The observable examined

Archive for the ‘advanced technology’ Category

Space Hero

leave a comment »

My newest hero is Commander Chirs Hadfield.  What a man! I had never known or heard of him until about two days ago. I tuned in to one of my favorite radio shows, Fresh Air, and I caught Terri interviewing Commander Hadfield.  It was such a riveting interview. In it,the  Hadfield describes his space walk, tethered to the space ship, and orbiting the earth, with a glorious view of the earth on one side and the black quiet emptiness of space on the other,  at a breathtaking speed of about 17,500 miles per hour!  He is so brilliant, “lyrical”, and eloquent in describing his experiences as an astronaut.  I went back and listened to the whole interview again. You can find it   here .

Astronaut Chris Hadfield Brings Lessons From Space Down To Earth .

Ira Flatow also did an interview with him on Friday …

Chris Hadfield’s Lessons From Life in Orbit

and so did  Marco Weman

Astronaut Chris Hadfield shows childhood dreams can come true

All three interviews while similar have slightly different takes but well worth listening.

Here is a link to his  beautiful and moving rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” [18M+ hits ]

There is a lot more…on YouTube….tears in space, sleeping in space…etc., Entertaining and educational for kids and adults alike.

He is a complete package….astronaut, musician, scientist, guinea pig (NASA is studying bone density loss and recovery), author,  and a fantastic human being. A true role model…..I have ordered his book – An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. Can’t  wait to read what he has to say.






Written by asterix98

November 2, 2013 at 5:52 pm

The dawn of “omics”

leave a comment »

I attended a day long workshop at Stanford a couple a weeks ago. The topic  – Emerging Medical Computing: Healthcare Up-Close and Personalized  (14th Annual NFIC Conference June 16th at Stanford University, CA).

The workshop was about “..The intersection of computers with medical data is creating a form of direct and individualized diagnosis and treatment that transform health care to truly being up close and personalized medicine……..

Starting with computer based individual medical modeling based on genetics and biometrics, the conference will move on to cover personalized sensors in monitoring, diagnosis, treatment, and prosthetics….”

I will focus on one of the speakers, Michael Snyder. He spoke on “Adventures in Personal Omics”.  Our health is determined by a combination of our genome and exposure to the environment (epigenetics).  Given this, genome sequencing or genomics, is extremely valuable in understanding and treating human diseases (eg., cancer). Medicine as practiced today treats the average. Personalized genomic sequencing affords us the opportunity to examine human variability in the genetic makeup leading to nuanced understanding of disease risk at the personal level. DNA sequencing seems to be loosely following Moore’s law in that prices have been dropping ~10x in 15 months. Current average cost is about $3.5K, but $1K options are also round the corner. Personalized medicine, allows risk prediction, diagnoses, monitoring and treatment,as well as understanding disease state at an individual level. This is indeed revolutionary. In Snyder’s lab, they are able to produce a personal “omic” profile or POP. In fact, Snyder has been his own subject and has been monitoring his POP over the past 27 months and learned a tremendous deal. He was able to predict his diabetes risk from his POP (eventually he contracted it but was able to manage it). You can read this fascinating story here. Of course, significant challenges remain in translating this to everyday medical practice, because the clinical interpretation component- extracting useful information-  is still very high (~$30K).

There is yet another trend in the realm of personalized health, metaphorically called the “quantified self”.  The economist has a nice overview article – Counting every moment .  These efforts are directed more at the macro indicators of personal health (eg., height,weight, food intake, sleeping etc.,).

It gets even more interesting. Matt Ridley wrote a piece in the WSJ on the microbial ecosystem that is very essential for our functioning. He writes “… the startling statistic that there are at least 10 times as many bacterial cells (belonging to up to 1,000 species) in your gut as there are human cells in your entire body: that “you” are actually an entire microbial zoo as well as a person. You are 90% microbes by cell count, though not by volume—a handy reminder of just how small bacteria are.” These microbes make up between two to five pounds of your body weight!  Just like Snyder, Larry Smarr, an astrophysicist turned computer scientist, is meticulously charting his microbial makeup and has discovered fascinating facts about his body and explanations for his illness, even educating the doctors that were treating him, in the process. You can read all about this in the Atlantic article – Measured Man.

I could’nt help wondering that all of these efforts are bringing on a whole new meaning to the Socratic quote “A life unexamined is not worth living”.

Written by asterix98

July 4, 2012 at 6:32 pm

futuristic technology

leave a comment »

Something useful comes out of Defense R&D after all (actually this is an understatement). GPS and ARPANET were military projects that eventually found extremely important and useful civilian use.

DARPA is an amazing agency. They fund really advanced technologies that are several generations ahead of anything available commercially. My first hand encounter came in the early 90s when I visited Fort Belvoir, as a graduate student with my advisor. At that time, using thermal images, the goal was to identify and classify tanks (based on heat signatures) as NATO or Warsaw (friend or foe) at distances of upto 2 miles!!

Fastforward almost 20 years. Now they are working on aircraft that can fly at Mach 20 (that’s right not a typo)!! So, they can get to any part of the world from the USA, in about an hour. For an interesting interview with Regina Dugan of DARPA check out this article.

The interview was from the All Things Digital Conference. More articles can be found here.

Written by asterix98

June 11, 2011 at 6:29 pm

%d bloggers like this: