Archive for category Inventing Stuff

No More Anti-rejection Drugs?

Posted by on Tuesday, 14 January, 2014

 

Cartoon about anti-rejection drugs

THE END OF ORGAN REJECTION DRUGS?

ORGAN TRANSPLANTS – A BIG STEP FORWARD

A diseased lung, a diseased liver –  even a mangled finger –   can be replaced with one from a donor assuming you can find someone to do the donor-ing.

It isn’t as simple as it sounds. (Does it sound simple?).

First of all, to get a  donor organ you  have to be “lucky” . Unless you have a near relative who is willing to donate  (giving up a heart isn’t allowed) you may have to go “on the list”. Some of those lists stretch to the moon.  The criteria for selection can be stiff. Not sick enough won’t work. Too sick might not work either – not if you’re a bad risk.  And if you do get a transplant your immune system might attack the donated organ. Only matches that are very close are likely to get along well with your immune system and if your body does reject the organ, the entire effort will have been a total waste and you may even be worse off than when you started.

To keep this from happening, doctors give patients anti-rejection drugs. Those drugs are taken forever. Until the patient dies. And, you know what? They aren’t cheap and  they  have side effects – some so bad that you wonder “What was I thinking?”

If you mess up and forget to take your anti-rejection drugs?

That’s bad too.  You could – let’s be honest, okay? – you could die or, at least, be real sick. And you could reject the organ.

That’s the destiny of many recipients of a transplant- a lifetime of drugs that are often hard to tolerate.

BREAKTHROUGH

My news is good.

Two doctors at MGH (Mass General Hospital), James F. Markmann and Tatsuo Kawai, did a small study (Science Translational Medicine but referenced here in Bioscience and Technology) .  For many of their patients they had donor organs that weren’t such a good match. So they did the transplants and followed up not with anti-rejection drugs but with stem cell transplants from the donors.

It worked!

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad wishes he he could adequately express his enormous joy at this fantastic research. I would write an ode if I knew how.

It is still a work in progress even though another group had similar success. More tests have to be done before this can be considered “standard of care” or even be introduced into the clinic. But if it sounds exciting, that’s because it is exciting.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 10 well deserved points.

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The drawing is mine.

Click “comments” (just under the headline for this article) to leave a comment.


INJURED BRAIN REPAIR

Posted by on Sunday, 15 December, 2013

Humorous cartoon about a kid and his dad

 

 

 BRAINS ARE SENSITIVE

You would be surprised how easy it is to hurt a brain.  It doesn’t take much. With babies, just a little shaking. With grownups, a single rough football game or a minor motorcycle accident with the helmet still nicely attached to the rack.

Who wears a helmet when it’s this nice, right?

The men and women who fight our wars for us know about brain injuries. A handmade explosive can rip away a soldier’s future permanently. Happens all the time.

Until now, the options were very limited for brain injured patients. But researchers from Case Western Reserve University/University of Kansas Medical Center have come up with something amazing.

WOW!

Dr. Pedram Mohseni (Case Western Reserve) developed a “brain prosthesis” . A brain prosthesis is  an artificial thing which helps a brain work right. Dr. Mohensi’s device is a very small computer which can connect up parts of the brain that got disconnected because of an injury. It’s a bridge for the signals between the separated parts. The device uses powerful signal processing techniques to extract useful signals and then injects them where needed to “complete the circuit”. Although this may sound simple to an electronic hobbyist, this is several levels above “miracle” as far as medical science is concerned. It is amazing and startling and shocking and wonderful.

I’m not exaggerating.

Except – (good guess) – it’s the damn rats again. They have all the luck, don’t they? This has so far only been demonstrated on lab vermin. Experiments on lab animals are very important (although sometimes morally repugnant) but MISTER ScienceAintSoBad tries to “keep it real” with articles about things that are closer to the clinic or the drugstore. This research is remarkable though. How could I deny it mention? And a cartoon of its own.

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The drawing is mine. The kid, hopefully, is not.

