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Comment Re:Free Motorcycles (Score 1) 295

Like I said, one can fiddle with the numbers to swing the accounting a fair bit in one direction or the other. As you've demonstrated, if one makes optimistic assumptions about the age of the donor and maximizes the number of recipients by assuming a strict one-organ-per recipient (include just one lung at a time, and no multiple-organ transplants--bear in mind that the vast majority of pancreas transplants are actually pancreas-kidney, for example) and 100% organ recovery and transplantation, one can choose to make the math give you the result you're looking for.

It's very sticky if you want to score tissues that aren't necessarily lifesaving or for which artificial or animal alternative sources exist. (It's ethically problematic to suggest, for example, that more dead motorcyclists are a good thing because it will improve the supply of cadaveric ACL replacements, especially given that many patients could instead receive an autograft of their own tissue.)

It doesn't help that you're neglecting the last and most important part of my comment acknowledging that a very substantial fraction of potential organs won't be converted into actual transplants: helmetless motorcyclists who die too far from care or too quickly for their organs to be recovered; ones who have communicable diseases, malignancies, or other medical conditions that exclude them from donation; and so forth. (Going forward, helmet laws will only be suspended if you're over 40, free of hepatitis and HIV infection, have recently been screened for cancer, and are biking in an area with excellent ambulance service within 1 hour of a major transplant center. Hmmm...) Each dead motorcyclist is only "worth" 60 years multiplied by the fraction of viable organ recoveries--which probably comes out to well under 50%.

Finally, we're using "accounting" in a couple of different ways, here. I was using it purely to refer to life-years saved or lost. If we actually want to look at dollars and cents, it gets really ugly really fast. In the United States, the total billable costs for a heart transplant (including 30 days of pre-operative screening and prep, organ procurement, the transplant operation itself, and the subsequent 6-month period of recovery and rehab) comes out to about a million bucks. A single lung or a liver transplant are both well over half a million apiece. Kidneys are well clear of the quarter million mark.

From a purely financial perspective, it's waaaaay less costly to just let the motorcyclist survive and the potential transplant recipients die in a few months or a year, rather than let them be brutally expensive surgeries with steep and ongoing maintenance costs. Amortizing that heart transplant over the likely life of the recipient (or the transplanted organ) runs a hundred grand plus per year. Oh, and don't forget the cost of care and rehab for all those brain-damaged motorcyclists who don't manage to actually die from their head injuries....

Comment Re:Free Motorcycles (Score 1) 295

I've said for years that helmet laws probably costs lives.

Maybe, but not necessarily. It depends a lot on your accounting. A 20-year-old dumbass male might expect to have around 60 years ahead of him, most of which will be time spent in good health.

His kidneys will probably last about 10 years in each of their recipients, so count 20 years "saved" total.

The median survival time for heart transplant recipients is also about 10 years.

Liver transplants tend to do particularly well; the median survival is closer to 20 years.

Lungs are a lot pickier; the median is closer to 5 years, but is steadily improving.

Add that all up, and we're just shy of breaking even (55 life-years for the recipients, versus 60 life-years lost by the motorcyclist). On can fiddle with the parameters to swing things a bit either way. In some cases, the liver can be split into two lobes; the larger right lobe goes to an adult and the smaller left lobe to a child recipient. Some recipients only need a single-lung transplant, so one pair of lungs can go to two recipients. And we're getting better at keeping transplanted organs functional for longer. And, of course, some dead motorcyclists are 40-year-olds having a mid-life crisis.

On the flip side, some recipients may need multiple organs (heart-lung, heart-liver, etc.).

More important, not all organs will be viable--not every helmet-less fatality leads to a full complement of usable donor organs. For reasons of underlying disease or quirks of the donor's physiology, it may not be possible to transplant some organs. The fatal motorcycle accident may damage some other organs beyond repair. The accident may even occur in a location or under circumstances where none of the organs can be recovered for donation. That is going to tip the scales a long way against the "benefit" of more brain-dead motorcyclists.

