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Topics - Shoelayceberry the [Unlaced]

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General Discussion / Graphic Designers opinion needed
« on: September 17, 2013, 12:24:18 PM »
So, Adobe is going to their Cloud only apps soon. It's fucking horseshit for small time shops, or small time needs - like prepping graphics in manuscripts/publications. It will significantly raise our costs, for less flexibility.

Do you know of any apps (free or paid) that we should look to besides GIMP and Inkscape? Mac and Windows apps needed, but post whatever you know please.

General Discussion / [Opinion] Job Market scariness
« on: August 26, 2013, 12:40:56 PM »
I feel scared for our younger guys on TZT. I would not want to be facing this job market - though it could be said the DotCom bust in 2000 is what I faced and overcame. It must seem as if you are trapped in low wage / low skill / low pay jobs, when you know you're better than that.

I am both continually happy and scared in my chosen profession. I see the diminishing need for low level Sys Admins as Virtualization becomes better and better. It creates a market for High Tech High Skilled Admins, and I feel like I can make it there, but I am not quite at the level I want to be, to feel protected. Though I guess it could be said that you have to transition from Low level tech to high level tech through experience, but I am not sure if that's 100% true. I would agree that it's possible, however, to be dropped in to a high skill sys admin job just out of school, with rigorous/proper training, though you would still not be very good. I don't even know if "good" work is appreciated anymore. To understand how good of work I accomplish, you almost HAVE to be in my line of work. When the people paying you have no measuring stick for your day-to-day duties, how can you expect to be compensated accordingly?

Optimistically, I hope to be doing what I am doing for another 30 years - I'll need to in order to retire with enough money - but realistically, there's no way I won't be pushed out when I get older. I'll get 20 years, if I'm lucky.

The Great Divide   August 24, 2013, 2:35 pm 411 Comments   
How Technology Wrecks the Middle Class

In the four years since the Great Recession officially ended, the productivity of American workers — those lucky enough to have jobs — has risen smartly. But the United States still has two million fewer jobs than before the downturn, the unemployment rate is stuck at levels not seen since the early 1990s and the proportion of adults who are working is four percentage points off its peak in 2000.

This job drought has spurred pundits to wonder whether a profound employment sickness has overtaken us. And from there, it’s only a short leap to ask whether that illness isn’t productivity itself. Have we mechanized and computerized ourselves into obsolescence?

Are we in danger of losing the “race against the machine,” as the M.I.T. scholars Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee argue in a recent book? Are we becoming enslaved to our “robot overlords,” as the journalist Kevin Drum warned in Mother Jones? Do “smart machines” threaten us with “long-term misery,” as the economists Jeffrey D. Sachs and Laurence J. Kotlikoff prophesied earlier this year? Have we reached “the end of labor,” as Noah Smith laments in The Atlantic?

Of course, anxiety, and even hysteria, about the adverse effects of technological change on employment have a venerable history. In the early 19th century a group of English textile artisans calling themselves the Luddites staged a machine-trashing rebellion. Their brashness earned them a place (rarely positive) in the lexicon, but they had legitimate reasons for concern.

Economists have historically rejected what we call the “lump of labor” fallacy: the supposition that an increase in labor productivity inevitably reduces employment because there is only a finite amount of work to do. While intuitively appealing, this idea is demonstrably false. In 1900, for example, 41 percent of the United States work force was in agriculture. By 2000, that share had fallen to 2 percent, after the Green Revolution transformed crop yields. But the employment-to-population ratio rose over the 20th century as women moved from home to market, and the unemployment rate fluctuated cyclically, with no long-term increase.

Labor-saving technological change necessarily displaces workers performing certain tasks — that’s where the gains in productivity come from — but over the long run, it generates new products and services that raise national income and increase the overall demand for labor. In 1900, no one could foresee that a century later, health care, finance, information technology, consumer electronics, hospitality, leisure and entertainment would employ far more workers than agriculture. Of course, as societies grow more prosperous, citizens often choose to work shorter days, take longer vacations and retire earlier — but that too is progress.

So if technological advances don’t threaten employment, does that mean workers have nothing to fear from “smart machines”? Actually, no — and here’s where the Luddites had a point. Although many 19th-century Britons benefited from the introduction of newer and better automated looms — unskilled laborers were hired as loom operators, and a growing middle class could now afford mass-produced fabrics — it’s unlikely that skilled textile workers benefited on the whole.

Fast-forward to the present. The multi-trillionfold decline in the cost of computing since the 1970s has created enormous incentives for employers to substitute increasingly cheap and capable computers for expensive labor. These rapid advances — which confront us daily as we check in at airports, order books online, pay bills on our banks’ Web sites or consult our smartphones for driving directions — have reawakened fears that workers will be displaced by machinery. Will this time be different?

