Links for 2nd September 2009

Fresh from the clogged tubes of teh intarwubs…

  1. On Influenza A (H1N1)

    "So how many bits are in this instance of H1N1? The raw number of bits, by my count, is 26,022; the actual number of coding bits approximately 25,054 — I say approximately because the virus does the equivalent of self-modifying code to create two proteins out of a single gene in some places (pretty interesting stuff actually), so it’s hard to say what counts as code and what counts as incidental non-executing NOP sleds that are required for self-modifying code.

    So it takes about 25 kilobits — 3.2 kbytes — of data to code for a virus that has a non-trivial chance of killing a human. This is more efficient than a computer virus, such as MyDoom, which rings in at around 22 kbytes.

    It’s humbling that I could be killed by 3.2kbytes of genetic data. Then again, with 850 Mbytes of data in my genome, there’s bound to be an exploit or two."

    Tagged with: virusinfluenzaanalogycomputercodedataanalysismedicinegenetics

  2. Pain-free animals could take suffering out of farming

    "Peter Singer, a Princeton University philosopher who has argued that animal suffering should be balanced against the benefits of eating meat, says that his would be a moot objection if pain-free livestock could be engineered. But he argues that this on its own would not make intensive livestock farming OK: cruelty, he points out, is hardly the industry's only flaw.

    "Large farms have become an environmental disaster," agrees Alan Goldberg at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. They generate enormous amounts of waste and greenhouse gases and breed antibiotic resistance. "I think factory farms have to go, it's that simple."

    Goldberg also contends that public attitudes may make pain-free livestock a non-starter. He and colleague Renee Gardner conducted an online survey on the use of pain-free animals in research and found little public support, even among researchers who experiment on animals." This just in – humans not utterly immoral after all.

    Tagged with: animalrightspainfarmingcrueltyethicsagriculturemeat

  3. Scientists create chill-out music for monkeys

    "In the study, 14 cotton-top tamarins were played 30-second blasts of music while the researchers noted any changes in their behaviour. The animals were played Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings and a soft piano piece from The Fragile by rock band Nine Inch Nails, followed by Metallica's Of Wolf and Man and an excerpt from The Grudge by rock band Tool.

    They then heard the specially composed monkey music.

    The only human music that elicited any response was the heavy metal band Metallica, whose music had the unexpected effect of calming the monkeys."

    The punchlines just write themselves, here.

    Tagged with: musicanimalsmonkeysrelaxationevolutioncultureMetallica

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