Archive for July, 2011

Jul 20 2011

The Reason Why?

Published by under General,Speculative

Is this why your skin ceases to fit as you age:

The amount of water in the body declines with aging, from about 80 percent in young adulthood to about 55 to 60 percent for people in their 80s, ..

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Jul 15 2011

The Emperor of All Maladies – A Biography of Cancer

Published by under Books

By Siddhartha Mukherjee
The subtitle of this very popular book from the fall of 2010 is an accurate description of its contents, and if the ‘hold queue’ at the SF public library is a good indication, it is still very popular. It seems that a lot of people are interested in either a better understanding of cancer or just appearing to have read the book.
The author who is an oncologist chronologically traces human understanding of cancer and the corresponding treatments from earliest reports in antiquity to the latest knowledge based on a partial understanding of the key role played by changes to genes. Chapters are organized around important steps in diagnosing, treating, and understanding cancers, and often focus on the key individuals or groups. Most of the book deals with the 20 th. century and its ‘War On Cancer’ period.
Overall, it was a very informative book, but it did get a bit tedious and slow in the middle chapters which dealt with a period of limited knowledge, failed treatments, and the selling of the “War on Cancer”. The earlier historical material and the later genetics based improvement in understanding of the variety of cancers and their causes were more engrossing.
Cancer is a category of diseases with many sometimes subtle and sometimes complex distinctions which can be critical to the success of potential treatments. Currently, some types of cancer or some subtypes of specific cancers can be treated and controlled with a high degree of success. Others varieties and forms remain mostly deadly. All cancers seem to be caused by mutations in normally benign human genetic processes. One or more genetic mutations occur to enable uncontrolled cell division and in some cases migration around the body(metastasis). Many of the key genes involved in enabling cancerous growth have been identified and in some cases their identification has led to effective treatments.
The book’s stories often follow a common form: understand the anatomy of the disease, then the function of parts of that anatomy, and finally use that understanding to develop a treatment. Seems like progress almost has to follow such a path, but serendipity and the doggedness of specific individuals were also needed to make progress. While there must have been many equally fanatical and self assured researchers who failed and possibly hurt patients in the attempt, such stories are not told here.
Overall, the message is that cancer is a malfunctioning of normal live giving processes. Not an external agent (even the types which involve transmission by viruses). Progress has been made but cancer is subtle, robust, varied, and by no means on the way out.

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Jul 12 2011

Joker One

Published by under Books

by Donovan Campbell

This is an attempt to describe what war in Iraq was like for one newly appointed infantry lieutenant and his platoon of Marines during the insurgency in Ramadi in 2004. A very evocative description of what war in that place at that time was like for one group of men who fought it. I can’t say anything about how accurate it is, but feels truthful and makes clear the meaning of the ‘fog of war’, the chaos, and the insanity of it all via a retelling of day to day events. Horrible stuff happens to you or your friends, but the group continues attempting to complete its assigned missions; whether or not they seem to make sense.
The over riding importance of supporting your buddies and accomplishing your assigned mission is repeatedly driven home. That’s what you are there for and that it is all it is about! “Ours is not to reason why. Ours is but to do and die”. Not mine, but ours: the squads and the platoon.
Not pleasant or fun but worth reading.

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Jul 05 2011

Ebocloud, A Novel About The Social Singularity

Published by under Books,Speculative

by Rick Moss

This little ebook was originally published on in electronic form which is how I read it. Subsequently, it was taken up and published as a paper back. A new publishing model.
The story is about people involved with a “Facebook on a lot of steroids” social network which is called the ebocloud. Affinity groups derived from the ebocloud come to replace the groups that members formerly related to in the ‘real world’. The cyber world (ebocloud) takes over which is the ‘social singularity’ of the subtitle! Before the book ends, the ebocloud’s capabilities are taken much beyond what I perceive as ever possible. Somewhat interesting speculation, but too unrealistic and superficial for my taste.
Overlaid on the description of ebocloud’s world and speculation about social networks is an apparent murder attempt ultimately resolved by identifying a mad genius behind ebocloud who is running amok. That genius is conveniently killed to allow the different good genius to continue his wonderful social network.
I was curious to see what this book was about and now I know; a simple sketchy story with a little interesting speculation. Not much atmosphere or depth.

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