This is a very contentious topic and I welcome and encourage discussion, but let’s keep it civil. The title of this article merely highlights the contentious nature of the topic.
There is a wiki-style page explaining why sequential downloading of BitTorrent files is bad. If you don’t understand it, go research it until you do, then come back here.
Let me preface by saying that I think BitTorrent (BT) technology is amazing and I have much respect for all those who helped it be created and maintained. I am not kicking the proverbial gift-horse in the mouth. I’m thankful for what I’ve got. I understand the issue of sequential downloading and how it is detrimental to the whole BT concept. Which is why I understand the heated discussion between people requesting the feature and people explaining why the feature is bad. I am not rehashing that debate.
What I want to do is try and intelligently think about the issue and discuss it, and to do so requires a paradigm-shift by those in the discussion. Think about the progression and proliferation of technology. Think about the concepts of supply and demand. Nobody disputes that zillions of BT users want sequential downloading (zillion = a lot). That means there is a huge demand for it. They might not understand BT technology enough to know why sequential downloading (herein referred do as SD) is bad for BT. But it’s easy to understand why there is a demand for it. If we take a broader look at the history of technological progression, almost always we see that when there is a huge demand for something but our technology is unable to supply that demand, there is great incentive to innovate and improve our technology to meet that demand.
And so my call to action is this: people may be stupid for wanting SD for BT. But the huge demand for it exists for a reason. Rather than telling people to “not want SD”, instead innovate and create to solve the problem. It may be that some innovation in BT technology solves the problem. Or it may be that BT will never be capable of successfully incorporating SD, in which case a new technology is needed. No doubt this problem will be eventually solved. But ignoring a demand does not make it go away. Neither does saying “there shouldn’t BE a demand.” The demand is there, and it must, and will, be supplied. You can argue about it until you’re blue in the face, but that’s the simple fact of the matter. It’s not easy to solve the problem, and I have much respect for the brilliant minds behind the technology. But pretending or insisting that a problem does not exist is not a solution to that problem. The problem remains. And hopefully soon, a solution will follow.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not affiliated with any of the things discussed in my article. I have no financial stake. I’m not promoting anything. I don’t have an ax to grind. I’m simply sharing what worked for me because I think others may benefit from my experience as I did.
Do you use Vusion? If you do, I’ve got some great news for you: you never have to pay Vusion’s ridiculously high price again, nor get a prescription to buy it. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about anything illegal, so you can continue to read without that concern.
Vusion is effective, so I’m not bad-mouthing it. What I have a problem with is how incredibly expensive it is considering it’s made from inexpensive Over-The-Counter ( OTC ) products, and the fact that you need a prescription to buy it. Even with coupons and insurance coverage, it’s still extremely expensive. I couldn’t afford it anymore so I had to find an alternative, and I found one.
So get ready to save a lot of money as I show you how to make your own Vusion from inexpensive OTC products.
Before we go further, let’s examine what’s in Vusion. It has three main ingredients (the rest are just “filler”). Those three ingredients are:
- zinc oxide
- petroleum jelly (also known as petrolatum or white petrolatum or by its brand name Vaseline. In this article we will refer to this ingredient as petrolatum).
What do those three things do?
- MICONAZOLE is an antifungal med that has been used for years in OTC anti-fungal products that treat things like athlete’s foot, ringworm, and jock itch (in case you wanted to know, all three of those things are caused by a fungal infection called tinea [pronounced TIN-eee-uh]). Miconazole is extremely common, inexpensive, and can be found OTC pretty much anywhere. It is available in a variety of forms such as a cream or a spray-on. Just search for products used to treat athlete’s foot and you’ll find one that has miconazole.
- ZINC OXIDE is used in calamine lotion (which you’ve probably heard of) and many other products as an antibacterial and deodorizer. I’ll explain later where to look for it.
- PETROLATUM (aka petroleum jelly) is so common and has been around so long that pretty much everyone knows what it is and people usually refer to it by its brand name Vaseline. When used on chapped lips, it helps by sealing in the moisture to help with cracked, dried lips. Likewise with skin anywhere else on the body. Petrolatum can found pretty much anywhere as well.
So knowing what was in Vusion, I was able to find a combination of inexpensive OTC products that when used together achieve the exact same result as Vusion for a fraction of the price and without the need for a prescription. I’ll tell you how I do it and you can do the same thing as me or change it to whatever works best for you. You may use whatever products you choose as long as you make sure that you have those three key ingredients.
