Saturday, October 22, 2011

A South Pole Centennial, Cryonics, and Organ Regeneration

So many things to remark-upon, from the recent summit conference about a coming "Singularity" to the conclusion of the Iraq and Libya wars, to the critical issues raised by Occupy Wall Street... and the prospects for banking transparency in the light of Moammar Ghaddafi's stolen $200 billions....

...but I want to focus this time on some amazing thoughts and images from old and new frontiers of science.

We've entered the extended centennial  of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's doomed expedition toward the South Pole, from 1910-1913. A source of mythic moments, both noble and absurd, that could never have come from fiction.

I cannot too-highly recommend both the book "The Last Place on Earth" and the subsequent television miniseries.  The latter, especially, is just stunning.  Visually gorgeous and haunting. Superbly acted. And probably the best-ever juxtaposition of the extreme consequences of human competence... or the utter lack thereof.

The stark contrast between Scott's emotional fragility - his mercurial foolishness - and the calm display of relentless ability shown by his rival, the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, is one of the most effective comparisons I have ever seen.

While you're at it, see a series of unseen photographs--incredible images that were recently published in "The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott," by polar historian Dr. David M. Wilson.

== Deliberately Frozen ==

There were many aspects to the recent Singularity Summit, where I heard the regular paeans to transcendence issued by Ray Kurzweil and others... plus deeply concerned discussions by Peter Thiel, Skype founder Jaan Tallinn, Artificial Intelligence theoretician Eliezer Yudkowsky and other brilliant minds, about "how to keep Artificial intelligences loyal." (The latter is a topic that I touch upon repeatedly in my coming novel EXISTENCE.)

One thought occurred to me during an extended panel discussion...

... that we do NOT want the new, godlike super-intelligences to emerge suddenly out of stock market trading programs, which are fine-tuned to be utterly predatory, parasitical and ruthlessly sociopathic.  If there were no other reason to impose a transaction tax, that should utterly suffice!

Bemusing were the medallion disks that several presenters displayed, hanging from neck chains, instructing paramedics to inform their cryonics providers, in case of approaching death, so that the head can be injected with subtle antifreeze and chilled for storage, in confident expectation of resurrection and glory in better days ahead.
Who has signed up?  Some of my best friends. Is it tempting? Well, like many singularity/transcendentalist notions, I can talk up the positive points with the best of 'em. And around these guys I find myself inevitably going into the downsides. (Well?  I am "contrary brin," after all.)

dowereallywantimmortalityMy full, sober reflections are to be found in this earlier essay, Do We Really Want Immortality? Still, these guys talk up a good show. And the Scott-Amundsen centennial brought fascinating comparisons to mind.

== Using Life to Build Things? ==

Okay, this is kind of weird. Using a simple, single-step process, engineers and scientists at the University of California at Berkeley recently developed a technique to direct benign, filamentous viruses called M13 phages to serve as structural building blocks for materials with a wide range of properties. By controlling the physical environment alone, the researchers caused the viruses to self-assemble into hierarchically organized thin-film structures, with complexity that ranged from simple ridges, to wavy, chiral strands, to truly sophisticated patterns of overlapping strings of material--results that may also shed light on the self-assembly of biological tissues in nature.

In nature, the virus attacks Escherichia coli (E.coli), but in bioengineering laboratories, the virus is emerging as a nanoscale tool that can assemble in complex ways due to its long, slender shape and its chiral twist.

== Mammalian Organ Regeneration ==

The most fascinating talk at the Summit came not from a singularitarian or transcendentalist, but one of the brilliant scientists who are making tomorrow day by day. (Despite society's turn toward ungrateful nonsense, like the Foxite War on Science.)  Stephen Badylak was lately featured on the show "60 Minutes," and is  is currently a Research Professor in the Department of Surgery and director of Tissue Engineering at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.  Dr. Badylak showed us the latest about organ regeneration in humans and other mammals.

I was stunned.  Sure, I follow what's going on.  I know that important work is being done with stem cells, and with "scaffolding" -- the use of non-cellular pig-based or other material to create a pre-shaped trellis for new cells to grow upon, into a replacement organ. There have been amazing successes in the latter arena.

Dr. Badylak spoke of the great obstacle -- inflammation -- which we are now perceiving as one of the biggest enemies of health in so many ways.  In this case, the tendency for the body to react to injury by getting livid and puttying the site with crude patching material that we call scarring.  Preventing the crude version of inflammation is step one.

He then described the wide variety of hormonal growth factors that come into play when undifferentiated cells are asked to turn into muscle, nerve and other types of tissue. At this point I expected him to then describe an artisan craft -- painting, injecting and impregnating these chemicals into different parts of the scaffolding, in order to say "grow muscle here" and "lace in nerves here!"

