Technology https://scienceblogs.com/channel/technology/feed en Comments of the Week: Final edition? https://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/22/comments-of-the-week-final-edition <span>Comments of the Week: Final edition?</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><blockquote><p>“You endure what is unbearable, and you bear it. That is all.” -Cassandra Clare</p></blockquote> <p>Well, the cat's out of the bag. A little over a week ago, Scienceblogs announced to us writers that they no longer had the funds to keep the site operational, and so they would be shutting down. They asked us to keep quiet about this, people didn't and now you know. As of the end of this month, there will be no new articles here on Scienceblogs, and hence, no more comments of the week or synopses, or a chance to interact <em>here</em>.</p> <p>So what can you do? Well, the top thing I'd like you to do is <a href="https://www.patreon.com/startswithabang">support me on Patreon</a>, where I can start posting all the same content I would normally post here, and you can:</p> <ul><li>comment,</li> <li>respond to one another,</li> <li>post your own inquiries,</li> <li>respond to one another's inquiries,</li> <li>and where I can respond to comments as I choose.</li> </ul><p>It's the best option I can offer, as I'm already on <a href="http://startswithabang.tumblr.com">Tumblr</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/StartsWithABang">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/startswithabang/">Facebook</a>, and even <a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106562040211983246504">Google+</a>, and try to respond to as many comments in as many places as I can.</p> <div style="width: 560px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/02/BookCover_forStory.jpg"><img class="size-full wp-image-35809" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/02/BookCover_forStory.jpg" alt="" width="550" height="550" /></a> Book cover for my new book: Treknology. Image credit: Voyageur Press / Quarto Publishing Group. </div> <p>Also, for those of you who want to order an autographed copy of Treknology from me, I have the first copies of the book, mailers and other shipping materials are due to arrive on Tuesday, and then I can head to the post office for pricing on shipping. Expect US copies to run about $30, Canada copies to run about $40, and elsewhere in the world to be somewhere in the $50-$60 range. (Sorry, international folks!) Or, you know, just <a href="http://amzn.to/2gUIlcs">buy it now from Amazon</a> and don't wait! (But if you get it from a third-party seller, know that neither me nor my publisher makes any money.) If you want an unbiased opinion of the book, here is <a href="http://trekcore.com/blog/2017/10/review-star-trek-treknology/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the official TrekCore review</a>.</p> <p>Either way, I'll have the full and final update next week. So I'm sorry to lose this forum and this archive of articles going back nearly a decade, and especially this bizarre and unique community we've built here. But like everything in the Universe, the past is gone and we can only move forward into the future as best we can. So with that said, let's take our last look back at what this past week has held...</p> <ul><li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/10/14/ask-ethan-is-the-universe-finite-or-infinite/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ask Ethan: Is The Universe Finite Or Infinite?</a>,</li> <li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/10/16/star-trek-discoverys-choose-your-pain-finally-feels-like-star-trek-season-1-episode-5/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Star Trek: Discovery’s ‘Choose Your Pain’ Finally Feels Like Star Trek; Season 1 Episode 5</a>,</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/10/16/astronomys-rosetta-stone-merging-neutron-stars-seen-with-both-gravitational-waves-and-light/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Astronomy’s ‘Rosetta Stone’: Merging Neutron Stars Seen With Both Gravitational Waves And Light</a>,</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/10/17/why-neutron-stars-not-black-holes-show-the-future-of-gravitational-wave-astronomy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Why Neutron Stars, Not Black Holes, Show The Future Of Gravitational Wave Astronomy</a>,</li> <li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/10/18/the-hubble-space-telescope-is-falling/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Hubble Space Telescope Is Falling</a>,</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/10/19/why-dont-we-have-artificial-gravity-in-space/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Why don’t we have artificial gravity in space?</a>, and</li> <li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/10/20/seeing-one-example-of-merging-neutron-stars-raises-five-incredible-questions/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Seeing One Example Of Merging Neutron Stars Raises Five Incredible Questions</a>.</li> </ul><p>And now, for perhaps the final time, let's dive on into our <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/category/comments-of-the-week/">Comments of the Week</a>!</p> <div style="width: 460px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2015/02/1-NvLqPNPF7OgwYQoSLACELQ.gif"><img class="size-full wp-image-32409" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2015/02/1-NvLqPNPF7OgwYQoSLACELQ.gif" alt="" width="450" height="451" /></a> Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Tomruen, via<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lunar_libration_with_phase_Oct_2007_450px.gif">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lunar_libration_with_phase_Oct_2007_4…</a>. </div> <blockquote><p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/15/comments-of-the-week-180-from-the-planets-kepler-missed-to-the-nasa-photos-that-changed-the-world/#comment-583026">Art Glick</a> on how the near side of the Moon never sees Earth rise or set: "If you were an observer on the Moon, the Earth would hang there eternally in the same exact location, day after day, year after year, century after century. It would never move!"</p></blockquote> <p>Yup. I have no disagreement with this, the mild, tiny effects of lunar libration (shown above) aside. In fact, many years ago, I wrote a piece entitled <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2012/08/02/its-never-night-on-the-moon/">It's never night on the moon</a>, where I talk about what you'll see from the lunar surface at various locations and under various conditions. In the end, however, I do mention the one reprieve you'd get from seeing the Earth all lit up:</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2012/08/20090218_kaguya_2L.jpeg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-19097" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2012/08/20090218_kaguya_2L-600x270.jpg" alt="Lunar eclipse" width="600" height="270" /></a> Image credit: JAXA / NHK, Kaguya / Selene, of a lunar eclipse as the Earth rises over the lunar limb. </div> <p>During a total lunar eclipse! Pretty beautiful, no matter how you slice it.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 398px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2012/04/krugeranddunningfig2.jpeg"><img class="size-full wp-image-17723" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2012/04/krugeranddunningfig2.jpeg" alt="" width="388" height="346" /></a> Perceived knowledge vs. actual knowledge. Image credit: Justin Kruger and David Dunning, 1999. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/15/comments-of-the-week-180-from-the-planets-kepler-missed-to-the-nasa-photos-that-changed-the-world/#comment-583073">Alan G.</a> on the fight club of reason: "The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger Club is that it’s members aren’t ware they are in the Dunning-Kruger Club."</p></blockquote> <p>You know, this is not only true, but I love the (sarcastic) way that John Cleese, who happens to be friends with David Dunning, puts it.</p> <p></p><center> <iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/wvVPdyYeaQU" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><p></p></center>It isn't stupidity, <em>per se</em>, but rather expertise in any arena. For example, you may think you know all there is to know about cars, since how complicated could they possibly be? But then when your car fails to start, can you make it start immediately? On the first try? Do you know how to diagnose the problem, and which parts to check? Do you know whether it's a fuse or the starter or a problem with the ignition switch or a dead battery? <p>And if you don't know, could you admit to yourself that you don't know, and that you need to take it to a professional? The lack of respect for those who are experts is a symptom of a larger problem, often on display here, that people think they know more than they do, and simultaneously think that bona fide experts know less than they do. So you pick the expert opinions you can find that agree with your opinions, and use that to justify your reasoning. That's thinking like a lawyer, and that approach is fruitless in science.</p> <p>The Universe is what it is. It's up to us to figure it out. If you want to learn, you must be humble before the Universe. Many of you do this; the rest of you can start today if you choose. It's up to you.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2015/05/Gaussian_curvature.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-32889" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2015/05/Gaussian_curvature-600x448.jpg" alt="Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Sam Derbyshire." width="600" height="448" /></a> The gaussian curvature in three dimensions can produce interesting two-dimensional effects. If we want our 3D space curved in a particular way, we'd need to look at it from a 4th spatial dimension. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Sam Derbyshire. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/14/ask-ethan-is-the-universe-finite-or-infinite-synopsis/#comment-583008">Frank</a> on the curvature of the Universe: "What if Universe is surface of a 4d sphere where 3d surface (space) curved in the 4th dimension (time)?"</p></blockquote> <p>Well, there is curvature in the fourth dimension, but the laws of relativity tell you how the relationship between space and time occur. There's no wiggle-room or free parameters in there. If you want the Universe to be the surface of a 4D sphere, you need an extra <em>spatial</em> dimension. There are many physics theories that consider exactly that scenario, and they are constrained but not ruled out.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/1-ZqMcmluZZUb255jY5A7Y-A-1200x833.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36649" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/1-ZqMcmluZZUb255jY5A7Y-A-1200x833-600x416.jpg" alt="A Universe that expands and cools today, like ours does, must have been hotter and denser in the past. Initially, the Big Bang was regarded as the singularity from which this ultimate, hot, dense state emerged. But we know better today. Image credit: NASA / GSFC." width="600" height="416" /></a> A Universe that expands and cools today, like ours does, must have been hotter and denser in the past. Initially, the Big Bang was regarded as the singularity from which this ultimate, hot, dense state emerged. But we know better today. Image credit: NASA / GSFC. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/14/ask-ethan-is-the-universe-finite-or-infinite-synopsis/#comment-583051">Steve Blackband</a> on other Big Bangs: "I am struggling with how to think about ‘other big bangs’. There is nothing, not even space or time, then there is our big bang, the expanding universe and outside of that no space and time."</p></blockquote> <p>You are thinking of the Big Bang as meaning "the birth of space and time." This is no longer the definition of the Big Bang, and it was always an assumption that turned out not to be very good. <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2016/02/04/the-two-big-bangs/">Here is an article I wrote years ago</a> (before you started reading me, I bet!) that might help clear things up.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2015/05/1-ubAcgBoHgEjkEZdkjGWBjw.jpeg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-32950" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2015/05/1-ubAcgBoHgEjkEZdkjGWBjw-600x450.jpeg" alt="" width="600" height="450" /></a> Image credit: © 2015 Shaper Helix — II Demo, via <a href="http://www.alevelsolutions.com/pure-mathematics">http://www.alevelsolutions.com/pure-mathematics</a>. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/14/ask-ethan-is-the-universe-finite-or-infinite-synopsis/#comment-583116">Michael Mooney</a> on a math lesson he's about to get: "So when there is no end to how close the repeating .999 decimal gets to 1, the convention is to call it 1. But no matter how close it gets to 1, it’s still not there yet. Like .999 % of a pie still has an ever-diminishing missing slice gap."</p></blockquote> <p>You know, I remember being unconvinced that 0.99999.... would equal 1, so I set out to test it out. Mathematics is a wonderfully self-consistent system, so you can do this experiment yourself. You don't need advanced math. In fact, consider this your very, very first algebra lesson.</p> <p>Imagine we have this repeating decimal, 0.99999...., and we're going to call that <strong>x</strong>. Okay? So we can write:</p> <p><strong>x</strong> = 0.999999.... and so on. As many 9s as we can write, and then they go on forever.</p> <p>Now, let me ask you this: what if you had <em>ten</em> <strong>x</strong>s all together? In other words, multiply both side of that equation, above, by 10. What do you get?</p> <p>10<strong>x</strong> = 9.999999..... and again, so on. So we have two equations: <strong>x</strong> = 0.999999.... and 10<strong>x</strong> = 9.999999....</p> <p>Let's subtract the first equation from the second equation. Ready?</p> <p>10<strong>x</strong> - <strong>x</strong> = 9.9999999.... - 0.99999999....</p> <p>So we do the subtraction, and can you see what happens here? The left side just becomes 9<strong>x</strong>, but the right side becomes... just 9, all on its own!</p> <p>If 9<strong>x</strong> = 9, then <strong>x</strong> = 1.</p> <p>Now, I had the same question as you, once, but once I learned how to do this proof, there was no more questioning. I had proven it, just as countless others before me had, and countless others after me will. <strong>x</strong>, which we had defined as 0.99999.... is also provably equal to 1.</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/USD.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36752" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/USD-600x298.jpg" alt="The USS Discovery, NCC-1031, is perhaps a very thinly-veiled reference to Star Trek's 'Section 31,' and things could get a lot darker before anyone goes back to being an explorer. Image credit: Star Trek / CBS Press Kit." width="600" height="298" /></a> The USS Discovery, NCC-1031, is perhaps a very thinly-veiled reference to Star Trek's 'Section 31,' and things could get a lot darker before anyone goes back to being an explorer. Image credit: Star Trek / CBS Press Kit. </div> <blockquote><p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/16/science-whoascience-oct-16-2017-0600-am-edit-post-the-little-black-book-of-billionaire-secrets-star-trek-discoverys-choose-your-pain-finally-feels-like-star-trek-season-1-episode-5-syno/#comment-583041">Sinisa Lazarek</a> on Swear Trek: "– we get a first ever “FUCK” word in Star Trek… ever. And that by a Cadet in front of officers. Not only is phrase never spoken in ST universe… but we even get more fucks with 2 other people there. Like ST script was only missing that word, and now we’ll multiply."