* Posts by Bilious

54 publicly visible posts • joined 30 Aug 2012


Europe promises all-out assault on batteries to counter China’s lithium-ion domination


Re: Hydrocarbon synthesis with renewable energy

They could build the first plant close to a fusion power station. The synergies.will save them lots of money.

Elizabeth Holmes' plan to avoid her Theranos fraud trial worked out about as well as her useless blood-testing machines



Microfluidics was very hot when Theranos and Holmes hit the stage. In the office it is rather straightforward to design a microfluidics system splitting a blood sample into plasma and further into nanoliter size aliquots and to run different assays on each of them. In the construction lab one will have to design a system that does not clog and where samples do not evaporate and with an ultrasensitive reading system. In the clinical lab one will need a failsafe fully automated ystem that can work quickly and report in real time.

It's too much for two persons with rots in a university.

What do you call megabucks Microsoft? No really, it's not a joke. El Reg needs you


If Chocolate Factory is OK for Google and Big Blue is OK for IMB, then

The WinDos Empire

could be OK for Microsoft.

Worried about future planet-cleansing superbugs? But distrust AI? Guess you're not interested in these antibiotics



There are easily recognisable elements from known antimicrobial principles. I can see three, but mechanistically completely different one. Sulfa, quinoline - and guanidino antiseptics.

The with authors did on mechanism looks sound.

The molecules seem to be stuffed with potentially reactive points, so the road towards clinical acceptance may be a thorny one. Treating a patient may become a race between killing bacteria and harming the patient. If it cures the patient with a single or very few doses, it may become a success. If long treatments are required, I am less optimistic.

Fly me to the M(O2)n: Euro scientists extract oxygen from 'lunar dust' by cooking it with molten salt electrolysis



It would be nice to know the energy needed per mol of oxygen and to see suggestions for where the energy would come from.

Hate speech row: Fine or jail anyone who calls people boffins, geeks or eggheads, psychology nerd demands


Re: these terms are "divisive and humiliating,"

From personal experience: when those words are followed up with physical abuse, then their function is that of hate speech. It's envy, of course, but painful enough. A small and weak nerd is defenseless against the big bullies.

Boffins find proof that yes, Carl Sagan and Joni Mitchell were right, we really are all made up of star stuff


Re: "[Palladium] is easily destroyed by heat"

Number 46, palladium has its boiling point at 2963 degrees Celsius. Number 45, rhodium, has 3695. Number 44, ruthenium, has 4147. But number 47, silver, boils at 2262.

Halfords invents radio signals that don't travel at the speed of light


Re: Definition

Actually the Norwegians switched from DAB to DAB+, so plain first-generation DAB receivers are now useless in Norway.

Remember the 1980s? Oversized shoulder pads, Metal Mickey and... sticky keyboards?


Re: It was something we used to do in the 80s

Could be enzyme induction by alcohol. You might wish to make a lookup on Cyp2E1.

IBM Watson Health cuts back Drug Discovery 'artificial intelligence' after lackluster sales


Software to analyse the potential for interaction between a drug candidate and selected receptors or enzymes have been in use for a long time - both for finding substances that may have a desired effect, and for weeding out substances with properties that will lead to failure in clinical trials or clinical use. Newer AI systems will have to deliver additional value beyond the expert knowledge of those already in the field. A general tool written by generalists would seem to have a slim chance of being of general use across all those specialist sub-fields within drug discovery - each one requiring biological and technical knowledge way beyond textbooks or published articles.

The market has spoken: The tool wasn't relevant.

Geiger counters are so last summer. Lasers can detect radioactive material too, y'know


Re: Not a nuclear scientist here...

Cobalt 60, the example of the story, is best known for emitting gamma radiation.


So maybe the method is not about alpha radiation at all?

Boffins put the FUN into fungus by rigging yeast to squirt out the active ingredients in cannabis


Re: Cause and cure?

The article states that both the psychoactive substances are synthesised as the respective carboxylic acid precursors. They need roasting to become the active stuff (with carbon dioxide leaving), so bread is a relevant vehicle for the oral enjoyment. IIRC the temperature for decomposing the precursors is somewhere around 130 degrees Celcius. Activating the substances in beer requires a very strong autoclave, and you mustn't filter away the yeast.