Imagine my surprise when it appeared that they do no such thing!  His recent profound successes have come simply by fighting inflammation, inserting the scaffold material... then encouraging the patient to USE the regenerating area, as soon as possible.  He showed us how a cancerous esophagous was ripped out and replaced by a scaffold tube, held open with a stent. In other words, use it immediately.  And within weeks... a new/natural esophagus is in place.  He showed similar examples like an Iraq war veteran who regrew most of a blasted away leg muscle.

?????  Do you know what this means?  I pondered, there in the audience.

It means that mammals have had extra regenerative capacity, held mostly latent within us for the last hundred million years.  So why don't we regrow major tissues, organs, even limbs by erecting scaffolding of our own?  I thought about it.

Consider.  Mammals are the hothouse-types.  Racing about, burning fuel like mad and eating like crazy, with a metabolism that won't quit or even pause. Furthermore, nearly all mammals are quadrupeds who, if they lose a limb, are utterly incapacitated.

Grow one back? When?  A low metabolism Amphibian can crawl into a corner and wait while that happens.  A mammal can't. It doesn't have the reserves. Nobody is going to bring dinner for months at a stretch. And so, we simply gave up the capacity to regenerate!

Scarring is the quick-patch substitute. If the injury is slight, scarring let's us get back to business asap. If the injury would take months to regrow, forget it. Not worth the investment to maintain a capacity that won't do any good anyway.

Except that now we humans can rest those months.  And we can hobble around with three limbs while one recovers. And we can augment the process with complete, hand-made and perfectly sculpted scaffolds, all-at-once. And so, for the first time since dinosaurs roamed the Earth, mammals may resume doing this fine thing.  Regenerating portions that we have lost.

Don't get your hopes up right away.  There is much to do and accomplish and test.  But if this pans out, then we'll have that much more to owe to God's second greatest gift to us - right after Love:

-- It's curiosity. And the skill and care and brilliance to be co-creators.

That is... unless the awful-stupid ingrates who are waging all-out war on science have their way.

== Late Word ==

I was so ticked off that they had killed Moammar Ghaddafi.  Not because I loved the guy, or thought he deserved any consideration.  Well, my mature 5% wants all procedures to be followed for all people - the Enlightenment Way. But no, I was pissed... because only he knew where all his money was kept!

Today's paper carried estimates of Two... hundred... billion dollars stolen from the nation and people of Libya. Ooh, what a clear case for "helvetian" levels of anger! (You'll understand if you read my novel EARTH!) That's why it was good to hear, minutes ago, that they captured Ghaddafi's top and ablest son, who may know many of the codes. For that reason alone, watch his health. I wouldn't want to be the man's prison food taster....

52 comments:

Paul451 said...

Re: Cellular matrix, aka pixie dust
"Don't get your hopes up right away."

It seems to me that anti-inflammatory + pixie dust should be a standard treatment for every injury, every surgical procedure, in every hospital. Even if it doesn't work for 80% of cases, it would work so spectacularly well for the remaining 20% that it's worth making it a standard procedure.

At the very least, cellular matrix along with "liquid skin" should already be in use in burn wards around the world. This stuff is "Manhatten Project"/"Apollo Project" worthy. Even if you don't get full "regeneration", any reduction of scarring is huge.

"that we do NOT want the new, godlike super-intelligences to emerge suddenly out of stock market trading programs, which are fine-tuned to be utterly predatory, parasitical and ruthlessly sociopathic."

I hadn't considered that. People usually worry about military created AI (a la Skynet), but the military design philosophy will be "Obey orders, follow the ROE, recognise and protect your own side, recognise and protect civilians, OBEY ORDERS."

The design philosophy of the trading AI is "DESTROY THEM ALL".

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LarryHart said...

Paul451 in the previous comments thread:

Do you see that it is actually quite a nasty thing if whites in Conservative states are doing better than whites in Liberal states and blacks are doing worse in Conservative states?


I agree with you, but it's only fair to mention that the conservative counterargument is that blacks in red states suffer for their liberal/Democratness, not for their blackness. "Conservative states do better, and the reason blacks in those states do worse is because they're not conservative enough." It's not an argument I subscribe to, but I don't think we can simply ignore it without rebuttal.


Anyway, noticed something odd:

When asked whether "Having a good marriage is extremely important", highschool girls agreed much more than HS boys. But when asked if they thought "most people will have happier lives, if married", boys eclipsed girls.

So boys think marriage is awesome, but don't really care if it's not. Girl's think most marriages sucks, but think it's vital that they don't.


You may be misinterpreting the responsed to the first question. You're presuming the kids answered as to whether MARRIAGE is important. They might have been answering that PRESUMING one is married, it is important to make it a GOOD marriage.

It's always been my position that marriage is not a necessity, that a good marriage greatly enhances one's life, and that a bad marriage greatly erodes one's life. Better to be happily married than single, but better to be single than unhappily married. I don't think anything about that position is contradictory.

LarryHart said...

Paul451 in the previous comments thread:

Do you see that it is actually quite a nasty thing if whites in Conservative states are doing better than whites in Liberal states and blacks are doing worse in Conservative states?


