Wednesday, October 26, 2016

ScienceBlogs Channel : Technology

ScienceBlogs Channel : Technology

What printer should you get? [Greg Laden's Blog]

Posted: 25 Oct 2016 11:22 AM PDT

I had a good printer experience, and I thought I should pass it on to you.

Printers are, of course, the spawn of Satan. Especially the ink jet kind.

For a long time, I had a cheap black and white laser, which worked OK for non color stuff, and an inkjet all in one, which was handy but cost a lot to keep in ink.

When Huxley, at about age 5, figure out how to use the all in one as a photo copy machine or to print photos off an SD card (both functions I had not explored, but he figured out on his own), he incorporated the all-in-one into his artistic work flow, which involved making computer graphics, sometimes displaying the graphics and photographing them, photocopying them, drawing on the printouts, scanning those into a computer, manipulating them in software printing them out, cutting and pasting (with real scissors and paste!), and so on.

But then, I had to spend all my time changing ink, and again, the ink was eating us alive. And, buy chance, the old black and white laser died. So, it was time to seriously think about getting a laser.

My only requirements were that the printer be reasonably sturdy, to last a long time, and compatible with any operating system.

I quickly discovered the various PHP Color LaserJet Pro printers.

Now, Imma stop you right now. You are about to say, “HP!?!? No way, I had one of those once, and it ate my dog, never again!!”

OK, fine, but for everyone who ever had an HP printer eat their pet, there is another person who’s Epson crashed their car, or who’s Brother ran off with their girlfriend. Or whatever. The point is, if you can’t consider an HP printer because an HP printer scared you in the crib as a baby, I can totally understand that, and you should not buy what I’m recommending here. But, if the Satanic Printers (and they are all spawn of the devil) have not attacked you from that specific manufacturer yet, then read on.

I settled specifically on the HP Laserjet Pro M452dw Wireless Color Printer, (CF394A).

This is in the middle of the pack. It is the lowest level in the series with WiFi. The higher end ones have slightly larger touch screens and a document feeder. I did not need those two features, but you might. And, you might not care about WiFi (except that you want the WiFi).

Here is a summary of the variation available in this category of printers.

Two of these printers are basically the same as far as I can tell, neither has wireless. If you want to consider either one, check them out more closely because one of them is 50 bucks cheaper:

The HP Laserjet Pro M452nw Wireless Color Printer, (CF388A) costs about $150, has only an Ethernet connection and a 2-line LCD.

The HP Laserjet Pro M452dn Color Printer, (CF389A) costs about $200. It also has only ethernet and a 2 line LCD.

I bought the HP Laserjet Pro M452dw Wireless Color Printer, (CF394A), which currently costs about $260. It has wireless, nice touch screen, other features (I'll describe below) and for me was the sweet spot.

There are also more expensive and higher end versions, such as the HP Laserjet Pro M477fdw Wireless All-in-One Color Printer, (CF379A), which has the document scanner. This one is about $450.

If you go to this page on Amazon, and scroll to the bottom, you can see the range I'm talking about in a handy table. If a document feeder is important to you, click on one of those printers, and then scroll down again, and you'll see another table of similar printers, but most/all with document feeders.

I’ve been using this printer for a while now. It was easy to set up (had a smell for a few days, that went away). It is quite compared to older HP laser printers I’ve had. It prints nice, prints fast, etc.

Meanwhile, Huxley has been messing around with it and he discovered some cool features. First, you can hook it up to the cloud and use Google Print. I have no idea if that is a good thing, but we’re doing it.

I already knew that the printer would store previously printed documents, which could be quite handy. But I had no idea that it also contained pre-made documents that you can print out at will. This feature does not appear to be listed in the usual documentation of the printer, so it was a surprise to me. It is hidden down under settings.

You know that paper with the non-dotted and dotted lines that kids use to learn how to write? You can print out those sheets, or regular ruled (narrow or wide) notebook sheets.

You can print out a couple of different sizes of graph paper, music score paper, and more. This is probably one of those things everyone else knew about but that I didn’t now about.

You can also use a USB stick with this printer, it will handle standard office style documents.

Apparently, this printer has some ink saving ability and is relatively efficient in energy use.

Here are some specs:

Print speed black: Up to 28 ppm.

Print speed color: Up to 28 ppm.

First page out (ready): As fast as 8.9 seconds.

Recommended monthly page volume: 750 to 4,000 pages.

Paper handling input, standard: 50-sheet multipurpose tray, 250-sheet input tray.

Paper handling output, standard: 150-sheet output bin.