Anyway, the yields are low. It's probably cheaper and quicker to use imported products from third-world agriculture - if the channels remain open. Commercially I don't think it has much of a chance - except in the UK after the no-deal Brexit.

Now boffins are teaching AI to dial up chemo doses for brain cancer


Re: I am wary of this development

Response to the drugs in question may be influenced by lots (really) of genetic and nongenetic variables in both the host and the tumour. One part is pharmacokinetics in the host - the overall fate of the drug substance after administration. Another is pharmacokinetics in the tumour - diffusion into areas and cells and organelles where the action takes place. A third is mapping of the pharmacodynamic susceptibility of each malignant clone in the tumour, and the variation of activity-related susceptibility in each cell. And how successful was the surgery?

Details about the behaviour of old anticancer drugs will have to be mainly guesswork with very poor predictive value for an individual patient. Most of the microdetails needed are unavailable to the doctor ahd his/her computer program. And who knows what is relevant, and the weight of each variable?

I would not invest in this project or the people behind it.

Pharma bro Martin Shkreli to miss 2024 Paris Olympics


Generic drugs

With ancient generic drugs the prices may fall so low that maintenance of market presence becomes unprofitable. So some price adjustments are justifiable.

Pyrimethamine has been available from 1953 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrimethamine). How could that qualify for a patent in the USA? I would think there are more persons than Martin Shkreli who should be investigated or shamed.

Surveillance Capitalism thinks it won, but there's still time to unplug it


Re: Good article but what's the fix

"Freedom died a long time ago."

It didn't.

My keyboard entries on the Web are registered. My surfing preferences and emails too. My telephone is tapped and taped. My travels on public transportation are videotaped and registered on my name, and all passages through the road toll registering points are registered and taped.

But I can read whatever I like, love any person I like, travel wherever I like - it's just a question of economic means and keeping up good relations to family, neighbours, colleagues and friends. The police never bothers me. I've never done anything remotely criminal, so I have never been in prison.

In some countries people are bothered by police and priests and criminals and racists and religious bigots - but AFAICS this came centuries before the data slurping. Death penalty for atheism? It cannot be blamed on Google, Apple, Facebook or Apple.

Docs ran a simulation of what would happen if really nasty malware hit a city's hospitals. RIP :(



Some emergency services of hospitals need coordinated efforts at full capacity and full attention from a number of different sources now. If one computer-dependent service is crippled, that will easily influence negatively throughout the system. No med tech equipment needs to be affected: decreased availability of patient history or lab results is enough to cause delays and increase risks.

NASA, wait, wait lemme put my drink down... NASA, you need to be searching for vanadium



Molybdenum might be a more likely candidate.


Besides, the atomic number is 42.

Why search for another answer?

US judges say you can Google Google, but you can't google Google


National modding

In my language we do not use the oo spelling of g-oo-gle, so I've invented the verb "guggle" instead. That's a non-word, unknown in dictionaries, so I don't need to use uppercase.

Google DeepMind's use of 1.6m Brits' medical records to test app was 'legally inappropriate'


Identify those with kidney damage?

Why would you need Big Data for that?


UK hospital meltdown after ransomware worm uses NSA vuln to raid IT


Remove all external access?

Some actually do need to access web mail during working hours, and some do need to extract or enter files on removable media. Research and teaching does not always take place on the same network as the patient records, but both are legitimate and necessary - so data needs to be moved between networks. Material has to be made somewhere, whether at work, during travel or at home. Restrictions tend to making research and teaching overly cumbersome, so there needs to be a compromise between usability and security. This is complex and requires people from different professions working together. My experience is that both IT decision makers and institution leaders ignore it.

Shock horror: US military sticks jump leads on human brains to teach them a lesson



FInally there is a way that I can learn to play the violin without disturbing the neighbours or making the Wife leave me. And without buying a violin.

Skin tattoo will tell your phone when you've had a skinful


Useless technology.

This seems like a useless showoff of technology. If it is for morning-after diagnosis ("am I sober enough to drive?"), then saliva testing would be easier and cheaper and a lot quicker. If it is for quantifying blood ethanol during drinking, the results are likely to be _very_ variable because the alcohol needs to pass a number of barriers before reaching the detector. Even blood alcohol measured with state-of-the-art equipment is variable dring drinking. It is unlikely that a number from the instrument will be reliable, and it is unlikely that even a sober expert will be able to interpret it. So if the instrument shows a number for blood alcohol, it can only be taken to mean that the alcohol has been absorbed. No need for an instrument to show that.

