Technology

No, not that Huxley, the other Huxley. No, not that one either, the OTHER Huxley. OK, yeah, this one: Brave New World Aldous Huxley's profoundly important classic of world literature, Brave New World is a searching vision of an unequal, technologically-advanced future where humans are genetically bred, socially indoctrinated, and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively uphold an authoritarian ruling order--all at the cost of our freedom, full humanity, and perhaps also our souls. “A genius [who] who spent his life decrying the onward march of the Machine” (The New Yorker), Huxley was a man…
I get a lot of "infographics" and many are quite good. But this medium has become a vehicle for commercial advertising. So, some company comes up with an info graphics, maybe makes a good one, sends it around to the bloggers and such, and thier name, somewhere down there near the bottom, gets around. I don't mind the commercial aspect too much, but unless I'm able to vet the graphic, I can't post it, I don't generally have time or resources to do that, so I therefore ignore them. But this one I'll post because it looks interesting and is produced by a university. Also, we often discuss GMOs…
There is a belief that is very prevalent among policymakers right now, particularly Republican policymakers, that the key impediment to drug development is the Food and Drug Administration. According to this narrative, the FDA is an overly strict, overly bureaucratic, and rigid organization that is the main barrier keeping fantastic cures to all sorts of deadly and debilitating diseases from flowing to the people at a reasonable price. The basic idea, as I've discussed many times, is that, if only the FDA would get out of the way, universities and pharma would be free to open the floodgates…
"Sometimes I even now feel like a stranger in my country. But I knew there would be problems because I had seen the world... Freedom is good, but it is not easy." -Katarina Witt Yes, as always, as another week goes by at Starts With A Bang! there have been a huge number of great stories we've covered. In addition, we've now recorded sixteen Starts With A Bang Podcast episodes thanks to your Patreon support, and if you're local to the Pacific Northwest, we have some fun events coming up, including a public talk at 7:30 at OMSI on February 20th on the controversy over the expanding Universe, a…
It's been a very bizarre week for those of us interested in science policy and the interface between government research and the public interest. To say the least: Trump bans agencies from 'providing updates on social media or to reporters'. Which is, of course, very reminiscent of the Canadian Conservative government under Stephen Harper and how they muzzled government scientists. Where Canadian scholarly and professional societies weren't really prepared for what happened and took a while to respond, in the US these societies have been quite a bit more pro-active in responding President…
"Through basic science literacy, people can understand the policy choices we need to be making. Scientists are not necessarily the greatest communicators, but science and communication is one of the fundamentals we need to address. People are interested." -James Murdoch Are you scientifically literate? Do you even know what that means? You'll periodically see quizzes designed to assess some measure of science literacy, and they'll usually focus on a slew of general knowledge questions, inevitably decrying what a large fraction of people don't know. But is that a fair assessment of scientific…
"I think that Walter Schirra aboard Mercury 8 was the first of the astronauts to use the code name 'Santa Claus' to indicate the presence of flying saucers next to space capsules." -Maurice Chatelain Well, here we are: December 25th, Christmas day, here at Starts With A Bang! Whether you're a Santa, a Scrooge or anywhere in between when it comes to the generosity of your holiday spirit, I've got some good things for you. First, there's a brand new Starts With A Bang podcast for you to enjoy, on whether our Universe itself could be the inside of a black hole. And second, as usual, there's a…
I don't have the time right now to do this justice, so I'll just lay out the story over the last year or so and let you, faithful reader, follow the thread. This is an amazing story. This is an amazing initiative at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University in Montreal. From the press release: McGill University announces a transformative $20 million donation to the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital Tanenbaum Open Science Institute to open new horizons and accelerate discovery in neuroscience The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, was present…
Yesterday, I noted the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, a Hobson’s choice of a bill for those of us who support increased biomedical research funding that basically said: You can have an increase in the NIH budget. You can have the Cancer Moonshot. You can have President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative and his brain mapping initiative. You can have additional funding to combat the opioid crisis. You can have all that, but only if you also accept a grab bag of longstanding pharmaceutical industry wishes, such as new pathways to approve drugs and devices with a lower standard of…
Amanda Marcotte, who I've enjoyed reading since her days at Pandagon, was curious about what having a CT president might mean. For some crazy reason, she thought she should ask me about it. Briefly, I tried to summarize the patterns of thought conspiracy theorists engage in, their willingness to accept any belief if confirmatory of their guiding ideology, and their tendency to project their own darkest behaviors onto others. Overall, I thought she provided a great summary of the problem. My only critique would be it's not all doom and gloom. One thing we talked about that didn't make it…
