23andMe Launder AlioGenetics Doesn’t Even Bother to Remove 23andMe Logo

This is hilarious. AlioGenetics doesn’t even bother to photoshop out the 23andMe brand on their website:

Hey Stanford University, do you know what is not hilarious? What happens when City Hall gets the call that genomics “can’t police its own borough?”

An FDA slum clearance. (Or, hey! Pick any three capital letters: CDC, OCR, CMS, … IRS, who knows? Or maybe you won’t be so lucky to die in battle. Maybe you’ll just be another causality of an In-House Council Infection and die in the mud —forgotten.)

So, you had better not have the wrong address when the carbon copies and postage tape hits the streets. Your hippy-dippy high school cold-shoulder blacklist bro-fist ghetto games aren’t going to impress an sour auditor or a sweet judge with a mandate to “take care of the neighborhood” from behind paper bulldozers on an expenses-plus contract. Oh yes, and now the carbon copies have been digitized: you can be federally served by gmail. Ask me about it sometime! (in person)

And guess what: now that you’re on the internet and “freely available to the masses,” you don’t have just ONE City Hall, you have one for EVERY SINGLE POSSIBLE JURISDICTION IN THE WORLD. And you don’t have to do anything wrong. You just have to be in the wrong neighborhood. In fact, the more good you try to be, the easier you will be to exterminate. Please complete these forms so that we may more easily hunt you down, disband your resistance, and relocate you to government housing. God can sort the money. Thank you.

Naming the Unspeakable | Cosmic Variance

Two hundred thousand gallons per day of Gulf crude are leaking from a hole 5000 feet under the water’s surface in the wake of the still mysterious destruction of British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform last week . How and when it will be stopped is entirely unknown. The mayonnaise-like oil is being blown ashore into the nursery for shrimp for the whole region and the home of hundreds of the other species. Welcome to what may turn out to be the worst single human-caused environmental disaster ever. (Unless you regard global warming in general as a single event. Semantics.)


This thing is going to need a name. The Exxon Valdez incident was a spill – there was a finite amount of oil aboard the ship. A lot of oil: 11 million gallons (40 million liters). The new one in the Gulf of Mexico could blow past that, depending on whether present efforts to close the valve or drill a relief well work.

The fact that we called it the “Exxon Valdez” incident clearly indicates the responsible (if not guilty) party involved. So, though I like the moniker “Spill, Baby, Spill” from a political point of view, it doesn’t lay any blame and this thing is not a spill. It’s a leak, and BP leased the rig from Transocean LTD, the world’s largest offshore drilling contractor. I think the responsibility has yet to be determined. If you rent a car, and wipe out a family in an accident because the steering was faulty, is it your fault or the car manufacturer’s? It may take some time, or even never be known, what happened a week ago to cause this tragedy.

The name of the rig was the Deepwater Horizon, but that doesn’t convey ownership or responsibility. Will this become known as the “BP Deepwater Horizon Spill”? The “Transocean/BP Leak”? The media seem to be stuck on “spill” and so I bet that will be in the name long term…and it will take a very long time to assess responsibility here.

My heart goes out to the families of the 11 lost on the rig, and to the thousands of fishermen and others whose livelihoods are in peril.

We’ve suspended new offshore drilling until we have understood this incident better. And no doubt a new debate about offshore drilling will ensue. This has certainly put the lie to those who claim that new modern drilling rigs are far safer than in the past, something even President Obama was saying as recently as April 2. Sigh.

Every Ending = New Beginning

In the mid-90’s, I recall a conversation with German Space Agency liaison, Gerhart Brauer – both a colleague and good friend to me. I struggled with a painful chapter in my life, and Gerhart offered this one simple phrase that made all the difference at the time. And even today.

Every ending is a new beginning.

Sometimes, though, this concept can be hard to accept. Personally and professionally. Take the end of our beloved Space Shuttle program, for example. Only three flights left. EVER!

Shuttle Stack

My sister Aimee recently reminded me how she and Daddy watched Columbia lift off on April 12, 1981. She remembers him marveling that we could actually launch a rocket from Earth and fly it back to the planet like an airplane. The concept was so unbelievable at the time.

