Sunday, December 16, 2007

Adding another billion to the web

Michael Geist wrote an excellent piece about the consequences of adding an extra billion of users to the net, doubling its current size.

Some quotes:

With more than a billion internet users worldwide doubling that number, which should happen within the next decade, will obviously have a profound effect on the network, technology, the computer software industry, access to knowledge, and our environment.

Understanding the effect of another billion internet users starts with considering the origin of those users. Although some will reside in North America, Europe, and other developed countries that close their domestic digital divides, the majority of the growth will undoubtedly come from the developing world.

Countries such as India and Brazil should add another 200 million internet users, while the fastest rate of growth is likely to come from Africa, which is starting from a much smaller base.

The next billion will differ in more ways than just geography. Most new internet users will not speak English as their first language, which should lead to increased pressure to accommodate different languages within the domain name system.

Moreover, many new internet users will have different cultural and societal views on hot-button issues such as online free speech, privacy, and copyright. As they demand a voice in global policy making, those users will help shift the policy debate.

The message of the Internet Governance Forum was that the next billion is an enormously positive story. A tale of improving economic condition that will allow for much broader participation in the communication, culture, and commercial opportunities most Canadians now take for granted.

As we welcome the next billion, we must recognise that they will do more than just use the internet. They will help reshape it in their own image and with their own values, languages, and cultures.

I agree 100% with Geist in this piece. He seems to have expressed, exactly in writing, my thoughts on the subject. I think that a lot of the people to come online are not going to just sit and read. As I have said before, we are tired of other people speaking on our behalf (And quite probably I am committing the same mistake right now, as there's no 'we'), with misconceptions and prejudice of how what it is like living in a developing country. We are tired of the homogenizing trends that impose certain ways of life or the fake diversity endorsed by others. One that refuses us the right to mutate, blend and change our culture, as we are supposed to keep our native cultures alive and in good health.

Geist is right. This additional billion will bring a lot of needed variety of viewpoints to the web. That will shut some mouths of people babbling nonsense from their cozy homes. People that say that we must get food and then get education. People who ignore the fact that you can improve yourself even while you are half-starved. (As did Marie Curie) and that improving can lead to not been hungry anymore, even if your education stops. In ten years the Internet is going to be much more rich, diverse and interesting, and that change is not going to be only due to further developments in web apps and mash-ups. In fact, I foresee that some of the most interesting technological changes in the Internet in the decade to come are going to be actually driven by this cultural diversification and that this is going to be a huge market opportunity.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Nature releases genome papers under CC license

Papers about genome sequencing of several organisms, published in Nature, are now under a CC license instead of being accessible only to subscribers. According to Nature:

Although Nature and the Nature journals are built on a business model funded by subscribers and other sources of revenue, various initiatives have been implemented to enhance the accessibility of the research papers published in these journals.

They have long been freely available to researchers in the 100 or so poorest countries through the World Health Organization's Hinari initiative and others like it. Machine access is being enhanced by the open text-mining initiative of the Nature Publishing Group (NPG) ( Preprints of original versions of papers can be deposited in arXiv ( and Nature Precedings ( without compromising their acceptability for publication. And final authors' versions of papers can be deposited in PubMed Central and other public servers from six months after publication. Authors retain copyright of their work, whereas NPG retains the licence to publish it.

Once more Nature shows its commitment to Open Access when it does not hurt its business model and its progressive attitude towards copyright. Publishers like Elsevier could learn a lot about Nature.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nature editorial about Venezuela: Critical optimism

This week's Nature issue features an editorial piece about the situation of Science and Democracy in Venezuela. The editorial is balanced and hopeful, an accurate analysis of the strengths and flaws of Venezuelan science, not all of them fault of the government, sadly.

Nature 450, 922 (13 December 2007) | doi:10.1038/450922a; Published online 12 December 2007

Venezuela's way ahead

The opportunities currently opening up for Venezuelan science should not be squandered.

The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, suffered his first electoral defeat for a decade on 2 December, when he unexpectedly lost a referendum on constitutional change that was supposed to cement his powers and accelerate socialist reform. The opposition was spearheaded by protest marches of hundreds of thousands of students, along with their professors. But the left-populist president, for all his flaws, has broadly supported universities and scientific research in Venezuela.

Chávez sees himself as the leader of a socialist revolution, modelled on the egalitarian ideals of Simón Bolívar, the Caracas-born general who led the liberation of much of South America from Spanish rule in the early nineteenth century. Chávez has nationalized major industries, including the oil companies, and has increasingly distanced Venezuela politically from the United States, its largest trading partner. Rapid economic growth has been sustained by the rising price of Venezuela's oil exports.

The Venezuelan president, while openly confronting the oil companies and other national élites, has taken steps to keep academics on his side. Like army officers, Venezuelan professors can retire at the age of 47 and receive generous pensions for the rest of their lives. Not everyone takes this up — but a sizeable fraction of the 33,000-strong academic workforce do just that. Professors also have the right to choose their own students. Their tendency to choose from the upper middle class may explain some of the student protests against Chávez's socialist government.

On the other hand, measures have been taken to strengthen the universities. In 2001, the government created a Ministry of Science and Technology, which distributes grant money on a competitive basis. And in January 2007 the Organic Law of Science, Technology and Innovation (LOCTI) came into effect, requiring Venezuela's 7,000 largest companies and commercial enterprises to pay a fraction of their annual taxes directly to universities and public research institutes. Overall public and private spending on science has quadrupled, to US$2.5 billion per year, the government says, reaching a very respectable 2.1% of gross domestic product in 2007.

As a result of these measures, some academics say, the Venezuelan science system is suddenly receiving more support than it can sensibly manage. Companies are investing in research projects as they see fit, without a proper system for evaluation of the proposed work. The government is now evaluating the first year of the work supported by LOCTI and must then find ways to channel more of the money into the most promising projects.

Obvious national research priorities range from infectious-disease research and rainforest ecology, to engineering and environmental problems related to oil retrieval. One problem is that few departments at Venezuela's 50 or so universities have sufficient staff and equipment to perform internationally competitive research. Another issue is that many professors are not especially interested in doing original research, as regular publication is not necessarily rewarded with promotion. Making research a prerequisite of a successful academic career — which should not end at the age of 47 — is the key to making Venezuelan science more productive.

Plans also exist to turn the country's premier research institute, the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research in Caracas, into a full-blown research university. This will help to produce qualified and motivated graduate students who can take Venezuelan science forward. The institute should have enough income from public and private sources to set up new centres in the Andes, the Amazon region and in the oil-rich state of Zulia in northwestern Venezuela — all of which need to raise their research profiles.

The referendum result has raised hopes that Venezuela's democracy will outlive Chávez, and build on some of his genuine achievements. The advent of stronger science at Venezuela's peripheries, as well as in its capital, is one legacy that could prove invaluable.

A mostly accurate summary of what's going on here. But some statements are ambiguous or inexact, as this claim: "Professors also have the right to choose their own students. Their tendency to choose from the upper middle class may explain some of the student protests against Chávez's socialist government.". This can mean several things, as the automatic admission into university that the children of professors enjoy (but also the children of administrative and maintenance staff), and also the right of professors to select the people that is going to research at their labs, but , isn't it like this everywhere? As far as I know, head researchers of labs are entitled to be quite selective about hiring new staff and admitting students (grads and undergrads, as here in Venezuela also undergraduate students need to do a thesis) all around the world, not only in Venezuela. And of course, this might explain some but by no means all of the opposition to Chávez among the students.