Media sizes supported: Letter, legal, executive, 8.5 x 13 in, 3 x 5 in, 4 x 6 in, 5 x 8 in, envelopes.

Two-sided printing that’s fast

Manage print jobs directly at the printer-just tap and swipe the 3-inch (7.6 cm) touchscreen.

Print Microsoft® Word and PowerPoint® documents-now directly from your USB drive.

Print from a variety of smartphones and tablets-generally no setup or apps required.

A Phabulous Phablet from Lenovo [Greg Laden's Blog]

Posted: 25 Oct 2016 10:22 AM PDT

Lenovo makes two Phablets that are similar, the 4G and the 4G plus. The latter is not bigger (in fact, it is a little smaller) but rather, has higher specs all around, making it a fairly expensive device. But the Lenovo PHAB 4G Phablet (regular) is practically free and is actually rather Phabulous.

OK, well, not fee, but about 170 bucks or so, except now closer to $130 from Gearbest. (As far as I know this is the only place to get it. Gearbest has a very large selection of Lenovo phones and phablets, as well as a high diversity of generally very affordable tablets.)

So, I tried out the Lenovo PHAB 4G Phablet.

First, what is a Phablet and why do you want one?

The broadest definition of Phablet is that it is a kind of hybrid between a tablet and a phone. So, for example, the Nexus 6 is sometimes called a Phablet. That is the phone I use. It is very large (requires very large hands), so it has piles of screen real estate, yet it is a phone. But, the Nexus 6 is not really a true phablet by a stricter definition, because it acts like a phone, rather than a tablet, in those areas where they are different.


The Lenovo PHAB 4G Phablet is, as far as I can tell, an actual phablet with phone hardware and software and, of course, a place for an SMS card.

It actually has room for 2 SMS cards, and in this and other ways, is highly adaptable and international. Even though you can’t (probably) get this phone from any US carriers, you can still probably buy it an put the SMS of your favorite carrier in it (check here first). Or two SMS cards if you want.

Or, you can use one of the SMS holders to hold the SMS, and the other to hold a micro SD card, for up to 64GB of added storage.

lenovo_phablet_in_handThe display is very large, and the glass front of the device continues out to the edge, with the display, within that area, having a 6.98″ diagonal. The phablet is thin, sturdy, light. The back is gripable rather than super smooth, so it is comfortable in the hand. I probably should put a case on this, but I’d almost rather not it is so easy to handle as is.

There is a normal headphone jack, so you don’t have to worry about that. And, a MicroUSB slot.


  • The processor is a Qualcomm MSM8916 Quad Core 1.2GHz (with the ability to go to 1.84GHz)
  • 1GB RAM
  • 16GB eMCP ROM Storage. Note: This tablet uses stock android, so more of this 16GB is available than you might find on, say Samsung phones, which may use many gigabytes of storage for its own proprietary non-removable system software.
  • Capacitive touch display, 6.98 inch, 1280 x 720 (HD 720)
  • Dual cameras, very good quality, 13.0MP rear (with flash) and 5.0MP front.
  • SIM card slot can hold two SIM cards, Dual Standby
  • MicroUSBV slot in place of one of the two SIM cards, as an option (up to 64GB)
  • the Battery is 3.7/4250mAh, and the device comes wiht an adapter that handles 100-240 volts
  • The dual SMS or SMS + microSD holder.

    The dual SMS or SMS + microSD holder.

  • There is a G sensor
  • GPS
  • Blue tooth and WiFi
  • Supports 2G + 3G + 4G high speed internet access
  • Unlocked for international use.
  • Comes with Android 5.1
  • The speaker seems exceptionally good, better sound than my Nexus. Also, the mic is pretty good, for dictation.
  • I am probably going to use this phone for two purposes. First, I’ll offload much of the funcitonality of my Nexus 6 onto this tablet, with its larger screen, etc. I’ve found that the Kindle Reader works really well on this, and the phone is just the right size and weight — Amazon should make a reader just this size and shape — so I’ll be reading non-text books (i.e., technology books, etc.) on this, when I can wrestle the device away from Huxley, who is reading his stuff on it as I write this.

    Second, I’ll get one of those inexpensive short term phone accounts, like Ting provides (but probably not Ting) and I’ll use the tablet as a wireless hotspot for the family’s laptops and other devices, when traveling.

    That second use will also allow me to use this Android phablet as a base for communicating with robots that have SMS cards. Once I get some of those.

