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Archive for January, 2019

#1,454 – MuTaTo

It’s the holy grail of modern science.  A cure for cancer.  For all cancers.  In one fell swoop.  And it may soon be possible thanks to an incredible breakthrough from an Israeli pharmaceutical company known as AEBi.

Futurism explains:

“According to The Jerusalem Post, “AEBi’s cancer cure is called MuTaTo, which stands for ‘multi-target toxin.’ It attacks cancer cells with several peptides — compounds comprising chains of amino acids — at once, and this multi-pronged attack is key to the treatment’s efficacy, the company says.”

Adds CEO Ilan Morad:

“’Instead of attacking receptors one at a time, we attack receptors three at a time,’ he continued. ‘Not even cancer can mutate three receptors at the same time.’”

And best of all, according to Forbes, “it will be brief, cheap and effective and will have no or minimal side-effects.”

It almost sounds too good to be true.  And it may very well be.  After all, these claims are coming directly from the company, haven’t been peer reviewed yet, and clinical trials haven’t taken place yet.  So we should temper our enthusiasm.  But then again we are talking about a cure for all cancers.  If they are even remotely on the right path then this is news worth celebrating.

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Is a cure for cancer the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,453 – Grim News

If you could know exactly when you were going to die, would you want to know?  Would the knowledge spur you into action, kick-starting a whirlwind of activity as you attack your bucket list with renewed vigor before you kick the bucket?  Or would you be crippled with fear, instead preferring an ignorance is bliss approach that would let you enjoy your life without having to stress about the fact that your time was actively counting down?

If you’re in the first camp I may have some good news for you.  A DNA test that can allegedly predict when you’re going to die.  So much so, that the test has drawn the interest of life insurance companies which is never a good sign.

As Daniel Kolitz writes on Medium:

“Soothsaying was once a fringe pursuit — the purview of psychics, subway cranks, and speed-addicted sci-fi novelists. Today, it’s big business. Abetted by new technology, thousands of salaried STEM types are now engaged in figuring out the future.

Among this crowd, Steve Horvath, a biostatistician at the University of California, Los Angeles, stands out. He isn’t trying to predict what you’ll buy next or whether you’ll commit a violent crime after being paroled from prison. His project, almost magisterially bleak, is to figure out how much of the future you’ll actually get to see.

In a paper published this week in Aging, Horvath and his colleague Ake T. Lu formally announced a project they’ve been teasing for a couple months now: a ‘time to death’ clock called DNAmGrimAge that they claim can predict, better than any other tool, when a given person might die. It was announced in tandem with AgeAccelGrim, which provides a countdown to the year you’ll develop cancer or coronary heart disease. Horvath said he can estimate the number of cigarettes someone has smoked in their lifetime and predict when they’ll go through menopause.”

I don’t know about you but I would want to know when I was going to die.  Armed with that knowledge I could accelerate my timetable for doing things, freeing me up to see as much of the world as possible before my time ran out.  But I can understand why others wouldn’t want to know.  Why others would refer to DNA as Do Not Ask.

It’s not an easy choice to make.  One that could have far-reaching implications for how we live our lives.  Thankfully we have plenty of time to figure out what we want to do before this technology gets perfected.  Unless of course, if your time is already numbered…

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Is a DNA test for determining when you will die the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,452 – The Wave

If you’re anything like me you may be waging a constant war against yourself, your loved ones, your co-workers, and society itself.  The war for control of your body temperature.  First you’re hot, then you’re cold, then you’re hot again.  You’re wearing a sweater in the summertime because your office air conditioning unit is on too high.  You’re wearing shorts in the winter because your apartment’s space heater works a little bit too well or not at all.  Layers are your best friend.  Your actual best friends are your worst enemies if they dare mess with the thermostat.

Thankfully, there may be a solution on the way.  A wearable device capable of regulating your body temperature.  Well, sort of.

As Wired puts it, “The Wave doesn’t change your core temperature. It’s all about perception. Think of warming your hands over a fire on a cold day. You know you’re not doing much to actually heat up your body, but it makes you feel disproportionately warm all over. That’s because in cold conditions, the local temperature of your hands and feet dictate how comfortable you feel, says Dr. Hui Zhang, a research scientist at UC Berkeley’s Center of the Build Environment. It was her research the Embr Labs’ founders discovered back in 2013 and which inspired the Wave prototype. If your hands or feet are cold, your whole body will feel cold, so Zhang says warming them up first is the fastest way to feel warm. In warm conditions, cooling the head is the most effective spot, but it would be awkward to mount a device there. The next-best spot for cooling: the wrist.”

That’s because the wrist contains, “a high density of temperature-sensitive nerve endings, called thermoreceptors, that are highly responsive to any temperature change.”

All in all, the best part about The Wave is how quickly it works.  “After three minutes of cooling, testers averaged feeling 5.8 degrees cooler; after three minutes of heating, they averaged feeling 4.6 degrees warmer.”

This is great news for women who on average typically prefer temperatures that are five degrees warmer than men.

So far, wearables haven’t really caught on but one as practical as The Wave could change all that.  Ending the internal wars that we all wage with ourselves once and for all.

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Is The Wave the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Desperate times call for desperate measures and when it comes to Climate Change these are the most desperate of times.  So it should come as no surprise that a group of economists have put forth an idea for how we can realistically attack this catastrophic global problem.

As Futurism reports, “On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal published a letter penned by a group of 45 economic experts from both sides of the political aisle.  In it, they detail an idea for how the U.S. should address global climate change: tax carbon emitters and give the money to American citizens.”

How much money are we talking about?  If the carbon tax is something like $40 a ton that would equate to $2,000 per family.  A decent amount of money, the middle class equivalent of receiving an extra pay check. Money that could be used for paying bills, going on vacations, or splurging on material items.  Economic activities that could boost the economy across the board.

