Posts in: science

Invention versus discovery, medical treatment edition

Google Scholar alerts are a quick if crude way to be up-to-date with literature. In addition to journal articles and conference abstracts it also looks at U.S. patent applications, and despite the impenetrable legalese something will ocasionally turn up that is at least amusing, if not informative. Today was one such occasion: a patent for a combination of two already approved drugs to treat toxicity of CAR T-cell therapy, by the group which, admittedly, was the first to give CAR T-cells to humans and the first to treat their side effects.

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A lengthy overview of the implications of ML/AI to biology and drug discovery came out yesterday, and while I appreciate its enthusiasm and breadth, the answer to the question posed in the summary — What if this time is different? — is, sadly, no, probably not.


If you are giving a pre-recorded talk at a “hybrid” scientific conference, you can count on the number of people listening to you being functionally zero. Some may take photos of your slides, your face included.



My first Covid-19 paper

The beginning of the year was busy enough for a short commentary I co-athored to come out without my noticing. Briefly, the US government spent $10 billion procuring the anti-Covid drug Paxlovid after a study confirmed its efficacy in unvaccinated people exposed to the delta strain. It then proceeded to hand it out to everyone, including the vaccinated and boosted during the omicron wave, with no data on whether it is actually needed in that setting.

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Why are people losing their minds over ChatGPT?

Reporter Holly Else in a news article for Nature: An artificial-intelligence (AI) chatbot can write such convincing fake research-paper abstracts that scientists are often unable to spot them, according to a preprint posted on the bioRxiv server in late December. So far so good. Per the preprint, researches collected 50 real abstracts, 10 each from JAMA, NEJM, BMJ, Lancet, and Nature Medicine, then asked ChatGPT to generate a new abstract out of each article’s title and journal name.

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A yearly theme, of sorts

Instead of setting a Yearly Theme ⊕ A CGP Gray video is where I first heard it used as a replacement for New Year’s resolutions, but I’m not entirely sure if he’s the originator. right at the outset, I let it crystalize on its own in the first few months of the year. The theme of 2022 was shelter-building — guess where that came from — and as a result we now have a whistle-clean basement ready to serve as a home gym until a nuclear strike anhilates us all.

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Adam Mastroianni’s Experimental History newsletter has enabled paid subscriptions today, and if there is one science-oriented Substack worth paying for, it’s Adam’s. I’m sold.