    I have always loved Lenovo products, going to back when they were made by IBM. I used only Lenovo laptops back in the day, and I still have a few of them laying around. Lenovo was bought by a Chinese company some time ago, but continued to make laptops. This phablet seems to be in the range of engineering quality I would expect for a consumer grade product made by this company. In other words, well made and solid.

    ScienceBlogs Channel : Medicine & Health

    ScienceBlogs Channel : Medicine & Health

    Applying systems biology to validate prescientific quackery [Respectful Insolence]

    Posted: 26 Oct 2016 03:45 AM PDT

    Although I did not coin it, I frequently use the term "quackademic medicine" because, unfortunately, there's a lot of quackademic medicine around. Although regular readers know what the term means, i always feel obligated to briefly explain what quackademic medicine is, for the benefit of any newbie who might happen upon this blog. Basically, it is a term used to describe an increasingly common and alarming phenomenon, the infiltration of rank quackery and pseudoscience into medical academia. You might think it impossible or unbelievable, but it's anything but. Beginning around a quarter of a century ago, alternative medicine started finding its way into medical schools and academic medical centers, first in the form of "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM) and then later renamed "integrative medicine." The intent of renaming it "integrative medicine" was to portray the idea of "integrating" the "best of both worlds" (alternative medicine and conventional medicine) as though they were equals, but in reality all integrative medicine does is to integrate quackery with real medicine; that is, when it isn't busy co-opting perfectly science-based modalities, such as exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle changes, as somehow being "alternative" and "integrated" into medicine.

    One of the most pernicious effects of quackademic medicine is not just how it places the imprimatur of real medicine on sheer quackery like acupuncture, much of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), reflexology, naturopathy, homeopathy, and the like. That's bad enough. What's just as bad, though, is how it distorts research, wastes money, and encourages research into treatments that are so implausible that it is unethical to subject man or beast to them in the name of science. I've listed many examples before, the first example coming to mind being the clinical trials of homeopathy for infectious childhood diarrhea in Third World countries, acupuncture for menopausal hot flashes, or acupuncture for in vitro fertilization. Then there are the many experiments subjecting rodents to various quackery, such as this one torturing rats in the name of pseudoscience by shocking them with electroacupuncture.

    A while ago, I noted that the open access journal, PLoS One seemed to have a penchant for publishing horrible studies of quackery, such as one purporting to identify anatomic correlates of acupuncture meridians and functional MRI (fMRI) studies of laser acupuncture. Of course, it's not just PLoS one, but a lot of journals, even journals within the Nature stable of journals, such as Scientific Reports. I'm referring to an article that its authors, Sun et al, entitled To Unveil the Molecular Mechanisms of Qi and Blood through Systems Biology-Based Investigation into Si-Jun-Zi-Tang and Si-Wu-Tang formulae. It might better have been entitled Disguising pharmacognosy research using crude plant extracts as evidence for qi and the five element theory of medicine.

    Basically, this study uses various bioinformatics databases of compounds and their molecular targets in the cell, does a bunch of analyses that use the known effects of various ingredients in the TCM compounds to predict what molecular signaling pathways they affect. They used TCMID Cytoscape thusly:

    Since the TCM formulae are normally composed of several medicinal herbs, and each herb normally has many ingredients, and each ingredient has a lot of targets, a formula is a complex biologic active network. Fortunately, along with the rapid development of life science and computer science, a variety of computational tools and bioinformatic database have been developed to facilitate the analysis of a large number of genes associated with complex ingredients of TCM formulae2, which provide opportunities to predict potential pharmacological actions of TCM formulae and clarify complex molecular mechanisms of formulae and theories of TCM. Based on primary biomolecular databases, e.g. Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG,, HPRD4, PDB5, TTD6, OMIM7, Drug-Bank8, STITCH9 and ChEMBL10, a lot of TCM-related databases have been developed, such as TCMID11, HIT12, TCM Database@Taiwan13, TCMGeneDIT14, TCM-ID15, TCMSP16 and CHMIS-C17. These TCM-related databases complement each other to provide information on complex interactions of TCM-active ingredient-gene-disease2. Among these TCM-related databases, TCMID ( contains 3,791 diseases, 47,000 prescriptions, 8,159 herbs, 6,828 drugs, 25,210 compounds and 17,521 related targets, which facilitates the study of interactions between formula, ingredient, gene and disease to uncover the molecular biological mechanisms of TCM. Meanwhile, there are several network analysis tools for biological functionality of TCM-related network analysis, such as Cytoscape18,19. More than 150 specialized plugins integrated in Cytoscape can be used to import and map existing interaction data cataloged in public databases2, such as ClueGO20, BioGrid Plugin21 and MiMI22. ClueGO integrates Gene Ontology (GO) terms as well as KEGG/BioCarta pathways to create functionally organized GO/pathway term network and analyze one or compare two lists of genes and comprehensively visualizes functionally grouped terms.