Theranos boots COO


Too good to be true, or just premature?

These people kept secret the actual details of their technology. There was some rumour of microfluidics, and I was impressed that they seemed to have mastered this difficult art to such a degree that they could go commercial with a full repertoire and sufficient reliability to be able to deliver regularly and on time. As I understood it, they used commercial reagents in so small quantities that they could deliver results at a much lower cost. Everybody familiar with the art know for some analytes there is a systematic difference between capillary blood samples as used by Theranos and venous blood samples used for routine in most other labs. But this could easily be compensated by establishing different reference values for those analytes

I was a little suspicious, though, that people coming from a brilliant academic institution so easily could enter successfully into the mainstream of the boring everyday world of clinical chemistry. It does not happen in my part of the world.

The investors did not know that, of course. So one can understand why they did not investigate more thoroughly.

Google AI gains access to 1.2m confidential NHS patient records

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Re: This has health privacy implications far beyond just the affected patients...

If I read the article right, acute kidney injury was the primary target. Acute injury predisposes for chronic renal failure which is a personal disaster for those struck by it. Chronic haemodialysis or renal transplantation are life saving, but are nonetheless a heavy burden healthwise and practically.

So the project of finding early warnings - and hints of why some seem to be protected - in seemingly irrelevant observations - is a laudable one. Early and effective intervention in risk groups would be a great improvement compared to the present-day situation.

Getting rid of the need for kidney transplants would be great. Someone has to start with data gathering to find clues for a work hypothesis. Google did.

Science contest to get girls interested in STEM awards first prize to ... a boy


Two different matters

No disagreement about equal rights and equal opportunities and equal pay, in all countries. Unfortunately there are feminist extremists who dominate some channels and, I am sorry to say, have poor command of their subjects. We can cope with those, even though we may have to misbehave in meetings.

But quite a few apparently moderate feminists squeeze out men from the workplace by hiring only women. So the net effect in those cases is a reversal of roles - from patriarch to matriarch. I do not think it is an improvement.

Lettuce-nibbling veggies menace Mother Earth



If you eat eggplant, you may have a weakly positive urine test for cotinine, the nicotine metabolite. But little compared to smoking tobacco.

But why would anyone do a cotinine test in urine?

Is there a cure for cancer sitting at the back of the medicine cabinet already?


There is a need for protocols

A substance, new or repurposed, is not a drug until there is sufficient knowledge about the the indication (which disease or which tumour in which patients?), effective dosing schedule(s), actual doses and duration of treatment. Buying time by partial remission is good, but complete cure is better. Studies to support generation of protocols are difficult to finance, and there are quite a few bureaucratic obstacles. Hard for all those who are not industry with their deep pockets.

Some modern treatments convert lethal diseases into chronic diseases. Quick and complete cures are less profitable for the industry and are not supported. The independent review boards might be sceptical too.

Hey, bacteria: Resistance is FUTILE – boffins grow new super-antibiotic


Binding to lipids

We have some other examples of anti-infectives binding to lipids - think colistin and amphotericin. None of those are highly selective towards the infective agents - they cause considerable injury to the host as well. Other peptide antibiotics exist, but their toxicity is problematic (e.g. bacitracin).

Searching for new natural anti-infectives has been a good idea for decades - but the greatest success story from the safety and efficacy side are the beta lactam antibiotics. The first representative of the group was penicillin. Numerous related substances have been developed and are extensively used. Resistance is rising because of drug-destroying enzymes produced by the bacteria (betalactamases). It is an arms race - and the complexities are increasing. But there is no reason to give up developing better inhibitors for betalactamases. Teixobactin is unlikely to be a replacement for betalactams such as penicillins, cephalosporins or carbapenems.

El Reg tests portable breathalyzers: Getting drunk so you don't have to


But what is "drinking"?

Non-alcoholic beers may contain up to 0.7 percent alcohol by volume. One unit will not tip you over the legal limit - even a zero litit - because there is a safety margin included in police procedures. But if I drink one such unit at lunch, it affects my alertness a lot more than it would have if I drank that or a larger amount in the evening.

Falling asleep at the wheel: Too risky compared to the pleasure of a (non-alcoholic) beer.


Re: So really

A reading of zero is likely to be reliable. Values around the legal limit are risky. You are then betting your driving license on full synchronisation of your instrument with those of the police.