Here’s what I do: I bought Lotrimin, which is used for athlete’s foot (it contains miconazole, one of the three key ingredients we’re looking for). Next, I bought a product called “Triple Paste medicated ointment for diaper rash”, which comes in a little tub with a screw-on lid. This stuff is basically just petrolatum with zinc oxide in it (the other two key ingredients we’re looking for), and so this product allowed me to kill two birds with one stone because it has both.
So I only needed to buy two products, and both were inexpensive, OTC, and common enough to be found pretty much anywhere. With those products, whenever I had reason to use Vusion, I instead applied the Lotrimin (miconazole) and then applied the “Triple Paste medicated ointment for diaper rash” (zinc oxide and petrolatum). Same results!
That’s how I did it. I hope that helps. Please feel free to leave feedback if you have any questions or comments.
Many people these days are aware of problems with schools. It’s an extremely complex issue with no easy answer. So I’m not proposing anything or trying to make any kind of grand sweeping generalization, or claiming I know how to fix the problems. But I want to share with you a personal example of a deficiency in my education (through no fault of my own).
I always paid attention in history class (or at the very least read all the assigned reading and did all the assigned work). So while I may not be a history whiz, I should at least know some of the basics, right?
Today I was on wikipedia reading about the Industrial Revolution. I’ve heard the term before, but we never covered it in school. Someone may have mentioned it in passing, but I really knew nothing about it until I started reading about it today. In the opening paragraph, it states “Economic historians are in agreement that the onset of the Industrial Revolution is the most important event in the history of humanity since the domestication of animals and plants.”
As I learned more about the Industrial Revolution, I began to see that this statement about the importance of the Industrial Revolution is not an exaggeration. Every single one of us lives the way we do because of what happened during the Industrial Revolution. I learned about economic growth. Mechanization. Worker exploitation. Labor unions. Collective bargaining. These things are huge. They matter, in a very direct and real sense. I’ve only skimmed the surface but now I at least have a foundation of knowledge about that subject. So many things in our every day lives are a direct result of global changes that took place during the Industrial Revolution, and having now learned the basics of it, I have a much better understanding of the world.
So what’s my point? Well, we’ve already talked about how we’re autodidacts. I just want to continue the conversation. There is so much to learn out there about the universe we live in. The more you learn, the more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that comprises our reality fit into place. Let your curiosity guide you. And know that there’s always so much more to be learned. You just have to teach it to yourself. It’s empowering.
EDIT 2011-10-16: The following videos about the future of education and how it can be changed for the better are both inspiring and jarring:
Both videos are TED talks regarding the current state of and the future of the educational system. In the first video, Salman Kahn (of Kahn Academy fame) talks about how he has begun working with schools to revolutionize teaching. The second video, which is a bit more bleak, has Bill Gates (of Microsoft fame) talking about the consequences of the budget cuts to education as well as the possibilities for fixing the problems.
I was compelled to share a noteworthy excerpt from the podcast The Skeptics’ Guide To The Universe, which if you’ve never heard of it before, I highly recommend you give it a listen because it’s one of the best podcasts out there, especially in the areas of skepticism and science. I want to bring to your attention an excerpt from episode #292 – Feb 16 2011. Steven Novella is host of the podcast and in my opinion is one of the most intelligent, cogent, and savvy experts in the skeptical community. In this excerpt he responds to someone espousing an anti-science viewpoint.
The most substantive and powerful part is when Steven Novella says that in responding to people who say things like “We don’t need science to tell us what to believe,” Steven Novella says to them “What do you think science is? There is nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. So which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?”
Of course, there is no way someone can respond to that in any kind of intelligent way while still maintaining their anti-science viewpoint. Thank you, Steven Novella, for fighting the good fight, and being so on point. Definitely quote-worthy material here.
Spurred by the frustrations of a good friend trying to reach common ground with a loved one, I am providing a funderful crash course.
Not Feeling Guilty Just Because Religion Doesn’t Go Down Smooth and Always Lets You Down 101 (regardless of how many spoonfuls of sugar you take it with)
Professor Teezey: Professor works as a Biomedical Engineer and has explored the issue extensively (from scientific and psychological standpoint) during world travel with much spirited discussion as well as extensive reading and exploration into the issue during a period of being between school and jobs. Officially raised catholic, your professor was a student of “Sunday School” (which he attended on Mondays), and he had a generally good experience with the organization and the people in it. Raised by a highly conservative family in very liberal areas of coastal southern California, your professor is an extremely intelligent individual who loathes contradictions and cognitive dissonance. Essentially, he has agonized over this issue so you do not have to. The professor hopes that you will no longer feel guilty for being who you are, and that any conclusions you end up drawing are your own.