    I'll translate. Basically, it is now possible to use biomolecular databaes, databases of molecular targets and their interactions with various molecules, and sophisticated bioinformatics tools like Cytoscape to import and map known interaction data from public databases and use network analyses to model and identify likely signaling pathways affected by the molecules. This list can be shaped and narrowed down by other databases cataloguing targets and signaling pathways known to be involved with specific diseases and conditions. All of this has become fairly standard in drug development, both in pharma and academia. It's basically science.

    But what are these sophisticated bioinformatics techniques being used for in this study. Here's where it goes off the deep end. Now, I frequently refer to studies like this as "tooth fairy science." It's a term coined by Harriet Hall to describe science purporting to measure the properties of a phenomenon whose existence has not been established. Basically, you can study how much money the tooth fairy leaves each night, but you haven't established the existence of the tooth fairy. Similarly, you can study the "effects" of homeopathy, but you haven't established that homeopathy is anything more than water. Believe it or not, this isn't tooth fairy science, as you will see. However, it is something almost as bad.

    First, take a look at this figure to see how Sun et al set up their experiment (click to embiggen):

    Systems biology of TCM

    Yes, on the left, there is "Qi deficiency" on the left and "blood deficiency" on the right. Both are TCM diagnoses, not diagnoses that have anything to do with biology or medical reality, given that qi is a term to describe the "life energy." I sometimes wonder if qi deficiency is caused by excessive use by the alien healing machine in Babylon 5 to heal others (that's a joke only real Babylon 5 geeks will get). Be that as it may, on the one side, you have a diagnosis based on a prescientific concept of how the body works in an ancient Eastern medical system resembling ancient European humoral theory treated with an herbal remedy called Si-Jun-Zi-Tang (SJZT) based on that same prescientific understanding. On the other side you have a different diagnosis based on a prescientific concept of how the body works in an ancient Eastern medical system resembling ancient European humoral theory treated with another herbal remedy called Si-Wu-Tang (SWT) based on that same prescientific understanding. Each is then run through TCMID Cytoscape to find what is described as an herb-ingredient gene network. The two are compared using ClueGO KEGG analysis of predicted targets of SWT and SJZT. It's not important that you understand what that is other than that it's a computer analysis. You then get fancy network analysis charts like this, in which red nodes represent terms of SWT; green nodes represent terms (pathways) of SJZT; grey nodes represent common terms of the two formulae (again, click to embiggen):

    A systems biology map of woo masquerading as pharmacognosy.

    A systems biology map of woo masquerading as pharmacognosy.

    It's not important that you know exactly what this chart means. All it shows is basically how the two herbs affect different signaling pathways. Basically, this is nothing but pharmacognosy (natural products pharmacology) using very "dirty" natural products (raw herbs with active compounds not isolated or otherwise purified). The authors then use this to try to convince you that the pharmacognosy investigations performed in this paper somehow validate the prescientific mystical beliefs of TCM, but only after first trying to convince you that TCM foresaw how modern medicine would work:

    Combination therapy is the major feature of TCM, which is increasingly recognized by modern western medicine, such as cocktail therapy for HIV27 and the opinion shifting from targeting a single disease-causing molecule to the pursuit of combination therapies that comprise more than one active ingredient28. According to the symptoms of patients, different kinds of Chinese medicines are combined to form formulae to improve clinical efficacy1. such as SWT and SJZT have been used to rectify blood deficiency and Qi deficiency respectively for about 1,000 years.

    This is, of course, utter nonsense. First, it invokes the false dichotomy of "Eastern" versus "Western" medicine. There is no such thing. There is scientific medicine, which knows no "East" or "West." There is also quackery, which, unfortunately, also knows no "East" or "West." (After all, homeopathy is "Western" medicine, having been invented, as it was, in Germany by Samuel Hahnemann over 200 years ago.) That's just a pet peeve of mine, though. Scientific medicine has always used combination therapy, whether antibiotics to try to eliminate an infection before resistance evolves, the many, many multidrug combinations used in the chemotherapy of cancer, or even something as mundane as treating hypertension with more than one drug. There is nothing unusual or new about this. While it is true that scientific medicine did at one time tend to look for single genes that could be targeted, my perception is that the reason that changed was not so much a revelation that those ancient Chinese were right after all but rather as a result of the increasingly sophisticated technology that permits the study of gene networks and changes in the expression of every gene in the genome simultaneously instead of the levels of individual genes. TCM advocates would have you believe that TCM was there first, looking at individuals in a "holistic fashion," but that's just nonsense. TCM came by its beliefs because humans didn't know any better and didn't have the tools at the time to know better.

