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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Patently absurd

Posted by Ed on March 19, 2006

This is so absurd, I had just had to post it. The New York Times is reporting today that a company has been granted a patent on the correlation between elevated homocysteine and vitamin B12 deficiency. That’s right, they’ve been granted a patent on the relationship between these factors, not just on a test or treatment for them. It is therefore illegal for me to publish that finding without paying royalties to the company.

Elevated homocysteine is linked to B-12 deficiency, so doctors should test homocysteine levels to see whether the patient needs vitamins.

Oops! Suppose the bastards’ll have to sue me now… Actually, it gets even wierder. According to the article:

A corporation has patented that fact, and demands a royalty for its use. Anyone who makes the fact public and encourages doctors to test for the condition and treat it can be sued for royalty fees. Any doctor who reads a patient’s test results and even thinks of vitamin deficiency infringes the patent. A federal circuit court held that mere thinking violates the patent.

Not quite sure how they’re going to enforce that one…

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One for the sceptics

Posted by Ed on November 26, 2005

Are you tired of media distortions, exaggerations and general misunderstandings about science, as I am? Then, you’ll love this one. Bad Science is Ben Goldacre’s Guardian column keeping a watch for all the misinformation the media put out there in their quest to out-sensationalise each other to the top of the sales rankings.

All your favourite scare stories are covered, from MMR to MRSA to atomic tomatoes. And, of course, the Daily Mail deservedly takes a lot of flak.

Posted in Media, Science | 1 Comment »

International Shoulder Group

Posted by Ed on July 2, 2005

A few weeks ago our new site for the ISG went live. I decided to use Drupal because I’d heard good things about it, and it has to be said it was fairly easy to set up. The only issue I’ve had is with page caching. With caching turned on, the browser always used the cached page, even when it shouldn’t have. For example, if I logged in and refreshed the home page, it still brought up the un-logged-in home page. So for the moment, caching is turned off. Anyone got any ideas?

Anyway, while there aren’t many users, this doesn’t really matter. But as the site gets busier (which I hope it will), performance may start to suffer. Without caching, it means a database query for every page request. So far, a number of people I don’t know have registered, and even started forum topics, which is good.

You can also reach it via http://internationalshouldergroup.org.

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Energy Efficiency

Posted by Ed on June 2, 2005

There’s a big energy conference going on here at Case today, which I’m not attending because I didn’t register in time, with a very interesting-sounding programme covering technological and economic aspects of energy production in the 21st century. Such luminaries as the governor of Ohio, BP’s chief scientist, various government bods and a few greens will be there. They’ll be talking about hydrogen, fuel cells, renewables, nuclear, and just maybe, energy efficiency and conservation. Check out the webcast here.

Meanwhile, back in the lab, we’re pumping energy out the window so we all have to sit about in sweaters all day even though it’s 25°C outside! On the wall of my office, there’s a little dial with some numbers on it that imply that by turning the dial I can reduce the amount of energy being pumped. Not so, alas. It’s merely a placebo; one which I tried to get fixed last summer in the same situation. Maybe I’ll have more luck this year.

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Open Access and the NIH

Posted by Ed on March 1, 2005

I got a memo from the boss the other day about the NIH’s new policy on Open Access. The policy statement reads:

Beginning May 2, 2005, NIH-funded investigators are requested to submit to the NIH National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) PubMed Central (PMC) an electronic version of the author’s final manuscript upon acceptance for publication, resulting from research supported, in whole or in part, with direct costs from NIH.

While this is a step in the right direction, it seems to fall some way short of true Open Access. Firstly, it is only a request, not a requirement. That being said though, with the intense competition that exists for NIH funding, it may well be felt as more of a requirement by many researchers. Secondly, authors will have up to one year to make their manuscripts available in PMC, and may be under pressure from journals to use this. Hopefully it will encourage other funding bodies to follow suit though.

BioMed Central has welcomed the announcement.

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BMJ editorial on Bush administration

Posted by Ed on January 21, 2005

The BMJ has a very nice editorial on the consequences of a second Bush term for the health of the United States and the rest of the world. On the health savings account:

An individual enrolled in a health savings account receives coverage for catastrophic illness. Other health care must be paid first by the individual, up to a defined limit (typically several thousand dollars), after which they can draw on the tax free fund into which they and their employer have paid. Any money in this fund that is unspent at the end of the year is rolled over to provide, hopefully, a reasonable pool for any future needs. Accounts appeal to wealthy people, who are likely to leave existing schemes. Those remaining will be disproportionately poor and unhealthy and will face higher premiums because of the loss of cross subsidy, which will further increase the number of uninsured people.

Posted in Politics, Science | Leave a Comment »

Open Access Publishing

Posted by Ed on June 28, 2004

BioMed Central has issued a press release about the success of Open Access journals in recently anounced Impact Factors.

Open Access journals published by BioMed Central have received impact factors that compare well with equivalent subscription titles, it was announced today. The high impact factors, all for journals that are just a few years old, prove that Open Access to research literature achieves impact fast and makes quality articles much more widely visible.

Actually I’m not sure if it does prove that, but it’s good news nonetheless.

Arthritis Research & Therapy, Breast Cancer Research, and Respiratory Research did particularly well.

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MMR Retraction

Posted by Ed on April 6, 2004

Should have posted this one a few weeks ago, but better late than never. Ten of the 13 authors of the original MMR – Autism paper (see my first posting) published in the Lancet have issued a ‘retraction of an interpretation‘:

We wish to make it clear that in this paper no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient. However, the possibility of such a link was raised and consequent events have had major implications for public health. In view of this, we consider now is the appropriate time that we should together formally retract the interpretation placed upon these findings in the paper, according to precedent.

The same issue also has statements from the editors and from Dr. Wakefield, (among others), as well as an extended commentary.

The BMJ also reports the retraction.

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Matlab on Macos X

Posted by Ed on April 5, 2004

I’ve just run the Matlab bench test on my Powerbook (15-inch Combo drive, 1GHz G4, 512MB RAM), with the following results:

bench4

And here’s the breakdown per task:

bench3

Quite respectable results really, but I did have to start it with -nojvm. Without that, it just hangs when it gets to the 3D test. No idea why. Also can’t quite see why it says a Dual G4 is slower, but the amount of RAM is not specified and that machine used a GEForce4 graphics card, as opposed to the ATI Radeon 9600 in my Powerbook.

Posted in Science | 7 Comments »

Fortran on MacosX

Posted by Ed on March 31, 2004

Having been left in the cold as a Fortran developer by Apple, I was very chuffed to find these g77 binaries on HPC for Macos X. It installs in a jiffy, and the shoulder model built right out of the box. Well, almost. I had to remove a couple of the Pentium-specific options from the Makefile, but that was all.

You will need to add /usr/local/bin to your path though. Do this in /etc/profile. Also, it complains that /usr/local/lib/libg2c.0.dylib is not prebound, and produces a huge executable. Not sure what to do about this.

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