applied science xcience

Making Mice Miss Memorable Moments Minutely Modifiable Maybe

It took a few minutes to make that title so I hope you appreciate it 🙂

A lot of research has gone into memory and how it works in our brains. As a result we know an awful lot about how the processes involved form the biochemical structures that are memories. Where they are located and how they are formed or not.

What we don’t understand as clearly is how forgetting happens.

We can do experiments with people and animals to learn things about how this all works but to do experiments where the object is to interfere in a manner that might cause permanent alterations / damage we can’t use humans.

But how do you know if an animal has learned something or not? If they have forgotten something or just didn’t learn it in the first place. Testing to see if they remember something can be complicated by not knowing this difference.

Researchers in Japan and Toronto have worked out how to test that with mice. And they’ve found that the time of day that the testing happens affects the outcome.

Something about the time of day just before they normally wake up, when BMAL1 levels are normally low, causes mice to not recall something they definitely learned and know.

BMAL1 is a protein that regulates the expression of other proteins. For those not well steeped in how DNA/RNA works you can think of it this way: If the DNA is a book of instructions on how to build proteins that build and operate the cells that build us then regulatory substances are like filter glasses that alter how the lines of instruction in that book are read and carried out.

Mice with less BMAL1 were more strongly affected with recall problems than those with normal amounts of BMAL1. So of course researchers will be looking further in how this works with an eye on how it might help develop treatments for diseases such as alzheimers. Modifying how much BMAL1 is present to try and modify memory recall is likely being planned next.

Why the body’s own internal clock, the circadian rhythm, would moderate recall in this way has them scratching their heads for now.

One more thing I learned from the Science Daily article is the term ‘zeitgeber’.

A zeitgeber is a measurement of time, the environmental cue of light turning on.

astrophysics Uncategorized

300+ years to solve Newton’s 3 Body Problem

A few decades back I wrote a screen saver for Windows that relied on Newton’s laws of gravity to drive things around the screen.

It was the bouncing line with a difference: the ends of the line had ‘mass’ and velocity. There was an unseen gravity well, a black sun if you will, that had gravity but a fixed position. The motion of the line ends followed Newton’s gravity equation.

As I worked on this and watched how it developed multi-body gravity systems I was amazed at how complex it could be but then I learned about Newton’s 3 body problem. And saw how crazy it became when I allowed all 3 ‘bodies’ in my little system move.

Well the problem has apparently been solved

social commentary

Speculation versus Society

As I was listening to a news broadcast regarding homeless issues in other cities in my province one of the things that was said, by a person who is currently homeless, was that availability of rental properties has gone down. In other words the number of available rental properties has gone down. So every time you go to apply to rent a place the owners of that place can pick and choose who they want. And of course they would rather not take a chance on somebody who is currently homeless – I get that. 

This triggered a train of thought. 

I have seen the argument put forward that the places where profitability has returned homelessness has soared in the United States. As the increasing profitability, and local economy heating up, drives up prices for goods and services making it more expensive to meet your ends – one of those being shelter.

I was struck by the idea that when you have something that people consider to be a basic requirement for human life such as shelter or food or medicine and someone comes along and shows how you could commodify that and turn a profit on it then it’s just a matter of time before Capitalistic urges and Societal needs clash.

Example: Fuel or Food?

A few years ago people were getting very concerned about the idea that Petroleum, from which we get Gasoline, was getting scarcer to find and more expensive to produce. When they get concerned about gasoline, the price goes up and the moment that the price goes up people look for other ways to make more profits off of it.

When they were thinking there might be a shortfall in actual petroleum, growing corn for ethanol became seen as a viable alternative. And a lot of talk happened about the competition between gas tanks and stomachs for that corn.

Farmers were looking at the possibility of producing corn for gas tanks rather than for stomachs because gas tanks pay more. What an idea!

People who produce food making a choice to produce it for commercial and industrial concerns as opposed to feeding people.

Example: Short Term Rentals

A while back somebody came up with the bright idea of short-term rentals instead of long-term rentals And Air B&B was born. 

When you look at how many rental units are available in a given local economy and how many people there are that need rental units you get a certain equation. When the owners of a lot of those rental units en mass decide to take them out of the long-term rental market and put them in the short term rental market that means that the actual available number of rentals for long-term rental goes down but the number of people looking for long-term rentals hasn’t.

So the competition for a rental property increases as more people think about turning rental properties into short-term rental commodities

This adds more action to the real estate market. With people looking to buy places that they can do this with and since they’re looking at these places as earners and not places where they want to live they are more inclined to pay more money for them than they would if they were buying them for their own, personal, use. That’s Speculation.

