An Electric Motorcycle Valentino Rossi Could Love

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Chuck Squatriglia calls Azhar Hussain’s TTX an electric motorcycle Valentino Rossi could love:

The alt-fuel revolution has been slow in coming to motorcycles, but big manufacturers like Honda and KTM now follow a growing number of start-ups in developing electric two-wheelers. So far they’ve been limited to scooters like the Vectrix VX-1E, motocrossers like the Zero X from Zero Motorcycles or commuter bikes like the Brammo Enertia.

Hussain, who co-founded Mavizen, a maker of iPod and gaming accessories, wanted something a wee bit faster. Something capable of, oh, zero to 60 in 3.8 seconds, and 135 mph.

The TTX01 is a prototype of the bike Hussain hopes to begin selling next year. Although designed for the track, he says it will be suitable for the street. With a price tag in the $30,000 ballpark, it won’t be cheap, but Hussain believes there’s a market for eco-friendlier race-ready machines.

“Our customers are after performance,” Hussain says. “Whilst these bikes will be street legal, our intention is that they will be entry-level vehicles for teams and individuals to enter the next generation of motor sport.”

He’s not alone in betting motorcyclists will pay such a premium. Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM is developing a race-ready electric motocrosser, and both Honda and Yamaha are said to be working on battery-powered bikes. Although none of those companies has said how much their green(er) machines might cost, they won’t be cheap: The Zero-X goes for $7,450, and the Brammo is 15 grand.

Hussain is an entrepreneur, not an engineer, so he turned over construction of the TTX01 to some of Britain’s leading green-tech firms. They started with a 2000 Suzuki GSX-R 750, a formidable canyon-carver, and stripped it to the frame. They pulled the engine, transmission and radiator, and replaced them with a pair of air-cooled Agni Lynch electric motors. Each has a continuous output of 20 kilowatts (about 27 horsepower) and a maximum of twice that. The motors weigh 11 kilograms (24 pounds) apiece and are 200 millimeters (7.8 inches) in diameter.

“The motors have the best power-to-weight ratio available, and they are one of the most efficient around (at) 93 percent,” Hussain says.

Power comes from a 4.3 kilowatt-hour battery pack that sports lithium–iron phosphate cells made by LifeBatt. The battery is good for 3,000 cycles and recharges in three hours. Range is 20 to 40 miles, depending upon how hard you’re riding. Hussain claims the TTX01 will do about 30 miles at 100 mph.

Of course, that kind of range won’t go far on the track, where top-tier racers like Moto GP world champion Valentino Rossi push bikes to limits that would suck a battery dry in no time. To meet the needs of racers, Hussain is working on a “hot-swappable” battery system that will require less than 15 seconds to replace a dead pack with a fresh one. It’s one of the top goals, as Hussain continues developing the production version of the bike, dubbed TTX02.

“With the introduction of pit-lane stops and battery swaps, the performance parameters change,” Hussain says. “On a typical 2.5-mile circuit, we would aim to give you about five to eight laps, depending on how it’s ridden and the configuration of the circuit, and aim to give you a zero to 100 km/h (62 mph) in under three seconds with a top speed of 140-150.”

Another goal for the production bike is a front hub-mounted motor that would allow for energy regeneration under braking and traction control. Hussain believes the benefits of two-wheel drive would offset any impact the added weight might have on handling.

“We would expect no more than 10 percent of the traction to come from the front wheel under any conditions,” he says. “This will keep the motor small and light and minimize adverse vehicle dynamics. The front and rear motors will not be identical. The front motor is very much a real-time assist and not a primary driver.”

Other ideas Hussain wants to explore include belt drive, a two-speed transmission, and an open-source vehicle-management system that would encourage customization. “We’re looking at Linux as a development model for the next generation of motor sports,” he says. He also is considering a composite frame to help cut weight and improve acceleration.

Hussain claims the current bike will hit 110 mph with low gearing, which maximizes acceleration and allows a zero to 60 sprint of 3.8 seconds. Change the rear sprocket, and you’ll max out at 135 mph. That’s far short of the 3.0 seconds and 172 mph the 2000 GSX-R 750 could do, but then, the Gixxer produced 140 horsepower. The Suzuki tipped the scales at 426 pounds ready to ride with oil gas and coolant, while the TTX01 weighs just a tad less than 364, because it doesn’t need all the fluids.