</p></blockquote> <p>Yeah, Tilly swears. And then others do it, too. Honestly, I didn't even notice until someone I was watching it with pointed it out. But Tilly is pretty much the audience surrogate: an awkward superfan of everything in the show who gets to be roommates with Michael Burnham. I seriously think Burnham could blow up the entire Earth and Tilly would still be her fan. I am doing my best with this show to "chew on the meat and throw away the bones," otherwise I think, like many others, I'll wind up disappointed.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/Like-a-Death-Yell-for-Sto-vo-kor.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36666" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/Like-a-Death-Yell-for-Sto-vo-kor-600x349.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="349" /></a> The warrior that Burnham kills is given the traditional Klingon death ritual... and then predictably used as a political tool to start a war. Image credit: Jan Thijs/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/16/science-whoascience-oct-16-2017-0600-am-edit-post-the-little-black-book-of-billionaire-secrets-star-trek-discoverys-choose-your-pain-finally-feels-like-star-trek-season-1-episode-5-syno/#comment-583042">Denier</a> on the role of the Klingons in episode 5: "Klingons were back to being one dimensional villains who all spoke English and served their regular role to move the plot along. That, more than anything else, made this episode better."</p></blockquote> <p>You know, I <em>did</em> notice this change, and I liked it very much. Hopefully, we'll see less of the fundamentalist theocrat Klingons speaking Klingon and a lot more of... well, everything else.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/Sonequa-Martin-Green-as-First-Officer-Michael-Burnham.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36665" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/Sonequa-Martin-Green-as-First-Officer-Michael-Burnham-600x404.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="404" /></a> Burnham, in the first two episodes alone, gets a fatal dose of radiation poisoning, activates a Klingon probe and kills its guardian, mutinies against and knocks out the Captain, and then kills the Klingon leader. Image credit: Jan Thijs, © 2017 CBS Interactive. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/16/science-whoascience-oct-16-2017-0600-am-edit-post-the-little-black-book-of-billionaire-secrets-star-trek-discoverys-choose-your-pain-finally-feels-like-star-trek-season-1-episode-5-syno/#comment-583070">Anonymous Coward</a> on the end of Scienceblogs: "Ethan, I read both you and Orac here on ScienceBlogs and Orac has just mentioned that ScienceBlogs will soon be shutting down for good at the end of the month. There going to be another place where we can see your article summaries and make discussion like this, other than on Forbes itself?"</p></blockquote> <p>Unfortunately, unless you come and <a href="https://www.patreon.com/startswithabang">join my Patreon</a> (asking at least $1 a month is a lot, I know), there's nothing else quite like what we've been doing here. I used to run startswithabang.com and would consider it again, but I simply don't have the time to run my own blog and deal with all the hacks and updates that routinely happen on top of all the things I'm creating at this time.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/garlick_bread.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36756" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/garlick_bread-600x398.jpg" alt="In the final moments of merging, two neutron stars don't merely emit gravitational waves, but a catastrophic explosion that echoes across the electromagnetic spectrum. Image credit: University of Warwick / Mark Garlick." width="600" height="398" /></a> In the final moments of merging, two neutron stars don't merely emit gravitational waves, but a catastrophic explosion that echoes across the electromagnetic spectrum. Image credit: University of Warwick / Mark Garlick. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/16/astronomys-rosetta-stone-merging-neutron-stars-seen-with-both-gravitational-waves-and-light-synopsis/#comment-583043">Michael Tiemann</a> on neutron star collisions: "When two neutron stars have been circling each other for 11 billion years, what is the relative velocity of their “collision” when they do collide?"</p></blockquote> <p>About a third the speed of light. Pretty impressive, don't you think?</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/I-wish-I-were.png"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36774" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/I-wish-I-were-600x314.png" alt="" width="600" height="314" /></a> Geordi's VISOR from Star Trek: TNG. Image credit: Memory Alpha. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/16/astronomys-rosetta-stone-merging-neutron-stars-seen-with-both-gravitational-waves-and-light-synopsis/#comment-583050">Gail Farley</a> on a new <em>Treknology</em> that's been developed quite recently: "Thank you for educating people about technology on Coast to Coast last night and in your book. You stated last night that you were concerned about a technology that can implant memories, and effect the body, including the loss of sight. Please tell me what kind of technology that is, so that I can research it further."</p></blockquote> <p>In 2012, a group at Monash University build a working device to transmit optical information directly to the wearer's brain, through an implant in the visual cortex. If you want to get even deeper into the real-life science than my book does, you can read the 2016 article: <a href="https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-319-41876-6_17">Monash Vision Group’s Gennaris Cortical Implant for Vision Restoration</a>.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/SWAB4-1200x786-1.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36770" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/SWAB4-1200x786-1-600x393.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="393" /></a> We knew that when two neutron stars merge, as simulated here, they create gamma-ray burst jets, as well as other electromagnetic phenomena. But whether you produce a neutron star or a black hole, as well as how much of a UV/optical counterpart is produced, should be strongly mass-dependent. Image credit: NASA / Albert Einstein Institute / Zuse Institute Berlin / M. Koppitz and L. Rezzolla. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/16/astronomys-rosetta-stone-merging-neutron-stars-seen-with-both-gravitational-waves-and-light-synopsis/#comment-583065">Omega Centauri</a> and <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/16/astronomys-rosetta-stone-merging-neutron-stars-seen-with-both-gravitational-waves-and-light-synopsis/#comment-583066">Michael Kelsey</a> on the newest LIGO/Virgo/EM discoveries:</p> <p>"(1) What is the estimate of the NS masses?<br /> (2) How did they come up with the age of the NS system?<br /> (3) What is the estimated rate of mergers per cube a billion light years on a side?<br /> (4) If both NS are near the minimum mass of a NS, can we get a NS rather than BH.<br /> (5) Do we expect of significant gamma-ray burst from a BH NS merger?</p> <p>1) About a solar mass each.<br /> 2) Use PSR B1913+16.<br /> 3) Not as high as for BH mergers.<br /> 4) Yes.<br /> 5) Yes."</p></blockquote> <p>You may also really, really appreciate the information I gleaned from the theoretical end from an interview a few days ago with Chris Fryer at Los Alamos. That article, in case you missed it, <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/10/20/seeing-one-example-of-merging-neutron-stars-raises-five-incredible-questions/">is here</a>.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2016/04/1-5uje_JzSxV93nedWdky_VA.gif"><img class="size-medium wp-image-34549" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2016/04/1-5uje_JzSxV93nedWdky_VA-600x750.gif" alt="" width="600" height="750" /></a> The quasar QSO J0842+1835, whose path was gravitationally altered by Jupiter in 2002, allowing an indirect confirmation that the speed of gravity equals the speed of light. Image credit: Fomalont et al. (2000), ApJS 131, 95-183, via <a href="http://www.jive.nl/svlbi/vlbapls/J0842+1835.htm">http://www.jive.nl/svlbi/vlbapls/J0842+1835.htm</a>. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/17/why-neutron-stars-not-black-holes-show-the-future-of-gravitational-wave-astronomy-synopsis/#comment-583080">CFT</a> on the speed of gravity: "IF gravity traveled at the speed of light, how do you explain the actual orbits of planets around the sun?"</p></blockquote> <p>Not that <em>you'll</em> learn anything from this, but the actual answer is that, in the context of General Relativity, if gravity moved at any other speed, we wouldn't get the orbits that we see! I <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2016/04/28/why-does-gravity-move-at-the-speed-of-light/">wrote an article on the indirect evidence</a> (independent of any gravitational wave detections) that the speed of gravity is equal to the speed of light some time ago, and all that analysis is still valid today.</p> <p>Since, CFT, you're such a fan of getting info from "real" experts, you know, experts not named Ethan, maybe you'll listen to the research of the awesome GR expert Steve Carlip, who wrote up <a href="https://johanw.home.xs4all.nl/PhysFAQ/Relativity/GR/grav_speed.html">this account</a> of the actual evidence you claim is missing?</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/SCaRS.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36759" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/SCaRS-600x437.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="437" /></a> The soft capture mechanism installed on Hubble (illustration) uses a Low Impact Docking System (LIDS) interface and associated relative navigation targets for future rendezvous, capture, and docking operations. The system’s LIDS interface is designed to be compatible with the rendezvous and docking systems to be used on the next-generation space transportation vehicle. Image credit: NASA. </div> <blockquote><p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/18/the-hubble-space-telescope-is-falling-synopsis/#comment-583107">Elle H.C.</a> on kickstarting the saving of Hubble: "Get a Kickstarter-thingy and you might get enough funding by the end of the month."</p></blockquote> <p>Well, let's do the math on that. The <a href="https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/235313#">most Kickstartered-thing ever</a>, as far as I know, is Pebble Time, which is a smartwatch company that had a couple of successful Kickstarters. They raised just slightly north of $20 million. Only three things (two of which are Pebble) have crested the $10 million mark, and there are only about a dozen more that are over $5 million.</p> <p>On the other hand, to boost Hubble would require approximately $500 million, if I'm ballpark-estimating appropriately. You are way better off going to an Elon Musk or a Richard Branson or Roscosmos if NASA won't do it. That sort of money just doesn't seem feasible.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/The_optical_system_of_the_ELT_showing_the_location_of_the_mirrors-1200x801.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36685" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/The_optical_system_of_the_ELT_showing_the_location_of_the_mirrors-1200x801-600x401.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="401" /></a> This diagram shows the novel 5-mirror optical system of ESO's Extremely Large Telescope (ELT). Before reaching the science instruments the light is first reflected from the telescope's giant concave 39-metre segmented primary mirror (M1), it then bounces off two further 4-metre-class mirrors, one convex (M2) and one concave (M3). The final two mirrors (M4 and M5) form a built-in adaptive optics system to allow extremely sharp images to be formed at the final focal plane. Image credit: ESO. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/18/the-hubble-space-telescope-is-falling-synopsis/#comment-583120">lyle</a> on the oversimplified joke-science that is IFLS: "Further if this article is correct : <a href="http://www.iflscience.com/space/telescopes-ground-may-be-cheaper-hubble-shows-why-they-are-not-enough/" rel="nofollow">http://www.iflscience.com/space/telescopes-ground-may-be-cheaper-hubble-shows-why-they-are-not-enough/</a><br /> “When E-ELT observations start in 2024, the state-of-the-art correction for atmospheric distortion will allow it to provide images 16 times sharper than those taken by Hubble."</p></blockquote> <p>This is the big problem you get when you get your science from not only non-scientists, but non-journalists. They are, over at IFLS, basically news readers and re-writers, and they rarely know (or care) enough to put it in context. I've written, recently, <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/09/13/a-new-record-nears-the-worlds-largest-telescope-prepares-for-completion/">about the ELT at length</a>, and it's true that it will have 16 times the resolution of Hubble <em>at certain wavelengths</em> and <em>for certain classes of observations</em> in the cases where <em>atmospheric distortion can be 100% removed</em>, which is never.</p> <p>The scientific fact is there are a whole slew of observations, including UV observations and IR observations, that Hubble can make that no ground-based observatory can. Hubble's lack of atmospheric distortion is incredible, and something no ground-based observatory, even with the best AO there is, can match.</p> <p>In summary, F IFLS, and please don't ever expect anything beyond superficial, partially correct information from them.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/anti-gravity.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36762" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/anti-gravity-600x358.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="358" /></a> The possibility of having artificial gravity is tantalizing, but it is predicated on the existence of negative gravitational mass. Antimatter may be that mass, but we don't yet know, experimentally. Image credit: Rolf Landua / CERN. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/19/why-dont-we-have-artificial-gravity-in-space-synopsis/#comment-583152">Omega Centauri</a> on the problem of artificial gravity: "Even if anti-matter produces anti-grav, you would need a heck of a lot of it to get 1G. How much mass is needed to create 1G (depends on density, at the average density of about 5 the mass of the earth is needed. Denser matter, and you could get by with less. But, its a huge amount no matter how you do it, and presumably it is also inertial mass, which kind of makes spacecraft difficult to accelerate."</p></blockquote> <p>All true. But I will say that I am much more excited about a problem that it is physically possible to solve than one that isn't, and antigravitating antimatter would enable that transformation when it comes to artificial gravity. Now, who has the stable white dwarf matter to build your spaceship out of... and the anti-white-dwarf antimatter, too?</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/Lorca-Bridge-Crew.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36721" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/Lorca-Bridge-Crew-600x400.jpg" alt="Captain Gabriel Lorca aboard the bridge of the Discovery, during a simulated combat mission with the Klingons. Image credit: Jan Thijs/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive." width="600" height="400" /></a> Captain Gabriel Lorca aboard the bridge of the Discovery, during a simulated combat mission with the Klingons. Image credit: Jan Thijs/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/19/why-dont-we-have-artificial-gravity-in-space-synopsis/#comment-583184">Douglas Robertson</a> on artificial gravity vs. life support: "What I find funny about fictional artificial gravity is when they are experiencing an emergency. All life support is shut down, but they still have gravity."