Weird stuff we are finding out now we can sequence everything

Chimera of Arezzo 

DailyDirt: Genetic Information Is Everywhere Now
[Via Techdirt]

The costs of analyzing DNA have come down significantly over time, so it’s becoming increasingly common to sequence DNA and discover all kinds of biological curiosities. It’s not quite as fast and easy as they make it look on detective shows on TV, but DNA analysis has made some pretty amazing advances. Here are just a few examples of genetic testing that you might have missed.


I’ve written about some of this but it is always interesting to see what the latest is. Many people are chimeras with different DNA sequences depending on the cells. This can have an impact on forensics.

And the fact that fetal DNA can be detected in women 50 years after they gave birth is really intriguing. ANd if the sex of the baby can be determined at 7 weeks, how soon can a pregnancy at all be determined?

An ad that also educates – the moon landing pictures

 bounce the light

Graphics chip commercial debunks moon landing conspiracies
[Via Boing Boing]

NVIDIA made an interesting video to market their graphics processing tech by showing how it can be used to debunk conspiracy claims that the 1969 lunar landing was faked. (Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!)


Very well done. Even the modelers initially forgot that there was someone taking the original picture, someone who was clad in a white spacesuit. We use  light bounces all the time to enhance scenes here on Earth. Here the light needed to produce an accurate model of the original photograph only needs to come from exactly the position of the astronaut taking the picture – Neil Armstrong.

I expect it will not convince those who are science deniers but those of us living in the real world always love more evidence.

Could Apple be using U2 and Beats to resurrect Ping and help build the Uber of music?

U2, April 1st in Anaheim 

U2 Claims It’s Working With Apple On A New Music Format That ‘Can’t Be Pirated’
[Via Techdirt]

Apparently U2’s deal with Apple goes further than taking a bunch of cash and dumping unwanted music files on hundreds of millions of iTunes users. The band has said that it’s working on a brand new music formatthat “can’t be pirated.” Oh really? We’ve heard that before, many, many times. And every time someone claims that, whatever new DRM they created gets broken without hours. I imagine the same will be true of this. The format sounds like a rehash of other things that have been tried and failed before:

[The new format will be] an audiovisual interactive format for music that can’t be pirated and will bring back album artwork in the most powerful way, where you can play with the lyrics and get behind the songs when you’re sitting on the subway with your iPad or on these big flat screens. You can see photography like you’ve never seen it before.

Of course, we’ve been hearing this for years. Five years ago, the major labels were all going to team up to create “CMX”, a new music format that had all those audiovisual components. Where’s that now? Every few years we see startups claiming to have created a similar new music format that builds in all those audiovisual components… and no one cares. Is it possible that Apple with the help of U2 will suddenly figure it out? Sure. It’s possible. But I wouldn’t bet on it. Especially if it includes annoying DRM that no one wants.


First, I think U2 is involved because of Jimmy Iovine, who came with the Beats buyout. Iovine produced two of U2’s albums, both of which had lots of video adjuncts to them (Under a Blood Red Sky and Rattle and Hum).

I would not be surprised if all the U2 stuff – free album, etc. – is in lace to set up this new platform.

Platform? Because adding DRM to music or gussying it up with videos would not seem to be a moneymaker. Who pays for music?

Anything that can be digitized rapidly becomes free. Only those things that cannot be digitized seem to be open to making money off of.

Maybe that is what is going on here.

Speculation – couple this with the possible reason for buying Beats – creating a platform that permits musicians to support communities for their work. The work itself becomes free but the communities can directly support the music, without the need for middle men.

Jimmy Iovine sees the opportunity in changing the game and “building a communication between a fan and an artist.” In other words Beats Music is not yet another streaming service designed to sell music, but a platform for artists to build businesses and “sell everything but music” as Troy Carter says.