The gadgets to avoid are the ones with falsely low readings and high variability. I suppose package inserts and CE labelling are more reliable than the most recent publication from Vulture Alcotesting Lab.

Beyond the genome: YOU'VE BEEN DECODED, again


Re: Most treatments have no need for either genomic or proteomic diagnostics

A large chunk of medical diagnostics are based on basic knowledge and simple clinical observations. A cancer needs to be surgically removed. A bacterial infection of lungs or kidneys or wounds or brain almost certainly will be best treated with one or more antibiotics. Survival may depend on startup of antibiotic treatment long before the detailed biochemical characterisation of the offending bacteria has been finished. A broken bone requires surgery or repositioning and a cast - osteoporosis may be a severe problem during surgery, but some sort of treatment is mandatory. Dementia means that the patient needs special care. Drug or alcohol abuse require detoxification and social rehabilitation.

Proteomics and genomics are mainly irrelevant to these conditions, except as research tools.


Re: Most treatments have no need for either genomic or proteomic diagnostics

Some diagnostics require special knowledge and special skills and are not for lay people. People with well-defined chronic conditions may run their own diagnostics to detect irregularities. Diabetes patients are self-monitoring their blood glucose and dosing insulin accordingly. A person using warfarin can monitor INR with a handheld instrument - with better anticuagulant control than possible if the doctor does it. A person with recurrent urinary infections may use strips specific for leukocytes in urine when symptoms arise and start treatment earlier. A person with ulcerous colitis may test for blood in the stools much more quickly than the GP and may modify the drug regimen accordingly. Women who believe they may be pregnant, can now buy their pregnancy test in the local supermarket and act accordingly - stop drinking and smoking and eating unpasteurised cheeses, or apply for abortion.


Re: Most treatments have no need for either genomic or proteomic diagnostics

Yes, the industries pushing instruments and reagents - and their shils - use to argue that way. There's no end to what can be cured some day in future when genomics and proteomics services are available everywhere.

There's a lot of money to be made by transforming simple procedures into hi-tech complexities. In the end the system will be unaffordable for the users.


Most treatments have no need for either genomic or proteomic diagnostics

Most ailments are easy to diagnose and simple to treat. No proteomics or genomics are required to diagnose a pneumonia or a broken leg. Or even alcoholism.

And there is a parallel development going on - enabling patients to do their own diagnostics and monitoring with small and cheap handheld instruments.

EU cyber-cop: Dark-net crooks think they're beyond reach (until now)


Re: This is someone

The problem is that there may be fuzzy borders between responsible and irresponsible use of substances. There can be no doubt that drug or alcohol addiction is a problem to the user, but much more to the surroundings. So there are arguments for restrictions on use and availability of recreational drugs in order to protect the innocent. Drug use is not a purely personal matter.


Re: This is someone

Opiates, whether morphine, codeine or heroin, are effective against pain and cough. The differences between them relate to the routes of intake and the number of milligrams needed for effect. But do you seriously think they are useful as recreational drugs?

Cannabis, the natural stuff, is a mixture of active substances. Some of them have rather long half-lives. It seems that they are not as innocuous as the old hippies tell us. Long-term effects seem to be real.


It seems that serious people have investigated the matter and come to a conclusion. So - who should have access to opiates and cannabis?

And how about amphetamines and cocaine?

FATTIES: Boffins say their miracle sunshine skin cream 'prevents obesity'


Bioavailability is defined


What is your point?



What you swallow is not what you absorb. Quite a few of the unhealthy foods have high bioavaliability while the healthy ones have lower bioavailability.

Peanuts are high-arginine foods. Eat them with the beers and stay slim.

STONER SHEEP get the MUNCHIES after feasting on £4k worth of cannabis plants


Fresh hemp is just another plant material

Most of the tetrahydrocannabinol in fresh cannabis is in the form of a precursor. Heat treatment, whether baking or smoking, is necessary for the release.


Google sticks its servers behind genomics alliance


Re: Hype

>Targeting screen testing could prove to be far more expensive through.

Really? A patient is going to have fluorouracil for a cancer. Targeted screening will be for defects in dihydropyridine dehydrogenase


Like full genome sequencing these tests are also becoming less expensive. In a nonprofit hospital it is cheap.

