MelaFind is a new device that helps doctors identify melanoma skin cancers. In many places, it's being reported as the greatest breakthrough in skin cancer prevention to come along in decades. But, notes Gary Schwitzer at Health News Review, those pieces leave out the fact that MelaFind is actually fairly controversial
. A lot of cancer researchers and docs are worried that it will give patients and doctors a false sense of security — a big issue considering the fact that MelaFind is only designed to identify small melanomas. It could turn up false negatives (or false positives) with non-melanoma skin cancers or melanomas that don't fall into a narrow type range. — Maggie
Researchers at Imperial College London have invented an electric surgical knife that comes equipped with a built-in mass spectrometer
. Electric knives cauterize wounds as they cut, which produces smoke. The iKnife will be able to analyze the chemistry of that smoke to determine, for instance, whether the tissue that was just cut was cancerous or not — allowing doctors to make decisions in the OR that would, today, require them to take samples, send those samples to a lab, and maybe schedule a second surgery. — Maggie
The entire country is in the red (and orange) today
. At 10:20 am, it was hotter in Minneapolis than southern Florida and the only places that looked remotely comfortable were all on the Pacific coast. Those temps don't just strain your patience. They also strain your electrical grid, as millions of Americans simultaneously crank up their air conditioners and test the grid's ability to match supply of electricity with demand
for it. For grid controllers, a day like today is akin to the Super Bowl. Will there be brownouts? Blackouts? Awkward flickering? Place your bets. The peak in demand will happen later this afternoon. — Maggie
The “Hyperloop,” a hybrid new form of transportation proposed by Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, would shrink the duration of a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles to 30 minutes
, at a speed of almost 800 miles an hour. [NYTimes.com] — Xeni
Seventy percent of all the food you eat passes through an oft-overlooked system of refrigerated warehouses, factories, and trucks
, writes Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic. That's not just the stuff you think of as "frozen food", either. Peanuts, for instance, are chilled. With photos and some judicious excerpts from Tom Wolfe novels, Madrigal introduces us to a world few of us have ever seen, but all of us are totally dependent upon. — Maggie
William Shatner takes us into the Microworld for this 1980 promotional film from the AT&T Archives. Ah, the history of the future.
So, here's a new writing nightmare. What do you do if, after your book is published, and the reviews start to come in, it slowly dawns on you that you've accidentally written the wrong book ... a book which you would not actually agree with?
That's how I felt after interviewing Curtis White, author of The Science Delusion — a book that has been widely reviewed as containing some good points, buried under a lot of angry rants and straw men. According to White, however, those reviews have all completely missed what he was trying to do and trying to say.
All the invective? White thought he was just being funny and satirical, like Jonathan Swift. The over-generalizing about what all scientists believe and what the culture of science is like? He thought it was clear that he just meant the subset of scientists who don't think there's any value other than entertainment in art, that philosophy is dead, and that culture has no affect on how we interpret science or what we do with it. The weird, pseudo-Deism? He thought he was explaining that science is part of culture, that the questions being asked and the way answers are interpreted are culturally bound and and we have to take that into account. The humanities triumphalism and points where he totally dismisses science and acts like he doesn't understand why somebody would find meaning in being curious about how the mind works? Not what he meant at all, apparently. He just wants to make the case for us needing both science and the humanities to properly understand the world. And White is deeply confused about why reviews of his book keep getting all of this wrong.
I recently had a chance to interview White — both live and in some email follow-up after the live event — and I've come to the conclusion that I can't properly review this book without including that information. There's just too big a gap, from my perspective, between how the book reads and what White wanted you to take away from it.
Read the rest
The NSA's first large-scale domestic surveillance project began in 1945 — when the organization began reading American's telegrams. — Maggie
Everything a dissection table should be, I suppose. I'm absolutely mesmerized by the utility of this tool, developed by Anatomage and Stanford University's Division of Clinical Anatomy. Particularly for its ability to give anatomy students unprecedented access to special cases. Instead of waiting for a body with just the right kind of brain malformation or liver damage to come in, you can just call up the desired images from the computer and use them whenever you want.
As for the creepy: Well, for some reason it's just a little more disturbing to see a perfectly healthy naked lady sprawled out on the anatomy table, as opposed to old, wrinkly naked people or people who have clearly recently been in poor health. (Also, potentially NSFW, natch.)
