Cheap microscopes: Yours to cut out and keep | The Economist


Cheap microscopes

Yours to cut out and keep

Apr 14th 2014, 16:30 by Economist.com

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IF EVER a technology were ripe for disruption, it is the microscope. Benchtop microscopes have remained essentially unchanged since the 19th century—their shape a cartoonist’s cliché of science akin to alchemical glassware and Bunsen burners. And that lack of change has costs. Microscopes are expensive (several hundred dollars for a reasonable one) and need to be serviced and maintained. Unfortunately, one important use of them is in poor-world laboratories and clinics, for identifying pathogens, and such places often have small budgets and lack suitably trained technicians.

That, thinks Manu Prakash, a bioengineer at Stanford University, provides an opening for a bit of lateral thinking. And Dr Prakash’s mental sideways movement has led him to design a microscope made almost entirely of paper, which is so cheap that the question of servicing it goes out of the window.

Individual Foldscopes, as Dr Prakash dubs them, are printed on A4 sheets of paper (ideally polymer-coated for durability). A pattern of perforations on the sheet marks out the ’scope’s components, which are colour-coded in a way intended to assist the user in the task of assembly—for the Foldscope has no written instructions to guide, or possibly frustrate, the user.

The Foldscope’s non-paper components, a poppy-seed-sized spherical lens made of borosilicate or corundum, a light-emitting diode (LED), a watch battery, a switch and some copper tape to complete the electrical circuit, are pressed into or bonded onto the paper. (The lenses are actually bits of abrasive grit intended to roll around in tumblers that smooth-off metal parts.) A high-resolution version of this costs less than a dollar, and offers a magnification of up to 2,100 times and a resolving power of less than a micron. A lower-spec version (up to 400x magnification) costs less than 60 cents.

The whole device weighs less than 10 grams, can fit in someone’s pocket, requires no external power and takes standard microscope slides. Sliding and flexing the Foldscope’s struts with thumb and fingers (see picture) lets the user move a slide around and then focus on the relevant bit of it. The Foldscope can be adapted, by fitting it with a more powerful LED, to project what it sees onto a screen, and the design can be modified to accommodate multiple lenses or filters. Dunk it in water, drop it from a rooftop or stamp on it (though not with a slide inside), and it will still work.

Dr Prakash sees the Foldscope’s main use as a diagnostic tool for tropical diseases. Malaria, for example, can be caused by several species of parasite. Knowing which is responsible in a particular case can affect the treatment chosen. Foldscopes should also help diagnose other widespread diseases, such as schistosomiasis, loiasis and sleeping sickness.

He hopes, too, that they will help enthuse the next generation of doctors and scientists. To this end he and his team have drummed up more than 10,000 people from 130 countries to devise simple, relevant microscopy-based experiments. A Mongolian farmer, for instance, wants to show his fellows why they should boil milk to make it safer. An American beekeeper proposes to use Foldscopes to show his fellow apiculturalists how to identify bee-killing mites and fungi. And a 12-year-old Qatari would like to study the Namib desert beetle, which scavenges drinking water from morning fogs. The results, when published on the web, will become part of a manual of microscopy for everyman (and woman) that Dr Prakash hopes will encourage yet more experimentation.

Cheap microscopes: Yours to cut out and keep | The Economist.

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Republican War on Voters


Originally posted on breezespeaks:

I have said in the past that unless Republicans stop their war on women’s reproductive rights, and come to some form of compromise on immigration, they will not win any nationally elected office in the foreseeable future.  This was proven out when Romney failed to unseat President Obama, despite Obama’s abject failure at delivering on the many promises he made during his 2008 campaign, when he ran under the banner of “Hope and Change.”

In the 2012 elections, Romney won the white vote with 59%, compared to 39% for Obama, but it went downhill from there.  African-Americans chose Obama over Romney by a whopping 93% to 6%.  Hispanics also went for Obama by a 71% to 27% margin.  The Asian margin was 73% to 26%.  And most importantly women, who account for 53% of all voters, chose Obama by a 55% to 44% margin.  These numbers were impossible to overcome…

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America, Get Ready for ‘A2 Milk’ – Proponents say it’s healthier than current variety, which is rich in A1 protein


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America, Get Ready for ‘A2 Milk’

PROPONENTS SAY IT’S HEALTHIER THAN CURRENT VARIETY, WHICH IS RICH IN A1 PROTEIN

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff 

Posted Mar 15, 2014 7:17 AM CDT 

(NEWSER) – Those sickened by US milk may not be lactose intolerant—in fact, if they were to head abroad, one in four might find the stuff easier to drink. That’s because of a protein known as A1 that’s typically predominant in the milk of Holstein cows, which are widespread in the US, explains Mother Jones. In Asia and Africa, you’ll often find milk that instead has more A2 protein; it’s also predominant in Jersey and Guernsey cows, not to mention human and goat milk. “More than 100 studies suggest links between the A1 protein and a whole range of health conditions,” says a New Zealand professor.