A starting point for discussion is the observation that although computers are ubiquitous, they cannot do everything. A computer’s ability to accomplish a task quickly and cheaply depends upon a human programmer’s ability to write procedures or rules that direct the machine to take the correct steps at each contingency. Computers excel at “routine” tasks: organizing, storing, retrieving and manipulating information, or executing exactly defined physical movements in production processes. These tasks are most pervasive in middle-skill jobs like bookkeeping, clerical work and repetitive production and quality-assurance jobs.

Logically, computerization has reduced the demand for these jobs, but it has boosted demand for workers who perform “nonroutine” tasks that complement the automated activities. Those tasks happen to lie on opposite ends of the occupational skill distribution.

At one end are so-called abstract tasks that require problem-solving, intuition, persuasion and creativity. These tasks are characteristic of professional, managerial, technical and creative occupations, like law, medicine, science, engineering, advertising and design. People in these jobs typically have high levels of education and analytical capability, and they benefit from computers that facilitate the transmission, organization and processing of information.

On the other end are so-called manual tasks, which require situational adaptability, visual and language recognition, and in-person interaction. Preparing a meal, driving a truck through city traffic or cleaning a hotel room present mind-bogglingly complex challenges for computers. But they are straightforward for humans, requiring primarily innate abilities like dexterity, sightedness and language recognition, as well as modest training. These workers can’t be replaced by robots, but their skills are not scarce, so they usually make low wages.

Computerization has therefore fostered a polarization of employment, with job growth concentrated in both the highest- and lowest-paid occupations, while jobs in the middle have declined. Surprisingly, overall employment rates have largely been unaffected in states and cities undergoing this rapid polarization. Rather, as employment in routine jobs has ebbed, employment has risen both in high-wage managerial, professional and technical occupations and in low-wage, in-person service occupations.

So computerization is not reducing the quantity of jobs, but rather degrading the quality of jobs for a significant subset of workers. Demand for highly educated workers who excel in abstract tasks is robust, but the middle of the labor market, where the routine task-intensive jobs lie, is sagging. Workers without college education therefore concentrate in manual task-intensive jobs — like food services, cleaning and security — which are numerous but offer low wages, precarious job security and few prospects for upward mobility. This bifurcation of job opportunities has contributed to the historic rise in income inequality.

HOW can we help workers ride the wave of technological change rather than be swamped by it? One common recommendation is that citizens should invest more in their education. Spurred by growing demand for workers performing abstract job tasks, the payoff for college and professional degrees has soared; despite its formidable price tag, higher education has perhaps never been a better investment. But it is far from a comprehensive solution to our labor market problems. Not all high school graduates — let alone displaced mid- and late-career workers — are academically or temperamentally prepared to pursue a four-year college degree. Only 40 percent of Americans enroll in a four-year college after graduating from high school, and more than 30 percent of those who enroll do not complete the degree within eight years.

The good news, however, is that middle-education, middle-wage jobs are not slated to disappear completely. While many middle-skill jobs are susceptible to automation, others demand a mixture of tasks that take advantage of human flexibility. To take one prominent example, medical paraprofessional jobs — radiology technician, phlebotomist, nurse technician — are a rapidly growing category of relatively well-paid, middle-skill occupations. While these paraprofessions do not typically require a four-year college degree, they do demand some postsecondary vocational training.

These middle-skill jobs will persist, and potentially grow, because they involve tasks that cannot readily be unbundled without a substantial drop in quality. Consider, for example, the frustration of calling a software firm for technical support, only to discover that the technician knows nothing more than the standard answers shown on his or her computer screen — that is, the technician is a mouthpiece reading from a script, not a problem-solver. This is not generally a productive form of work organization because it fails to harness the complementarities between technical and interpersonal skills. Simply put, the quality of a service within any occupation will improve when a worker combines routine (technical) and nonroutine (flexible) tasks.

Following this logic, we predict that the middle-skill jobs that survive will combine routine technical tasks with abstract and manual tasks in which workers have a comparative advantage — interpersonal interaction, adaptability and problem-solving. Along with medical paraprofessionals, this category includes numerous jobs for people in the skilled trades and repair: plumbers; builders; electricians; heating, ventilation and air-conditioning installers; automotive technicians; customer-service representatives; and even clerical workers who are required to do more than type and file. Indeed, even as formerly middle-skill occupations are being “deskilled,” or stripped of their routine technical tasks (brokering stocks, for example), other formerly high-end occupations are becoming accessible to workers with less esoteric technical mastery (for example, the work of the nurse practitioner, who increasingly diagnoses illness and prescribes drugs in lieu of a physician). Lawrence F. Katz, a labor economist at Harvard, memorably called those who fruitfully combine the foundational skills of a high school education with specific vocational skills the “new artisans.”