We take it for granted today.

I don’t recall the launch at all. But, I remember the STS-1 landing two days later. I worked at the University of Texas Ex-Students’ Association in Austin. We gathered around the conference table to watch Columbia land. I remember how cool it was to meet STS-1 John Young and Bob Crippin for the first time a few years later. They were the first humans to put their lives on the line and strap themselves onto the Shuttle stack for launch.

But then again, every astronaut who has ever flown on a rocket ship takes a leap of faith — each time we ignite the engines.

Yes, the fleet of amazing reusable winged vehicles served us well over the last two decades (with the exception of our tragic loss of the Challenger and Columbia crew and vehicles on two missions: STS-51-L and STS-107). We don’t relish mothballing the remaining three vehicles: AtlantisDiscovery andEndeavour. But think about the exorbitant cost of upgrades. Cost alone makes the close-out decision for NASA managers so much easier than for those on the outside looking in.

Orbiter Cutaway

Let’s face it, many of us are mourning the end of the program. And that’s ok. Grief is a reasonable human response. We love to watch our winged vehicles soar into the air, breaking gravity’s grasp on humanity. Those of us fortunate enough to witness a Shuttle launch live, love to feel the ground-shaking rumble and the roar of the engines. Some have even seen the night-sky turn to day as the vehicle propels to the heavens above.

STS-131 launch

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a Space Shuttle!!!

(Sorry Superman. We’ve got the real thing. You’re only fiction.)

So what happens next? What follows the Space Shuttle program? Many ask. Many are angry and confused. I don’t have the answers. Just know that NASA folks are furiously working to fill in the blanks. (We’ll fly on Soyuz spacecraft to Station in the meantime.) Beyond that, stay tuned. No comfort for thousands of workers who made house payments, put food on the table, and paid school expenses off Shuttle-related paychecks. I get it. This post-Shuttle “new beginning” must feel like a black hole, where everything they know is disappearing into a powerful vortex outside their control. NASA has been planning this for years, but it doesn’t make the end of the program any easier.

We humans don’t like change, do we?

It’s uncomfortable. Messy, at times. We often prefer the certainty of misery over the misery of uncertainty. That’s why we stay in dead-end jobs or in joyless relationships. We’re funny like that. When change comes, we fight it, dig in our heels, complain to anyone who will listen. Does that sound at all familiar?

But with every new beginning, comes new hope for a better tomorrow.

If we can only let go of those things we cling tightly to, we might have two arms free to embrace this scary, unknown new thing — sometimes called a fresh start.

Here are a few ways to face change head on. Our Goal: Influence Change!

  1. Think creatively.
  2. Use the same tools in new ways.
  3. Find new tools to make old ways new.
  4. Look at a problem upside down and right side up.
  5. Deconstruct to reconstruct.
  6. Make change your own.
  7. Sculpt your world into something better than ever existed before.

Who knows, you might like tomorrow better than today! Really, it could happen.


BTW: The next launch, STS-132, is scheduled for May 14. We’ll be having our second Shuttle Launch tweetup at the Kennedy Space Center and a mission tweetup at the Johnson Space Center. Stay-tuned for stories about the launch, mission, and space tweeps.

If you have stories to share about where you were and how you felt with the first Space Shuttle left Earth (IF you were born), feel free to post them as comments.

Crosspost on Bethbeck’s blog.

Super slo mo Apollo, yo | Bad Astronomy

In the Very Cool Department…

My friend Mark Gray from SpaceCraftFilms narrates this film, showing the Apollo 11 Saturn V liftoff using a high-speed camera. I’ve seen this clip about eight bazillion times over the years, but Mark gives the details of what’s happening, providing insight I wasn’t aware of.

The cool thing about this, to me, is the fact that it’s so familiar, but there’s still so much to know about it! And it goes to show you: sending rockets into space is, well, rocket science.

With Prostate Cancer “Vaccine,” Immune System Wages War Against Tumors | 80beats

medical recordsYesterday the Food and Drug Administration gave its OK to Provenge, a new treatment for prostate cancer. It’s not a “vaccine” in the old-fashioned sense, but it could be a way to make the immune system wake up and take notice to the presence of cancer.

