Pseudo Random News and Comment

Evolving a bigger brain with human DNA. First mice, then Mr. Peabody.

Brain makes decisions with same method used to break WW2 Enigma code. With so many decisions or parts of decisions done before conscious awareness it doesn’t leave much room for free will. Perhaps the conscious Turing plagiarized the unconscious Turing.

Skin patch shows promise in easing peanut allergy. There may be PBJ for all someday soon.

Could a dishwasher raise your child’s allergy, asthma risk? Though causality isn’t proven it sure looks like it.

How the NSA’s Firmware Hacking Works and Why It’s So Unsettling. Hard to think of a way around it. Ordinarily Tails would be the answer but when the firmware is compromised all bets are off.

Game Theory Calls Cooperation into Question. Not much of a surprise that cooperation can get destroyed in some conditions – it happens all too often in human societies. Yet, without digging into the details, I question whether payoff matrices where cheaters gain easily truly reflect the gains from division of labor, even among the less intelligent critters.

The Lie of Unbiased News

Any pretense of unbiased news is a lie. There can never be unbiased news (or history). For every event of any significance there are literally thousands of facts that could be reported, and the process of selecting which to include and exclude unavoidably reflects an opinion about what’s important, and what it means. Even in an ideal world “the facts” are never the unvarnished truth.

In the imperfect world we inhabit the truth is far better served by a variety of blatantly biased sources than false claims of unbiased reporting. The internet has made a cornucopia of opinion more readily available than ever. That scares some people, but the real danger lies in only exposing yourself to the few with which you already agree.

Pseudo Random News and Comment

How do you increase US test scores? You let the kids play on playground equipment like this: Survival of the fittest should only take one or two generations to reach the Japanese level on standardized tests.

 A Pill That Mimics the Immune System. SillyCon Valley gets most of the headlines, but the real world-changing stuff is happening in biotech. Taken individually most of the discoveries won’t pan out, but collectively it will revolutionize medicine.

 Novel pathway for MMF. The next question is whether this effect alone would produce adequate immunosuppressive effect in transplantation. Combined with the current crop of immunosuppressants, probably not.

Glucosamine Update. Still no convincing evidence it works.

Gaming Medicare. A lukewarm defense of hospital reimbursement gamesmanship. There are so many regulations involved the games will never be stopped even if they wanted to. When I worked in a hospital years ago as a reimbursement analyst my favorite regulatory gem was DRG creep: To counter choosing more severe diagnosis codes to increase payment from Medicare, rather than audit charts, the Government in its infinite wisdom chose to decrease payment to all hospitals every year by the average amount of upward creep in coding the prior period. Therefore honesty was punished by constantly declining payments – in an industry with costs rising faster than overall inflation. A truly fiendish ethical dilemma, especially for a non-profit board.

Kitzhaber and the Greedy Greens. This is a rather unfair portrait of his record, which no doubt had a much more diversified portfolio of corruption than this implies. Two points in his favor: (1) He’s too stupid to avoid getting caught, and (2) He resigned. It’s a hurdle so low that even Nixon would clear it, but how many over the last 50 years have cleared it?

Obama to sign executive order on sharing cybersecurity threat information. Of an “advisory nature,” whatever that means in an unchallengeable edict. You show me yours, and I’ll….say mine’s classified. What a great deal!

Your Co-Workers Are Mean to You for a Reason. Fighting Mother Nature is supposed to be difficult but most organizations manage to easily defeat their employees’ inborn tendency toward civil cooperation. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

Does a Real Anti-Aging Pill Already Exist? Novartis trying to turn mTOR inhibition into the fountain of youth. Fasting one or two days a week is much safer.

Pseudo Random News and Comment

Will your partner stay or stray? Look at finger length. Reading between the lines the unfortunate ramification is that if they are less likely to stray and have sex with others, they’re also less likely to have sex with you. Pick your poison.

Choosing a cell phone, prescription drug plan or new car? Read this first. Improving results when faced with a large number of choices. Trouble is the most effective method was the one least preferred by those tested.

Caution concerning the possible health benefits of alcohol: Beneficial only for women over 65? And maybe not much for them either. Genetic testing should clarify things further since it’s likely only some are genetically equipped to better cope with the relatively recent invention of alcohol. It’s toxic at any level, so the question is whether for some groups the benefits objectively outweigh those costs. Subjective benefit is another story.

Make like a squid and transform: Squid can recode their genetic make-up on-the-fly to adjust to their surroundings. Cool ability. Maybe Spider Man should have been Squid Man instead.

Unwanted impact of antibiotics broader, more complex than previously known. It just keeps getting worse, without even considering resistance.

Brian Williams told a tale – but it could be how he really remembers what happened. That all his memories are self-serving doesn’t alter that either. Fact check your own and you may be surprised.

Pseudo Random News and Comment

Police Officers Can Sue Newspaper For Publishing Descriptive Info. I’ll save everyone the trouble: Fat, out of shape, ignorant of the law, with a bad attitude and anger management issues. Frequently seen with mustache and sunglasses, in blue uniform. Often uses siren for personal errands. Armed and dangerous. 5.5 times more likely than a civilian to shoot the wrong person. Avoid contact.

Five technologies that betrayed Silk Road’s anonymity. There are weaknesses in all those technologies but it’s really not fair to blame them for horrible security practices.

A Crypto Trick That Makes Software Nearly Impossible to Reverse-Engineer. I’m pretty sure it’s not “nearly impossible” but even if it is, once fully implemented on both sides of the battle, the balance of power won’t be much different than now.

High-intensity interval training benefits chronic stroke patients. Glad I was trying to run up stairs soon after I was out of the ICU.

Reality is distorted in brain’s maps. Steve Jobs wasn’t the only one with a reality distortion field. Very utilitarian reasons for it.

R2d2 beats Mendel: Scientists find selfish gene that breaks long-held law of inheritance. 50-50 split from mom and dad not always the case. The Selfish Gene looks better all the time.

Pseudo Random News and Comment

Jeb Bush dumps emails including social security numbers of Florida residents online. Q: Can he really be that stupid? A: Not only that, everyone around him is too.

Box hands cloud encryption keys over to its customers. Maybe Dropbox will follow suit. Doesn’t stop man in the middle but it’s a start.

Should I Trust The Government? Ummm, if you’re middle-aged and trust your government even 1% you’ve somehow missed every major news story over your entire life. Still it’s an amusing survey. India gets the award for most gullible population. China is a bit puzzling unless it reflects a very political definition of trust.

Facing Decline and Death. A good review of Atul Gawande’s book, Being Mortal. I highly recommend watching the Frontline episode, Being Mortal. Far too many of us will be in similar circumstances some day. In an hour filled with the dreary end game of the terminally ill, oddly enough I felt the most sorry for Dr. Nayak, who seemed poised for a flaming burnout at any moment.

How long would you play a game you can’t win? Your whole life.