Cuba’s lung cancer vaccine and other medical breakthroughs

Those who follow Cuba know that despite the harsh embargo that the US has imposed on that nation for over 50 years out of sheer spite because it is no longer a US client state, that country has managed to maintain a free universal health care system that is even able to send nurses and doctors to other developing countries in the world and to deal with emergencies, such as the recent Ebola outbreak in west Africa when it sent hundreds of medical professionals.
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The tricky business of riding a bike

Anyone who has learned to ride a bicycle has experienced the feeling that one will never master it until suddenly, you get the hang of it and feel that sense of exhilaration as for the first time you cruise along without fear of falling. The bike now seems so stable that you cannot imagine why it took you so long to learn. But why it is so stable is not easy to understand. I have written before about how the stability of the humble bicycle is actually quite mysterious from a physics point of view.
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Psychologists try to salvage the reputation of their profession

When governments engage in atrocities like torture, they invariably need the assistance of people in health care professions, such as doctors and nurses, to collaborate in these practices since they have the necessary expertise to both monitor them and develop even more methods of torture. Unfortunately they usually have enough of such people to help them, either because those medical professionals are willing to overlook the appalling ethics of what they are doing or because their jobs depend upon them going along or they actually profit from it.
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The new HoloLens from Microsoft

Mark Griswold, a friend and colleague at my university who is a professor of radiology, gave a talk at the Microsoft builders’ event this week that highlighted the features of a new device called the HoloLens headset that overlays virtual 3D objects onto the physical environment around us and promises to revolutionize many fields of education by providing students with the ability to see complete systems that are hidden within an outer shell, like the skeletal structure or the cardiovascular system of a human body. See for yourself
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The GMO debate

There is a lot of heated debate over the use of genetically modified organisms or GMOs, especially when it comes to food. I have not quite understood some of the opposition to it. There seems to be nothing intrinsically dangerous about food that has been genetically engineered in the laboratory to be different, since nature and agricultural practices have been genetically modifying organisms over a long time. I would have little worry about eating a genetically modified food, for example, although I must admit that I have not studied the topic in great detail.
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How physics conferences treat crank papers

PZ Myers had a post about a paper presented at the April meeting of the American Physical Society that made some outlandish claims about locating god’s throne. Some readers may be curious about how such a crazy paper made it into the program of a serious physics conference organized by the world’s largest professional organization of physicists and of which I am a member.
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We are lucky to be alive

If ever I feel the temptation to feel sorry for myself, I like to remind myself of the idea demonstrated in the cartoon below that shows how in order for us to be alive at all, every single one of the millions of our ancestors, all the way back to the first living organism, had to be survive long enough to reproduce. If, at an early stage of that sequence, one were to put odds on that happening, the chances against it are enormous. And yet here we are.
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