>Once you map a whole person genome and can understand all portions of that genome querying which drugs is more suitable to your condition is just as simple as entering a search query

You choose antibiotics or anti-HIV medications based on the patient's genome? Or analgesics? You don't.

>You could even do simulations on how that genome will react to environmental conditions

Yes, indeed. So Google will know the contents of all your foodstuffs and all the other environmenta factors that will influence your drug metabolism and drug response and will reliably predict the kinetics to an accuracy that will make actual clinical monitoring superfluous - based on the genotyping of your receptors and signal systems and enzymes and constitution. Genomic mapping cannot replace clinical follow-up. Can Google predict renal failure from dehydration or bleeding or infection based on genetics? Even Google cannot do that.

>project tango shows that Google is working on getting new sensor measuring technology out into the world

Yes, indeed.

"can actually build a visual map of rooms using 3D scanning. The company believes the combination of these sensors with advanced computer vision techniques will open up new avenues for indoor navigation and immersive gaming, among many other things."

Not relevant at all.

With Google's resources nothing is impossible. But amateurs very quickly lose their way - and those who listen to the full genome maping hype, have already lost it.

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For investigating a suspicion of an inheritable disease, genome mapping can be a suitable screening tool. But most bodily diseases are caused by environmental factors: infectious agents, unhealthy diets, smoking and alcohol, injuries. In these cases standard diagnostic tools are better suited. Simply ask questions and look at the patient - and ho! There is preciously little help in genome mapping for predicting drug idiosyncrasies. When necessary, simple targeted screening will do the job more quickly, and without the privacy concerns associated with big data. Measuring drug concentrations will take care of variations caused by day-to-day variations or drug interactions. For this, miniaturized point-of-care equipment seems much more attractive than the big data monstrosity. Lots have happened on miniaturized measuring equipment, and Google pretends that it did not happen.

The UNTOLD SUCCESS of Microsoft: Yes, it's Windows 7


Re: What the hell did they expect?

You might change your mind if you bought a netbook with touchscreen and Win8.1. I did (I needed a 32-bit system).

Throw out all the adware and plug in a mouse and it's Win7. The touchscreen is much nicer for scrolling and navigating.

W 8.1 gives me the best from the two worlds.

UK.gov: NO MORE tech deals bigger than £100m. Unless we feel like it


Administrative megalomania

These governmental database systems are administrative databases. The real content - whatever you say - must be rather simple, even though the entire structure is complex.

I've seen a number of IT disasters from below - and I've seen the providers conning the bosses into requiring huge and complex systems for quite simple tasks. The systems are written for the bosses, and the lay users are always forgotten. They are let down with substandard tools for doing their jobs.Ever after they have to follow rigid and non-intuitive routines to mellow the aggressiveness and unforgiving nature of the final solution which could have been made much simpler, cheaper and better.

Ten classic electronic calculators from the 1970s and 1980s


Re: TI-59 memories

Classical or classical. I had the SR-52, the precursor to Ti59 (http://en.cyclopaedia.net/wiki/TI-59).

Read errors on the magnetic cards were a nuisance, and battery life was so-so - but space permitted me to program anovas on it. Made me a local statistics expert in the late 1970s.

The printer was very helpful for documentation purposes. There were occasional contact problems, but wriggling usually solved it.

SAP boss cops jail time plea after Lego barcode bust


Re: Head Case?

He should have a full brain examination including scans. He might very well have a brain tumour to explain his bizarre behaviour.

Review: Intel Next Unit of Computing barebones desktop PC


Build your own

Buy yourself an ITX cabinet, slap in a E350N mainboard, a DVD burner, 8 GB RAM and a 3 TB HD and put Debian on it. I'm sure both price and performance will be competitive.

Samsung: We're doing smart watches too



Why would anyone want Apple or Samsung when there are Casio Pro-Trek watches to be had?

Six things a text editor must do - or it's a one-way trip to the trash


Re: There is only one thing a text editor needs

SEDT, wasn't it? Long gone, but fondly remembered.

Asteroid-mining 'FireFlys' will be ready for action by 2015, vows space firm


Re: First steps

Just a few trivial questions before I invest: Where does the energy for the smelting of ores come from? What is the plan for providing energy for feeding the 3D metalworks printer? What's the chemistry for extracting the oxidant for the fuels - and where does the energy come from? How about a pilot plant on Earth - just to demonstrate the technology?