Critical Section


Tuesday,  04/27/04  11:20 PM

The Economist has a really fascinating article about the possibility that stem cells may cause cancer:

"CANCER cells are distinguished by the fact that they multiply rapidly and in an uncontrolled manner.  Hence, scientists and drug companies have developed drugs that kill cells which divide quickly, while sparing slow-growing - and thus presumably healthy - cells.  The catch is that while such therapies often shrink tumors, they rarely cure the underlying disease.  Patients often relapse years after an apparently successful treatment.  At the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, which took place in Orlando, Florida, in the last few days of March, Michael Clarke, of the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, discussed why such relapses might occur.  Dr Clarke believes that a small population of slow-growing cells in tumors - cancerous stem cells - may be responsible not only for the recurrence of tumors, but for the original cancers as well."

This seems a very promising line of inquiry to me.  The other day I noted the Fortune magazine cover article: "Why we're losing the war on cancer".  The gist of that story was that cancer research is focused more on therapy than prevention.  This insight - if true - may lead directly to courses of treatment which truly "cure" cancer.  Very cool.

Titan's surfaceThe European Southern Observatory has taken some amazing photographs of Titan, Saturn's largest moon.  Early next year the Huygens probe will crash into Titan, relaying telemetry via the Cassini orbiter.  All this unmanned space exploration activity is very encouraging.

Allen Greenspan said today "the likelihood of persistently high energy prices would probably help keep U.S. energy use in check and influence energy-related business investments."  This seems like good news; let's give consumers a reason not to buy SUVs.

Phil Libin makes an interesting point about air-travel safety:  "Someone attempting an exact replay of the 9/11 attacks today would likely be beaten to within an inch of death."  Which means it is unlikely terrorists would try it again.  Which means all the effort to try to prevent it - ultimately very hard and inconvenient - is probably wasted.  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]

Taking Chance Home.  Really excellent.  [ via Citizen Smash, who notes This is Respect ]

Bugatti VeyronEver wonder how the Bugatti Veyron works?  Like, How do you fit 1,000 horsepower into a compact engine?  (No, it isn't 16 liters - it uses four turbochargers to aspirate 16 cylinders in a "W" configuration!)  And how do you keep a passenger car on the road at 250+ MPH?  (It is about as wide as a Hummer, but about 1/3 as high.  Plus, it has a "real" spoiler wing.)  I want one.

Isn't How Stuff Works just a great site?  A real meme repository.

More on Google: BW has a nice interview with Eric Schmidt, Google's "hired gun" CEO:

Q: Are you working hard to find a way to create more lock-in with your users?
A: You're asking a perfectly reasonable question of a normal company.  That's not how Google works.  The way Google works is about innovation.  We are awaiting the discovery of what will achieve your objective.  Do you see the distinction?

Fortune has a nice profile of Michael Moritz, one of the VCs backing Google.  I had some contact with Mike when I was at PayPal.  A real big picture guy.

Yesterday we noted Gigablast, a Google search engine competitor.  Here's a thorough interview with Matt Wells, Gigablast's one-man band, by Steve Kirsch (Infoseek founder and current CEO of Propel).  [ via Michael Heraghty ]

BW also analyzes the Twists in Netflix' Growth Plot.  All is not great there; "While few dispute that Netflix is the leader in the DVD rental biz, competition in this arena is starting to pick up.  And as Netflix' costs continue to rise, profitability could remain elusive, some analysts fear."  They're a transitional technology anyway; video-on-demand will kill Netflix, as surely as it will kill Blockbuster.

Speaking of online media (we were), iTunes is one year old!  Wow.  CNet marks the occasion with a nice review of the state of iTunes and the other online music services.  The key issue a year ago was consumer acceptance.  Now that it's evident that people will pay for online music, the key issue has become compatibility between services and devices.

Steve Jobs announces iTunes music storeFor old times' sake, here's a video of the announcement of iPods and iTunes, by Steve Jobs.  Paradoxically, it is in RealPlayer format :)

Hey buddy, want to buy a portal?  Terra Lycos is shopping Lycos.com.  The asking price is $200M, marked down from the $12.5B Terra paid for it in 2000.  Such a deal.

Chris Pratley is a Microsoft blogger who writes Let's talk about Word, and then analyzes the great Word vs. WordPerfect battle.  Chris’ main points are that WordPerfect made the mistake of changing too much on each release, and Word did something smart by understanding what customers actually did.  If these lessons are applied to Windows, it means MS should concentrate on making Windows work better, instead of making Windows into something different.  So far Longhorn is doing the opposite; instead of fixing things like paging and improving performance, MS is inventing new ways to do new things.  This might be “cool” but it will open the door to competitors, and as well it isn't really what customers want.

Eric Sink thinks we should read Coder to Developer, by Mike Gunderloy.  I might.  Any book with a forward by Joel Spolsky can't be horrible :)

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