March 3, 2008
We here at Mostly for Me definitely enjoy our science fiction - but this article goes one better. Instead of guessing about how our futures might look, this article from the 1901 Ladies Home Journal describes how THEY thought things would look in 2001, a century after the article was written.
Some of the material is dead on target. People are now taller. Ready-made meals are bought from stores, no cooking required. We do, in fact, use "Air-Ships" for transportation, and "wireless telephone and telegraph circuits" certainly "span the world." According to the prediction, we should be "able to telephone China quite as readily as we now talk from New York to Brooklyn. By an automatic signal they will connect with any circuit in their locality without the intervention of a 'hello girl.'" And so we are. There has never been a single "hello girl" on my telephone line, and it's a crying shame. And although we don't purchase things from stores by pneumatic tube, I would say that shopping online is close enough for me. It's not pneumatic, but I hear there are tubes.
Other predictions were not to accurate. "Peas and beans will be as large as beets," for example: no luck there. The ladies also predicted that mosquitoes, flies, rats, roaches and other pests would all be eliminated. From the heart of New York City, I'm here to testify that we're not even close. And let me add to that, the prediction our large cities will be free of traffic, as all transportation "...will be below or high above ground when brought within city limits." Sign me up for THAT!
The article is well worth a read - see a (barely) legible version by clicking on the image above.
Full article: davidthedesigner.com
September 2, 2006
Call it Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis or valids and invalids, it's all coming true. More frequently than ever, parents are choosing which embryo to implant and bear based on their genetic packages. The field, known as reprogenetics, is burgeoning. It's expensive - isn't everything? - and most health insurance won't cover the cost. But don't worry, that isn't stopping tons of parents-to-be.
This New York Times article profiles a couple who has made sure their daughter will not carry her father's gene for predisposition to colon cancer. The question is, of course, how far will we go?
Already, it is possible to test embryos for an inherited form of deafness or a mild skin condition, or for a predisposition to arthritis or obesity. Some clinics test for gender. As scientists learn more about the genetic basis for inherited traits, and as people learn more about their genetic makeup, the embryo screening menu and its array of ethical dilemmas are only expected to grow.
(Via NYT > National.)
Posted by MostlyForMe at 9:13 PM
While your PS3 sits idle, Stanford's "Folding at Home" project plans to harness its processor to run simulations of protein folding. The results should lead the team of scientists closer to answers about curing Mad Cow disease, Alzheimer's, cystic fibrosis, and certain cancers including hereditary emphysema.
According to the Folding at Home web site:
...it takes about a day [for a computer] to simulate a nanosecond (1/1,000,000,000 of a second). Unfortunately, proteins fold on the tens of microsecond timescale (10,000 nanoseconds). Thus, it would take 10,000 CPU days to simulate folding -- i.e. it would take 30 CPU years!So, while you're at the office, sleeping, or a little bit of both, let your PS3 do something useful.
And when you get home, you can use your controller to zoom around a 3D image of the protein you just rendered. (check out a sample screenshot) All it requires is downloading some free software, and you're ready to help save the human race through sheer absenteeism.
To sweeten the pot, not only will this research cure the aforementioned horrifying battery of diseases, but "learning about how proteins fold will also teach us how to design our own protein-sized "nanomachines" to do similar tasks." Curing cancer AND making nanomachines? Sign me up!
Download the screensaver version for Windows, Linux or OSX.
Full Article: Folding at Home: PS3 FAQ
Posted by MostlyForMe at 8:10 PM
June 9, 2006
Any kind of vaccine to prevent any kind of cancer should be cause for unmitigated celebration. However, this article in the New York Times about a new vaccine for cervical cancer accurately gives us the complex picture of the sad state of medicine in the US at the moment.
Beyond the concerns of getting approved by the FDA and being safe enough to administer to 11 and 12 year old girls (the aim is to inoculate girls before they have sex, eliminating the risk of them contracting HPV, which later frequently turns into cervical cancer and kills 3,700 women a year in the US alone), there is the fact that Merck is charging $360 for the three-shot course. This puts the vaccination well out of the range of many uninsured families. There is talk of federal and state programs attempting to cover the cost for those who aren't able, but it seems that nobody quite has the funds. So, it becomes a triage of what vaccines the government will decide to fund, and which they choose to ignore.
"Increasingly, states are asked to make a Sophie's choice about which diseases they will allow children to be hospitalized or killed by," said Dr. Paul Offit, director of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
My point being: just because we have some amazing technology, doesn't mean we aren't still assholes.
Full Article: U.S. Approves Use of Vaccine for Cervical Cancer
(Via NYT > National.)
Posted by MostlyForMe at 6:04 PM
May 18, 2006
While I don't actually understand most of what they're trying to tell me, I am convinced that Recombinomics is definitely saying something wonderful and futuriffic.
From what I managed to comprehend, it seems that Recombinomics thinks they can predict how viruses currently on the loose (like HIV and SARS) will recombine their genetic material to mutate into slightly different viruses. Apparently, if you can predict this recombination, then you can make a vaccine that's ready to combat the virus before it actually turns into an epidemic.
Also, please note how the logo manages to illustrate recombination among red & blue lines. I'm not saying I love it, I'm just saying somebody was thinking.
Full Article: http://www.recombinomics.com
Posted by MostlyForMe at 1:53 PM
October 27, 2005
There are several reasons why it's amazing that scientists have completed the map of human genetic variation.
Firstly, there's the science part. This not only a window into how and why human variety exists the way we see it today, but also human history. As these scientists examine populations from around the globe, the migration patterns of early humans become clearer than ever. They have traced the origin of the species to Africa, using evidence still found in modern African populations' DNA as compared that of populations of other geographic areas.
Then, there's the part where it's a key to fighting disease:
Although any two unrelated people are the same at about 99.9% of their DNA sequences, the remaining 0.1% is important because it contains the genetic variants that influence how people differ in their risk of disease or their response to drugs. Discovering the DNA sequence variants that contribute to common disease risk offers one of the best opportunities for understanding the complex causes of disease in humans. -- hapmap.org
Lastly, and most heartwarmingly, there's the cooperation part. This project is a collaboration among scientists from Japan, the UK, Canada, China, the US and Nigeria, which is why the site is viewable in English, Japanese, Chinese and Yoruba. The map is free. You can download it from the web site. This is working together, folks. This is the kind of sharing unhindered by patents and profits, and funded by the government. Now, if only we could expand these humanitarian efforts and concept of sharing into the arena of, say, the Oil for Food Program.
Posted by MostlyForMe at 1:35 PM