I agree with you, but it's only fair to mention that the conservative counterargument is that blacks in red states suffer for their liberal/Democratness, not for their blackness. "Conservative states do better, and the reason blacks in those states do worse is because they're not conservative enough." It's not an argument I subscribe to, but I don't think we can simply ignore it without rebuttal.


Anyway, noticed something odd:

When asked whether "Having a good marriage is extremely important", highschool girls agreed much more than HS boys. But when asked if they thought "most people will have happier lives, if married", boys eclipsed girls.

So boys think marriage is awesome, but don't really care if it's not. Girl's think most marriages sucks, but think it's vital that they don't.


You may be misinterpreting the responsed to the first question. You're presuming the kids answered as to whether MARRIAGE is important. They might have been answering that PRESUMING one is married, it is important to make it a GOOD marriage.

It's always been my position that marriage is not a necessity, that a good marriage greatly enhances one's life, and that a bad marriage greatly erodes one's life. Better to be happily married than single, but better to be single than unhappily married. I don't think anything about that position is contradictory.

LarryHart said...

???

Not even sure HOW that last post appeared twice, let alone WHY it would.

gwern said...

I sincerely doubt Kaddafi has anywhere like $200b still squirreled away. Those estimates frequently assume that the economic damage done was all diverted into the glorious leader's pocket. Qaddafi would've lost a huge percentage to the middlemen involved in skimming all of that off, and then secreting it away safely, and Gadhafi had to spend tons of money on all his projects and terror attacks, building his military with its fancy rockets (so many rockets!) would cost Ghaddafy billions, and then, as Gathafi tried to put down the revolt, he would've spent billions on supplies and bribes and whatnot and especially for all those black mercenaries - because, after all, what is that money worth to Kad'afi if he is dead or out of power? And come to think of it, both sides would've been in something of a bidding war, and now that El Kazzafi is officially dead and the new bosses can no longer claim to be at war, the victorious will be demanding their fair shares of Qudhafi's fabled riches...

Paul451 said...

LarryHart,
The boys score lower than girls on the question of whether it is important to them personally to have a "good marriage" and lower on whether they personally will stay married to the same person, which suggests a pessimistic assessment of their personal chance of having a "good marriage".

But they scored higher on "whether most people have happier live, if married". Meaning boys' personal expectations for successful marriage are lower than their assumptions about society. Whereas the opposite is the case for girls.

IMO, I think it means that boys and girls have a different kind of fatalism towards marriage, which carries over into adults.

Men believe that marriage can be good, but if it's not they aren't really surprised, so they stop trying and learn to live with it.

Women believe that they personally will have a successful marriage but that most people don't. So when their marriage hits a rough patch, it's Wrong! and they are much less tolerant.

Hence, men don't work to make a rocky marriage into a good one. Women won't tolerate less than perfection. Apparently the overwhelming majority of divorces are filed by women. The two different types of fatalism may explain why.

...Said the single man.

(perisis: The ancient Greek god of penis infections.)

Larry C. Lyons said...

What isn't mentioned about the two expeditions was that the Scott expedition was a full scientific research effort. That meant carrying a lot more equipment that was really necessary. The Amundsen expedition was geared towards racing to the pole and that only. They carried the minimum of food and equipment to accomplish their task.

rewinn said...

From the esophageus article:
"...direct clinical translation of an ECM scaffold approach to esophagus reconstruction is likely to face skepticism..."

... made me snicker. Our normal rules for evaluating the plausibility of outcomes fail sometimes, which I suppose is why we need curiosity to take us past the plausible (... AND therefore scepticism itself to winnow the dross.)

---

BTW a few weeks back we had a brief discussion of the "Pro-Life" Movement's attack on birth control, which seems implausible because most of us cannot imagine how such a thing could be. This has now become an issue in the GOP presidential primary ... resulting in a highly amusing explanation of the issue and biology by Rachel Maddow.

---

Meanwhile, in Transparency Space, we are still waiting for the names of people who signed on a Referendum Petition two years ago. How someone can sign a petition but want their name to remain secret is mind-boggling, especially when the named plaintiffs to the suit blocking release of the signatures appear to have widely publicized their political positions on the very same subject (which pretty much destroys their argument that they need to sign in secret, for public safety reasons).

David Brin said...

Larry, many excuses are made for Captain Scott's lethal failure in the Antarctic. Certainly Scottophiles make the "scientific expedition" argument. But the "heavy" expedition should have done as well as Amundsen's light one, if managed competently. Scott over-ruled the advice of the few men in his party who had endured arctic winters and who knew that dogs are vastly better than ponies, or the absurd, early tractors he insisted on bringing, that broke down or fell into the ice.

One could gripe that Amundsen's side of the mountains had better weather, that year, etc. But it doesn't wash. The litany of bizarre Scott decisions seemed endless, like forcing his one dog team to slow down to the resupply speed of the ponies. Or later commanding the faster of his two sled pulling man-teams to depot their skis, making them drag when his own team hit a patch that was ski-able! Then, at the very last moment, he decides to change the pole-assault team from 4 to 5 men, screwing all the ration-plans... and bringing along a man who thereupon had no skis!