</p></blockquote> <p>Must be a passive system, then. See, not so hard to explain!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/SWAB1.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36772" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/SWAB1-600x321.jpg" alt="Neutron stars, when they merge, can exhibit gravitational wave and electromagnetic signals simultaneously, unlike black holes. But the details of the merger are quite puzzling, as the theoretical models don't quite match what we've observed. Image credit: Dana Berry / Skyworks Digital, Inc." width="600" height="321" /></a> Neutron stars, when they merge, can exhibit gravitational wave and electromagnetic signals simultaneously, unlike black holes. But the details of the merger are quite puzzling, as the theoretical models don't quite match what we've observed. Image credit: Dana Berry / Skyworks Digital, Inc. </div> <p>And finally, from <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/20/seeing-one-example-of-merging-neutron-stars-raises-five-incredible-questions-synopsis/#comment-583185">Adam</a> on the origin of gamma rays from the NS-NS merger: "Could the omnidirectional gamma ray bursts be coming from the ejecta themselves? It seems like the process of going from a lump of neutronium to all those heavy elements is a lot like the fission reaction of an atomic bomb – just one the with the mass of 30 to 40 Jupiters."</p></blockquote> <p>I doubt it. The ejecta occur on the timescale of hundreds of milliseconds, but the gamma ray burst occurred 1.7 seconds after the gravitational wave signal arrived, so I don't think that's a dealbreaker but I also don't think that lines up. Moreover, the ejecta come mostly from wind interactions in a disk surrounding the neutron stars, so I also don't think that's as likely a source as the ultra-high energies released in the star-star collision. I think it's likely where the surfaces collide that produces such a high-energy, transient burst, but as with all things science, it's going to take some additional evidence to know for certain!</p> <p>Thanks for a great everything, everyone, and we'll have one final just-for-you article next weekend. See you then!</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/esiegel">esiegel</a></span> <span>Sun, 10/22/2017 - 02:01</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/technology" hreflang="en">Technology</a></div> </div> </div> Sun, 22 Oct 2017 06:01:53 +0000 esiegel 37140 at https://scienceblogs.com 5 NASA Photos That Changed The World (Synopsis) https://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/13/5-nasa-photos-that-changed-the-world-synopsis <span>5 NASA Photos That Changed The World (Synopsis)</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><blockquote><p>"Truth in science, however, is never final, and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow. Science has been greatly successful at explaining natural processes, and this has led not only to increased understanding of the universe but also to major improvements in technology and public health and welfare." -National Academy of Sciences</p></blockquote> <p>It’s no secret that peering out into the distant Universe is best done from space, just as looking at our entire world is best done from that same vantage point. For all of human history until the mid-20th century, this was an utter impossibility. But thanks to advances in rocketry, and how NASA managed to put space technology together, we now have views of everything from our home planet to the deepest recesses of the Universe that have taught us lessons we never could have imagined.</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/Pale-Blue-Dot.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36735" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/Pale-Blue-Dot-600x443.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="443" /></a> This narrow-angle color image of the Earth, dubbed 'Pale Blue Dot', is a part of the first ever 'portrait' of the solar system taken by Voyager 1. The spacecraft acquired a total of 60 frames for a mosaic of the solar system from a distance of more than 4 billion miles from Earth and about 32 degrees above the ecliptic. From Voyager's great distance Earth is a mere point of light, less than the size of a picture element even in the narrow-angle camera. Earth was a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size. Image credit: NASA / JPL. </div> <p>From the most distant galaxies to a distant view of Earth, all the way back to the youngest baby picture of the Universe ever taken, NASA has been with us throughout every step of the journey. As we peer ever deeper into the abyss and put not just the cosmic story but our place in it into perspective, it’s important to periodically look back at the beautiful but science-rich images that helped shape our view of what all this is actually about.</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/Hubble-XDF.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36734" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/Hubble-XDF-600x548.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="548" /></a> The full UV-visible-IR composite of the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field; the greatest image ever released of the distant Universe. Image credit: NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz and M. Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and Z. Levay (STScI). </div> <p><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/10/13/5-nasa-photos-that-changed-the-world/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Come see the five NASA photos that changed the world, and see if your list of five would be any different. (I bet it would be!)</a></p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/esiegel">esiegel</a></span> <span>Fri, 10/13/2017 - 01:00</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/technology" hreflang="en">Technology</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 13 Oct 2017 05:00:50 +0000 esiegel 37130 at https://scienceblogs.com Double Comments of the Week #178: From Point Particles To The Very First Galaxies Of All https://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/01/double-comments-of-the-week-178-from-point-particles-to-the-very-first-galaxies-of-all <span>Double Comments of the Week #178: From Point Particles To The Very First Galaxies Of All</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><blockquote><p>“I see now that the circumstances of one's birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.” -Mewtwo, Pokemon (via Takeshi Shudo)</p></blockquote> <p>After a week of commenting technical difficulties here on Scienceblogs, <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/">Starts With A Bang!</a>'s Comments of the Week series is back with a vengeance! I'm so stoked that it's October, because <a href="http://amzn.to/2wX6B3Y">Treknology</a>, comes out in just two weeks! (And yes, if you want an autographed, signed copy shipped from me directly, there will be an opportunity for all of you.) Star Trek: Discovery is out, and we'll be having reviews every Monday after an episode airs, and so you may have noticed this means the end of Mostly Mute Monday for a while. But don't fret; I've started "Five For Fridays," where we'll be doing a new series on five facts, questions, examples, or some other scientific "thing" each Friday going forward. That, and of course the new <a href="https://soundcloud.com/ethan-siegel-172073460">Starts With A Bang podcast</a> is live, on <a href="https://soundcloud.com/ethan-siegel-172073460/starts-with-a-bang-24-the-james-webb-space-telescope">the James Webb Space Telescope</a>!</p> <p></p><center> <iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/344584487&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%" height="166" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe><p></p></center>So with two weeks to make up for and all the comments now rescued, I'll just be taking a carefully curated selection of comments from each of the following articles, restricted to the ones where you bothered to comment, of course: <ul><li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/09/16/ask-ethan-if-matter-is-made-of-point-particles-why-does-everything-have-a-size/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">If matter is made of point particles, why does everything have a size?</a> (for Ask Ethan),</li> <li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/09/18/5-things-the-world-needs-from-star-trek-discovery/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">5 Things the world needs from Star Trek: Discovery</a> (beginning our Monday ST:DIS reviews),</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/09/19/new-space-telescope-40-times-the-power-of-hubble-to-unlock-astronomys-future/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New space telescope, 40 times the power of Hubble, to unlock astronomy's future</a>,</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/09/20/how-much-fuel-does-it-take-to-power-the-world/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">How much fuel does it take to power the world?</a>,</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/09/21/the-big-bang-wasnt-the-beginning-after-all/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Big Bang wasn't the beginning, after all</a>,</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/09/22/5-questions-you-were-too-embarrassed-to-ask-about-the-expanding-universe/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">5 Questions you were too embarrassed to ask about the expanding Universe</a> (for Five For Fridays),</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/09/23/ask-ethan-how-can-worlds-that-never-get-above-freezing-have-liquid-water/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">How can worlds that never get above freezing have liquid water?</a> (for Ask Ethan),</li> <li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/09/25/star-trek-discovery-analysis-and-recap-season-1-episodes-1-2/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Star Trek: Discovery, analysis and recap, Season 1, Episodes 1-2</a> (ST:DIS review),</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/09/26/it-from-bit-is-the-universe-a-cellular-automaton/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">It from Bit: is the Universe a cellular automaton?</a> (by Paul Halpern),</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/09/27/the-four-ways-the-earth-will-actually-end/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The four ways the Earth will actually end</a>,</li> <li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/09/27/ligo-virgo-detects-the-first-three-detector-gravitational-wave/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">LIGO-VIRGO Detects The First Three-Detector Gravitational Wave</a>,</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/09/28/is-the-inflationary-universe-a-scientific-theory-not-anymore/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Is the inflationary Universe a scientific theory? Not anymore</a> (says Sabine Hossenfelder), and</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/09/29/5-surprising-facts-about-the-first-galaxies-in-the-universe/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Five surprising facts about the first galaxies in the Universe</a> (for Five For Fridays).</li> </ul><p>So no more delays; it's onto our <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/category/comments-of-the-week/">comments of the week</a>!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/Pembroke-Pines.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36612" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/Pembroke-Pines-600x399.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="399" /></a> Trees are seen blown over in a parking lot as hurricane Irma moves through the area of Pembroke Pines, Florida on September 10, 2017. Making landfall as a Category 4 storm, the 2017 season, featuring both Harvey and Irma, is the first in recorded history where two Category 4 (or higher) storms have made landfall in the same year. Image credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/17/comments-of-the-week-177-from-nuclear-power-and-weapons-to-god-playing-dice-in-the-sun/#comment-582412">Denier</a> on the impact of hurricanes: "Hurricanes are going to happen no matter what we do, but Irma is perhaps the perfect case in point on the impact of economics. The Category 4 eye wall rolled right across Key West and <a href="https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DJ7HhShWAAAxRAp.jpg" rel="nofollow">they’re mostly fine</a>. It came through in the early morning and by that night there were even a couple of bars on the island that opened. There is money in Key West and the structures are well built. There are keys that don’t have Key West’s wealth. On those Keys there are mobile home parks and unrenovated houses built before the 1986+ building codes were enacted. They didn’t fare so well. It wasn’t uncommon to see a newer looking home appear as if nothing happened sitting across the street from a scene of utter devastation. Down in the Caribbean there is even less wealth and many of those islands look like they were hit by an atomic bomb."</p></blockquote> <p>We have now had three category five hurricanes this Atlantic hurricane season, all of which did extraordinary damage to United States territories: Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The season isn't over yet, either, but hopefully the worst of the damage is. There is really no amount of building that can save you in the worst-case scenario. Portions of Puerto Rico were prepared for 27 feet of flooding; those parts received 80 feet from the onslaught of Maria.</p> <p>No, you can't look at one particular event and say, "this was the work of climate change." But you can look at what happened and say, "what can we do to repair the damage, to aid the affected, to rebuild in a more resilient fashion, to reduce the potential damage in the future, and to learn the lessons from the havoc that has been wreaked." That is my big hope for what can come out of all of this, but I have little faith that hope will come to fruition in the near future in this country.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/Hydrogen_Density_Plots-1200x1091-1200x1091.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36463" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/Hydrogen_Density_Plots-1200x1091-1200x1091-600x546.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="546" /></a> The energy levels and electron wavefunctions that correspond to different states within a hydrogen atom, although the configurations are extremely similar for all atoms. The energy levels are quantized in multiples of Planck's constant, but even the lowest energy, ground state has two possible configurations depended on the relative electron/proton spin. Image credit: PoorLeno of Wikimedia Commons. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/16/ask-ethan-if-matter-is-made-of-point-particles-why-does-everything-have-a-size-synopsis/#comment-582394">Another Commenter</a> on why matter takes up space: "The Pauli Exclusion Principle goes a long way towards explaining why matter occupies space."</p></blockquote> <p>This is true in one particular sense: it explains why atoms are the sizes that they are, and why multiple atoms, bound together, remain the sizes that they are. By preventing two electrons (a great example of a fundamental fermion) from occupying the same quantum state, the Pauli Exclusion Principle prohibits atoms from "shrinking" together or overlapping too much.</p> <p>But the differing forces, both nuclear and electromagnetic (and to a lesser extent, gravitational), are responsible for why individual protons and neutrons, or single atoms themselves, have the sizes that they do. Yes, Pauli is an important component, but even without it, the building blocks of matter-as-we-know-it would still occupy the same volume they're observed to occupy.