Your education begins…
God bless Joe Pesci:
The God Delusion, preface linked below. You do not have any choice in the matter, if there was something higher than Required Reading, this is it. If you were read chapter 2 and then go to hang out with friends downtown…they would know that your mind was elsewhere. Chapter 2 is where he called me out, it was one of those zen like reading experiences where the author was talking directly to me and me only, even though we had never met and the book was a bestseller. Essentially he said, you are on the fence, I know how you got there, and I’m going to pull you off of it.
One summertime family dinner on the patio I had this 1 v 4 debate with my parents and grandparents as the sun was setting (erstwhile my siblings looked fairly uncomfortable).
I was not looking for an argument but if they insisted saying things that were patently false with me there…it was only a matter of time.
All the proof you need:
Split brain patient: 1/2 atheist, 1/2 Christian
This piece of ABC programming is a good representation of the debate today: the chosen ones, i.e. zealous writers and actors, making insipid attempts to stay one step ahead of those meddling scientists.
Do you fear that you are going to isolate yourself from other people? Don’t worry, not all of them:
ThoseOnboard will take your poor, your huddled masses…they just better be smoking hot though.
TV Shows you can watch that will not alienate you:
Penn & Teller’s Bullshit
Derren Brown (watch anything from Derren Brown)
My advice: Do not try to think of all the people in your life and then try to devise a way not to piss any of them off. Your concern is never to worry that other people feel threatened by your views. Allow yourself t come to your own understanding. Don’t forget to check the comments here, my cohorts will probably put up better links than I have. Feel free to post as well if you are new.
Humans inhabit almost every corner of our planet. Since the space age began, we’ve gone beyond our planet, traveled in space, and set foot on the moon. It seems inevitable that sometime in the future, humans will be colonizing places other than Earth and living in those places. What challenges face those future colonists?
As a guy who studied Economics in college, I’m no expert in Astronomy. However, I’m a fan of science fiction and of science in general. So my curiosity led me to research the issue and I wanted to share what I learned in hopes that other non-scientists interested in this topic might get something out of it. I hope you find it as fascinating and exciting as I did.
We will look at whether or not humans could live places other than the Earth, and we’ll review everything that must be considered for humans to live in those locations.
First, we’ll take a look at what an environment needs for it to be habitable by humans. Then we’ll discuss how humans could possibly solve the challenges that we are sure to face; challenges that arise from a lack of vital environmental properties that we take for granted here on Earth. We’ll focus on two scenarios: living in space in some type of space station / habitat (which I will refer to as a habitat from here on), and living on the planet Mars. A space habitat and Mars are the two most plausible scenarios. A space habitat is clearly possible because we’ve already created several such as the Mir Space Station and the International Space Station (ISS). We would simply need to apply our resources and manpower to create a space station that people could inhabit for longer periods of time. Among planets, Mars is the most likely planet in our solar system for human colonization for several reasons: Mars is a terrestrial planet, meaning it is made of solid material that we can land on. By contrast, the gas giant planets are made entirely of gas and there is nothing solid to set foot on. The other terrestrial planets, Mercury and Venus, are much too hot for humans to survive. Conversely, Mars has much more hospitable conditions comparable to Earth. Additionally, there are several moons in our solar system (including Earth’s own moon) that could be potential sites for human habitation. For simplicity, we will only discuss Mars, although much of what is true about Mars could apply to some of those moons as well.
So what exactly does a human-friendly environment need?
The things that must be considered are:
- Atmospheric pressure
- Breathable atmosphere
- Water Source
Humans must live in a place that has a significant amount of gravitational pull. Without enough gravity, the bones in the human body start to lose mass and become brittle. In space where there is zero gravity, this is a serious health concern that results in crippling and death. The earth’s gravity has a pull of what is referred to as 1 G. At the time of this writing, the minimum amount of gravity needed to remain healthy is unknown. However, the closer you get to 1 G (Earth’s gravity), the less likely the body will lose bone mass.
However, gravity can’t be too strong or it will crush the human body. It is unknown exactly how much gravitational force a human body can withstand for an extended period of time without negative health effects. Again, the closer it is to 1 G, the less likely the body will be damaged.
Creating artificial gravity in space is simple in concept. All one needs is a circular habitat of the right size which spins. Think of an ant standing on the inside of a bicycle wheel. By keeping the habitat spinning at the correct speed, you could simulate the force of gravity pulling at 1 G, and thereby eliminate the problems caused by weightlessness.
On Mars, things are not so simple. Mars is about half the size of Earth and its gravity is less than half the gravity of Earth’s. There’s not much one can do to change a planet’s gravity. The only question is: would living in Mars’ gravity cause the same bone deterioration that we know arises from living in zero gravity? The answer to that will not be known until humans have actually tried living in that low gravity situation for a long duration.