Despite coming from the working class and having strong liberal convictions (I call myself an Anarchist), I cannot stand this government, even if I am able to recognize its achievements. I hate its contempt and hate breeding, I despise its incompetent ministers on their posts by their loyalty to Chávez rather than by their skills, I am outraged by its rampant corruption and lack of attention to real problems, I am amused by its babbling in international politics and its messy diplomacy. And many of us, no matter from which social class, are also against much of this government. In fact, most of the students at my lab come from working or middle-low classes.

Now there are scholarships for grads and undergrads, enough money to live a decent life and now many of us are not emigrating now, despite the awful political situation, where you are a traitor or a puppet of the US if you disagree with the government and despite the insecurity, that can kill you or your loved ones. I had at least two offers to go abroad and several potential labs where I could apply also, in good universities, but I am also staying too. I am not a patriot, but I want to make things different, and it is easier to change something here than in a foreign country. Here in the developing world many things are yet to be done and there is a huge market of unmet needs, we must develop cheaper and faster ways of doing things, of delivering health care, diagnostic systems, informatic solutions, drugs for our particular diseases, obtaining varieties adapted for our soil and weather conditions. There is plenty to be done, there is money to do it (as long there is market for oil, so we must hurry up), even if for the long term things do not look so bright, as there are no permanent posts for young researchers and getting into the university is very tough. In my particular case there is also a key element: Creative freedom. Being able to put some ideas in practice and try to make them bloom is worth staying here, and when those projects involve also Open Sourcing physical technology, all becomes more exciting and worth the risk and annoyance of many factors we have to deal with daily. However, not all are motives for joy as political opinions are sometimes checked in order to get access to grants and sometimes the design of science policy is made by people who lack even the most basic scientific education. Many of the holy cows, who get funds and produce nothing, are still getting money, unexplainably and many of this money is being invested in juicy salaries rather than in research, as no single paper or patent has come from certain labs whose heads ear 15 times more than the scholarship of a grad student.

Here (In all Latin America, not only in Venezuela), in a not so competitive and developed environment as the US or Europe, a cooperative approach for building technical infrastructure makes sense, and bound to entrepreneurship could make a difference and allow that finally scientists are able to create their own start-ups and live from what they do, without having to enter into the university or getting hired by a company.

We the young scientists must try to overcome the flaws of our predecessors, which sometimes include intellectual dishonesty as I have seen in person in conferences for lay people, where data is obviously flawed , by supposedly top scientists from my university. We must work harder, we must not only publish but also build actual solutions for our many problems. The stakes are high, the work is hard, the task is huge, but I think that modern world gives the tools we need to fix things, to finally develop our societies and economies, to become more and achieve what previously was beyond our dreams. Open Source and networking are powerful forces and can be used in collaboration with new technologies to create collaborative environments where creativity, cleverness and joy will arise, where people are free to invent and explore, making profit, solving unmet needs at affordable prices and doing what they like. Is possible a better life than this?

Yes, that sounds too good to be true and does not account for the effects of the political situation, but if our technology is good and useful, then no matter what the policy is, it will be used, spread and will be adopted. Gene splicing itself does not depend of politics, and now with the possibility of outer funding, less than ever, even if a proper science policy is very important.

Ladies and gentlemen, stay tuned. Interesting times are coming, and not only in Venezuela.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Children accused of witchcraft are killed by American style Christian fundamentalists in Nigeria

This totally revolting and shows why we must stand up and fight religion. Fight every superstition, spread skeptic ideas. Not all religious people are like this, fortunately, but the fact of believing that blind faith is good and that inquiry is bad, can easily lead to this monstrosity.

These children are victims of "pastors" who abuse them and live from the naivety and cruelty of their fathers. Worse is that these pastors are not that different from a lot of local (and American) pastors, with their insistence in the reality of demons.

Things like this make me sick, but also painfully aware of the necessity of helping to the coming of a better society, of the utility of educating people and trying to get the youngsters into critical thinking. The West was no better 1000 years ago, but now we know how to change things, we know how education can improve things, we know how technology can help people. Hopefully this won't last much time, if public outrage spreads and Nigeria is pressed into doing something (But they also have oil, so they might be not pressed at all). Please, reader, share this video and make that happen. Let's try to help these poor children, one of them could be a developer of key solutions to some of our current problems in the future. We are at risk now, we cannot allow to waste any more ingenuity, our survival as species is at risk.

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Saturday, December 8, 2007

Panama: Mandarin part of school curriculum

Whether we like it or not, China is rising, and some countries are beginning to acknowledge it. Now Panama, whose Canal China is the biggest user, will make Chinese mandatory on its schools. I have ambivalent feeling, as I like the more diverse world that we are heading to, but I am very concerned about China's lack of respect for human rights, its ruthlessness and authoritarianism.

However, this is a sure sign that the Empire of the West is weaning. I am not fond of the US, certainly, it has behaved on a way that has caused too much grief around the world and it still does. But no one can assure that China will do better. And no one who had ever had the power has abstained from using it, so maybe for now the cycle won't be broken, but certainly the future is holding a lot of uncertainty and new political actors might arise. Maybe it won't be so gloomy for HR.

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Friday, November 30, 2007

More on the XO laptop field trial

I really have no words for this. Knowing myself from first hand what is to grow without a key tool, knowing the enormous joy of sheer creativity and horizons open due to computation, I cannot do anything but wonder and cheer for these children and many others who will have their chance to lear, create and express themselves.

Software design is going to be different in ten years, since a lot of minds are going to be on it, more perspectives, more experiences, more diversity. A bigger bazaar, hopefully, one that we need right now. Minds are the most precious resource of the human species, yet they are let to rot and decay by millions.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

XO Laptop: Field test

An analysis from the BBC shows the experience of a Nigerian school who have had the XO laptop since March.

This test shows both the problems and promises of widespread use of computers for education in developing countries.
Yes, the kids get distracted, yes some laptops get "lost", but, in the other hand, some of the kids have learned to fix broken laptops, everybody seems to learn faster and now they feel proud and empowered. Soon they will begin to code and solve some of their problems using computers, probably they will begin to make money of it in a constructive way (unlike Nigerian scammers).

I hope that this test is only a small sample of the things to come. Hopefully the world will change beyond recognition, as our world has already done.

This is certainly exciting and an example of what makes me feel happy these days, despite everything, of what makes me think I am really lucky to be living in this global era.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Indonesia leads the way

Indonesia says that its sharing of the Avian Flu virus samples is conditioned to developing nations being guaranteed access to affordable vaccines.

I think that this is an excellent attitude and a sign of what others should do, stand in front of the developed countries and ask what is fair. It is not being selfish, as its Health Minister asks clearly for vaccines not only for Indonesia but for developing countries. It is time to stop exploitation and and let the developed countries know that the times have changed. This is a delicate matter of global surviving, if there is no way that we can all benefit from it, but only the rich people, Why should we be expected to collaborate for our own doom?

And, by the way, Reuters' choice for the heading really annoys me: "Indonesia says no to bird flu virus sharing". That is simply not true, Indonesia is willing to share if its terms are met. Why don't they say "Developed countries refuse to share vaccines"?

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

After all, Judge Dredd is English

Judge, jury, and executioner, all in one. That was Judge Dredd. Despite living in what is left of America, Dredd was created in England. And it seems that again the life is imiting fiction, with the reaction of the Police to the death of Jean Charles Menezes, a Brazilian immigrant who was mistaken for a terrorist and shot seven times despite the fact he had been followed since he left his flat.

The reaction of the police? Dismiss the issue, he was a cocaine addict and was behaving like a terrorist. Actually, no matter all the mistakes they made, all the ways they screwed it up, police chief, Ian Blair, said

And as if it was not enough, politicians jump to defend him claiming ""Al-Qaeda must be laughing at us while we busy ourselves pillorying the police who keep us safe.", as London's mayor did. No, Ken, Al Qaeda is damn happy that you are turning into paranoid people and destroying a part of what makes worthy living in a secular democracy: Make the government accountable for its acts.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

XO Laptops for Uruguay: The wheels are spinning!

