To start with, it’s a brain tumor. I’ve never run into anyone who wanted brain cancer.
Also, glioblastoma multiforme is hard to kill off completely. Up until now, it’s been more devious than the doctors who have tried to tame it. The “It’s a miracle” thing is somewhat overdone but – you know what? – If you’ve beaten glioblatoma multiforme, I’m not arguing. Long term survival is very, very poor. With the “standard” treatment – surgery plus chemo – one year and 3 months on average.
Now I’ve got a miracle.
Dr. Surasak Phuphanich (Cochran Brain Tumor Center and Cedars-Sinai) is the lead researcher on a study being reported to the Fourth Quadrennial Meeting of the World Federation of Neuro-Oncology. There were 16 patient, all with glioblastoma multiforme . Eight of the patients made it past five years.
THAT”S a bloody miracle!
And, by the way, it’s a huge scientific triumph!
This was a “targeted” treatment, using a newly developed experimental vaccine where the study, itself, was only a “phase 1” human trial which, technically, is to see if the drug is safe to use and to find the best dosage.
MISTER ScienceAintSoBad doesn’t want to raise false hopes but this sure sounds like a great result that would justify more extensive testing.
And, in fact, a phase II trial has begun. MISTER ScienceAintSoBad has high hopes things continue to go well.
I said I had it on good authority that Apple is developing a smart wig. I made it up as I went along. Lets get crazy, I thought. Really crazy. We’ll say the wig has built in audio via bone conduction using, supposedly, “Aviva’s Micro Cranial Transduction System”. I threw in some other absurdist “features” too including a virtual keyboard you could use by tapping your scalp.
Silly. But Mister ScienceAintSoBad’s allowed to have fun once-in-a-while, right?
I made sure to include something to let readers know the article wasn’t genuine. I don’t like it if a reader gets completely taken in and feels foolish. We’re sharing a joke here. Not playing mean tricks on people who are nice enough to read the blog.
So here’s the thing.
I happened to see a headline yesterday. “Sony smart wig patent is a real head-scratcher”.
Hmm, I thought. THAT sound’s familiar. Is this somehow related to my article?
According to Endgadget (Jamie Rigg), Sony has patented a “smart wig”. The patent, and I did look it up because – you know what? I would look like a real doofus if I fell for an “echo prank”- calls it a “wearable computing device” and says it’s got a computer, sensors, some way to communicate, and hair.
It has hair.
The patent was filed in May. Important because I could have tangled Sony’s wig by having introduced the idea into the “public domain” before the filing date.
Why did Sony file a patent on something that is seemingly crazy?
Of course I don’t know. Some companies have aggressive strategies where “intellectual property” (patents and such) are concerned. The low hangers are gone so they’re laying claim to whatever they can think of. If the idea doesn’t make commercial sense, maybe it can be part of a big block of patents that gets sold off or traded.
Or maybe the little puff of publicity about a stupid “smartwig” was worth the minimal effort to file. After all, Sony managed to get MISTER ScienceAin’tSoBad to write a whole blog post about what it’s up to these days.
The actual value of Sony’s new “wearable computing device”?
Almost all new cars now have “black box” event recorders. They collect data about the way the vehicle is driven.
Lots of data.
The black boxes were originally placed there to help make life/death decisions about when and how air bags should be deployed based on what’s happening in the car at the time of a crash. But the data can be used for other stuff too.
If there’s an accident and the accident was caused by bad brakes, there’s an opportunity to learn from that. Brakes will get better.
That’s a good thing. But I should warn you. This is a step in the “data wars”.
INSURANCE AND YOUR BLACK BOX
eSurance offers you you a big discount on premiums. All you have to do is add its gadget to your car. “Drivesense” uploads the data from your car to its own database and then let’s you review your driving and learn from it. The hitch? Your folks get to review your driving and learn from it too. If things go good – if the gadget shows that you’re the right kind of driver – eSurance will reduce your premiums by up to 30 percent.
Would they use this data to raise your premiums?
Never, they say.
But what if you have an accident? Would eSurance deny a claim based on what is learned from Drivesense?
What do you think?
After an accident, automotive event recorders “lock down” the details of what was happening. I already described how car makers plan to use it to improve future designs.
With a court order, others can get it too. Even though it’s your car, the other party in the accident may be able to use the information from your black box against you.
Some people find that annoying as hell.
YOUR CAR’S BLACK BOX AND YOUR TAXES
Could automotive event records be used to raise revenue for government? Maybe charge a tax based on miles driven?
Some states are on it. Congress might be too.
