So, it’s been a while…

I had a few weeks after I got out to Colorado during which I could devote some time each day to not only reading the news each day but also sharing my thoughts about it. I was actually starting to generate some traffic. Then my job got busy and hasn’t let up. Oh, I also got rid of internet at my apartment to save money. That was the end of my writing since my phone is great for texting but bad for anything longer. I’m still alive and plan on still doing something with this space, I’m just not sure what yet.

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Bloggers beware

Senator Joe Lieberman is trying to change the Communications Decency Act. The Communications Decency Act is an incredibly important piece of legislation that protects content providers online and allows for free speech. If someone posts a comment on my website and makes a threat or a libelous comment, I’m not responsible for the fact that they spoke. I can be asked or ordered to remove the comment, but I am not accountable for what is said. Leiberman is trying to change that by changing language in section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. If he succeeds, comment systems online are going to drastically change. This is what happens when you let someone who does not understand even the basics of something govern it. Leiberman says that this is anti-terorism legislation, but it will serve no actual purpose. If this amendment passes, it will force every internet service provider, every web host, and every website to check everything that appears. What happens if someone posts a comment in Arabic on a YouTube video that outlines a terrorist plot? Suddenly, YouTube is culpable and can be charged for having assisted terrorists. Leiberman has a history of misunderstanding technology and trying to create laws that only hurt the people he thinks he serves.

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Charles Stross: Defender of Freedom!

Mr. Stross, a great author with an incredible blog, has written a good piece about the new and incredibly creepy app “Girls Around Me”. Apple has since pulled the app from the app store, but Charlie argues that the problem is not the one app, it’s the culture of blind sharing that is creating a dangerous environment. If you share any information on a social network, you need to read this article. We are still in the infancy of social networking and people have not figured out what they should share. Less is definitely better if you don’t have the ability or drive to get into privacy settings. Even if you feel comfortable keeping up with changing privacy settings, that doesn’t mean your information is safe. Companies pay huge money to get access to your data and, no matter how insignificant it might seem to you, there are a lot of smart people out there who are working to sell you to advertisers.

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More microfluidic mayhem

In a second bit of interesting health news this evening, there has been some conversation from MIT about recent advances in the field of microfluidic lab-on-a-chip manufacturing. Lab-on-a-chip technology is something that has the potential to drastically change medicine in much of the world. The reason lab-on-a-chip, or LOCs, are so impressive is that they allow the implementation of one or more laboratory functions on a chip that may only be a few square millimeters. If the cost of manufacturing can be reduced, it should be possible to quickly produce easy to use, easy to read chips that could be used to test for everything from viruses in blood or water to immunoassays and ion channel screening. Peace Corps could distribute chips to remote villages and let them test for dangers in local water sources. Environmental activists could pass out chips to local volunteers to test for pollutants. NGOs like RTI International could send boxes of LOCs to clinics to allow for cheap, fast, and easy health checks. The reason this hasn’t happened yet is because the manufacturing process is not fast, easy, or cheap. That’s where MIT is coming in.
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It’s safe to eat that donut now

It seems like there is some exciting medical news every few weeks that leaves me with bright visions of the future. The news that recently turned my eyes towards tomorrow comes from Sweden. Researchers at Lund University are about to start clinical trials on a new drug that they say can prevent heart attacks. The drug, available in both an injection and a nasal spray, acts by stimulating the body’s immune system to produce antibodies that severely reduce the ability of fat to buildup in arteries. According to the researchers at Lund University, the vaccine can cut arterial blockage by up to 70%. The term “vaccine” is being used in other sources when describing this new drug, but that name doesn’t fit. This drug would not be useful in a single dose but would require use over a long period of time. I’d be willing to guess that you’ll have to use it as long as you want its effects. Like they say, there is no money in the cure.

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The importance of presentation

This is going to be a bit of a mean post, but sometimes it’s necessary. Recently, a company has gotten a bit of attention for work going on in Asia. The company is ET3, a “consortium” of people interested in building evacuated tube transportation networks around the world. The name isn’t exactly clear, so let me expand on the idea some. An evacuated tube refers to a tube in which all of the atmosphere has been evacuated, or vented, out. The diagrams that ET3 has shown reveal a single magnetic rail along the bottom of the tube. The magnetic rail will repel the passenger and cargo capsules so that they float above the rail in the vacuum. The combination of the vacuum and magnetic levitation serve to remove the vast majority of friction that would normally impede transportation. The problem here is that the idea and the proposed utilization is completely unrealistic.
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Government funds big data

The White House today announced a $200 million BigData Research Initiative. The PDF that came with the announcement contains so many deserving and worthy research projects that the $200 million funding figure ends up looking a bit puny. Take a look at all of the projects and tell me I’m wrong. I’d rather you tell me I’m right, though.

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Plastic that heals

At the recent American Chemistry Society’s annual meeting, Professor Marek Urban of the University of Southern Mississippi showed a new type of plastic that he has been working on. According to Urban, the plastic they have created “tries to mimic nature, issuing a red signal when damaged and then renewing itself when exposed to visible light, temperature or pH changes.” This new material could revolutionize so many objects in our lives. The uses that were mentioned in the original press release talk about how useful the material would be for cars and airplanes. If you scratch your fender, the area around the fender would turn red (if you have a red fender, I’m sure they can make it a different color). All you would have to do then is expose the fender to a bright light for the scratch to heal and the red color to go away. Past the fluff uses for the material, however, are the uses where the properties of the material could save lives. If used this material when building an airplane, it would be very easy to spot any cracks or stress areas because they would have changed colors. Of course, just taking the plane up for a nice flight during the day could provide enough energy for the plane to heal itself.
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How popular is that cool, new gadget you got?

The Atlantic has an interesting little story about the fastest-adopted gadget of the last 50 years. What do you think it is?
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Quitting medicine (the profession, not the curative)

Gautam Sivakumar was a doctor in the UK who has since stopped practicing medicine and gone into software development. He’s done so for a great reason: he wants to help his patients and has found a way that he can help all patients. Gautam is currently in Silicon Valley trying to create a system for doctors to securely share notes on patients. His blog post about it is pretty short but he hits the notes he needs to. Having worked for several years in the medical field, I can attest to the fact that access to patient records are often a bottleneck for care. If hospitals had a way to easily and securely store and share patient records, it would do all kinds of good. During report, doctors and nurses could focus on sharing the most relevant data about a patient. If you could open up the record across the hospital, you could more easily flag allergies, dangerous drug interactions, and patient history in an effort to reduce unnecessary procedures and medical errors. I wish Guatam all the best. Even though he is not practicing medicine anymore, he is obviously still driven by the desire to help people that led him to medicine in the first place.

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