You've got to watch the miniseries. The very end, juxtaposing Scott's last journal entry against Amundsen's words at the pole, summed it up. It may be better to be a dead hero than a live coward. But best of all is to be a live hero.

Stefan Jones said...

Freeman Dyson's essay collection Weapons and Hope has a good piece, "Tragedy is not Our Business," comparing Amundsen's and Scott's approaches.

David Brin said...

What having four experienced dog sledders on the team allowed was for Amundsen to only use the depot process maybe halfway to the pole.

The rest of the way, they could use four sled up to the plateau, then consolidated... eat some dogs... (sorry! the brits used this as an excuse to hate him, but Amundsen's men got no scurvy and kept all their teeth)...

That left two sleds and four men, all of them able skiers who glided ahead with stunning competence. RA got all his men home not only safe but comfortable. Leadership.

I do respect the British explorer Shackleton, who refused to go to the pole when it looked too risky for his men... and whose epic of survival when the ice crushed his ship -- getting all men home alive -- is a stunning tale.

As is the way Amundsen died... some years later flying a plane to help rescue the stranded Italians whose airship crashed near the north pole.

Oh! cute side note. Everyone assumes the American, PEARY told the truth about reach the N Pole. But analyses of his diary suggest very strongly that he flat-out lied. Hence a year or two or so later, when Amundsen guided the FIRST Italian airship over the pole, Amundsen was probably the first human being ever to see the North Pole,

First to see BOTH poles. Wow.

Tacitus2 said...

Oh, great. Getting antifreeze into brains at the exact moment of death.

Our current technology strains the limit of what can be done without Star Trek transporters. Last night I put a guy with an acute MI on a helicopter to make the fairly tight time window for primary angioplasty. Doable, if the weather is good and the patient does not dally too long swigging Maalox.

I get lots of people coming in with assorted minor neuro complaints as they have heard that rapid clot dissolving meds are the standard of care. Few arrive soon enough that the needed scans etc can be accomplished in the short window between modest benefit and the scales tipping towards increased morbidity with thombolytics.

And with brain cells having a very limited viability when not perfused the odds of getting the cryo juice on board before "Elvis Leaves the Building"....well, not gonna happen. At least before I retire.

There really is a different standard of care in major urban centers vs rural flyover land. And it is simply a matter of time and space. But this would challenge anyone.

Tacitus

Alan said...

I agree with Brin's assessment of Shackleton. He seems to have the best reputation among people in the U.S. Antarctic Program - not a glory hound like Amundsen or Scott, competent and interested in advancing science, and Amundsen's and Scott's race to the pole would not have been possible without Shackleton's 1907-1909 expedition.

Al said...

Larry Hart: the question of whether whites in "Red States" are doing better than whites in "Blue States" does not imply that blacks are doing worse in "Red States" than in "Blue States".

The southern states, at least, have far higher percentages of blacks - frequently 1/3 to 1/2 of the population. Because of this, whites AND blacks in these states could be doing better than their counterparts in fiscally liberal states, yet the average may favor the whiter states if whites generally have higher incomes than blacks (which they do).

Factor in other things such as cost of living, and it becomes more complex - but what I *do* know is that I know quite a few blacks from New York that have moved south for better opportunities.

Corey said...

I don't disagree with criticisms of Scott, but it's still rather absurd to not give him credit for his scientific pursuits.

For all that can be said for how he conducted his expedition, he did make considerable scientific contributions, and whether or not it's the only thing that hampered his trek to the South Pole, he did put enormous emphasis on that goal, even at the expense of reaching the pole.


Isn't insinuating that he should get no credit for that fact (or just blowing off said contributions) just because there might have been other serious problems with his expedition a little like saying we shouldn't credit Einstein with relativity because he was wrong about quantum uncertainty?

David Brin said...

Al please back up your percentages. Especially if you include all immigrants and minorities, in which case California is at least as "colored" as any state in the union.

I know it is far, far below 50%! Because black radicals once spoke of trying to take over either Mississippi or S Carolina through immigration, and concluded it wasn't feasible. So please get the numbers traight.

In any event, are you seriously telling me you'd like to make a WAGER over whether the white stats in red america aren't still far worse than white-blue stats ranging from STDs to teen pregnancy to obesity to domestic violence and so on?

Oh, I will so take that bet.

The point is clear. They are in no position to lecture us about either morality or ability to govern. Nationally, both claims are refuted, in turn by two words. Fox. Bush.

David Brin said...

Corey, can you document the science? They took more weather readings than Amundsen, sure, and collected more rocks.

Both made careful Geodesy measurements.

Amundsen's were accurate enough to find his caches on the way back. Scott's were so inaccurate he missed his caches.

Above all. Your men survive or they don't.

sociotard said...