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/slide_3.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36629" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/slide_3-600x450.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" /></a> From macroscopic scales down to subatomic ones, the sizes of the fundamental particles play only a small role in determining the sizes of composite structures. Image credit: Magdalena Kowalska / CERN / ISOLDE team. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/16/ask-ethan-if-matter-is-made-of-point-particles-why-does-everything-have-a-size-synopsis/#comment-582399">Kasim Muflahi</a> on whether point particles would necessarily be black holes: "I agree with the implication of the question i.e. it implies that electrons, quarks etc. shouldn’t be described as zero-volume points because they have mass; and mass is quantised so that it can’t exist in a zero volume point. If it did, it’d be a black hole."</p></blockquote> <p>That is not necessarily true. Quarks and electrons are fundamental as far as we can measure, but there is no rule (as you incorrectly posit) that prevents these particles from being as small as the Planck scale, which is some 10^-35 meters. Our observations can constrain them down to scales of around 10^-18 or 10^-19 meters; colliders show that if they do have a physical size, it is smaller than that. We can also infer an interaction cross-section, but that is not equivalent to a physical size according to the rules of quantum mechanics.</p> <p>Could they be point particles? According to the quantum rules of the Universe, as best as we understand them, yes they could. Your intuition is no substitute for the actual physics.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/02/Treknology_cover.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-35803" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/02/Treknology_cover-600x566.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="566" /></a> Ethan Siegel's upcoming new book, Treknology: The Science of Star Trek from Tricorders to Warp Drive. Image credit: Quarto / Voyageur Press, CBS / Paramount, and E. Siegel. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/18/5-things-the-world-needs-from-star-trek-discovery-synopsis/#comment-582427">Steve Blackband</a> on my upcoming book, Treknology: "Looking forward to your Trek book. You know you will have a vociferous audience. Ive only been to one Trek conference and all i can say is that these guys are crazy!<br /> No doubt you will do better than that awful and childish Shatner book on Trek tech. However I will be most interested in how you compare with Lawrence Krauss, of whom I am a big fan."</p></blockquote> <p>We're all a little crazy; I take that in a good way!</p> <p>The book, <em><a href="http://amzn.to/2kb9EU1">Treknology</a></em>, is starting to get its first reviews and so far they're very positive. I've also been doing a whole slew of interviews and podcasts about it, and there's a lot of buzz, as you'd expect, around all things Star Trek right now. But I am curious how you feel this new book compares with Krauss' now-classic <a href="http://amzn.to/2x1VIS5"><em>The Physics of Star Trek</em></a>, especially since I was a senior in high school when it came out (IIRC) and I read it. Of course, a lot has happened in the past 20+ years, and many of the technologies featured in Star Trek, including TNG, DS9, and Voyager, were simply undeveloped back in the 1990s, but are well on their way now!</p> <p>It's a fantastic illustration of how science doesn't end, but progresses, and so much becomes possible in terms of how humanity can benefit when it does.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/02/16865135741_2353176727_k-1200x819.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-35846" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/02/16865135741_2353176727_k-1200x819-600x409.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="409" /></a> An artist's conception (2015) of what the James Webb Space Telescope will look like when complete and successfully deployed. Note the five-layer sunshield protecting the telescope from the heat of the Sun. Image credit: Northrop Grumman. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/19/new-space-telescope-40-times-the-power-of-hubble-to-unlock-astronomys-future-synopsis/#comment-582443">Patrick Sweetman</a> on the upcoming NASA flagship missions: "I suppose these things take a long time to get off the ground, but we haven’t even hoisted the James Webb Telescope yet."</p></blockquote> <p>These things take more than "a long time" to get off the ground. NASA, with the way its budget currently works, gets approximately one flagship mission per decade for astrophysics. In the 1990s, that was Hubble. In the 2000s, we didn't get one, owing to the legacy of "faster, better, cheaper," which gave us two (faster and cheaper) out of the three (it wasn't better). In the 2010s, we're getting James Webb; in the 2020s, it'll be WFIRST. There are a number of candidates for the 2030s, and LUVOIR is one of the finalists and perhaps the most ambitious, exciting, and <em>expensive</em> one.</p> <p>But I've been sarcastically looking at so much of what's been proposed recently, rolling my eyes and thinking to myself, "why don't you dream a little smaller, if that's even possible." LUVOIR may be the first mission I've seen come down the pipeline, with the exception of Big Bang Observer (which would be a quartet of LISAs at different points around Earth's orbit, which is being floated for the 2050s at the earliest), that actually seems like an ambition worthy of humanity's dreams. I like it.</p> <p>Also, even though the launch date got bumped, don't be down on Webb. The "five year life" is like how Opportunity (still roving, by the way) was supposed to be a 90 day mission. They've got enough onboard coolant for the mid-IR instrument to last a decade, and even past that point, the near-IR instruments on Webb could propel it into a second decade. Since L2 servicing for LUVOIR will be ideal (if not mandatory), there's no reason why the Webb wouldn't make a great testbed for it. The rewards of a refueled and serviced JWST could be astounding!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/Nuclear_with_Cherenkov.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36607" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/Nuclear_with_Cherenkov-600x449.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="449" /></a> Reactor nuclear experimental RA-6 (Republica Argentina 6), en marcha. As long as there's the right nuclear fuel present, along with control rods and the proper type of water inside, energy can be generated with only 1/100,000th the fuel of conventional, fossil-fuel reactors. Image credit: Centro Atomico Bariloche, via Pieck Darío. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/20/how-much-fuel-does-it-take-to-power-the-world-synopsis/#comment-582468">John</a>, quoting me and responding on nuclear energy: "“… Is it only our fears of nuclear disaster that prevents us from using our current technology to better the world for humanity for generations to come?’</p> <p>I fear that is true. If only it were not so!"</p></blockquote> <p>It's easy to point to disasters like Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima, and showcase the highly publicized failures that demonstrate the dangers of nuclear power used irresponsibly, while the potential of using reactor fuel to generate nuclear weapons plays on some of humanity's greatest fears.</p> <p>But fear is the great mind-killer when it comes to policy, and reason is the only solution. There are scientific solutions to nuclear energy without the possibility of meltdowns, without the waste problems, and without the nuclear weapons danger. If we cared about our world enough to make it so, we could switch away from fossil fuels and onto nuclear power within a decade. Alas, fear has carried the day up until the present, with far less than 10% of the world's energy coming from nuclear. This has the potential to change... if we can all agree. Again, I'm not optimistic about that anytime soon, but the world is changing, and that's a "crisitunity" if there ever was one.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/03/0-dUThOkQ6z57EkmzF.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-35898" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/03/0-dUThOkQ6z57EkmzF-600x263.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="263" /></a> Even though inflation may end in more than 50% of any of the regions at any given time (denoted by red X’s), enough regions continue to expand forever that inflation continues for an eternity, with no two Universes ever colliding. Image credit: E. Siegel. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/21/the-big-bang-wasnt-the-beginning-after-all-synopsis/#comment-582469">Denier</a> on the beginning of the Universe: "Do they have a theory on why it didn’t happen earlier? Why didn’t the Big Bang happen at the beginning? Why wait? What was it about expanding space that didn’t allow a Bang then later did allow a Bang?"</p></blockquote> <p>What we can say about inflation is that, by its nature, it wipes out any information (as far as our observable Universe is concerned) that pre-existed before the final 10^-33 seconds (or so) of inflation. It's only those tiny, last moments that leave any sort of information imprint on our observable Universe at all. There are many models that are viable of what happened prior to those final moments of inflation, including:</p> <ul><li>that inflation was eternal to the past,</li> <li>that there was a singularity in the past, and only a small region was inflating, but that inflating region took over in short order,</li> <li>that inflation was a consequence of our Universe "rejuvenating" from a prior state,</li> </ul><p>and many others. Different regions of space will see inflation end at different times, but they are forever lost to us; we can only access what's physically, causally connected to us, and all we see is all we get.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2013/10/curvature.jpeg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-29509" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2013/10/curvature-600x214.jpeg" alt="" width="600" height="214" /></a> Different curvatures for two-dimensional surfaces. Image credit: Shashi M. Kanbur at SUNY Oswego. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/21/the-big-bang-wasnt-the-beginning-after-all-synopsis/#comment-582479">Jim Paige</a> on what flat space actually means: "Ethan, I know that the universe is “flat,” but when I think of that description I picture something like a very thin pancake or sheet of paper.</p> <p>Since we live in a universe with 3 “travel” dimensions &amp; time, combining to form space-time, that seems very different than “flat” to me.</p> <p>I haven’t been able to get a handle on the explanation of what a flat universe really means. Could you explain the answer to me?"</p></blockquote> <p>I'm going to take you down a dimension, because if you want to visualize the full three dimensional space, you'd need to have experience in four dimensions to be outside of it. So let's instead think of a sheet of paper as "flat," which works just fine for two dimensions. If you took a sheet of paper shaped like a sphere, that would be "positive curvature," while if you had a sheet of paper that was shaped like a saddle, there'd be "negative curvature." The think you can ask is what happens to parallel lines, which you can ask in any number of dimensions that's two or more.</p> <ul><li>If you have positive curvature, parallel lines will eventually meet, which is why lines of longitude all meet at the poles.</li> <li>If you have zero curvature (or perfect spatial flatness), the parallel lines will never meet, always remaining equidistant.</li> <li>If you have negative curvature, parallel lines diverge, getting farther apart the farther away you move.</li> </ul><p>We have used this technique and light from the CMB, the Big Bang's leftover glow, to measure our spatial curvature. It's 0, to a precision of ~10^-2, the best we've ever measured. If we can measure down to about 10^-5 or 10^-6, we should be able to get down to the actual curvature predicted by inflation. Interesting!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/Like-a-Death-Yell-for-Sto-vo-kor.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36666" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/Like-a-Death-Yell-for-Sto-vo-kor-600x349.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="349" /></a> The warrior that Burnham kills is given the traditional Klingon death ritual... and then predictably used as a political tool to start a war. Image credit: Jan Thijs/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/25/star-trek-discovery-analysis-and-recap-season-1-episodes-1-2-synopsis/#comment-582567">Sinisa Lazarek</a> on the start of Star Trek: Discovery: "the first two episodes were more of an intro into this world (although they don’t show anything of either the klingon world and state of afairs or federation, only brief hints), then they are “get to know the crew” episodes. Sort of like game of thrones but on steroids.. ok, here are the characters, by the end of the 2nd episode most of them will die.. But in the sneak peak after 2ns episode you get to learn that the whole show will more or less revolve around Burnham and the war with klingons."</p></blockquote> <p>Well, that's certainly what the start of the show is about, but I'm not entirely sure that we're truly in for "War Trek" as I've feared. The Federation is flawed; the Klingon empire clearly has those who disagree with T'Kuvma. (Don't forget that when it came to the initial warrior killed by Burnham, that warrior's <em>brother</em> would not give into T'Kuvma's demagoguery.) After all, even though they call him "T'Kuvma the Unforgettable," he's never mentioned by name in any other Star Trek series. Clearly, he's been forgotten.</p> <p>And that alone should be enough to give hope; if interstellar species can learn from their failures to create a more perfect future, perhaps we can, too.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/maxresdefault.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36659" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/maxresdefault-600x338.jpg" alt="Conway's Game of Life is a popular and very simple algorithm for encoding the evolution of a system, leading to complex but stable/quasi-stable patterns. Image credit: MrJavaFrank / YouTube." width="600" height="338" /></a> Conway's Game of Life is a popular and very simple algorithm for encoding the evolution of a system, leading to complex but stable/quasi-stable patterns. Image credit: MrJavaFrank / YouTube. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/26/it-from-bit-is-the-universe-a-cellular-automaton-synopsis/#comment-582559">Frank</a> on why the Universe must be a cellular automaton: "IMHO universe/reality must be a Cellular Automata Quantum Computer operating at Planck scale."</p></blockquote> <p>Be very, very careful when you attempt to apply your login and intuition to how the Universe ought to behave. The "rules" that govern the Universe are neither intuitive nor necessarily logical to us; all we can do is ask nature "what are you doing" and listen and try to make sense of it. When we add ourselves into the equations, that's when we most easily are led astray.</p> <p>You did post an interesting set of thoughts, though; I don't necessarily agree with them, but I don't necessarily disagree fully, either.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/1020993154.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36668" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/1020993154-600x325.jpg" alt="A collision between two large, rocky bodies in space can be catastrophic for one or both of them. This has happened to Earth before, and will no doubt happen again. But the end of the Earth? That's happening even if something like this never does. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech." width="600" height="325" /></a> A collision between two large, rocky bodies in space can be catastrophic for one or both of them. This has happened to Earth before, and will no doubt happen again. But the end of the Earth? That's happening even if something like this never does. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/27/the-four-ways-the-earth-will-actually-end-synopsis/#comment-582593">Bennett Smith</a> on this blog: "This is a general comment to readers, not a comment on this article in particular. I want to say that Dr. Siegel’s articles are simple enough for me as a layman to understand, but complex enough to be meaningful and challenging. People who use the comments section to post attacks on Dr. Siegel are jerks and should be ashamed of themselves. If they so adamantly disagree with Dr. Siegel, they should create their own blogs. But it’s much easier to disparage than it is to create. I for one hope that Ethan continues his blog for years to come, because I enjoy them and look forwarding to reading them."</p></blockquote> <p>Well, wow. I very rarely get a comment this kind and generous directed towards me. It made me feel very good, so thank you for saying, Bennett. People will do what they do for their own internal reasons, and I will likely never know what those reasons are, fully. But this out-of-nowhere kindness means a lot to me, and so thank you.</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2016/09/1280px-Planets_Under_a_Red_Sun.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-35102" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2016/09/1280px-Planets_Under_a_Red_Sun-600x400.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="400" /></a> All inner planets in a red dwarf system will be tidally locked, with one side always facing the star and one always facing away, with a “ring” of Earth-like habitability between the night and day sides. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. </div> <blockquote><p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/27/the-four-ways-the-earth-will-actually-end-synopsis/#comment-582607">Naked Bunny with a Whip</a> on the ultimate locking: "Earth’s rotation won’t be tidally locked to the sun before it becomes a white dwarf, will it? Actually, can it ever be tidally locked to the sun with the moon orbiting it?"</p></blockquote> <p>The Earth will be <em>more strongly</em> locked to the Moon than to the Sun, and so the Earth-Moon lock wins. When the Moon spirals away sufficiently from the Earth, the Earth will co-orbit the Moon with a period of 47 days. As our Sun loses mass (after it becomes a white dwarf), our orbit will be pushed out, will take approximately 2-3 years, and the tidal forces on our world will be only about 20% of what they are today due to the Sun. The Moon will cause a permanent deformation in the world.</p> <p>Interestingly, if we were at the right distance, we could have a perfect locking, where the Moon would always be located at the L2 Lagrange point, but alas, nature didn't give us that setup.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/smaller1.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36688" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/smaller1-600x365.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="365" /></a> The noise (top), the strain (middle), and the reconstructed signal (bottom) in all three detectors. Image credit: The LIGO and VIRGO scientific collaborations. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/27/ligo-virgo-detects-the-first-three-detector-gravitational-wave-synopsis/#comment-582600">Sinisa Lazarek</a> on the significance of the latest gravitational wave detection: "Looking at the picture in the Forbes article (where all three detectors/signals are shown), Livingston signal does look like an actual signal. Hanford looks so/so, but Virgo looks just like noise. Why are they so different? On the other hand, why does a waveform look different in all three detectors if it;s the same signal?"</p></blockquote> <p>Well, three things:</p> <ol><li>The top row shows the signal-to-noise ratio. Yes, in Livingston, it's off the charts, peaking at 14. But a SNR greater than 1 you can do something with. At Hanford, it got up to 7, which is robust. At Virgo, it "only" got up to 4.5 (which is still good), an incredible feat considering that Virgo is only about at a third the operating sensitivity of either LIGO detector.</li> <li>They are all so different because the gravitational wave has a specific planar orientation as it passes through Earth, and each detector occupies a different two-dimensional plane <strong>because the Earth is round</strong>! So Livingston is more favorable configured for this particular wave than either Hanford or Virgo (in Italy).</li> <li>And if you look at the bottom row, you can clearly visually see the goodness-of-fit in all three detectors; it isn't "just noise" even to your naked eye.</li> </ol><p>So... pretty incredible.</p> <p>Also, there's a candidate for <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/27/ligo-virgo-detects-the-first-three-detector-gravitational-wave-synopsis/#comment-582606">the <em>snarkiest</em> comment of the week</a> in here:</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/funny.png"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36689" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/funny-600x265.png" alt="" width="600" height="265" /></a> Way to go, NBwaW. </div> <p>Also, as <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/27/ligo-virgo-detects-the-first-three-detector-gravitational-wave-synopsis/#comment-582612">Michael Kelsey</a> notes, Virgo has only 3 km arms, while each LIGO detector has 4 km arms, which makes Virgo less sensitive in principle.</p> <p>To those who are doubters, skeptics, trolls, etc., however you choose to self-define, as long as you obey the rules of conduct on this blog, you are welcome. But that does not entitle you to a response from me. Remember that.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/8-13-Fluctuations-in-Space-1200x417.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36673" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/8-13-Fluctuations-in-Space-1200x417-600x209.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="209" /></a> The quantum fluctuations that occur during inflation do indeed get stretched across the Universe, but the larger feature of inflation is that the Universe gets stretched flat, removing any pre-existing curvature. Image credit: E. Siegel / Beyond The Galaxy. </div> <p>And finally, from <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/28/is-the-inflationary-universe-a-scientific-theory-not-anymore-synopsis/#comment-582640">CFT</a> on an actual quality comment on Sabine's article deriding inflation: "I think Sabine Hossenfelder says it precisely and elegantly:<br /> “It is this abundance of useless models that gives rise to the criticism that inflation is not a scientific theory. And on that account, the criticism is justified. It’s not good scientific practice. It is a practice that, to say it bluntly, has become commonplace because it results in papers, not because it advances science.”"</p></blockquote> <p>There are a great many successes that inflation has had, and I think Sabine is being grossly unfair to cosmic inflation by defending Steinhardt et al.'s perspective as thoroughly as she does. I think she is dismissive of a great amount of scientifically robust predictions that inflation has given us that have been borne out by observation, and I think I will have no choice but to write a follow-up piece for later this week.</p> <p>However, I think Sabine was right about the creation of useless model after useless model, which is a hallmark of "not even science" anymore. It was part of -- interestingly enough -- why I wrote that <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2015/12/23/why-string-theory-is-not-science/">String Theory was not even a scientific theory</a> two years ago, and <a href="http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2015/12/dear-dr-b-is-string-theory-science.html">her defense of string theory as science</a> is completely inconsistent with her criteria for inflation. But you do not have to agree with me 100% of the time, and Sabine is just as much a physicist (if not more!) than I am, and is entitled to her opinion and I am proud to represent that on my platform, even if I don't agree.</p> <p>But there's much more exciting stuff to come, and with that said, have a great start of October and I hope you're looking ahead to more science and even more fun as Halloween approaches!</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/esiegel">esiegel</a></span> <span>Sun, 10/01/2017 - 01:48</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/technology" hreflang="en">Technology</a></div> </div> </div> Sun, 01 Oct 2017 05:48:31 +0000 esiegel 37117 at https://scienceblogs.com What is Biotech? https://scienceblogs.com/digitalbio/2017/09/29/what-is-biotech <span>What is Biotech?</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>The biotechnology (biotech) industry is incredibly diverse. Recently, I wrote about the size of the <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/digitalbio/2017/08/16/how-big-is-biotech/">biotech industry</a>, which is, of course, related to how biotechnology is defined. As a strict definition, biotechnology is the use of biology to turn raw materials into useful products. However, the act of developing a biotech product requires many enabling technologies, reagents, and services that form today's modern industry.</p> <p><a href="https://www.biotech-careers.org/companies-jobs-careers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><img class="alignnone wp-image-1246" src="http://scienceblogs.com/digitalbio/files/2017/09/coreactivies2-400x121.png" alt="" width="600" height="182" /></a></p> <p>The term biotechnology was first coined in <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%A1roly_Ereky" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1919 by Károly Ereky</a>, a Hungarian agricultural engineer, who foresaw a time when biology could be used for turning raw material into useful products. The emerging field of synthetic biology represents the natural progression of this idea as our ability to synthesize gene sequences and engineer biochemical pathways and even entire microorganisms in rational designs for a myriad of purposes from speciality chemicals, to food, to energy improves.</p> <p>While biotechnology products such as bread, wine, and beer, have been around for millennia, the earliest biotechnology companies, as exemplified by Genentech, were founded in the late 1970s after the initial discoveries of restriction enzymes and the realization they could be harnessed for use in DNA cloning. Many of these companies focused on producing human therapeutic proteins, like human insulin, in cost-effective ways. To carry out this work, these companies also needed reagents such as restriction enzymes that were in themselves biotech products. Hence, an ecosystem of companies developed into a larger industry.</p> <p>That industry today is diverse and includes companies with therapeutic missions; technology focused companies that provide analytical instrumentation, systems for automation, reagents for assays and production; companies that focus on diagnostics for determining appropriate therapeutic and medical interventions; service organizations that specialize in using advanced technology as well as providing clinical trial, regulatory, and other experience to groups; and software companies that specialize in different kinds of informatics. Some companies are very large aggregates of many specialties and others, such as startups and early commercial ventures, are narrowly focused on a specific disease, application, or technology.</p> <p>For students gaining hands on training at one of the more than 100 <a href="https://bio-link.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bio-Link.org</a> programs throughout the United States, or in degree programs in colleges and universities, the biotech industry provides many opportunities. Basic training in preparing solutions, working with DNA and proteins, performing immunoassays, and working with lab equipment provide a common set of skills that fulfill many job requirements. As the Bio-Link programs also emphasize the importance of record keeping in laboratory notebooks, such students are well-suited for positions in industry. In addition to general lab skills, Bio-Link programs may also offer specialized training that is suited to local industry needs.</p> <p>The <a href="https://biotech-careers.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biotech-Careers.org </a>web site, with its database of over 5600 (and growing) biotechnology -companies and employers, provides an overview of the industry. Each biotechnology-company in the database has one or more assigned terms as a way to describe a business' core activity. These terms can be used to filter companies, based on what they do, to understand opportunities for educational objectives, trends for instruction, and job prospects for those seeking employment. The data can also be used to characterize the industry in general and local (by state) ways.</p> <p>Presently, nearly 400 terms are used to describe the industry. When the top 100 terms are visualized in a word cloud (above), where the size of a term indicates how many companies have that term, several themes can be be observed. A large number of companies (667) are engaged in small molecule development. Who knew small molecules could be so big? A majority of these companies are traditional pharmaceutical companies, but as these companies can also have biotech products they are part of the biotechnology industry. The second largest category are medical device companies. These are in biotechnology because, like pharmaceutical companies, some device companies also make biotechnology products, and some devices are made from biological materials. Other terms in the word cloud emphasize the ecosystem nature of the biotechnology industry. Antibodies, for example, can be reagents in diagnostic assays. They can also be therapeutics. Contract services and research are activities that support other companies.</p> <p><a href="/files/digitalbio/files/2017/09/Term-and-Frequency-1.png" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><img class="alignleft wp-image-1248 size-medium" src="http://scienceblogs.com/digitalbio/files/2017/09/Term-and-Frequency-1-300x204.png" alt="" width="300" height="204" /></a>Finally, these terms show the vast diversity of the industry. As noted <a href="https://Biotech-Careers.org">Biotech-Careers.org</a> describes the industry with nearly 400 terms. When the frequency of each term is examined, one sees that many terms are used only a few items; 279 terms are associated with 10 or fewer companies, and 115 terms are associated with only single companies. This long-tail appears because biotechnology is concerned with solving new problems by translating research discoveries into useful products to benefit society. As such the biotechnology field is always evolving–just like biology.