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Jul 30, 2008

30 days to make antibodies to limit Pandemics

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, defense, existential risks, lifeboat

Researchers have devised a rapid and efficient method for generating protein sentinels of the immune system, called monoclonal antibodies, which mark and neutralize foreign invaders.

For both ethical and practical reasons, monoclonals are usually made in mice. And that’s a problem, because the human immune system recognizes the mouse proteins as foreign and sometimes attacks them instead. The result can be an allergic reaction, and sometimes even death.

To get around that problem, researchers now “humanize” the antibodies, replacing some or all of mouse-derived pieces with human ones.

Wilson and Ahmed were interested in the immune response to vaccination. Conventional wisdom held that the B-cell response would be dominated by “memory” B cells. But as the study authors monitored individuals vaccinated against influenza, they found that a different population of B cells peaked about one week after vaccination, and then disappeared, before the memory cells kicked in. This population of cells, called antibody-secreting plasma cells (ASCs), is highly enriched for cells that target the vaccine, with vaccine-specific cells accounting for nearly 70 percent of all ASCs.

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Jul 30, 2008

Preventing flu fatalities by stopping immune system overreaction

Posted by in categories: biological, defense, existential risks, futurism, lifeboat

Researchers from Imperial College in London, England, isolated the receptor in the lungs that triggers the immune overreaction to flu.

With the receptor identified, a therapy can be developed that will bind to the receptor, preventing the deadly immune response. Also, by targeting a receptor in humans rather than a particular strain of flu, therapies developed to exploit this discovery would work regardless of the rapid mutations that beguile flu vaccine producers every year.

The flu kills 250,000 to 500,000 people in an average year with epidemics reaching 1 to 2 million deaths (other than the spanish flu which was more severe

This discovery could lead to treatments which turn off the inflammation in the lungs caused by influenza and other infections, according to a study published today in the journal Nature Immunology. The virus is often cleared from the body by the time symptoms appear and yet symptoms can last for many days, because the immune system continues to fight the damaged lung. The immune system is essential for clearing the virus, but it can damage the body when it overreacts if it is not quickly contained.

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May 29, 2008

Time for a Bigger Machine!

Posted by in category: lifeboat

Supercomputer

We are currently hosting lifeboat.com on free web space provided by rubyredlabs.com. Due to the growth in our traffic plus more general activity on this server, it would be best if we had our own server.

Note that we have additional space from KurzweilAI.net on a shared server (shared with many domains) but the shared server is always rather loaded since it has so many domains on it so we don’t host our main pages on it. (We use the shared server for backups, file transfers, and less important domains.)

Our current solution is to stay with the same provider as rubyredlabs.com but to move to our own machine. (This should simplify the transition.) The current provider is theplanet.com. We plan on getting: Intel Xeon 3210 Quad Core Kentsfield Processor, 250GB HDD, 4GB RAM, 2500GB bandwidth, 10 IPs, 100mbps uplink — $199 monthly / $25 setup.

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Apr 15, 2008

$153 million/city thin film plastic domes can protect against nuclear weapons and bad weather

Posted by in categories: biological, chemistry, defense, existential risks, habitats, lifeboat, military, nanotechnology, nuclear weapons, sustainability

Cross posted from Nextbigfuture

Click for larger image

I had previously looked at making two large concrete or nanomaterial monolithic or geodesic domes over cities which could protect a city from nuclear bombs.

Now Alexander Bolonkin has come up with a cheaper, technological easy and more practical approach with thin film inflatable domes. It not only would provide protection form nuclear devices it could be used to place high communication devices, windmill power and a lot of other money generating uses. The film mass covered of 1 km**2 of ground area is M1 = 2×10**6 mc = 600 tons/km**2 and film cost is $60,000/km**2.
The area of big city diameter 20 km is 314 km**2. Area of semi-spherical dome is 628 km2. The cost of Dome cover is 62.8 millions $US. We can take less the overpressure (p = 0.001atm) and decrease the cover cost in 5 – 7 times. The total cost of installation is about 30–90 million $US. Not only is it only about $153 million to protect a city it is cheaper than a geosynchronous satellite for high speed communications. Alexander Bolonkin’s website

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Apr 8, 2008

Disruptions from small recessions to extinctions

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, business, defense, existential risks, futurism, habitats, lifeboat, nanotechnology, space, sustainability

Cross posted from Next big future by Brian Wang, Lifeboat foundation director of Research

I am presenting disruption events for humans and also for biospheres and planets and where I can correlating them with historical frequency and scale.

There has been previous work on categorizing and classifying extinction events. There is Bostroms paper and there is also the work by Jamais Cascio and Michael Anissimov on classification and identifying risks (presented below).

