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!

Getting Heart Rate From Video

From the creatives folks at Fitbit:

The basic idea is that the color of your face fluctuates slightly as blood perfusion under the skin changes from your heart’s pumping. If you measure the color change, you can measure heart rate. It sounds simple, but it’s not. One thing that makes this difficult is user motion: if the person being measured moves, it becomes difficult to disentangle cardiac-induced color changes from changes in lighting conditions on the face, rotations of the face, etc. But in some cases, we’re actually able to filter out some of this motion. Pretty cool, right?

This is hardly polished technology, but the idea is that you can get heart rate by looking at skin color changes. This is really pretty impressive. It’s a pretty clever approach. I’d be curious how well it transfers from using older film to using some modern 1080p broadcast quality video. Does the accuracy improve?

Looking At Cute Animals Can Boost Productivity

From the “you can’t make this stuff up department” over at LifeScience:

Previous studies have shown that humans slow down their speech when talking to babies, and the Japanese researchers speculated that viewing the cute images may have had a similar effect — slowing the behavior of the students who saw the cute baby animal images and improving their accuracy in the game. In addition, the researchers suspect the baby-animal group got a boost in nurturing feelings, something that would likely benefit performance in the care-related task that involved helping someone (even if that someone was an anthropomorphic game board).

So now you have an excuse to look at /r/aww. Here are some monkeys to help you work.

Someone’s Got A Case Of The Mondays

According to scientists, the idea that people hate Mondays more than any other day of the week is partially unfounded. People hate Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday as well.

Not terribly shocking. If I had to guess I’d ponder it would graph something like this:

Happyness Day Of Week

Peaks on Saturday, wanes on Sunday in anticipation of the ending weekend, rock bottom on Tuesday since the “freshness” of the new week is over yet the bulk of it remains. Wed/Thurs climbs as “hump day” passes and the end is in sight. Friday kicks of the weekend. That’s my theory at least.

Operation: Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum

Operation: Let's Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum

Matthew Inman, aka The Oatmeal started a campaign to raise money to purchase Wardenclyffe, perhaps the most iconic thing Nicola Tesla worked on aside from the Tesla coil itself. The building, built by no other than Stanford White, of Washington Square Arch fame.

Like Inman, I’d argue Nicola Tesla is one of the greatest geniuses to ever walk this earth. Given he spent the majority of his life and his career in the US, it seems fitting this last remaining facility (the NYC labs are long gone) be made into a museum. I first mentioned the sale on this blog back in 2009.

I’m actually currently reading Tesla: Man Out of Time, so this ironically works out quite well.

Mr. Wizard’s A Dick

Mr. Wizard

Yes it’s out of context, and he wasn’t really mean (but he wasn’t as soft as TV hosts are today). I still thought this is pretty funny. It’s probably not a shock to anyone who reads this blog, but I loved Mr. Wizard’s show growing up. Later on I also really enjoyed Bill Nye. I’m betting I saw most of these episodes at one point or another.

Accuracy Of Leonardo da Vinci

The BBC has an interesting article on the accuracy of da Vinci’s work:

According to Peter Abrahams, professor of clinical anatomy at Warwick University in the UK, Leonardo’s image is as accurate as anything that can be produced by scientific artists working today.

“If you actually know your anatomy, you can see all the tiny little holes that are in the skull,” says Prof Abrahams.

“Those are absolutely anatomically correct. Leonardo was a meticulous observer, and a meticulous experimental scientist. He drew what he saw, and he had the ability to draw what he saw absolutely perfectly.”

You can’t help but think what would have happened if da Vinci had been born later on and had access to the technology we have today. How much further his research would go if he had the aid of a computer and a more organized scientific community? Or would bureaucracy and politics have slowed him down?