Monthly Archives: October 2013

Half-full or half-empty?

An optimist will tell you the glass is half-full; the pessimist, half-empty; and the engineer will tell you the glass is twice the size it needs to be. – Anonymous

The half-full, half-empty type of recurring arguments are counter-productive but too often occuring, even in science. Maybe like the quote above, it is simply a question of considering things differently. Interestingly as scientists we are suppose to be really good at this…

OSX 10.9 (Mavericks) is available and free!

Wired is running an interesting piece about the latest operating system from Apple. In part past, Apple provided free or very low cost upgrade for its “minor” version of OSX but paying upgrade for significant new version. 10.9 is a significant upgrade but will be free: Apple Just Ended the Era of Paid Operating Systems | Wired Business |

In a related news, iWork (Numbers, Keynote and Page) will be free with each new Apple computing devices, Mac or iDevices! Office productivity and MS Office compatibility out of the box. That should be interesting…

Concentrated, focused and attentive you say!

This great TEDGlobal talk will allow you to test how attentive you really are. Only need 8 min 47 sec of your time, much less than your typical  graduate courses 😉

Link is here(!):

Sakharov Prize – Nobel Peace Prize…

Rarely has the Sakharov Prize caught more the attention than the Nobel Peace Prize, and the Sakharov prize winner got more press than the Nobel Peace prize winner. Of course both prize target different cause. However, rarely did a single young individual which such strong convictions ever touch some many for a cause that should concerns us all: education.

Education is the only solution

– Malala Yousafzai

Big Data, Scarce Data: Which One Fits Medicine?


While visiting CERN last spring, there was a catch phrase used during the visit that stick in my mind. For the ATLAS detector, at the heart of one of the 4 main experiments at CERN and also one of the experiment that found experimental evidence for the Higgs boson (or a Higgs boson…), the interesting data were the equivalent of a 100 megapixels camera taking 400 photos per seconds (or maybe the other way around, but it does not change the shear scale of things)!

This amount of data is after all kinds of real-time software and hardware processing because the raw data during normal operation (read beam on condition) is close to 1 PetaBytes/sec (MB, GB=1000MB, TB=1000GB and finally PB=1000TB)…and this is only for ATLAS. In fact everything about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is big, from cost, to equipment, to human resources and data generated. Nature had an interesting article about how the data are handle and distributed worldwide among the collaborators.


Now what about medicine? We hear a lot about big data in biological sciences and medicine. The main problem, at least in medicine in my opinion, is not that there is too much data for the researchers and physicians but rather the other way around. Database for clinical trials conducted at various levels (from internal trials at individual hospitals to more global trials) are not all, or at all(!), compatible with each other. Furthermore, numerous database tends to be incomplete not by design but simply from the difficulty of filling and ensuring data integrity. While big data also sounds great for personalize medicine, personalize medicine by definition means low numbers of very specific medical conditions. Overall, we are unfortunately at this point in time in a scarce data mode.

The next big step for big data in medicine is a revolution with regards to database management, sharing and analysis. And yes personalize medicine will likely mean bigger research consortium and more sharing of data. There is a lot to learn from the particle physics community and initiative like the LHC. I do hope that those big data grant programs we are seeing in our country is to address that in priority. Until then, we will remain with incomplete or scarce data in medicine.

Nobel Prize Week: Physics Nobel Prize for the Higgs Boson!

This is this time of the year again when Nobel prize winners are announced. As expected, the physics one goes for the Higgs boson following the experimental confirmation by CERN. More precisely the Prize is given to Englert and Higgs.

Note added: Physical Review Letters announced that the 1964 articles from the nobel winners are now available for free…Physics Letters B did something similar regarding the experimental papers from ATLAS and CMS during the summer of 2012. So all in all, the four key papers pertaining to then Higgs boson (at least for now) are available for anyone with internet access to consult!

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