A recent article discusses the inevtiable “end of societies” (it refers to civilizations but it seems to be referring more to things like the end of the roman empire, which still ends up later with Italy, Austria Hungary etc… emerging)

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Feb 3, 2008

Spending Effectively

Posted by in categories: finance, futurism, lifeboat

Last year, the Singularity Institute raised over $500,000. The World Transhumanist Association raised $50,000. The Lifeboat Foundation set a new record for the single largest donation. The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology’s finances are combined with those of World Care, a related organization, so the public can’t get precise figures. But overall, it’s safe to say, we’ve been doing fairly well. Most not-for-profit organizations aren’t funded adequately; it’s rare for charities, even internationally famous ones, to have a large full-time staff, a physical headquarters, etc.

The important question is, now that we’ve accumulated all of this money, what are we going to spend it on? It’s possible, theoretically, to put it all into Treasury bonds and forget about it for thirty years, but that would be an enormous waste of expected utility. In technology development, the earlier the money is spent (in general), the larger the effect will be. Spending $1M on a technology in the formative stages has a huge impact, probably doubling the overall budget or more. Spending $1M on a technology in the mature stages won’t even be noticed. We have plenty of case studies: Radios. TVs. Computers. Internet. Telephones. Cars. Startups.

The opposite danger is overfunding the project, commonly called “throwing money at the problem”. Hiring a lot of new people without thinking about how they will help is one common symptom. Having bloated layers of middle management is another. To an outside observer, it probably seems like we’re reaching this stage already. Hiring a Vice President In Charge Of Being In Charge doesn’t just waste money; it causes the entire organization to lose focus and distracts everyone from the ultimate goal.

I would suggest a top-down approach: start with the goal, figure out what you need, and get it. The opposite approach is to look for things that might be useful, get them, then see how you can complete a project with the stuff you’ve acquired. NASA is an interesting case study, as they followed the first strategy for a number of years, then switched to the second one.

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Jan 29, 2008

Cheap (tens of dollars) genetic lab on a chip systems could help with pandemic control

Posted by in categories: biological, defense, existential risks, futurism, lifeboat

Cross posted from Next big future

Since a journal article was submitted to the Royal Society of Chemistry, the U of Alberta researchers have already made the processor and unit smaller and have brought the cost of building a portable unit for genetic testing down to about $100 Cdn. In addition, these systems are also portable and even faster (they take only minutes). Backhouse, Elliott and McMullin are now demonstrating prototypes of a USB key-like system that may ultimately be as inexpensive as standard USB memory keys that are in common use – only tens of dollars. It can help with pandemic control and detecting and control tainted water supplies.

This development fits in with my belief that there should be widespread inexpensive blood, biomarker and genetic tests to help catch disease early and to develop an understanding of biomarker changes to track disease and aging development. We can also create adaptive clinical trials to shorten the development and approval process for new medical procedures


The device is now much smaller than size of a shoe-box (USB stick size) with the optics and supporting electronics filling the space around the microchip

Continue reading “Cheap (tens of dollars) genetic lab on a chip systems could help with pandemic control” »

Jan 25, 2008

On the brink of Synthetic Life: DNA synthesis has increased twenty times to full bacteria size

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, defense, existential risks, futurism, lifeboat, military, nanotechnology

Reposted from Next Big Future which was advancednano.

A 582,970 base pair sequence of DNA has been synthesized.

It’s the first time a genome the size of a bacterium has chemically been synthesized that’s about 20 times longer than [any DNA molecule] synthesized before.

This is a huge increase in capability. It has broad implications for DNA nanotechnology and synthetic biology.

Continue reading “On the brink of Synthetic Life: DNA synthesis has increased twenty times to full bacteria size” »

Jan 13, 2008

Lifeboat Foundation SAB member asks “Is saving humanity is worth the cost?”

Posted by in categories: defense, futurism, geopolitics, lifeboat

In his most recent paper “Reducing the Risk of Human Extinction,” SAB member Jason G. Matheny approached the topic of human extinction from what is unfortunately a somewhat unusual angle. Jason examined the cost effectiveness of preventing humanity’s extinction due to a catastrophic asteroid impact.

Even with some rather pessimistic assumptions, his calculations showed a pretty convincing return on investment. For only about US$ 2.50 per life year saved, Matheny predicts that we could mitigate the risk of humanity being killed off by a large asteroid. Maybe it’s just me, but it sounds pretty compelling.

Matheny also made a very good point that we all should ponder when we consider how our charitable giving and taxes gets spent. “We take extraordinary measures to protect some endangered species from extinction. It might be reasonable to take extraordinary measures to protect humanity from the same.”

For more coverage on this important paper please see the October 2007 issue of Risk Analysis and a recent edition of Nature News.

Jan 2, 2008

The Enlightenment Strikes Back

Posted by in categories: complex systems, futurism, geopolitics, lifeboat, nanotechnology, open access, sustainability

In a recent conversation on our discussion list, Ben Goertzel, a rising star in artificial intelligence theory, expressed skepticism that we could keep a “modern large-scale capitalist representative democracy cum welfare state cum corporate oligopoly” going for much longer.

Indeed, our complex civilization currently does seem to be under a lot of stress.

Lifeboat Foundation Scientific Advisory Board member and best-selling author David Brin’s reply was quite interesting.

David writes:

Continue reading “The Enlightenment Strikes Back” »

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