Tuesday, 6 May 2014

08:58 – If someone had asked me to name biotechnology companies, Autodesk wouldn’t have been on my list. Thanks to Brian Bilbrey for this link. As it turns out, Autodesk should have been on my list. They just created a synthetic bacteriophage virus.

Although this is a very fast-changing field and the video linked to in the article is nearly three years old, it’s still worth watching.

37 thoughts on “Tuesday, 6 May 2014”

  1. Two words:

    Climate Disruption

    Google it bizatches. Our gummit at work. Sort of like bimbo eruptions. Mr. SteveF could you write a song for us.

  2. That’s right, keep changing the terminology here in the United States of Amnesia; from Global Warming, to Climate Change, to Climate Disruption. Maybe the rubes and bumpkins out in Flyover Country will buy it this time and start limiting their carbon or sumthin. While the big boyz and grrls keep swanning around the world in their LearJets and Air Force One and Two, between all their gigantic McMansions and ski resorts and yacht clubs.

    This phrase is right up there with “national intelligence,” “national security,” and “collateral damage.”


    Let’s have a song, indeed!

  3. They just created a synthetic bacteriophage virus.

    So, is this how the apocalypse is going to happen? Somebody will create a weird virus and we all die off, or cannot have kids, or we turn into zombies, or something along those lines?

  4. Could happen in any number of ways; some that come to mind are, of course, a worldwide virus outbreak or similar; asteroid smacking into us like a bullet hitting an apple; Climate Disruption, with sea levels wiping out all coastal populations and generating massive storm systems worldwide; volcanic eruptions at Yellowstone and elsewhere, combined with Richter Scale 8 and 9 earthquakes; a contagious outbreak/exchange of nuclear weapons, say, in Kashmir, or via rogue former Soviet elements, North Korea, or terrorists; collapse of the Grid worldwide for whatever reasons; or at Armageddon followed by Apocalypse and Judgement, etc., etc.

    Stand by a few more years and we may get to see one or more of these scenarios take place.

    Meanwhile, gorgeous sunny day with blue skies and puffy white clouds on the Bay; Mrs. OFD and MIL enroute to northern New Mexico and in the air right now somewhere between Denver and Houston.

    And all siblings have now entered their fifties; I’m the only one who’s gone beyond them so fah.

  5. Fears about garage bio are overblown. The chance that anyone could intentionally create a doomsday pathogen are pretty small, even with the resources of a nation behind them. The chance that anyone could unintentionally do so are even more remote. Current pathogens have evolved through billions of generations, with natural selection operating the whole time. A synthetic pathogen, if released in the wild, would be like a newborn kitten in a world full of kittenivorous predators. The chances of it even escaping the room before being killed and eaten are very small.

  6. Good to know.

    Now we just have to worry about the other dozen or so apocalyptic scenarios.

    What a load off my mind!

    You hearing this, Lynn, down there in Sugarland? No virus. And you already had kids. Zombies? They’ll be heading your way from the Dallas-Houston Nightmare.

    Ours have to negotiate a lot of territory to come up from Megalopolis or down from Montreal, and I don’t give them much in the way of chances in our typical winters.

  7. ^Sugarland^Sugar Land

    Fixed that for ya!

    Some sort of mutated virus is the premise behind “The Walking Dead”. So you are saying that has very little, little, little, little chance of happening. Good, I do not want to become a zombie nor live in a apocalyptic world of zombie hordes.

    If we do become “The Walking Dead” then I am running to the CIA weapons storage facility north of San Antonio for some belt fed weaponry:

  8. Hey, I linked to that TX story first!

    Slide on in there and grab us all some neat stuff!

    And I’m reading about the nifty underground bunkers the top dawgs have set up for themselves and their minions just outside Mordor-On-The-Potomac. These bastids will do their damndest to get us all killed in World War IV and then scurry off like rats to their bunkers and apparently don’t see the obvious parallels with Hitler. They’ll be in for a big surprise, though, when they eventually venture forth, back up into the real world….and end up turning on primitive homemade spits, made from truck axles and the like, in some slag heap urban wasteland, being basted with motor oil (Happy Motoring!) by surviving revenants, a high-protein delicacy, long pig….

  9. That’s not what I’m saying. I said that in reference to synthetic biology. Natural pathogens are a different story. See, for example, the 1918 flu epidemic, which killed more people in one year than the Black Death did in 100 years.

    We will have another killer plague, count on it. It may not come for a thousand years, or it may come tomorrow, but come it will.

  10. The article mentions AK-47s being sourced from there to various rebel groups. From what I have read on Strategy Page, the world black market price for an AK-47 is about $25, and an RPG is about $50. The collapse of the USSR put a lot of their kit on the black market.

    BTW, I’ve mentioned Strategy Page a number of times here. It’s a very good place to read about what’s going on in the world. Their podcast is also very good.

  11. We have a company here just down the road from us that makes AK’s (and other firearms) and has a new model out now that gets good reviews:


    They cost a little more than the going international black market price, though. Hmmm…an RPG or two or three at $50 a pop….hmmmm….

