16 Jan 17:17

The Incurable Disease vs the Relentless Couple

by Jason Kottke

When Sonia Vallabh lost her mother to a rare disease called fatal familial insomnia, she soon found out that she had inherited the disease, that there was no cure, and that she’d be dead in “a decade or two”. Despite almost no scientific training, Vallabh and her husband both quit their jobs to work on a cure. Talk about going all-in.

Within a few weeks of the diagnosis, Sonia had quit her job to study science full time, continuing classes at MIT during the day and enrolling in a night class in biology at Harvard’s extension school. The pair lived off savings and Eric’s salary. Sonia had expected to take a temporary sabbatical from her real life, but soon textbooks and academic articles weren’t enough. “The practice of science and the classroom version of science are such different animals,” Sonia says. She wanted to try her hand in the lab. She found a position as a technician with a research group focusing on Huntington’s disease. Eric, not wanting to be left behind, quit his job too and offered his data-crunching expertise to a genetics lab. The deeper they dove into science, the more they began to fixate on finding a cure.

They’re now on the brink of getting their Harvard PhDs and are pushing ahead with a promising medical therapy.

As soon as the couple began their presentation, Lander says, there was a sense of “pushing on an open door” — quite a surprise, given the agency’s stodgy reputation. “People still flat-out don’t believe the FDA was cool with it,” Minikel says. Afterward, one of the 25 scientists in the audience pulled Lander aside and said, “That was one of the best presentations I’ve ever seen.” Schreiber agreed. He alluded to a pharmaceutical company he’d helped set up early in his career. “Twenty-four years into that company, there was nothing to show for it. Not one thing,” he says. “For two graduate students who are not trained in science to come in and do what they did? Absolute forces of nature, savants. They keep seeing things that other people don’t see.”

Update: D.T. Max wrote a book on prions and prion-based diseases called The Family That Couldn’t Sleep. I looked in the kottke.org archives and found a 2010 post on a National Geographic article Max wrote about sleep that specifically referenced fatal familial insomnia:

The main symptom of FFI, as the disease is often called, is the inability to sleep. First the ability to nap disappears, then the ability to get a full night’s sleep, until the patient cannot sleep at all. The syndrome usually strikes when the sufferer is in his or her 50s, ordinarily lasts about a year, and, as the name indicates, always ends in death.

(via @mattbucher)

Tags: D.T. Max   medicine   science   Sonia Vallabh
15 Jan 19:52

Prime Minister's Brexit plan defeated by 230 votes

by Rob Beschizza

Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan was not expected to pass, but it was brutally murdered in a far larger margin of defeat than was expected: 432 to 202. This is the largest parliamentary defeat for a sitting government in history.

The options for the Brits now include a no-deal Brexit on March 29; desperate negotiations for a new plan; or asking for an extension from the EU while a fresh hell is organized, such as a new referendum or a general election.

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn immediately tabled a no-confidence vote in May's government.

"Time is almost up," wrote EU chief Jean-Claude Junker on Twitter within minutes of the lawmakers' vote.

15 Jan 16:30

Plants sprout on moon for 1st time as part of Chinese space mission

by Reuters
China moon seeds

Cotton seeds carried by China's Chang'e-4 moon probe have become the first biological matter to grow on the moon.

16 Jan 05:20

Comic: 01/16/2019

by Pete Abrams
A new comic has been posted at Sluggy.com!
15 Jan 13:37

The digital hermitage: How “remote work” has changed over 20 years

by Sean Gallagher
Not my actual home office, but you get the idea.

Enlarge / Not my actual home office, but you get the idea. (credit: Manuel Breva Colmeiro / Getty Images)

As we look back on the past 20 years of Ars Technica from our "orbiting HQ," one of the things we've gotten to witness firsthand is how the nature of working from home has changed. Today, everyone at Ars works from home—and actually, that's how things have been since the very first post on the site's forums.

