Quotulatiousness

July 9, 2017

Getting closer to science fiction technology every day

Filed under: Health, Science, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga novels, one of the imagined technological innovations to play a key part in the story is the Uterine Replicator (spoiler: it’s used to save the life of a premature baby, who grows up — in a manner of speaking — to be the main protagonist of the saga). In Reason, Katherine Mangu-Ward looks at just how close we are getting to the gee-whiz tech Ms. Bujold invented some thirty years ago for her novels:

In April, researchers announced they had managed to keep several extremely premature lambs alive and growing in artificial wombs. After spending up to four weeks in a clear plastic “extra-uterine device” at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, each sheep transformed from a decidedly undercooked fetal specimen to a much more robust critter with long limbs and a fluffy wool coat, the sort of animal you wouldn’t be terribly alarmed to see plop to the ground in a field on a spring afternoon.

The setup strongly resembles a sous vide cooking apparatus: a tiny, tender lamb floats in a large plastic ziplock, hooked up to tubes and monitors. But a video clip posted by the researchers has the emotional heft of feeling a fetus kick when you put a hand on a pregnant woman’s belly. Visible through the clear plastic, the lamb’s hooves twitch gently as it snuffles its nose and wiggles its ears.

The lambs in the experiment were selected for their developmental similarity to human babies born right on the edge of viability, or about four months premature. Babies born that early are equal parts horrifying and marvelous. Tiny creatures with organs visible through their translucent skin, they’re often called “miracle babies.” But there’s nothing particularly mysterious about those little beings curled up in nests of tubes and wires; they live because of the inspiration and hard work and risk-taking and study and pain of hundreds of people.

There are actually more of these struggling newborns now than there were a decade ago, simply because we’ve gotten so much better at keeping extremely premature babies — born before 24 gestational weeks — alive. Yet in the U.S., one-third of all infant deaths and one-half of all cases of cerebral palsy are still attributed to prematurity. Of the babies born that early who survive, more than 90 percent have severe and lasting health consequences, especially with their lungs, eyes, and intestines.

Previous efforts to improve those numbers have been stymied by difficulties duplicating the functions of the placenta, but the device attached to the “Biobag” looks deceptively simple: a pumpless blue plastic box hooked up to the umbilical cord that oxygenates the blood, removes carbon dioxide, and adds nutrients.

In their paper, published in Nature Communications, the Philadelphia researchers are careful to say that human applications of their work are at least a decade away. Yet these little pink lambs are already taking sledgehammers to some of the most precarious coalitions in American politics.

German Defences In The Meuse-Argonne Region I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: France, Germany, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 8 Jul 2017

Tour the Meuse-Argonne region with Jean-Paul: http://bit.ly/MeuseArgonneTours

Indy and Jean-Paul from the Romagne 14-18 museum explore the German defence works in the region. These bunkers were used from 1914 till 1918 and saw heavy action during the American Meuse-Argonne Offensive later in the war.

Historical ignorance

Filed under: Education, History, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Jonah Goldberg laments the constant displays of historical ignorance in the media and on social media:

Ideological and political polarization is a big concern these days, and commentators on the right and left have chewed the topic to masticated pulp. But it occurs to me that one unappreciated factor is widespread historical ignorance, and the arrogant impatience of reaching conclusions before thinking. The instantaneity of TV and Twitter only amplifies the problem.

For instance, on the Fourth of July, NPR’s Morning Edition tweeted out the text of the Declaration of Independence, 140 characters at a time. The angry responses, from left and right, were a thing to behold. “Are you drunk?” “So, NPR is calling for revolution,” “Glad you’re being defunded, your show was never balanced,” and so on.

World War II and the Cold War, particularly Vietnam, used to define the intellectual framework for how we understood many events. For people in their 30s, that framework changed to the Iraq War and the War on Terror. In my more curmudgeonly moments, it seems like the new paradigm for millennials (and the journalists and politicians who pander to them) isn’t some major geopolitical test or moment but the adventures of Harry Potter. Having never read the series, I also don’t read the countless articles using the books to explain the political climate, but I do marvel at their ubiquity.

It should go without saying that a children’s book about a magical boarding school for wizards is of limited utility in understanding, well, just about anything in a world without wizards.

I once heard a story second-hand of a general who was talking to an audience full of 20-somethings. He was explaining how the War on Terror challenged his generation’s mindset. “I spent most of my career worrying about the Fulda Gap,” he said. To which one “educated” fellow reportedly replied, “I know that Gap! It’s in a mall near my house.”

The Fulda Gap is the location in the German lowlands where the Soviets were most likely to launch an invasion of Europe.

Today, we face a multitude of challenges, at home and abroad, that can only be met by people with a modicum of historical literacy. If only Harry Potter could cast a spell to give it to us.

Why Are I-Beams Shaped Like An I?

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 8 Dec 2016

Thank you to my patreon supporters: Adam Flohr, darth patron, Zoltan Gramantik, Josh Levent, Henning Basma, Karl Andersson, Mark Govea

QotD: Maxime “Mad Max” Bernier’s oh-so-close loss in the Conservative leadership race

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… for those of us who supported the man we call ‘Mad Max,’ Bernier’s loss was a heartbreaking disappointment. Yet, his defeat need not be a loss. His campaign was unlike any other for high national office in the modern history of Canada. It was not a traditional campaign focused on his likeableness or on minor ideological differences from other candidates, but rather one that proposed wholesale reform and sweeping policy changes. Max’s campaign was not simply about a candidate. It was a movement to revolutionize Canadian conservatism.

Max fused traditional conservatism with an aggressive, no holds barred libertarianism that would end conservative inconsistency on an array of issues

That movement can broadly be described as liberty-conservatism. Max fused traditional conservatism—patriotism, respect for civil and family institutions, a strong national defence, and fiscal responsibility—with an aggressive, no holds barred libertarianism that would end conservative inconsistency on issues like corporate welfare, supply management, equalization, micro-tax cuts, and federal overreach into areas of provincial jurisdiction. It is a ‘get off my lawn’ conservatism that believes that the government’s power should be sharply restricted—from intruding into our wallets, our televisions (CRTC, CBC), our dinner tables, our speech, and our bedrooms.

The liberty-conservative movement broke all the moulds of traditional, Laurentian-dominated, consensus politics. It was young, it was online, and it was aggressive. It took on sacred cows that no major, national candidate had been willing to talk seriously about before.

Derek Fildebrandt, “Mad Max was not just a candidate. His campaign was a revolution for Canadian conservatism”, National Post, 2017-05-29.

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