Finally the OLPC foundation makes a solid deal with a country. Uruguay just bought 100,000 machines and is expected to buy 300,000 more in the next two year. Eventually every kid from Uruguay will have his or her laptop. I hope this is only the first purchase of XO laptops, since it was taking too long for the orders to begin. I hope that also the price keeps falling and eventually will be affordable for poorer countries. However, what I am expecting eagerly is to see the effect exerted on the children and teenagers who have massive access to XO laptops and can get connected and network between themselves and with the world. In my education video games played a very important role, even the silly video games we had in my days, I learned English because I wanted to solve puzzles and play RPGs, these games made me think hard and be the builder and main character in a story rather than looking passively at it.
Computers came much later and gave me tools that have been invaluable later, even if I cannot code in the way I wish, and now with e-books, if a child likes to read he won't have to re read several times the same books, as I had to, since there will be a huge variety of books, much more that s/he could ever read.

I am so damn happy today for the clusters of new possibilities open now for these children, and I think that thanks to effort like this one the Internet will be a much more fascinating and complex place in ten years.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Arthur Kornberg, RIP

A great loss for Biology:

It would be a great time to re read his wonderful book. For the love of enzymes.

May his legacy be honored by us.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Grow muscles as a Marvel character or The Real Mighty Mouse

MIT Technology review has a very interesting piece about a new kind of drugs that could help with muscle degenerating conditions and also could trigger the growth of additional muscle mass in normal individuals. The drugs act upon certain proteins that regulate the growth of muscle mass, concretely myostatin that blocks such growth and follistatin, which enhances it, both of them belong to the Transforming Growth Factor beta superfamily of proteins.

Knocking out myostatin and overexpressing follistatin causes mice to grow muscles four times bigger than wild type mice. It was known that myostatin played a significant role in the growth of muscular tissue, and that mutations of it have arisen naturally in several breeds of animals such as cows, sheep and dogs. Mimicking the myostatin receptor and thus preventing the binding of myostatin to its real target in mice causes an increase of 60% in muscle mas in a month. Trials are expected to begin in early 2008.

Here is a picture that compares a wild type mice and a myostatin lacking, follistatin overexpressing mouse:

The possibilities open by this are incredible, not only for the sick people, but also for the astronauts, in order to avoid loss of muscle due to microgravity and for people who just want to increase their muscles without years of effort. Since it seems that the muscular increase due to this drugs is likely to have much less secondary effects than steroids, I do not see any reason to not to allow these drugs in athletic competitions, given the fact that these competitions are separated from traditional ones, where non-enhanced athletes must remain and where all enhancing shall be severely punished, but, for the Enhanced Leagues, everything that is not health threatening must be allowed. It is time for those who are not blessed for the genetic lottery to use the technology to become competition athletes if they wish so. I do not know why somebody who achieves a record thanks to a striking mutation that his/her opponents lack, and lots of effort is morally superior to somebody who "cheats" and use pharmacological help and lots of effort to to achieve exactly the same effect in performance given by this hypothetical mutation.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lava lamps and DNA or Thermal Cyclers for everybody

A new breakthrough in technology will allow cheap and ubiquitous PCR diagnosis:

A pocket-sized device that runs on two AA batteries and copies DNA as accurately as expensive lab equipment has been developed by researchers in the US.

The device has no moving parts and costs just $10 to make. It runs polymerase chain reactions (PCRs), to generate billions of identical copies of a DNA strand, in as little as 20 minutes. This is much faster than the machines currently in use, which take several hours.

To cycle through these temperatures, a conventional PCR machine heats and cools a large metal block holding multiple tubes containing samples of DNA and the material needed to make copies.

In the new device, created by graduate student Nitin Agrawal, a centimetre-wide loop of tubing wraps in a vertical ring around a set of three metal rods. The rods, together the size of an AA battery, are kept at three different temperatures. With this set-up, the parts of the tube closest to each block are heated differently.

This keeps the liquid flowing through the millimetre-wide tube, and so the DNA and building blocks cycle automatically through the three temperatures needed for PCR. "It's similar to how a lava lamp works," says Ugaz.

As the fluid is heated, it becomes less dense and more buoyant, so it flows upward. When the fluid cools in another part of the loop, it becomes denser and moves down. And because the device only heats the three small blocks of metal, it also runs off just two AA batteries.

This brings new and incredible perspectives, from setting finally a Global Epidemiology Network, scanning in real time samples from thousands of places in situ and at a much lower cost to the creation of new markets for DNA testing for inherited conditions and infectious diseases in poor countries. Low profit, billions of potential clients. I am sure that it is bound to happen in a short period of time. And a lot of collateral business opportunities will bloom, once the devices are working.

A picture of this gadget:

I feel very optimistic about this, this is only one of the many "leapfrogging" devices that will make the development of willing poor countries easier and swifter. India sure will take advantage of this. Venezuela, in the other hand, isn't, we are too busy buying AK 47s.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Vatican: Keep the good work, guys!

It is a fact that the catholic hierarchy is rotten almost completely, from head to toe. So, it is not surprising to see while the Archbishop of Mozambique, Francisco Chimoio is still on his post, despite his filthy lies about AIDS tainted condom and retroviral drugs, an unnamed high rank priest has been suspended after the Vatican found he was gay. Yet a lot of priests were simply moved after they found they were raping young boys and girls.

This might not be surprising, but it is shocking, nauseating and disgusting. To see that the ones who claim to have the moral authority of the world, the ones who claim to be the voice of the creator of the Universe in Earth, are far more concerned for consensual sex between two adult males than for vile slander aimed at killing as many people as possible, because what Chimoio said wasn't only about condoms, but also about retroviral drugs. It is very difficult for me to imagine what kind of thoughts are in Chimoio's mined, but maybe Roderigo Borgia would be able to understand the sickness, perversion and deceit inside this poisoner's mind.

But for those of us who think that the Vatican is a negative force in society this is great. There is no better way of exposing them than letting them be themselves, showing their true disregard for human life, their false piety and their hypocrisy. Catholic believers are mostly sincere, but their leaders are not, as this sad case shows us. They are more interested in condemning those who deviate from the official doctrine than in punishing those who do harm to spread that doctrine. Nothing has changed since the last 1000 years, it seems.

But, fortunately, despite Chimoio and his followers and predecessors (Once I read a letter of a priest to a newspaper claiming similar things about the condoms), medicine and technology are creating new opportunities for people who would otherwise have a death sentence. And activism is making these marvels available to more and more people each year. Here is the endearing and brave story of a man who is healthy, happy and well thanks to this combination of ingenuity and altruism. Charles story brings tears to my eyes, both of cheer because of him, and of sorrow by all those millions who are not as lucky as him, but in any case, this is an ode to life and happiness, the complete negation of the love of this Archbishop for death and misery that keeps people in the necessary fear for not questioning their beliefs. Some day we will have a cure and a vaccine and that day despite you, Archbishop, and despite all the fear mongers, life will prevail.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Transhumanism 101

From my friend George Dvorky's blog, Sentient Developments:

Some basic info about H+ delivered by some of the most known faces in H+: Nick Bostrom, Anders Sandberg and Aubrey de Grey.