The thinking is that by sticking it to.. scuse me – by taxing miles driven, maybe there’s an opportunity here to make drivers think twice about eco-friendly alternatives. Trains, bicycles, subways.
Did I mention that it might also be an excuse to just plain raise more taxes?
CAR TO CAR DATA SWAPPING
David Shamah (Tel Aviv Tech writing in ZD Net) discusses the biggest plan for all this data. Inter-vehicular connectivity. GM’s vision – and that of others in the industry – is that cars will be part of an enormous public network that swaps data back and forth between vehicles and other infrastructure to prevent accidents and optimize driving efficiency. This could certainly be the data backbone of self driving cars.
Typically, the event recorders are located under the drivers seat. Getting at it is a pain since it’s usually under the carpet. Although I haven’t seen it, I imagine mine with the words PANDORA scrawled across the top.
Oh no! Not nearly that bad! But nothing that good is good.
Here’s the surprise! Not only isn’t it bad, it’s a boost to your health.
Dr. Masato Tsutsui( Pharmacology Department, University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa) studied 27 people. His subjects let him noninvasively measure blood flow in a finger after drinking coffee. The results? A 30% improvement. Blood flow in a finger is considered a good proxy for how blood might flow in the smaller vessels of the body. And a particularly good proxy for how coffee might protect the blood vessels of the heart.
Several studies have shown that coffee supports liver function. Heavy drinkers got by longer without wrecking their livers.
There’s statistical (but not causal) evidence that coffee reduces the risk of type II diabetes. Other studies showed strong evidence for a protective effect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Basal cell carnoma (a type of skin cancer)? Yup. Coffee again.
And, if you’re a guy and you have a prostate, coffee again. It lowers the risk of prostate cancer. Quite substantially.
Lots of studies show coffee drinkers don’t get depressed as easily either.
Maybe it’s the atmosphere at Starbucks.
Why does it always come to this? There always some downside.
If you drink way too much coffee, you’re going to get frazzled nerves and jangled sleep. But you knew that. And certain coffees are high in a substance that’s not so good for your cholesterol. Pregnant people – especially women – should probably take it easy with the java too.
Weighing all the many pros and adjusting for the few cons, most people who enjoy a good cup of coffee – even two – can ditch the guilt. Coffee? It’s a good thing.
Don’t get too carried away. I don’t want to hear you’re drinking back-to-back coffees all day.
Parkinson’s disease is when dopamine production in the brain falls off. Dopamine, a “neurotransmitter”, helps to pass signals along the length of the nerves. When dopamine levels go down, people start to lose control over their movements. Arms and legs become balky and hard to control. Even speaking can be hard. There’s other stuff too. Confusion, incontinence – a long list. There are things you can do to make it more tolerable but there’s no cure.
Life’s a good thing. Even when it’s a miserable version of itself. But Parkinson’s does nothing to enhance it.
For about a decade, it has been possible to implant an electronic device, a deep brain stimulator or (“pacemaker”) . The device stimulates the nerves – the ones that get screwed up in Parkinson’s – getting them to perform better. The problem, (okay – other than the fact that this is brain surgery) is that the stimulator only helps for a while. Most people only see an improvement for a couple of years. Then it “wears off”.
NOT THE ANSWER. BUT SOMETHING.
Here’s the thing. Dr. Craig Van Horne (College of Medicine, University of Kentucky) has added something. He takes a “spare” nerve from the ankle and implants it in the brain when the pacemaker goes in. Why do that? Because peripheral nerves can release neurotrophic growth factors – grow juice for nerves – which brain cells can’t. That’s why brain cells don’t regenerate. Dr Van Horne’s strategy, if it works in humans, would give the damaged nerves in the brain a chance to repair themselves.
What should we look for? Will the presence of a peripheral nerve with its release of growth factors give the deep brain stimulator more “oomph”? Will its benefits last longer? Is it possible that maybe the implanted nerve could replace the whole deep brain stimulator doohicky, allowing it to be turned off at some point?
We may not find out all this stuff right away. This is a “phase 1” trial. The main thing is to make sure the procedure to stick the nerve in there is practical and safe. However, if this trial is successful, there will be another.
It’s slow and frustrating. Too incremental. Besides. How could this ever be the ultimate answer. Brain surgery?
Neitzche, Monet, Van Gogh, Julius Ceasar, Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon. They got migraines.
Well I thought I would name famous people who also got migraines. Maybe it’ll cheer you up. Not that it will. So let’s get on with it.
I have something but, first, let get caught up on migraines, okay?