The Ruin of the Roman Empire: A New History

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Orson Scott Card open his review of James J. O’Donnell’s The Ruin of the Roman Empire: A New History with a summary:

He makes a very strong case for the idea that the “barbarians” who conquered Italy, Gaul (France), Iberia (Spain), and North Africa were largely romanized and thoroughly Christianized. They maintained Roman institutions — and trading patterns — largely intact, and while some things changed, the Roman Empire in the west was still a going concern.

Nobody knew that it had “fallen.” The same offices continued to be filled by the same sorts of bureaucrats.

While the Emperor in Constantinople never recognized any of O’Donnell’s heroes, most notably Theoderic, they continued to govern in the name of Roman authority, and they kept Latin as the official language of empire. Which is why the “hordes” of invaders left almost no linguistic footprint — the languages that today are called “Romance” are the children of Latin, not of the amorphous tribes that conquered these lands.

O’Donnell’s thesis is that the western empire only fell when Emperor Justinian made his famous attempt to “restore” the Roman Empire in the west. All he really needed to do was recognize the authority of the new rulers there and his purpose would certainly have been achieved; instead, he rejected them and invaded.

It’s not a pretty picture. Justinian did not attack barbarians slavering over raw meat in yurts; he invaded an Italy that was still obviously Roman, and systematically destroyed the all the people with the power and will to maintain the Roman system.

What he left behind was exactly the chaos that supposedly he came to heal. It was Justinian who destroyed the Western Roman Empire — or so O’Donnell claims.

Card says that it’s hard to take O’Donnell seriously though, when he has such an obvious political axe to grind:

Because O’Donnell, instead of making the case for his interpretation of ancient events, wants to make a grand, foolish analogy between Justinian and George W. Bush.

It’s as if he thought, while writing the book, “Justinian was stupid and destroyed what he thought he was saving, and everybody knows Dubya is stupid, too, so they must be the same.”

Here are his actual words: “He was a man of limited talents from the provinces, surrounded by gifted men who knew only too well how to reshape their world in the image of delusion about the position of the city [Constantinople] and its emperors in this world…. We may choose to call them Justinian’s best and brightest or, if you prefer, his neoconservatives” (p. 216).

A comparison between the bureaucrats of Constantinople and today’s Neocons, and between Justinian and George W. Bush, is so stupid that it makes it impossible to take O’Donnell seriously in his other assertions.

‘Dictators’ to the Right of me, ‘Presidents’ to the Left

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

There are 'Dictators' to the Right of me, 'Presidents' to the Left, Humberto Fontova notes — at least according to the mainstream media:

From the AP to Reuters and from the New York Times to the Washington Post the MSM stories on the Cuban Revolution’s 50th anniversary all mention a “dictator” — but his name is Batista. The Castro brothers invariably appear as “Presidents.” Fidel Castro has ruled (unelected) longer than Hitler and Stalin combined and mandates what his subjects, read, say, earn, eat (both substance and amount), where they live, travel or work. No matter. He’s a “president”

You will search these stories in utter vain for any mention of mass-murder and jailings or torture — on the part of the Castros that is. Yet mass-repression started on day one of the Castroite triumph and kicked into highest gear in the mid 60′s, precisely at the apex of the Castro/Che popularity with western politicians, celebrities and “intellectuals.”

In April 1959, three months after his triumph, Castro toured the US to thunderous acclaim. At the time of his delirious, deafening, foot-stomping receptions at Harvard Law School and the National Press Club (most of whose members oppose capital punishment), his firing squads had slaughtered 1,168 men — and boys, some as young as 15.

By the time Norman Mailer (another opponent of capital punishment) was hailing Fidel Castro as “the greatest hero to appear in the Americas!” his hero’s firing squads had piled up 4,000 corpses and one of 18 Cubans was a political prisoner, an incarceration rate that surpassed Stalin’s.