These days many people work from home in some way, whether they want to or not. Smartphones and perpetual connectivity have pushed work life into our home lives, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. (Thanks, Slack.) But when you work from home full-time, as I have for most of my adult life, it completely redefines the notion of work-life balance.

While I can't and won't speak for all of the Ars staff, I admit that it would be extremely difficult for me to return to working in a traditional office at this point. Though I've only been with Ars for the past seven years, I've been working from home in one form or another since 1990 (as a freelancer and side-gig tech consultant) and full-time since 1994. I have been through each stage of Internet connectivity, from dial-up to ISDN to DSL to cable broadband, and have the battle scars to prove it.

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16 Jan 10:41

Winter-een-mas 2019, p9

by Tim

Reminder: These Winter-een-mas shirts/hoodies are limited, after January 31st, they’re leaving the store!

The post Winter-een-mas 2019, p9 appeared first on Ctrl+Alt+Del Comic.

16 Jan 14:57


by extrafabulouscomics@gmail.com

15 Jan 18:06

Here's why you shouldn't rinse dishes before putting in the dishwasher

by Mark Frauenfelder

Don't rinse food particles from dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. If you do, the detergent won't have anything to cling to and your dishes won't get as clean.

From Mental Floss:

One of the arguments against pre-rinsing is that certain detergents are designed to cling to food particles, as the Cascade detergent brand informed The Wall Street Journal in 2015. Without a surface to stick to, your dishes won’t get as squeaky clean.

Consumer Reports offers another explanation. According to the product-testing magazine, newer dishwashers—those purchased within the last five years or so—won’t wash your dishes for very long if the sensors in the machine don’t detect much dirt in the water. “When that happens, the dishwasher gives them just a light wash, and items come out less than sparkling,” Consumer Reports's Ed Perratore wrote in 2016. “To avoid that lackluster result, don’t rinse; just scrape off bits of loose food.”

There’s also a major environmental factor to consider. One mind-blogging statistic from Consumer Reports states that the average person wastes 6000 gallons of water a year by pre-rinsing. Most dishwasher machines use just 3 to 5 gallons of water per load, while the average person uses about 27 gallons when washing dishes by hand, according to The National Resource Defense Council.

Image: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

16 Jan 04:50

These Feet Don't Lie

15 Jan 16:12

Micro USB Adapter Connector

by mark

One of these ($4 for 5) came bundled with a USB Flash drive I purchased. Insert one end into the male USB plug of the Flash drive, and the other end is micro USB compatible, so it can plug into your phone or other devices. For years, I just used it to transfer files to and from flash drives into my phone, but then I learned a really neat thing: It will also work with the transmitter dongle for my wireless keyboard and mouse! On those occasions when I wish to use my tablet (a Kindle Fire 7) more like a computer, I can connect my full-size keyboard and mouse to the tablet with this adapter. The peripherals work just as expected, letting me type at normal speeds, and have the precise cursor control that I expect from a mouse. It has been really convenient. I have this wireless mini-keyboard/trackpad device which also can use in this way. So when I don’t want to carry a notebook computer, but still need to do some typing, this adapter is just the thing. The one I am linking to is very small and inexpensive. It is thin enough that I can store it, in a paper envelope, inside my wallet without trouble.

-- Daniel Kim

Ultra Mini DM Micro USB 5pin OTG Adapter Connector for Cell Phone Tablet & USB Cable & Flash Disk – 5pcs ($4)

Available from Amazon

15 Jan 22:10

Five Gold Earrings

by Joanna Goddard

Young Frankk

A few weeks ago, we went out to dinner (at this yummy place!) with another couple. As we dipped hunks of bread into olive oil, I noticed that my friend, who works in fashion, was wearing thick gold earrings.… Read more

The post Five Gold Earrings appeared first on A Cup of Jo.

