Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.

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Friday, December 24, 2021

No doubt, you’ve heard about the first cloned cat to be sold by Genetic Savings & Clone, Little Nicky.

In the spirit of my feelings about pets being convenient harbingers for commercialized human cloning, I offer a slightly re-imagined version of the Little Nicky AP story, with substitution words of my choice in [bracketed bold]. See if it doesn’t put a different spin on things:

SAN FRANCISCO — The first cloned-to-order [baby] sold in the United States is named [Nicky Jr.], a 9-week-old [boy] delivered to a Texas woman saddened by the loss of a [son] she had [raised] for 17 years.

The [baby] cost its [mother] $50,000 and was created from DNA from her beloved [son], named Nicky, who died last year.

“He is identical. His personality is the same,'’ the [mother], Julie, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. Although she agreed to be photographed with her [baby], she asked that her last name and hometown not be disclosed because she said she fears being targeted by groups opposed to cloning.

Yet while [Nicky Jr.], who was delivered two weeks ago, frolics in his new home, the [baby’s] creation and sale has reignited fierce ethical and scientific debate over cloning technology, which is rapidly advancing.

The company that created [Nicky Jr.], Sausalito-based Genetic Savings and Clone, said it hopes by May to have produced the world’s first cloned [girl] — a much more lucrative market than [boys].

While it is based in the San Francisco Bay area, the company’s cloning work will be done at its new lab in Madison, Wis.

Commercial interests already are cloning prized [supermodels] for about $20,000 each, and scientists have cloned [firefighters, scientists, doctors, actors, and musicians]

Several research teams around the world, meanwhile, are racing to create the first cloned [football player].

Aside from [lawyer] cloning, which has been achieved only at the microscopic embryo stage, no cloning project has fueled more debate than the marketing plans of Genetic Savings and Clone.

“It’s morally problematic and a little reprehensible,'’ said David Magnus, co-director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University. “For $50,000, she could have provided homes for a lot of [orphans].'’

[Children] rights activists complain that new [infant] production systems aren’t needed because thousands of [orphans] are [neglected] each year for want of homes.

Lou Hawthorne, Genetic Savings and Clone’s chief executive, said his company purchases thousands of ovaries from spay clinics across the country. It extracts the eggs, which are combined with the genetic material from the [babies] to be cloned.

Critics also complain that the technology is available only to the wealthy, that using it to create [babies] is frivolous and that customers grieving over lost [children] have unrealistic expectations of what they’re buying.

In fact, the first [baby] cloned in 2001 had a different [hair color] from its genetic donor, underscoring that environment and other biological variables make it impossible to exactly duplicate [children].

“The thing that many people do not realize is that the cloned [child] is not the same as the original,'’ said Bonnie Beaver, a Texas A&M [child] behaviorist who heads the American [Pediatric] Medical Association, which has no position on the issue. “It has a different personality. It has different life experiences. They want [Junior], but it’s not [Junior].'’

Scientists also warn that cloned [children] suffer from more health problems than their traditionally bred peers and that cloning is still a very inexact science. It takes many gruesome failures to produce just a single clone.

Genetic Savings and Clone said its new cloning technique, developed by [human] cloning pioneer James Robl has improved survival rates, health and appearance. The new technique seeks to condense and transfer only the donor’s genetic material to a surrogate’s egg instead of an entire cell nucleus.

Between 15 percent and 45 percent of cloned [babies] born alive die within the first 30 days, Hawthorne said. But he said that range is consistent with natural births, depending on the breed of [human].

Austin, Texas-based ViaGen Inc., which has cloned hundreds of [babies], also is experimenting with the new cloning technique.

“The jury is still out, but the research shows it to be promising,'’ company president Sara Davis said. “The technology is improving all the time.'’

Genetic Savings and Clone has been behind the creation of at least five [babies] since 2001, including the first one created.

It hopes to deliver as many as five more clones to customers who have paid the company’s $50,000 fee. By the end of next year, it hopes to have cloned as many as 50 [babies].

The company has yet to turn a profit.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/24/2004 02:41:11 PM
Category: Society, Science | Permalink | Feedback

Thursday, December 23, 2021

I caught a large chunk of PBS’ “The Elegant Universe” the other night. It dealth with how string theory holds the promise of explaining the elusive grand unifed theory for physics.

Much of it is over my head, but I find it fascinating.

While watching, I wondered if there was a compelling reason for pursuing a unifying theory for everything in creation. Does it necessarily follow that there must be just one framework for explaining everything in the universe?

Given the holiday season, I suspect the traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic monotheistic worldview may be as much a motivation for seeking a single, elusive solution. By contrast, Eastern philosophies accept a more multi-layered view of existence; I wonder if scientific inquiry in those cultures is as fixated on a unifying theory.