In a standard vaccination, a person receives an attenuated or dead version of a microorganism to spur them to produce antibodies (against, for example, the virus that causes smallpox). Provenge is not that—it doesn’t prevent prostate cancer—but it is a variation on the theme. To oversimplify quite a bit: with Provenge vaccination begins with a blood draw. Blood is then sent to the lab, where technicians extract immune cells known as antigen presenting cells (APCs) from the sample. From here, Dendreon combines the immune cells with proteins that are prevalent on the surface of prostate cancer cells. An immune boosting substance is also added into the mix [TIME]. That awakens the APCs, which doctors then inject back into the bloodstream. And once there, the APCs put white blood cells on high alert against cancer.

Seattle biotech firm Dendreon developed the treatment aimed at lowering the number of men in the United States killed by prostate cancer each year, which presently stands at 27,000. But Provenge was a long time coming even by medical standards. Dendreon’s low point came in 2007. Expecting FDA approval, the company was instead sent back to the drawing board. Angry prostate-cancer patients and advocates rallied outside FDA headquarters. The setback added another three years to the 15 Dendreon already had spent on Provenge. The amount of money plowed into the project is now close to $750 million [Seattle Times].

In the most recent tests, Provenge increased survival from a quarter of patients to a third, and boosted survival by four months compared to the placebo control group. However, the Seattle Times concludes, these kinds of immune treatments might prove most useful in patients who’ve already received cancer treatment and need protection from relapse.

Approval has finally come for Provenge, though still with caution: With clearance yesterday, Dendreon said the FDA will require it to monitor 1,500 patients given Provenge for increased risk of strokes seen in studies [BusinessWeek]. And it will take many years to study the long-term effects.

Related Content:
DISCOVER: How We Got the Controversial HPV Vaccine
80beats: “Sound Bullets” Could Target Tumors, Scan the Body, and… Create Weapons?
80beats: Researchers Find the Genetic Fingerprint of Cancer, 1 Patient at a Time
80beats: The Mutations That Kill: 1st Cancer Genomes Sequenced

Image: iStockphoto

Quality Panel to Review Toyota

From detnews.com – Autos Insider:

An outside panel of high-level business and technology experts created to advise Toyota Motor Corp. will conduct a broad review of the Japanese automaker's operations, ranging from its electronic systems to the company's internal communications, th

Double Trouble; Twin Black Holes

Chandra NASA/ESA M82 Double Black Holes

Chandra images the first case where there is good evidence for more than one intermediate mass black hole in a galaxy.  Here’s the NASA press release:

This image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory shows the central region of the starburst galaxy M82 and contains two bright X-ray sources of special interest. New studies with Chandra and ESA’s XMM-Newton show that these two sources may be intermediate-mass black holes, with masses in between those of the stellar-mass and supermassive variety. These “survivor” black holes avoided falling into the center of the galaxy and could be examples of the seeds required for the growth of supermassive black holes in galaxies, including the one in the Milky Way.

This is the first case where good evidence for more than one mid-sized black hole exists in a single galaxy. The evidence comes from how their X-ray emission varies over time and analysis of their X-ray brightness and spectra, i.e., the distribution of X-rays with energy. These results are interesting because they may help address the mystery of how supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies form. M82 is located about 12 million light years from Earth and is the nearest place to us where the conditions are similar to those in the early Universe, with lots of stars forming.

Multiple observations of M82 have been made with Chandra beginning soon after launch. The Chandra data shown here were not used in the new research because the X-ray sources are so bright that some distortion is introduced into the X-ray spectra. To combat this, the pointing of Chandra is changed so that images of the sources are deliberately blurred, producing fewer counts in each pixel.

Image credit: NASA/CXC/Tsinghua Univ./H. Feng et al.

