Monday, November 22, 2010

The Extraordinary Vanishing of Captain Conrad

Coppula FF and the Current Revolution Editorial Committee.

Many subscribers may have wondered why the world-wide renowned Current Revolution journal, a key landmark on scientific enlightenment, has ceased publishing for the past few months. The reason is simple. Captain Conrad, a source of inspiration for numerous scientists at the edge, is to be missed. He was last seen attempting what might have been the most extraordinary achievement of Science. He then claimed to have found a protocol that would create life out of dark matter. Furthermore, he confessed his colleagues that such form of life could be induced into living beings by mutating in a directed fashion certain genes. These genetically manipulated organisms (GMOs) would not be subjected to aging, leading to a golden era in which creatures would enjoy eternal youth in the long term (unless artificially and deliberately killed). His famous last words were: “Venter will kiss my ass”. Then he grabbed his favorite pipettes, retired into his gloomy lab and never came out. Some of his disciples have been patiently waiting by the door, even trying to break in at some point. The lab was in darkness of such a sort that the light generated by torches was absorbed and nothing could be seen. The feeling of all witnesses is that an absolute void had been created beyond that door. Silence was so overwhelming than it even echoed (physicists are now studying such phenomenon, especially the deaf ones). Objects diverse in weight, shape and consistence such as plastic spheres, semi-sucked lollipops, Ikea tables, vanilla pudding, concave mirrors, graduate students, scooters, blind astronauts, land-land missiles and Tea Party pamphlets have been thrown across the threshold and they all disappeared before our eyes without a trace. Conrad left the following notes, which also are of little help: Grow primary walrus left kidney cells in heparinized Coke medium supplemented with Scotch broth. Sip. Adjust pH to zero with pure atrabilis. Belch. Centrifuge at 100,000 g. But slowly. And gently. Please. Add the mutagenic cocktail, e. g., 3M quina (Sta. Catalina Inc.), butane (two bombones), 0.05 mM gazpacho sulphonate, just a spoonful of sugar and the medicine goes down, 1mg colorante para paella (Carmencita Ltd.). Think deeply. Relativity. Farther, Dr. Kurtz, farther. Concentrate on the sirtuins. The 13th aminoacid in the 7th alpha helix. Now to the left. Scratch there. Now introduce a cuvette full with 5M phalloidine in your mouth, put your tongue in the electroporator, program 2,500 V, turn the light off and press the button. Or was it the other way around? Yeah, that is capital. The raven. Dr. Livingstone in the shape of a raven, I sup-poes. Turn the light off. Now it is dark. Should I light a match? Elvis, is that you there?

We understand that this sort of inspiration must have led Professor Captain Conrad, Ph.D., very deep into a glimpse of Creation. He may have even witnessed the Big Bang himself. Hold on to Current Revolution: he may someday return and write about it.

Or not.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Custom software curtails and stretches: A question of demand

AR Goodman and A Garcia
Software Engineers and Psychologists (true!)
Center for the Psychoanalysis of Artificial Intelligence. Valencia, Spain

Building custom software has become very popular in some markets. The time-to-production is longer and it is far more expensive than buying commercial software, but there is no need to pay any maintenance license year after year. The other big advantage is that the customer pays for what he (or she) exactly needs... if he is really able to explain what the hell he (or she) wants, which often it not as obvious as expected. Let me explain what kinds of issues are faced by custom software architects by drawing a parallel between them and architects for buildings. In order to design a successful project, the first thing to consider is what type of building the customer wants to build, but in our parallelism the answer is usually far but clear: 'It’s difficult to say in advance. Begin to build a cottage and then we will see if it is enough to fit our demands'. Then you are prompted to ask about the types and amount of users to consider, but the answer will still be of little use: 'Anyone. The maximum'. At this point, the customer normally appeals to the magic words: "modularity" and "technology". New technologies are aimed to allow the design of modules which can be combined in different ways to compose different results. In the customer’s perfect world, modules can create a cottage and then turn it into a 14 level office building ... But, how much is this magic? Oops, there is always a very limited budget. And the last key requirement... 'the building must be ready in 6 months'. We have to consider that an architect needs time to draw all the plans required to guide the construction team ... Ummmmm ...In our parallelism, the customer feels this is a waste of time because highly specialised teams are not supposed to require detailed written explanations to know what to do or how to do it... Two weeks should be enough to draw and write every plan, schedule or documentation. How does this senseless situation eventually evolve? Software companies usually agree to these requirements. They design a “modular” software application which is built in the frame of a 12/18 months project, delivering a “cottage” in the first phase. The first 6 months of the project are mainly dedicated to find out the accurate details of what the customer really wants. The transformation into a “14 level office building” is left for a second phase that is not included in this project because of timing and budget issues. Of course, in such conditions the quality of the result is far from perfection. Nowadays everybody is familiar with the “mistake culture” (you, reader, probably are a Windows user, so you know what we mean):

We wonder, if customers know in advance that their requirements are not realistic and will lead to a virtually useless product, why do they act is such a way? This is really hard to guess, except from a surrealistic perspective. What strategies do software companies develop to improve these situations? Well, this is another story…

