Category Archives: Technology and Society

A Generic Cancer Breakthrough?


Curley is brimming with cautious optimism.

“If we can come up with ways of delivering these particles to the cancer cells, but not to normal cells,” Curley said, “this treatment will work. There’s not a doubt in my mind. Any kind of cancer, anywhere in the body!”

Doctor Curley’s team is ready to publish their first results using laboratory animals. So far, the targeted nanoparticles and the Kanzius RF machine have passed every test.

Hope it’s not being overhyped. There’s a little too much boosterism, and not enough information, in the news story to tell.

Linked In Idiots

OK, I haven’t quite figured out why I want to be in all these social networking sites, but I actually have accumulated quite a few contacts in Linked In. But twice now, when I tried to add someone as a “Friend,” I get a message, in big red letters, that “We’re sorry, but you must provide an email address to send an invitation to a friend.”

Fine. I know their email address.

The problem is, the geniuses (<VOICE=”Homer Simpson”>I’m being sarcastic</VOICE>) who designed the web site don’t provide any text box in which to put it. Am I missing something?

[Update a few minutes later]

I did figure out, that if I check “Other” instead of “Friend,” I do get a text box for the email address. This seems like a bug to me.

In addition, there is a problem. Apparently, someone I invited disinclined the invitation, or said they didn’t know me, which is why I’m required to enter email addresses for friends, even if they won’t provide a means to actually do that. It seems like this is too harsh a punishment for a one-time occurrence of this. I’ve no idea how it happened, but inviting people you don’t know, or who don’t (for whatever reason) want to admit that they know you, doesn’t seem like such a horrible thing that it’s one strike and you’re out. Another bug, in my opinion.

Transhumanist Technologies

The Lifeboat Foundation has a list of the top ten.

[11:30 AM update]

Artificial life in three to ten years?

Bedau said there are legitimate worries about creating life that could “run amok,” but there are ways of addressing it, and it will be a very long time before that is a problem.

“When these things are created, they’re going to be so weak, it’ll be a huge achievement if you can keep them alive for an hour in the lab,” he said. “But them getting out and taking over, never in our imagination could this happen.”

I hope that’s not attributable to a mere lack of imagination…

Outta Here

See you later.

[Saturday morning update]

That was my first experience flying Spirit airlines. Also likely my last, other than my planned return on Tuesday. Got to the airport, had a hell of a time finding parking, and it took a lot longer to get to the terminal than planned. We had a very crowded line both for check-in and security, got to the gate just in time to board. It turned out that it didn’t matter since, when we got there, the board said “Delayed.” No estimated time of departure, no explanation. There was a plane sitting a few hundred feet off the gate in an obvious state of being repaired. About an hour or so later, they announced a new gate. We go over to the new gate, which is on the opposite side of the concourse.

This is an international concourse (Concourse H in Terminal 4 at Fort Lauderdale), and it was designed by a madman. On the west side runs a glassed-in hallway, through which deplaning passengers pass on their way to immigration and customs. In order to board the aircraft, one must cross this hallway. Obviously, since one cannot mix domestic passenger still in the US, and newly-arrived passengers somewhere in international limbo, no one can board until the hallway is clear. But there is apparently little reservoir for people at I&C, so they back up into the hallway. All the way to the end of the concourse. And then all the way back to the beginning of the hallway, doubling around. We are told that we can’t board until these hundreds of passengers have cleared the hallway.

Now, each gate has dual doors in the hallway, so that the hallway can be cut off to let passengers board. But this would, of course, cut off the people in the hallway trying to advance up the line. The obvious solution is traffic control, in which the hallway is temporarily closed, board some passengers, reopen the hallway to clear the backup, board some more passengers, etc. but it takes them a maddeningly long time to actually do this.

But finally, we get on the plane. We taxi out, at which point the pilot announces that they just have to do one final balance check, and then they can take off. I have never heard of a balance check on an aircraft the size of a Boeing 737 before. They must be running very tight margins on packing passengers and cargo into this aircraft if they have to worry about this. But apparently, things turned out to be all right, as I didn’t notice them shifting passengers around. And only two and three quarters hours after the original scheduled departure, we are in the air.

I wasn’t aware of this but everything on Spirit, other than the seat and bottled water, is a la carte, and overpriced (two bucks for a box of pretzels, a dollar for a soft drink, no protein of any kind on offer). But at least they take (in fact insist on) credit cards. Also, checking luggage is ten bucks per bag (unless you purchase in advance on line, in which case it’s only five). I actually like this, as I’ve long advocated the end of subsidizing checked luggage by those traveling light. The seats don’t recline, though they tantalize you with a button, anyway.

The flight was also quite noisy, with numerous crying babies and loud (semi)adults. I’ve never understood why some people feel the need to spout their inanities to each other at a volume that can be heard halfway down the length of the aircraft. I don’t know whether they imagine that the rest of us will be fascinated by their lives, and are rapt at every word, or that simply have no sense whatsoever of self consciousness.

In any event, we finally got into Detroit about three hours later than planned (about ten thirty, once I got the rental). We had originally expected to be in around seven thirty, with time for dinner, and then a three-hour drive up to the lake. Instead, we grabbed some deli sandwiches at a twenty-four hour supermarket in Fenton, and drove straight up from there, arriving around two AM.

Hopefully, the rest of the weekend will go more smoothly. But I’m not looking forward to a 6:45 AM return on Tuesday morning via Spirit.

Not Rocket Science

This comment from a lawyer about the new practice of injecting potassium chloride into fetuses in the womb to ensure that they don’t survive the abortion brings up a question that perennially perplexes me.

Regardless of one’s position on the death penalty, why is it so damned hard for the state to come up with a way to execute someone painlessly? Apparently, this “three-drug cocktail” they’ve come up with can be quite painful if not done properly, or with the proper doses.

I just don’t get it. There are a number of ways that people die accidentally, with no apparent knowledge that they are going. Carbon monoxide kills many people every year with no warning to the victim. Maybe it’s only painless because it happens in their sleep, but how about this example?

Before the first Shuttle launch, some ground crew died in the engine compartment of the orbiter, because they were in there during a nitrogen purge. They apparently never knew they had a problem, but simply passed out. If there’s a CO2 buildup, the body knows it’s asphyxiating, and tries to do something about it, but no such warning mechanism has ever developed for a pure nitrogen atmosphere, because no animal would have ever encountered such an environment in nature.

So why not simply bring back the gas chamber, but instead of a toxin, simply remove the air and replace it with nitrogen? I’m sure there are other examples, but I fail to understand why this is such a difficult problem.

Interview with Land Speeder Manufacturer

The Star Wars land speeder is scheduled to head into commercial production in 2008 or 2009. It looks more like a flying saucer than a roadster. It uses ground effect. Safer and simpler than a helicopter? Stay tuned.

Here’s a brochure, a spec sheet, and a FAQ.
I asked Bruce Calkins, press contact at Moller about it.

Transterrestrial Musings: Is it street legal?

Bruce Caulkins, Moller International: It falls into a new category. While no one has claimed it, it remains to be seen who will want to regulate its use.

Continue reading Interview with Land Speeder Manufacturer