16 Jan 11:07

Carbon‐Based Metal‐Free Catalysts for Electrocatalytic Reduction of Nitrogen for Synthesis of Ammonia at Ambient Conditions

by Shenlong Zhao, Xunyu Lu, Lianzhou Wang, Julian Gale, Rose Amal
Advanced Materials Carbon‐Based Metal‐Free Catalysts for Electrocatalytic Reduction of Nitrogen for Synthesis of Ammonia at Ambient Conditions

Emerging carbon‐based metal‐free catalysts have been demonstrated to be promising alternatives to noble metal/metal oxide catalysts for electrocatalytic nitrogen reduction reaction (NRR) at ambient conditions. Recent advances in the development of carbon‐based metal‐free catalysts for electrocatalytic nitrogen fixation are discussed, and the key challenges and future opportunities in this exciting field are highlighted.


The electrocatalytic nitrogen reduction reaction (NRR) is a promising catalytic system for N2 fixation in ambient conditions. Currently, metal‐based catalysts are the most widely studied catalysts for electrocatalytic NRR. Unfortunately, the low selectivity and poor resistance to acids and bases, and the low Faradaic efficiency, production rate, and stability of metal‐based catalysts for NRR make them uncompetitive for the synthesis of ammonia in comparison to the industrial Haber–Bosch process. Inspired by applications of carbon‐based metal‐free catalysts (CMFCs) for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) and CO2 reduction reaction (CO2RR), the studies of these CMFCs in electrocatalytic NRR have attracted great attention in the past year. However, due to the differences in electrocatalytic NRR, there are several critical issues that need to be addressed in order to achieve rational design of advanced carbon‐based metal‐free electrocatalysts to improve activity, selectivity, and stability for NRR. Herein, the recent developments in the field of carbon‐based metal‐free NRR catalysts are presented, along with critical issues, challenges, and perspectives concerning metal‐free catalysts for electrocatalytic reduction of nitrogen for synthesis of ammonia at ambient conditions.

16 Jan 19:42

So Bored

by Brian

Bonus Panel

The post So Bored appeared first on Fowl Language Comics.

17 Jan 14:52

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Forever

by tech@thehiveworks.com

Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Someday I'll put together a whole book on the theme of taking love cliches to their logical extreme.

Today's News:
16 Jan 18:21

The human body is "full of evolutionary leftovers that no longer serve a purpose"

by Mark Frauenfelder

People have a little pink band in the inside corner of their eye. "This is the plica semilunaris," says Dorsa Amir, an evolutionary anthropologist. "It used to be a third eyelid that would blink horizontally." Amir posted a fascinating Twitter thread of other " evolutionary leftovers that no longer serve a purpose" in the human body.

Image: By Exordium - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

16 Jan 20:10

Enantioselective Construction of alpha‐Chiral Silanes by Nickel‐Catalyzed C(sp3)‐C(sp3) Cross‐Coupling

by Hong Yi, Wenbin Mao, Martin Oestreich

An enantioselective C(sp3)‐C(sp3) cross‐coupling of racemic alpha‐silylated alkyl iodides and alkylzinc reagents is reported. The reaction is catalyzed by NiCl2/(S,S)‐Bn‐pybox and yields alpha‐chiral silanes with high enantiocontrol. The catalyst system does not promote the cross‐coupling of the corresponding carbon analog, corroborating the stabilizing effect of the silyl group on the alkyl radical intermediate (alpha‐silicon effect). Both coupling partners can be, but do not need to be, functionalized and, hence, alpha‐chiral silanes with no functional group in direct proximity of the asymmetrically substituted carbon atom become accessible. This distinguishes the new method from established approaches to synthesize alpha‐chiral silanes.

15 Jan 16:37

Millions of customers will now pay more for Netflix—here’s how much

by Valentina Palladino
Netflix company headquarters in Los Gatos, California.

Enlarge / Netflix company headquarters in Los Gatos, California. (credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Another round of Netflix price hikes is upon us. According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Netflix will increase the prices of all of its subscription plans, effective immediately, for all new customers. Existing customers will see their rates increase over the next three months.

Netflix's most popular plan, which lets users stream HD content on two screens simultaneously, will now cost $13 per month. That's an 18-percent increase from its previous $11 monthly price. Netflix's premium plan, which includes HD and UHD streaming on up to four screens simultaneously, will now cost $16, up from $14 monthly. The most affordable Netflix option, the "basic" plan, increases by $1, from $8 per month to $9.

Netflix last increased its prices at the end of 2017, but only its standard and premium plans were affected. This time around, all three plans will cost more, resulting in a price hike that affects all US Netflix users. According to the report, the rate increase will allow Netflix "more flexibility to continue its aggressive spending on content."

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16 Jan 19:58

Recent Advances on Controlled Synthesis and Engineering of Hollow Alloyed Nanotubes for Electrocatalysis

by Hui‐Hui Li, Shu‐Hong Yu
Advanced Materials Recent Advances on Controlled Synthesis and Engineering of Hollow Alloyed Nanotubes for Electrocatalysis

One‐dimensional hollow alloyed nanotubes with desired composition and controlled fine structures are emerging as a unique type of electrocatalysts, which hold vast potential and broad development space in fuel cell reactions. The potential and challenges of hollow alloyed nanotubes in electrocatalytic application are reviewed, providing a perspective on the further development of these nanotubes.


The past decade has witnessed great progress in the synthesis and electrocatalytic applications of 1D hollow alloy nanotubes with controllable compositions and fine structures. Hollow nanotubes have been explored as promising electrocatalysts in the fuel cell reactions due to their well‐controlled surface structure, size, porosity, and compositions. In addition, owing to the self‐supporting ability of 1D structure, hollow nanotubes are capable of avoiding catalyst aggregation and carbon corrosion during the catalytic process, which are two other issues for the widely investigated carbon‐supported nanoparticle catalysts. It is currently a great challenge to achieve high activity and stability at a relatively low cost to realize commercialization of these catalysts. An overview of the structural and compositional properties of 1D hollow alloy nanotubes, which provide a large number of accessible active sites, void spaces for electrolytes/reactants impregnation, and structural stability for suppressing aggregation, is presented. The latest advances on several strategies such as hard template and self‐templating methods for controllable synthesis of hollow alloyed nanotubes with controllable structures and compositions are then summarized. Benefiting from the advantages of the unique properties and facile synthesis approaches, the capability of 1D hollow nanotubes is then highlighted by discussing examples of their applications in fuel‐cell‐related electrocatalysis. Finally, the remaining challenges and potential solutions in the field are summarized to provide some useful clues for the future development of 1D hollow alloy nanotube materials.

17 Jan 20:37

Enantioconvergent Cross−Couplings of Alkyl Electrophiles: The Catalytic Asymmetric Synthesis of Organosilanes

by Gregory C Fu

Metal‐catalyzed enantioconvergent cross‐coupling reactions of alkyl electrophiles are emerging as a powerful tool in asymmetric synthesis. To date, high enantioselectivity has been limited to couplings of electrophiles that bear a directing group or a proximal p/π orbital. In this report, we demonstrate for the first time that enantioconvergent cross‐couplings can be achieved with electrophiles that lack such features; specifically, we establish that a chiral nickel catalyst can accomplish Negishi reactions of racemic α‐halosilanes with alkylzinc reagents with good enantioselectivity under simple and mild conditions, thereby providing access to enantioenriched organosilanes, an important class of target molecules.