The outlook for workers who haven’t finished college is uncertain, but not devoid of hope. There will be job opportunities in middle-skill jobs, but not in the traditional blue-collar production and white-collar office jobs of the past. Rather, we expect to see growing employment among the ranks of the “new artisans”: licensed practical nurses and medical assistants; teachers, tutors and learning guides at all educational levels; kitchen designers, construction supervisors and skilled tradespeople of every variety; expert repair and support technicians; and the many people who offer personal training and assistance, like physical therapists, personal trainers, coaches and guides. These workers will adeptly combine technical skills with interpersonal interaction, flexibility and adaptability to offer services that are uniquely human.

David H. Autor is a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. David Dorn is an assistant professor of economics at the Center for Monetary and Financial Studies in Madrid.

Tech Heads / Home NAS
« on: August 03, 2013, 12:02:41 AM »
RAID5 or RAID6. A drobo is $500, diskless. Can I beat that price? Suggestions?

General Discussion / [SCIENCE!] Dark matter miscalculation?
« on: July 18, 2013, 12:38:56 AM »
Just realized it's an older article. Oh well.

If Not Dark Matter, Then What?

Natalie Wolchover, Life's Little Mysteries Staff Writer   |   April 19, 2012 03:49pm ET


Astronomers mapped the motions of hundreds of stars in the Milky Way in order to deduce the amount of dark matter that must be tugging on them from the vicinity of our sun. Their surprising conclusion? There's no dark matter around here.

As the researchers write in a forthcoming paper in the Astrophysical Journal, the stellar motion implies that the stars, all within 13,000 light-years of Earth, are gravitationally attracted by the visible material in our solar system — the sun, planets and surrounding gas and dust — and not by any unseen matter.

"Our calculations show that [dark matter] should have shown up very clearly in our measurements. But it was just not there!" said lead study author Christian Moni-Bidin, an astronomer at the University of Concepción in Chile.

If the analysis of the data from Chile's European Southern Observatory (ESO) is correct — a big "if," several physicists say — it overturns the decades-old theory that dark matter permeates space in our region of the Milky Way. Dark matter is an invisible material thought to make up 80 percent of all matter in the universe. Although it doesn't interact with light and so cannot be seen, its presence is invoked to explain why the outskirts of galaxies, including the Milky Way, rotate much more quickly than would be expected based on the gravitational pull of visible matter alone. Commonly accepted as fact, dark matter plays an essential role in models of galaxy formation and evolution, and several experiments are under way to detect dark matter particles on Earth.

But if dark matter isn't here in the solar system, it may not be anywhere, because its distribution through the galaxy would have to be extremely peculiar to avoid this region in space. "Modern theories have serious troubles to explain the formation of a [dark matter] halo so curiously shaped," Moni-Bidin told Life's Little Mysteries.

Scott Tremaine, professor of physics at Princeton University's Institute for Advanced Study, said, "If the authors' conclusions are correct, this is indeed a serious blow to dark matter."

Future astronomical surveys, such as the European Space Agency's Gaia mission, will clarify the situation by observing the movements of millions of stars, instead of just hundreds. But in the meantime, by calling dark matter into question, the new ESO finding invites discussion of a topic that hasn't gotten much airtime in recent years: What other theories could account for the rotation of galaxies, as well as other observations explained by dark matter? If not dark matter — or, at least, not the dark matter we expected — then what? Experts have a few other options, though they're not nearly as satisfying.

Gravity 2.0

If the force of gravity is a lot messier than Newton and Einstein thought, then it could account for the speedy rotation of spiral galaxies without requiring dark matter. For gravity to speed up stars on a galaxy's edge, it must deviate from the "inverse-square law" — the rule that gravity decreases by the square of the distance away from something — at galactic distances. In other words, the force would need to suddenly spike at the edge of galaxies. But for it to act that way, gravity fields and the equations associated with them would have to be tremendously convoluted. [Top 3 Questions People Ask an Astrophysicist (and Answers)]

The theory is called "modified Newtonian dynamics," or MOND. "The nicest of the alternative models for spiral galaxies is the alternative gravity theory MOND, as it seems to be able to [mathematically] reproduce the galaxy rotation curves with few assumptions built into it," said Douglas Clowe, an astrophysicist at Ohio University who studies dark matter.

However, MOND doesn't fill as many gaps as dark matter does: it works perfectly only for spiral galaxies, Clowe said. For elliptical galaxies, galaxy groups, galaxy clusters, and larger-scale structures, the theory doesn't quite fit observations, and so it requires that extra matter — i.e., dark matter — be invoked once again. "So instead of just using an undiscovered particle to explain our observations of structures in the universe, MOND requires both an undiscovered particle and a modification to the gravitational-force law," he said.