Scott's expidition is a good example of why we should look for charisma and rhetorical skill for our astronauts and other public scientists. "Poets and not Pilots", is the phrase I think. Yes, Amundsen was a better explorer. Scott was a better hero. He could write and inspire in a way that Amundsen couldn't. There's a reason why Scott is so much more famous now.

Gordon B said...

I just had to post this irreverent British spoof of the Scott Expedition: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STzgXXU6GpI

Tacitus2 said...

Al,

the issue of lies, damn lies and statistics dominated the last thread. Having raised it I am just as happy to put it to bed. My point, and I think its been raised as best it can be, is that statistics on the national or state wide level can be deceptive. So statements arising from uncritical acceptance of same can also deceive. As to specific stats relating to minority groups lets concur that they are in many cases not happy ones. Actually I think there are a lot of questions that are just not being studied, or if studied not published. This is part of the general reluctance to address certain issues in our society and is a form of ostrichism.

My only hope in touching the third rail was to discourage blanket statements based on dubious stats.

It will likely go unheeded.

Tacitus

David Brin said...

Sociotard, Scott was more famous because the British ruled the whole world till 1914.

Tacitus, please remember the point. I do not rage at good ol' boys for fantasizing about riding with Nathan Bedford Forest and rescuing "The Cause."

I rage at good ol' boys for fantasizing about riding with Nathan Bedford Forest and rescuing "The Cause..." and then hollering about how much more American and patriotic they are than me.

The benighted state of the South, after a150 years of endless help, would be cause for sympathy, were they not screeching that they know far better governance than the parts that have done vastly better.

Morality, too. If they shut the hell up about being better parents than those who do a far better job of raising children, then I'll stop pointing out the fact.

rewinn said...

Issues of morality aside, if any part of the Union has "more" instances of unwed parenting than "we" want (...whatever "more", "we" and even "want" may be ...) would it not make sense simply to make birth control available ... even free?
We all know how babies are made. Most of us doubt that we can talk a useful number of people out of having sex. Anyone care to bet that the lifetime costs to our nation of the average unintended pregnancy is not sufficiently high to cost-justify free birth control ... as a matter of fiscal prudence?
I don't mind the Confederacy's claims to moral superiority so much as their pretense at economic wisdom ...

Paul451 said...

Tacitus2,
What's your opinion of extracellular matrix? (Pixie dust.)

It seems to have a reasonable shelf-life and price. So if it were available in every clinic, do you think it would be broadly useful, or is it a very limited speciality treatment? (Or is it all a load of pig bladder?)

(phipan: adj. Very. "Mr. Tacitus was phipan sick of the Red/Blue debate.")

Paul451 said...

rewinn,
Various theories that the reduction in crime rates in the US, despite recession, has been due to either birth control or abortion or video-games.

So free birth control, free abortions, free consoles?

Corey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Corey said...

David, the Scott expedition took a long time collecting paleontological evidence, evidence that proved absolutely crucial.

At the time, Darwin's theory of evolution was facing difficulty from the existence of nearly identical plants in very distance places in the southern hemisphere, with the only vindicating explanation being a common ancestor in Antarctica.

Scott's expedition searched tirelessly for that evidence, and eventually found fossils of Glossopteris, providing a strong vindication Darwin's theory that made it considerably stronger than it had even been before the objection was raised (new observations were fitting the theory; it had demonstrated predictive power).


Darwin wasn't the only one who benefited from Scott's discovery. Alfred Wegener's fledgling hypothesis of continental drift was also provided with considerable support.


Scott's single discovery was very important to building the early case for two of the most important theories we have on the history of our planet. It was hardly the only thing he contributed, but I'd probably consider it the most important.


Problems or no, I find it a bit silly to say that because some things weren't great about the expedition, we should treat Scott as if he never did anything right over its course. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Tacitus2 said...

P451.

I don't offer professional opinions on subjects I have not studied. But I will observe two things. The fingertips shown in the original post are not that amazing. The ends of digits regenerate rather well, thanks.
And also that lots of things enhance wound healing. Honey and sugar mixes, chlorophyl, hyperbaric oxygen. maggots?
Lets say that Pixie dust needs more study, some serious double blind studies and a more serious name.

Tacitus

Tacitus2 said...

Hmmm.

Lets try a little experiment. I don't do rants that well, but can try my hand.

Here for one day only on Contrary Brin I present

Isomeric Brin.

"I refuse to be lectured to by the leaders of Blue (cities and states). Will Rhoade Island teach us about fiscal policy as they teeter on the edge of insolvancy? Will the mayors DC and of Chicago offer their insights on social policy when by every reasonable metric of cultural health they preside over failed communities?"

"No excuses will suffice. Are they faced with difficult demographics? Tough luck. They have built the schools, the tax structures, the public services. Chicago-Democratic since 1931. DC-Democratic since at least the early 60's. DIG IT! They own these problems and until they turn them around they have NOTHING to say to me!"

