Archive for July, 2011


Posted by on Saturday, 30 July, 2011

Ain't THAT Bad!


You never know when you’ll actually need a brain. When you’re fly fishing, gray matter and white matter help. I dunno about politics. Is brain meat actually an advantage there? Some say yes. Some say no.

One thing’s for sure. Liberal brains and conservative brains? They’re not the same thing. Ryoto Kanai (Current Biology) says he bothered to look at the brains of conservatives and found nothing at all.

All right, all right. He found stuff. But what? He found great big amygdalas (the part of the brain that, supposedly, recognizes danger). When he looked at liberals, he found a bigger cingulate cortex (which  handles conflicting information). He says his research is the first neuroscientific evidence for biological difference between liberals and conservatives.

Let me help you distill this scientific work cause it’s so darn important. He’s saying conservatives are cavemen. Liberals are critical thinkers.


Here’s the thing. Its not like neurology’s a dead zone. Scientists really ARE figuring out what’s going on in our skulls. Great things are happening on that front. But you gotta keep a wary eye out cause “science” (those WERE quotes) can put lumps in YOUR brain if you  believe everything you read. Dr. Kanai’s study showed a gross difference – a size difference – between two parts of the brain whose functions are “thought” (quotes again) to play a role in threat awareness vs information sorting. The author, himself, says it’s very unlikely that these differences “directly encode” political differences. He says that more grants.. uh.. I mean.. more studies are needed.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 3 Nothing wrong with looking at this stuff. Careful about yer conclusions though. Okay?


Thanks to x-ray delta one and Flickr for the cartoon.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Posted by on Thursday, 28 July, 2011



Maybe it’s bad to let yourself get too personally involved in the numbers .  Still, MisterScienceAintSoBad’s heart felt sad when he flipped past a report in The American Journal Of Public Health (Heather Corliss) which tells us that one in four teens who “choose” (SURE they do) not to be heterosexual are also “choosing” the street. Gay kids – lots of ‘em – are homeless kids.

You wanna know what I think?

You can guess.


It says (up at the top) that I make science funny.

Not today.


(Please don’t think I’m saying the Journal article says that teens “choose” homosexuality. It doesn’t.  But the “choose” thing’s still out there causing  lots of misunderstanding.)

Credits: Thanks to The Italian Voice for the use of the image of a sad young face.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.


Posted by on Friday, 15 July, 2011



In the modern age, innovation has been one thing we could count on. The flow of new ideas has been torrential. In fact, new systems and devices made innovation easier. We made stuff that made stuff that made stuff. Innovation fed on itself until a trickle turned into a stream turned into an avalanche.

Until recently.

At the beginning of this century ( in FACT, wasn’t it  RIGHT after all the worry about the Y2K clock thing that never happened?) the impulse to innovate faded. The faucet got “plugged up”, says Edgar Biteme, writing for Annals In Global Progress. “It’s hard to understand. After the invention of  Cell-O-Heater,” (cellulite zapping  pad sold on As Seen On TV) ” it’s like the sail collapsed. We’ve been drifting ever since.”

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad doesn’t know if Biteme’s right or not, but it’s a fact that the US Patent And Trademarks Office is empty these days. I was there Monday and  it took 10 minutes to find anyone. Most of the staff were “dialing for dollars”. Pathetic. They were calling up FORMER inventors to see if they might, possibly, have anything new they could send over. The occasional application they do get these days is usually a stupid little change to  an old idea.  One of the examiners, Sam Strichtrich said “Hey. Don’t quote me, okay? But, if a trivial piece of crap application does cross my desk, I’m gonna grant it. We all are.We don’t want to admit how bad things really are.”

I guess I quoted him.

When’s the last time you saw a new technology on store shelves? Same, same, same. Right? The hot industries are the ones that specialize in repainting and repackaging stale products . It’s sad.