Another knock against MOND is that it, like the dark matter theory, doesn't match the new ESO findings. According to Moni-Bidin, because the team members used Newtonian gravity in their calculations, MOND would predict a discrepancy to arise in the amount of mass they measured in the solar system. "MOND expects a 'phantom disk' of unseen matter to be detected in a work like ours," he said — just as using Newton's law to model the galaxy leads one to predict dark matter.

Fields of phions

John Moffat, a physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Advanced Study in Canada, has proposed a sub-theory of MOND called MOG, or "modified gravity." He claims MOG explains the peculiar motion of galaxies, as well as galaxy clusters and cluster collisions, without invoking dark matter at any scale.

"I take Einstein's gravity and I add to this three fields," Moffat explained. One of the fields has a mass, and this introduces variations in the force law at different distance scales. However, in order to have a mass, the field must have a particle associated with it, which Moffat calls the phion. And, like dark matter particles, the phion's existence has not been verified. [Smart Answers for Crazy Hypothetical Questions]

Warm and dark

If the ESO analysis is correct, it could just mean that dark matter behaves very differently — or is distributed very differently in space — than has been thought. "It would mean that dark matter would need to be distributed on a wider scale within the inner parts of a galaxy," Clowe said, "which is [mathematically confirmed] if you make the dark matter particles less massive than the currently favored models."

According to Douglas Spolyar, a dark matter theorist at the University of Chicago, the less massive variety is called warm dark matter. "People use it to explain two things — one that you would have a core in your dark matter profile, so dark matter stays constant inside some radius in the galaxy. Secondly, if you look at the dark matter sub-haloes in the Milky Way, the amounts [of warm dark matter] are much lower," he said. That could explain why the ESO astronomers didn't find any dark matter in our cosmic neighborhood. [What If Our Solar System had Formed Closer to the Milky Way's Edge?]

However, the researchers said that cold dark matter particles are strongly preferred by cosmologists, because less massive dark particles would have problems forming galaxies quickly enough to match astronomers' observations of the early universe.

New theory

If future surveys of the motions of stars bolster the ESO findings, strongly suggesting there really is no dark matter in our region of the galaxy, then cosmologists may have to scrap all the current theories and begin anew. "To date, a comprehensive relativistic theory alternative to the dark matter paradigm, able to explain the observations on all scales, from galactic rotation to the clusters of galaxies, is not known," Moni-Bidin said.

Princeton's Tremaine concurred: "I don't think any of the alternatives to dark matter are very likely."

General Discussion / The "Ex-Beatle" - twice
« on: July 07, 2013, 01:46:19 PM »
Hope you can get through the pay-wall. Just starting this now, but pretty cool. This dude was in both Nirvana and Soundgarden at one point.

Tech Heads / Git, Make, and The Luggage
« on: May 17, 2013, 07:22:50 PM »
Anyone use Git with GitHub? I am using it w.r.t. the mentioned program/script. I am running into issues and since they're all new-ish to me, I'd like to make sure I'm not fucking up.

Shameless plug.  :nerdglasses:

Research Team Publishes New Methods for Synthetic Generation of Influenza Vaccines

Design Enables More Rapid Response to Potential Pandemics

LA JOLLA, CA and ROCKVILLE, MD—May 15, 2013—A team of international researchers from the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI), Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA, US Department of Health and Human Services), and Institut fur Virologie, Phillips Universitӓt, has published a study detailing new methods to rapidly generate influenza vaccine seeds by using synthetic genomics tools and technologies.

The team led by first author Philip R. Dormitzer, M.D., Ph.D., and senior authors J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., JCVI and SGI, and Rino Rappuoli, Ph.D., Novartis, published their study in the May 15 edition of the journal Science Translational Medicine. In a timed proof of conceptthis team demonstrated that in just four days and four hours they could accurately construct robust synthetic vaccine viruses for use in influenza vaccine development. The team concludes that this is a novel and accurate method that could enable a more rapid pandemic response and yield a more reliable supply of better matched seasonal and pandemic vaccines than are currently available.

“Our teams have been working hard to put our combined expertise to work toward the development of next generation vaccines,” said Dr. Venter, CEO and Founder of JCVI and SGI. “We believe that synthetic genomic advances hold the key to transforming many industries and one of the most important will be in advanced vaccines that have the power to help prevent public health threats such as influenza pandemics.”

