Monday, May 25, 2015

Collapse of the world’s largest herbivores

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related posts on this blog:

Echo, an Unforgettable Elephant

Business, government, education need to go back to school on STEM skills: report

Canadian employers have been complaining about a skills shortage of science, technology, engineering and math grads but as Simona Chiose reports, many STEM grads have just as much trouble finding jobs in their field as those in other disciplines.
The Globe and Mail

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Weighing the Promises of Big Genomics

Buzzfeed Ideas
David Dobbs
May. 21, 2015, at 6:01 a.m

“Success in sight: The eyes have it!” Thus the scientific journal Gene Therapy greeted the news, in 2008, that an experimental treatment was restoring vision to 12 people born with a congenital disorder that slowly left them blind. Healthy genes were injected to replace the faulty mutations in the patients’ retinas, allowing an 8-year-old to ride a bike for the first time. A mother finally saw her child play softball. Every patient, the researchers reported, showed “sustained improvement.” Five years in, a book declared this “breakthrough” — a good-gene-for-bad-gene swap long pursued as a silver bullet for genetic conditions — as The Forever Fix.

Earlier this month, two of the three research teams running these trials quietly reported that the therapy’s benefit had peaked after three years and then begun to fade. The third trial says its patients continue to improve. But in the other two, all the patients tracked for five years or more were again losing their sight.

Not all gene therapy ends in Greek-caliber tragedy. But these trials serve as a sadly apt parable for the current state of human genetics. This goes especially for the big-data branch of human genetics called Big Genomics. In five years of talking to geneticists, biologists, and historians, I’ve found that the field is too often distinguished by the arc shown here: alluring hope, celebratory hype, dark disappointment.

We live in an age of hype. But the overselling of the Age of Genomics — the hype about the hope, the silence about the disappointments — gobbles up funding that we might spend better elsewhere, warps the expectations of patients and the incentives of scientists, and has implications even for people who pay genetics scant attention. Many hospitals, for instance, are now collecting genetic information from patients that they may market to “research partners” such as drug companies. Some take more care than others do to secure informed consent. (Had blood drawn lately? Read everything you signed that day?) It’s not just that they’re selling you this stuff. They may well be selling you. And the sale depends on an exaggerated picture of genetic power and destiny.

(read more)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Elizabeth Warren is winning: How the progressive icon is remaking politics — without running for president

Salon Magazine

"With most of the political press having finally accepted that Sen. Elizabeth Warren is indeed not running for president, it’s only fitting that the Economist, a neoliberal and generally clueless British magazine that American elites like to pretend they’ve read, has an essay in its new issue all about how she’s too liberal and could never win."
"But more than the essay itself — which is by turns hackneyed (She’s a left-wing Ted Cruz!), objectively wrong (the Trans-Pacific Partnership is not primarily about trade), and misleading (President Obama’s “absolutely wrong” comment wasn’t about the entire TPP) — the Economist’s belated attack is interesting for what it suggests about Warren’s broader goal of leveraging her fame, credibility and fundraising prowess to move the Democratic Party to the left. Which is, simply put, that it seems to be working."

(read more)