Daniel Lemire's blog

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Science and Technology links (January 19th, 2018)

  1. The Raspberry Pi 3, a $15-dollar computer that I use for various fun projects, is 15 times more powerful than the Cray-1 supercomputer, but it is 130,000 times lighter. The Cray-1 was worth $9 million in 1977. (Source: Joe Armstrong)
  2. Stem cells can be used to replace or modify the behavior of our own cells. It is likely that many breakthrough therapies will involve stem cells. But the production of stem cells is expensive. To solve the cost issue, the Mayo clinic will be producing stem cells in an automated manner for clinical trials.
  3. As we age, we tend to lose hair, and it does not just come back on its own. And if it did, at an old age, you would expect the hair to be white. But it looks like wounds can regrow hair at any age:

We reported an 80-year-old patient with a large wound on the scalp (…) The patient’s wound healed very well aesthetically. Interestingly, on approximate post wound day 180, a hair was observed to be growing towards the surface and eventually erupted in the center of the wound. The hair remained black at 42-month follow-up. This case demonstrated that neogenesis of hair is possible even in a geriatric patient. (Source)

  1. The Alibaba corporation has developed an artificial intelligence model that scored better than humans in a Stanford University reading and comprehension test. I have not looked into it, but as far as I know, we don’t know how to build computers that can read like human beings do. I mean that we don’t even know how to do it in principle.
  2. Some chameleons have fluorescent bones.
  3. In the novel Rainbows End, sci-fi author Vernor Vinge describe a hero who is recovering from Alzheimer’s. The novel is set in 2025. We are in 2018, and we still have no clue how to halt, let alone cure Alzheimer’s. If we were to cure Alzheimer’s, would the individual be able to recover normal use of his memory? Many people doubt it: they think that the synapses are being destroyed. Research from McGill University suggests that Rainbows End’s vision might be correct. The synapses are still present, even in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, they are just unable to function. If correct, this means that we might, one day, reverse Alzheimer’s.
  4. As I suspected all throughout 2017, not all his well in Hollywood:

While the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. rose to $8.97 in 2017, an increase of 3.69 percent, total domestic box office in North America dropped by 2.55 percent to $11.091 billion, according to information released Wednesday by the National Association of Theatre Owners. Despite the increase in ticket prices, the overall decline in ticket revenue was caused by a drop in overall admissions, which fell by 6.03 percent to 1.236 billion.

  1. Birth order with a family seems to matter quite a bit:

(…) we found strong birth order effects on IQ that are present when we look within families. Later-born children have lower IQs, on average, and these differences are quite large. For example, the difference between firstborn and second-born average IQ is on the order of one-fifth of a standard deviation

The difference in educational attainment between the first child and the fifth child in a five-child family is roughly equal to the difference between the educational attainment of blacks and whites calculated from the 2000 Census.

Firstborn children are significantly more likely to be employed and to work as top managers (…) firstborn children are more likely to be in occupations requiring sociability, leadership ability, conscientiousness, agreeableness, emotional stability, extraversion, and openness.

later-borns are less likely to consider themselves to be in good health, and measures of mental health generally decline with birth order