GE isn't the only one getting into the 3D-printed airplane part game. But, instead of little fuel injectors for turbines
, the Chinese company AVIC Heavy Machinery and China's Northwestern Polytechnical University are printing off 5-meter-long titanium wing spars
and equally long wing beams
. (Thanks, Tim Heffernan!) — Maggie
Yesterday, we posted a tech memoir by Steven Ashley about the slow rise of 3D printing — from sci-fi fantasy, to toy, to creator of real tools. Towards the end of the piece, Ashley mentions how GE is starting manufacture aircraft engine parts using 3D printers. Here's the excerpt:
Rows of industrial 3D-printing units in plants will soon be fabricating turbine engine parts—fuel nozzles—from cobalt-chromium alloy powders. Each one of GE’s new LEAP jet engine will contain nineteen of the fuel nozzles, which are up to 25 percent lighter and five-times more durable than traditionally manufactured fuel nozzles. In airplanes cutting weight saves fuel. The LEAP engine has already amassed more than 4,500 orders, so between it and the new GE9X engine, the corporation could end up making as many as 100,000 additive manufactured components by 2020.
In the picture above, you can see one of those fuel nozzles, in all its 3D-printed glory.
Read the rest
Sociologist Kieran Healy does a nice job of explaining how even a data system that doesn't contain the actual content of conversations can be part of a very powerful surveillance state
. Part parody and part demonstration, he uses information about organization membership roles in 18th-century Boston to pinpoint Paul Revere as a key player in a network of "traitors". — Maggie
It's been just over a year since Anno NTK launched, a kind of Wayback Machine for the wonderful old-school UK tech newsletter Need to Know. Each week, Danny O'Brien will send you a fifteen-year-old edition of NTK, letting you catch up on the tech news of the late 1990s. This week's is especially grand:
Linus "Bigger than Elvis" Torvalds, accompanied by backing
singers Alan Cox and Jamie Zawinski, will be fighting off
the screaming teenage fans at Duke University's LINUX EXPO
'98 this weekend. You're not there, clearly, otherwise you
wouldn't be sober enough to read this. You can, however,
glean a vicarious buzz by reading the inevitable flurry of
announcements on the Website. Not least among them will be
the definitive answer to the "Emacs vs Vi" question
provided, not by a Magic Eightball, but by a magic
*Paintball* face-off. It's the only way.
- Linus! Linus! Marry me! MARRY ME!
- looking forward to the cheers:
"H-J-K-L, what can we pipe through ispell? VI!"
"Give us a '(' - Give us another '('! Give us a '('!..."
One of the people who developed the pacemaker is now 86. And he has a pacemaker
. — Maggie
Apparently, there were some private citizens from the USSR who were allowed into the U.S. for travel during the Cold War. But they couldn't just visit anywhere they wanted.
This map, from a post at Slate's Vault blog, shows the no-go zones, shaded in green. Some of this is quite funny — gee, guys, I wonder what you're keeping hidden out in rural Nevada? Another interesting point: Soviets could visit Kansas City, Kansas, but not Kansas City, Missouri. Which could just be a pretty good joke, on our part. The fun stuff is all on the Missouri side.
EDIT: In the original version of this post, I'd mentioned that Kansas had once been home to many, many missile silos, and speculated that this might be why so much of that state (and the Dakotas) was off-limits to Soviet travelers. But, Cold War historian Audra J. Wolfe contacted me and pointed out that there were no missile silos at the time this map was made, because there were no Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. So why ban the Ruskies from Kansas? Wolfe isn't entirely sure. She speculated that it might have had something to do with limiting access to public lands managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the Bureau of Land Management. It also could have been tied to the presence of Strategic Air Command bases in the state. And there were tons of Atomic Energy Commission-owned sites scattered all over the U.S. — it's hard to keep track of where they all were.
Of course, Wolfe also said that there wasn't always a clear logic behind the decisions about which parts of the country were made off-limits to Soviet citizens. For instance, much of our coastline was off-limits for no other reason than the fact that much of the Soviet coast was off-limits to Americans. "The main premise is 'strict reciprocity'," she wrote in a message to me. "X% of Soviet coasts are off-limits, therefore x% of US coasts are off-limits, too." So there, one might add.