9-24-16 Hodgepodge

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Worse Than Watching Hollywood Depict One's Field

Pharma blogger Derek Lowe reacts to an announcement by Microsoft that it intends to "solve the problem of cancer" within five or ten years:

I have beaten on this theme many times on the blog, so for those who haven't heard me rant on the subject, let me refer you to this post and the links in it. Put shortly -- and these sorts of stories tend to put actual oncology researchers in a pretty short mood -- the cell/computer analogy is too facile to be useful. And that goes, with chocolate sprinkles on it, for all the subsidiary analogies, such as DNA/source code, disease/bug, etc. One one level, these things do sort of fit, but it's not a level that you can get much use out of. DNA is much, much messier than any usable code ever written, and it's messier on several different levels and in a lot of different ways. These (which include the complications of transcriptional regulation, post-transcriptional modification, epigenetic factors, repair mechanisms and mutation rates, and much, much, more), have no good analogies (especially when taken together) in coding. And these DNA-level concerns are only the beginning! That's where you start working on an actual therapy; that's what we call "Target ID", and it's way, way back in the process of finding a drug. So many complications await you after that -- you can easily spend your entire working life on them, and many of us have. [links in original]
Lowe does note something Microsoft could do that would help along cancer research, but I agree that the company "should just go and try it and report back when something interesting comes out of it, rather than beginning by making a big noise in the newspapers."

Weekend Reading

"[G]overnment puts productive people into a lose-lose situation by offering subsidies in the first place." -- Michael Hurd, in "Trump Legally Used Tax Breaks" at Newsmax

"[L]ittle kids can't reason like adults, but this doesn't mean they're mindless." -- Michael Hurd, in "To Spank or Not to Spank" at The Delaware Wave

It's Not Just Me: iTunes Is Rubbish

From my first attempt to use it, I thought iTunes was garbage. But I am a bit of an oddball when it comes to computers, and my knowledge about them has plenty of holes. So I am always willing to take my own conclusions with a bit of salt. That said, it looks like my impression of iTunes was accurate, based on the observations of a long-time user, who concludes:
At this point, whatever the causes of the product problems with iTunes and related iOS apps -- feature scope, management, team structure, etc. -- we can be pretty sure that the only 'solution' will appear when this software achieves end-of-life, the same way that the mystery of how to set recording time on VCRs was finally solved by their obsolescence.
Way back when the iPod was the Bright Shiny New, I received one as a gift and was astounded at how difficult it was to (figure out how to?) simply move audio files around from one device to the other. I cast about for better alternatives in pretty short order, ultimately going so far as to replace its firmware so I could completely avoid iTunes.

-- CAV

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