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Monday, October 8, 2007

I'd kill for initial conditions

Long frustrating weekend, trying to run the model of Guerra. I did exactly what the thesis said, the kinetic equations are right, the differential equations are right too, the names of each constant and variable are right, hell, I even corrected mistakes in nomenclature. And still the model does not run according to his results. I guess the initial conditions are not the correct ones, since I find singularities or imaginary solutions when I run the model (after hours of running the NDSolve command, btw). The initial conditions are not explicitly stated on the thesis, neither there is an appendix with the code of the model. Neither I can find an online model (As I can find Bakker's model of Trypanosoma brucei glycolysis) in Mathematica. I guess I'll have to learn XML and Cellml. JITT for me, it seems, although I am getting tired of not making any process despite all I am learning.

I will try more things before giving up, besides I still have to run the model in Fortran.

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Ten Commandments of Systems Biology

From Computational Biology news, a superb blog by Animesh Sharma:

Commandments in Systems Biology:

Joseph X. Zhou notes Prof. Denis Nobel's on systems-biology in the blog.
Commandment 1 (C1): Gene itself has no functions.
C2: Transmission of information is NOT one-way
C3: DNA is not sole transmitter of inheritance
C4: Theory of biology Relativity
C5: Gen ontology will fail without high-level insight
C6: There is not “genetic program”
C7: There is no program at any other level
C8: No program from any level, including brain
C9: Life is the self integrated process, not an object or substance.
C10: There are many more to be discovered, the theories of biology do NOT yet exist. Seeking theory/ies is real challenge in system biology.
I do not like C10. What about evolution? If we are talking only about Systems Biology it might be true, but if we are talking of all Biology, then C10 is plainly wrong. And C1, well, what is any
part of a biological system without the other parts, C9 states it clearly?
It could be rewritten to be more accurate, I think.

Despite my objections these seem to be some interesting principles worthy of more discussion.

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Help Interpol to trap this bastard

This _____ depicted here (Sorry, my English is not good enough to express with words what I think about crap like this) thought that cheap photoshopping was going to save him from being recognized. He abused 12 young boys in Asian countries in front of a camera.

If you have seen him report to the police and help to save children from this monster.

I am happy that the Internet is also helping to get pedophiles instead of just getting them in touch and helping them to lure children:

LONDON (Reuters) - Interpol said on Monday it was hopeful of identifying a serial pedophile after posting his picture on the Internet in an unprecedented public appeal that drew hundreds of responses from around the world.

"We have already ... hundreds of responses from the public globally as to who this person could be," Kristin Kvigne, assistant director of Interpol's Trafficking in Human Beings Unit, told BBC World television.

We can change things if we help. We just must not be indifferent.

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Friday, October 5, 2007

Why Chagas' Disease matters

Chagas’ Disease, or American Trypanosomiasis, is one of the world’s most extended lethal parasitic infections. It is also the main cause of heart failure in Latin America. Around twenty million people are already infected, and each year this figure increases by fifty thousand. The population living in areas of infectious risk is around one hundred and twenty million people, roughly a quarter of Latin America’s population.

Despite all these facts this disease remains unattended because its insidious nature, although its mortality rate is high, it kills years, and even decades after the infection, frequently from heart failure, which figures in registrations as the official cause of death, eclipsing the role of the disease and diminishing its importance in the official registers. Often the person remains impaired during the last years of his life, unable to do any physical labour. In an urban environment this would not be a problem, but most of the affected live in rural areas, dependant of farming, inflicted with poverty, far away from the managers, a calamity that goes unnoticed by city-dwellers. All these facts combine to make Chagas’ Disease a silent tragedy that not only sever lives but distort them, making them unproductive and vulnerable long time before the death occurs.

Currently there are no effective treatments against Chagas’ Disease. The compounds already used, Nifurtimox and Benznidazole have plenty of side effects, besides they are only effective at the early stages of the infection, which are often unnoticed, in later stages, they are totally ineffective. Hopefully, new therapeutic alternatives are being designed, tailor made to attack the parasite without interfering with the host metabolism. Among the new approaches to deal with Trypanosoma cruzi are targeting the systems that allow the parasite’s consumption of glucose, its sole source of energy in the bloodstream and its systems for sterol synthesis, both necessary for the survival of the parasite. Several compounds that target the enzymes responsible for these systems have been successfully assayed, showing in vitro and in vivo activity against the parasite, besides having low or no detectable toxicity in cultured macaque cells and mice.

However, drug development is still a expensive endeavor and we might have to wait for long time before a cure is achieved.

More info about Chagas' Disease:

Doctors without borders

And a rough translation of a fragment of "Chagas, a silent tragedy", by Eduardo Galeano:

It doesn't explode like bombs, it doesn't sound like shots. Like hunger, kills silencing. Like hunger, kills the silent ones: to the ones who live condemned to the silence and die condemned to oblivion. Tragedy that doesn't sound, sick people that do not pay, a disease that doesn't make any sell. Chagas' disease is no business that attracts pharmaceutic industry nor subject interesting to politicians or journalists.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Top Ten most interesting extra solar planets

Great list of extrasolar planets. The youngest, the oldest, the smallest, the biggest, the closest, the farthest. All of them are there. If you are an astronomy geek, you should not miss it. If you aren't you neither should miss it.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

About my thesis. Soon, first results

I have decided to make public the preliminary models and kinetic results from my thesis. I will post some code here, but most likely I will upload the files (Fortran files and Mathematica notebooks, unfortunately I am not going to be able to do it 100% on FLOSS) somewhere. The title of the thesis is: "Control y regulación de la Glicólisis en Trypanosoma cruzi: Un enfoque teórico-práctico", which translated would be something like "Control and regulation of Trypanosoma cruzi's Glycolysis: A theoretical-practical approach". I will make a model of T. cruzi's Glycolisis based on Ordinary Differential Equations and an Metabolic Control Analysis of the model, trying to find which enzymes and/or transporters comprise the majority of the control of the glycolytic flux of the pathway. According to Solomon Nwaka and Alan Hudson, in their paper Innovative lead discovery strategies for tropical diseases, published in Nature RFeviews, Drug Discovery, November 2006 finding proper targets is important because:

Many compounds active in protein-based assays are inactive in whole cells.
This can be due to failure to enter intact cells but can
also occur because the chosen molecular targets are not
in fact essential to the microbes. The latter issue sug-
gests that more work on target validation is needed to
increase confidence levels in the selection of protein
candidates for Hight-Throughput Screening campaigns. The initial challenge of
identifying molecular targets that are crucial to parasite
survival, coupled with the identification of whole-cell
active compounds, is formidable (...)
My favorite analogy to explain to my family what the hell I am doing is to ask them if they have a gun, few bullets and a car is coming to them at 100 kph, will they aim to the rear-view mirrors? I tell them I try to find the vital parts of the parasite that can be targeted in a safe way, without risk to us in order to not waste bullets against non relevant targets, since resources for research are scarce here. We have chosen to model T. cruzi's glycolysis because this pathway is very particular in trypanosomatids, it is physically located inside an special organelle called the glycosome. the enzymes are regulated in a non traditional
fashion, do not share a lot of similarity with mammalian enzymes and glycolysis is essential for the survival of the parasite. Besides this, there is a whole research line on these kind of models for other trypanosomatids, but not in T. cruzi. I have spotted some mistakes on the kinetic equations of some of the models I am basing my work on and therefore, improved models of other kinetoplastids could be developed too, if there is enough time. And I think that besides replicating the work for T. cruzi, it is also possible to develop some original research concerning these models. Stay in touch.

PS: Around the weekend I should post/upload a corrected version (minor details of transcription and nomenclature) of Daniel Guerra's model of Trypanosoma brucei's glycolysis in his doctoral thesis from 2005, Glucose Metabolism of Trypanosoma brucei and Leishmania mexicana.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Are these news?