But that’s not the only reason to make the move.

“Giving the revenue from a carbon tax directly to citizens in equal lump-sum rebates could change those dynamics. The government wouldn’t give the impression that it’s trying to get more revenue for itself, and voters might be more inclined to support carbon tax legislation if they knew they’d benefit financially from its passage.”

This is a great approach to take considering the alternative: the Paris riots a few weeks ago when people construed a climate change measure as a tax on the poor.  But there’s another reason why I love this idea so much and that’s the fact that it ties together with another one of my favorite ideas: Universal Basic Income.

In the future when robots have taken all of our jobs we may need to turn to UBI (government funded wages) as a way for society to stay afloat.  However, doing so would be massively expensive.  In fact, doing so in the United States at a rate of $12,000 per person would take up 70% of the federal budget.  An obvious non-starter.  Or at least it was until this carbon tax idea came along.  Now everyone could get paid, UBI style, without effecting the regular budget.  Talk about a win-win situation.

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Is a Carbon Tax the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,450 – Drug Sponge

Chemotherapy may save lives but it’s also a horrendous brute force hack that often causes significant damage in its own right.  In short, it’s pretty awful.  Fortunately, there may soon be a way to lessen its impact thanks to a newly designed drug sponge.

As Futurism puts it, “most of the drugs used for chemotherapy are poisonous. That allows them to effectively kill cancer cells, but it also wreaks havoc on the rest of a patient’s body, causing side effects ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to hair loss and ulcers.

Now, researchers from several U.S. universities have developed a tiny sponge that sits in a patient’s vein during chemotherapy to absorb excess drugs, thereby minimizing side effects…”

Hopefully, this drug sponge can clear regulatory hurdles quickly and start helping cancer patients in short order.

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Is a drug sponge the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,449 – The FCC

When plans for the Large Hadron Collider were first announced there were some people who feared that it might rip up a hole in the space-time continuum when it was turned on, effectively destroying all life on Earth.  Obviously, that never happened with the particle accelerator instead ushering in a new age in particle physics as several game-changing discoveries unfolded, including the confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle that gives other particles mass.

However, part of me wonders if some of those same fears might return upon news of CERN’s latest plan for a new particle accelerator (the FCC – Future Circular Collider) that would dwarf the current size of the LHC as it tries to figure out what Dark Matter is and solve the mysteries of the Universe.  After all, the sheer size of the thing (62 miles long and x10 more powerful) surely must invite some kind of risk, even if the LHC worked out swimmingly.

If that’s not the case and there really is no risk at all regardless of size then why not go all in on the concept of smashing atoms at high speeds?!

As Futurism reports:

“’We have to draw a line somewhere otherwise we end up with a collider that is so large that it goes around the equator,’ former U.K. chief scientific advisor David King told the BBC of the plans for the FCC.  ‘And if it doesn’t end there perhaps there will be a request for one that goes to the Moon and back.’”

Come to think of it both of those sound like good ideas to me!  Secrets of the Universe here we come!

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Is the FCC the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,448 – A Cure for Loneliness

I like to say that I never get lonely.  After all, I’m surrounded by people all day.  How could I possibly be lonely?  Even when I’m hiking “alone” I’m still around other people.  Turn on the TV or pop open my computer and they are again, even more people.  So how can I ever be alone if I’m always around someone.  But we all know that’s not how loneliness works.  You could be in a committed relationship with someone and still feel lonely, still feel like you’re lacking an actual connection to someone.  A phenomenon that dates back thousands of years.

As Laura Entis writes on Medium:

“Loneliness is part of the human condition. A primeval warning sign, like hunger or thirst, to seek out a primary resource: connection. Millions of years of evolution have shaped us into creatures who need social bonds in the same way that we need food and water.

And yet we increasingly find ourselves isolated. Loneliness is no longer a powerful enough driver to break us out of the silos created by modern life. Like our insatiable love of high-calorie foods, what was once an adaptive tool has become so misaligned with the way we live that it’s causing, in the words of former surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy, an ‘epidemic.’”

So what can we do about it?  Just mope around and hope others feel sorry for us?  Or is there something else we can to treat our affliction?  Something more proactive?  Well, as it turns out we may one day have a pill that we could take.  A cure for loneliness.  Which is a good thing.  Because loneliness is absolutely horrible.

As Entis puts it, “The trouble is that chronic loneliness doesn’t just make you feel terrible—it’s also terrible for you. Loneliness elevates our risk of developing a range of disorders, including cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, cognitive decline, and metastatic cancer. It also weakens the immune system, making us more susceptible to infections. Left untended, even situational loneliness can ossify into a fixed state that changes brain structures and processes, says Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the Brain Dynamics Lab at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.”

Well that’s depressing.  As someone who prefers to be alone most of the time I suddenly find myself rethinking my life choices.  I also find myself re-thinking how I view others.  If loneliness really is that serious then I need to step up my game and go out of my way to befriend more people, especially if I see someone who appears lonely.  For I wouldn’t just be doing them a solid, I’d be saving their life.  Either way, it’s great that there may one day be a way to treat loneliness.  And we may be able to do so with a simple pill.

According to Entis, “It’s less science fiction than it sounds. A number of clinical trials — led by Stephanie and others — are already underway, targeting the ways in which chronic loneliness changes the brain, as well as the havoc it unleashes on the nervous system. If there are pharmacological treatments for other social pains like depression and anxiety, why not loneliness?”

Why not, indeed.

So hopefully, research into this area continues and such a pill does in fact one day materialize on pharmacy shelves.  Until then I’ll try to do my best to cure this affliction the old fashioned way.  By actually talking to people.

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Is a cure for loneliness the Greatest Idea Ever?

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