Those conditions include heart disease, autism, and diabetes. Drinking A1 releases a chemical known as beta-casomorphin7, which appears to exist in higher amounts in the blood of people with autism and schizophrenia, for instance. Milk with more A2 is hard to find in the US right now, though A2 Holsteins do exist, and with money and time, the US dairy industry could make a transition. Meanwhile, a New Zealand company is preparing to send A2 milk our way this year, the New Zealand Herald reports. “We’ve already been talking with farmers,” says the head of A2 Corporation, and “we’re starting to engage with (US) retailers.” (As for lactose intolerance, raw milk may hurt drinkers more than it helps.)

American dairy cows may be providing you with less-healthy milk.

American dairy cows may be providing you with less-healthy milk.   (Shutterstock)

America, Get Ready for ‘A2 Milk’ – Proponents say it’s healthier than current variety, which is rich in A1 protein.

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Thank God She Lost: Bitter Sarah Palin Calls for the Nuking of Russia ASAP


·         Sunday, March 09, 2014

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By: Sarah Jones

Saturday, March, 8th, 2014

palin-gh-2

Sarah Palin was in rare form tonight at CPAC. The crowd loved her, more than any other speaker. She said if she doesn’t run for President, she loves Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

Though she gave a rousing rendition of a rage-filled Green Eggs and Ham riff, proving that she is still the Queen of mean girl spite, Palin predictably tripped over reality when she was instructing President Obama on foreign policy. “Mr. President,” she spat, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.”

Translation: Nuke Russia now or else it’s green eggs for you, Mr President! Neener-neener! Since Palin credited the NRA with her “thinking” on nukes, she’s admitting she’s basing her nuclear policy on the idea that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is if a “good guy” with a gun shoots them. Hence, someone is nuking someone.

Watch here:

First she mocked Obama for being weak with Putin, and backed up her nastiness with a bunch of lies about Obamacare and all of the things Obama promised us that haven’t happened in her Barbie Princess Politics world. Obama promised a perfect world and it didn’t happen!

So we got, “Mr. President, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.”

“He promised to heal the planet and stop the rise of the oceans, but the planet is not listening to Dr. Obama and the only thing rising in his la-la land is the Russian empire.” This from the woman whom the Russian paper Prava labeled a “traitor” for exactly this kind of talk. Why Putin is rearing his head when Palin is still in the world keepin’ an eye on him is beyond me, but I guess when she quit on Alaska, she quit on America too, so fung you America.

Palin’s entire speech can be summed up with “I hate you Barack!”, peppered in with mocking John Kerry’s face and Obama’s pen (which she clearly doesn’t understand is a reference to executive orders, which is the opposite of weak, but whatevs, why is this reality TV wannabe still the highlight of CPAC?).

She lectured the President about the debt with her trademark smirking school marm disappointment, with a tinge of her old standby, the dominatrix. Yet Palin left Alaska in quite the hole. She’s not one who can really point fingers when it comes to debt. Or Socialism.

Palin egged on the crowd in spite of reality, “We’re not hear to rebrand a party but to rebuild a country. We’re in the business of digging ourselves out of debt, restoring competitiveness, educating our children, and liberating our potential.” So, Republicans plan to dig us out of debt by charging up the credit card when they are in power and then blaming the Democratic President for the bills, whilst collecting no revenue? More Fairy Princess land politics.

But this is Palin and the GOP, so reality isn’t playing an actual role in this party. In rode the Unicorn as Palin told women that the war on women doesn’t exist. She informed everyone that it is Democrats who are subjugating women, “Who’s really stereotyping you? … Honey, that’s not liberation. That’s subjugation.”

Yes, just let the nice Republican men make all of your decisions for you, ladies, because that’s liberation Palin style!

If you can’t/won’t listen, add a screech and a lot of bitterness into all of the quotes, for which she utilized a teleprompter, and just imagine you’re back in middle school and she’s the really angry girl who used to be popular but no one talks to her anymore. This is her “I don’t care! I really don’t care!” speech, given to the girl now dating her ex, the quarterback.

Points to Palin for going positive even for a moment, though, because this was fresh for her, “It is because of you that I have never been more optimistic about the future of our one nation, under God. So stand up and stiffen your spine. Ya gotta fight for it. The best is yet to come.”