Sometimes it is amazing for me what people around the world deem as news:

By Andrew Heavens

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - If you are in Sudan it is a 'missed call'. In Ethiopia it is a 'miskin' or a 'pitiful' call. In other parts of Africa it is a case of 'flashing', 'beeping' or in French-speaking areas 'bipage'.

Wherever you are, it is one of the fastest-growing phenomena in the continent's booming mobile telephone markets -- and it's a headache for mobile operators who are trying to figure out how to make some money out of it.

You beep someone when you call them up on their mobile phone -- setting its display screen briefly flashing -- then hang up half a second later, before they have had a chance to answer. Your friend -- you hope -- sees your name and number on their list of 'Missed Calls' and calls you back at his or her expense.

It is a tactic born out of ingenuity and necessity, say analysts who have tracked an explosion in miskin calls by cash-strapped cellphone users from Cape Town to Cairo.

"Its roots are as a strategy to save money," said Jonathan Donner, an India-based researcher for Microsoft who is due to publish a paper on "The Rules of Beeping" in the high-brow online Journal of Computer Mediated Communication in October.

Donner first came across beeping in Rwanda, then tracked it across the continent and beyond, to south and southeast Asia. Studies quoted in his paper estimate between 20 to more than 30 percent of the calls made in Africa are just split-second flashes -- empty appeals across the cellular network.

People here in Venezuela have been doing these for years and years. It is something perfectly normal for us, not only for Africans. I do that several times a week. And that is shocking News for Reuters. I really cannot believe. It is like the fact that some people takes less showers in winter being news.

Really odd.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Some pics from SciFoo

Finally I downloaded the pics from my camera and posted them to Flickr. Here there are some.

A really funny picture, with a standing Tim O'Reilly at Google and an "Server not found" error on the web browser.

This is the way that a self organized schedule board looks. Personally, I love it, and the overall result was a wild display of creativity. It worked very well, not surprisingly.

Some of the attendants.

People at Google work really hard it seems. Even when you are pissing you can improve your coding! Keep going that way, guys, your work makes our lives easier. And I should learn to use time on that way.

James Randi, our secular saint!

Greg Bear and Kim Stanley Robinson. Soon(?) I will post about their presentations. KSR was already one of my favorite SF writers. Now I like his work even more. I better save my opinion about Bear for later...

The RepRap, the macro almost-self-replicant machine that soon will manufacture its own pieces. A really mind blowing device, even in this early stage of development. If it can deliver its promises it will change a lot of things for a lot of people.

Walking around that wonderful place, I stumbled upon the answer to the Ultimate Question!

A truly Agalmic environment, according to me. Maybe I will write something serious about it when I am done with my thesis. Someday, I guess.

To come: More reviews about SciFoo and some more pics about the Amazing and Depressing things I saw in the US.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

It's Official: India needs Biotech

Great news from the Land of Promises:

Genetically modified crops are order of the day: Govt
17 Sep, 2007, 1710 hrs IST, PTI

NEW DELHI: India should accept that genetically modified seeds is the solution to feed the growing population and reduce the pressure on land, a top government official said.

"If we like it or not, transgenics are the order of the day," Indian Council of Agricultural Research Director General Mangala Rai said at a conference on agricultural biotechnology organised by industry chamber FICCI.

He pointed that India will have a population of more than five billion by 2050 and the pressure on land would increase by 4-6 times.

Rai said due to adoption of GM crops "resistance has increased, pesticides consumption has reduced and productivity has increased".

He added when other seeds can produce one kilo rice by utilising 3,000 litres of water, why should there be opposition, if GM seed can have a better yield with less water.

Rai also said when oilseeds like castor have improved yield because of use of transgenic seeds, there should not be any resistance against it.

In Gujarat, castor seeds productivity is estimated at 17 quintal per hectare against all India average of four quintal, Rai said.

FICCI Biotech Committee Chairman Krishna M Ella said India would be the hub for world seed production in the next few years. Agri-biotech is growing at 15 per cent per annum, he added.

Another news item from Reuters on the same subject:

This is something that I have been waiting since long time ago. Almost seven years. Not exactly from India, but from any government. And now, it has happened. Despite the claims of environmentalists about risks for health, despite the lies and fake reports by some environmentalists, which I have personally witnessed here and that crippled our emerging bioengineered crops of papaya, despite all that, finally officers in the government have acknowledged the importance of GM crops for our future, with almost exactly the same arguments that a lot of us have been using during the last decade.

I won't engage here in rants about the contradictions of accepting hybrid crops (that mix a lot of unknown genes) like wheat, and refusing to accept crops in which only a couple of genes is different from the parental variety. I only will say that I am happy that finally reason has triumphed, at least in India, I hope more undeveloped countries follow India's example and not only give permission to plant GM crops created by the industry, as Argentina does, but also create their own varieties and crops according to their particular needs. And I hope this is done under an OS approach with a license analogue to Copyleft. Those would be great news not only for the poor people, but also for a lot of scientists around the world, who would benefit from the creativity of other and would be able to contribute themselves to this noble endeavor.

This is a very happy day for me and for a lot of people. And India again is showing us that it takes seriously further development in science and technology. This is a lesson and a warning for developed countries, they have achieved a high living standard thanks science and technology and now can ignore it and scorn it, praise primitivism and older times and give almost null importance to scientific literacy, but India could show that the future is going to be tough for those who chose that path.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

An excercise on Freedom of Speech

Wanna be worldwide famous in less than a week?
Draw a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, may the peace be with Him.

It seems that when you do it a fanatical mob of ignorant fundamentalist Muslims will ask for your head in several countries. Of course, such nuts are only a noisy minority that embarrass millions of moderate and peaceful Muslims.

Almost every religion has this kind of assholes among their believers. And not only religions, but also ideologies. I consider myself to be a kind of Anarchist, but i would be very uncomfortable next to certain Anarco-Primitivists. Anyway, the dangerous thing here is not only those violent herds, but also the reaction of the West to them. We are allowing them to silence us. We are allowing them to make us lose what is more precious to us: Our Free Inquiry. Our ability to discuss any subject, to make fun and criticize almost everything. We are silencing ourselves, because we are afraid of them, because we say "we respect you", but that is bullshit, we are afraid. Freedom of Inquiry and Speech are the bases on which our culture is based, they nurture
our scientific and philosophic enterprise and allow us to look at the world with curious rather than fear-frozen minds. They allow us to understand each other better despite our differences.

And I say NO MORE. From now I will post any cartoon, picture or anything that makes Fundamentalists (from any ideology or religion, it's the same if they are Objectivists or Stalinists) claim the life of somebody. If that makes me a target for terrorists, so be it. I am sick of screwing what we, collectively, are in order to save our ass. I refuse to belong to this diluted West where Freedom of Inquiry has been replaced by fear and PCness. I will fight for the West that I know and cherish, even if it is only an abstract entity. I will fight for my right to enrich my own culture with pieces of other, I will fight for my right to criticize and dissent. I will fight for my right to exist whether you like me or not. I will fight for the mental background that allows me to be here, in a third world country with serious problems and be able to express myself, free of gags so far.

Here is the cartoon that sparked such a huge affair:

It was created by Lars Vilks, a Swedish artist who already has received death threats from such prestigious folks as Al Qaida. My dear Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said: "Zionists, who do not believe in religion, are behind such a dirty job [...] The Zionists only pretend to believe in religion. They are telling lies. They are perpetrating oppression against the Europeans and putting at risk the prestige of Europe." Very much in his average level of intelligence, subtlety and paranoia. Of course, to be free to express one's opinion is Oppression. Well done, Mahmoud! Daddy Orwell would be proud of you! An excellent example of blackwhite. I do not want to think what would happen if your aides ever meet George W. Bush's aides and set up a propaganda effort. I guess the worst thing since Soviet propaganda and even more annoying than the Cuban.

Let say this clearly: I am not anti-Muslim. In any case. I am a proud Atheist, but I respect other people and I do not care what other people believe as long they don't threat others with their beliefs or try to make everybody submit to them. But when you believe that you have reasons to wipe other people only because they disagree with you, I have no longer any respect for you and you can go and get screwed by a whale.

My respects to all moderate Muslims who would disagree with the statement that if I ever convert to Islam and then I repent of it, I deserve death because I am an apostate. My support to all Muslims who are embarrassed by this awful fanaticism and for all of them who think that is far more insulting to their religion make women worse than animals, forbid music and hang homosexual teenagers in the name of Ala the Merciful, rather than a cartoon. I understand how terrible is to have such people tarnishing everything we believe that is sacred, worthy and important precisely in the name of that.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Child Mortality at historical low!

From the BBC:

Child mortality 'at record low'

Children being immunised
Millions of lives have been saved by immunisation, Unicef says
Fewer children under five worldwide are dying than ever before, according to the United Nations Children's Fund, due to increased immunisation.

Greater steps have also been taken to prevent the spread of malaria, a Unicef report says.

But nearly 10 million children under five died in 2006, the report adds.

The Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015 could be met by Latin America and the Caribbean, Unicef says.

This slowing in the rate of child deaths, from 13 million in 1990, to 9.7 million in 2006, is due to a combination of factors, including better immunisation, more mothers breastfeeding and mosquito nets being used to prevent the spread of malaria.

The decline in the numbers of children dying was particularly marked in Morocco, Vietnam and the Dominican Republic, where the number dying dropped by a third.

China has seen a drop from 45 deaths for every 1,000 lives in 1990 to 24 in 2006, while in India the drop was from 115 to 76.

In sub-Saharan Africa deaths from measles have been reduced by 75% due to increased vaccination coverage.

Doubts cast

"This is an historic moment," said Unicef executive director Ann Veneman.

"More children are surviving today than ever before. Now we must build on this public health success to push for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals."

But some experts questioned Unicef's interpretation of the data.

"Considering all the tools we have for child survival, we are not doing better at reducing child mortality now than we were three decades ago," Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington told Associated press agency.

Nearly five million under fives from sub-Saharan Africa died in 2006 as well as three million from South Asia.

The spread of HIV and Aids continues to claim children's lives in Africa countering the effects of better medicine for other childhood illnesses.

The authors of this report say most child deaths are preventable. What is needed is better local health care, they say.

Sweet and sour news, I think. We are doing well, but we could be doing better if we used the tools we already have. But, as usual, that costs money and no one is willing to pay. The only hope we have is to use the technology currently at our reach to improve ourselves and our societies and lower even more these rates, with or without help from developed countries. In any case, these news are encouraging.

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Ironic cardboardsteaks

While I was at the US I traveled a little bit more than I expected. I visited San Diego and Philadelphia, among other places.

Being in San Diego I went to eat a famous "Philadelphia Cheesesteak" at a a fast food in a mall. It turned that the "All American" cheesesteak was prepared by Mexican guys who did not speak in English even to Caucasian customers. It was tasty, and I thought that the original ones, in Philadelphia, must taste much better than these imitations.

Later I went to Philadelphia, I stayed in South Philly, just a couple of blocks from the famous Geno's restaurant, where you are not allowed to speak in other language than English when ordering.

I found it quite offensive, not the message itself (I find terrible going to another country and refusing to learn the language, like those Mexicans in San Diego) but other signs praising Marines and violence and the statement "This is America, Speak in English", which is false, America is made from immigrants and a lot of them have other languages that they use in their own environment. Aren't the people from Chinatown in San Francisco Americans?

Anyway, the funny thing is that the reputed Geno's Cheesesteaks, a proud tradition of Philly, autopraised as the best of those, the original, from the Land of Cheesesteaks, Philadelphia... tastes like cardboard!. In fact, the cheesesteak I got at San Diego was much better, even if those Mexicans did not speak English.

Those cheesesteaks are really awful, well, at least the ones made with provolone cheese (which I love, btw). But It seems unlikely I will return to try the other flavors of cardboard. I just wish I remember the name of that fast food restaurant in San Diego.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Sicko in America

I never thought I was going to miss Venezuela so fast. Well, at least its healthcare system.
I got sick three weeks ago, food poisoning, terrible diarrhea and retching. I felt I was going to die, losing liquids by both ends of my gastrointestinal tube, even at the same time, I could not even retain water. Nothing pleasant. Nothing too serious, neither. In Venezuela, maybe I would not even bothered in going to the hospital, just waited until it is gone, a couple of days. Or if it got too serious, go to the hospital and get some attention and medicines before one hour if I am lucky and close to three if I am not. Cost of the trip to the hospital: zero. Or my taxes and our collective oil. TANSTAAFL, you know.

Here in the land of the free and home of the brave, being sick was hell. A small food poisoning cost me almost $ 150. A doctor looked at me for 5 minutes, told me things that I already knew in a very distant way, asked some questions, became worried about the restaurant where I had eaten, told me to get stool tests and prescribed me an antibiotic that would have been my exact choice if I had reasons to believe that a bacteria was responsible for my disease. I did not went through the tests, it would have been a pointless waste of money for a self remitting disease, as it turned to be. The drug, Ciprofloxacin, was three to four times more expensive than in Venezuela (And is not because government's control on drug's prices, as non regulated drugs are also cheaper there!) even if it was generic, something amazing, given the fact that a free market is supposed to lower the prices and yet is not the case for drugs. Yes, a lot of things are more expensive here, but compared to food, for instance, the difference is outstanding. Another difference with Venezuela is the rigidity of prescriptions. The pills came in a personalized container with the exact amount of pills that I would need for all the treatment in order to prevent self medication issues, useful, but problematic if something happen to the pills.

The quality of the attention I received was lousy, I can get better attention in a public hospital in Venezuela in more or less the same amount of time I had to wait here in the US. It's amazing that health care in this country is so screwed up. I just read in the newspaper that the federal government denied funds for an initiative of a state to cover insurance for children of families that earn less than $ 60.000 a year. In order to be covered, children must be sick during one whole year. Can you imagine this? We are not talking about a clueless tourist or a person who chose to not to have insurance. We are talking about a child, chronically ill, without insurance because his or her family is poor, or even worse, because coverage is denied because he or she is already sick, waiting a whole year to get treated, causing financial damage to the family and even dying in the waiting. It is an outrage. I just cannot understand how these brave Americans that stand for their rights and fight wars all around the world in order to keep order and liberty, these same Americans who claim the government will take their weapons from their “dead cold hands”, can swallow these huge buckets of shit while nodding.
I guess American Idol is more interesting.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I've got a comment!

My post about the Venezuelan quackery called "Systemic Medicine" has elicited a more or less expected reply.

Someone called Magaly wrote this:

Dear undergraduate Nuñez (seems to me that for your age you should have achieved a little bit more in academic terms...than just "exposing" your favorite quack of the moment....)
Your role as a quack exposer seems to include being a sitting duck...for some useful and illustrating thoughts...the article which you seem to doubt so much (one of four such articles) was worked on during 5-6 months with 2/3 reviewers to get it to the required level for inclusion in such a prestigious journal...But then how can you know have still not published your "undergraduate" dissertation...let alone a full scientific article...Another interesting fact is that you mention the presence of Olalde in the editorial board...of the journal...yet you choose to ignore or fail to mention that his inclusion in the board occurred 6 months after the publication of his fist article...
This quackery as you name it has attended more than 800k patients during the last 5 years can this be? one can maintain a lie...for so long...and deceive so many seems to me that you should get your facts straight and understand that technology and the advance of mankind is sometimes related to issues that we do not like or accept...that does not mean that they are not do not be upset with someone that does not have a doctor's degree that provides his thoughts or theories on medicine...or a non-physicist in the theory of relativity (which mind you does also include "energy" concepts)....after all you seem to be doing very well without any degree at all...

