Laban who? 28/8

laban5

Advertisements

Annika Dahlqvist – Enemy of logic and science?

Annika Dahlqvist, the doctor behind the LCHF diet (translation from Swedish Wikipedia), once again makes the front page of a Swedish tabloid (article in Swedish). This time, she has decided to battle the vaccination program for the Swine flu. However, the method she pleads for is so unbelievably stupid that one becomes scared.

In the Aftonbladet article, and repeated at her blog, Dahlqvist calls for cancellation of the vaccination program. The reasoning of this can be divided into three arguments:

  1. We know nothing about the side effects of the vaccine.
  2. It is a waste of money.
  3. If you eat according to the LCHF (Low carbohydrates, High fat) diet, your immune defense is so superior that the flu will be no problem.

Side effects?
The first statement is, at least partially, true. We do know very little about the side effects of a new vaccine. However, most often there are no to very small side effects of a vaccine. The rare reported serious side effects connected to earlier vaccines, such as paralysis, have been found to be caused by contaminated vaccine material. Since this happened, vaccine production methods have been greatly improved, and thus such cases no longer occurs.

Serious side effects aside, vaccines can have other side effects, just like all other medicines. Normal side effects are tiredness, stomach illness, dizziness etc. However, such conditions are much less serious than the flu itself, so they are not reason enough to turn down the vaccine. Like any other vaccine, the effectiveness of it will not be 100%. However, vaccines have proven to be a great way to deal with a variety of diseases which are now extinct, on the edge of extinction, or at least under control. Vaccines have proven to be much more effective than antibiotics in battling various diseases,as antibiotics many times causes bacterial resistance. Thus, it seems very arrogant to deny the effectiveness of vaccines against the swine flu.

Waste of money?
Given that you accept Annika Dahlqvist’s argument about diseases in general, it is of course a waste of money. Just like the vaccination programs against Poliomyelitis and Measles would be a waste of money, as they could have been cured by eating the right stuff. Personally, I am really happy to have these diseases out of the way. But if Dahlqvist really believes that we should not battle virus-related diseases, but rather try to live side-by-side with them, that’s up to her. Government paid vaccination programs can always be regarded a waste of money. That is more a matter of political views, not a rational argument against a vaccine.

Diet against flu?!
And now for the most ridiculous part of Dahlqvist argument. I mentioned in the previous paragraph how she thinks that eating “correctly” will give you a fantastic immune defense, capable of protecting from almost anything. This is so unbelievably stupid it seems like a joke. Sadly, it is not. She says exactly this in the article (my translation): “If you eat well, vitamin D and omega-3 you should have such a good infection defense you do not need to vaccinate yourself. We know that we get a much better infection defense by eating LCHF, low carb – high fat. We more seldom catch a cold and think we have a better defense in general. Many agree with me and others feel it is irresponsible to say something like this.”

The only rational part of this is the last sentence. Yes, it is irresponsible to say something like this. And a such statement makes it clear that you did not take the classes on virology during your education. And no scientist would believe this piece of crap. The sad part about it is that most people are not scientists or doctors, and have no way of knowing if she is right or not.

Let me explain something for you Annika: vitamin D and omega-3 does not protect you from viruses. Actually, no specific diet would. What protects you from viruses is hygiene, staying away from infected people (or rather, staying away from other people while you are infected and the first few days after the infection), and vaccines. This might sound unbelievable to you, but is common knowledge for anyone who has taken a course in microbiology or virology. When you say that you think that you have a better infection defense in general, that is exactly what you do. You think so. In reality, the only thing about LCHF that would give you a better immune defense system is placebo. Placebo is great, but advising people to rely on it is not only irresponsible – it is plain gambling with people’s lives without their knowledge. Any doctor would be cautious about such games, anyone except you. Shame on you, Annika Dahlqvist.