The study details the synthetic vaccine techniques and methods developed by the team after the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. While the response to this pandemic was the fastest in history, vaccines only became available after the rate of human infections had peaked. Novartis and other vaccine companies have relied on the World Health Organization (WHO) to identify and distribute live reference viruses or viral genes to create seasonal or pandemic vaccines. The 2010 publication of the first synthetic cell constructed by the team at JCVI described new synthetic genomic tools and techniques that were adapted to create flu vaccine viruses.

Since October 2010 Novartis, JCVI and SGI/Synthetic Genomics Vaccines Inc. (SGVI) have been working together through a BARDA-sponsored program to apply synthetic genomics tools and technologies to accelerate the production of the influenza vaccine virus strains required for vaccine manufacturing. The vaccine virus strain is the starter preparation of a virus and is the base from which larger quantities of the vaccine virus can be grown. The goal of this collaboration is to develop a "bank" of synthetically constructed vaccine viruses ready to go into production as soon as WHO identifies the flu strains. This paper outlines results of some of the first successful outcomes of this collaboration.

The researchers focused on three technological areas--speedy synthesis of DNA cassettes to produce influenza RNA genome segments, improved accuracy of rapid gene synthesis by improving error correction technology, and increased yields of hemagglutinin (HA), which is the essential vaccine antigen.

In the traditional approach to vaccine development, an influenza virus is cultured and grown in chicken eggs. The synthetic genomics approach starts with virus genome sequence data in the computer.

The team then employed synthetic genomics tools to synthesize the two antigens used in vaccine production, HA and neuraminidase (NA). To do this they developed a new cell-free gene assembly method coupled with the improved one step enzymatic error correction method for rapid and accurate gene synthesis. Although gene synthesis is now commonplace, it is still difficult to rapidly and accurately construct large pieces of DNA, large genes and whole genomes. Daniel Gibson, PH.D., and his team at SGI-DNA, along with teams at JCVI, are world leaders in the design and construction of such large gene constructs. It took the team only approximately 10 hours to construct and assemble the synthetic HA- and NA-encoding DNA cassettes ready for transfection into Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells. This method enables the rapid and accurate conversion of digital sequence information to biologically active DNA. This is one of the key differences in synthetically derived vaccines versus traditionally developed vaccines.

The next step developed and described by the team involves rescuing the vaccine virus from the manufacturing cell line. The team employed a novel method of using one cell line for both seed generation and vaccine antigen production. This adds to the efficiency of the new vaccine production and alleviates some of the regulatory and manufacturing complexity.

“As an industry leader in the research, development, manufacture and supply of flu vaccines, Novartis is committed to identifying new ways to speed development of safe and efficacious vaccines to protect patients from seasonal flu and potential pandemics,” said Rino Rappuoli, Head, Vaccines Research, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics. “Our research shows the potential power of synthetic vaccine development in addressing emerging public health threats. By electronically transmitting genetic information rather shipping biological materials, we can begin development of new vaccines more quickly, and ultimately, better protect global health.”

This work was made possible in part through a contract from BARDA and funds from the Novartis Foundation. Funding also came from the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Background Information
SGI through subsidiaries, SGVI and SGI-DNA, has continued to develop new technologies to rapidly and accurately synthesize genes and genomes of any size. JCVI scientists along with researchers at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and 44 academic institutions recently announced that they had sequenced and published more than 10,000 influenza virus genomes as part of the Influenza Virus Genome Sequencing Project (IGSP) of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). JCVI scientists have sequenced approximately 75 percent of the influenza virus genomes available in GenBank. Novartis has been working with JCVI for more than a decade to apply their findings in the genomics field to develop novel vaccines that prevent disease. The last collaboration introduced the use of genomics in vaccines research, a technology today known as "reverse vaccinology."

About JCVI
The JCVI is a not-for-profit research institute in Rockville, MD and San Diego, CA dedicated to the advancement of the science of genomics; the understanding of its implications for society; and communication of those results to the scientific community, the public, and policymakers. Founded by J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., the JCVI is home to approximately 300 scientists and staff with expertise in human and evolutionary biology, genetics, bioinformatics/informatics, information technology, high-throughput DNA sequencing, genomic and environmental policy research, and public education in science and science policy. The legacy organizations of the JCVI are: The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), The Center for the Advancement of Genomics (TCAG), the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives (IBEA), the Joint Technology Center (JTC), and the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation. The JCVI is a 501 (c)(3) organization. For additional information, please visit

About Synthetic Genomics Inc.
SGI, a privately held company founded in 2005, is dedicated to developing and commercializing genomic-driven solutions to address a wide range of global challenges. The company is focused on several key research and business programs including: developing new synthetic DNA products and technologies through its subsidiary, SGI-DNA; algae biofuels; new and improved food and nutritional products; and clean water technology. SGI is also involved in synthetically derived vaccine development through Synthetic Genomic Vaccines Inc. (SGVI), a business unit co-founded with the J. Craig Venter Institute; and in developing sustainable crops such as castor and sweet sorghum and agricultural products through AgraCast, a company co-founded with Plenus S.A. de C.V. For more information go to:

link to referenced article:

Myths of Weight Loss Are Plentiful, Researcher Says

If schools reinstated physical education classes, a lot of fat children would lose weight. And they might never have gotten fat in the first place if their mothers had just breast fed them when they were babies. But be warned: obese people should definitely steer clear of crash diets. And they can lose more than 50 pounds in five years simply by walking a mile a day.