By the native tongue is if you feel more comfortable...we can have this discussion –if this is ever published- in Spanish as thing is to doubt and another is to slander for the sake of doubt…

It is clear that this person does not have the slightest idea about what is science. She believes that it is proper to compare the absolute lack of training with the lack of a paper that states that someone has a degree and acknowledges those years of training. This is a very common attitude among Venezuelans. This afternoon I was talking with my sister and she was extremely emphatic about me being just a "student", and that it did not mattered if I was good or not. So knowledge is not important. The important thing is the appearance of knowledge. Strike one for Magaly.

Here is my answer to her comment:

As usual, ad hominem attacks are the resource of the people without arguments.

It is true that for my age I should had my degree... if I had lead a normal course. But, I chose to take two additional years of mathematics, physics and programming courses. Currently I am Teacher's Assistant of a course in Bioinformatics of a Master's Program in my Faculty. Teacher's Assistant of graduate students without getting my degree. And I have won national and international essay contests and I have been invited to several international conferences as a speaker, including one organized by Nature, the science journal. So, even without having completed my degree I have demonstrated my competence in several subjects. Currently I do research in three subjects in Computational Biology.

You claim that the paper was reviewed during months, however, the paper clearly states that it was accepted without revision ONE DAY AFTER BEING RECEIVED. When we pointed that fact, the next paper was conveniently dated. Coincidence? I doubt it.

Concerning the naming of Olalde as advisor, as far as I know he has been advisor for a long time and he has not any training in medicine, biology or health sciences. And I do not know the exact date when he became and advisor to the Board of the journal, could you please present any proof of it?

Yes, it is possible to maintain a lie for long times. History can prove it. The Emperor of Japan was no son of Heaven, millions had to die to prove it. Billions of people believe in astrology.

Again, another cliché: Relativity and Energy. Please, Magaly, show us where in relativity is used some formaula that acknowledges the spiritual energy of pyramids. And that machine, the "energimeter" is pure fantasy and has not proven in any sense to be useful (besides making money for Olalde). And in the Adaptogenic Science there is not further tracing of pacience. Remember the case of Nataly Lemus, who had died 9 months ago when a spot was aired, in which she claimed to be cured of the cancer that killed her.

And I must add a little bit more:

She claims that "I choose to ignore" some facts. As far as I know there is no evidence of those facts other than her claims. And some of her claims do not fit the evidence.

And here is her funny reply:

The "Ad hominem...attack" expression you wrongly interpreted...means (as you may find in a worthwhile dictionary) the use of somebody's (in this case your) words and acts (including arguments) to confuse the does not refer to attacking another fellow man...

Poor Magaly is clueless. According to the Wikipedia:
An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: "argument to the person", "argument against the man") consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to an irrelevant characteristic about the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim. It is most commonly used to refer specifically to the ad hominem abusive, or argumentum ad personam, which consists of criticizing or personally attacking an argument's proponent in an attempt to discredit that argument.

That is exactly what she did in her first message. Instead of refuting my claims she chose to attack me on personal grounds. That I am still undergrad after a long time, that I have not published a scientific paper, etc. To put it in more pedestrian terms, so Magaly can understand: You do not have lay an egg in order to know when it is rotten. Do you, Magaly? I do not know how many times must I repeat the same idea, but here I go again: It does not matter if I eat fried babies on breakfast, Magaly. It does not matter if on weekends I bathe on the blood of virgin maidens. It does not matter if I steal candy from children. If I would do that and then I say "two plus two is four", would that become false because I am an evil person? Claiming that my arguments are wrong because I am something or I do something is plain wrong and shows a total ignorance about the way science works. Besides, your confuse paragraph shows that you really do not know what is an argumentum ad hominem. FYI:

More from Magaly:
I see no purpose in attacking (or rather refuting) anybody...only those... that deem themselves to be capable of judging others according to some self-awarded higher moral (or intellectual- which is clearly not your case)...ground…

If you do not see any purpose in refuting anyone, may I ask, without being rude, what are you doing here?. I certainly see the point in refuting deadly lies that enrich thugs at the expense of the ignorance and suffering of people. And I certainly have the necessary knowledge and critical baggage to understand when I am being duped. Self awarded? No. A lot of people from all over the world has appreciated my work in several fields. I do not like to boast about this, but, given the fact that you doubt about my competence, I can prove it without any doubt. From high grades to work with an NGO belonging to the WFUNA to international awards, everything online and accessible.

More from Magaly:

Allow me to illustrate you (again)...let's assume you want to publish a theory (to which you have dedicated some years of your existence)...thus you send it to the editors of many journal's until one of them… is somewhat interested...his (the editor's) feedback turns out to be something like..."this has potential but needs to be seriously worked upon and better referenced...if you accept to undertake serious criticism and suggestions this theory might be taken to the required scientific level"...then you go on and work your %^&* off during 5/6 months to accomplish this...and send the final version to the journal...does this mean that you put it together the day before it's published? No! It only means what it means...You -on the other hand- interpret things as you wish... and to your own convenience...

How cute, trying to instruct me about science publishing. I have to learn a lot about the subject. But certainly not from you, according to what I am reading.
That is simply not true. You claim that I interpret things to my own convenience and that is totally untrue. Let's end this:

I am "interpreting? We clearly can see at the bottom right this text: Received January 13, 2005; accepted January 14, 2005. It seems to me that you are the person who is "interpreting" and claiming something very different from what we know is true. Your story sounds nice to me, but if that would have been the case, the paper should say something like "Received July 13, 2004; accepted January 14, 2005". That is not the case. I am not claiming that Olalde put together the paper in one day. What I am saying is that the peer review at that journal is not very good. (Quoting to Ron Hubbard in a science paper ? Don't make me laugh!) and it is very suspicious that after such a swift acceptation of the paper, (a bad paper) suddenly Olalde becomes part of the board of that Journal. And for the part of my "own convenience", hey, I am NOT making a penny of this. You are the people who makes money from Sistemic Medicine.

Even more nonsense:
As for the example of the Sun Emperor in Japan...although's a terrible but obscure and irrelevant example...if anything... it can be termed an anecdotic (and bloody) historical you compare this last to the successful application of a Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) protocol in close to one million patients ? ...because… you have the sad and unfortunate death of a patient (or that of 10 or 100)....

Irrelevant? Please, lady, be serious. It shows that you can make people believe anything. Obscure? Grab a history book and read until it is clear. Do you want more examples? Homeopathy, astrology, scientology, Hellenic gods, witches, UFO's... I can go on on that list if you need more examples. If the criteria for "success" is making a lot oney from sick people, certainly this particular (S)CAM is a winner. If the criteria of success is the recovery and healing then you are claiming something that you cannot prove in any way. The problem with Mz. Lemus was not that she died despite the treatment she endured with you. The problem about her case is that you used her image without her consent (she was dead by then) and made no effort for seeking her progress after she was "cured" despite of her being one of the spotlight examples of the effectiveness of your therapies. One of your best successes and you were unable to track her even one year after her "healing". Do you know the meaning of the phrase "longitudinal study"? You cannot even track a single person and you claim that this therapy has been effective in one million. That is extremely hard to believe. Prove it or shut up. I know you won't do neither thing, of course.

How many people die out of chemo-radio or other orthodox cancer treatments...has this stopped cancer treatments with these! Have you compared the results of these orthodox treatments with the combined use of these therapies and a CAM such as Systemic Medicine? NO!