By 1975, when George McGovern (another opponent of capital punishment) was calling Castro as “very shy and sensitive, a man I regard as a friend,” the bullet-riddled bodies of over 10,000 Cubans lay in unmarked graves, and Cuba still held the most political prisoner as a percentage of population on earth, easily surpassing Nazi Germany’s prewar rate. But this record does not besmirch, as evidenced by the following tributes:

“Viva Fidel! Viva Che! Long Live our cry of Freedom!” — Jesse Jackson.

“Castro is very selfless and moral. One of the world’s wisest men.” — Oliver Stone.

“Cuba’s Elvis.” — Dan Rather.

One Helluva Guy! — Ted Turner

“If you believe in freedom, if you believe in justice, if you believe in democracy, you have no choice but to support Fidel Castro!” — Harry Belafonte.

“A genius.” — Jack Nicholson.

“Fidel, I love you. We both have beards. We both have power and want to use it for good purposes.” — Francis Ford Coppola.

“Socialism works. I think Cuba might prove that.” — Chevy Chase.

“Castro has done some good things for Cuba” — Colin Powell

(Hat tip to Mencius Moldbug.)

Communicating with code

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

It’s accepted within Web 2.0 circles that rapid prototyping followed by rapid iteration — experimentation — beats thorough planning. Paul Buchheit, formerly of Google, calls this communicating with code:

We did a lot of things wrong during the 2.5 years of pre-launch Gmail development, but one thing we did very right was to always have live code. The first version of Gmail was literally written in a day. It wasn’t very impressive — all I did was take the Google Groups (Usenet search) code (my previous project) and stuff my email into it — but it was live and people could use it (to search my mail…). From that day until launch, every new feature went live immediately, and most new ideas were implemented as soon as possible. This resulted in a lot of churn — we re-wrote the frontend about six times and the backend three times by launch — but it meant that we had direct experience with all of the features. A lot of features seemed like great ideas, until we tried them. Other things seemed like they would be big problems or very confusing, but once they were in we forgot all about the theoretical problems.

The great thing about this process was that I didn’t need to sell anyone on my ideas. I would just write the code, release the feature, and watch the response. Usually, everyone (including me) would end up hating whatever it was (especially my ideas), but we always learned something from the experience, and we were able to quickly move on to other ideas.

The most dramatic example of this process was the creation of content targeted ads (now known as “AdSense”, or maybe “AdSense for Content”). The idea of targeting our keyword based ads to arbitrary content on the web had been floating around the company for a long time — it was “obvious”. However, it was also “obviously bad”. Most people believed that it would require some kind of fancy artificial intelligence to understand the content well enough to target ads, and even if we had that, nobody would click on the ads. I thought they were probably right.

However, we needed a way for Gmail to make money, and Sanjeev Singh kept talking about using relevant ads, even though it was obviously a “bad idea”. I remained skeptical, but thought that it might be a fun experiment, so I connected to that ads database (I assure you, random engineers can no longer do this!), copied out all of the ads+keywords, and did a little bit of sorting and filtering with some unix shell commands. I then hacked up the “adult content” classifier that Matt Cutts and I had written for safe-search, linked that into the Gmail prototype, and then loaded the ads data into the classifier. My change to the classifier (which completely broke its original functionality, but this was a separate code branch) changed it from classifying pages as “adult”, to classifying them according to which ad was most relevant. The resulting ad was then displayed in a little box on our Gmail prototype ui. The code was rather ugly and hackish, but more importantly, it only took a few hours to write!

I then released the feature on our unsuspecting userbase of about 100 Googlers, and then went home and went to sleep. The response when I returned the next day was not what I would classify as “positive”. Someone may have used the word “blasphemous”. I liked the ads though — they were amusing and often relevant. An email from someone looking for their lost sunglasses got an ad for new sunglasses. The lunch menu had an ad for balsamic vinegar.

More importantly, I wasn’t the only one who found the ads surprisingly relevant. Suddenly, content targeted ads switched from being a lowest-priority project (unstaffed, will not do) to being a top priority project, an extremely talented team was formed to build the project, and within maybe six months a live beta was launched. Google’s content targeted ads are now a big business with billions of dollars in revenue (I think).

Of course none of the code from my prototype ever made it near the real product (thankfully), but that code did something that fancy arguments couldn’t do (at least not my fancy arguments), it showed that the idea and product had real potential.

A New Order of Hereditary Nobility

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Mencius Moldbug asks us to imagine a new order of hereditary nobility. What would it take to make it happen?