Those are among the myths and unproven assumptions about obesity and weight loss that have been repeated so often and with such conviction that even scientists like David B. Allison, who directs the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, have fallen for some of them.

Now, he is trying to set the record straight. In an article published online today in The New England Journal of Medicine, he and his colleagues lay out seven myths and six unsubstantiated presumptions about obesity. They also list nine facts that, unfortunately, promise little in the way of quick fixes for the weight-obsessed. Example: “Trying to go on a diet or recommending that someone go on a diet does not generally work well in the long term.”

Obesity experts applauded this plain-spoken effort to dispel widespread confusion about obesity. The field, they say, has become something of a quagmire.

“In my view,” said Dr. Jeffrey M. Friedman, a Rockefeller University obesity researcher, “there is more misinformation pretending to be fact in this field than in any other I can think of.”

Others agreed, saying it was about time someone tried to set the record straight.

“I feel like cheering,” said Madelyn Fernstrom, founding director of the University of Pittsburgh Weight Management Center. When it comes to obesity beliefs, she said, “We are spinning out of control.”

Steven N. Blair, an exercise and obesity researcher at the University of South Carolina, said his own students believe many of the myths. “I like to challenge my students. Can you show me the data? Too often that doesn’t come into it.”

Dr. Allison sought to establish what is known to be unequivocally true about obesity and weight loss.

His first thought was that, of course, weighing oneself daily helped control weight. He checked for the conclusive studies he knew must exist. They did not.

“My goodness, after 50-plus years of studying obesity in earnest and all the public wringing of hands, why don’t we know this answer?” Dr. Allison asked. “What’s striking is how easy it would be to check. Take a couple of thousand people and randomly assign them to weigh themselves every day or not.”

Yet it has not been done.

Instead, people often rely on weak studies that get repeated ad infinitum. It is commonly thought, for example, that people who eat breakfast are thinner. But that notion is based on studies of people who happened to eat breakfast. Researchers then asked if they were fatter or thinner than people who happened not to eat breakfast — and found an association between eating breakfast and being thinner. But such studies can be misleading because the two groups might be different in other ways that cause the breakfast eaters to be thinner. But no one has randomly assigned people to eat breakfast or not, which could cinch the argument.

So, Dr. Allison asks, why do yet another study of the association between thinness and breakfast? “Yet, I can tell you that in the last two weeks I saw an association study of breakfast eating in Islamabad and another in Inner Mongolia and another in a country I never heard of.”

“Why are we doing these?” Dr. Allison asked. “All that time and effort is essentially wasted. The question is: ‘Is it a causal association?’” To get the answer, he added, “Do the clinical trial.”

He decided to do it himself, with university research funds. A few hundred people will be recruited and will be randomly assigned to one of three groups. Some will be told to eat breakfast every day, others to skip breakfast, and the third group will be given vague advice about whether to eat it or not.

As he delved into the obesity literature, Dr. Allison began to ask himself why some myths and misconceptions are so commonplace. Often, he decided, the beliefs reflected a “reasonableness bias.” The advice sounds so reasonable it must be true. For example, the idea that people do the best on weight-loss programs if they set reasonable goals sounds so sensible.

“We all want to be reasonable,” Dr. Allison said. But, he said, when he examined weight-loss studies he found no consistent association between the ambitiousness of the goal and how much weight was lost and how long it had stayed off. This myth, though, illustrates the tricky ground weight-loss programs have to navigate when advising dieters. The problem is that on average people do not lose much – 10 percent of their weight is typical – but setting 10 percent as a goal is not necessarily the best strategy. A very few lose a lot more and some people may be inspired by the thought of a really life-changing weight loss.

“If a patient says, ‘Do you think it is reasonable for me to lose 25 percent of my body weight,’ the honest answer is, ‘No. Not without surgery,’” Dr. Allison said. But, he said, “If a patient says, ‘My goal is to lose 25 percent of my body weight,’ I would say, ‘Go for it.’”