Migraine headaches are throbbing one sided (usually) headaches that have additional stuff going on. Some start with an “aura” which, if that’s all there was to a migraine, could be kind of interesting. Flickering or glowing lights, sounds, smells, tingling. There are all sorts of auras – a subject in itself.
Well that’s not the whole deal. I wish it was.
After the aura, the headache comes. Once the headache hits, the world goes away. There’s just you and the headache. Sometimes just the headache. If it’s bad, the headache takes over. You ride it out. There’s no choice. A “classic migraine” can make it hard to talk or move. Even think.
To add to your pleasure, you may also experience nausea, vomiting, or heightened sensitivity to light, sounds, or other stuff. When the headache finally does let go, you’re too messed up to do anything. It takes time to recover. That’s the “postdrom”. I love medical science. If you can’t fix it, name it.
From the 19th century on, it was thought that migraines occurred when arteries in the head dilated. It does seem there’s something going on with the arteries but the latest thinking is that the actual migraine is a “neurological spreading depression” across the surface of part of the brain. Nerve activity is depressed over the cortex. When the attack is over this stuff stops and the brain starts to function normally again.
Several medicines can be prescribed for migraines. The trick is timing. If you catch the thing early enough, you have your best chance.
But those pills aren’t cheap. You think “Is that really a migraine? Maybe it’s sinus. Maybe I’m imagining it. I don’t think I should waste a pill.”
If you hesitate, all is lost. The horse is out of the barn. You’re in for it!!!
A dilemma, right?
That’s what I have for you. A way out of this dilemma.
WHAT I’VE GOT
A study from the Cochrane Foundation found that taking a single dose of 1000 mg of aspirin – maybe with an antiemetic for the nausea – had roughly the same effect as the prescription meds. It takes a little longer to kick in. But less side effects. This info, by the way, is from Cochrane Summaries and the article is by Kirthi V, Derry S, and Moore R.
Nobody’s saying you shouldn’t follow doctor’s orders. But if you’re not sure? And you’re thinking “It’ll pass?” According to this study, you could chug some aspirin. That way, you won’t delay. And that’s important, right?
Even though it’s just one dose, 1000 mg is a big dose. Some people take zantac with aspirin products to make sure they don’t have stomach problems.
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The cartoon? That’s mine.
Note:MISTER ScienceAintSoBadis a good guy. He cares about your well being. But he isn’t a doctor. At best, he’s a biomedical engineer. Don’t rely on me when it comes to medicine. I’m not giving advice and I hope you won’t take it that way. Do your own research and do check with your doctor.
So are cats but – hey! – this isn’t about cats. It’s about time. In this episode of “Five Minute Physics”, Henry Reich explains a bit about time travel. Pay attention to his second point. Walking is traveling in time.
I bring this up because I intend to use that as a basis for Mister ScienceAintSoBad’s Time Machine. After the video, keep reading, okay?
Now that you’ve seen the video, here’s my question: Does Einstein’s stuff about relativity mean that star travel isn’t practical because of the speed of light thing?
Relativity describes the way things seem from various points of view. It describes what you see when you watch me fly off in my spaceship.
In this “observer” role, you watch me fly off in my ship and you notice that my speed starts to “adjust” as I close in on the speed of light. You see me getting closer and closer to the speed of light but – damn! – those photons keep on passing me by. I can’t quite seem to quite reach their speed of about 186,000 mph. I’m the poster space ship for how nothing can go faster than the speed of light.
Bummer! It’s a hopeless case.
If we can’t go faster – a lot faster – we’ll never get to more than the few nearby stars. Maybe we could use cryonic suspension or wormholes or teleportation or some other form of cheating but, you know what? That doesn’t impress me because, as a form of travel, that stuff’s more fiction than fact.
So we’re left with the fact that the speed of light, like you always heard, is the barrier. We’re s-c-r-e-w-e-d.
Here’s the thing though.
Say you, standing on the earth, could see the clock in my spaceship. You would wonder what’s wrong with it. As the ship goes faster, the clock goes slower. As I get close to the speed of light, the clock moves so slow you wonder if it is moving at all. This is as Einstein said.
I visit my destination and return to Earth.
I land. You’re waiting for me.
Your hair is gray, you use a cane, and you have something going on with your prostate.
Me? I look pretty much the way I did when I left.
You say you’re so glad to see me after 37 years. I say it was only a 3 day mission and I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Why aren’t I older?
As I pointed out, the faster I go, the slower goes my clock. The clock, in these examples, isn’t “just a clock”. It’s a way of showing that time, itself, goes slow.