It makes the interesting comparison to Uber – which is disrupting taxi service in major cities:

In essence, Beats aims to become Uber of music by aggregating demand, connecting listeners to artists and empowering the artists to build thriving business on top of the platform. Much like Uber, which promises to end the era of poorly paid cab drivers. Or like Apple App Store, which connects users with app developers allowing them to build business on top of the platform.

The disintermediation of industries – the connection of creator and customer without intervening entities – is one of the main disruptors affecting many companies. Here it is being applied to the music industry.

The point of the article is that today, music is not really sold. It sells other things, whether they are concerts for the musicians or headphones they endorse. Business models based on selling music are doomed.The key is making it easy for the fans to find the acts they like and support them.

The strategy lesson from Apple and Beats is this: Look for opportunities to build platforms connecting consumers with value-adding complementors. (Think a “connect-ing business”, and not a “connected business”.) Capture value through bundling with the platform that will buy you hyper-growth driven by network effects and insurmountable competitive advantage. (And of course don’t tell anybody what’s you are up to before it’s ready.)

They would want to make it easy to connect fans and musicians, making it possible for communities to easily support one another. 

We already saw Apple make an aborted attempt at social music communities with Ping. It is obviously something they are interested in. The guys behind Beats seem to get this and might be able to help Apple create something actually useful.

With U2 as their first test case. We shall see.

Working FOR 1 star reviews on Yelp – undermining the ‘service’ or degrading the ‘extortion’?

 pizza 002

Restaurant wants to make Yelp unreliable
[Via Boing Boing]

Botto Bistro in Richmond, California is unconcerned about its Yelp rating. In an effort to undermine the reliability of its Yelp page, Botto Bistro is working to be the worst-rated restaurant in the Bay Area and is encouraging its customers to leave one-star Yelp reviews and offering deals for anyone who writes a bad review: 25% off any pizza and a chance to win a cooking class.


Yelp continues to fail, as its authority is undermined by the very distributive aspects it tries to make money off of.

This business does not like Yelp’s business model and does not care for what they feel are extortion tactics of yelp. They want to have their ‘account’ , which they had no hand in creating, removed.

So this might be how they do it. If it works, many, many others may take the route. Yelp makes money off of their businesses without permission and then tries to get these businesses to buy ads, with some odd coincidences being reported (ie all 5 star rating disappearing) when they refuse.

Brilliant response to Yelp’s ‘extortion’ approaches for advertising (a judge just said that yelp can manipulate ratings, giving 5 stars to those who buy ads and a 2 star to those who refuse if it wants to).

Yes, a judge said that it is not illegal for a company like Yelp to completely manipulate any company’s star ratings  even for companies who do not wish to be rated. And change those ratings if it gets ad money from the companies who never asked for the service to begin with.

Moving 5 star ratings, highlighting negative ratings? All to get more ‘ad’ money for ads the businesses never request?

Jeez, if you had someone from Goodfellas saying “Nice place you got here. Be a shame if it burnt down. Maybe you should buy fire insurance?”  we would know it was extortion.

The judge said this was not illegal.

Yelp’s ratings, based on reviews by members of the public, are within its discretion, Berzon said – a “benefit” the company chooses to provide. Because the company’s ads also have value, she said, “any implicit threat by Yelp to remove positive reviews absent payment for advertising was not (legally) wrongful.”

Businesses cannot opt in. Their businesses can appear without their knowledge and so can the reviews. No one knows who writes the reviews and who employs the autors. And now the judge says there is nothing illegal with yelp manipulating the reviews that do appear.

So, if yelp reviews are unreliable anyway since ad purchases may determine the number of stars or shills write the reviews, why not make the whole thing unreliable? Some of these ‘faux reviews are great. Give a ‘ great’ review (“The food is so awful that I’m going back tomorrow”) and one star.

And yelp claims providing an incentive violates their terms of service, which is something of little concern to the businesses, who do not sign onto the terms of service. And what they threaten to do is remove access to the business on yelp, which is what the business wants – no yelp reviews at all. (The email response of the restaurant to yelp’s threatening letter is a hoot.)