COMMENTS: To leave a comment, click on “comments”. It’s just under this article’s headline (toward the right).

 


EXCELLENT DISCOVERY FOR RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS

Posted by on Wednesday, 11 December, 2013
funny cartoon about arthritis

NO LONGER AN EXCUSE?

 

ARTHRITIS

You can count on your joints hurting as you get old. Degenerative changes in joints (osteoarthritis) is the result of the fact that joints and cartilage lose their baby smoothness. It doesn’t feel too good but you get used to it.

There’s another kind of arthritis –  rheumatoid arthritis. Personally, MISTER ScienceAintSoBad thinks it should be called something else. It’s not like regular arthritis except for the joint part. The rheumatoid stuff is an immune system disease – another one of those stupid, stupid things where the immune system goes haywire. In rheumatoid arthritis,  cells of the immune system attack the lining of the joints which,  then,  gets inflamed. The inflammation can cause damage to the joint – especially if the disease started early in life or is a particularly nasty form of the disease. In bad cases, joints can be deformed. Sometimes, surgery is even needed. There can even be organ damage.

What to do.

Well. There are treatments.

Diet modification and physical therapy are often on the menu along with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Aleve, Advil, etc) for inflammation and pain. Steroids are very common too.  The newer stuff includes  “biological” drugs which are designed to “make it go away” instead of just managing swelling and pain. Methotrexate or hydroxychloroquine are used for this.

NOT A PERFECT WORLD

NSAIDs and steroids reduce the pain and swelling but they can be a challenge for long term use. You’re always dancing with the side effects. The biologicals can be effective but their trick is based on dialing back the immune system. You have an immune system  for a reason, right? People with suppressed immune systems can get infections and other stuff.

GOOD NEWS

Why would I put you through this if I didn’t have some good news?

Dr. Patrick R. Griffin  (The Scripps Research Institute) just published a study in Arthritis & Rheumatism. The drug is called SR2211 . It blocked all symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in mice within 10 days and their joints did way better as far as bone loss is concerned. This drug aims for only the part of the immune system that releases “inflammatory mediators” .  And since it’s an oral drug (the other biologicals are injected) if  you think you’re getting an infection, you can skip a few pills til things settle down.

That’s the theory.

There’s no mention of when this stuff goes to clinical trials. MISTER ScienceAintSoBad, sympathetic, as ever, to our mouse friends, has a strong bias toward getting this stuff out and into human hands.  Can we get cracking on this please?

Thank you.

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The drawing is mine

 


NEW DOOHICKY FROM GOOGLE MAKES PASSWORDS A THING OF THE PAST.

Posted by on Thursday, 5 December, 2013
Funny cartoon about teens and passwords

GOD FORBID YOU WOULD SHOWER!

PASSWORDS

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad has many passwords. I keep a list. If it ever fell into the wrong hands, a stranger – maybe a scientologist or an astrologer  – could impersonate me. A fake MISTER ScienceAintSoBad could ruin  our relationship. I would hate that. So I work hard to protect my list of passwords.

You’re careful with your own passwords, right? But not everyone is as crazy meticulous as you. Most people do stuff like 123456 for their passwords. And use it over and over too.

Stupid? I guess. But people have other things on their minds. And they usually get away with it.

Sometimes they don’t.

Billions and billions of dollars are lost to account hacking. McCafee said it might be a trillion dollars worldwide. Maybe it’s not that bad. But it’s bad.

Supposedly, every single account should have its own login and password. And these should be changed often.

And crocodiles?

They have wings and a single horn in the middle of their snouts.

Most people aren’t ever going to manage their passwords right. They’re just not.  As long as we rely on people using passwords right, we’re pretty much screwed.

So Google has developed a device that can make passwords unnecessary. It has as much of a stake in getting rid of passwords as anyone.

Here’s its plan.

YubiKey Neo

Google wants people to own a thing.