Yet all this negativism bothers people, Dr. Allison conceded. When he talks about his findings to scientists, they often say: “O.K., you’ve convinced us. But what can we do? We’ve got to do something.” He replies that scientists have an ethical duty to make clear what is established and what is speculation. And while it is fine to recommend things like bike paths or weighing yourself daily, scientists must make sure they preface their advice with the caveat that these things seem sensible but have not been proven.

Among the best established methods is weight-loss surgery, which, of course, is not right for most people. But surgeons have done careful studies to show that on average people lose substantial amounts of weight and their health improves, Dr. Allison said. For dieters, the best results occur with structured programs, like ones that supply complete meals or meal replacements.

In the meantime, Dr. Allison said, it is incumbent upon scientists to change their ways. “We need to do rigorous studies,” he said. “We need to stop doing association studies after an association has clearly been demonstrated.”

“I never said we have to wait for perfect knowledge,” Dr. Allison said. But, as John Lennon said, “Just give me some truth.”

Here is an overview of the obesity myths looked at by the researchers and what is known to be true:


Small things make a big difference. Walking a mile a day can lead to a loss of more than 50 pounds in five years.

Set a realistic goal to lose a modest amount.

People who are too ambitious will get frustrated and give up.

You have to be mentally ready to diet or you will never succeed.

Slow and steady is the way to lose. If you lose weight too fast you will lose less in the long run.

Ideas not yet proven TRUE OR FALSE

Diet and exercise habits in childhood set the stage for the rest of life.

Add lots of fruits and vegetables to your diet to lose weight or not gain as much.

Yo-yo diets lead to increased death rates.

People who snack gain weight and get fat.

If you add bike paths, jogging trails, sidewalks and parks, people will not be as fat.


Heredity is important but is not destiny.

Exercise helps with weight maintenance.

Weight loss is greater with programs that provide meals.

Some prescription drugs help with weight loss and maintenance.

Weight-loss surgery in appropriate patients can lead to long-term weight loss, less diabetes and a lower death rate.
A version of this article appeared in print on 01/31/2013, on page A15 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Many Weight-Loss Ideas Are Myth, Not Science, Study Finds.

General Discussion / WTF DVR
« on: April 26, 2013, 01:00:54 AM »
Why do these fucking pieces of shit only die when they are 80% full. Motherfucking no good FUCK

Thank god for Smart TVs and HBO Go or I would have lost GoT.

that is all.

General Discussion / Thread merge
« on: April 05, 2013, 07:54:50 PM »

General Discussion / Replacing Big Oil
« on: April 03, 2013, 12:38:19 PM »
Don't know if any of you are Quora members, but this is an awesome discussion.

Sobering realization really.

General Discussion / [SCIENCE!] Whoa. I know Kung-Fu.
« on: March 05, 2013, 06:09:26 PM »

Brain-to-Brain Interface Lets Rats Communicate With Their Minds
Max Rivlin-Nadler   

Scientists at Duke University have developed a way for rats to communicate with one another, using only the electrical transmissions of their brains.

They have created a brain-to-brain interface that would let one rat transmit information to another rat, allowing the rat on the receiving end to perform behavioral tasks without being trained to do them. Scientists first trained a group of rats on complex tasks involving reacting to light and pushing levers, or poking their noses through the correct hole to get water. They then connected a transmitter to the rats' brains, and paired them up with a second group, fitted with receivers, who were familiar with being told instructions based on the frequency of electrical stimulation. The first group were known as the "encoders", the ones whose brains were being recorded. The second group, the "decoders," were the rats who would receive the electrical stimulation and the information from the encoding group.

That's when things get really cool:

    The researchers found that the decoder rats could learn to perform the same movements, and successfully complete the task, guided solely by the information they received from the brains of the encoder rats. Likewise, when the implants were embedded into the somatosensory cortex, the decoders could use the sensory information they received to mimic the encoders' actions and poke their nose into the right hole to get a drink. They could also transmit the information over the internet in real time, so that the brain activity of an encoder rat in the lab at North Carolina could guide the behaviour of a decoder animal in Brazil.

Scientists believe this research will help pave the way for advances in treating patients with motor disorders like Parkinson's disease, or people recovering from strokes. Those treatments might just the beginning however, believes Miguel Nicolelis, one of the researchers on the project. "This could lead to organic computers that perform heuristically instead of using algorithms. I have no doubt that human brain nets will be possible in the future, but I certainly won't see this in my lifetime."

Human brain nets? We are now one step closer to our glorious Borg-like future.

[Image via Shutterstock.]

