Science and Technology links (August 7 2022)

  1. Increase in computing performance explain up to 94% of the performance improvements in field such as weather prediction, protein folding, and oil exploration: information technology is a a driver of long-term performance improvement across society. If we stop improving our computing, the consequences could be dire.
  2. The coral cover of the Great Barrier Reef has reached its highest level since the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) began monitoring 36 years ago.
  3. The leading Alzheimer’s theory, the amyloid hypothesis, which motivated years of research, was built in part on fraud. The author of the fraud is professor Sylvain Lesné. His team appeared to have composed figures by piecing together parts of photos from different experiments. Effectively, they “photoshopped” their scientific papers. Not just one or two images, but at least 70. Note that all clinical trials of drugs developed (at high cost) on the amyloid hypothesis have failed. The total cost is in the billions of dollars. Meanwhile, competing theories and therapies have been sidelined by the compelling amyloid hypothesis. It will be interesting to watch what kind of penalty, if any, Lesné receives for his actions. You may read the testimonies of researchers whose work was made difficult because they did not believe in the amyloid hypothesis. E.g., The maddening saga of how an Alzheimer’s ‘cabal’ thwarted progress toward a cure for decades (from 2019) or the story of Rachael Neve. The net result? No progress despite massive funding:

    In the 30 (now 35) years that biomedical researchers have worked determinedly to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, their counterparts have developed drugs that helped cut deaths from cardiovascular disease by more than half, and cancer drugs able to eliminate tumors that had been incurable. But for Alzheimer’s, not only is there no cure, there is not even a disease-slowing treatment.

    We have two decades of Alzheimer’s research based partly on deliberate fraud that may have cost millions of lives.

  4. For years, we have been told that depression was caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, specifically low serotonin levels. Antidepressants were initially proposed to work by rectifying the serotonin abnormality. A new paper published by Nature shows not only that depressed people do not have lower serotonin levels but, moreover, long-term antidepressant use may lead to lower serotonin levels.
  5. Science has been ‘covided’:

    Across science, 98 of the 100 most-cited papers published in 2020 to 2021 were related to COVID-19. A large number of scientists received large numbers of citations to their COVID-19 work, often exceeding the citations they had received to all their work during their entire career.

  6. The Earth is getting greener due to increase CO2 presence in the atmosphere and this is predicted to lead to substantial cooling according to an article in Nature.
  7. The Sahara was green from 14,000 to 5,000 years ago. Some researchers believe that it became a desert due to the sudden cooling of the Atlantic Ocean.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

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

3 thoughts on “Science and Technology links (August 7 2022)”

    1. Thanks for the comment. It is true that Lesné’s fraud alone is not the sole foundation.

      From the essay you point at:

      Ever since the 1990s, researchers and clinicians have been spending uncountable hours (and uncountable dollars) trying to turn the amyloid hypothesis into a treatment for Alzheimer’s. I would not like to count the number of such attempts, nor even to try to list all of the variations. There have been all sorts of treat-the-symptoms approaches, for sure, but also a number of direct shots on goal. The enzymes that cleave beta-amyloid out of the APP protein (beta-secretase and gamma-secretase) have been targeted for inhibition, naturally. Small molecules have been sought that would slow down amyloid aggregation or even to promote its clearance. Most famously, antibodies have been produced against various forms of beta-amyloid itself, in attempts to interrupt their toxicity and cause them to be cleared by the immune system.

      Every single one of these interventions has failed in the clinic.

      From the conclusion of the essay you point at…

      We have to put money and effort down on other hypotheses and stop hammering, hammering, hammering on beta-amyloid so much. It isn’t working.

      A theory needs to be validated, and if researchers provide fraudulent validation, they ought to face severe consequences.

  1. With regard to depression, my understanding is that the “chemical imbalance” explanation has always been a lie-to-children, meaning roughly that “depression has an unknown somatic/physical component so it’s not entirely psychological”.
    If you cite imbalance as if it was really meant, I suggest you revisit this idea by searching “antidepressants neuroplasticity”: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=antidepressants+neuroplasticity

    So, the paper “Antidepressants and synaptic plasticity: a hypothesis.” is from 1991 and there is ongoing research since that to pin down the neuroplasticity as the real mechanism of SSRI drugs.
    Then I guess you can revisit the Nature article in the light of the neuroplasticity hypothesis research.

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