On Earth, the air that surrounds us presses against our bodies with a force of about 15 pounds per square inch. We don’t feel this load and it poses no problem for our bodies because we evolved under these conditions and our cells push back against the air with their own force. We are unaware of any pressure at all. One can feel a difference in pressure when you dive deep under water; the pressure outside your body is greater than the pressure inside and you feel an overall compression on your lungs, eardrums, and body as a whole. The opposite of that is when you are at a high altitude on a mountain or in an airplane and you feel your eardrums pop due to the air pressure outside your body being less than the pressure inside.
However, when we leave Earth, we encounter environments of different pressures. If the pressure outside of our bodies is too low, our internal pressure has nothing to balance it out. This results in great damage to the body because the pressure in cells and tissue will push to the point of bursting. Imagine taking a really powerful vacuum cleaner and pushing it against your skin. It will painfully damage the area and leave a bruise because the blood vessels burst. In a low pressure environment like outer space, the entire body would be subjected to this but on a much more powerful and more dangerous scale.
If the pressure is too great then the body will be crushed. An example of this can be seen with water pressure: if a human were to go too deep underwater, they would literally be crushed to death by the huge amount of force exerted on their body.
Like gravity, it is unknown exactly how much or how little pressure humans can endure for extended periods of time. However common sense dictates that the closer it is to our pressure here on Earth, the less harmful it will be.
In space, there is no atmosphere to exert pressure so the pressure is zero. On Mars, the pressure is less than 1% the pressure on Earth. In the case of either space or Mars, the pressure is too low for humans to survive. In space, a person would have to be in a pressurized enclosure or a pressurized suit. The same thing is necessary on Mars. However, it is hypothesized that maybe in the future we will be able to terraform Mars. Terraforming is a hypothetical process of making a world hospitable to humans by transforming its natural environment. One proposed method would be to create atmospheric pressure on Mars by adding huge amounts of gas to the atmosphere. At this time we have no way of accomplishing such a feat.
Most people are familiar with the effects of extreme temperatures. If a human body is too hot for too long of a time, it experiences hyperthermia resulting in eventual death. Likewise, if a body is too cold for too long of a time, it experiences hypothermia which also eventually results in death. The human body can only survive in a relatively narrow range of temperatures. The temperatures that we experience here on Earth vary greatly but are mild when compared with the freezing or burning temperatures found in other parts of the solar system. Venus, for example, is a scorching 894 °F (480 °C). Pluto on the other hand is a frigid -380 °F (-229 °C)
In space a person would have to be in an enclosure which could have its temperature regulated by common heating methods such as solar or electric heating. On Mars the temperature ranges from as low as -220 °F (-140 °C) to as high as 68 °F (20 °C). While this is certainly cold, Mars at its warmest can be relatively close to temperatures that can be found here on Earth. Assuming all other factors could be ignored, clothing to insulate the human body and keep it warm could be developed without too much complexity. Humans have plenty of experience protecting themselves from cold temperatures here on Earth.
The sun gives off a wide spectrum of radiation: from the visible light that allows us to see, to the infrared radiation that gives us heat, to the ultraviolet radiation responsible for sunburns and skin cancer. Many people are aware of the long-term dangers of exposure to too much sunlight (skin cancer). The part of the sun’s rays that cause skin cancer is the ultraviolet (UV) radiation. But here on Earth, we only get a tiny fraction of the total radiation emitted from the sun. That is because we are protected by the earth’s magnetic field and the atmosphere to a certain extent. The universe is filled with dangerous radiation that emanates not only from the sun but from everywhere in the cosmos. The earth has a giant magnetic field that deflects dangerous radiation from the sun and other parts of the universe. But a human that is not on Earth (e.g. in space) is not protected by Earth’s magnetic field and is therefore exposed to high levels of this radiation, which can cause death from the radiation itself or can lead to long term consequences like cancer. Minimizing the exposure to this radiation can present a real challenge because it can pass through objects such as the walls of a spacecraft.
Radiation is a difficult problem to deal with because without protection from Earth’s magnetic field, the radiation permeates just about every corner of our solar system. In space, the habitat would have to be lined with extra thick shielding of the right material which will add substantial mass to the habitat. This poses a problem because the more massive a spacecraft is, the more energy it takes to launch it, maneuver it, land it, etc.
Unfortunately for humans, Mars has no magnetic field like the Earth’s that deflects harmful radiation. On Mars however, we could build thick-walled bunkers that shield against radiation. Similarly, we could burrow into Mars’ surface and build underground habitats. A thick layer of Mars soil above the habitat would offer sufficient protection. Sadly, spending too much time outside these structures would result in absorbing dangerous amounts of radiation.