Mobile Phone Dangers

I got the following in my email. Do you think it is possible? It may be likely as cell phone chargers are SMPS operating at high frequency. When a call comes in, again some high frequency is generated in the mobile phone. Even if the SMPS is an isolated DC charger – will it result in mains voltage g

2001 Cavalier Engine Problems

I have a 2001 cavalier with 210,000 miles.The other day it began to stumble on accelaration then died.When i tried to restart it, it would only crank but not start.After about 10 min. it started right up but now it will not run under load above 3000 to 3500 rpm.It is like there is no fuel getting to

How to Save Gorillas: Turn People on to Snail Farming | Discoblog

Gorilla conservationists in Nigeria have a new ally–snails. The critically endangered Cross River gorilla is under constant threat from poachers in this poor nation, as poachers kill the animals for their bushmeat or sell them illegally to traffickers in the exotic pet trade. With just 300 Cross River gorillas left, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) hopes to offer locals an alternate source of both food and revenue so they’ll leave the poor apes alone. Enter the snail. For this conservation project, the WCS picked eight former gorilla poachers and got them to start farming African giant snails, a local delicacy. The WCS helped the poachers construct snail pens and stocked each pen with 230 giant snails, writes Scientific American. As the snails breed quickly, farmers can expect a harvest of 3,000 snails per year. Scientific American adds:
According to WCS, this should end up being a fairly profitable enterprise for local farmers. Annual costs are estimated at just $87 per farmer, with profits around $413 per year. The meat of one gorilla, says the WCS, would net a poacher around $70.
Related Content:
80beats: Bushmeat Debate: How Can We Save Gorillas Without Starving People?
80beats: New Threat to Primates Worldwide: Being “Eaten Into Extinction”
DISCOVER: Extinction–It’s What’s …

India Bans Chinese Telecom Equipment

From CBC | Technology & Science News:

India has banned telecom equipment from China citing national security reasons. In a recent order, the government has told mobile operators not to import any network equipment manufactured by Chinese vendors such as Huawei and ZTE. Indian of

Men & ideas on the move: settled lands & colonized minds | Gene Expression

I am currently reading Peter Heather’s Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe. This is a substantially more hefty volume in terms of density than The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians . It is also somewhat of a page turner. One aspect of Heather’s argument so far is his attempt to navigate a path between the historically tinged fantasy of what its critics label the “Grand Narrative” of mass migration of barbarian tribes such as the Goths, Vandals and Saxons during the 4th to 6th centuries, dominant before World War II, and its post-World World II counterpoint. As a reaction against this idea archaeologists have taken to a model of pots-not-people, whereby cultural forms flow between populations, and identities are fluid and often created de novo. This model would suggest that only a tiny core cadre of “German” “barbarians” (and yes, often in this area of scholarship the most banal terms are problematized and placed in quotations!) entered the Roman Empire, and the development of a Frankish ruling class in the former Gaul, for example, was a process whereby Romans assimilated to the Germanic identity (with the shift from togas to trousers being the most widespread obvious illustration of Germanization of norms). I believe that liberally applied this model is fantasy as well. Being a weblog where genetics is important, my skepticism of both extreme scenarios is rooted in new scientific data.

There are cases, such as the Etruscans, where the migration is clear from the genetics, both human and their domesticates. The peopling of Europe after the last Ice Age is now very much an open question. The likelihood that the present population of India is the product of an ancient hybridization event between an European-like population and an indigenous group with more affinity with eastern, than western, Eurasian groups, is now a rather peculiar prehistoric conundrum. It also seems likely that the spread of rice farming in Japan was concomitant with the expansion of a Korea-derived group, the Yayoi, at the expense of the ancient Jomon people. And yet there are plenty of inverse cases. The spread of Latinate languages and Romanitas did not seem to perturb the basic patterns of genetic relationship among the peoples of Europe. The emergence of the Magyar nation on the plains of Roman Pannonia seems to have involved mostly the Magyarization of the local population. In contrast, the Bulgars were totally absorbed by their Slavic subjects culturally, leaving only their name. The spread of the Arabic language and culture was predominantly one of memes, not genes (clearly evident in the current dynamic of Arabization in parts of the Maghreb).