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/finchtalk">finchtalk</a></span> <span>Fri, 09/29/2017 - 16:51</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/technology" hreflang="en">Technology</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 29 Sep 2017 20:51:40 +0000 finchtalk 69987 at https://scienceblogs.com Future Farms Will Be Run By Robots https://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2017/09/26/future-farms-will-be-run-by-robots <span>Future Farms Will Be Run By Robots</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>I have a love-hate relationship with farmers. I have a great deal of respect for the enterprise and for those who dedicate their lives to it. But, I also become annoyed at the culture in which modern American farming embeds itself. And, I don't feel a lot of reticence talking openly about that. </p> <p>Having done plenty of farming myself, I don't feel the need that so many others do to be extra nice to farmers out of lack of understanding. I know when the farmers complain about too little or too much rain, they are studiously ignoring the fact that if it is harder to plant or harvest, they make out like bandits with the price of their product. Farmers talk about how hard that life is, and yes, it is indeed very hard, but they seem to not mention that a typical large scale farm these days (as most farms are) is a multi tens of millions of dollars business sitting on enormously valuable land. Whenever things go really wrong with farms in the US, they get help. As it is now, we have some of the most bone-headed agricultural policies ever invented mainly to keep farmers happy, because so many US Congressional districts span vast farmland and little else. </p> <p>And what does America get back for giving farmers so much help in producing a product that we have no choice but to buy? We get a lot of crap. Red counties are farm counties. Red districts give us a Republican House. Farmers mainly backed trump, even though Trump policies are almost all bad for almost all farmers. </p> <p>As a brief aside, and to illustrate the disconnect between farmer culture and actual farmer self interest, I can give you this example. </p> <p>Have you ever heard of Mexican cheese? Or, more to the point, have you ever been to Mexico, and then, while there, had some cheese? That cheese might have been made in Mexico, but they don't really make cheese in Mexico. Most of the cheese eaten there is imported. From where? From Wisconsin. Nowhere else. Why? Because of Clinton's trade policies. Clinton made a bunch of sweet deals for American farmers and that was one of them. Rural farmers in Wisconsin voted for Trump, and Trump was the guy who was going to end NAFTA (and still might, who knows?). NAFTA keeps Wisconsin dairy and cheese in business. Get rid of NAFTA, Wisconsin becomes the West Virginia of cheese. Why? Because Mexico would rather buy its cheese from South America because it is cheaper, and the moment the Wisconsin dairy industry is not propped up by NAFTA, the free market takes over and California ends Wisconsin agriculture. </p> <p>Look around the world. Farmers are taking it in the neck in many other countries, often because of the very climate change so many farmers pretend to believe is a hoax. But not in countries that take care of their farmers. America takes care of its farmers. And at every opportunity, the farmers screw over America.</p> <p>Therefore, perhaps it will be with great pleasure that Modern Civilization advances to the next level. Robot farmers. </p> <p><strong>Hands Free Hectare </strong>is a project run by Harper Adams University and Precision Decisions Inc. The idea is to develop robots that will plant, tend, and harvest crops. </p> <p>Now, of course, there will still be farmers, but fewer. So few, perhaps, that most people who are all "oh, I'm a poor farmer, living out in the farmlands, help me help me," can stop whinging and move to the city. A small number of technologists, mostly the children of former Mexican migrant workers because immigrants or the children of recent immigrants or migrants are the only people in America who still have ambition, will learn the technology and run the farms and, we hope, keep the robots happy and busy. </p> <p>Anyway, HFHa, as it calls itself, has been at this a while, and the latest iteration involved a major harvest of barley without humans touching anything but buttons and software. HFHa robot expert Martin Abell working for Precision Decisions, noted “This project aimed to prove that there’s no technological reason why a field can’t be farmed without humans working the land directly now and we’ve done that. We achieved this on an impressively low budget [and] we used machinery that was readily available for farmers to buy; open source technology; and an autopilot from a drone for the navigation system.”</p> <p>Notably, much of the large equipment used was decades old, with the new technology added to it. </p> <p>Here is the site for<a href="http://www.handsfreehectare.com/"> Hands Free Hectare, </a>which is a British enterprise. </p> <p>I for one welcome our new farmer-robot overlords. </p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/gregladen">gregladen</a></span> <span>Tue, 09/26/2017 - 05:45</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/technology" hreflang="en">Technology</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 26 Sep 2017 09:45:51 +0000 gregladen 34534 at https://scienceblogs.com How much fuel does it take to power the world? (Synopsis) https://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/20/how-much-fuel-does-it-take-to-power-the-world-synopsis <span>How much fuel does it take to power the world? (Synopsis)</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><blockquote><p>"In terms of weapons, the best disarmament tool so far is nuclear energy. We have been taking down the Russian warheads, turning it into electricity. 10 percent of American electricity comes from decommissioned warheads." -Stewart Brand</p></blockquote> <p>Arguably the greatest advance of humanity — and the cause of the greatest increase in our quality of life — in the past few centuries has been the widespread availability of electrical energy. It powers our homes, our industries, our automobiles, our places of business and more. Our world runs on energy, with the world using upwards of 155,000 TeraWatt-hours annually. That’s a huge amount of energy, and it requires a huge amount of fuel. But must it?</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/world-energy-consumption-by-fuel-2014.png"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36643" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/world-energy-consumption-by-fuel-2014-600x361.png" alt="" width="600" height="361" /></a> World energy consumption by part of the world, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2015. Image credit: Gail Tverberg / Our Finite World. </div> <p>If we were to power the world entirely with coal, oil, or natural gas, it would take billions of tonnes of fuel each year to make it happen. If we switched to nuclear, those “billions” drop to thousands. And if we could switch to nuclear fusion or even antimatter, the amount of fuel plummets even further. Looking at the numbers, it makes no sense not to switch. Is it only our fears of nuclear disaster that prevents us from using our current technology to better the world for humanity for generations to come?</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/hotfusion.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36644" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/hotfusion-600x300.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="300" /></a> A fusion device based on magnetically confined plasma. Hot fusion is scientifically valid, but has not yet been practically achieved to reach the 'breakeven' point. Image credit: PPPL management, Princeton University, the Department of Energy, from the FIRE project. </div> <p><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/09/20/how-much-fuel-does-it-take-to-power-the-world/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">I’m not 100% sure, but at least get the answer to how much fuel it takes to power the world today!</a></p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/esiegel">esiegel</a></span> <span>Wed, 09/20/2017 - 01:01</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/technology" hreflang="en">Technology</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 20 Sep 2017 05:01:15 +0000 esiegel 37105 at https://scienceblogs.com Voyager's 'Cosmic Map' of Earth's location is hopelessly wrong (Synopsis) https://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/17/voyagers-cosmic-map-of-earths-location-is-hopelessly-wrong-synopsis <span>Voyager&#039;s &#039;Cosmic Map&#039; of Earth&#039;s location is hopelessly wrong (Synopsis)</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><blockquote><p>“We [are] a species endowed with hope and perseverance, at least a little intelligence, substantial generosity and a palpable zest to make contact with the cosmos.” -Carl Sagan</p></blockquote> <p>When the Voyager and Pioneer spacecraft were launched, they contained a message emblazoned on them: a map of 14 pulsars, showing the location of Earth relative to them. This was a brilliant idea: showcase bright, unique identifiers, complete with their observed periods and distances from our world, and people would be able to find Earth. If we wanted to be found, it was the best idea 1977 had to offer.</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/pulsarmap.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36509" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/pulsarmap-600x375.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="375" /></a> A colorized version of the 14 pulsars encodes information about their relative distance and their pulse timing to 12 significant figures. Image credit: Sam W of Simple Desktops. </div> <p>But 40 years later, the idea is fundamentally flawed. There are up to a billion pulsars in the Milky Way, their periods change long-term, and their orientations are variable over time, meaning they won’t be pointing at Earth in the future. If we wanted to be detected, we’d be much better off sending the same information we use to detect exoplanetary systems today!</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/PIA21428_-_TRAPPIST-1_Comparison_to_Solar_System_and_Jovian_Moons-1200x960.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36510" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/PIA21428_-_TRAPPIST-1_Comparison_to_Solar_System_and_Jovian_Moons-1200x960-600x480.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="480" /></a> TRAPPIST-1 system compared to the solar system; all seven planets of TRAPPIST-1 could fit inside the orbit of Mercury. By delivering the mass, radius, atmospheric content and orbital parameters of the planets, along with astronomical information about our star, someone with advanced technology could identify our Solar System from afar. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech. </div> <p><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/17/voyagers-cosmic-map-of-earths-location-is-hopelessly-wrong/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Although it was a very clever idea presented just 10 years after the discovery of pulsars, we now know that Voyager’s cosmic map to find Earth will be hopelessly wrong by the time an alien civilization finds it.</a></p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/esiegel">esiegel</a></span> <span>Thu, 08/17/2017 - 01:00</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/technology" hreflang="en">Technology</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 17 Aug 2017 05:00:54 +0000 esiegel 37070 at https://scienceblogs.com Extreme weather 'could kill up to 152,000 a year' in Europe by 2100? https://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2017/08/05/extreme-weather-could-kill-up-to-152000-a-year-in-europe-by-2100 <span>Extreme weather &#039;could kill up to 152,000 a year&#039; in Europe by 2100?</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p><a data-flickr-embed="true" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/belette/36385877465/in/dateposted/" title="heatwaves"><img src="https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4440/36385877465_0aa4a07835_b.jpg" width="400" align="right" alt="heatwaves" /></a>It is summer. Normally the time for relaxation, but even though <a href="http://wmconnolley.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/town-bumps-afterthoughts.html">the rowing is over</a> (alas) there's a T/O coming up and little freizeit; and after that I'm off on holiday; so I should squeeze off a quick cheap post to keep those clicks coming in. And on a summer's day when it is rather cool and pouring with rain (although, the mercurial English climate being what it is, it has changed since I started writing this to glorious sun; by the time I've finished, we'll probably be onto hails of frogs), what better topic than <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-40835663">Extreme weather 'could kill up to 152,000 a year' in Europe by 2100</a>?</p> <p><i>Heat waves would cause 99% of all weather-related deaths... Deaths caused by extreme weather could rise from 3,000 a year between 1981 and 2010 to 152,000 between 2071 and 2100</i> is that even possible? 1% of 152,000 is 1520 so if heatwaves currently cause 50% of all weather-related deaths, yes, it is just about possible. If I search around for causes of death I find <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/File:Causes_of_death_%E2%80%94_standardised_death_rate,_2014_(per_100_000_inhabitants)_YB17.png">this nice chart</a> and, as you'd expect, with 1.5 k out of 300,000 k people, at 0.005%<sup>1</sup>, weather isn't even close to making the chart; the lowest there is cancer of the uterus, which I'm fortunately immune to, at 6-per-thousand. Even pushed up 100-fold to 152,000 that's only 0.5% (do I need to throw in the conventional "and of course every one of those deaths is sad"? OK then, consider it done) which still isn't even close to making the table; more than another factor of 10 is required. There's a <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/health/causes-death/data/main-tables">list of tables</a> available. Which one should I look in for weather / climate? None of them it seems. Ah well. The <a href="http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(17)30082-7/fulltext">Lancet paper</a> is available, and in the <a href="http://www.thelancet.com/cms/attachment/2103447591/2080584661/mmc1.pdf">appendix</a> is the table of deaths (table S6 is the one I want). Here is discover that in the EU+, deaths per 10,000,000 from heatwaves is 54 (I omit the spurious precision of ".07"); multiplied by ~30 that indeed comes to 1,500 ish. I inline the table for you; click for a larger view, or indeed proceed to the original.</p> <p>Note that the UK is not, as I thought smugly, in the "Northern" category that hardly has any deaths even by 2100; that turns out to be Scandinavia, lucky people. We're in "Western", along with France, which extends quite a way South and, I suspect, supplies many of the deaths. I am slightly reluctant to accept the balance of heat-to-cold deaths as presented there; an overall ratio of 25-to-1 seems implausibly low, on the cold side (recall the arguements from long long ago in sci.env).</p> <p>The obvious response to this is "adaption". So obvious indeed that the Beeb quotes <i>Experts from South Korea's Seoul National University warned that the study's results "could be overestimated". "People are known to adapt and become less vulnerable than previously to extreme weather conditions because of advances in medical technology, air conditioning, and thermal insulation in houses," they wrote <a href="http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(17)30084-0/fulltext">in a comment piece published in the same journal</a>.</i> That seems like a reasonable comment.</p> <p>[Update: As TB points out in the comments, people can adapt, but the rest of the world rather less so. That's a massive weakness in any attempt to evaluate GW based only on human mortality; indeed I think it is obvious that any changes large enough to serious affect adaptable humans are going to cause massive problems for slower-adapting ecologies -W]</p> <h3>Refs</h3> <p>* <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/08/05/european-heatwave-kills-five-temperatures-soar-40c/">European heatwave kills five as temperatures soar above 40C</a></p> <h3>Notes</h3> <p>1. Ahem. Or more accurately known as "0.0005%", I seem to have lost a 0. See comments.