Pioneering research being conducted by Dr. Gregoire Courtine (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology - Lausanne) may enable paralyzed humans to walk again someday. Through his collaborative research with a lab in Beijing China, he has developed a wireless brain implant that detects signals in the brain and then sends these signals to electrodes implanted in the lower spine (below the injured region) of the animals. This technology allows the brain signals to bypass the spinal cord injury. Dr. Courtine is beginning trials in paralyzed humans using a simpler model of his new system that only…
Yesterday, I wrote about alternative medicine clinics in Germany that offer a combination of alternative cancer cures plus experimental therapeutics administered improperly outside the auspices of a clinical trial. In particular, I discussed two cases. The first was British actress Leah Bracknell, who is raising money to go to one of these alternative cancer clinics to treat her stage IV lung cancer. the second was a British woman named Pauline Gahan, who was diagnosed with metastatic stomach cancer and has thus far spent £300,000 for a combination of vitamin infusions, “detox,” and Keytruda…
"I know perfectly well that at this moment the whole universe is listening to us, and that every word we say echoes to the remotest star." -Jean Giraudoux Since the 1930s, humans have been broadcasting radio signals powerful enough to be picked up by a sufficiently advanced alien civilization, even one located many light years away. In 1960, we began monitoring the skies for a similar incoming message, armed with the knowledge that if a civilization were transmitting the same type of signals our radio and TV broadcasts consisted of, we’d be able to unambiguously detect them. The reach of our…
“Scratch a cynic and you'll find a disappointed idealist.” -Jon F. Merz The stars overhead might twinkle and cause us to wonder what they are, exactly, but perhaps a more important question is to wonder where they are. If we can determine the distances to the stars, and then use those known distances to measure the distances to other galaxies, we can not only determine how far away they are, but determine how the Universe has expanded over the course of its cosmic history. The construction of the cosmic distance ladder involves going from our Solar System to the stars to nearby galaxies to…
“We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds.” -Aristotle Onassis Welcome back to the end of another big week at Starts With A Bang! There's been a lot of fantastic stories that have gone down, including: Can stars escape from the galaxy, with planets intact? (for Ask Ethan), Fossilized relic discovered by Hubble is a link to the Milky Way's past (for Mostly Mute Monday), Is the cosmic distance ladder flawed?, That's no comet; that's Pluto!, How certain are we of the Universe's 'Big Freeze' fate, and Was Earth born with life already on…
When I first heard that Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President, was scheduled to appear on The Dr. Oz Show, my first thought was, basically, “Of course he is. What took him so long?” After all, it’s a crank pairing made in heaven. Given that, I considered it my skeptical blogging duty at least to watch the show, even if I never actually blogged about it. So I dutifully set my DVR to record it, and, after I got home from work, did my evening bike ride and ate dinner, I settled down in front of the television to see if this appearance would be as bad as I predicted in my mind. I’m…
"Because practical applications are so remote, many people assume we should not be interested. But this quest to understand the world is what defines us as human beings." -Yuri Milner It’s been another big week here at Starts With A Bang, with stories covering the Universe near and far. First off, thanks to our generous Patreon supporters, we have a brand new podcast live today, on whether the Big Bang was really the beginning of the Universe. It's 19 minutes of your life well spent, trust me. There are lots of amazing things that happened, including a candidate for "story of the year" (so…
Several dozen nonpartisan organizations have joined together to ask for a Science Debate in the current campaign. The debate would address major issues in science, engineering, health and the environment This is part of an effort that has been going on for several election cycles, with a certain degree of success. More than 10 million scientists and engineers are represented by the organizations that have joined in this effort. They have provided a list of twenty major issues, and are encouraging journalists and voters to press the candidates on them during the 2016 U.S. Presidential…
“‘Star Trek’ says that it has not all happened, it has not all been discovered, that tomorrow can be as challenging and adventurous as any time man has ever lived.” –Gene Roddenberry Today marks the 50th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek, our first science fiction adventure that promised a positive view of the future, ushered in by technology and humanity's best traits. In addition to a utopia where maladies like hunger, disease and poverty were eradicated, Star Trek promised a future where technology was widely available and sufficiently advanced to the benefit of all of humanity.…
Manga is the Japanese sounding but not used so much in Japan term for a form of cartooning art that has its roots from before World War II but that emerged in its common form during the post war Occupation period. Early used in political cartooning, Manga style drawing is now used for a wide range of expression, and has a place in illustrating a wide range of products, read by Japanese citizens of all sorts and ages. Outside of Japan, Manga is the starting point for the wildly popular Anime style of expression, which of course brings us to... Pokeman go But, we are not here to talk about…