In short, is it possible that the assumption of a single theory for unravelling all is, at root, false? Why can’t there be multiple modes of behavior for different forces of nature like gravity, electromagnetic force and others, all co-existing in some harmony?

Keep in mind, this questioning is coming from a layman’s perspective. There may be some perfectly logical reason why there has to be a single unifying theory. But it’s intriguing to think that, maybe, Western philosophical fundamentals are coloring this research.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/23/2004 07:53:29 PM
Category: Science | Permalink | Feedback

Monday, December 20, 2021

feel the qi
Not down with the Botox Nation or plastic surgery? Facial acupuncture may be your ticket to a fresh face.

I wonder how this compares to a natural facelift.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/20/2004 06:38:35 PM
Category: Society, Science | Permalink | Feedback

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Do you crave ice cubes? Compulsively chew on the ice in your drink? Then you might have pagophagia, a symptom of iron-deficient anemia.

One of the commenters on Kevin, M.D.’s post noted that he’d never remember the term “pagophagia” (and he’s a med student!). If you speak the Greek, like I do, it’s pretty easy to remember: “Pago” is the Greek word for “ice”, and “phagia” is related to the root verb “to eat”. So it’s simple like that.

I have a friend who used to make an annoying habit out of eating ice. I don’t think he ever raided the freezer for cubes, but without fail, he’d munch on the leftover ice in his drinks. We used to rag on him about it, making up nonsense like how it would erode his tooth enamel over time. Now, I wonder if he didn’t have a touch of anemia.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/18/2004 05:11:19 PM
Category: Science | Permalink | Feedback

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Hey Edison, think you’ve got the next jackpot invention in your tiny little skull? Trevor Baylis, inventor and head of route-to-market firm Trevor Baylis Brands PLC, recently took a swing at 10 ideas submitted by CNN viewers/readers, to see if they had possibilities.

Among the suggestions: A voice-activated and talkback stove that would help the visually impaired (which Baylis liked) and a digital shock sensor for recording when parcels got damaged during transit (which he hated).

There’s one notion that really stood out:

Fabrizio Guiraud Hubie from Curitiba, Brazil, believed the fastest and safest way of exiting the atmosphere was to build an enormous elevator, capable of carrying 600 square feet of equipment. It would act as a space dock, complete with hotels and working areas, and would save millions on fuel costs, he said.

Baylis: This idea is somewhat “out in space!” Commendable and imaginative, but, alas, unlikely.

Unlikely, you say? But this idea is already being worked on, with NASA’s support, for a target date of 2019.

Because I’m fervently hoping they’ll dub this space elevator The Umbilicus, and because I just like seeing it, I’m reproducing the appropriate MST3K imagery:
push the button, frank
Maybe I should get in touch with Baylis’ company. I’m always coming up with spiffy product/service ideas.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/14/2004 07:17:20 PM
Category: Science | Permalink | Feedback

Sunday, December 12, 2021

In a potential foreshadowing of a shift in global political and economic influence, advances in agronomy and land reform are turning South America into a new breadbasket. Brazil is the main stage for this transformation, but neighboring countries are also benefitting.

Why does this matter? A key part of the United States’ rise to hegemony in the 20th Century was its abundance of food products. Using surplus food as a bargaining chip is a huge advantage when dealing with the developing world. Feeding hungry mouths overseas creates political capital, which helps secure entry into those markets. America’s dominant advantage in this area has been a given for so many decades that it’s just taken for a given now.

Competition from Latin America in food exports represents a challenge in the international arena. As countries in Asia and Africa further develop in the 21st Century, they may have options other than the U.S. and its standard food-aid packages. If Brazil or Argentina supplants American influence in those zones, they can help promote markets for companies based in their countries. Suddenly, it’s a race for resources and markets.

None of this would occur in a vacuum, of course. Ties between Washington and Latin America are strong, and being strengthened by formal trade treaties and informal ties. Other players like Europe, China and Japan also factor in. And cooperative initiatives could prevail over direct confrontations. Still, developments like this always hold the possibility of fundamental new courses, which could manifest themselves dramatically in American society over the next quarter-century.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/12/2021 07:04:53 PM
Category: Political, Food, Science | Permalink | Feedback

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

What if renowned physicist Stephen Hawking one day caught a Beastie Boys show and was struck by inspiration? And furthermore, decided the hardcore rhymin’ of NWA and The Ghetto Boyz was just his speed?

Yes, I can feel that you’re feeling it.

Look upon MC Hawking, ye mighty, and despair!

You can buy his debut disc right now. I think I’ll wait for his sophomore effort, wherein, hopefully, he’ll dissertate in crime-rhyme time that Planet Rock actually does exist.

(Via Obfuscated Networking)

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/07/2021 01:45:07 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Comedy, Science | Permalink | Feedback

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