Peter Thiel's Book

May. 5th, 2015 06:21 am
[syndicated profile] in_the_pipeline_feed

Wavefunction has a good look at Peter Thiel's Zero to One. As he puts it, "Thiel has said some odd things about chemistry and biotech before, so I was bracing myself for encountering some naiveté in his book." I don't blame him; I'd be the same way. But it wasn't quite as bad as he feared.

Nevertheless. . .there is a grain of truth in Thiel's diagnosis of many biotech and pharma companies. For some reason the pharmaceutical industry has lost the kind of frontier spirit that once infused it and which is now largely the province of swashbuckling Silicon Valley inhabitants. Whatever the hurdles and naiveté intrinsic to this spirit, it doesn't seem unreasonable to imagine that the industry could benefit from a bit more can-do, put-all-your-chips-on-the-table, entrepreneurial kind of spirit.

Still, you'll need to be ready for the phrase "high-salaried, unaligned lab drones" - just warning you. Another part of the blog post mentions a good reason for the more cautious approach that you see in biopharma as opposed to software, though: higher chances of failure via factors outside of your control. That gets back to the humans-didn't-make-this argument that I make in this situations - you really do have a better chance of bulling your way through in an IT startup by sheer skill and hard work. Whereas in drug discovery, skill and hard work are necessary, but nowhere near sufficient. We get our heads handed to us more often, and for reasons that couldn't always be anticipated by a reasonable person.

That's why the avoidable errors are so annoying in this business. Our failure rates are high enough already without own goals!

Human CRISPR

May. 5th, 2015 05:51 am
[syndicated profile] in_the_pipeline_feed

Biocentury has a roundup of reactions to the recent human CRISPR paper:

There's no dispute that because the technology is in its infancy, much more work needs to be done to establish its safety. Stakeholders also agree that no experiments should be done, at least for now, in clinical programs that would involve modifying germline DNA and creating gene-edited embryos.

However one camp argues that research to understand the technology better and establish its safety in human cells should be permitted under appropriate regulatory controls. That means gene editing would be performed on human germline cells, but that any products would be discarded. Advocates for that position believe it's worth considering whether there are therapeutic situations where using gene editing might be beneficial.

The other school of thought is that there will never be a justifiable use related to human germline cells, and that no experiments should be done for either research or clinical applications. The argument is not just that it's a slippery slope from establishing safety and methods for well-meant therapeutic uses to providing a roadmap for eugenics.

Over the whole discussion, though, seems to be an air of "Well, someone's going to be doing it; it's just a matter of when". That's how I see it, and that makes the job how to have it happen in the least crazy way possible.

Peter Thiel's Book

May. 5th, 2015 06:21 am
[syndicated profile] pipeline_feed

Wavefunction has a good look at Peter Thiel's Zero to One. As he puts it, "Thiel has said some odd things about chemistry and biotech before, so I was bracing myself for encountering some naiveté in his book." I don't blame him; I'd be the same way. But it wasn't quite as bad as he feared.

Nevertheless. . .there is a grain of truth in Thiel's diagnosis of many biotech and pharma companies. For some reason the pharmaceutical industry has lost the kind of frontier spirit that once infused it and which is now largely the province of swashbuckling Silicon Valley inhabitants. Whatever the hurdles and naiveté intrinsic to this spirit, it doesn't seem unreasonable to imagine that the industry could benefit from a bit more can-do, put-all-your-chips-on-the-table, entrepreneurial kind of spirit.

Still, you'll need to be ready for the phrase "high-salaried, unaligned lab drones" - just warning you. Another part of the blog post mentions a good reason for the more cautious approach that you see in biopharma as opposed to software, though: higher chances of failure via factors outside of your control. That gets back to the humans-didn't-make-this argument that I make in this situations - you really do have a better chance of bulling your way through in an IT startup by sheer skill and hard work. Whereas in drug discovery, skill and hard work are necessary, but nowhere near sufficient. We get our heads handed to us more often, and for reasons that couldn't always be anticipated by a reasonable person.

That's why the avoidable errors are so annoying in this business. Our failure rates are high enough already without own goals!