    Will check out Strategy Page; I’ve been getting that sorta news from the Stratfor organization for a while now and a couple of other places, including shortwave.

    Looks pretty good so fah; a point for them is today’s birthday for Virgil announcement, a boat-load of other interesting stories, and this item from their joke page:


  12. I’ve been getting that sorta news from the Stratfor organization for a while now

    Stratfor has had dubious info in the past that I’ve seen. I can’t recall all the details, but they had some reporting on Israel that was really over the top. And Strategy Page is free.

  13. Yes, I’ve noticed that, too; they also got hacked not so long ago. I’m letting the current sub lapse.

  14. Speaking of older biotech news


    This 15 year-old is going to change the way people are diagnosed for disease. Instead of waiting for symptoms of pancreatic cancer, he developed a single purpose test that costs about 3¢ and definitively tells you — yes or no — you have pancreatic cancer or not, and is effective before the symptoms appear. Current tests cost a couple hundred bucks, but include tests for a whole host of other things at the same time, and are prone to errors in reporting on pancreatic cancer. The teen’s solution is claimed to be foolproof. Instead of treating symptoms, single-purpose tests like his will allow much earlier detection at a tiny fraction of the current cost.

    And, it turns out it will not be gas prices that kills America’s love affair with the car; it is unaffordable road infrastructure costs.


    Federal gas tax needs to be doubled now, adding 12¢/gal to current prices, and then increased even further after that. In addition to increasing gas tax, Nobama wants a tax based on miles driven, and Interstates turned into toll roads.

    Too bad we let GM dismantle the nice transit system we had before WWII.

  15. test that costs about 3¢ and definitively tells you

    He has applied for a patent for his test

    Some drug company will buy the patent and that $0.03 will morph into about $300.00 per test, insurance discount to $299.57.

  16. Yeah, you can see how the system operates by the reception he got to develop the test. He applied to 200 separate individuals for a place to research his idea, and was turned down by 199.

    And one of the — by now — clear obstacles to improved health outcomes, is patents. If a treatment or drug cannot be patented, Big Pharma actually prevents its clinical testing.


  17. “Too bad we let GM dismantle the nice transit system we had before WWII.”

    Agreed. But it was mainly in the large towns and cities anyway. Plus Greyhound. And the passenger railroads. The latter and trolleys and the canals ought to come back ASAP.

  18. If a treatment or drug cannot be patented, Big Pharma actually prevents its clinical testing.

    They don’t prevent the testing, they just won’t spend hundreds of millions on a product that they won’t get paid for by having a patent. It wouldn’t be a prudential use of company funds. If you want to do proper clinical trials (double blind) with medical followup, it’s got to be paid for, and it isn’t cheap. This is a case of a “public good” that ought to be paid for by society as a whole, either through government funding or through charity. In the cases given here (low dose chemo and aspirin for breast cancer) while there are some scientific indications that they may work, there are lots of therapies that have initial promise that fizzle out in human trials.

  19. Big Pharma, so-called, is just like any other large business. They have to make a profit, or eventually they won’t be in business.

    I think the problem with drug discovery is two-fold: the first and biggest problem is liability. Drug companies should be able to release drugs on a “take-at-your-own-risk” basis. It should become impossible to sue the drug companies and the rest of the chain without proving gross negligence. If someone chooses to take an experimental drug, well that’s his decision and he accepts the risks. Second, the whole idea of clinical trials needs to be overhauled and streamlined. If a potentially life-saving drug appears promising and meets some minimum safety standards in the lab, it should be rolled out on an experimental basis for use by people who desperately need something to address their problems. If, say, a thousand people use that drug for a few months without increased mortality, it should be freely available to others who want to give it a try. With computerized medical records what they are, the necessary data with regard to safety and efficacy could be collected relatively quickly and inexpensively.

    And the balance needs to shift away from safety. Imagine, for example, an antibiotic that cured 99.9% of the people it was administered to, but caused the other 0.1% to drop dead. That drug would never be approved today, and even if it were drug companies probably wouldn’t bring it to market for fear of liability lawsuits. Actually, you don’t have to imagine such a drug. Chloramphenicol did pretty much exactly that, curing nearly all and killing a small percentage by damaging their blood marrow and causing irreversible aplastic anemia. It’s still available as a niche antibiotic, but if it were new it would never become generally available.

  20. And I’m reading about the nifty underground bunkers the top dawgs have set up for themselves and their minions just outside Mordor-On-The-Potomac

    Yeah, those bunkers are real cool until they get a zombie wave passing through them from an infected individual. Nothing like being in a hole with 100 zombies on the other side of the door.

  21. No sound at that link, and I have all systems go on my pretty good sound system here.

    The top dawgs will be in for many nasty surprises when they pop up and out into the world again. I’d love to be a fly on whatever remaining wall.

  22. Nothing like being in a hole with 100 zombies on the other side of the door.

    Sounds like my office environment.

  23. Went to court this morning as the SOB that caused my accident was appearing. A three circle jerk is an apt description for DUI court. He was told he needed to get a lawyer and a new court date would be set. Talked with the assistant DA and I will be informed of the new court date.