This is what happens when the user is not the customer – the user gets abused as yelp gravitates to its true customer, the ad buyers. If more companies followed this trend, yelp would be in a bad way.

Never trust yelp.

The authorities cannot get data off your properly set up iPhone without your permission

 Rough iPhone 5 & 6 size comparison

Apple Says iOS 8 Update Keeps Data Private, Even From the Police
[Via Daring Fireball]

Brian X. Chen, writing for the NYT:

“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” the company said on the new webpage. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

Christopher Soghoian, a principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, said Apple’s new privacy policy reflected the revelations of the government surveillance programs revealed in documents leaked by Edward J. Snowden. “The public has said they want companies to put their privacy first, and Apple has listened,” Mr. Soghoian said.


People want secure phones. Apple opens itself up to a lot of problems if they are lying here.

I tend to think not. Apple is focussed on their users because, in contrast to Goole and Android, Apple’s users and customers are the same.

It will be interesting to see what the response of authority is to this. Apple has said they do not care about collecting people’s data and have made a phone that reflects that. The customer has total  control over who has access to their phone.

Killing chidren in the name oif anti-vaccine


Los Angeles Vaccination Rates 2014
[Via Hollywood Reporter]

Vaccination rates are plummeting at top Hollywood schools, from Malibu to Beverly Hills, from John Thomas Dye to Turning Point, where affluent, educated parents are opting out in shocking numbers (leaving some schools’ immunization rates on par with South Sudan) as an outbreak of potentially fatal whooping cough threatens L.A. like “wildfire”


Three infants have died in California (In 1995, only 6 infants in all of America died). Over 250 children in the hospital with almost 60 in ICU (usually with a tube down their throat to allow breathing). One infected child can infect 12-16 others.

How many lives have been destroyed because of the anti-vaccine movement? Vaccination does more than protect the vaccinated child. It protects society as a whole, providing herd immunity for the weakest. People who refuse to vaccinate are not just making choices for their children. They are making choices for anyone with an infant or an elder.

A community needs vaccination rates of 94% to maintain herd immunity. Any community that allows its vaccination rates to drop below that is culpable in the deaths and hospitalizations of hundreds.

I wonder just how anti-vaccine these guys will remain once Ebola breaks out of Africa? Declining vaccination is surely a first world problem. People living on the front lines of infectious disease are crying out for vaccines.

Maybe Ebola with its high mortality rates will get their attention.

Or maybe they will change when they realize the devastating effects of Dengue or Chikungunya virus here in America. Both are urban, mosquito-borne diseases that can produce years of pain. An epidemic can rapidly overwhelm the healthcare infrastructure of a city.

The former is nicknamed breakbone fever. One million cases in the Americas so far. Over 400 deaths. 172 cases in the US.

The latter is particularly worrisome. Upwards of 40% of the unvaccinated population can get sick, with  perhaps 1 in 1000 people dying. It has been reported in all but 6 states of the US. Climate change, by extending the range of mosquitos, will make this worse.

Infectious disease will not go away. Some idiots have to be reminded of this from time to time, through the deaths of the helpless.

Innovtion comes from external ideas not from internal thoughts

 Texas Bubble DOF Detail


Has Silicon Valley Run Out Of Ideas? Original Ideas Need Original Experiences
[Via Xeni @]

Will Oremus, senior technology writer at Slate, reports that, “Silicon Valley Has Officially Run Out of Ideas.” Because the recent TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, awarded Alfred, the top prize in its competition for startups. 


They spend the whole day with the same group of people – riding buses together, eating together, etc.

 There is lots of data showing that novelty comes from the friction and interaction between ideas. Hard to be novel when everyone knows everyone else.

Epistemic closure is the result and we seem to see the same $18 billion being traded around by venture capitalists.

Where will the new ideas come from?


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