Human CRISPR

May. 5th, 2015 05:51 am
[syndicated profile] pipeline_feed

Biocentury has a roundup of reactions to the recent human CRISPR paper:

There's no dispute that because the technology is in its infancy, much more work needs to be done to establish its safety. Stakeholders also agree that no experiments should be done, at least for now, in clinical programs that would involve modifying germline DNA and creating gene-edited embryos.

However one camp argues that research to understand the technology better and establish its safety in human cells should be permitted under appropriate regulatory controls. That means gene editing would be performed on human germline cells, but that any products would be discarded. Advocates for that position believe it's worth considering whether there are therapeutic situations where using gene editing might be beneficial.

The other school of thought is that there will never be a justifiable use related to human germline cells, and that no experiments should be done for either research or clinical applications. The argument is not just that it's a slippery slope from establishing safety and methods for well-meant therapeutic uses to providing a roadmap for eugenics.

Over the whole discussion, though, seems to be an air of "Well, someone's going to be doing it; it's just a matter of when". That's how I see it, and that makes the job how to have it happen in the least crazy way possible.

sylvaine: Sakura looking badass. ([anime:Naruto] Sakura)
[personal profile] sylvaine posting in [community profile] fanart_recs
Fandom: Naruto
Characters/Pairing/Other Subject: Haruno Sakura/Yamanaka Ino (femslash or gen depending on your interpretation)
Content Notes/Warnings: none
Medium: digital art
Artist on DW/LJ: NA
Artist Website/Gallery: [tumblr.com profile] pigandforehead / [tumblr.com profile] dimisfit / neonanything's art tag
Why this piece is awesome: It's such a cheerful, happymaking piece, and the idea of Sakura and Ino being heads of the Hospital and of Interrogation, respectively, is so great!
Link: on tumblr (If that link breaks I have reblogged it here.)

The Big Idea: Ramez Naam

May. 5th, 2015 10:45 am
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Very quickly, Ramez Naam has become a name to be reckoned with in science fiction, with a series of near-future novels that question reality — or what we use to perceive it, and how that can be manipulated. Apex, the final book in Naam’s Nexus trilogy, is out now, and Naam is here to explain how it interacts with his previous novels — and where it takes us from there.

RAMEZ NAAM:

Global protest goes techno-telepathic. Near-Singularity meets Occupy and the Arab Spring.

Apex is the third and final of my Nexus novels, concluding the trilogy started with Nexus and Crux.

The science at the heart of the books has been consistent. Nexus introduced a technology – packaged as a drug – that could link human brains, with their senses, thoughts, and emotions, across short distances or eventually across the net. That technology brought awesome potential to increase human communication and human innovation – or to be used for mind control, assassination, or political subversion. Swallow a dose and connect, if you dare.

The big idea at the heart of Nexus was a question of freedom and control. Who gets to decided whether you can put such a technology in your brain? Who gets to decide whether scientists can make advances in such technologies? What happens when the War on Drugs and the War on Terror smash into a promising technology that looks like a drug, that’s used as a drug, and that’s similar to other technologies abused by criminals and terrorists? That tension – and the very cool science – drove the book from San Francisco to the back streets of Bangkok; Shanghai and Washington DC to Buddhist monasteries in the mountains of Thailand and more.

Crux personalized that idea to one of consequences and responsibility. When you’ve built something that has a huge positive impact, but you find that it is, in fact, being abused, where does one’s responsibility end? How far would you go to stop the problems? What lines would you cross? Or, how far would you go to use the power that creating such a technology has given you, to make the world a better place, even if that meant crossing far more lines?

Apex is the end. And the big idea is now larger. In a world where people have been lied to by the powers above them, where they’ve had their freedoms curtailed, what happens when a radical new technology is inserted? What happens when all the hopes, and joys, and tools, and rage of humanity can be transmitted from mind to mind, even more intimately than the web allows us to do today?

Reading Nexus and Crux, people have commented to me on the linkage to the NSA spying programs that were revealed by Edward Snowden. I must say, that was accidental. I wrote those books before Edward Snowden ever stepped forward. But the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, and the ratcheting up of both surveillance and restriction in an attempt to protect people – even at the cost of their freedom – was very much on my mind.

