Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for February 17, 2020

in rsslog •  last month 

An argument that cancer screening is more about business than health, and that in 90 years, the only substantial progress at reducing cancer has been the decline of smoking; Quantum entanglement has been accomplished through 30 miles of fiber; Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) forced to postpone key-signing ceremony after being locked out of a safe; An argument against productivity metrics that ignore quality; and a Steem report on a controversial Tweet by Richard Dawkins on the topic of eugenics

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First posted on my Steem blog: SteemIt, SteemPeak*, StemGeeks.


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  1. The Cancer Industry: Hype vs. Reality - Summarizing the sections of this article: (i) A quarter of a trillion has been spent on cancer research since the 1970s, producing an industrial complex that uses words like "breakthrough", "revolutionary", "groundbreaking", and "miracle" when promoting its work. Yet industry promotional efforts rarely include information about risk, insurance availability, or costs. And, cancer is still the second leading cause of death in the United States, with 1.7 million diagnoses and 600,000 deaths during 2018;

    (ii) After adjusting for the decline in smoking and the increase in life expectancy, cancer mortality rates are unchanged after 90 years of research. Overall mortality rates have declined since 1991, but that follows 60 years of increases, all of which tracks with the rise and fall of smoking;

    (iii) In comparison to other therapies, cancer trials have the highest failure rates, and even the ones that succeed have little effect of longevity, adding an average of about 2.1 months to a patient's life, at very high expense. Highly promoted immunetherapies are often used for cancers that they weren't designed for, have even higher costs, and they can trigger side effects.

    (iv) Screening tests cannot distinguish between harmful and harmless forms of cancer, leading to overtreatment, unnecessary worry and expense, and even needless death from the unneeded therapies such as chemotherapy and surgery;

    (v) Cancer mortality is often measured by reporting a specific form of cancer, instead of mortality from any form of cancer. While a particular cancer like breast cancer might seem to be on the decline, this hides the fact that so-called all cause mortality is staying the same, leading some top epidemiologists to lobby for an end to aggressive cancer screening because it does more harm than good;

    (vi) Despite more screening, Americans have a higher mortality rate than Europeans, which the author attributes largely to corruption and conflict of itnerest that runs through the American insurance and pharmaceutical industries, where doctors accept money from the firms' whose medicines they prescribe;

    (vii) The solution to all this, it says is medical conservatism where practitioners should only adopt new therapies that offer better than marginal improvement, or "when the benefit is clear and the evidence strong and unbiased".

    Two quotes from the article, in particular, caught my attention:
    One of the most significant findings of the past decade is that many people have cancerous or pre-cancerous cells that, if left untreated, would never have compromised their health. Autopsies have revealed that many people who die of unrelated causes harbor cancerous tissue.
    What the data on screening actually suggest is that millions of men and women have endured the trauma of cancer diagnoses and treatments unnecessarily. That strikes me as a case of monstrous malpractice.

  2. Quantum entanglement over 30 miles of fiber has brought super secure internet closer - In theory, quantum entanglement could enable a more secure Internet because it would enable messaging between two parties with a guaranty that a third party had not intercepted the message. In practice, however, this turns out to be difficult. One technique has been to make use of quantum encryption keys so that the keys would collapse if a third party observed the message. This suffers from the difficulty that the state of the device must be known. Another approach, utilized in a paper in Nature today, makes use of entanglement for the message, itself. This does not require knowledge of the device state, but to date it has been unreliable and limited in distance. In today's paper, the so-called "Father of quantum" reports that his team has sent an entangled message through 30 miles of fiber, coiled in a single lab. QuTech's Stephanie Wehner explains the significance, saying that, "It’s nice, but not nearly as big as it sounds," because - with the cable coiled in the lab - the team still had a considerable degree of control over the experiment. In addition to distance, though, Pan's team also claims that their technique is considerably more reliable than previous efforts.