Friday, March 5, 2010


Darwinism reconsidered: Proof-of-principle that Darwin was wrong

Bush Jr., G.W. and Rumsfeld, D.
In-God-We-Trust Institute, Churchtown, USA

Creationism is a metahypothesis based on biblical texts and other evidence that confronts Darwinist trends supported by most Scientists. A common argument to refute Creationism is that it cannot be experimentally tested because of the inability to manipulate God’s might and will at the laboratory. However, many religious, spiritual and political leaders along History claim to have mastered God’s will and taken decisions under the support and supervision of the all-mighty Creator. Unfortunately, no detailed protocols have been left by these wise men, and those left, such as notebooks from the Spanish Inquisition and Bin Laden’s letters to his mother, are too obscure to be translated, so they cannot be used to provide experimental support for Creationism. Actually, most of these leaders focused their effort on demonstrating the destruction potential of divine power rather than to creating anything, as destruction is generally a more convincing experiment for the sceptical than creation. Since wielding God’s power is tricky, while we improve the appropriated techniques, we have performed various experiments that prove that the evolutionary hypotheses are wrong, and that the theory brought forward in “The Origin of Species” should not be given higher credit than the Old Testament. First, we took seven female monkeys and watched them closely. We provided them with gear meant for female humans, like lipstick and make up, and they ate such items. We did that every day for several years and they kept on doing the same, showing no behaviour that could demonstrate that they are evolving. Then we repeated the experiment with seven male monkeys, offering them football gear. These monkeys played finely with the ball from the very first day, but they did not seem to evolve intelligence. Then we mixed the female and male monkeys. They had sex all the time, shared the lipstick and make up for breakfast and did not play football that often anymore. When the offspring came they still looked like monkeys. A picture of Cristiano Ronaldo was at hand as a positive control for intelligence, but even after seven generations, no monkeys looked exactly like him. We believe that the same results would have been obtained if the experiment had been repeated seventy times seven. Next, we talked to several graduate students who were performing directed mutagenesis studies in a Molecular Biology laboratory. Their testimonies verified that the mutations came out only “upon God’s will”. Moreover, to prove that the origin of life on Earth could not happen without God’s instructions, we threw amino acids, sugars, phosphate and some other organic trash into a volcanic cone, prayed to God not to have the will to create anything there, and analyzed lava samples around the volcano by metagenomic and microscopic means. No signs of life were found in such material. Then we broke into Down House Darwin’s country home and found the collection of scissors with which he trimmed the beaks of similar birds to fake all his bullshit about adaptation.

Then, we excomulgated Mendel, the pea freak, for being suspicious of data manipulation and high treason to the Church values. To the weary question whether Adam and Eve had a belly button, well… Please stop bugging with that. Our paleontologists found their fossils in our excavations at Lost Paradise Place and there was absolutely no trace of belly button there!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Performance of Omics- vs. Reductionism-based approaches on an extreme survival test

B. Leevit & O.R. Nott
Agency for the Encouragement of Novel Approaches (AENA), Barajas, Spain.

In the post-genomic era, novel disciplines in biological Sciences involving global approaches are known by the general denomination of ‘Omics’, involving Genomics, Transcriptomics, Proteomics, Metabolomics, etc. They intend to apply large-scale genome-wide God-knows-what techniques to solve biological questions, thus generating loads of data that are stored into computers to be mined by wiser future generations. In Medicine, the suffix ‘–ome’ refers to tumours, remarking that ‘Omics’ have likely been named so after their malignant spreading in Scientific literature. Such approaches are often bitterly criticized by classic small-scale researchers that devote their whole career to a minute problem. Nevertheless, the latter renegades hideously consult –omics’ databases when unseen by colleagues in search for shortcuts that would simplify their own research. Amidst such polemics, scientists do not currently know whether to despise the excellence of –omics on the basis of their unintelligibility or to pretend they understand the point and, instead, despise the old-fashioned pipette-based lengthy methods. To test the efficiency of both approaches, we chose two scientists, one representative of each kind: Dr. Kegg, a herald of Systems Biology with his head full of networks; and Dr. Singlestep, an old enzymologist that has studied the same particular phosphatase-reaction from his PhD to his close-to-retirement days. Both researchers were administered a bottle of Scotch, forced to get on an airplane and left alone in the middle of the flight after the pilot jumped on a parachute. The aim of this survival test experiment was to reach conclusions on which of both ways of reasoning would lead to the most satisfactory solution to this critic situation. Dr. Kegg clumsily sat in the cabin, opened his laptop and started making awkward calculations on the speed on the wind, altitude loss, potency of the engines of the jet, relative humidity of the air, estimated lingerie sizes of the missing female crew members, number of screws needed to fix the wings in the event of a crash, etc. All those parameters were interrelated and normalized to the control data from a normal flight with no deserting pilots, as modeled by the computer (SafeFly V.3.1 software). Thus, seconds before the crash, his computer filled the screen with a multi-coloured graph produced by integrating about 100,000 different possibilities of surviving the event by hyerarchical clustering, from the most serendipituous to the most sensible. Mr. Singlestep entered the pilot cabin with his hand in his pockets and, after some heavy thinking, chose to press only one button, the one that read ‘Emergency’. A compartment opened with an extra parachute, so he put it on and jumped. Concentrated as he was, however, on thinking of the smart moves he had just made, he forgot to open the parachute. Preliminary conclusions from this experiment are that these radically different ways of thinking will never be successful in isolation. We are working to repeat the experiment, this time by having together on board Mr. Kegg and Mr. Singlestep within the same plane, with the hope of proving that such approaches may be complementary. Such experiment will be carried our as soon as we are able to clone the souls of the test individuals from DNA extracted from saliva samples of their false teeth, that were luckily recovered from the previous experiment setting.