(...) I first saw Andraka present his discovery at a TED worldwide talent search inNew York two weeks ago. In only three minutes he had the audience dumbfounded with the results of his work: a paper test strip that uses minute changes in conductivity to detect targeted viruses or antigens faster, cheaper and more accurately than today’s standard diagnostics.  It seems too good to be true, but the panel of judges at the Intel science fair are not rubes. For a teenager he is disarmingly forthright and direct in talking about complex chemistry, but he’s also good at making it understandable to the lay person.
Andraka’s diagnostic breakthrough is a humble piece of filter paper, except that it is dipped in a solution of carbon nanotubes, which are hollow cylinders with walls the thickness of a single atom, coated with a specific antibody designed to bind with the virus or protein you’re looking for. Andraka’s key insight is that there are noticeable changes in the electrical conductivity of the nanotubes when the distances between them changes. When the antibodies on the surface of the nanotubes come in contact with a target protein, the proteins bind to the tubes and spread them apart a tiny bit. That shift in the spaces between tubes can be detected by an electrical meter. Andraka used a $50 meter from the Home Depot to do the trick but, he says, doctors can just as easily insert his test-strips into the kinds of devices used by millions of diabetics around the world.
Andraka’s paper sensor is extremely sensitive. In a single-blinded test of 100 patient samples, it spotted the presence of mesothelin, a protein commonly used as a biomarker for pancreatic cancer, at a limit of 0.156 nano grams per milliliter, well below the 10 ng/mL considered an overexpression of mesothelin consistent with pancreatic cancer. It’s also 100 times more selective than existing diagnostic tests, which means no false positives or false negatives. It ignored healthy patient samples as well as those with mere pancreatitis. Compared with the 60-year-old diagnostic technique called enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (or ELISA), used in pregnancy test strips and viral checks for HIV, West Nile and hepatitis B, Andraka’s sensor is 168 times faster, 26,667 times less expensive, and 400 times more sensitive. It can spot the presence of the cancer-linked protein well before the cancer itself becomes invasive. This could save the lives of thousands of pancreatic cancer victims each year. The sensor costs $3 (ELISA can cost up to $800) (...)


Alex Prud’homme interviewed by Maeve  Vanessa Scanlon

At a time when we are concerned about the diminishing reserves of petroleum and other fossil fuels, Alex Prud’homme’s book The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Fresh Water in the Twenty-First Century sheds light on a natural resource that is becoming equally as scarce. In the following exclusive interview, Prud’homme discusses the depletion of our water supply, the potential for worldwide “water wars” and how we can all reduce our own ripple effect.
HUSTLER: First and foremost, what is the “ripple effect”?
ALEX PRUD’HOMME: This is essentially a series of consequences that impact water supply in ways most of us don’t understand. Sometimes those ripples are unintentional effects. Even the simplest things like washing your hands, watering your lawn or powering up your computer can have great ramifications that we’re not aware of. If you wash your hands with antibacterial soap, a chemical in there can survive the treatment process and get into waterways and can negatively impact fish. Same with herbicides that we use on our lawns to get rid of dandelions. There’s a substance [in herbicides] that inhibits the fishes’ ability to ward off disease. It may even be causing “intersex,” meaning that male bass fish are developing eggs through their testes.
That’s science fiction stuff.
It’s really spooky. I was down in Chesapeake Bay, near Washington, D.C., studying this with scientists. It’s really troubling because it turns out that the endocrine system in fish is very similar to that in humans.
Humans can be affected by these substances in the same way as fish?
Scientists are very concerned. There’s the potential that it could be turning humans into intersexes at some point in the future. That’s one set of ripple effects [just from] washing our hands or spraying our lawns to keep the weeds away.
[Editor’s Note: Pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and consumers have legally released into this country’s drinking water more than 271 million pounds of drugs and chemicals, including lithium, nitroglycerin, copper, antibiotics, anticonvulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones. At least 51 million Americans are drinking pharmaceutical- tainted water, and the federal government has chosen to turn a blind eye to this.]
You claim that using electrical power, like turning on a computer, can have a similar ripple effect.
That confuses a lot of people. When you leave a light on, you’re using up a lot of energy. Whether it’s nuclear or ethanol or solar or coal or gas, all of those power sources require lots of water. Every energy source has to run on industrial works or giant cooling towers or processing plants of some sort. Not only do they use lots of water in these processes, but they have to dispose of their waste. Often, this seeps into the water supply. We don’t really think about the impact that getting energy to our homes has on the water supply, so we never connect those dots. But power is a huge water user.
It’s a strange dot to connect.
I started looking at this all across the country and started noticing this pattern. There are so many pressures on our limited water supplies—population, climate change, shifting diets, shifting demographics, all these new ways of using water—that we can no longer afford the luxury of being ignorant. We can no longer stick our heads in the sand and say, “Well, we don’t know the impacts.” Now we do know the impacts, and we have to start paying attention to this and start thinking about water in a new way and value it as a limited resource.