The problem is that we have impressive statistics about what works and what does not works concerning cancer. We even know the average lifespan of people and we do follow the patients that undergo experimental procedures. And your therapies offer nothing of that. You claim that people is cured and only show on TV people that is satisfied with the results, and even those might be dead or sick again after they have been used as advertisement for you.

And now a little bit of playing the victim:
Yet you have already chosen to judge somebody's life work (with or without 'relevant' academic titles) in an article... based on one (or X statistically irrelevant) example (undeniably sad and terrible)?... would it be not more appropriate to evaluate the effectiveness of anybody’s theory based on the whole body of the work and its significance?

Not only in none article. In several articles, unfortunately all of them in Spanish. But hopefully we will have translation of those soon. And not only based in one example. Please make no mistake: We have plenty of arguments. Many of them. Starting from the theoretical basis of this crazy theory, the ethics of giving people products not tested and with unknown effects without they knowing they are guinea pigs of International Adaptogens, your advertisement techniques, the lack of information about a lot of your plants, your lies about results, your good-for-nothing machines, your wild claims that cannot be supported on facts. The fact that you make money playing with the hope of people.

And now, more ad hominem from Magaly. She might not know what an ad hominem is, but she really know how to use it!

As for the energy healing...I will not bother to explain this to someone who promotes food engineering ...yet overlooks the waste and destruction of millions of tons of food in a hungry world because…of economic reasons...Now that is really sad ....first things first!

Stop babbling and explain that "energimeter", and what kind of "energy" is responsible for the properties of pyramids, and its physical basis. If you don't want to do it for me, do it for my readers, please, if you are so kind. And you made a huge mistake here. I care a lot about the waste of food and about nutrition and development in underdeveloped countries. But the answer is not aid. The answer is technological independence. The life of billions of my fellow human beings shall not depend of charity, of the mood of foreign people that might get tired of sending aid. We in these countries must be able to design our own solutions to our own troubles, and that is why I support strongly agricultural biotech for the developing world. But that is a really cheap exit from you, claiming that you won't explain something because of who I am. That kind of answer shows clearly that you neither have arguments, neither understand science and logic. First things first.

So... as the French saying goes: 'une hirondelle ne fait pas le printemps' (en español ´una golondrina no hace el verano´).

Oh,she can write in French! How neat. Je peu aussi, mais j'oblieu presque tout mon françaais. That can apply to your "therapy". Some of the plants you offer may have a therapeutic effect, but that does not means that all of them do, neither that your silly theory is right about anything. You don't like what you read or you think it is slander? I can prove it is not. And I can prove that José Olalde has commited slander against us.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

World of Warcraft as model for epidemiology

According to the BBC:

An outbreak of a deadly disease in a virtual world can offer insights into real life epidemics, scientists suggest.

The "corrupted blood" disease spread rapidly within the popular online World of Warcraft game, killing off thousands of players in an uncontrolled plague.

The infection raged, wreaking social chaos, despite quarantine measures.

The experience provides essential clues to how people behave in such crises, Lancet Infectious Diseases reports.

In the game, there was a real diversity of response from the players to the threat of infection, similar to those seen in real life.

Some acted selflessly, rushing to the aid of other characters even though that meant they risked infection themselves.

Others fled infected cities in an attempt to save themselves.

And some who were sick made it their mission to deliberately infect others.

Extremely interesting, imho. Using virtual worlds as templates for models in real life. I would like to see if controlled experiments could be implemented in Second Life and other places, with some of the people knowing they are part of the experiment and other group only aware that they are in a weird situation. Ideal for agalmic societies. Are we witnessing the birth of a new branch of the Social Sciences?

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Censorship in Turkey again

This time is Wordpress.
The Turkish authorities closed the access to because some Turkish creationists complained that they did not liked what some bloggers had to say about them.

According to Pharyngula:

Adnan Oktar, aka Harun Yahya, the Turkish crackpot creationist, didn't like the fact that his critics wrote mean things about him … so he applied to a Turkish court to have all Wordpress blogs blocked. And the court accepted his argument, and no one in Turkey has been able to access anything from for a day or two now.

I did not know who Harun Yahya is. Now I have seen that he seems to be a respectable islamic scholar in some circles. But the truth is that he is a liar, a thief and has been accused of pedophilia. Now we know a little bit more of Yahya. I will post something about it in Spanish too, so he would get as bad press as possible. A lot of people lives in Turkey, but many lore live outside.

So, spread the word about Yahya, an enemy of knowledge, science and freedom of expression.

This is what Yahya does not want us to know about:

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

First African GM crop


Technoliberation at its best again!

The first GM crop entirely produced in Africa by Africans and for Africans:

From there:

The first all-African genetically modified crop plant with resistance to the severe maize streak virus (MSV), which seriously reduces the continent’s maize yield, has been developed by scientists from the University of Cape Town and PANNAR PTY Ltd, a South African seed company.

The research, published in Plant Biotechnology Journal represents a significant advance in African agricultural biotechnology, and will play an important role in alleviating Africa’s food shortages and famine.

Dr Dionne Shepherd, lead researcher explains, “MSV is transmitted to maize by small insects called leafhoppers. The disease is therefore a result of a complex interplay between the plant, the virus and insect. Factors that can influence the severity of the disease include the age at which the plant is infected (the younger the plant, the more severe the infection), the maize variety (some are more susceptible than others), and environmental conditions.

“We have created an MSV-resistant maize variety by genetic engineering, using an approach known as pathogen-derived resistance. This means that a gene from the viral pathogen is used to protect the plant from that pathogen. We mutated a viral gene that under normal circumstances produces a protein that is essential for the virus to replicate itself and inserted it into the maize plant’s genome, creating genetically modified maize. When the virus infects one of these transgenic maize plants, it displays a significant delay in symptom development, a decrease in symptom severity and higher survival rates than non-transgenic plants.”

This approach is similar to the one used with the Papaya Ringspot Virus, with excellent results in Hawaii. But it is still too early for being optimist, the field trials are still in the future. Well, at least we can see some light at the end of the tunnel.

I hope this is only the first of many.

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Medieval Times

The earthquake in Peru has been a real tragedy. Scores of dead people and the number is increasing as rescue teams find more of them in the daylight. Hospitals are damaged and a lot of them have collapsed.

But, as usual, people finds divine signs on the tragedy. This time it was the president of Peru, Alan García. According to the BBC: "President Garcia thanked God that the earthquake had not caused "a catastrophe with an immense number of victims".

Come on! If God is all mighty and benevolent this earthquake should have not occurred. And if he just leaves us alone, then it is pointless to give thanks. It is beyond my imagination why should somebody give thanks because the tragedy was not worse. If you believe that god made this or was able to stop it is like a woman thanking her husband for not hitting her harder.

I guess I am not able to see that the Jews should thank god because Hitler did not wiped them all but only several millions of them. Poor me.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I promise to post at least once every two days

It's been a while since the last time I posted a fresh post. Sorry about that. After the Googleplex (which I'll keep on posting about)I went to San Francisco for a night (what a night!), then headed to Palo Alto to the house of a person from the Millennium Project, who in a very kind move, offered me to stay with him and his wife for a couple of days before we all were heading to Orange, where my cousin lives. I got a glimpse of Northern California way of life if you are wealthy. And I must say I became in love with the landscapes of Northern California too and with many things of it. Truly beautiful and touching. And innovation is even more beautiful and puzzling in some ways (BTW: I am reading “The myths of innovation” by Scott Berkun, got it for free (TANSTAAFL?) at Google from a stand from O' Reilly Media). Went to the Tech Museum, to Pebble Beach, to Monterrey, and the to Orange. Weekend in San Diego. More about all that later.

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