Caprica’s mirror

I caught the two-hour series pilot of Caprica on On-Demand a few weeks ago and I have been meaning to comment on it. It’s definitely not a replacement for Galactica, but it clearly wasn’t intended to be. Galactica took an ancient science fiction idea, the question of what makes us human, folded it into religious belief, and created a literal mythos. But Galactica never really asked the question itself – what makes us human? – it showed us the answer as a given. The skin job cylons were presented as human from the start, both the original Earth/Kobol variant and the Colonial variant. The idea that they were still fundamentally machines was never really broached, except as “toaster!” epithets – with the exception of Model One, John. He was the only one to rage at his creators for making him merely human.

spoilers – Continue reading “Caprica’s mirror”

MRI of acute Wiiitis

Magnetic resonance imaging of acute “wiiitis” of the upper extremity.

We present the first reported case of acute “wiiitis”, documented clinically and by imaging, of the upper extremity, caused by prolonged participation in a physically interactive virtual video-game. Unenhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) demonstrated marked T2-weighted signal abnormality within several muscles of the shoulder and upper arm, without evidence of macroscopic partial- or full-thickness tearing of the muscle or of intramuscular hematoma.

Nett MP, Collins MS, Sperling JW. Skeletal Radiol. 2008 May;37(5):481-3. PMID 18259743.

It was really just a matter of time… the floodgates are now open. I expect that the musculoskeletal specialists are eagerly anticipating the release of the Wii Fit

stay tuned

RefScan has been pretty moribund of late, mainly because I have been preparing for a cross country move and tying up loose ends at my postdoc. Please rest assured that there will be new content regularly appearing again in the near future. For a few weeks though, the dry spell will continue.

Also, incidentally, upgrading to WordPress 2.2 kind of hosed our K2 theme install, so we are looking a bit retro until I can fix that.

Paul Lauterbur dies at age 77

The father of Magnetic Resonance Imaging passed away on Tuesday:

Physicist Paul C. Lauterbur, who received a 2003 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for giving physicians the ability to look inside the human body without using harmful radiation, died Tuesday at his home in Urbana, Ill.

He was 77 and had been suffering from kidney disease.

NIH funding running dry

This isn’t exactly a surprise, but worth mentioning anyway:

Before the ink was dry on the government’s 2007 budget (or even completed for that matter), the Bush administration’s proposal for the 2008 budget was submitted on February 5th, and the news for biomedical researchers was not very good. According to sources the NIH is slated to receive a $500 million budget cut, before inflation is factored in—assuming a bill inflating their budget for 2007 passes through congress.

Making this even more dire for biomed researchers is the fact that over 10,000 NIH extramural grants are up for renewal in 2008. Those contending for extensions or renewals of such grants are now faced with double difficulty: less money to go around and more people vying for the same number of spaces. Constraints such as these have driven the average age of first-time grant recipients to over 40 years old, barely a young researcher anymore.

The simple truth is that the NIH is probably the single greatest investment of public funds apart from NASA in terms of knowledge generation for the benefit of society that the world has ever seen. Less funds mean less research; less Ph.D.s choosing an academic career; less innovation and less risk-taking. That means more orthodoxy, entrenched and defensive peer-review, and ultimately more echo-chambering.

Even with new funding programs aimed at transitioning postdocs to faculty, it’s hard to justify doing a post-doc to people in the field nowadays – if they have the flexibility, they can make more than double the salary working for industry. What does the future of our field, medical physics and MRI in particular, look like?

research money well spent

news flash: emotions sometime trump rational thought! Shocking, I know. Though I was intrigued at how the fMRI paradigm in this case provides a neat empirical example for why prisoner’s dilemma models don’t translate well into real-world practice:

A classic economic example is the “ultimatum game,” in which one participant gets 10 $1 bills (or loonies, in Canada). He chooses how many to offer to a second participant. If she accepts the offer, the money is split the way the first participant suggested; if she rejects the offer, nobody gets anything.

Logically, the first participant can maximize his money by offering a single dollar, because logically the second participant should accept that as being better than nothing. In real life, however, the second participant, if offered only a dollar or two, almost always rejects the offer.

Functional MRI scans of brain activity show that a low offer stimulates an area associated with negative emotions, including anger and disgust. It seems the second participant would rather punish the first participant for making such an insulting offer than make an easy buck. And usually, the person making the offer understands this and offers something close to an even split, averaging about $4.

I don’t really see why the above reasonable decision-making process is inherently non-rational or “emotional” though. Doesn’t it make good rational sense to “punish” someone making a lowball offer, so they are motivated to offer you more up front?