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/stoat">stoat</a></span> <span>Sat, 08/05/2017 - 08:53</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/technology" hreflang="en">Technology</a></div> </div> </div> Sat, 05 Aug 2017 12:53:22 +0000 stoat 53994 at https://scienceblogs.com Health advocates threaten lawsuit against firm importing asbestos to U.S. https://scienceblogs.com/thepumphandle/2017/06/13/health-advocates-threaten-lawsuit-against-firm-that-imports-asbestos <span>Health advocates threaten lawsuit against firm importing asbestos to U.S.</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p><em>[This post is dedicated to <a href="http://www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org/archives/43970">Doug Larkin</a>. Doug was the co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. He suffered in recent years with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and passed away yesterday.] </em></p> <p>Dallas-based <a href="http://www.oxy.com/OurBusinesses/Chemicals/Pages/default.aspx">OxyChem</a> imports about 300,000 pounds of asbestos each year. Yes, asbestos. The deadly mineral that most Americans think is banned (<em>it's not</em>) and responsible for about 15,000 U.S. cancer deaths annually.</p> <p>OxyChem is likely the largest asbestos importer in the U.S. The company is required under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to report its asbestos imports to the EPA. A group of health advocates assert that the firm failed to do so. The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (<a href="http://www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org/about-adao/who-we-are">ADAO</a>); Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (<a href="http://saferchemicals.org/who-we-are/">SCHF</a>); and Environmental Health Strategy Center are using TSCA's “citizen enforcement” provision (<a href="http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?path=/prelim@title15/chapter53&amp;edition=prelim">15 USC 53 §2619</a>)<strong> </strong>to <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/351083441/ADAO-Letter-to-OxyChem-May-2017">alert OxyChem</a> of their “notice of intent to file suit” because of company’s failure to report their asbestos imports.</p> <p>OxyChem uses asbestos in its outdated chloralkali technology to produce chlorine. Plants in Europe, however, have moved to <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/publication/eur-scientific-and-technical-research-reports/best-available-techniques-bat-reference-document-production-chlor-alkali-industrial">more advanced</a> and safer technology which doesn't rely on the deadly carcinogen. Of the 31 countries of the European Union and European Free Trade Association, only one chloralkali plant out of 75 is still using asbestos in their chlorine production process.</p> <p>The health groups relied on commercially-available U.S. Customs and Border Protection records to identify OxyChem’s asbestos imports. The records revealed imports totally nearly 900,000 pounds during 2013 through the end of 2015. Most of the shipments---more than 20 in total---come from the one remaining asbestos mine in Brazil. The import data, however, does not match up with records required by EPA. The health groups found this out by filing a FOIA request with EPA to determine whether OxyChem complied with EPA’s Chemical Data Reporting (<a href="https://www.epa.gov/chemical-data-reporting/2016-chemical-data-reporting-frequent-questions">40 CFR, Part 711</a>.) It requires firms to report every four years their use of certain "significant" chemicals. Asbestos is one of those "significant" chemicals and users are required to report quantities that exceed 2,500 pounds per facility per year. OxyChem's use of asbestos over the last four years should have been reported to EPA by October 31, 2016.</p> <p>The American Chemistry Council (ACC) recently submitted comments to EPA on documents the agency is preparing pursuant to the 2016 amends to TSCA. In their comments, ACC <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0736-0052">insists that asbestos</a> can be used safely. That EPA should believe ACC's assertions that chloralkali plants, such as OxyChem's, are pristine, error-free operations in which asbestos never touches human hands or enters the air or surrounding environment. ACC also conveniently ignores the life cycle of the toxic, from the asbestos exposure that occurs in the Brazilian mining town of Minacu, the processing and shipping, to the handling, use and disposal of asbestos somewhere in the U.S.</p> <p>I tip my hat to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (<a href="http://saferchemicals.org/who-we-are/">SCHF</a>), the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (<a href="http://www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org/about-adao/who-we-are">ADAO</a>), and Environmental Health Strategy Center for using TSCA's "citizen enforcement" provision. OxyChem and EPA have until the end of July to respond to the health groups' notice of intent to sue. If EPA fails to take action to compel OxyChem to comply with the TSCA reporting provision, the health groups could file a lawsuit in a U.S. district court.</p> <p> </p> <p> </p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/cmonforton">cmonforton</a></span> <span>Tue, 06/13/2017 - 06:18</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/technology" hreflang="en">Technology</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 13 Jun 2017 10:18:57 +0000 cmonforton 62868 at https://scienceblogs.com Is the infiltration of "integrative medicine" into medicine as relentless as we thought? Maybe not... https://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2017/06/12/is-the-infiltration-of-integrative-medicine-into-medicine-as-relentless-as-we-thought-maybe-not <span>Is the infiltration of &quot;integrative medicine&quot; into medicine as relentless as we thought? Maybe not...</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>If there's one thing about the march of the pseudomedical entity known as "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM), "integrative medicine," "complementary and integrative medicine" (CIM), "complementary and integrative health" (CIH), it's that over the last 25 years or so its progress towards being mainstreamed has appeared utterly relentless. I like to <a href="http://quotegeek.com/quotes-from-movies/the-terminator/1136/">paraphrase Kyle Reese</a>, the warrior from the future sent back in time to save Sarah Connor in <cite>The Terminator</cite>: "Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until science-based medicine is dead." And sometimes it certainly seems that way. After all, the number of "integrative medicine" programs in academic medical centers has skyrocketed over the last two decades <a href="https://www.imconsortium.org/members/members.cfm" rel="nofollow">to over 60</a>, and that doesn't count the many more non-academic medical centers. Meanwhile, <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/07/24/a-board-certification-in-integrating-quackery-and-pseudoscience-with-real-medicine/">Andrew Weil has successfully produced an "integrative medicine" residency that has metastasized far and wide</a> throughout medical academia, while major conferences devote major sessions to "<a href="https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/integrative-oncology-trojan-horse-quackademic-medicine-or-both/">integrative oncology</a>" and respected medical journals publish "<a href="https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/selling-integrative-oncology-as-a-monograph-in-http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2014/12/08/old-wine-in-a-new-skin-the-society-for-integrative-oncology-promotes-integrating-pseudoscience-into-oncology/">state of the art reviews</a>" of pseudoscience and "clinical guidelines" written by naturopaths. There's even a <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2011/10/03/a-board-certification-in-woo-is-born/">board certification</a> in "integrative medicine," although it's not <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/07/24/a-board-certification-in-integrating-quackery-and-pseudoscience-with-real-medicine/">backed by the usual certification mechanism</a>.</p> <p>These developments have conspired together to produce an illusion of inevitability to the mainstreaming of "integrative medicine." It's an illusion that integrative medicine proponents actively cultivate, the better to paint opponents as crotchety cynics standing in the way of progress to the perfect integration of the "best of both worlds," to the "marriage of equals" (never mind that the pseudoscience "integrated" into medicine by integrative medicine is anything but equal), to the ultimate in "patient-centered" medicine. Certainly, even to those of us who bemoan the integration of quackery into medical academia to produce what I like to refer to as <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/?s=%22quackademic+medicine%22">quackademic medicine</a>, the infiltration of pseudomedicine into medicine often seems unstoppable, not unlike the aforementioned Terminator. As I survey the <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2017/03/08/hallelujah-the-mainstream-press-finally-notices-quackademic-medicine/">continuing advance of pseudomedicine</a>, I can't help sometimes thinking of Arnold Schwarzenegger's voice saying "Hasta la vista, baby!"</p> <!--more--><p>However, surprisingly, all is not completely rosy in the world of integrative medicine. I don't know how I missed these articles, which are actually all at least two months old, but I did. They're both by John Weeks, that tireless promoter of integrative medicine whom we've <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/?s=%22John+Weeks%22">discussed on this blog quite a few times before</a>. In a couple of columns in (where else?) <cite>The Huffington Post</cite>, Weeks bemoans the disappearance of two behemoths in the world of integrative medicine. First, he noted <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-weeks/mt-sinai-merger-shuts-new_b_14748672.html" rel="nofollow">Mt. Sinai Merger Shuts New York’s Integrative Medicine “Crown Jewel”</a>. Then he wrote about <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/wayne-jonas-md-and-the-closure-of-the-influential_us_58d013ede4b0537abd957351" rel="nofollow">Wayne Jonas, MD and the Closure of the Influential Samueli Institute: Next Steps</a>. Upon seeing these articles, my thought was: Whoa! These closures are both big deals.</p> <h2>The Continuum Center for Health and Healing: Quackery at its "finest"</h2> <p>Let's take a look at Mt. Sinai first, because the <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/10/31/beth-israel-joins-the-academic-woo-aggre/">Continuum Center for Health and Healing at Beth Israel Medical Center</a> was one of the <a href="https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-infiltration-of-cam-and-integrative-medicine-into-academia/">examples</a> that first demonstrated to me just <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2008/10/30/east-meets-west/">how low an academic medical center could go</a>. This center was also sometimes referred to as "Urban Zen" because its creation was funded by Donna Karan's Urban Zen Foundation, created after her husband and business partner, Stephan Weiss, died of lung cancer in 2001. Basically, Urban Zen started out as a whole cancer treatment floor being turned over to "combining Eastern and Western healing methods." As the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/30/nyregion/30yoga.html"><cite>New York Times</cite></a> put it:</p> <blockquote><p> Instead of just letting a celebrated donor adopt a hospital wing, renovate it and have her name embossed on a plaque, the Karan-Beth Israel project will have a celebrated donor turn a hospital into a testing ground for a trendy, medically controversial notion: that yoga, meditation and aromatherapy can enhance regimens of chemotherapy and radiation. </p></blockquote> <p>And it spread from there, as you will see, to three floors.</p> <p>Some of the center's webpages have been replaced with an <a href="http://www.healthandhealingny.org/" rel="nofollow">announcement of the closure of the center</a> on October 28, 2016, but there's plenty left of the website so that it's possible to see how in its prime the center offered reiki, <a href="http://www.healthandhealingny.org/complement/rolfing_history.asp" rel="nofollow">Rolfing</a>, <a href="http://www.healthandhealingny.org/complement/prayer_history.asp" rel="nofollow">prayer</a>, <a href="http://www.healthandhealingny.org/complement/therap_pract.html" rel="nofollow">Therapeutic Touch</a>, traditional indigenous healing therapies, <a href="http://www.healthandhealingny.org/complement/accu_pract.html" rel="nofollow">acupuncture</a>, even that woo of woo, that One Quackery To Rule Them All, <a href="http://www.healthandhealingny.org/complement/homeo_pract.html" rel="nofollow">homeopathy</a>. To give you a taste of the "science" supported by Urban Zen, let's take a look at what its homeopath was saying about homeopathy:</p> <blockquote><p> People tend to believe that generally the higher a dose of any given medicine, the greater its potency, but the opposite is claimed to be true for a homeopathic remedy. Homeopathic solutions can be diluted to the extent that literally no molecules of the original substance remain; yet according to homeopathic philosophy the more diluted it becomes the greater its potency becomes.</p> <p>Samuel Hahnemann based his theory of how homeopathy works only on the results of experiment and observation. He found that remedies could exhibit their healing qualities only after they were homeopathically potentized (diluted and vigorously shaken). Even after the remedy is diluted beyond the Avogadro number, it remains biologically active, but only if it was potentized. The conclusion was that the biological activity of homeopathically prepared remedies involved energy. Hahnemann suggested that during the process of vigorous shaking (called “successions” [<em>sic</em>] in homeopathy) the energy of the original substance was transmitted to the neutral matter (water) in which it was diluted. The dynamic force which causes the illness and the homeopathic healing, was called “vital force” by Hahnemann.</p> <p>Despite certain experimental evidence that high dilutions of biologically active substances can retain activity if they were vigorously shaken during the dilution process, this issue remains controversial. A unique molecular organization of water has been implemented in its potential ability to transmit biological information. </p></blockquote> <p>No, the issue does not "remain controversial." Science has shown that homeopathy cannot work. As I like to put it, for homeopathy to "work," not only would huge swaths of well-supported physics, chemistry, and biology have to be wrong, but they'd have to be spectacularly wrong. Yet, here was a standalone center affiliated with Beth Israel, which at the time was affiliated with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, spouting off about homeopathy on its website as though homeopathy were more than vitalistic pseudoscientific twaddle.</p> <p>Not surprisingly, Mr. Weeks <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-weeks/mt-sinai-merger-shuts-new_b_14748672.html" rel="nofollow">bemoans what has befallen Urban Zen</a>:</p> <blockquote><p> The work at the Continuum Center was leading edge. The team fostered a high level of interprofessionalism and team care. They generated an important body of research. They experimented with business models and experienced times of profitability. Yet amidst a larger economic drama of what was called a merger between Continuum Health Partners and the now dominant Mt. Sinai Medical Center, the formerly 32-clinician integrative center, with its 6,000 visits per month, was put on the corporate chopping block last fall. </p></blockquote> <p>Basically, Urban Zen was losing money, and, as its director Dr. Ben Kligler put it, he "totally understands how it looks from [Mt. Sinai’s] point of view. We just looked like another practice in a hospital that was losing money." He blames the closure on bad luck and bad timing:</p> <blockquote><p> Kligler views the loss of the Center as “just bad luck.” Why? “[Mt. Sinai] came in when we were the most vulnerable.” Had the merger come through a couple of years earlier, it would have been when the center “was booming.”