Biotech and Computer Science Aren’t On Par. And That’s a Problem.
Two disciplines have been sharing much of the public’s attention in recent years: biotechnology and computer science.
In the biotech corner genome sequencing, gene therapy, high throughput drug screening, and nanotechnologies hold the promise of solving some of the most pressing health issues of our times, as well as allowing us to peer further and with more understanding into the realm of the microscopic.
Over on the computer science end of this spectrum advances in the fields of artificial intelligence, cryptography, and quantum computation have everybody in a flurry of well deserved excitement.
You would think there would be a happy marriage between these two transformative fields of science, and indeed much of the major advances in biology of late are because of computer science. Taken individually, however, there are stark differences between the two fields that prevent true equity.
Ease of Learning in Biology is Prohibitive
The relatively low barrier to entry into the world of professional programming starts to be apparent when you look at the veritable cornucopia of free learning resources available to both the beginner and the seasoned veteran, resources which are easily accessible through sites like CodeAcademy, Udacity, and Coursera and a myriad of others. All you need to get started learning from these sites? A computer and an internet connection.
John Boehner is qualified to lead Congress. But in his mind, he’s apparently not qualified to weigh in on climate change.
“Listen, I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change,” the House Speaker said at a press conference Thursday.
The Speaker is a federal lawmaker, in a position of great influence and power. Like all members of Congress, he may not be an expert in every discipline or area of public policy, but Boehner has a staff, a base of personal knowledge, and access to a limitless wealth of information.
He’s required by the nature of his responsibilities to make judgment calls based on the best available evidence. And in this case, scientists here and around the world are speaking with one voice: climate change is real. Without action from policymakers like John Boehner, the crisis will intensify and the consequences will be severe.
One need not be a scientist to believe scientists. That may be politically inconvenient for the Speaker, but – and this is key – reality doesn’t care.
The question for Boehner and other policymakers is simple: are you qualified to draw conclusions based on the guidance of experts? If the answer is “no,” perhaps a career in public service was a poor choice.
Either policymakers take evidence, reason, facts, and science seriously or they don’t. Your call, Mr. Speaker.
It’s Time to End the Oculus Outrage
OculusVR, the makers of virtual reality technology who were recently acquired by Facebook a short 18 months after their $2.4 million Kickstarter campaign, has been the target of much ire from the tech community in the last week.
The umbrage the company is facing has many apparent causes, ranging from frustrated Kickstarter investors wondering where their piece of the $2 billion pie is, to outraged gamers worried about the prospect of ads cropping up in their soon-to-be favorite VR video games. People across the web are jumping on the “Facebook is evil” bandwagon faster and with more fervor than I have personally ever seen anybody jump on any bandwagon.
It’s creating the distinct feeling that people are knee-jerking, and it needs to stop.
Let’s talk about Suspended Animation
Could Cryonics and Human Hibernation be our keys to the future?
A lot of people would probably balk at the idea of freezing themselves in the hopes of being resurrected in the future. The idea almost seems comical, like something you’d see in-say- a Woody Allen movie. Depicted as the stuff of science fiction, suspended animation is frequently portrayed in hollywood and in print in the form of space-travelers floating lifeless in a chamber filled with liquid with tubes jutting out from various parts of their body. Given the prevailing imagery it comes as no surprise that people view it as a far-fetched idea.
Medical science might be more optimistic about the idea though.
Cryonics: not just for mad scientists anymore
Cryonics-the science of low-temperature preservation of humans for their eventual re-animation-is quickly burgeoning into a high-tech and well established field. With the advent of specialized solutions known as cryoprotectants that prevent tissue damaging ice crystals from forming in the predominantly water-filled cellular environment, and with techniques in donated organ vitrification and storage becoming increasingly advanced, the prospect of being revived from freezing temperatures could soon become as innocuous and commonplace as the thought of being saved from a heart attack or stroke. Indeed as a small proof of principle rats have even been saved from clinical death caused by 0 degree temperatures as early as 1955 by Dr. James Lovelock with the use of microwave diathermy, and dogs have been saved from similar conditions in more recent times.
Growing Inequality in Silicon Valley Sparks Protests Against Tech Workers
There’s no doubt that Silicon Valley is a unique center for innovation in today’s society. Dozens of popular tech companies have come out of the fast paced, no nonsense atmosphere that the region fosters, and the world is arguably a better place because a lot of these companies exist. However there is a growing sentiment that the tech industry’s presence in the area is not all it’s cracked up to be, with housing prices skyrocketing and the cost of living rising with them, words like “gentrification” and “wage gap” are not uncommon fare for table-side discussions in recent times.
Income inequality is certainly a hot ticket issue for the country (world?) right now. In 2011 the country saw the birth of what I personally think is one of the most interesting protests in American history: Occupy Wallstreet, a movement which was portrayed as maybe being without a unifying direction, but whose protesters all seemed to agree that income inequality was a very real and growing problem in this country, and that it needed to be addressed. In a recent speech President Obama even said that he views income inequality as the “defining challenge of our time”, and that working to solve it would define the policies of his administration in the coming years.
With all the attention being given to income inequality, and with the obvious importance of the issue and the direct impact it has on on peoples’ lives, it’s no surprise that sentiments in places like Silicon Valley are culminating in protests.
York Researchers send a text message via…Vodka.
Researchers at the University of Warwick in the UK have developed a method of information transfer that utilizes chemical signals, much like insects or plants use pheromones.
In their setup, a spray bottle is set at one end of the room with a fan in front, and a message is devised such that the chemicals released can be read as a binary sequence, depending on if the sensor on the other end of the room detects an increase or a decrease in the molecule being used, and this binary sequence can be translated into a text sequence.
In the video the researchers list some applications for this method, including robots leaving chemical messages for one another, potentially in areas where radio communication is impractical or downright impossible.
As a side note: I find it hilarious that the UK researchers decided to use the phrase “O Canada” as their test message.
Finally. Now I NEVER have to leave the house.
Graphene is definitely the year’s hot new material. It seems like every day a new news story comes across my feed and informs me of a new BREAKTHROUGH FOR GRAPHENE. The sensationalism would almost be desensitizing if graphene weren’t the coolest thing since sliced bread, but it is so bring on the sensation.
Now comes what could be a potential tipping point. A company in Poland called Nano Carbon (original name, right?) has just begun commercial production of graphene based products. This is some of the first commercial production of graphene, and while there are a small number of products that utilize micro sized flecks of graphene in their products, Nano Carbon’s production is the first instance of a company attempting to sell finished products that utilize larger area sized pieces of the material.
The company is able to do this by using a cheap and efficient method of synthesis that is based on a technique known as epitaxy, in which a 1 or 2 atom thick layer of carbon (in this case, graphene) is overlayed on a crystalline substrate. The method was developed by Dr. Wlodzimierz Strupinski, a Polish scientist at the Institute of Electronics Materials Technology.
All of the news articles coming out about this are of course in Polish, so it’s kind of hard to gauge how excited we should be about this. Google translate and my gut tell me that this is pretty important, but only time will tell.
Researchers have discovered a cause of aging in mammals that may be reversible.
The essence of this finding is a series of molecular events that enable communication inside cells between the nucleus and mitochondria. As communication breaks down, aging accelerates. By administering a…
Seriously cool stuff. I hope to work on mitochondrial research one day.