Science and Technology links (August 25th, 2017)

A long journey to reproducible results is a fascinating article in Nature about how incredibly hard it can be to produce results that others can easily reproduce. It turns out that labs can’t even reproduce their own results. They only cover biology, but my experience is that this is even true in computer science. The advantage we have in computer science is that we can package our software and rely on current commodity hardware, to ensure a good level of reproducibility. Even so, most work in computer science is hard to reproduce.

A sick Chinese woman had her entire body “frozen”. This has been done for some years in the USA, but it is a first in China. The word “frozen” is something of a misnomer as if you just “freeze” a body, you destroy the tissues in a way that almost ensures that they won’t be recoverable later. Cryopreservation is more sophisticated and leaves open the theoretical possibility that the body could be brought to life, according to people who advocate this procedure. Note that, to my knowledge, we can’t cryopreserve a mice and bring it back to life later. You might say: “this is nuts, who wants to get frozen?” Consider that a very practical application of this procedure would be organ preservation. Currently, organ donors must be rushed to the hospital as soon an organ becomes available. If we could cheaply cryopreserve organs, we could improve the ever-present shortage of donated organs.

Our bodies accumulate “senescent” cells with time. These are cells that refuse to die even though they no longer work properly. Clearing out senescent cells, something we know how to do, leads to stronger bones (in mice) according to the Mayo clinic.

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

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