First, we need to define noble status. Our rule is simple: if either of your parents was a noble, you’re a noble. While this is unusually inclusive for a hereditary order, it is the 21st century, after all. We can step out a little. And nobility remains a biological quality — a noble baby adopted by common parents is noble, a common baby adopted by noble parents is common.

Fine. What are the official duties and privileges of our new nobility? Obviously, we can’t really call it a noble order unless it has duties and privileges.

Well, privileges, anyway. Who needs duties? What’s the point of being a noble, if you’re going to have all these duties? Screw it, it’s the 21st century. We’ve transcended duties. On to the privileges.

The basic quality of a noble is that he or she is presumed to be better than commoners. Of course, both nobles and commoners are people. And people do vary. Individual circumstances must always be considered. However, the official presumption is that, in any conflict between a noble and a commoner, the noble is right and the commoner is wrong. Therefore, by default, the noble should win. This infallible logic is the root of our system of noble privilege.

For example, if a noble attacks a commoner, we can presume that the latter has in some way provoked or offended the former. The noble may of course be guilty of an offense, but the law must be extremely careful about establishing this. If there is a pattern of noble attacks on commoners, there is almost certainly a problem with the commoners, whose behavior should be examined and who may need supplemental education.

If a commoner attacks a noble, however, it is an extremely serious matter. And a pattern of commoner attacks on nobles is unthinkable — it is tantamount to the total breakdown of civilization. In fact, one way to measure the progress that modern society has made is that, in the lifetime of those now living, it was not at all unusual for mobs of commoners to attack and kill nobles! Needless to say, this doesn’t happen anymore.

This intentional disparity in the treatment of unofficial violence creates the familiar effect of asymmetric territorial dominance. A noble can stroll anywhere he wants, at any time of day or night, anywhere in the country. Commoners are advised not to let the sun set on them in noble neighborhoods, and if they go there during the day they should have a good reason for doing so.

One of the main safeguards for our system of noble authority is a systematic effort to prevent the emergence of commoner organizations which might exercise military or political power. Commoners may of course have friends who are other commoners, but they may not network on this basis. Nobles may and of course do form exclusive social networks on the basis of nobility.

Most interactions between commoners and nobles, of course, do not involve violence or politics. Still, by living in the same society, commoners and nobles will inevitably come into conflict. Our goal is to settle these conflicts, by default, in favor of the noble.

For example, if a business must choose whether to hire one of two equally qualified applicants, and one is a noble while the other is a commoner, it should of course choose the noble. The same is true for educational admissions and any other contest of merit. Our presumption is that while nobles are intrinsically, inherently and immeasurably superior to commoners, any mundane process for evaluating individuals will fail to detect these ethereal qualities — for which the outcome must therefore be adjusted.

Speaking of the workplace, it is especially important not to let professional circles of commoner resistance develop. Therefore, we impose heavy fines on corporations whose internal or external policies or practices do not reflect a solid pro-noble position. For example, a corporation which permits its commoner employees to express insolence or disrespect toward its noble employees, regardless of their relationship in the corporate hierarchy, is clearly liable. Any such commoner must be fired at once if the matter is brought to the management’s attention.

This is an especially valuable tool for promoting the nobility: it literally achieves that result. In practice it makes the noble in any meeting at the very least primus inter pares. Because it is imprudent for commoners to quarrel with him, he tends to get what he wants. Because he tends to get what he wants, he tends to advance in the corporate hierarchy. The result, which should be visible in any large business without dangerous commonerist tendencies, will be a predominance of nobles in top executive positions.

And, of course, this should be especially the case in government… but enough. We’ve made the point.

And what exactly is that point? Well, three points.

One: this system is profoundly unhinged and bizarre, and completely inappropriate in anything like a sane, civilized society.

Two: it is — save for the change in terminology — a fairly close description of the present legal status of non-Asian minorities (NAMs) in present-day America. (Which is by no means the only modern government to adopt such a system.)

We need to step over the corpses in the financial sector

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

We need to step over the corpses in the financial sector, Arnold Kling says:

Many economists think that an economic recovery requires the renewal of lending by banks. Instead, I think that we need to step over the corpses in the financial sector. A revival of business investment will come from profits, not from lending.