    I used to call the co-opting of modern genomic techniques as "woo-omics," to go along with genomics, metabolomics, and all the other "omics" in modern medical science, and TCM is not alone in this. This study is a perfect example of woo-omics or woo systems analysis. It's perfectly fine as pharmacognosy, although most scientists in drug development would not be too thrilled with the use of crude extracts, but it is no evidence that the precepts of TCM have anything to do with reality. None of this stops the authors from arguing just that:

    Blood deficiency normally manifests anaemia, vertigo, heart palpitations and menstrual discomfort. The SWT formula has effects on stimulating hematopoiesis in bone marrow, anti-coagulant, vasodilatation and sedative, so it can be used to treat anemia, bone formation dysmenorrhea and other estrogen-related diseases. Qi deficiency normally manifests lack of strength, body function decline and decreased disease resistance, and so on. The SZJT formula has effects on regulating granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor secretion, enhancing phagocytosis of macrophages, recovering cAMP signal pathway and recovery of intestinal microflora. However, the mechanisms of the pharmacological action of SWT and SJZT have not yet been clarified.


    In conclusion, SWT with the functions of influencing amino acid and carbohydrate metabolism is significant different from SJZT with the actions of influencing neuroendocrine system by affecting excitatory synapses (serotonergic synapse) to regulate thyroid hormone, ovarian steroidogenesis, prolactin and oxytocin secrction and can regulate corrective hormones secretion and promoting vascular smooth muscle contraction. The common effects of SWT and SJZT are regulating the functional activities of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal and gonadal axis by affect inhibitory synapses (GABAergic synapse) to stimulate estrogen and steroid hormones secretion and strengthening the ability of anti-infection. All the differences and common pathways also reflect the characteristics of blood deficiency and Qi deficiency, and the molecular mechanism of blood and Qi of TCM.

    Molecular mechanism. You keep using that term. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Seriously, their argument boils down to being able to vaguely relate some of the molecular pathways apparently affected by SWT and SJZT to the TCM diagnoses of qi deficiency and blood deficiency and using that vague relation to claim that the precepts of TCM are valid and that this study has provided evidence in support of those precepts. This is a feature, not a bug, of studies like this, and this is not the first such study. Not by a long shot.

    Hmmm. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe this is tooth fairy science, after all. Strike that. There’s no “maybe” about it.

    ScienceBlogs Channel : Physical Science

    ScienceBlogs Channel : Physical Science

    No, the LHC hasn’t shown that we live in a multiverse (Synopsis) [Starts With A Bang]

    Posted: 25 Oct 2016 07:02 AM PDT

    “Which is more likely? That the universe was designed just for us, or that we see the universe as having been designed just for us?” -Michael Shermer

    One of the problems with the Standard Model of particle physics is known as the hierarchy problem. If you were to calculate the masses of the fundamental particles from first principles, you'd get something on the order of the only natural mass scale that nature provides: the Planck mass, at 10^19 GeV or so. With a lower mass value, the Higgs can account for the smallness of the other masses, but at just 125 GeV, there needs to be some explanation for the Higgs.

    The Standard Model particles and their supersymmetric counterparts. Exactly 50% of these particles have been discovered, and 50% have never showed a trace that they exist. Image credit: Claire David, of

    The Standard Model particles and their supersymmetric counterparts. Exactly 50% of these particles have been discovered, and 50% have never showed a trace that they exist. Image credit: Claire David, of

    Physicists were expecting to find some clues to this at the LHC. Perhaps it would have been supersymmetry, whose particle/superparticle symmetry would have protected the Higgs mass down to a low energy scale. Perhaps it could've been extra dimensions, technicolor, or any type of new physics. But the LHC found nothing else at all; nothing beyond the Standard Model. What, then does that mean?

    The particle tracks emanating from a high energy collision at the LHC in 2014. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Pcharito, under a c.c.a.-by-s.a.-3.0 license.

    The particle tracks emanating from a high energy collision at the LHC in 2014. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Pcharito, under a c.c.a.-by-s.a.-3.0 license.

    Does it mean that "naturalness" isn't as natural as we think? That there's something undiscovered just beyond our reach? Or that we need to appeal to the multiverse to avoid catastrophe? Sabine Hossenfelder has a careful consideration of what the answer might be… and isn't!