"And I don't so much begrudge them their redistributionist fantasies about sending the Hoarder/Kulak/Bankers to the re education camps while confiscating their wealth. It's just that they need to first prove they can do some damn good with the treasure, and so much of it Federal support, that we have lavished on them already!"

ouch. makes my head hurt. Don't bother rebutting, its my rant and you must all validate it.

(disarming rantmode)

And now I need some of that cryogenic brainjuice. Or at least, being off call, I need the sun to go over the yardarm and to enjoy a glass of beer.

Tacibrin

(word code: distra..let's redistra some wealth!)

Jacob said...

News on the Transparency Front...

Wikileaks is having money problems because major credit cards and pay pal will not do business with them.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

(word code: distra..let's redistra some wealth!)


Since I suspect your point is that conservatives DON'T fantasize about riding with Nathan Bedford Forrest, I won't bother arguing that liberals DON'T fantasize about redistributing wealth as an end in itself.

But just because righties like Krauthammer and Limbaugh are all over this "eat the rich" meme, I'd like to clarify a point.

What the Democrats are trying to accomplish is not to CONFISCATE the wealth of the rich, but to get it MOVING again. If I thought anyone off of this list would understand the term, I'd call it a "low-velocity wealth tax" or a "hoarding tax". In fact, I'd be perfectly happy to allow deductions for money that was actually used to CREATE JOBS, exactly the way charitable contributions are deductible.

The more of your own money you put to WORK in the economy, the more you get to KEEP.

Now, I'm veering even further away from Tacitus himself, but anyone...why the eff is Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax always presented as if the business tax is on gross receipts minus payments to other companies, and specifically WITHOUT a subtraction for wages paid? Unless employees are considered stockholders, wages paid to employees comes straight out of the bottom line. How could it NOT be exempted from corporate "profits" in any meaninful sense of the word? What am I missing?

Tacitus2 said...

Why LarryHart... when Governor Walker enacted tax breaks for job creation it was doubleplusungood. Now you are "perfectly happy"!

Isomer Day Spreads!

I'm not sure if it is a reaction to my missing Mole Day (yesterday btw) or if I got some bad cryojuice that has turned my neurotransmitters from D isomer to L. You may recall D is latin for "right" and L for "left"!

Tacitus

Paul451 said...

Tacitus2,
Re: Pixie dust.
Sorry, I wasn't very clear. I wasn't asking if you thought the results were real.

What I meant was, if extracellular matrix based materials work as advertised (not just the fingertips, but the guy who had his leg muscle restored, or the supposedly regrown esophagus), if it works would you find it useful to have in your clinic (and ones you worked when you were full time)?

Do you get enough of the right kind of injuries, the right kind of treatments, for you to need something like this every day? Or is it something that would only be of value during specific specialist procedures?

As a layman, it feels like a wonder treatment. A Star Trek "Tissue Regenerator" in slow motion. The next generation's polio vaccine, or penicillin, ie, something that changes the way medicine/surgery is practised.

(Note: "Err, never really thought about it" is on the list of acceptible answers.)

David Brin said...

Corey said: "I find it a bit silly to say that because some things weren't great about the expedition, we should treat Scott as if he never did anything right over its course."

Um, Corey? When did I ever say that. Please do not strawman-cram words into my mouth.

But almost none of the science to which you refer was done by Scott himself or the pole-assault teams. There was a large establishment at his base camp that included genuine scientists and sub-parties sent in many directions along the coast, forging inland some distance. Just because I didn't bring those up, you assume I denigrated them?

That wasn't the topic. The topic was how to explore in ways that bring you men home alive.

--- Tacitus, is that really how you view me?

Ah, well, I admit I am angry. But not too angry to accept your rebuke with a rueful chuckle.

Naturally, I think your comparisons invalid. You impute a uniformity of left wing thought that is not there. Certainly not by orders of magnitude as pure in sanctimony as we see on the GOP candidate stage. Moreover, most of the south would love to be like chicago, all considered.

But I'll hoist a beer with you any day.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Why LarryHart... when Governor Walker enacted tax breaks for job creation it was doubleplusungood. Now you are "perfectly happy"!


I'm perfectly happy with exempting money spent on actual creation of actual jobs (in the US) from what is considered taxable money. It makes at least as much sense as exempting charitible donations (and for many of the same reasons).

Sorry, but I was not talking about an across-the-board lowering taxes on the wealthy under the theory that the money will then find its way to job creation. Thirty years of Reaganomics makes me very skeptical that the job creation will actually take place.

I'm willing to admit I sometimes shoot from the hip, but even thinking it over, I see no hypocricy on my end this time.

Paul451 said...

LarryHart,
"why the eff is Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax always presented as if the business tax is on gross receipts minus payments to other companies, and specifically WITHOUT a subtraction for wages paid? Unless employees are considered stockholders, wages paid to employees comes straight out of the bottom line. How could it NOT be exempted from corporate "profits" in any meaninful sense of the word? What am I missing?"