Right now it’s called the Yubikey Neo. It will probably get a better name and a cute Google-like icon. The Yubikey Neo has  some impressive technology behind it and it’s already gaining support from other big players who don’t like passwords either.

Where did I find this?

It’s in an article by Amadou Diallo (Forbes Magazine) which describes the idea. Yubikey Neo plugs into the USB port of your computer. Or your tablet or your phone.  When it’s plugged in, security gets easy.  Once you log in, all you need is a simple four digit pin.  The real security is in Yubikey Neo.

The first version  is only for stuff with NFC (Near Field Communication chips) – mostly Android phones and tablets.  The “pilot project” has gone great. It shouldn’t be too too long til the wraps come off publicly and, by next year, it should be available for non-NFC stuff meaning pretty much everything.

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad likes this. PayPal, Mastercard, Lenovo, LG, and NXP are already lined up. That means it should have a good chance.

I hope so.

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The cartoon is, as usual, mine

 


GIVE NORTH KOREA A BREAK? IT’S JUST A TABLET?

Posted by on Wednesday, 4 December, 2013
Funny cartoon about North Korean tablet computer

WHO BUYS THIS THING?

 Because of North Korea’s intense web censorship, the tablet has no way of connecting to the internet — relying instead on the country’s state-controlled intranet, which has proved sparse and difficult to access for many reviewers. – Russel Brandon, The Verge

TURNING THE PAGE ON NORTH KOREAN TECHNOLOGY

Russel Brandom (The Verge) reports on a new tablet from North Korea.

It’s not all praise. He says the country has a “crushingly oppressive government and comically inept space program”. But he says their new tablet is surprisingly good. It “mostly works” and it doesn’t  lag that much playing Angry Birds.

Hair stands up on the back of my neck.

I tried to imagine how a review of a (completely fictional)  tablet built in a Nazi  death camp might have read. I took a stab at writing one to make my point.

It seemed tasteless. So I let it be.

Russel Brandom gets points. He’s trying to find interesting stuff where nobody else is looking. But this is too creepy. Who uses tablets in North Korea?  A teeny tiny part of the whole  population. They’re the bad guys. The regular people don’t know tablets exist.

Not even the ones who aren’t in a prison colony because a distant relative didn’t suck up enough.

The review says “In a distinctively North Korean touch, the tablet also contains an analog TV receiver and comes pre-loaded with a stock of revolutionary literature, which one reviewer speculated could make it very useful as a research tool. Still, there are drawbacks. The tablet has no way of connecting to the internet — relying instead on the country’s state-controlled intranet, which has proved sparse and difficult to access for many reviewers ”

I bet it has.

BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT

Hard to be sure. Russel Brandon might have written with tongue in cheek. Sometimes you try to be funny and nobody gets it.

I’ve screwed that pooch a few times myself.

For this review? ScienceAintSoBadRating = 0 .  Enough with North Korea. Let’s get back to Samsung, okay?

( To leave a comment, click “comments” which can be found at the top right of each article just beneath the headline.)

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The drawing is mine.

 


Vibrating Wigs And Other Ridiculous Stuff

Posted by on Thursday, 28 November, 2013

 

Cute cartoon about smart wigs

TRENDY

 

A SPOOF THAT WASN’T A SPOOF

That’s it. I’m out of here!

In September I wrote a piece about a piece – a hair piece, to be exact.

I thought it was funny.

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?

Uh no.

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?

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”?

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 1.

Sorry.

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The drawing? That’s mine.

The wig?

Sony?

 


A Spy Under Your Hood. Your Data And Who’s Going To Get It.

Posted by on Sunday, 24 November, 2013
Humorous cartoon about black boxes in cars

The Car That Knew Too Much

A GREAT DATA SUCKING SOUND

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.

What else?

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.

I’m serious.

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.

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The drawing is mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 


More People Shoot Selves In Foot

Posted by on Monday, 18 November, 2013

 

Funny cartoon about nail gun injuries

WHO HAS THE BADDEST NAIL GUN?