And yet you will note that there is a slight difference between the few examples I’ve cited: population replacement seems to have occurred in the more antique cases, rather than the more recent ones. This would naturally bias the perspectives of historians, who have much more data on more recent events (no offense, but archaeologists seem to be able to say whatever they want!). The Etruscan language itself is known only from fragments, while the happenings in prehistoric Europe and India can only be inferred very indirectly. I now offer a modest hypothesis for the distinction, why in some cases is it just the “pots” which move (Arabs), and in other cases it is the people who move (the Japanese). In cases of population replacement there is often a shift in mode of production. In cases where there is the diffusion of culture it is often a system or set of ideas which rent-seeking elites can exploit to maintain their position, or perpetuate it, flow across space. Islam was not only a potent ideology which bound the tribes of Arabia together so that they could engage in collective action, local elites across the new Muslim-dominated world found it a congenial international system whereby they could integrate themselves into a civilization of elite peers, as well as justify their god-given position at the apex of the status hierarchy (granted, many had this in the form of Christianity or Zoroastrianism, but once the old top dogs were overthrown the benefit of these systems was considerably less). The spread of Yayoi culture in Japan involved a shift from more extensive, toward more intensive, forms of agriculture. Their population base was greater, and the domains of the Jomon were left “underexploited” from the perspective of the more productive mode of agriculture which the Yayoi were engaged in. It need not be an issue of mass slaughter or extermination, a high endogenous rate of natural increase as well as disease, combined with assimilation and co-option of local elites, could result in the swallowing up of a population engaged in a less intensive mode of production. This sort of hybrid aspect of cultural and genetic expansion, whereby the local substrate is assimilated and synthesized with the expanding ethnic group, seems to be a good fit to the pattern that we see among the Han of China.

But shifts from modes of production exhibit some level of discontinuity, insofar as there are diminishing returns once all the land appropriate for that mode of production has been taken over. Farmers who are expanding into land held by hunter-gatherers or those practicing less intensive forms of agriculture can have enormous rates of natural increase because they’re not bound by Malthusian constraints. This is evident in the United States, until the late 20th century the majority of the ancestry of the white population of the republic descended from those who were counted in the 1790 census. The reason had to do with the extremely high birthrates among white Americans. When regions such as New England were “filled up,” they pushed out to the “frontier,” to northern Ohio, then to the Upper Midwest, and finally the Pacific Northwest. And in the process there was a radical change in the genetic variation of North America, as the indigenous populations died from disease, were numerically overwhelmed, or genetically absorbed. This is an extreme case scenario, but I think it illustrates what occurs when modes of production collide, so to speak. The pattern in Latin America was somewhat different, though an amalgamated Mestizo population did emerge over time, there was not the wholesale demographic replacement in many regions. And I believe that the reason is that the Iberians did not bring a superior mode of production, rather, the large local population base engaged in agriculture presented an opportunity for rent-seekers to place themselves atop the status hierarchy. Sometimes this involved intermarriage with local elites, as was the case in Peru where the nobility of the Inca intermarried with the Spanish conquistadors for the first few generations (the whiteness of the Peruvian elite despite the fact that the old families have Inca ancestry is simply due to dilution as successive generations of lower Spanish nobility set off to the New World and married into Creole families).

By the Roman period I believe that much of the core Old World was “filled up” in terms of intensive agricultural production. So most, though not all, of the changes in ethnicity or identity are biased toward elite emulation and novel identity formation. The Turks did not bring an innovative new economic system whereby they replaced the Greek and Armenian peasantry in Anatolia, rather, on the contrary peculiarities in the Turkish Ottoman system of rule produced a situation where the old families were usually replaced in positions of power by converts from the Christian groups who assimilated to a Turkish identity. When the economic arrangements reach stasis and the population is at Malthusian equilibrium change is a matter of shifting identities and affinities of the rent-seekers. When radically new economic systems emerge, opportunities for disparate population growth present themselves. Ergo, England went from being demographically dwarfed by France in the 17th century, to surpassing it in population in the 19th. England was of course the first nation to break into a new mode of production since the agricultural revolution.

Credit: Thanks to Michael Vassar for triggering this line of reasoning after a conversation we had about the Neolithic revolution.

PSI Calculation

I have a 60' verticle column of water (well) with a 3' pipe coming off the bottom of the column. Within 5' of the pipe exiting the well I have a 2" line coming out vertically (at 90 angle) from the 3' pipe.

Question – how do I determine the PSI coming out of the 2" line?