    Any out of pocket expenses that are not covered by insurance, his or mine, he will be required to pay. He will be ordered to pay the court the amount plus court costs after which the court will send me a check. If he does not pay the amount specified by the judge there will be a warrant issued for his arrest.

    His insurance is really, and I mean really, crappy. State minimum which is only $15K for liability. My damages are more than that so my insurance will cover under uninsured motorist. However, they will not cover my iPad damage. Apple does not repair but replaces such devices. The cost will be a shade over $400 so I am submitting that to the DA’s office.

    I hope I get to speak at his next court date. Don’t know how that will work. I hope I get to make some comments to the judge and ask that he be put in jail before he kills someone. In TN that may just fall on deaf ears.

  24. Y’all see the problem? Be it courts, drugs or government, the problem is the lawyers.

  25. the problem is the lawyers

    And lawyers grow up (if you can call it that) to be judges.

  26. No sound at that link, and I have all systems go on my pretty good sound system here.

    It’s a Youtube video. Works fine for me on my Windows box and my Android phone. I do have to skip an annoying ad.

  27. No clue. Volume all the way up on the YouTube site and Windows box here and zero sound. Other clips are OK. Weird.

  28. [snip] His insurance is really, and I mean really, crappy. State minimum which is only $15K for liability. [snip]

    More or less the same thing happened to a close friend’s mother more than 10 years ago. A legally adult male blew through a red light an T-boned her, right into the passenger compartment. Cops, EMTs, & ER surgeon all said that the injuries should have killed her, but didn’t. Six weeks in ICU, six weeks in a rehab hospital, and the kid had the Florida minimum $10,000 coverage, and no other assets to go after. Thankfully my friend’s mom was well covered, so they weren’t out of pocket. And the kid wound up pleading guilty to reckless driving, getting three points on his license and a nominal fine.

  29. $10k insurance? $15k insurance? How can that be the legal minimum, I mean, just about any serious crash will have damages multiple times that amount? The whole point of minimum insurance is to ensure that the victims are covered, even if the person chooses not to cover his/her own self.

    Just for comparison, in EU countries the minimum is EUR 1 million property damage and EUR 5 million bodily injury.

  30. @Ray: I have wondered, and you are now unfortunately in a position to say… Can you claim compensation for lost working-time? Being in an accident, going to the doctor (or hospital, as the case may be), doing paperwork, talking to the police, going to court – all of this takes up time that you would rather have used elsewhere. Is that compensated at all?

  31. How can that be the legal minimum, I mean, just about any serious crash will have damages multiple times that amount?

    I also have the same question. Absurd limits. I carry one million liability. Because of the low limits I have to pay my insurance company several dollars each month for uninsured/under insured motorist. My insurance company makes up the difference between the low limits from the other driver and the actual damages. Unfortunately this coverage does not include damage to items in the vehicle such as my iPad and camera.

    I will instead petition the courts to assess the other driver the charges for those damages. The court will force him to pay or he will have a warrant issued for his arrest. I think the same logic should be applied for my insurance company, seek restitution from the other driver even if it takes 20 years. Apparently my ability to use the courts to get restitution is only applicable for DUI drivers, not other drivers. So if someone that is not impaired causes an accident the other driver has to use their insurance and any items that are not covered must be through a civil suit and such action will cost more than the items are generally worth.

    I would advocate that the minimum liability coverage be $50K. However that will cause the rates to increase and people that have minimum insurance will now have no insurance. There is very little penalty for not having insurance, a fine, maybe parole. Nothing that is really inconvenient. I would advocate that if you have no insurance the vehicle is seized. If there is a lien holder the vehicle is returned to the lien holder with no compensation to the driver. If there is no lien the vehicle is sold with no proceeds to the owner. Regardless of whether the driver is the owner of the vehicle, such as borrowed from a family member or friend, the vehicle now becomes 100% the property of the courts.

    Can you claim compensation for lost working-time?

    In a word, no. As such amounts are subject to the liability limits of the insured. My 2.5 days off of work were covered by sick time, not really fair to my organization as my organization should be reimbursed for that time. If you are out for a long time workmen’s comp somehow comes into play although I am not exactly sure how.

    My organization has thus far been fairly lenient about my time off, giving me time to go to court, time for phone calls to the insurance companies, etc. Not all people would have that ability so I don’t know how that would be handled.

  32. And lawyers grow up (if you can call it that) to be judges.

    I believe they metastasise.

  33. I believe they metastasise.

    Is the same as regressive evolution?

  34. I would advocate that the minimum liability coverage be $50K.

    Concur. I had a loss due to an underinsured driver, mainly due to delays by their adjusters causing auto rental to eclipse the repair bill.

    Back in the 90s, a financial columnist and software flack, Andrew Tobias, started an initiative campaign in California that would have provided no-fault basic liability for every driver in California via a gas tax. That way there would have been no uninsured drivers. Companies would bid on contracts to service blocks of policies. If you wanted additional insurance, you would add it on in the traditional way.

    The campaign was making headway when opponents outed him and smeared him.

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