But even with that bit of hope (going Obama, Palin?), we are thanking God (and the voters) that Sarah Palin is nowhere near the White House. The idea of Palin and McCain running the world right now is utterly terrifying.

Thank God She Lost: Bitter Sarah Palin Calls for the Nuking of Russia ASAP.

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New Jersey Family Relocates To Colorado So Their Severely Ill Daughter Can Get Medical Marijuana | ThinkProgress


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BY TARA CULP-RESSLER

 

Brian Wilson holds his 2-year-old daughter Vivian outside Gov. Chris Christie's office in 2013

Brian Wilson holds his 2-year-old daughter Vivian outside Gov. Chris Christie’s office in 2013

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/GEOFF MULVIHILL

Brian and Meghan Wilson don’t want to leave their home state of New Jersey. They would prefer to remain near their families and friends — and they want their two-year-old daughter to be able to keep seeing her nationally renowned neurologist, who’s an expert at treating her rare form of epilepsy.

But, since progress on New Jersey’s medical marijuana policy has stalled, the family is being forced to relocate anyway. They’re going to Colorado to seek out treatment for their daughter, Vivian, who needs a liquefied marijuana strain in order to prevent her potentially fatal seizures.

The Wilsons have been fighting for policy reform in New Jersey for the past year. Although the state began issuing medical marijuana cards back in 2012, there were stringent limits for minors that prevented kids like Vivian from being able to take edible marijuana. “Please don’t let my daughter die,” Vivian’s dad implored Gov. Chris Christie (R) in August, pressuring the governor to approve legislation that would have expanded access to several strains of marijuana.

Christie ended up approving a weakened form of that legislation. But it wasn’t enough. Although kids with conditions like Vivian’s are now legally allowed to access edible marijuana, the dispensaries in the state aren’t producing those type of products, and the state’s health department has no plans to begin testing them. Christie says he’s “done expanding the medical marijuana law,” and recently rejected a bill that would have allowed families like the Wilsons to buy edible strains in other states and transport them home to New Jersey.

The Wilsons have tried to navigate New Jersey’s restrictive medical marijuana law. But they say the state laws don’t go far enough to help two-year-old Vivian — who must wear an eye patch, avoid direct sunlight, and stick to a special low-carb diet in an attempt to prevent potentially deadly seizures — and they can’t afford to wait it out. Treatment for Vivian’s condition still remains out of reach.

“I’m just ready to start the next chapter. If we get medicine that helps Vivi, that’s great. Who the hell cares we had to move?” Meghan Wilson told the Star-Ledger as her family prepared to board their flight to Colorado.

The Wilsons will join a growing number of “medical refugees” who have moved to Colorado to seek a so-called “miracle strain” of marijuana that can help treat pediatric epilepsy. About 180 other children like Vivian are currently receiving treatment from the same dispensary in Colorado Springs. More than 100 families have moved from 43 states to pursue this option for their severely ill children.

The so-called “Charlotte’s Web” strain is named after Charlotte Figi, the first child who tried the treatment after her parents exhausted all of their other medical options. After she started taking this strain of medical marijuana, Charlotte’s seizures immediately stopped, and the seven-year-old is now feeding herself, walking, and riding her bike. Her case helped convince CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta to reverse his position on the medical benefits of marijuana, admitting that he was “too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis.”

 

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 New Jersey Family Relocates To Colorado So Their Severely Ill Daughter Can Get Medical Marijuana | ThinkProgress.

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BBC News – Teen’s Facebook brag costs dad $80,000 lawsuit settlement


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28 February 2014

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Teen’s Facebook brag costs dad $80,000 lawsuit settlement

Anthony ZurcherBy Anthony Zurcher

 

A photo of Facebook's sign-up page.Some things are better left unposted

When Dana Snay learned her father had been awarded a cash settlement in an age-discrimination lawsuit against his former employer, the Miami-based Gulliver Preparatory School, she couldn’t resist bragging about it.

“Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver,” the teen posted to her 1,200 Facebook friends. “Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”

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Remember when all you had to worry about was your daughter posting naked selfies of herself on Facebook?”

Elie MystalAbove the Law

It was a bit of boasting that could end up costing the Snays the entire $80,000 (£47,750) settlement, reports the Miami Herald.

When Gulliver got wind of post, which didn’t take long, as Dana was a former student, the school refused to pay a dime because the father had signed a confidentiality agreement – and on Wednesday a Florida appeals court found in its favour.

The story has writers drawing conclusions about the foolishness of today’s youth and the perils of social media.

Elie Mystal on the blog Above the Law calls it “a new low for the Millennial generation”.