General Discussion / Lightshow
« on: February 08, 2013, 07:38:45 PM »

Getting Fat with TZT / Healthy Choices
« on: January 24, 2013, 01:57:42 PM »

Garlic Roasted Squash
Roasted Squash with Garlic
(3-4 servings, recipe created by Kalyn)

3 medium or 4 small zucchini or yellow summer squash (or use a combination of colors)
10 large cloves garlic, peeled (~3 Tblsp minced)
2-3 T olive oil
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme, rosemary, or sage (or use a slightly smaller amount of the dried herb, slightly crushed)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 F. Wash squash, dry, and cut into diagonal slices about 3/4 inch thick. Cut bigger center slices in half again, so all pieces are approximately the same size. Cut garlic cloves into thin slices lengthwise, cutting each one into about 3 pieces. In plastic bowl, toss squash and garlic with olive oil and the type of herb you are using. Arrange in single layer in glass or metal baking dish. Roast 20 minutes, or until squash is starting to soften and garlic is slightly browned. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper and serve hot.

Roasted Salmon with Balsamic Sauce
Roasted Salmon with Balsamic Sauce
(Makes enough sauce for about 4 pieces of salmon, sauce recipe from Glenna at A Fridge Full of Food)

1 salmon filet per person
1 tsp. olive oil per fish filet
1 tsp. fish rub per fish filet

Balsamic Sauce:
1/3 cup Splenda (for South Beach Diet) or sugar
1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar (I like Fini brand)
1 tsp. coarse ground black pepper (or less)

Take salmon out of refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Rub salmon filets on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with fish rub. Preheat oven to 450 F while sauce is cooking down.

Combine balsamic vinegar, Splenda or sugar, and black pepper in small saucepan. Let it come to a very low simmer and cook until reduced by half, about 10-15 minutes.

When salmon is at room temperature, place in glass or ceramic baking dish and roast about 8-10 minutes, or until fish feels firm, but not hard, to the touch. Serve hot with a

(If you don't have fish rub or don't want to buy it, a combination of sweet paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and lemon pepper would be a good combination on the fish.)

Tech Heads / OSX app installer troubleshooting
« on: January 16, 2013, 03:01:30 PM »
Mac installer troubleshooting. Where do I start? OSX 10.8.2

Background: The WebEx Add-on installer works flawlessly on local accounts. On our network accounts (they are administrators and can sudo if necessary), they fail - abruptly - like no error or anything. You click the downloaded DMG, which opens up the Add-on Installer. You click the installer and it even gives you the "this is from the internet" warning. You click open, to bypass, then it asks if you want to install. Clicking "install" immediately kills the process, making the bouncing WebEx icon die in the dock. From activity monitor, you also see the named process die abruptly. I also know it is launched by "launchd" but I doubt that's useful info as I think all processes are spawned from there.

So, where should I start? Which logs are relevant here? I assume this is completely permissions related, since it's profile related. I tried to chown -R the, I also chmod -R as well. No love.

Tech Heads / More things (Corporate) Mac...
« on: January 02, 2013, 08:26:28 PM »
Backups, especially Servers, how do you handle that? OD servers?

migrating/upgrading users - how do you do that?

'Bout to try and get a virtual host server going on an older iMac that has 16GB RAM and 1TB HDD to play with in a test environment. Know of anyone who's had success? Xen or ESXi?

Tech Heads / Break in last night at work
« on: December 19, 2012, 03:12:48 PM »
2 older iMacs and a Thunderbolt Display taken. I now have to find serial numbers. MOTHERFUCKER SHIT DAMN COCK SUCK DIE ASSHOLE DOUCHBAGS.

Thanks to a lot of help here and the FoI boards over the years (Thx Yankimus Nooxor and Cruoris) I am about to start rolling out our first Mac Servers since 2004! I had started a test batch in CA with some machines added to ARD, which would make this immensely more easy to find, except that it was only newer machines added. I hadn't walked the building to ensure changes to Mac Management yet. FUCK.

Now the paper trail and 20 Q's begin with users to figure out exactly which machines were grabbed. God Damn it.

General Discussion / Early Game on West Coast
« on: October 20, 2012, 01:53:04 PM »
#1 fuck getting mentally prepared for a key game at 8am for a 9am game

#2 LSU's O is the worst I have seen in a decade; line and QB wise.

#3 Our D started out bad, but have made a few adjustments here to get it together.

#4 Where the FUCK did A&M get this kid QB. I'd sell a nut to trade out our QBs. He is fucking amazing and a Freshman. Fuck you.

General Discussion / Furnaces. How do they work?
« on: September 16, 2012, 02:33:47 AM »
I'm from the deep south. I've only read about these fucking things. I just moved into a new (rental) house that has a gas one. It kicked off today when it was 90+ outside. The thermostat says off.  WTF. There was also a winter/summer toggle switch on it. WTF does that do?

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