Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Spiral Metamorphosis

Modeling of the merger of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies 4 billion years in the future. This comes from the website. Here's a perspective from the Earth. Another snapshot of a galactic merger. This gallery was released this month to celebrate Hubble's achievements.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Survival of Fetus is due to Environmental Factors and is Gender Specific

A study was just published (links here and here). Basically, when times are lean, females are preferred over males. When there is plenty of food, then more boys are born. This possibly has to do with the physiology of the embryo. If there isn't enough food, the male embryo can't handle the stress and dies shortly after conception. Since people are eating leaner diets in the developed nations, this explains why more girls than boys are being born. It also fits with male infant mortality being slightly higher after birth. To some extent, it gets men off the hook for fathering baby girls. So, guys, if you really want a son, make sure your wife or girlfriend takes her vitamins and eats extremely well.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Don't Believe Every Medical Study that Comes Down the Pike

You can't believe a lot that you read these days. It turns out that Merck wrote many of the Vioxx drug studies and that the published authors didn't write up or conduct most of the research. The former might be forgiven, but the latter, I don't think so. If you are going to be an author of a drug study, you or your lab had better have done the research. What those people did seems a bit unethical to me.

This study's underlying assumptions seem flawed. I could understand if someone died from an overdose of a fat soluble vitamin, but here's what one expert said about the study:

Blumberg raised concerns about the use of "all-cause mortality" as a yardstick for antioxidants' influence on health and life. "All-cause mortality" includes deaths resulting from everything from cancer to a train wreck.

Blumberg said: "There is no basis in biology to presume that one or more of these nutrients can kill through any and all possible mechanisms of action."

Medical statistics looks for trends, but if the underlying assumptions are garbage - garbage in equals garbage out.

The same day, the same web site has a mouse study using a synthetic form of Vitamin D that prevents certain breast cancers from forming. Hopefully, the researchers used sound statistical methods.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Flux - The Organism

The Organism


Friday, April 11, 2008


A crepe myrtle tree killed by the April 10, 2008, storm, prone and dead.


A much larger oak tree, felled by the same storm, chopped up for disposal. Both victims of a storm's violence.


Yet, life goes on and the bluebonnets still bloom.

There is just life. Forms are like waves on a living ocean.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Perfidity of Words

Ethnic cleansing has such a nice ring to it. It sounds like you're tidying up the neighborhood or region by getting rid of the undesirables. Why don't people call it what it truly is, ethnic genocide or murder? It seems anytime an oppressed people are given their freedom, the first freedom they choose to exercise is their freedom to kill each other over some slight difference, be it tribal, religious, or some other minor ethnic difference all for the sake of power, land or some other resource.



If you think you have control over your life, what happens when you lose the electrical power to your home for more that a few hours? A nasty storm knocked out power to my apartment for almost 12 hours today. I was at work when it hit at 0400 and my building went to backup generator. Traffic lights throughout Dallas were out. Large oak trees were snapped at the base like toothpicks. I came home to a dark apartment and two shy cats who usually greet me when I come home. The storm must have had some effect, because they took their time coming out of the bedroom after I walked through the door. With nothing to do, I went to bed. I awoke early, shaved and showered by flashlight. Since I work nights I've darkened the bedroom and with no electricity it made life interesting. I had enough hot water to take a quick shower. Our society would be in a world of hurt if all the power plants went down. (That's typical for Iraqis, though.) How long would our civility last then?


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The State of IT Security

The state of IT Security is probably at a transition point. It used to be easier to defend than attack. Right now it's easier to be an attacker than a defender. The antivirus companies are being overwhelmed. The bad guys are making newer variants than the AV companies can make definitions for their engines. With drive-by downloading, you almost can't trust any web site now. Or at least, you are trusting the web sites you go to to monitor their own content that they serve you. If it's this bad in the private sector, it's likely worse in the public sector. Expect the government to be able to attack other countries' cyber infrastructures easier than it can defend our own. When one disgruntled person can bring Estonia to its knees, that means that the Internet is the great equalizer allowing the individual or small groups to have an overwhelming advantage over larger groups of less savvy, vulnerable people. This has to make professional soldiers and security professionals nervous. The disparity exists pretty much at all levels. It may take 5 minutes to compromise and hide a trojan on a system and make it a zombie. It might take 40 hours for a forensics expert to analyze the attack and figure out exactly what happened. The good guys are currently losing due to a lack of political will, intellectual ignorance, and economic disincentives to secure computers and networks.


Is Robert Reich Wrong?

Robert Reich wrote this in his blog. I think he's right. We taxpayers are subsidizing a bunch of fat cats and their risky behavior. The tax code needs revising to give people the right incentives rather than the wrong incentives. We shouldn't be bailing out markets with taxpayer funding.


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