Kling’s analysis draws on an insight from Hyman Minsky:

Minsky’s key insight is that risk tolerance is cyclical. Investors will be risk averse for a while, and then gradually they will loosen up. Eventually, they become more and more complacent, until euphoria sets in, leading to bubbles and manias. This continues until a crash takes place, after which investors revert to being highly risk averse.

Minsky described this risk tolerance cycle in terms of three phases: hedge finance; speculative finance; and ponzi finance. During the hedge finance phase, investors are allergic to risk. You can say, “Here is a project that is probably going to offer some really nice returns,” and the investors reply, “No, I don’t want to touch it. I’m not buying anything that has a down side.”

During the speculative finance phase, investors make reasonable trade-offs between risk and return. During the ponzi finance phase, investors ignore risks. Giving subprime borrowers option ARM mortgages was ponzi finance in every sense of the word.

The word of the day is de-leveraging, Kling notes, as firms try to shed debt and build up cash reserves:

The instinct of policymakers is to fight this deleveraging process. TARP and the various financial bailouts are based on the assumption that we need an active financial sector to keep the rest of the economy running. This may be correct. As I have indicated, most economists seem to think along these lines.

However, my thinking is that the financial sector is vital only in the phases of speculative finance and ponzi finance. In an environment of hedge finance, nonfinancial firms are reluctant to borrow while individuals are reluctant to lend. Perhaps we should deal with the situation as it is, rather than try to foster financial intermediation that nobody wants.

Profits are the necessary fuel for the recovery, he says.

Japanese researchers develop all-round flu vaccine

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Japanese researchers develop all-round flu vaccine:

The research team has tested the vaccine on mice implanted with human genes, confirming that it works even if flu viruses mutate, according to Tetsuya Uchida, researcher at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Currently flu vaccines use a protein covering the surface of viruses but the protein frequently mutates to make the vaccines ineffective.

The newly developed vaccine is based on common types of protein inside the bodies of flu viruses as they rarely change, Uchida told AFP. The viruses used are the Soviet-A and Hongkong-A along with the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.

The Island at the Center of the World

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Orson Scott Card reviews Russell Shorto’s The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America, which explains how we couldn’t read Manhattan’s history until recently:

Because all the pertinent records were written in Dutch. And the government of the Netherlands thought so little of the history of New Amsterdam that in the early 19th century, during a fit of housecleaning, they sold the records of the colony for scrap paper.

A few letters survived here and there in the Netherlands. And a rather massive archive survived in the United States — survived by miracle, because nobody really cared much about these records here, either.

After all, nobody could read them. Not just because they were written in Dutch, but also because Dutch handwriting changed in the 1700s so that almost nobody in the Netherlands could have read them, either.

These 17th-century records survived fires, mold, and disregard; after a few attempts to translate them, the real work didn’t get under way until after Nelson Rockefeller endowed the work of translation.

At that time, a young scholar named Charles Gehring graduated with a specialization in 17th-century Dutch, and had to face the fact that there wasn’t exactly a huge market for his skills.

He happened to run into the very man that had arranged for Rockefeller to fund the translation. He said, in effect, “Have I got a job for you!”

Much of what we consider American goes back to the Dutch trading post:

The two great English colonizing efforts — in Virginia and in New England — really don’t resemble what we think of as America today.

Virginia and points south became a land of plantations, owned by men who wanted to maintain the rigid class system of England, only with themselves at the apex.

The New England colonies (except Rhode Island) were founded by religious believers who were trying to create a place of uniform faithfulness.

Where in all this do we find any hint of a melting pot? Of religious openness? Of freedom for ordinary working people?

Shorto tells us — and proves — that the roots of a tolerant melting pot were all in Manhattan.

Not that anyone planned it that way. The Dutch West India Company did not think of it as a colony. It was a trading post, a wholly-owned operation whose participants were employees or servants, most definitely not citizens.

But those employees had their roots in the Netherlands, a group of Protestant counties which were still in the midst of their bloody struggle for independence from Spanish Catholic rule.

During the terrible religious wars that had swept back and forth across Europe ever since Luther and Calvin began their own brands of reformation, most places achieved peace by expelling (or killing) dissidents, so that Europe became a patchwork of principalities, some Catholic, some Protestant of one sort or another.