Humans need to breathe gas that contains a significant quantity of oxygen. The air we breathe here on Earth contains 20% oxygen; the rest is mostly nitrogen which is an inert, non-reacting, non-toxic gas. Note that an atmosphere may exert the proper amount of pressure for humans but might consist of gases that are not breathable. In that case the oxygen must be supplied via other means such as a scuba diving breathing device.
If humans are in an enclosure, it could obviously be filled with the appropriate mixture of gases (e.g. oxygen). We currently have the technology to turn water into breathable oxygen via a process called electrolysis where electricity is used to split water molecules into hydrogen gas and oxygen gas. The oxygen can then be used to breathe. . We also have the technology to remove carbon dioxide from the air. Both of these examples of technology are currently used in the ISS (the International Space Station). Outside an enclosure, a simple breathing device could suffice. For example, if all other factors were hospitable to humans such as a comfortable temperate and pressure, but the atmosphere contained gases that were not breathable, simply using a scuba-like breathing device would allow a person to survive.
The degree to how necessary sunlight is for humans is not as clear cut as the previous factors. Humans can live without sunlight, but some evidence has emerged showing the detrimental effects of lack of sunlight such as problems with mental health. Sunlight can also be used to grow food and sunlight provides a source of power by using solar panels.
Again, it is possible for humans to survive without sunlight and in certain instances they might have to such as if they were living underground on Mars. In a situation such as that, artificial lighting that mimics sunlight could be used in the same way it’s used for conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression that is thought to result from a lack of sunlight and is more prevalent in areas that get less sun during part of the year such as Alaska. Additionally, we have the ability to use artificial lighting to grow crops indoors and we could do so in the absence of sunlight. Sunlight will usually be available to power solar panels, but in some instances it might be necessary to have a nuclear reactor to provide power in addition to or in place of solar power. Nuclear reactors are very efficient sources of energy that require only a tiny amount of fuel to provide large amounts of power for a long period of time. In a space habitat this would add a huge amount of mass since nuclear reactors are heavy. That would not pose a problem on Mars.
Water is crucial. It is needed for human consumption, bathing, watering any crops that might be present, consumption by any animals that might be present, and it is used to cool nuclear reactors. Water is also needed to create breathable oxygen. But water is heavy and therefore requires a lot of fuel to transport it in space, so it is crucial to carefully utilize every drop.
Water reclamation and purification technology currently in use aboard the ISS allows most water to be reused. However, the tiny amount of water lost adds up over time and a space habitat would have to eventually be resupplied with water from an external source. This poses a problem if the habitat is far away. On Mars, that resupply could come from mining the frozen water ice and melting it to create liquid water.
An obvious but important requirement is food. Humans in space or on Mars will need enough food to eat to be able to survive for a long time. Animal and plant sources of food would have to be obtained in new and innovative ways.
The primary method for providing food would have to be growing crops. This could be accomplished via direct sunlight or with artificial growing lights. The environment would need to be set up to allow plants to grow, including the proper pressure, temperature, and nutrient requirements. In addition, low maintenance animals such as fish could be cultivated for food.
Humans are relatively fragile creatures that can only survive in a narrow range of conditions. Conversely, humans are remarkably adaptable and our technology grows at a phenomenal rate. The challenges of living in places other than Earth are significant but there are some current solutions to these hurdles and other solutions that will become more viable in the future. At this point, humankind has the ability to live in space and on other worlds such as Mars, albeit in a rather enclosed space. Whether we currently have the resources to implement these ideas is another question. However, none of these obstacles seem completely insurmountable and it’s only a matter of time before humans can call another world “home.”
Yesterday I finished J. Craig Venter’s autobiography, “A Life Decoded.” As you may have guessed from the clever title he was the first person to have his genome sequenced, an effort he led. Before that he led the charge on the first and second organism to be sequenced using his novel “EST Shotgun method.” Even if you’re not into biology or the politics of science, the book is inspiring and, taking into account all that he has been able to accomplish, it makes you want to borrow his mindset.
Intermittently he would add boxes that tie his life into what he knows about his DNA. A comment from Jaybe last weekend about his preference for serotonin pharmaceuticals as well as some trying events in my life this year incited me to share this one:
The attacks and setbacks I have experienced over the years would have plunged some people into profound depression. That is not to say I have not been down from time to time, but I have been fortunate that I have been mostly able to escape deep clinical depression. Is this because of my genes? A team led by Kay Wilhelm of Sydney’s St. Vincent’s Hospital and the University of New South Wales in Australia found that the influence of adversity on the onset of depression was significantly greater for those who inherited on chromosome 17 a short version of the serotonin transporter gene, known as 5-HTTLPR, from both parents.