The hidden agenda
This leaves us with the following question; why does Dahlqvist want to gamble with people’s lives? This could be explained simply with stupidity, but as she as been proven to present a diet that apparently works (at least for many people) for weight loss, it is hard to put it off that easily. Instead, it seems that Dahlqvist wants to use the fear of the swine flu to agitate for a diet that was designed for diabetic patients. From being a decent doctor just a few years ago, Dahlqvist is now the leader of a group that looks increasingly like a sect. And this position makes her dangerous. She now has so many followers that would blindly do whatever she tells them. Like skipping the vaccination program to eat LCHF food instead. This battles the very core of the vaccination program.

Such battling places Dahlqvist, and the LCHF diet, in the same boat as other groups opposing the vaccination, such as Leonard Horowitz (that argues for silver ions, one of the most dangerous threats against antibiotics as they cause bacterial resistance) and Keith Scott Mumby (who argues that cancer can be cured by changing diet, don’t be surprised if Dahlqvist claims this next), making politics of a diet that should be regarded as… a diet. Both these “alternative doctors” have clear tendencies to defy science and common sense, using fear and unawareness to sell their own agendas.

Dahlqvist has previously shown to be sceptic against science in general, quoting from a recent Newsmill article (my tranlation): “At last, only the professors and the dietitians will remain to eat low fat – high carbohydrate diet. Then, maybe they will give in and admit the benefits of LCHF on health.” Beside attacking every scientist (!) and dietitian, Annika also forgets that science have infect given her diet some support, while it is rather society in general that has remained sceptical. However, it suits her role fighting the traditional sources of knowledge to turn against her previous allies. Probably she count on being accepted as a woman of the people, that got sacked for telling the truth. However, she is not telling the truth – and she was not sacked. She resigned herself.

It is rational to argue that vaccination should not be mandatory, but decisions should be based on facts, not on an agenda to sell cooking books. Yes – she writes cooking books about LCHF. And as she no longer is employed as a doctor, Dahlqvist has to sell books and lectures for her living. Of course she sees the opportunity. Let’s hope most people are clever enough to call the liar’s bluff.

Laban who? 21/8

laban4

Laban who? 14/8

laban3

Where are the Mac viruses?

Quite often I hear the explanation that Macs don’t get infected by viruses, because Apple’s market share is so small, it wouldn’t be worth the time and effort write a proper Mac OS X virus. This implies that once Mac OS X has reached a critical market share level, there will be a sudden outbreak of hundreds of viruses. My simple question is this: how come there has (to my knowledge) been no actual Mac virus affecting Mac OS X while there have been a couple of viruses affecting Linux, despite its even smaller market share? Wikipedia lists the following Linux viruses:

  • Alaeda – Virus.Linux.Alaeda
  • Bad Bunny – Perl.Badbunny
  • Binom – Linux/Binom
  • Bliss
  • Brundle
  • Bukowski
  • Diesel – Virus.Linux.Diesel.962
  • Kagob a – Virus.Linux.Kagob.a
  • Kagob b – Virus.Linux.Kagob.b
  • MetaPHOR (also known as Simile)
  • Nuxbee – Virus.Linux.Nuxbee.1403
  • OSF.8759
  • Podloso – Linux.Podloso (The iPod virus)
  • Rike – Virus.Linux.Rike.1627
  • RST – Virus.Linux.RST.a
  • Satyr – Virus.Linux.Satyr.a
  • Staog
  • Vit – Virus.Linux.Vit.4096
  • Winter – Virus.Linux.Winter.341
  • Winux (also known as Lindose and PEElf)
  • Wit virus
  • ZipWorm – Virus.Linux.ZipWorm

Can someone, please, explain to me in a rational way how this list can be so long, despite Linux being such a terribly small platform? I suppose, as I do not know for certain myself, that most of these viruses are rather harmless, and that most wouldn’t work on modern Linux systems, as they probably explore vulnerabilities that have been patched in revisions of the OS. I also am aware of that there have been proof-of-concept viruses for Mac, that utilize vulnerabilities that later have been fixed. Some of the viruses in the list above may be similar proof-of-concept examples for Linux.