Frankly, we have more than enough cadavers now; what we need is for more of them to donate their organs. Presumed consent (an opt-out rather than opt-in) system would be far more effective than suspending helmet laws.

Comment Re:How Many Paid Oil/Gas Industry Trolls Post Here (Score 2) 284

Just move on from Slashdot.

I gave up on fighting against the astroturfers here a few years back... wasn't worth the effort and stress anymore. I can still get good discussion about topics that matter to me at reddit -- just need to stay away from some of the subreddits there.

Every once in a while I come check on Slashdot, and remember anew why I left. The place went to shit once the sockpuppet accounts got critical mass on mod points.

Comment Re:Dougla's Adams said it best (Score 1) 689

Plurality voting with single member districts leads to two party systems. It would require seriously amending the Constitution to change that.

Actually it wouldn't take amending the Constitution [which says nothing about requiring plurality or First-Past-the-Post voting], only changing Federal election laws, in order to completely break the plurality system.

First, there are two states (Maine and Nebraska) where the Electoral College vote can be split; increasing which states with this system would then magnify the value of 3rd-party efforts [as each such state greatly increases the odds of a minor candidate earning the one or two electoral vote(s) which might deadlock the EC, forcing the election to be determined by the House instead]. As seen by the fact this system already exists, this change could be implemented without requiring changes to the Constitution or federal election laws, only state laws.

Secondly, change could be instituted within the House of Representatives by revising the laws on how members are elected: Federal law requires the current separate district methodology but we could move towards a state-level proportional representation system. This would grant easier third-party access to Congress and, while not directly contributing to Presidential aspirations, would elevate the visibility of those platforms and policies. Again, this change would not require a Constitutional amendment, but only altering existing Federal election laws.

Because FPTP/plurality voting sustains the current two-party system even in the face of such hatred the electorate shows for Clinton and Trump, saying these changes do not require amending the Constitution does seem to discount the resistance these changes would face... but I believe the unprecedented hatred for those two candidates and the extreme partisanship on display by their supporters together indicate the importance of making them.

Comment the equivalent of about 300 miles? (Score -1, Troll) 128

...a half-hour travel time between Stockholm and Helsinki, which is the equivalent of about 300 miles.

"The equivalent of about 300 miles"? What does that mean?

Oh, it means "about 300 miles". Or even "a distance of about 300 miles". Right. But this is a 'technical' topic, so we need to use more and bigger words. The best words.

Unless there's some sort of weird space-time physical equivalence principle the authors are alluding to, in which case a half hour is actually 300 miles long.

Comment Re:Hyperbole (Score 1) 175

But regarding their testing, it was certainly a small scale test of known technology, but you underestimate the value of such tests. There's massive amounts of theoretical aspects they have to plow through first, move gradually to small scale live tests and finally piece it all together in one big PoC. After the small pieces are theorized and tested, it takes exponentially less time to piece them all together in the end.

I wouldn't say I underestimate the value of small-scale tests so much as I would say that Musk and company have been deliberately obscure about exactly what they were testing, and have been downright misleading about the distance between where they are now and what they claim they will be able to deliver. We were shown a dog-and-pony show constructed to meet an artificial publicity deadline, not a well-explained demonstration as part of a clearly-elucidated development roadmap.

When I read comments like yours, it reminds me of anti-innovation corporate voices I have to battle against on a daily basis.

Hmm. Do you misrepresent your progress and conceal the nature of your accomplishments to your corporate masters too, then? That could be your problem.

