Category: Science

It looks like those faster-than-light particles could really have been the result of a bad reading from a loose cableNew readings will now be taken to determine the real speed of the neutrinos.


Rare Good News in AIDS Fight

A daily pill that costs just 25¢ can prevent both men and women from catching HIV from partners carrying the virus.

The potential impact of this is huge.

Coast Guard for Space

James C. Bennett suggests that there is a need for an agency devoted to the burgeoning space industry.  NASA and the Air Force aren’t prepared to deal with the increasing amount of civilian, commercial space flight.  Bennett explains the need for and benefits of a Coast Guard-like organization for space.

Space travel beyond Earth orbit also resembles maritime transportation more than aviation in that it is conducted in “voyage mode” rather than “sortie mode.” Aircraft operations are typically timed in hours rather than days or weeks. .  .  .  Oceangoing ships, on the other hand, can stay at sea for weeks or even months, and so their accommodations are designed to be habitable, and their crews able to operate autonomously for extended periods. Maritime crew practices, traditions, and rules have evolved over centuries to preserve effectiveness under such conditions. This suggests that for operations in near-Earth space, in which vehicles are in sortie mode, organizational culture ought to be similar to that of aviation, whereas for extended operations in deep space, an organizational culture derived from maritime practices would be preferable.

The maritime metaphor makes sense to science fiction fans.  Naval and maritime ranks are used in science fiction taking place on spaceships.  For example, Star Trek uses naval ranks and Firefly would be a merchant vessel.  Both ships are commanded by captains.  (By contrast, the Air Force-focused Stargate series have their spaceships commanded by colonels.)

(h/t Instapundit)

It’s really one of those problems that we would thought would be gone by now, but hospital infections and diseases haven’t gone away.  According to this Scientific American piece, the problem has gotten worse.

It is the ultimate paradox of American health care: going to the hospital can kill you. Every year nearly two million hospital-acquired infections claim roughly 100,000 lives and add $45 billion in costs; that is as many lives and dollars as taken by AIDS, breast cancer and auto accidents combined. And with antibiotic resistance rising steadily, those numbers promise to climb even higher.
Even more staggering than the numbers is that most of these infections are preventable. The Institute of Medicine has long since determined that if hospital staff would make some minor adjustments to their routines—like washing their hands more—the problem could be significantly minimized.

Increased use of antibiotics has created new breeds of superbugs that are antibiotic-resistant and hospitals have become dependent on antibiotics in lieu of proper hygiene.

This proposed law in New York wants physicians to forego neckties, but the law misses the forest for the trees.  The issue is not to pick and choose which particular hygiene rules to follow, but rather for hospitals to have comprehensive policies to minimize infection in the first place.

Open Source Biology

Open Source Biology?  Stephen Friend is trying just that.  Friend is applying Open Source philosophy to the biological sciences in order to speed up pharmaceutical development.

Why would these corporations and universities participate?  How is it in their interests?

My thoughts: it’s about the time value of money.  By speeding up the process of drug development, even if the parties get smaller pieces of the pie, they still come out ahead.  One challenge would be to determine appropriate percentages for each group.

A second challenge would be how to ensure intellectual property protection.  There may be a patent law 102(b) bar with the disclosures coming so much earlier in the process.  Two quick potential solutions: 1) Keep the technology closed within the network (so there’s no public disclosure) and 2) File more patents and file earlier in the processes.   Or the parties could accept the disclosure of the earlier products if the final products are sufficiently valuable and more quickly developed.

(via Slashdot)

Astronauts Wanted

Think you got the right stuff?

Have our own microorganisms solved the classic computer science conundrum?  No, despite the headline, they haven’t.  However immune cells solve a simple version of the problem when faced with a small number of targets.

It appears that our white blood cells do a quick and sophisticated analysis of the targets and their relative distances and come up with a solution comparable with computer algorithms.

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