 LIVING WITH NAIL GUNS

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.

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Cartoon (it’s funny, right?) is by me

 


The Future Of The Stand-alone Camera

Posted by on Sunday, 10 November, 2013

 

Funny cartoon of someone using a camera

JUST A CAMERA

Your camera. How old is it?

That’s what I figured. Why would you buy a new one? You have your phone, right?

Eric Zeman (Information Week) says things are bad out there. Executives at Canon and Nikon  are walking around looking lost. Their stuff is sensational in every way. Smaller, easier to use, amazing in low light, better connectivity – all at great prices. What are they supposed to do? Give them away as door prizes when you open a bank account?

Meanwhile, you’re snapping away with your Galaxy s4 or your Iphone or your 41 mpixel Nikon Pureview.

Damn!

Camera companies claim all is well. When the global economy gets better, their sales will pick up.

Graveyard whistling? Would you want  the boss talking down the company’s future?

Here’s the thing.

My digital single lens reflex- what is it – ten years old? – takes great shots. My excellent Galaxy S4 does a good job with its camera and  its camera apps but for fast high resolutions shots – especially in low light – it can’t compete. Hey. I’m just being honest, okay?

When’s the last time I used the Nikon? I’m not sure. Probably not this year. I can’t seem to remember to throw it in the car anymore. I have the phone.

The early arrival of the future messes up some good stuff. It doesn’t make sense to have a daily newspaper anymore. It was so nice to sleep late on Sunday and have the paper spread out all over the bed with the dog rumping around in it while we ate bagels. Google News, my current news source, can’t seem to discriminate between bombastic idiots and real reporters. Maybe “crawlers” can’t tell the difference since they’re looking for links instead of great reporting.

The bummer is that cameras are good things. Smartphones might get that good eventually. But maybe not. Even the best displays are sketchy in bright sunlight and they are clumsy to hold for camera shots. Phone cameras continue to improve but maybe there is a limit to what can be done in such a small package.

On the other hand, smartphones have the huge advantage that they are there when you need them. That’s the thing. But if the sales of real cameras keep going down, won’t they run into “newspaper economics”? The less they sell, the harder it is to make a buck? Then they have to raise their prices to stay in business, right? The higher the price, the less they sell..  like that. An inglorious cycle.

There’s not much we can do. Just stand around and watch it shake out. Even Mister ScienceAintSoBad can’t change the consequences of the technical revolution.

One thing. I can charge up the Nikon and snap a photo of my foot.

It’s something.

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That’s one of my own cartoons.


Idea For Disposal Of Nuclear Waste Emerges

Posted by on Friday, 8 November, 2013
Funny cartoon about unfunny problem of nuclear waste

MAKING LIGHT OF IT

 

 IMPROVING THE SITUATION

Commercial nuclear power plants have been in use since the 1950’s and we still don’t know what to do with the stupid radioactive waste.

So we punt. In the US, we have over 100 nuclear reactors where the spent fuel is stored on site in casks and in “pools”.

Dumb? You bet it’s dumb! The reason we’re not smarter about this stuff is, as usual, politics but I can see from your face you don’t want to hear it.

Whatever! The question is what to do with it all. Dr. Neil Hyatt (Faculty of Engineering, University of Sheffield) has been working on the problem in England which is faced with a similar problem. His idea is to mix the “hot stuff” with slag from blast furnaces. This turns it into a glass. It also shrinks it down to roughly 15% of its original volume and locks it into a stable form in a “cost effective” manner.

Mister ScienceAintSoBad thinks Hyatt is going in the right direction. Reducing the volume and locking the stuff into an ultrastable form is a great idea. If our leaders can’t figure out a way to properly dispose of the stuff, maybe we can try encapsulating them in hot slag. It wouldn’t really solve anything but – be honest – wouldn’t it feel tremendously satisfying?

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 9 for Dr. Hyatt’s idea. It’s a good one.

 

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The drawing is one of mine