Crazy. But that’s relativity.
That’s why I only age by three days.
POINT OF VIEW
You were the “observer”. To you, 37 years – real years- went by. To me, only three days went by. I traveled 37 light years in three days which is a lot faster than the speed of light. For me. Not for you.
That’s how it works. Speed is my time machine. Go fast enough, and I can go anywhere.
Seriously! I can go anywhere I want, as far as I want, out into space. All I have to do is stick close to the speed of light. The price I pay is back home. The faster I go, the greater the difference in our clocks – mine vs those back on Earth. Soon I’m out beyond the lifespan of anyone I know. Eventually? Generations will have passed. Maybe all of humanity is gone.
Don’t blame this on me. I’m no Einstein.
A final note.
I wrote this to address the misconception that you “can’t go faster than the speed of light”. To explain that, while this is true for the observer, it isn’t true for the traveler. At least, not after the traveler returns to his.her point of departure – an important point to consider.
I wouldn’t want you to try this without checking with me. We don’t have any space ships that could go anywhere near that fast. And we don’t have a way to handle the radiation which would be absorbed on such a trip. And – even if that weren’t a problem – we would risk a collision with the most minute of particles which, at that speed, would pack enough energy to blow up the ship.
The practical problems of near light speed take it off the menu for us. But don’t blame Einstein.
Used to be, you learned to drive a sixteen penny nail with three good strokes. Two if you were macho. Now? You pull the trigger and wham!
It makes a big difference. You can throw together a house in half the time and the carpenters you hire can be smarter instead of just musclebound.
But here’s the thing. Those babies are dangerous! They come with safety stuff but, you know what? The first thing any good carpenter figures out is how to defeat that useless crap. Who needs safety stuff if you really know what yer doing, right?
So here’s the thing. Nail gun injuries? Through the rafters. They’re rising faster than boxes made of ticky tacky.
Yeah yeah. You don’t get the reference. You weren’t born yet.
Anyway, Dr James Ling, Dr Natalie Ong, and Dr John North (Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, Australia) did a study that appeared in Emergency Medicine Australasia. Nail gun injuries have been rising fast which makes sense since more of them are in use, right? Most of the injuries were to the extremities – arms and legs, hands, and feet. Luckily, once they get to the hospital, most of these injuries can be handled pretty well but they do result in lost work days and lost productivity. And here’s the other thing. You just don’t want to be driving a nail through your toe. It really stings!
Please, my friend. Enjoy the benefits of this great technology. But be careful. And put the safety stuff back. There’s a reason it was put on there in the first place.
We once thought there might be “people” on Venus or Mars.
It seemed possible.
We didn’t know much about planets. Maybe there were caves with lizards.
Now we know almost too much. We have equipment routinely exploring the surface of Mars, probing, drilling, sniffing, analyzing. Lizards, we would have seen.
The search for life “out there” goes on. Nothing yet. Maybe nothing til hell goes cryothermic.
The reason I bring this up is that there are people with an interest in alien life who think we missed it. They think it’s on our own planet.
Don’t look up, they say. Look down
SHADOW BIOSPHERE: A WORLD WITHIN A WORLD
The bugs who were our ancestors weren’t bashful. They got going as soon as there was the least little chance that they could move in. By about 3.6 billion years ago the crust of the earth was more or less solid. Suddenly, somehow, life popped up. We don’t know exactly how. We have some theories. We do know that some very simple organisms eventually evolved into the sports crazed organisms of modern day.
How many times did life get going? Were there some bad designs that didn’t do well – more homely, maybe, than our own DNA kind? Based on entirely different processes? Did they hide out in isolated “niches”? And nobody bothered them? Are they in seawater maybe at low concentrations?
Carol E Cleland (Center for Astrobiology, University of Colorado), says we won’t find this parallel universe of living things if we don’t look for it. And we almost certainly missed it if it is there. It would have flunked all of our “is that thing like me?” tests.
The idea of a Shadow Biosphere is appealingly simple. It’s safe and easy. We live here. So do they, maybe. We can do the search on a shoestring without launching rockets. If we do happen to find something really weird – something that’s alive but built along different lines than our own strand of life, we will know for a fact that 1) life is not to be denied. It’s opportunistic. It will flourish if it can flourish. 2) We will also know that it’s on other planets. Period. If you were yearning for extraterrestrial life, you would then be able to relax knowing that it will, eventually, show up elsewhere.
How’s that for a cheap experiment?
Dr. Cleland’s article, The Search for Shadow Life, is in New Scientist.
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Regular readers will recognize the cartoonist as the author.