Aizan reads stuff #4

Sunday April 21, 2019

More stuff coming!

For the first time, you can see what a black hole looks like by Science AAAS. Quite a good amount of information here regarding the technicality of the study. The EHT consortium is composed of scientists from 13 institutions around the world. They made observations on the M87* and Sgr A* black holes by looking through the millimeter-wavelength radio waves. Getting data from all scopes was hard, especially the one from South Pole because the airport in South Pole won’t operate in dead winter. Also, since Sgr A* moves a little bit more violently across the sky, it was harder to image it although that one is a lot closer than the M87*. Note that Einstein was skeptical of the existence of the black hole.

Mistakes, we’ve drawn a few by The Economist. I do not have a lot to say or summarize here, but they did a very good job at coming clean with their previous mistakes visualizing data. Also, they provide the link to download the chart data as well for every chart they put in the post here.

The absurdly high cost of insulin, explained by Vox. Hassan Minhaj’s The Patriot already talked about this before, where drug companies make incremental improvements to the current insulin drug, sometimes, not even on the active ingredient (e.g. the device). Also, this covers what I already know: how other countries depend on the government to negotiate the drug pricing, something the U.S. government does not though because here people cling on the free market philoshophy. However, Vox makes an assumption here that the insulin that Frederick Banting discovered is the same one being used today. Nawh, not really.

80 years ago today: MRC researchers discover viral cause of flu by The Guardian. I went to find this article because Mark asked me what is meant by influenza “WSN” strain. This was the first IAV that was isolated back in 1933 by Wilson and Smith, a year before A/PR8 was discovered. So, what about the N on WSN? It stands for neurotropism (in mice). Note that prior to 1933, flu was thought to be caused by bacterial infection. This article tells the story on how the search for filter-passing particle became a thing since the 1918 Spanish Flu and the contribution of ferret in this study. Interesting, the IAV-WS came from Andrewes (one of the researcher) himself after he caught flu. I guess I should visit the National Institute of Medical Research (NIRM) in the United Kingdom.

VPN - a Very Precarious Narrative by Dennis Schubert. Dennis highlighted a number of things that are wrong with VPN adverts online, and how VPN is useless against things that VPN companies claim they are excellent for (which, I agree). I am using VPN myself, but not for masking my online presence rather to access my internal services scattered across a number of computers on the cloud (hey, thanks Wireguard). In its essence, VPN is not for masking online presence, but for accessing internal network. The side bonus is that it could perform encryption, however, the benefit is the most pronounced in local network (e.g. airport or coffee shop’s wifi).

How the Boeing 737 Max Disaster Looks to a Software Developer on IEEE Spectrum, written by Gregory Reed Travis. He has been a pilot for 30 years and a software developer for more than 40 years (maybe in 10 years I should try to be a pilot?). I cannot do justice by summarizing the article here, so you should read it. It is a fantastic article, easy to understand, it takes time but that’s fine, and all the jargons were well-explained. Do yourself a favor and go read this article.

How long do vaccines last? The surprising answers may help protect people longer by Jon Cohen on Science AAS. First of all, there is so much to learn from this article, very dense and very informative. I like it. The article goes first by narrating the story of Stanley Plotkin, a prominent vaccinologist from UPenn. He went to get 2 shots of IAV vaccine in the span of 3 months (~10 weeks). The article then goes deeper into waning immunity from vaccination (something that I am studying in the context of influenza A immunity). The article then goes on to describe a natural experiment that happened 150 years in a place between Scandinavia and Iceland, where natural infection could induce a lifelong immunologic memory in the context of measles. This is consistent with my knowledge where infection is better than vaccination when it comes to lifelong memory, alas, vaccination saves life and it does it with a tremendous success.

TIL from this article the nonprofit Human Vaccines Project, a project led by Wayne Koff. There is a cool chart in this article describing how immunity wanes over time on the scale of 0% to 100% effectiveness for age of the recipient (e.g. at age of 25, tetanus is still ~100% protective).

I guess from this article now I understand why vaccine-like particles (VLP) has been a hype, because the HPV vaccine (VLP-based platform) has shown how it could confer a stable immunologic memory years after vaccination. This part mentions about the contribution by a different subset of B cells, known as the long-lived plasma cells (LLPCs), “which resides in the bone marrow and continually produce antibodies specific to foreign antigens”.

Plasma cells that live long enough. That’s pretty cool.

Statisticians want to abandon science’s standard measure of ‘significance’ by Bethany Brookshire on ScienceNews. The premise is that we should not rely solely on the p-value as a measure of significance. The usage of p-value is attributed to Ronald Fisher, and he offered the cut-off of P equals to 0.05 because “it is convenient to take this point as a limit in judging whether a deviation is to be considered significant or not. By the way, here’s a special issue in the journal American Statistician which it offers full 43 articles why we should not rely solely on the p-value.

WHO reveals delayed pick for H3N2 flu vaccine strain by University of Minnesota CIDRAP. By the way, our collaborator Scott Hensley is mentioned in this article. I guess I need to study more about the clade system mentioned in this article.