“Remember when all you had to worry about was your daughter posting naked selfies of herself on Facebook?” he writes. “Now, things are worse.”

Slate’s Katy Waldman has a message for her contemporaries:

What can we learn from their misfortune, fellow millennials? Do not boast. Do not mess with attorneys. Do not over-share on social media, especially when you’re not even going on a European vacation. (Snay was joking.)

The story isn’t necessarily over, however.

The father can appeal the ruling to the Florida Supreme Court. Of course, the longer this drags on, the more of that settlement money will likely be eaten up by lawyers.

The hypothetical European vacation may end up becoming a long weekend in Key West – assuming the daughter isn’t grounded for life.

Eric B Meyer of the Employer Handbook blog takes a closer look at the applicable law.

“Honestly, I’m surprised that the court enforced such a large penalty provision in the settlement agreement,” he writes. “But, then again, the violation – broadcasting the existence of the agreement to 1200 people – is fairly egregious.”

He concludes: “That’s why, when I draft a settlement agreement, I often include confidentiality language warning that keeping quiet about the agreement means shutting your yap and your social media fingers.”

So “confidentiality” means not telling anyone, including your friend, Mr Facebook. Good tip.

BBC News – Teen’s Facebook brag costs dad $80,000 lawsuit settlement.

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Jailed For Not Shoveling Your Sidewalk? That’s The Law In New York (On Paper, At Least)


THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2014 S. EDITION

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Jailed For Not Shoveling Your Sidewalk? That’s The Law In New York (On Paper, At Least)

By Marcus Baram

 

snow

Snowdrifts in Brooklyn, N.Y. Roxanne Palmer

Millions of New Yorkers who woke up this morning and groaned when they saw snowflakes falling from the sky yet again have another reason to complain: They could go to jail for not shoveling their sidewalk.

That’s right. Snow-weary New Yorkers who fail to shovel their sidewalk within four hours after the white stuff stops falling could be fined between $10 and $150 and/or sent to jail for up to 10 days.

At least, that’s the law. Tucked away, deep within New York state’s mind-numbingly tedious administrative code is a provision that states (emphasis added):

c. Any person  violating  any  provision  of,  or  regulation  adopted
pursuant to, subdivisions a and b of this section shall be punished by a
fine  of  not  less  than  ten  dollars  nor more than one hundred fifty
dollars, imprisonment for not more than ten days, or both.

 

Yet, similar to a much-derided regulation that prohibits restaurants in the city from serving water unless a customer asks for it, this rule also seems to be inconsequential. The city will not send you to jail if you don’t shovel your sidewalk, says Kimberly Dawkins, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Sanitation. And it never has, according to Dawkins and a search of newspaper databases.

But it does assess fines for the oversight. Not surprisingly, with several heavy storms that have blanketed the Northeast in the past seven weeks, this year has been a busy time for ticket agents.

So far, in the first two months of this year, 57 inches of snow have fallen. And the city issues 11,597 summonses related to snow removal across all five boroughs. That amount is more than double the 5,096 issued in all of 2013, when 24 inches of snow fell, and 667 in 2012, when only 7 inches fell.

So far, in just the first two months of 2014, non-shovel-ready New Yorkers have paid more in tickets related to snow removal than in all of 2013. So far in 2014, $251,767.49 has been paid on those tickets, compared to $240,549.62 in 2013, according to the Environmental Control Board, which has conducted 524 hearings on alleged violations.

Another law on the books seems just as impotent when it comes to punishing snow-removal slackers. Though the administrative code states that the city can bill you for shoveling your sidewalk, the Sanitation Department’s Dawkins explains that the agency “does not have the resources to implement this. Keep in mind that the Department of Sanitation is mandated to remove snow and ice from 6,300 street miles during a given snowstorm. That is the Department’s first priority.”

Jailed For Not Shoveling Your Sidewalk? That’s The Law In New York (On Paper, At Least).

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Analysts ponder cost of Facebook’s WhatsApp deal – The Washington Post


By Hayley TsukayamaPublished: February 20 

Facebook’s mega purchase of WhatsApp exposed the 10-year-old social network’s growing anxiety about losing relevance and staying on top of the social media world, analysts said.

Already the world’s largest social network, Facebook wants to be the leader in a field where it has struggled: mobile messaging.

The $19 billion deal could shore up Facebook’s weakening appeal among younger users and fortifies its growing strength on mobile devices and with photos. Still, industry analysts are concerned that Facebook may have overpaid for the messaging service — the deal values each of its 55 employees at more than $345 million — given that five-year-old WhatsApp has yet to develop a clear business model.

Wary investors initially sent Facebook’s stock falling Thursday before it regained ground.