That helps heat up the real estate market which raises up prices. As property values rise so does taxes. When prices go up what happens is there’s pressure on people who are actually doing long-term rentals to increase what they charge in rent because their costs go up. So if you’re looking for a long-term rental, or you’re actually looking to buy a place for yourself to live in you’re facing increased prices and increased competition. 

Example: Healthcare

Here in Canada we have socialized medicine, but down south of border in the United States it’s not that at all – health costs are the number one cause of personal bankruptcy.

There are people here in Canada who would rather see us have a medical system like the US where if you have the money you can get treatment right away. You don’t have to wait.

I understand their frustrations with waiting, believe me I do, but here’s the thing: the way things have become in the United States everybody needs to get some sort of Health Care insurance. Unless you’re really really rich you really can’t afford to take your own healthcare costs on by yourself 

So most people are in some sort of plan that is part of some sort of Managed Health Care.

Now the Health Care Management organizations have doctors and hospitals and arrangements with drug suppliers on the one hand and and they have arrangements with patients on the other hand. They sit in between and they still make some profits.

Think about that.

You can’t go right to the doctor of your choice. You can’t go right to the hospital of your choice. You can’t go right to the pharmacies and get your stuff. You go through your Healthcare management organization.

That Healthcare management organization is supposedly there to make things easier on you. But they’re also there to make a profit off of you as a subscriber. And they’ll have to make a profit off of the services they provide which means that the doctors who work for them are basically employees. They have a proscribed list of things they cannot do. Drugs they cannot prescribe to people and a list of things they can actually do and that their Healthcare Management company will actually cover or pay for it.

The idea that some major corporation could get in between the customer and the provider of a service and somehow make the whole thing better and still make a profit and keep the costs under control is patently ridiculous. These companies are not in the business of being there for social good. They’re in the business of being there to bring profit to their shareholders.

If you don’t believe me then consider that people in the USA pay far more for the same services than others in other countries.

Example: Medicine

In the Healthcare sector which sub-industry makes the most money? So much that they have year after year profit increases above 20%?
Why it’s the companies that make the drugs and medicines!

In recent years we’ve seen multiple examples of businessmen buying drug companies that have needed drugs, which come from no other supplier, so they could then jack the prices of those drugs through the roof (1, 2) to increase profitability and milk them for all the profits that they could get. Patients who need these drugs just have to pay more. The health management companies will have to pay more.

At least one speculator like this, Martin Shkreli, has gone to prison and others have faced financial ruin but that does not stop others from trying to engage in the same profit-taking moves. Putting dollars ahead of people’s lives and health because they can.

Exaggerated profit-taking even gets to the generic drugs. These are the drugs which have gone off patent which means that anyone can produce them. You would think that drugs which have gone off patent, and can be produced by generic drug makers, would see competition and that would drive prices down but there is strong evidence that shows that generic drug companies have been colluding to elevate the prices and keep the prices high.

Example: Prisons

The USA incarcerates more of its own people than any other country. One of the consequences of the ‘war on drugs’ was a huge increase in the number of people imprisoned.

The increasing costs of the penal system became seen as a potential business opportunity and a case was made that this is something private businesses could do for less cost.

So now more people are in privately run prisons than government run facilities.

Do you think it’s harder to get out of a private prison than a government one?

The government doesn’t want to house you any longer than they have to – it costs the taxpayers money. So they have an incentive to create conditions and programs that help convicts work towards earlier release and find better opportunities and be less likely to re-offend after they leave.

The for-profit prisons budgets are ultimately tied to how many convicts they have to take care of in any given budget cycle. Their understood incentive is to house as many convicts as they can and keep them for as long as they can. They may claim there are other factors that work against this thinking but I would suggest those are window dressing on a deal that stinks.

There’s at least one instance, Kids for Cash, of judges engaged in deals with for-profit prisons to send more offenders there than into programs that see no incarceration. In that case the victims were juveniles. We have no way of knowing how many other similar case exist where those involved weren’t so stupid they got caught.

Corporations are not in the business of being good society members – no – they are in the business of making profits for their shareholders plain and simple.

At the turn of this century when scholars were looking at the future they predicted that the major cause of warfare in this coming century will be over Water. And as it becomes more scarce it becomes a valuable commodity.

When I was a child there was next to no sales of water to the individual unless your local water supply was problematic. Now we have a generation of people who have grown up with bottled water for sale almost everywhere. At some point fresh clean water, one of the most basic substance needed for humans to survive, will become something you can only get if you have the money . . .

So to come back to my original proposition: Anytime someone comes up with a new way to commodify, or make a profit, off of something that everyone else considers to be a basic human need it is just a matter of time before Capitalist urges and Societal Needs Clash.