15 Jan 18:43

Only Nuclear Energy Can Save the Planet

by msmash
Joshua S. Goldstein, a professor emeritus of international relations at American University, and Staffan A. Qvist, an energy engineer and consultant, writing for The Wall Street Journal: Climate scientists tell us that the world must drastically cut its fossil fuel use in the next 30 years to stave off a potentially catastrophic tipping point for the planet. Confronting this challenge is a moral issue, but it's also a math problem -- and a big part of the solution has to be nuclear power. Today, more than 80% of the world's energy comes from fossil fuels, which are used to generate electricity, to heat buildings and to power car and airplane engines. Worse for the planet, the consumption of fossil fuels is growing quickly as poorer countries climb out of poverty and increase their energy use. Improving energy efficiency can reduce some of the burden, but it's not nearly enough to offset growing demand. Any serious effort to decarbonize the world economy will require, then, a great deal more clean energy, on the order of 100 trillion kilowatt-hours per year, by our calculations -- roughly equivalent to today's entire annual fossil-fuel usage. A key variable is speed. To reach the target within three decades, the world would have to add about 3.3 trillion more kilowatt-hours of clean energy every year. Solar and wind power alone can't scale up fast enough to generate the vast amounts of electricity that will be needed by midcentury, especially as we convert car engines and the like from fossil fuels to carbon-free energy sources. Even Germany's concerted recent effort to add renewables -- the most ambitious national effort so far -- was nowhere near fast enough. A global increase in renewables at a rate matching Germany's peak success would add about 0.7 trillion kilowatt-hours of clean electricity every year. That's just over a fifth of the necessary 3.3 trillion annual target.

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15 Jan 20:55

Microsoft’s fonts catch out another fraudster—this time in Canada

by Peter Bright
The Calibri font. Don't use this if you're forging anything written before 2007.

Enlarge / The Calibri font. Don't use this if you're forging anything written before 2007. (credit: Peter Bright)

You'd think that people forging documents would have learned by now. Canadian Gerald McGoey was judged to have falsified documents in an attempt to protect certain assets from bankruptcy proceedings because—and stop me if you've heard this before—the documents used Microsoft's modern "C" fonts, which didn't become widely available until 2007. This would have been fine were it not for the minor detail that the documents were dated 2004 and 1995. Whoops.

McGoey was CEO of Look Communications when it collapsed and left him bankrupt. The company was liquidated, and McGoey was ordered to replay $5.6 million to creditors. McGoey claimed that the assets in question—homes, in this case—were held in trust by his wife and three children and hence beyond the reach of the courts. To prove this, he presented two signed documents. Unfortunately for him, he'd created the documents using typefaces that didn't exist at the time of the documents' purported creation.

The first trust document was dated 1995 and used the Cambria font. The second, dated 2004, used Calibri. Cambria was designed in 2004, while Calibri was between 2002 and 2004. But neither became widespread until 2007, when they were bundled with Windows Vista and Office 2007. That software included seven different fonts with names beginning with "C"—the "C fonts"—that were optimized for ClearType antialiasing. With their release, Microsoft changed Word's default font from the venerable Times New Roman to Calibri. Using the new fonts instantly betrays that a document wasn't written any time prior to 2007.

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16 Jan 21:41

Netflix reveals Space Force comedy series before Trump gets real thing approved

by Sam Machkovech
  • Welcome to (Netflix's) Space Force. [credit: Netflix ]

Netflix took the wraps off its latest comedy series on Wednesday, and while that may sound humdrum for a company with roughly 7,000 series in the works, this one has set its sights on something huge: the outer reaches of space. Er, sorry, we misread that. The Space Force.

Indeed, before President Trump's proposal for a sixth military branch can become an official item in the United States' 2020 budget, Netflix has jumped on the idea of making a show about this branch's day-to-day ops—and it has three major vets of TV's The Office on board, including Steve Carell as both a co-creator and a star.

The resulting TV series, currently named Space Force, was unveiled in the form of a teaser trailer on Wednesday morning. This mostly text trailer, set to Strauss' "Zarathustra," brings viewers up to speed about how the branch began life in a June 2018 speech. "The goal of the new branch is 'to defend satellites from attack' and 'perform other space-related tasks'... or something," it reads. "This is the story of the men and women who have to figure it out."

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