In Apex the influences are more direct. From the Arab Spring, to Ukrainian uprisings that brought down a government, to environmental protests in China; from Occupy to Ferguson and now Baltimore; the last few years have been marked with protests – protests that are shareable in real-time with pictures, videos, and tweets that make it almost like being there. The real-time ability to share what we see, hear, and think is amplifying global protest movements. And that’s changing the world.

How much further would that go in a world where nearly-telepathic communication via a technology like Nexus existed? Would that be good? Would that be bad? Would the ability to actually experience someone else’s emotions, their life, and what they’ve been through fan the flames of protests? Could it bring more understanding, instead? Could groups of thousands or hundreds of thousands of neurallylinked protesters stay cohesive? Could they stay peaceful? Would they turn to riots? How would governments react? Can governments even survive such a world?

To ask such a question, I couldn’t restrict it to the United States. A lot of the action in Apex takes place on American soil. But just as much occurs in China, where technology is a double-edged sword when it comes to freedom, and nearly as much in India, the rising superpower we tend to forget. When technology smashes into society, the impact is global. And if protesters around the world are seeing their experiences and emotions go viral, directly from mind to mind, would something like the Arab Spring turn into a much more explosive Global Spring?

Those are some of the questions that fascinated me. The result, I’m told, is the most explosive of the Nexus novels so far. It’s also one that’s also shot through with the other questions the books have wrestled with: What defines the boundaries of human? Should we stop people from pushing farther?

And, looming in the background of all of these books until now: How will humanity react when it eventually comes face-to-face with a new generation, perhaps even a new species, with abilities that radically surpass our own? How should we?

I had a heck of a good time writing these books. I hope you enjoy them.

Apex: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.


Alcator C-Mod: A Tour of a Tokamak

May. 5th, 2015 10:00 am
[syndicated profile] amiablebowfin_feed

Posted by amiablebowfin

Back in January, I got to go on the MIT Plasma and Fusion Center’s annual tour of Alcator C-Mod, the world’s highest-field and highest-plasma pressure tokamak nuclear fusion experiment. It was interesting, if also kind of strange, to see how much some things reminded me of lab: not entirely surprising, since tokamaks also need to achieve ultra-high vacuum. Of course, we don’t need to worry about radiation caused by neutrons produced during fusion.

Sadly, because it’s taken me four months to manage to put together this post, I don’t remember much of the lecture we got. However, it was cool just to get to see an actual fusion reactor.

Inside the Alcator C-Mod control facility. I'm not sure why there was a giant tub of paperclips, but it amused me. I always thought IDL was just for astronomers, but apparently people trying to make stars use it, too. Our tour guide with the tokamak behind him. Another view of the tokamak. And another. Underneath. A view through the open radiation-shield door, which is closed during operation. Power feed-throughs. The huge bank of capacitors responsible for powering the tokamak. The jig for removing the lid was stored attached to the door. A tabletop model of the field-generating coils. Large screens in the control center. A wall of radiation badges.
Filed under: MIT, Science Lessons
andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker


From

(I am now actively looking forward to the election being over. I'm kinda hoping that I take a break from caring about politics very much for a bit.)

Bates Motel 3.09.

May. 5th, 2015 09:58 am
selenak: (Norma by Benchable)
[personal profile] selenak
In which the finale is set up. I think? We have ten episodes this season, right?

Read more... )

Daily Happiness

May. 5th, 2015 12:00 am
torachan: ewan mcgregor pulling his glasses down to look over the top (ewan glasses)
[personal profile] torachan
1. I made sundubu jjigae for dinner and it turned out so good!

2. Kitten was super cuddly today (even including some purring!). She still sulks a lot, but she's such a cuddlebun that I think even her tiny kitten brain realises she's only punishing herself by refusing cuddles. XD And the medicines are definitely working. Her gums are still a darker pink but not the bright red they were before.

3. We took a nice walk this afternoon. It was such a nice day. Warm, but not too hot, and a nice breeze.

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