The difference in length is in a part of the gene called the “activation sequence” that controls how much of the protein is made. As a result of having a shorter version, around one-fifth of the population makes less of a protein responsible for transporting the brain chemical serotonin, which plays a key role in mood and pain regulation, appetite, and sleep, and is affected by Prozac. They have an 80 percent chance of becoming clinically depressed if they experience three or more negative events in five years. Once again we have a study that undermines simpleminded genetic determinism: Brain chemistry depends on both genes and circumstances, on both biology and society.
The work also showed that those with a long version that gave them “genetic resilience” against depression had only a 30 percent chance of developing the mental illness, given similar circumstances. The remainder-about half of all people-have a mix of the two genotypes. Many other studies have linked the short version to anxiety-related personality traits including harm avoidance and neuroticism and increased experimentation with illegal drugs. Fortunately for me, I have two copies of the long form and more serotonin.
In addition to copious amounts of serotonin (which makes sense because he’s always sailing through big storms on the open ocean), I can tell by using the book as a portal into his brain and his obvious talent for research that he has tons of inductive reasoning skill. At least I think I can, whatever the case, it’s safe to say he found his calling.
My comrade at work tendered his Two Weeks Notice and will therefore be passing me the torch, that is, the dubious honor of being the “Most Disgruntled Employee in Show.” We had often contemplated that at the crux of our mutual dissatisfaction lie a dearth of the neurotransmitter and neurohormone 4-(2-aminoethyl)benzene-1,2-diol of the catecholamine family.
Dopamine, or Goofballs to you kids, is something that God assiduously spurns from our receptors. I will often liken the one operational dopamine receptor in my prefrontal cortex to the creaky screen door of a lone house on a dusty windswept plain. Comrade envisions greener pastures back in New Mexico, however, before bidding his adieu he seeks to refine our notion of dopamine function and I thought I would likewise share:
If my illegitimate child were posed this question he would be at a loss for words. And that’s assuming he speaks English! All bastards aside, I would like to take a minute to try to articulate my current career, irrespective of how unenamored I may be of it at the moment and how balls the job market is from a hire-ee’s perspective. Specifically, I would like to define what domain I studied to attain my Scientiæ Baccalaureus, what field I am applying to jobs in, and how I, the individual person, might fit into that greater picture. If I have the chance, I will even try to answer life’s deeper mysteries:
- Why don’t penguins feet freeze?
- Why does grilled cheese go stringy?
OK, so how the hell do those underlined words relate? Time to talk to our boy, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (check him out at TED). And by the way, dude, have you really been using that thing to fill in forms your whole life? I do not even think I could do write that last name in cursive if you held a Avtomat Kalashnikov 47 to my head (to clarify, his name is actually Hungarian which is in the Uralic family which makes it closer Finnish and Estonian than the Russian of the AK-47 but they both look the same kinda crazy to me). From his book, Creativity:
p.27-28 The first question I ask of creativity is not what is it but where is it?
The answer that makes most sense is that creativity can be observed only in the interrelations of a system made up of three main parts. The first of these is the domain, which consists of a set of symbolic rules and procedures… The second component of creativity is the field, which includes all the individuals who act as gatekeepers to the domain. It is their job to decide whether a new idea or product should be included in the domain… Finally, the third component of the creative system is the individual person. Creativity occurs when a person, using the symbols of a given domain… has a new idea or sees a new pattern, and when this novelty is selected by the appropriate field for inclusion into the relevant domain… So the definition that follows from this perspective is: Creativity is any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one. And the definition of a creative person is: someone whose thoughts or actions change a domain, or establish a new domain. It is important to remember, however, that a domain cannot be changed without the explicit or implicit consent of a field responsible for it.
Djeah boi!! So the domain is the content (the cultural space to be altered) of a particular field and the field is the discipline or the branch of knowledge which includes the people who have it. Okay so how does this relate to anything? While this excerpt is fairly abstract I would like to think that the perspective of creativity is a good one to take, because if you are not creating, what are you doing? That is meant to be a rhetorical question, but “Having sex with chicks!” is an acceptable answer (gotwavs.com/0085412111/MP3S/Movies/Idiocracy/poundonthat.mp3).
Okay, so let us focus some. Shalln’t we? I will try to define my domain but I’m not gonna lie, it’s a little difficult to pin down…
My Bachelor’s degree in Bioengineering, short for Biological Engineering, came from UCSD which has consistently ranked in the top 5 for such programs over the past 15 years, however, as far as the importance of rankings, I borrow from a post on collegeconfidential.com (member, s1185’s) due to its author’s frank message and organic context, “You go to college for the overall experience, since most of what you learn in class will be irrelevant for work, and your employers will pay little attention to US News Department rankings (as opposed to their unreferenced belief as to which is a better school) when hiring you.”
