taking large doses of vitamines will prevent cancer and took large amounts of vitamin C throughout his life. In 1994, he died of prostate cancer.

Comment Bad news for you (Score 1) 228

Counting from the start of my PhD program, I have spent over 15 years doing science (biology) -- most of my grown-up life. I'm still doing science, it's my life. And what I have to say to you, young padawan, is not nice.

You are about to do the most thrilling (awesome, exciting, depressing, frustrating, crazy, fulfilling, everything at once) thing on Earth, you will be doing bloody science, and you think about getting hobbies? New interests? All that in a fashion of someone shopping for a new T-shirt? (ah, skydiving, seems nice, I'll take a pair).

How will you come up with ideas for your research if you have not enough curiosity and interest in the world around you, and you have to fish for interests / hobbies on Slashdot? This is how your question sounds for me: "I just got an apprenticeship at NASA, can someone give me an idea for a new hobby? 'cause I have none". If you need to ask a question like that, then better ask yourself whether PhD in science is really what you want.

Apart from that, if you already have anything that you like to do with your free time, plus you have some kind of relationship (or plan to have one), plus you will take your science seriously, you will have barely any time to pursue "new hobbies / interests". Go and read

And get out of my lawn.

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