There are plenty of theories as to what’s going on.  Biteme, himself, thinks the problem can be traced right back to the educational system which emphasizes the classics – Greek, Latin, and ancient Hebrew. “Nobody,” according to Biteme, “studies engineering, science or, even, business, these days. It’s a big turn off to students who don’t want to be seen as money grubbers.”

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad knows you’re worried. But you shouldn’t be. The age of science and technology was totally exhausting. I could barely keep up with it all. Now I get to kick back and relax.

You too.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – ADDED LATER – – – – – – – – – – –

Mister ScienceAintSoBad has been getting messages from people who liked this article a little bit TOO much.

Let me ask you something. Have you ever told a silly joke and had someone take you seriously and then felt terrible? Hey. Yer car’s on fire! No, no, no. I was just KIDDING! I didn’t mean to scare you?

The article is (or was intended to be) a parody. It’s all made up. I thought (hoped) it would be obvious since we’re drowning in innovation and it’s more or less impossible to keep up with the escalating rate of change.

It’s the responsibility of the writer – MY responsibility – to figure out how to be kinda funny without making the reader feel like a chump. I didn’t quite get there today. Sorry. I accept full responsibility and do not feel you “fell for” anything. I’m not a professional writer. Just an engineer who writes for fun. No intent to deceive. Believe me.

Innovation’s fine. Don’t worry.

Image: We appreciate the use of the image from Flickr Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.


Posted by on Thursday, 7 July, 2011

Dear MISTER SASB: My grandmother’s got stomach cancer. She’s had surgery, drugs, and chemo. Now the doctor says she should get hospice care which totally (if it’s okay to say) sucks big time. Grannie taught me to read and to ride a bike and even how to cut cocaine. There MUST be something they can do! –  Nancy Trill

Dear Nancy:

It sounds like yer granny could open up her own pharmacy.

Anyway, to answer your question, her Docs COULD get your granny hooked up with a clinical trial that offers some new hope. But they probably won’t. Denise Mann (Web MD) says most patients who could qualify for clinical trials, won’t even hear about them. At least, not from their own doctors.

This doesn’t mean doctors are a bunch of bums. The ones I’ve worked with (and consulted) are almost uniformly terrific. They work hard and they’re, mostly,  very smart. BUT they are human (surprise!). Just so many hours in a day. Just so many dollars in a paycheck. They can’t be everywhere. Can’t do everything. Gotta go home sometime. And this has a lot to do with why they’re shy about introducing their patients to clinical trials. Keeping up with 8,000 trials is SLIGHTLY impossible. When would that “keeping up”  happen? Before 5 AM? Or after 2 PM? Medicine is intense. The hours are long and the stakes are high. And there’s a lot of required reading just to stay current in day-to-day practice.

Also, there’s the relationship thing.  Maybe a particular clinical study does offer “a shot” (usually a long one). Still. It probably means the patient’s off to some distant place at a time that’s infinitely crappy and emotional horrendous.  And the patient and his.her doc often have a thing going, a doctor patient relationship. Believe it or not, separating from the Doc who took the patient this far down  Dismal Road  can be tough for both the patient and the physician.


People, naturally, do the regular stuff, first. If things don’t work out, maybe they start looking around for unregular stuff.  It’s tempting to see clinical trials like the extra innings. After the first nine. (A little baseball metaphor here.) Well, sorry, Bub, but that may be too late. Some of these trials won’t let patients who are practically gonners into their programs. They need to get at them earlier in the progression of the disease.


You’re kidding, right? If I knew the right answers to this stuff, do you think I’d be sitting here cranking out blog articles? I don’t know how to get doctors back into this loop either.  But something’s gotta change. That’s for sure. It’s not right to expect patients, on their own and at the worst possible time in their lives, to become medical detectives, capably sorting through the relevant research. And it’s not like NO doctors are referring to clinicals. Maybe we need to understand what the doctors who get this right are doing.

Mister ScienceAintSoBad‘s an optimist. He thinks things will improve.

Sooner’s better than later.


Credit for above cartoon (which I don’t exactly understand either) to, xkcd.