Okay, so people care enough about it to rank it, to find out what it is, let us break it down into parts (from Princeton.edu):
- Biological: Pertaining to biology or to life and living things.
- Engineering: The discipline dealing with the art or science of applying scientific knowledge to practical problems.
So…putting it together, that means, Bioengineering is the discipline dealing with the art or science of applying scientific knowledge to practical problems in living things, or more simply, any type of engineering applied to living things. From a department webpage (University of Toledo):
Bioengineering is the application of the life sciences, physical sciences, mathematics and engineering principles to define and solve problems in biology, medicine, health care and other fields. Bioengineering is a relatively new discipline that combines many aspects of traditional engineering fields such as chemical, electrical and mechanical engineering.
The UCSD Bioengineering Department actually offers four tracks/majors for undergraduate students:
- Bioengineering: Biotechnology – Biotechnology deals with the implementation of biological knowledge in industrial processes. From Wikipedia: “Modern use of the term usually refers to genetic engineering as well as cell- and tissue culture technologies. However, the concept encompasses a wider range and history of procedures for modifying living things according to human purposes, going back to domestication of animals, cultivation of plants and “improvements” to these through breeding programs that employ artificial selection and hybridization.” Sex with sheep?
- Bioengineering: Bioinformatics – Bioinformatics can be considered a branch of Biotechnology, it may be referred to as computational biology. This is a crazy domain that involves a lot of gnarly programming to apply information technology to the field of molecular biology. Sex with computers?
- Bioengineering – So we tried to define this one already. Also from Wikipedia: “By comparison to biotechnology [see above], bioengineering is generally thought of as a related field with its emphasis more on mechanical and higher systems approaches to interfacing with and exploiting living things.” Sex with sex toys and robots?
- Bioengineering: Premedical – This is the one I was in. A lot of overlap with the Bioengineering track above, this track contains all the courses a medical school would hope to see taken by an applicant. From what I understand, the UCSD medical school adds something to an applicant’s GPA for being in the Bioengineering department, something like .2 or .3 which is significant (too bad I do not plan to go to medical school). Sex with nurses?
To add to the confusion, some schools do not have Bioengineering but rather Biomedical Engineering. MORE CLARIFICATION! Wikipedia again:
Biological engineering (also biosystems engineering and bioengineering) is a broad-based engineering discipline that deals with bio-molecular and molecular processes, product design, sustainability and analysis of biological systems. Generally, bioengineering encompasses other engineering disciplines when they are applied to living organisms (e.g., prosthetics in mechanical engineering). Bioengineering is often synonymous with biomedical engineering, though in the strict sense the term can be applied more broadly to include food engineering and agricultural engineering. Biotechnology also falls under the purview of the broad umbrella of bioengineering.
So generally, biomedical engineering is the medical application of bioengineering, but the terms are often used interchangeably. Whew! So, I think I have done something to clarify domain and the fields within it. Here is a cursory glance at some of the applications:
- Agricultural Engineering-Harvesting genetically altered wheat with a combine.
- Aquaculture – Also known as aquafarming.
- Artificial Biospheres – Yes, even Pauly Shore helped out.
- Biosensors – Think a machine that reads your fingerprint.
- Bio-based material-Simply an engineering material derived from living matter
- Biomaterials – Natural or man-made that comprises whole or part of a living structure.
- Drug Delivery-Ask a junkie.
- Industrial Fermentation
- Industrial Enzymatic Reactions
- Life Support Systems-Like when Tom Hanks & Brian Boitano had to do the C02 filter modification.
- Metabolic Engineering-Often involved in producing beer, wine, cheese, pharmaceuticals.
- Production and Purification of Biopharmaceuticals
Do I know how to do all this stuff? The answer is unfortunately an emphatic, no. But I am not an entirely useless individual. No really! Let me explain. Back to our first definition of bioengineering: “any type of engineering applied to living things,” we basically focused on Mechanical Engineering applied to the Human Organism. We studied math, chemistry, physics, physiology, basic programming, biomechanics, circuits, biochemistry, genetics, bioinstrumentation, statistics, biomaterials, yadda yadda yadda.