Is one of the component 9's a national consumption tax? Ie, a VAT or GST? If so, that's exactly how it works. It's a tax on "Value Adding", which includes wages and profits.

VAT_Payable = (Gross_Revenue - VAT_Exempt_Revenue) / VAT_Rate (see below) = ($2m - $1m (exports)) / (1.09/0.09) = ~$82.5k

VAT_Paid = Expenses_Incurring_VAT / VAT_Rate = say $250k / (1.09/0.09) = ~$20600

VAT_Owing = VAT_Payable - VAT_Paid = ~$61900. Payable in 21 days, please.

Then you subtract the VAT component from both Revenue and Expenses before doing the usual Net = R - (E+W+I+D...etc) to work out taxable income for the 9% income tax.

(Businesses only. Done right, VAT/GST is virtually invisible to consumers.)

BTW, if so, 9% is a futzing retarded percentage to use for a VAT. We use 10% for the GST. If you get an invoice for $98.50, and you need to know the GST component, you divide by 11 ($8.95). (Eg, 1.1/0.1) If you have a 9% tax, you have to divide by 12.1_recurring. (1.09/0.09) Gak.

(phrindi: Uplifted owls. Used primarily as bookkeepers.)

Corey said...

That sounds like a bit of backtracking to me.

First, you point out the flaws in Scott's expedition without ever taking a moment to insert even the slightest caveat that there were some good points to his expedition (something that's only fair). Then, when it's brought up that he has scientific pursuits, you blow it off as an "excuse". Then, when I point out that the expedition really did make scientific contributions, you asked me to cite examples, as if you doubted the claim.

And if you were aware of the Glossopteris discovery, as you must be since you're now making claims about who was actually responsible for it (can you cite a source that says that Scott had NOTHING to do with that discovery?), then why didn't you cite that first and foremost rather than focusing on mentioning weather readings?



I suppose, in the end, it matters little. If you're willing to give credit where credit it due, then there's no cause for disagreement, but can you see how your comments might come off as having sounded as though you were trying to blow off what Scott's expedition DID achieve?

Corey said...

And Scientific American's last article on the subject very clearly states that Scott himself made the call to dedicate so much manpower to dedicated research ventures, with teams he could just have easily dedicated to reaching the pole.

Whether he did the research himself or not should be irrelevant; it was his decisions that still resulted in these discoveries. Clearly it wasn't solely to the credit of the "genuine scientists".

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

Is one of the component 9's a national consumption tax? Ie, a VAT or GST? If so, that's exactly how it works. It's a tax on "Value Adding", which includes wages and profits.

VAT_Payable = (Gross_Revenue - VAT_Exempt_Revenue) / VAT_Rate (see below) = ($2m - $1m (exports)) / (1.09/0.09) = ~$82.5k


I don't doubt that you know what you're talking about (more than I do), and I'm not going to argue with you about that being how a VAT does work.

It just doesn't seem (to me) the way it should work.

I'll speak from an industry I'm familiar with. A company builds and sells trucks. Its profit (in very broad strokes) is what it sells the truck for minus what it spent on the stuff necessary to build that truck.

I don't understand why "cost of component parts" or "capital cost of machinery" is ok to subtract from taxable profit, but "cost of paying for labor to construct the trucks" is not.

Since the workers are paying income tax (a different "9") on their wages, I fail to see why the company should ALSO be taxed on those wages as if the wages are part of their "profit".

Tacitus2 said...

Ah David, my tongue was firmly in cheek. And if there was a flash of anger it just means the satire was close to the mark.

As Burns would say:

"Oh wad some Power the giftie gie us......"

I will return to my D-isomeric self in short order, taking up once again the precise if ineffectual scalpel of reason.

Although it is rather fun to wield the cartoon mallet (ACME Novelty Co.) of lampoonery.

Tacitus

Tacitus2 said...

Paul451
To answer your question, no. Injuries of this sort do not come into even the ER with great frequency. The closest analog would be amputations and reattachment work, I see potentially see that a couple of times a year. I did not see the 60minutes material. The work on esophageal replacement had an awful lot of tissue flaps and such as underlying structure.

Worthy research. Similar stuff in burn care has been evolving rapidly and has made a big difference. But skin is easier than more complex structures by orders of magnitude.

So says a decided non specialist in these matters.

Tacitus

sociotard said...

For those who'd like to remember the golden age of the 90's, here is a Clinton administration report that was never published: What would happen if the US actually paid off its debt?

http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/10/21/141510617/what-if-we-paid-off-the-debt-the-secret-government-report

Paul451 said...

LarryHart,
"I fail to see why the company should ALSO be taxed on those wages as if the wages are part of their "profit". "

VAT isn't about "profit". Think of VAT as a sales tax, not an income tax. You don't subtract wages from the wholesale cost of a product before you add sales tax, right?

But businesses don't pay sales tax on items they use in manufacture, only on items they consume... unless the item is consumed in... And there lies exemption hell.