</p> <p>Kligler explains. In 2012, demand exceeded the ability to fulfill on meeting patient interest. The Center was operating profitably and expanded to a third floor. New investment coupled with new practices not yet overflowing added up to a temporal moment of significant red ink. Had the merger come later, in Kligler’s view, the new configuration would have had time to fill out and flourish. Mt. Sinai caught the snapshot of that moment’s performance rather than considering a promising revenue trajectory. Kligler summed up his view: “Honestly, we can’t hold Sinai responsible. It was terrible timing.” </p></blockquote> <p>This explanation, of course, sounds very self-serving. Maybe the Center was on a trajectory to profitability, but, really, when viewing a unit that is losing money most businesses (and, of course, hospitals are businesses) consider whether that unit is likely to return to profitability any time soon and how profitable it is likely to be. Reading between the lines, I sense that Mt. Sinai either didn't see the Center becoming profitable soon enough for its liking and perhaps didn't have enough interest in maintaining an integrative medicine center.</p> <p>Unfortunately, Mt. Sinai isn't abandoning "integrative" care altogether (which would have been a most excellent outcome). Rather, a core of four physicians relocated to a clinic in West Village (where else?) and that group was apparently lobbying to keep some of the non-MD practitioners previously associated with the Continuum Center (i.e., acupuncturists, naturopaths, etc.). The grants held by the Center transferred to the Mt. Sinai Department of Family Medicine, the better to bolster its standing in quackademic medicine.</p> <p>Don't feel too bad about Dr. Kligler, though. He's landing on his feet. He's now the new <a href="http://www.integrativepractitioner.com/whats-new/news-and-commentary/ben-kligler-leads-veterans-affairs-integrative-health-strategy/">National Director of the Integrative Health Coordinating Center</a> at the Veteran’s Health Administration, where he will work closely with Tracy Gaudet, MD, the director of the Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation, to continue what Dr. Gaudet started and infuse the medical care of veterans with a healthy dose of <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2016/07/25/the-va-and-dr-tracy-gaudet-integrating-quackery-into-the-care-of-veterans/">pseudoscience and quackery</a>.</p> <p>I can't help but picture Schwarzenegger as the Terminator, saying, "I'll be back." </p> <h2>Bye, bye Samueli</h2> <p>I've also <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/?s=Samueli">written about the Samueli Institute</a> many times. In brief, the Samueli Institute was one of the two sugar daddies for funding the integration of pseudoscience into medicine. It was very influential, as influential as the Bravewell Collaborative, which itself <a href="https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/bye-bye-bravewell/">shut down two years ago</a> using the reason that it was no longer necessary, or, as Christy Mack, one of Bravewell's founders put it, "...when our principal strategies had achieved our goals, and when integrative medicine had become part of the national conversation on healthcare, our members collectively decided that it was time to sunset the organization." (Given how thoroughly integrative and quackademic medicine has become entrenched at major academic medical centers, that reason was actually believable.) So <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/wayne-jonas-md-and-the-closure-of-the-influential_us_58d013ede4b0537abd957351" rel="nofollow">learning from Mr. Weeks that the Samueli Institute will be closing in 2017</a> shocked me as well.</p> <p>Wayne Jonas, the President and CEO of the Samueli Institute, tried to put a happy face on its shuttering in much the same way that Ms. Mack did for Bravewell, by saying it was no longer needed:</p> <blockquote><p> The value of that “somewhere” that Congressional appropriations enabled through the Institute is encapsulated in Jonas’ response on why the Institute was ending operations: “When we started out there really wasn’t much complementary and integrative medicine going on in the VA or the military.” The Institute’s research output and military partnerships led to the seminal 2010 Military Medicine report “Total Force Fitness for the 21st Century: A New Paradigm”. Expansive integrative health research, education and practice initiatives are now presently underway in both agencies, due to this ground work, but without the Institute’s direct presence. Added Jonas: “The work we were doing is now going on inside the DoD and the VA. Our work is not so necessary anymore. What we did has worked. It’s not that I won’t be in touch with them. But what we set out to do is done.” Bridge built. </p></blockquote> <p>Again, this excuse is somewhat plausible. There is a lot more integrative medicine around now than there was when the Samueli Institute was formed over 15 years ago. On the other hand, it clearly doesn't tell the whole story:</p> <blockquote><p> So why the shut-down of the Institute? Jonas offered a response that felt at once both like putting a nice face on a tough situation, and a spot-on reflection of a job well done.</p> <p>The “nice face” is connected to the Institute’s rapidly declining portfolio of government and particularly military research grants, and the staff to fulfill on them. An Obama-era federal policy change limited members’ of Congress ability to appropriate specific funds to specific entities for specific projects. While Congressional “earmarks” may be considered “pork barrel” when they are for bridges to nowhere, the grants to the Samueli Institute sought to bridge the nation’s medical industry from mono-therapeutic management of disease to a whole system focus on health. That’s a “somewhere” that deserves investment in the United States where the medical industry is the 3rd leading cause of death and at least one-third waste. </p></blockquote> <p>Translation: The Samueli Institute apparently relied too much on grants that weren't competitively awarded, as NIH grants are. Instead, it appears to have relied on woo-friendly legislators to send money its way via earmarks, the process whereby individual legislators could "earmark" appropriations to favored entities to do work that a legislator reserving an earmark wanted to support. When those grants dried up, Samueli had an increasingly difficult time staying viable. Also, Jonas had apparently become tired of just administering grants, saying, "I’m not sure that focusing on the minutia of administering large grants is the best use of my skills [The Samuelis and I] decided to take a step back. A lot of our best work has been as catalysts. How can we catalyze what we want nationally? I couldn’t do that and run contracts.”</p> <p>Of course, like Bravewell, Samueli won't entirely die. It transferred $7 million of grants to the <a href="http://thoughtfoundation.org" rel="nofollow">Thought Leadership Foundation</a>, whose mission is: "To promote new and innovative thinking that leads to transformative change in the healthcare, education, economic opportunity and environmental arenas by engaging thought leaders in research, writing and program activities to address intractable problems plaguing those communities." On the surface, TLF doesn't look that woo-ful an organization. It supports initiatives in autism; translational medicine’s impact on treating Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Lyme disease, HIV/AIDS, other chronic diseases; renewable energy sources; mobile medical care plans; and other environment- and medicine-related projects. There doesn't appear to be much, if anything, about integrative medicine on its website. I rather suspect that that will change, though. Mr. Weeks notes that TLF "saw huge growth with the transfer of the Samueli Institute’s research portfolio, quadrupling TLF’s size." This suggests that Samueli's "integrative medicine" portfolio is taking over TLF.</p> <p>So basically, the Samueli Institute won't really die either, nor are Jonas and the Samuelis going away:</p> <blockquote><p> Serving as a catalyst is the seed of what Jonas will bring forward in his next phase of partnership with the Samuelis. “Dialogue about integrative health care will not be the focus, but integrative health will be at the table, in the mainstream.” (Notably, this was already modeled with in the project that will be carried by IHI, where integrative health representatives served on the steering committee.)</p> <p>Moving forward, their goal will be to “catalyze nationally some of the work we have been doing.” Approaches such as social impact investment may be considered, together with not-for-profit initiatives and other business models. “We are moving,” he said, “toward a more convergent platform. We are thinking about how we can accelerate this movement.” </p></blockquote> <p>I'm not sure exactly what that word salad is supposed to mean, other than that Jonas and the Samuelis will use the Samueli money to do something else to promote the integration of quackery into medicine. The Terminator's voice again echoes in my head, "I'll be back."</p> <h2>A fit analogy?</h2> <p>On the surface, the events I've described, the closing of the Continuum Center, of the Samueli Institute, of Bravewell, seem to indicate that maybe integrative medicine isn't the unstoppable juggernaut that we skeptics portray it as. Indeed, these aren't the only examples. In his <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-weeks/mt-sinai-merger-shuts-new_b_14748672.html" rel="nofollow">article about Mt. Sinai</a>, Mr. Weeks notes that other centers had shut down too, while in an <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-weeks/coming-of-the-light-the-2_b_13761066.html" rel="nofollow">article published at the end of 2016</a>, he noted:</p> <blockquote><p> To the budgets of the multi-billion juggernauts of the US medical industry inappropriately styled as “healthcare systems,” integrative medicine is - as a colleague suggested recently - a “rounding error.” And as has become clear over the past two decades of multiple shuttering of significant integrative centers, a profound economic misalignment exists between the “volume-based” and technology-driven industry and the mission-and-value orientation of relatively low cost, human-intensive, integrative care. Still it was a shock when word came out - apologies, I am part way into writing this story - that the powerfully influential Continuum Center for Health and Healing no longer fit into the plans of its parent, the $3.5-billion, plus, Mount Sinai Health System. Meantime, when the $7-billion Banner Health took over University of Arizona Medicine they showed no interest in the Phoenix-based Arizona Integrative Health Center where the Andrew Weil-founded Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine anticipated proving integrative health’s business model as a low cost option for chronic disease. Be aware: another shoe is about to drop. Each, notably, was showing patterns of positive outcomes. <em>Are these centers simply a misfit with the industrial focus of the volume based system?</em> </p></blockquote> <p>I'm guessing that the "other shoe" to which Mr. Weeks referred at the time was the closing of the Samueli Institute, which hadn't happened yet. Mr. Weeks is, of course, quite attuned to what's going on in the world of integrative medicine; so likely he had inside information that the closure was going to happen. In any case, you get the idea. Although the pseudoscientific practices in integrative medicine are often perceived as a license to print money (and sometimes they are), because insurance doesn't reimburse for them it can be much harder to build a sustainable business model providing such services than you'd think. That's one reason why integrative medicine advocates lobby so hard to license naturopaths and to have laws passed requiring that services like acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, and the like be covered by health insurance plans. It's why Sen. Tom Harkin <a href="https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/obamacare-cam/">inserted a clause in the Affordable Care Act</a> requiring insurance plans sold through federal exchanges to <a href="https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/healthcare-reform-should-ditch-mandated-coverage-of-cam-providers/">cover the services of specialties</a> licensed by the state, such as naturopathy, chiropractic, and acupuncture. So basically, what integrative medicine practices can bill insurance companies for are the services they provide that are the real medicine into which they are integrating their quackery. The problem, of course, is that those services are not well-reimbursed (as any cash-strapped primary care practice can tell you), and apparently the "cash on the barrelhead" integrative medicine services don't make up the difference, particularly given how one of the main appeals of integrative medicine is how much time practitioners spend with patients, which greatly limits the volume they can see.</p> <p>Unfortunately, there are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-weeks/mt-sinai-merger-shuts-new_b_14748672.html" rel="nofollow">those who have figured out how to make money</a> integrating quackery into medicine:</p> <blockquote><p> This article is one in a series on significant ups and downs with major centers. We see significant expansion at Jefferson in Philadelphia, a new 17,000 square foot space for the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, and system-wide integrative health at Meridian Health. The build-up of integrative health and research in the Veterans Administration with which Kligler is now involved is another bright light. </p></blockquote> <p>Yes, the Cleveland Clinic is one such institution, and I've <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/tag/cleveland-clinic-wellness-center/">written</a> many <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2017/03/01/disruptive-functional-medicine-at-the-cleveland-clinic-disrupting-medicine-by-mixing-quackery-with-it/">times about it</a>. Some have even <a href="https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/cleveland-clinic-subscription-box-service-introduces-integrative-medicine-to-curious-consumers/">joked about it</a>.</p> <p>I still think that <cite>The Terminator</cite> is an excellent analogy for integrative medicine, though. When the Terminator says, "I'll be back," he always does come back. The Terminator is usually destroyed at the end of each movie, but somehow he's always back in one form or another in the next. I have no doubt that the closure of the Samueli Institute and other major integrative medicine centers will only slow the advance of pseudoscience infiltrating medicine; that is, unless medicine starts to value science over pseudoscience and stops falling for the false narrative that you have to "integrate" quackery in order to take care of the "whole patient" in a patient-centered manner. I'm not holding my breath waiting for that…</p> <div style="width: 460px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/insolence/files/2017/06/Terminatorterminated.jpg"><img src="http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/files/2017/06/Terminatorterminated-450x189.jpg" alt="" width="450" height="189" class="size-medium wp-image-10910" /></a> “Fear not. I’ll be back…in Terminator 3!” </div> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/oracknows">oracknows</a></span> <span>Sun, 06/11/2017 - 20:00</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/technology" hreflang="en">Technology</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 12 Jun 2017 00:00:21 +0000 oracknows 22567 at https://scienceblogs.com