All of the above is good, but as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (copy and paste, I refuse to type that shit) said in his lecture at TED, it takes 10 years for someone to build up enough technical knowledge to change a domain. Likewise Dr. K. Anders Ericsson and Malcom Gladwell , both referenced in the most recent season (7) of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit might tell you that the difference between genius and mediocrity is about 10,000 hours of practice. So basically what my degree earned me is the chance to enter a field such as medical devices as I have (to some extent) as well as pursue more degrees, in the hopes of reaching that 10 years of technical knowledge or 10,000 hours of practice even further down the line, garnering at least a pittance in the process.
All these topics interest me but I am not sure I want to spend 10,000 hours on medical devices. Excuse me. Where are my manners? I should say what a medical device is (from Wikipedia):
This is an extremely broad category — essentially covering all healthcare products that do not achieve their intended results through predominantly chemical (e.g., pharmaceuticals) or biological (e.g., vaccines) means, and do not involve metabolism.
A medical device is intended for use in:
- the diagnosis of disease or other conditions, or
- in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease,
Some examples include pacemakers, infusion pumps, the heart-lung machine, dialysis machines, artificial organs, implants, artificial limbs, corrective lenses, cochlear implants, ocular prosthetics, facial prosthetics, somato prosthetics, and dental implants.
This industry is highly regulated and very conservative (like Aerospace apparently) and is thus difficult to “break into.” It is also said to be a smaller more incestuous group than one might expect and thus one is advised to “never burn a bridge in medical devices.” A friend who works for a company that makes endoscopes told me that the best and brightest are in the medical device industry. I do not know how that claim could be supported but I am just giving you the word on the street. Unfortunately, the regulated and conservative nature that makes it so well “protected” from other job seekers would seem to make it less pleasant to work in. While computer engineers and programmers at Google sit in bean bags and take time for reflection and stretching, people in the medical device industry must cater to a series of auditors and make sure that they are always seen walking briskly and with purpose. Granted, I can only present my view from a very lowly position in a particularly bureaucratic office.
The industry has a development side (Research and Development, Product Development), a production side (Sustaining, Manufacturing, Growth), and an oversight side (Regulatory and Quality). It also needs Marketing and sales people to get the product out and Clinical Research to test the effectiveness and get things to market. Beyond that it has all the basic office and legal functions (Document Control, IT, Maintenance). What is true for me (some of which you may have gleamed from this blog) is that I like to understand how things work in the physical world, I like to create, and I like to stimulate peoples’ minds in creative ways. The kind of position I am looking for as a next step, in this industry at least, is on the development side, to up my scientific knowledge, and I could see myself continuing in that fashion or moving over to Marketing because it affords the opportunity to coalesce the needs of physicians, the technology limitations of the developers and scientists, and the capability of production, all the while requiring a well spoken and intelligent presentation. Regulatory deals with government bodies, Quality tells people they need to do more tests to make sure they do not make bad product, and Sustaining/ Manufacturing keeps those assembly lines running and tries to find ways to standardize, improve, and cheapify the process.
So while I can see some opportunity for engagement and learning, it would seem that jumping into a job that sounds interesting without a higher degree, without lots of experience, without awards, without a big penis, takes a lot of schmoozing and “being professional” day in and day out which is not easy when you have a restless mind and are in an office setting. I will say, however, that being in a place long enough to get acquainted with the people there does make it seem less abrasive but at the same time you can get complacent and the only thing that really matters is if you win the respect of the gatekeepers. That is, those you would interview with, if you applied to a better job. I guess that does not matter too much because my company has all but killed its Research and Development department so I am looking elsewhere (still in Southern California).
I still say that educating people on a grand scale sounds like more fun. But hey! The teamwork skills and Medical Device, Bioengineering knowledge could still be applied to developing educational products (game) down the road! Right?! I hope so. I am keeping myself open to a form of creation that would reach a customer in the form of an audience rather than a patient, to aid in the process of discovery, because that is what I seem to enjoy the most.
Oh yeah, here it is. From “Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze? And 114 Other Questions:”
- “Two mechanisms are at work. First, the penguin can control the rate of blood flow to the feet by varying the diameter of arterial vessels supplying the blood. In cold conditions the flow is reduced, when it is warm the flow increases. Humans can do this too, which is why our hands and feet become white when we are cold and pink when warm. Control is very sophisticated and involves the hypothalamus and various nervous and hormonal systems. However, penguins also have ‘counter-current heat exchangers’ at the top of the legs. Arteries supplying warm blood to the feet break up into many small vessels that are closely allied to similar numbers of venous vessels bring cold blood back from the feet. Heat flows from the warm blood to the cold blood, so little of it is carried down the feet.”
- “The uncooked cheese contains long-chain protein molecules more or less curled up in a fatty, watery mess. When you heat cheese, the fats and proteins melt and if you fiddle with the fluid, the chains can get dragged into strings.”