Eg, your truck manufacturer. They buy engine parts from a parts manufacturer, they don't pay sales tax. But when they buy office equipment they do, since they are the end-user. Steel-stock that is ground away to carve out a hollow part is exempt, but the cutting head that is used to grind out that part is "consumed". What about welding stock? Is it consumed, or is the weld added it to the resale product...

Replace sales tax with a VAT, and everyone pays VAT. Private or business.

However, on each invoice (again, whether you're a private customer or a business client) it says "PRICE INCLUDES VAT".

If you're a business, you collect VAT from your customers, and you pay it to the government, minus the VAT you've already paid on your purchases.

(In Australia, raw food is exempt. So a restaurant doesn't deduct food expenses. Because it didn't pay any VAT on food purchases. Your truck manufacturer doesn't deduct wages, because it didn't pay VAT on wages.)

You're not really deducting "expenses", you are deducting the VAT you've already paid.

Once you get your head around it, it makes sense. But I guarantee no US President who introduces such a bill will get it through congress in any recognisable form. It will make the Obamacare debate look like nothing.

"Since the workers are paying income tax (a different "9") on their wages"

And the workers, the ultimate end-users, are the ones who ultimately carry the entire 9% VAT too. Remember, businesses pass it on. That's why 9-9-9 is being called a 27% tax on the poor.

(How's your head?)

Paul451 said...

I honestly thought blogger would choke on that one. Still don't understand the rules.

Corey said...

The rules are: If Blogger decides it likes you and is having a good day, you are allowed the privilege of working posts.

If your presence offends Blogger, then it will sadistically consign your hard-earned post to oblivion, because it can.

Jacob said...

Hi sociotard,

The presentation of the article "Life after Debt" bothers me. In effect it acts as a small encouragement to have debt and therefore go lightly on debt reduction. There is truth negative aspects that the article presents. However those negative aspects do not outweigh the positives of paying less for the same amount of government.

NPRs article should have included ideas on alternatives. One such option is targeted government investment. The government should only really be taking on debt in a crisis -or- as a form of investment. Education, Infrastructure, or other programs that give a return that future taxpayers will realize.

And honestly, a wise government planner would be saving money for easily foreseeable expenses. Rather this tool should be used in response to a Economic slow down like we are in. Worried about your money? Put it in the Government specific -Future Investment Project- that will ... (take us out of our gravity well cheaply, or cure cancers, or make things more energy efficient).

NPR really should have taken a step back and thought "How do my actions affect behavior?"

Patricia Mathews said...

"What the Democrats are trying to accomplish is not to CONFISCATE the wealth of the rich, but to get it MOVING again."

Ah. A financial laxative.

rewinn said...

"...A financial laxative. "

Precisely. When the poop all jams up in one place, the body eventually dies.

---

Meanwhile, in Anti-Transparency Space, the Wisconsin House Of Lords ordered arrests of citizens peacefully videotaping their public sessions.

(Note that the "House Rule" in question does not, in fact, address cameras at all, so the citation by Dear Leader makes no sense at all from a "thinking" POV; it's sheer government by force of brutality, which one would think "conservatives" would dislike.)

TheMadLibrarian said...

I am getting a very peculiar popup -- your page is asking me to verify that I want to leave and go to my next clicked item. Is this a bug or a hidden feature?

TheMadLibrarian

skiision: helmet mounted video cameras for downhill racers.

Tony Fisk said...

A financial laxative

I have a story in mind that mixes up reintroducing mammoth/megafauna into the frozen tundra by means of a pay-forward sub-economy operating under an oligarchic dominance. Working title 'Crap-fall'

abotee: an automated Lib leader groupie.
See also 'gilartee', which may be for the chop at some point.

David Brin said...

onward?

Larry C. Lyons said...

Dr. Brin,

I'm not too sure about that. Remember, Scott was involved in several other expeditions, but none so large or with such a wide ranging approach. There were incompetencies involved - for instance using ponies to haul gear.

In contrast the Amundsen expedition was a very fast one. He started after Scott left. However prior to Amundsen setting out there were other members of the expedition that went out to set up supply caches. Carrying much less food and other supplies from cache to cache has a major impact. Based on my own experience on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian arctic, just not having to carry as much gear can be critical (that's an entirely different story however). Its very much like a race between a stripped down Ferrari and an overloaded U-Haul truck.

that said Scot did a lot of things wrong, the ponies as we both mentioned. Miscalculating the amount of food consumed. Carrying too much alcohol etc.

But yes I'll have to watch the series, if I watched television that is.

But really the real achievements of Amundsen had nothing to do with South Pole, rather his exploration of the arctic did much more than a race to the pole. His navigation through the Northwest Passage itself is magnificent - reading the translated journals or his logs you realized how much of a careful observer and scientist he was. His 1925 air expedition to the north pole in two flying boats was amazing. It was a real tragedy that he disappeared during his rescue attempt of the Nobile Expedition.