Acquisitions are hardly the ideal way for Facebook to address its own weaknesses, analysts said.

“Doing these acquisitions is the third-best option, in our view,” wrote Pacific Crest analysts Evan Wilson and Brian Liang in a note Thursday. “We would rather see Facebook be successful organically or acquire these competitors earlier (and cheaper).”

Facebook has tried to launch its own messaging service to compete with the likes of WhatsApp and Snapchat, but Facebook Messenger never caught fire with its community of more than 1 billion users. WhatsApp has more than 450 million monthly users. SnapChat does not release user figures but is believed to have at least 30 million monthly active users.

“Facebook tried and largely failed, in our view, to develop Facebook Messenger into a product that would stem the growth of the mobile messaging services as a whole,” Wilson and Liang said. “It also tried and failed, in our view, to create products that would stunt the momentum of Instagram and Snapchat” — both of which the firm tried to buy. Instagram agreed to be acquired in 2012; Snapchat reportedly turned down a $3 billion bid from Facebook last year.

The purchase price was probably influenced by Facebook’s defensive mind-set and a desire to ensure that WhatsApp didn’t fall into the hands of a competitor, said Martin Garner, senior vice president of CCS Insight. Facebook will have little time to prove that the acquisition was worth a purchase price that amounts to more than 10 percent of its market capitalization, he said.

In WhatsApp, Facebook picks up a strong following in countries such as Brazil, India and Indonesia — all areas where Facebook is looking to grow. More of Facebook’s revenue comes from overseas than the United States, making an international footprint more important than ever.

Buying WhatsApp gives the company a short-term advantage in the messaging space, but it will still have to fight off increasing competition for a fickle social media audience that often hops from service to service.

“We are somewhat skeptical that [Facebook] can maintain its relevance and valuation over the long term based on its current product set,” Wilson and Liang said.

For WhatsApp users, both Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and WhatsApp chief executive Jan Koum have promised there will be few changes.

In a company blog post, Koum said the service will never include ads, something Instagram added shortly after Facebook bought it.

Maintaining WhatsApp’s privacy and security standards is clearly an important point for Koum, which people close to him attribute to his upbringing in Ukraine and to fears about something that more Americans may have begun to worry about: government surveillance.

“It’s a decidedly contrarian approach shaped by Jan’s experience growing up in a communist country with a secret police,” Jim Goetz wrote on Sequoia Capital’s Tumblr page. “Jan’s childhood made him appreciate communication that was not bugged or taped.”

Koum said in the post that he was unwilling to compromise on WhatsApp’s “core principles,” including its data-collection and advertising practices, when striking the deal.

“You can continue to use WhatsApp no matter where in the world you are, or what smartphone you’re using,” Koum wrote. “And you can still count on absolutely no ads interrupting your communication.”

 Analysts ponder cost of Facebook’s WhatsApp deal – The Washington Post.

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Salvation Army Donation: Big Bag of Pot – Pennsylvania outlet working with police to find owner


Salvation Army workers in New York.

(NEWSER) – How … generous? An act of charity may end badly for one donor to a Pennsylvania Salvation Army outlet. Sugarcreek Borough police say they were called when workers found a large plastic bag of marijuana among some donated clothes earlier this week. Police Chief Matt Carlson tells the Oil City Derrick he suspects the owner of the drugs has noticed them missing by now, if only because the bag contained a “substantial quantity” of pot. Police were working with store employees to determine who donated the clothes and when. The chief says this isn’t the first time officers have investigated an unusual item among donated clothing, saying, “We’ve had guns, … cash, … rings, and now marijuana.”

Salvation Army Donation: Big Bag of Pot – Pennsylvania outlet working with police to find owner.

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Joke of the Day


It was snowing heavily and blowing to the point that visibility was almost zero when the little Antartian got off work. She made her way to her car and wondered how she was going to make it home. She sat in her car while it warmed up and thought about her situation.

She finally remembered her daddy’s advice that if she got caught in a blizzard; she should wait for a snowplow to come by and follow it. That way she would not get stuck in a snowdrift. This made her feel much better and sure enough in a little while a snowplow went by and she started to follow it. As she follows the snow plow she was feeling very smug as they continued and she was not having any problem with the blizzard conditions.

After quite some time had passed she was somewhat surprised when the snow plow stopped and the driver got out and came back to her car and signaled for her to roll down her window. The snowplow driver wanted to know if she was all right as she had been following him for a long time. She said that she was fine and told him of her daddy’s advice to follow a snowplow when caught in a blizzard.

The driver replied that it was OK with him and she could continue if she wanted but he was done with the Wal-Mart parking lot and was going over to K-Mart next.

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