Only the Netherlands determined to accept anyone and simply ignore the issue of religion. While there were still people who wanted uniformity of faith, the majority — and, more importantly, the government — seems to have invented the idea of separation of religion from citizenship.

Intolerance cuts into profits.

Tobacco Road Takes a Turn to the Smokeless

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Tobacco Road Takes a Turn to the Smokeless — because smokeless tobacco is dramatically safer, even if American regulators and NGOs don’t want to admit it:

One recent study showed that some newer brands, with names like Ariva, Camel Snus and Marlboro Snus, have sharply lower levels of a dangerous carcinogen than do older varieties of smokeless tobacco, such as Copenhagen and Skoal. Britain’s Royal College of Physicians, which sets health standards in the United Kingdom, has said smokeless tobacco is between one-tenth and one-one thousandth as hazardous as smoking, depending on the specific product. As with all nicotine-replacement products, smokeless tobacco can lead to addiction.

Morgan Stanley estimates that U.S. consumers spent $4.77 billion on smokeless tobacco in 2007 versus $78 billion on cigarettes. Smokeless-tobacco sales have been increasing about 5% or more a year.

Some switchers say the benefits of smokeless tobacco can be immediate and dramatic. After 30 years of smoking more than a pack a day, Deborah Barr required several respiratory medications just to breathe. An analysis of her lung capacity shocked her physician. “He said, ‘I’ve never seen anybody this bad,’ ” recalls Mrs. Barr, 53, of Richmond, Va. So she switched to Ariva, a tobacco pellet that dissolves in the mouth. “Within three days I could breathe without medication,” says Mrs. Barr, who smoked her last cigarette four years ago and still uses Ariva.

The newer snus products are less messy than the old wad between your cheek and gum:

Instead, recent products consist of dissolvable pellets or tiny pouches of tobacco that reside invisibly in the mouth and induce no spitting. The model for these new brands comes from Sweden, where use of spit-free smokeless tobacco, called snus, is more common among men than smoking.

Studies of Swedish snus users have found no elevated incidence of mouth cancer compared with the general population. Other studies, however, have linked snus consumption to cardiovascular disease, albeit at rates far below the risks of smoking, and some research has found a minor link with pancreatic cancer. Many of the studies were performed by the Swedish government, which discourages the use of snus and cigarettes.

Want to get healthy? Exercise 7 minutes a week

Friday, January 30th, 2009

People still seem to associate exercise volume with health and fitness, when it really takes surprisingly little time in the gym — or outside — to get fit. Want to get healthy? Exercise 7 minutes a week:

Timmons and his team showed that just seven minutes of exercise each week helped a group of 16 men in their early twenties control their insulin.

The volunteers, who were relatively out of shape but otherwise healthy, rode an exercise bike four times daily in 30 second spurts two days a week.

After two weeks, the young men had a 23 percent improvement in how effectively their body used insulin to clear glucose, or blood sugar, from the blood stream, Timmons said.

The effect appears to last up to 10 days after the last round of exercise, he added in a telephone interview.

Transcranial direct current stimulation

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) sounds like a “futuristic” idea from the 1930s:

In this case, electrodes attached to the person’s head run a current directly through the brain; the location of the electrodes can target the current to specific areas of the brain. At the cellular level, these currents are extremely weak, but they’re thought to reduce the voltage barrier needed for a nerve to fire, essentially enhancing normal activity.

A new Proceedings of the National Academies of Science paper describes how stimulating the primary motor cortex can help people learn motor skills:

By the end of day one, those who had an anode placed near the primary motor cortex were already pulling away from their peers (a cathode had no effect), and had opened up a large and significant gap by the end of day five. As expected, stopping the training at day five resulted in a gradual decline of the skills over time. Because the two sets of subjects showed declines of roughly the same rate, the gap that opened up during training wound persisting to at least 85 days after the training sessions ended.

The authors also looked into whether the [effect] of tDCS comes from the formation of or consolidation of the training by comparing the gains within a day to the retention of skills between days, which they called online and offline training. Overall, the differences in online gains between the two groups weren’t statistically significant. Between days, however, the control group was prone to forget some of the skills they had developed; in contrast, those receiving the current actually came back the next day in better shape than they’d left the day before.

