Friday Four

Friday, April 01, 2016

1. I thought Pumpkin was a big fan of Dora the Explorer when, around age two, she'd watch it at every opportunity. But Little Man likes the show even more, often responding to the questions when they come up. He's even picked up some of the Spanish. For example, he often will shout, "¡Ayudame!" -- Spanish for "Help me! -- any time I pick him up for a diaper change or at any other time he doesn't wish me to do so. I usually reply, while chuckling, "I am helping you, Little Man."

2. A curious result in the control group of an experiment has led to a possible breakthrough in Alzheimer's Disease and other neuropathologies involving aggregates of misfolded protein:

Their first employee -- NeuroPhage's chief scientific officer -- was Richard Fisher, a veteran of five biotech start-ups. Fisher recalls feeling unconvinced when he first heard about the miraculous phage [a virus, also called "M13" --ed]. "But the way it's been in my life is that it's really all about the people, and so first I met Jonathan [Solomon] and Hampus [Hillerstrom] and I really liked them. And I thought that within a year or so we could probably figure out if it was an artifact or whether there was something really to it, but I was extremely skeptical."
And, later:
As Fisher notes, this is serendipitous. Just by "sheer luck, M13's keys not only unlock E. coli; they also work on clumps of misfolded proteins." The odds of this happening by chance, Fisher says, are very small. "Viruses have exquisite specificity in their molecular mechanisms, because they're competing with each other ... and you need to have everything right, and the two locks need to work exactly the way they are designed. And this one way of getting into bacteria also works for binding to the amyloid plaques that cause many chronic diseases of our day."
The first human trials of the resulting drug, based on this "key", will ensure that it is safe to consume. Tests for therapeutic value will follow.

3. After stopping for doughnuts, statistician John Cook amusingly imagines "how ridiculous it would sound if I were to go back twenty or thirty years and tell my mother about" people paying for doughnuts with their phones. He ends his imaginary dialog as follows:
Mom: People will carry around computers?!!

Me: Not really. I was just making that up. But they will drive flying cars.

Mom: OK, I could see that. That'll be nice.
Perhaps more believable, people can also use them to free up time during the work day by using them to insert decoy meetings into their calendars ... or to get out of real ones.

4. Orphaned and yet since confirmed secure, my encryption suite of choice has made the press a lot lately, partly because the barbarians of ISIS are using it. More interesting to me are the details of its origin in the mind of one Paul Le Roux, a computer geek-turned international crime boss:
What Snowden and the rest of the world wouldn't know for another two years was that Paul Le Roux, the man whose code formed the foundation of True Crypt, was at that very moment in the custody of the U.S. government. Le Roux was in a bind, facing the full force of a U.S. federal prosecution for any number of his extraordinary array of crimes. The only way out was to spill his secrets.
Thus ends the first installment. I don't know that this means the feds can now crack files so encrypted, but it bothers me a little, even though TrueCrypt is open-source.

-- CAV

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