Cell Implantation Cure for Alzheimer’s?

A study published in PLoS on August 27 (apparently as a birthday present to me), reports that researchers have been able to remove the amyloid-beta plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers, by implanting genetically engineered skin cells in the brains of mice. As described in a more accessible write-up in the Harvard Gazette, these implanted cells delivered genes that allowed the brain to clear away the plaques. More below the jump…

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“Is There Anything Good About Men?” and gender differences in science

Roy Baumeister’s great talk on gender differences, “Is There Anything Good About Men?” is ricocheting around the blogosphere this week. The talk makes some amazing and provocative points touching on a variety of ways in which men’s and women’s roles in society a have evolved to be different. One great point is that fact that although men and women have approximately equal average abilities by a variety of measures, the distributions are different, with more men at both extremes. Failing to account for this difference in distributions can create “all sorts of misleading conclusions and other statistical mischief.” He points out two examples of observed statistical gender differences — college grades and workplace salaries — that can be explained by the differences in statistical distributions, and suggests that the difference also explains the preponderance of men in science.

However, I think that other points in his talk have even more to say about gender differences in science, and should be emphasized. More below the jump…

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SciVee: YouTube for Science

The San Diego Supercomputing Center and PLoS have created SciVee, a YouTube-like website for scientific presentations. It seems like a potentially great vehicle for disseminating and promoting research. Right now the content is mostly in bio, but I would love to see more CS up there. It would be great, for example, if the major CS conferences videotaped their proceedings — or at least the major talks — and published them on SciVee. Another great use would be for departments to use SciVee to publish their various invited lecture series like FAI or the CMU Machine Learning Seminar Series.

SciVee itself seems like it still has a few of bugs that need to be worked out, but it’s new and I’m sure they’ll get them worked out. One particularly annoying one: the interface provides a vehicle to allow the producer of the video to provide text notes that are synchronized with the video. The problem is, the notes pop up over the video frame, interrupting the flow of the video and obscuring the screen and it doesn’t have a close box (though it is possible to close the boxes, if you search hard enough). I’m not sure exactly how this feature is supposed to be used effectively, but every instance of it that I saw was annoying to the point of ruining the video completely. Not only does it cover the screen and ruin the flow of the video, but it’s impossible to read a box of text and listen to a speaker at the same time.

I hope these kinds of things will be worked out as more people use the site and give feedback, and overall this seems like a cool way of advertising your research.

Posted in AI, Science, Web. 6 Comments »

Welcome to the Q-Function

Welcome to the new incarnation of my blog. I’ve moved it from my old “Jefferson Provost” blog on typepad to wordpress.com, deleting some of the older archived posts that I don’t think are very interesting. I’m hoping to focus the postings a little more so that they’re at least tangentially related to A.I., neuroscience, or science in general.

Okay, now what?

I successfully defended my dissertation last week. It’s been filed and acknowledged by the graduate school, meaning I can finally end my self-imposed blogging hiatus. The big question now is, where do I want this blog to go, if anywhere? I started this blog as a way to entertain myself during the rush leading up to my dissertation proposal. Now, though, I don’t think I want to continue with a relatively unfocused “whatever Jeff happens to be thinking” style. So the question is what to do with this blog? Continue it, but refocus it more professionally? Or just end it and start something new — I’m thinking of something, roughly in the intersection of robots.net, Machine Learning (Theory), and Neurodudes. On the other hand, I could ask to contribute to those blogs, if they’ll have me, and keep my own blog for random thoughts on other topics — though maybe I’ll rename it to something a little less narcissistic. ;-) One advantage to starting a more focussed professional blog is that I can invite colleagues to be contributors, amplifying all our voices.

In any case, I’m really thinking of moving off of typepad to some kind of free hosting. The problem is that I hate most of the free hosting sites. I mean, threaded comments were perfected on Usenet 20 years ago, and every free community site in the world has them, but blogger still doesn’t have them? I’m thinking maybe wordpress.com is the way to go. No hosting fees, and lots of configuration options.

Anyway, if anyone is still reading this, I wouldn’t mind hearing thoughts…