Showing posts from December, 2012

Science: How does high speed DNA sequencing work?

Every wonder how something works? With all the talk of personal DNA sequences and other leading edge sequence based research methods, I wondered, how do you do high speed DNA sequencing? In Google searches, I found various text descriptions of how they work but couldn't get my head around what they were saying. Finally, hit a link to a youtube video and voila, it makes sense to me now!

Its amazing!

How it works is a synthesis of multiple technologies:
Molecular biology methods to make the DNA samples and extending the strands
Nanotechnology manufacturing of flow cells with capture sites
Fluorescence chemistry
Digital image capture technology
Computing power to turn the captured images into sequence data

Politics: The Baby Boom Cohort

All the talk about what to do about the fiscal cliff is on the relatively short-term side of the story: tweaks of tax rates, elimination/capping of some deductions and relatively minor changes on spending.

The hard reality not being dealt with is the large size of the Baby Boom Cohort (1946-1964). The leading edge of that cohort started retiring in 2011. If life expectancy holds at 78 years, the trailing edge will pass away in 2042. Thus, there is a 31 year window when this group will be collecting Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Unfortunately, program benefits were promised to this cohort that are now financially unsustainable.

But is anyone really addressing this in DC?

I don't have access to CBO economists to project out how big the changes need to be to prevent the deficits and debts from getting worse than they are now. But I would think the most obvious thing to do on Social Security is to begin trimming back the benefit formula and for Medicare to begin asking partic…

Science: The task of a scientific publication reviewer

One of the professional community service responsibilities of a scientist is to review articles submitted for publication. There aren't any formal classes on the process. Most of us learned to do it by seeing it done by more experienced reviewers.

A recent Google search turned up this article.

I thought it offered a good perspective on the process and summarized into 10 rules.

I suppose their Rule 4: As a Reviewer You Are Part of the Authoring Process has been my main guiding principle.

When someone in our research group writes a paper and circulates it for comments, our task is to look for gaps in the data, unclear explanations to be cleaned up and over-reach/flaws in the conclusions. The goal is improving the paper. And so, as a reviewer, I try to have that mindset.

I also found Rule 3: Write Reviews You Would Be Satisfied with as an Author to be crucial in finding the right tone of voice. Being at the receiving end of sarcastic reviews or reviews that make you wonder if they re…

Life: A Day of Loss at Sandy Hook Elementary School

Despair we fight to keep at bay
As we cry for those lost today
May arms enfold those who sorrow
And love be present when they awake tomorrow
To those near give strength for the sad to borrow
To have hope renewed in the days after tomorrow

Politics: Balancing the federal budget 2% spending, 3% economic and 5% revenue growth scenario

Okay, let's be more optimistic and say that the economy will grow at 3% per year on average leveling out booms and busts. Using the similar concepts as described previously, we set spending growth to 2% and revenue growth to 5%, we get to balance at 2027 just like in the 1-2-4 scenario. The final balance point is around 21% GDP. See graphs below:

As an FYI, the starting point data I used was obtained from the White House budget history web page. Specifically, I looked at table 1.3 and used the data in "current dollars" and "as percentage of GDP." They offer budget projections to 2017. What is quite striking is that their rate of revenue increase and spending are considerably higher than the rates I've proposed above. Also, they assume economic growth rates of 4 to 6% per year! We have hit 4% and higher only 9 years out of the last 32 years with the last time in 2000 according to World Bank data. In the last 10 years, we have only hit 3% growth on 3 occasion…

Politics: Balancing the budget is as "easy" as 1-2-4

Balancing the Federal budget is about bringing the revenue line up and the spending line down when measured against the GDP. When measured against absolute dollars amounts, it is about flatting the spending line and getting the revenue line going up a bit faster.

If the economy is growing at 2 to 4% but spending is growing at 5 to 7%, the deficits will continue and debt will pile up which has been occurring for the last decade under both Republican Bush and Democrat Obama administrations.

So fixing the deficit and thus getting the debt under control is as "easy" as 1-2-4.

Cap growth of government to 1% per year. Assume GDP growth at 2% per year. Raise revenue by 4% per year. Do this and the budget balances by 2027.

However you slice up the numbers, the growth rate of government MUST be lower than the growth rate of the economy or else we will be forever chasing our own tail. The reality is that the US economy has been growing at about 2% per year on average over the last cou…