(...) From the standpoint of getting the Greek economy growing again, the election was extremely frustrating for Greek voters.  There were no pro-growth parties on the ballot.  No one running for office seemed to realize that Greece’s only hope for economic recovery is income tax rate cuts large enough to cause the current capital outflows to reverse, and induce people to start investing in the Greek economy once again.
At this point, the entire Greek political establishment seems to be infected with the Keynes virus, a pathogen that alters brain chemistry in a way that makes people believe that it is government spending (and only government spending) that produces economic growth.  Keynesianism, which is the name of the mental illness caused by this virus, has been claiming victims worldwide, including Francois Hollende in France and Barack Obama, Larry Summers, and Paul Krugman in the U.S.
Oddly enough, ordinary people seem to be immune to the Keynes virus.  They retain the ability to see that high taxes discourage economic activity, and that a bankrupt nation cannot spend its way to prosperity.
Given the choices presented, all the Greek electorate could do was to play for time and hope for some kind of pro-growth miracle.
The election results created some likelihood that the “Troika” (the EU, the ECB, and the IMF) will deliver on the promised €130 billion second tranche of bailout funds.  Unfortunately, without tax cuts to revive investment and production, this money will be sucked into the black hole of Greece’s imploding economy, never to be seen again.  This was the fate of the first tranche of bailout money (nominally, €110 billion).
Perhaps even more important to ordinary Greek citizens, buying time allows the “silent bailout” of Greek bank deposit holders by the European Central Bank (ECB) to continue.
Since the start of 2010, Greeks have withdrawn about €80 billion from Greek banks.  This is about a third of total deposits.  A large portion of the assets of the Greek banking system consists of Greek government bonds, which cannot be sold for anything close to book value, and which are not acceptable collateral at the ECB discount window.  Accordingly, Greek banks have been obtaining the euros required to meet customer redemptions from the Greek Central Bank (GSB) via the ECB’s “Emergency Liquidity Assistance” (ELA) program.  The ELA amounts to a line of credit from the ECB to the GSB, with repayment guaranteed by…the Greek government.
The ECB has been secretive about the magnitude of ELA loans outstanding and the identities of the borrowing national central banks, but it is clear from the data available that the total ELA loan balance has been rising rapidly.
Because Germany is ultimately “on the hook” for the economic value of ELA loans, it will be interesting to see how long they are willing to allow this “silent bailout” to continue.  However, without ELA, the Greek banking system would collapse, taking what remains of the Greek economy with it.
When Americans go to the polls in November, they will have Greece as a stark reminder of the consequences of tax increases and out-of-control government spending.  Fortunately, it appears that, unlike Greece in the June 17 election, the U.S. will have a party to vote for, the Republicans, that is at least nominally “pro-growth”.
Because Mitt Romney’s platform calls for tax cuts, and Obama is promising tax hikes and more Keynesian stimulus, Jude Wanniski’s political model would predict that Romney must win.