Look, I'm a scientist in an academic setting, but with private-sector collaborators. I do both "pure" and "applied" research. I contribute to both peer-reviewed papers and patent applications. I can tell the difference between healthy skepticism and blind anti-innovation. The problem with Musk's Hyperloop demo isn't the idea, or the technology, or the dream--it's that he doesn't tell us what the demo is actually doing. It's like writing a scientific paper that starts with the usual Abstract and Introduction, then jumps straight to a one-liner Conclusion and a big Discussion about the implications of the work and all the cool stuff that's going to happen in the future. He just skipped over the Materials & Methods and the detailed Results. We aren't told what we're actually looking at or what it can really do, just to take on faith that it's awesome. That's my issue.

Comment Re:Hyperbole (Score 2) 175

Mod parent up.

The "first successful test" appears to have been a small test sled on a short, low-speed test track. Yes, they showed they could drive a piece of metal with a linear induction motor, but that's just demonstrating an application of known technology. Vancouver's SkyTrain has been using linear induction propulsion since 1985 as part of a regular, boring, functional public transit system. Similar technology appears in Toronto (the Scarborough Rapid Transit line), New York (the AirTrain JFK airport link), and at least a handful of other sites.

Practically speaking, one could have done the same demo by taking a 30-year-old SkyTrain car, stripping the body and seats out, and flipping the induction drive unit sideways to be compatible with the vertically-mounted induction track shown on the Hyperloop demo system. (You'd get great acceleration, too, since you can dump much of the car's weight--and you wouldn't care about the components surviving for more than a few seconds of photo op.) Maybe there were major technological advances under the hood, but the breathless hype all glosses over any meaningful description of what might have been accomplished.

Comment "Alien-hunting telescope"? Really, guys? (Score 5, Interesting) 64

"Alien-hunting telescope"? Really, guys?

A large-scale pure-science project. A tool that will advance modern astrophysical and astronomical research. A landmark technical achievement.

But it came from funny-looking furriners (not just funny-talking, like them ones from Yurp). So we must be sure to cast the headline in the most derisive terms possible. It's not a research tool that shoestring SETI projects will be able to snag a bit of time on--no, it's an "alien-hunting telescope".

I mean, my God--snippets of Aricebo's time have been used for alien-hunting (and alien-spamming) for decades. It was used to send publicity stunt messages to M13 in 1974, and to some nearer stars in 2009. SETI@home users have been crunching Aricebo data looking for little green men since 1999. And yet, oddly enough, no one ever seems to refer to Aricebo as an "alien-hunting telescope". Why is that?

Comment Re:Dude, you're messed up. (Score 1) 364

You'd rather break someone else's bones than total a car where everyone escapes injury free? That's messed up.

Heck, it probably even falls down (er...) on a strict monetary cost basis. A broken bone caused by a vehicle colliding with a pedestrian likely has a bunch of associated soft tissue injury, which can lead to all kinds of expensive-to-manage (and -treat) damage. The straight-up hospital bills plus lost wages for pedestrian victim can very easily pile up to more than the insured value of a car--making those priorities a net loss for society even if we assign no value at all to preventing pain and suffering.

Of course, it's also silly to pretend that the car is "smart" enough to confidently and reliably predict what will be a moderate injury versus a potentially-fatal one. The car doesn't know if a wound is going to suffer a serious infection. The car doesn't know if a bone fragment is going to sever a major artery. The car doesn't know if the pedestrian will suffer a serious brain injury when her head hits the pavement. Pretending there's a firm choice between totalling the car and non-permanent injury is a fiction--the choice is between totalling the car and a risk of serious or fatal injury.

Comment Re:Donating blood after a disaster (Score 1) 1718

There's a lot of dumb posts on this story, but this one makes my top 5.

I'll just quote the front page of the American Red Cross' website:

Our hearts go out to all those who are affected by the tragic shooting in Orlando. The Red Cross has received a tremendous outpouring of support and we are grateful for all who have responded. The blood needs from this tragedy have been met. In the event of an emergency, it’s the blood already on the shelves that can help save lives. That’s why it’s important that eligible individuals schedule an appointment to give blood and platelets in the weeks and months ahead.

Emphasis added. Don't take it from me, take it from the Red Cross.

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