(Hat tip to Al Fin.)

CNN story helps surgeon perform ‘lifesaving’ op

Friday, January 30th, 2009

CNN story helps surgeon perform 'lifesaving' op:

Ellis ordered an immediate MRI scan of Brandon’s skull and found an extremely large tumor, known as a teratoma, in the middle of his brain.

He operated two days later, but despite spending six hours in the operating room and going through half a dozen scalpels, he only managed to remove 20 percent of the tumor.

“In 15 years of doing neurosurgery, it really was the most difficult tumor that I ever encountered. It was very rubbery and hard to debulk,” he said.

“I wish I could demonstrate the firmness of the tumor that we were dealing with but it really was the case that after trying to dissect the tumor just five minutes with each scalpel, the scalpel would be dull and I would have to move on to use another scalpel.

“I went through at least a half-dozen of them, and even after many, many hours of operating on this tumor with multiple scalpels with multiple microsurgical-dissecting tools, I couldn’t remove very much of this tumor.”
“As I do every night, I read CNN online and immediately saw on the front page that there was an article in the health section entitled, From military device to life-saving surgical tool.

“I finished the rest of the story and my first thought was: I would have given anything to have this tool available six or seven hours ago based on the description in the story.

“Lasers have long been abandoned in neurosurgery,” he said, “because they were too cumbersome to use. But CNN spoke of a brain operation performed by a Dr. Bernard Bendok in Chicago with CO2 laser and this new easy-to-use, perfect mirror tool.”

The following day, on Christmas Eve, Ellis along with Dr. Tamir Wolf, a physician OmniGuide sent to assist, brought Brandon back to the operating room.

“After only 30 minutes, it was clear this laser device, as simple to use as a scalpel, was successfully debulking the tumor.”

Ellis operated on Brandon for four hours and managed to remove the remaining 80 percent of the tumor, by vaporizing it from the inside with the laser and then excising it.

“The boy was then extubated [removing the tube to his airway] after about 30 minutes and that same evening he was eating normally,” Wolf said.

Brandon has recovered his basic functions and is behaving normally.
Ellis added: “I think it’s an amazing story because it’s yet another demonstration of how interconnected we’ve become in this world.

“You have a CNN reporter in London, who writes a story about a neurosurgeon in Chicago, who’s using a device that was invented in Massachusetts, that story is read by a different neurosurgeon in North Carolina, and all within 72 hours, we have the device in North Carolina.

“We have the patient lined up for a surgery, and in the span of just a few days we perform really a life-saving operation on this patient.”

The Art of Modern Crimestop

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Mencius Moldbug looks back — quite sarcastically — at his extremely progressive upbringing and the art of modern crimestop:

Here is a thought I distinctly remember thinking as a teenager, quite possibly after reading one of Stephen Jay Gould’s better essays on the early hominidae: “boy, it’s a good thing Homo erectus went extinct. Because fortunately, racism is a lie, we are all the same under the skin, and once America educates the world all God’s chilluns will go to Harvard. But we’re obviously descended from less-intelligent hominids — and if those guys were still around, we’d have a real race problem.” A testament to the art of modern crimestop, which always finds a way to disable wrongthink by removing some tiny but essential component from one’s picture of reality.

The term crimestop comes from Orwell’s 1984:

…the speculations which might possibly induce a sceptical or rebellious attitude are killed in advance by his early acquired inner discipline. The first and simplest stage in the discipline, which can be taught even to young children, is called, in Newspeak, crimestop. Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity.

James Bobin on NPR

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

NPR’s Fresh Air interviews James Bobin — who, you may not have realized, co-created Flight of the Conchords and helped create Sacha Baron Cohen’s characters (Ali G, Borat, and Bruno).

A Web-Empowered Revolution in Teaching

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Chris Anderson, curator of the TED Conference, believes that a web-empowered revolution in teaching will change everything — you know, the way radio broadcasts of lectures changed everything, just before television-based home-learning changed everything.

People at the top of the academic hierarchy have an alarming tendency to believe — or at least to profess — that widening the reach of education will turn everyone into doctoral students. Not so much.