Personally, I think OSX and Linux match up quite well when it comes to virus security, and that this has nothing to do with the size of the platform, but everything to do with the UNIX/UNIX-like foundation underneath. In both cases, the worst threat is the users themselves, who often allow to run malicious code without knowing what they are doing. This is a big threat to any computer platform, regardless of the security measures taken by programmers. As long as the user can install new software, this will be a potential threat (even though sandboxing and securely signing applications can decrease the risk of malware infection).

That being said, Mac OS X is incredibly easy to hack once you have access to the computer. This is a problem, and Apple really should be busy fixing that. But please aim your guns at the right issues. Mac viruses is not a real threat for the moment, just as Linux viruses is not really a big threat to Ubuntu users. That a Mac can be hacked to gain root access in a minute – that is a problem, which have everything to do with OS architecture. However, making the Mac market share smaller will not solve this problem, nor will it get worse as the platform expands. If we’re in luck, though, Apple may acknowledge the problem as its user base grows, and address it before it gets too late.

Microsoft WORD format is not a sequence format

I found this on a bioinformatics info site related to the EMBOSS package. I find the tone of it rather amusing, especially as people usually refers to Word-files simply as “text”:

Sequences

Before reading the rest of this document, please note:
Microsoft WORD format is not a sequence format.

Sequences can be read and written in a variety of formats. These can be very confusing for users, but EMBOSS aims to make life easier by automatically recognising the sequence format on input.

That means that if you are converting from using another sequencing package to EMBOSS and you have your existing sequences in a format that is specific for that package, for example GCG format, you will have no problem reading them in.

If you don’t hold your sequence in a recognised standard format, you will not be able to analyse your sequence easily.

What a sequence format is NOT

When we talk about ‘sequence format’ we are NOT talking about any sort of program-specific format like a word processor format or text formatting language , so we are not talking about things like: ‘NOTEPAD’, ‘WORD’, ‘WORDPAD’, ‘PostScript’, ‘PDF’, ‘RTF’, ‘TeX’, ‘HTML’

If you have somehow managed to type a sequence into a word-processor (!) you should:

  • Save the sequence to a file as ASCII text (try selecting: File, SaveAs, Text)
  • Stop using word-processors to write sequences.
  • Investigate a sequence editor, such as mse
  • Investigate using simple text editors, such as pico, nedit or, at a pinch, wordpad

Now, repeat after me:
Microsoft WORD format is not a sequence format

EMBOSS programs will not read in anything which is held in Microsoft WORD files.

So, remember that Word format is not a sequence format, and be careful with you bioinformatics research! Original text found at: http://emboss.sourceforge.net/docs/themes/SequenceFormats.html

What is a “lacuna”?

I have chosen the title “The lacunae” for this blog. But that brings us to the obvious questions; why, and what is a lacuna?

According to Wikipedia, the term lacuna (plural: lacunae) generally refers to a gap of some kind. I chose to use this term as a name for several reasons:

  1. Parts of older texts often become unreadable. A such unreadable part is called a lacuna. I want this blog to be a collection of thoughts that could fill holes in other peoples reasoning, or missing parts of my own thoughts that I have later come to correct.
  2. As I also intend to write on science, The Lacunae seem to fit perfect, as science is all about filling up the holes in the knowledge of mankind.
  3. I also spend much of my time with music, listening and also writing my own. Thus, lacuna is a good word as it also has a musical meaning. In music, a lacuna is an intentional, extended passage, during which no notes are played. It is not the same as a rest, which only last for a short time, and is not intended to draw attention to itself. The lacuna, is written to draw attention to the silence between two musical passages, and is considered a passage itself.
  4. The word is quite similar of the word laguna (a Hamming distance of one, actually), which is a word I personally like a lot.
  5. The word lacuna also have a juridical meaning, referring to a lack of a law to address a certain situation, though this did not really influence my choice of it…

What I write here is intended to be my thoughts on various issues, hopefully expressing things not everyone else have already thought. Please comment if you think you have anything to add to something I have written. Maybe we can fill each other lacunae up!