Calamari Or Pig Rectum

This could just be some sort of urban legend however NPR’s This American Life is claiming some pork producer may be selling “pork bung”, the rectum of a pig as artificial calamari. Granted, it’s in sausage and most likely other highly processed pork. Some more discussion on CHOW about the product itself.

Update: Slate has some pretty good reporting that suggests this story is bogus and it’s not true. If it’s in hot dogs or other things you eat, that’s a whole other story.

Inventor Of The Bar Code Dies

N. Joseph Woodland, notable for inventing the bar code has died. On how his famous invention came about:

“I poked my four fingers into the sand and for whatever reason — I didn’t know — I pulled my hand toward me and drew four lines. I said: ‘Golly! Now I have four lines, and they could be wide lines and narrow lines instead of dots and dashes.’ ”

He was a former boyscout so he knew Morse code. You gotta love inventions that are thought of like that. It’s a pure eureka moment. Even more impressive is it wasn’t until years later that technology caught up and made his idea practical and prone to widespread adoption. He really was ahead of his time.

It’s a really cool story, well worth a read.

Using HIV To Kill Cancer

From NY Times:

To perform the treatment, doctors remove millions of the patient’s T-cells — a type of white blood cell — and insert new genes that enable the T-cells to kill cancer cells. The technique employs a disabled form of H.I.V. because it is very good at carrying genetic material into T-cells. The new genes program the T-cells to attack B-cells, a normal part of the immune system that turn malignant in leukemia.

The altered T-cells — called chimeric antigen receptor cells — are then dripped back into the patient’s veins, and if all goes well they multiply and start destroying the cancer.

The T-cells home in on a protein called CD-19 that is found on the surface of most B-cells, whether they are healthy or malignant.

I can’t help but think this is one of those major events in which we’ll look back and see it as a turning point in medicine. This stuff is at it’s infancy but when you think about it, we’re turning a deadly virus into a cure for a deadly disease. Science FTW!

Election 2012

cbsnews.com 2012 Election

My 4th election, 2nd presidential election. I couldn’t even tell you how many primaries, debates, etc. without hitting Wikipedia and counting. Handling the technical side of elections on a large internet news presence is nothing short of crazy. It’s a lot of 1′s and 0′s to move across the internet in a very short amount of time. No margin of error, no time to recover from mistakes. You’re product launches with the firmest of deadlines and is consumed immediately. Scale later is not an option, you scale from the starting gate to handle an unknown number.

It’s an interesting experience no matter how many times you do it. No matter how much planning, quick thinking and judgement calls are unavoidable. At least there’s a 2 year break until the next one :).

Post Hurricane Sandy

Bandwidth

Things have been quiet for a few days thanks the Hurricane Sandy. Power went out Monday afternoon and wasn’t restored until Thursday afternoon. About 4 hours after that it was cut again and was restored this afternoon. Despite that I still managed to work until 3:30 AM Tuesday fighting fires at work thanks to extremely slow cellular connectivity. Lots to catch up on, lots of deadlines to still hit over the next several days.

Believe it or not, the above image was delightfully fast internet access during the storm. For the majority of the time it was way worse.

Efficency End To End

From The Economist:

ENGINES on airliners are highly efficient when they are in flight, but not when operating on the ground. When a plane is taxiing under its own power, the engines burn vast amounts of fuel. A Boeing 747 can consume a tonne of fuel and emit several tonnes of carbon dioxide during an average 17-minute taxi to take-off. And when the aircraft lands there is likely to be another long drive to the passenger gate. Which is why there are various methods being developed for aircraft to use other means of propulsion while moving around an airport.

If you think about it, this was an area ripe for innovation for a long time now. Obviously having a second engine for taxi purposes on board is ruled out for weight and space reasons. Something external is obvious since these negatives are shed when it’s detached. Since engines would only need to start shortly before takeoff it would also mean less noise at airports.

It’s interesting that in engineering you focus on the primary use case and make it efficient. Once you’re done you continue to refine and make it more efficient. The folly is when you forget about other low hanging fruit near the edge cases, in this case when the plane is on the ground. While not a huge savings, it can potentially add up.