  3. Internet's safe-keepers forced to postpone crucial DNSSEC root key signing ceremony – no, not a hacker attack, but because they can't open a safe - Every three months, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) executes a signing ceremony with its key-signing keys (KSKs) on the root domain certificate. This is done by 3-7 trusted individuals in a pair of locations (in Los Angeles, CA and Culpepper, VA) with multiple layers of security, including room access that's controlled by retinal and finger print scans. The KSKs are only used for this purpose, and otherwise, they are stored in 3 different safes. This time, one of the safes could not be opened, so the ceremony had to be postponed on Wednesday, and also couldn't be performed on the backup date, Thursday. At the time of this article (Feb 13), it was expected to be completed on Saturday (Feb 16), so as of now they have presumably opened the safe and completed the ceremony. -h/t Bruce Schneier

  4. Master of Tickets - ACM Queue's Kode Vicious (KV), a pseudo-satirical advice columnist, takes on management objectives for tech workers. A questioner asks about the wisdom of using "numbers of tickets closed" as a performance metric, and KV agrees with the questioner that such a metric, like numbers of lines of code or numbers of words written, can be easily gamed. KV goes on to argue that an employee who is faced with these metrics can make one of three choices (i) Game the metric and get advanced within the organization for insignificant accomplishments; (ii) Make use of the opportunity to learn skills and use the job as a springboard to a better career where knowledge is valued, instead of fake-productivity numbers; or (iii) Try to convince management to abandon those sorts of metrics. KV's advice is to pursue path (ii).

  5. Steem @rt-international: Famed biologist Richard Dawkins in hot water after ‘eugenics’ argument - Dawkins didn't endorse the practice and acknowledge that there are legitimate moral and ethical concerns, but said on Twitter that as a practical matter, eugenics would work. A Twitter meltdown ensued. The full quote that caused the firestorm on Twitter is this:
    It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds. It’s quite another to conclude that it wouldn’t work in practice... Of course it would. It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses. Why on earth wouldn’t it work for humans? Facts ignore ideology.
    (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @rt-international.)

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The amazing corruption of the USG, particularly by the pharmaceutical industry, is fairly obvious to anyone that seeks information on the issue. I tend to the theory that US power is basically a result of it's amenity to corruption, leading to it's utility to whatever cabal is seeking to project power and thrusting the US into that role in power projection.

Recently work was published on using CRISPR to modify t-cells to mop up cancer after it has been genotyped using PCR. Claims were that the technique basically cured all cancer. If this is actually factual, then curing cancer has become DIY, since CRISPR is tabletop tech today. Big Pharma will not profit from this, so research funding for the tech is predictable. Zero.

Regarding Dawson, clearly he intended to incite controversy. Eugenics is nothing more than selective breeding, which is applicable to all sexually reproducing species. There's a pool of NPC's that are available for triggering at a moments notice on a variety of topics, and the use of the word 'eugenics' by Dawson appears to be a deliberate ploy to trigger that cohort due to it's association with Nazism. If he wanted to discuss techniques of animal husbandry, which is all eugenics is, without inciting controversy, he could have simply avoided the word.


Thanks for the reply!

On your point about cancer and CRISPR, I meant to add a link back to Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for January 30, 2020 when I got done summarizing, but it was a long article, and it slipped my mind at the end. That post included something similar to what you're talking about, a Immune discovery 'may treat all cancer'.

It doesn't really contradict the author's advocacy for medical conservatism, though. Something like that would almost certainly have clear benefits and strong evidence. And I thought that the perspective on screening is important.

On corruption, as-is typical of mainstream scientists, the article actually focused far more on corruption between doctors and big-pharma, but I agree with your perspective that at the core the USG programs are what make that corruption possible.

On eugenics, you're probably right that Dawkins was intentionally stirring the pot. I can't think of many other reasons to make that statement with such controversial phrasing... or even, really, to make it at all.

In fact the article linked is exactly what I was referring to.


The new genes delivered via viral vectors would be inserted using CRISPR. There are other mechanisms for inserting genes, but CRISPR is pretty dominant in the field today.

Supporting the #posh initiative. Shared on Twitter and Facebook.