Issues around familial DNA testing issues

DNA tests have taken on a new and interesting turn, with some investigations beginning to look for near matches in the police databases for DNA in the event that a direct match can’t be found.
 
We do have to be on the lookout for potentially inappropriate uses of DNA technology.  It can potentially be used for prejudicial reasons and it would be impossible to predict all of the creative ways in which the government and big corporations will try to abuse it.  But that is a digression as they will try to abuse those technologies anyways.
 
The issue is, is it fair to use DNA, generally collected for a different purpose, in this way.  The offender whose DNA is a partial match will have been cited for other crimes, but not the one in question, while the persons gotten at will not be in the database at all, or they would be a primary hit.
 
DNA must always be looked at with caution as zealous prosecutors can make meaningless evidence look damning.  Take for instance the DNA of that American student that was found guilty of murder in Italy, on the basis that her DNA was on a standard kitchen knife that may or may not have been a murder weapon, in the home.  Odds are that all of us have DNA on most or all of our knives at home and it doesn’t mean anything.
 
On the other hand DNA is a hell of a lot more reliable than eyewitness testimony and other forms of evidence that lead to wrongful convictions. 
 
If police don’t have something like DNA to match they may fish about for some other way to tie a person to a crime and the lack of full resources may lead to wrongful convictions.   Unidentified DNA at a scene in many cases may be a mystery, possibly with innocent explanation available.  Lots of people will pass through a future crime scene and leave hairs, saliva on glasses or other samples and it would be odd if those weren’t around.    Except with fluids in the wrong places and the like it may be hard to know what samples are clues and what samples are just white noise.
 
On the other hand if a sample connects somebody with a dubious past that might not be in the registry with a crime scene that they have never had a lawful reason to be at, it could completely change the optics of a case.
 
It could keep innocent men free and potentially take predators, or at least criminals, off the streets.
 
One must be cautious in interpreting the results as for instance there may be unknown family histories that could change the complexion of a DNA partial match.  Lets say there is a hit and it shows with high probability that it is the brother of somebody whose DNA is in the system.  The person might only be known to have one brother.  But there may be another that is unknown.   In the broken down social settings more likely to result in damaged and criminal people there is also a greater probability that there have been other forms of social irresponsibility.  
 
But I don’t see peeking at DNA as the same as the police peering in people’s windows.  If the computer spits a match out it presumably isn’t doing so on the basis of any traditional ground of discrimination or profiling.   It isn’t making the decision on the basis of skin color, religion, political affiliation- it’s just data. 
 
The libertarian arguments against screening DNA for partial matches in order to indirectly look for family members seem a little academic and I’m not certain what the evil is that we have to guard against.   Just because a venture involves big government and large databases doesn’t make it inherently evil.
 
It may also have a preventative effect.  If you knew that family DNA was in a police databank and could be scanned for, leading to you, would you be more or less likely to commit a serious crime? 
 
I also think that having police walk drug sniffing dogs down streets to pick up places to search would be a good idea.  It would likely mean more of the right doors getting kicked down and a lot more efficiency in police work.    That a tactic is effective does not in itself make it an infringement of civil liberties. 

Need for new earthquake measuring system

People were saying that the Chile quake lasted up to three minutes long. 
 
Traditional quake measuring methods cite the total energy spent in a quake rather than the peak intensity.
 
If the energy were evenly dissipated over three minutes the energy would be really diffused.  In theory a 7.0 quake could have a higher peak intensity than a 8.0 quake and do more damage.  A long, drawn out quake might do little damage at all.  Some glaciers shifting with the tides in Antarctica have rumblings collectively releasing the energy of a 7.0 quake with every tide change and not much comes of it. 
 
Generally speaking the more energy is released in a short time period the more damage is done.  That’s why if you fall and take the impact on a straight arm you are more likely to break your wrist. 
 
That’s probably also why an earthquake spread over time may produce smaller than expected Tsunami waves.  I would expect the most intense waves to be generated with the most intense release.  Those waves are released and start under the ocean surface moving around 500 miles per hour.  They don’t sit around waiting for energy to collect for three minutes.   When the wave goes, it is whatever energy is being released just then. 
 
 

Canada v. US rematch for Olympic final

After a devastating attack against Russia, Canada really slowed down for the Slovakia game.  That can be dangerous as shown by Slovakia almost taking away the game in the last five minutes. 
 
Sometimes there is whining in sports about people "running up the score", like with the Vikings against the Cowboys.   Playing your sport properly is not bad sportsmanship.    The Edmonton Oilers before their championship runs gave up a 5-0 third period lead in a playoff game to the much lower rated Los Angeles Kings once, ultimately losing the game 6-5 in overtime and later the series.   Jim Kelly I think it was once brought the Buffalo Bills back from down 28 points to win a playoff game.   Or it might have been his backup. 
 
In any case the gold standard for when you are running up the score is if you are up 6 goals or more in hockey and more than 28 points in football late in the game. 
 
Canada cannot play the way they did against Slovakia and beat the US team.  They have to come at them hard like they did with Russia.
 
I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen that the team that wins, stats, players and everything else aside, is the team that is skating harder and faster. 
 
You also have to look at what kind of team you have.  Training doesn’t turn players into different kinds of animals.  You can bring out their best, you can get them to backcheck if they are offensive minded, but you can’t change their basic setup. 
 
If you passively defend in any game you will face wave after wave after attacks while giving the opponent lots of time to set up the attack.  The best defence is an aggressive forecheck. 
 
And be mindful when you get a team of aggressive players you have to bring out their best, not somebody else’s best.  Trying to get them to play the neutral zone trap probably won’t be that effective.
 
I have similar issues with my chess play.   My results with the Danish Gambit and King’s Gambit are really good.   If I try to win with some positional game I often wind up throwing it away with some boneheaded tactical error.  About half of my tournament losses are from some simple oversight.   If I go aggressively the opponent has to foresee everything whereas I only need to spot one winning line when he makes the error.   I do far better against people than computers.  People fold under pressure. 
 
Canada was folding under pressure against Slovakia.  If Canada adopts the same strategy against the US, Canada will lose by multiple goals and it will be embarassing.   The Finns are better at defence and the Americans smoked them. 
 
You can overthink these things.  You play your hardest, you play your best and if you still lose so be it.  You don’t want to lose and be left questioning whether you would have won if you played to your strengths.

Team Canada- is not bad good enough?

The two gold medal favorites are going to be playing in the quarterfinal of Olympic hockey.  That’s vile.  One of them won’t get a medal.
 
When I looked at the Canadian roster I had this terrible sinking feeling.   In the hayday of Canadian hockey with Lemieux, Gretzky, Messier etc. there were probably five guys that were better than any of the forwards now on the team. 
 
What do you want on an Olympic team? Big game guys like Drury on the Americans.  People questioned whether Drury should be on that team.  Those people don’t understand sports, let alone hockey.   When you want a big game guy you look at how he did in big games, nothing else.  Don’t even look at regular season stats, they’ll mess with your head. 
 
Sometimes those are tough political decisions when everybody wants you to go with marquee players even if they can’t close the deal in a playoff atmosphere.
 
When I saw Joe Thorton and Marleau on the roster I had a hairball.  The keys to the San Jose powerhouse team that gets punted out of the playoffs  early every year.  If the Olympic committee could be convinced to have a 40 game tournament they would be really useful.
 
I can’t figure out not having Dan Cleary there after he blew away the field in +/- rating in the last playoffs. 
 
Maybe he isn’t having the greatest year in the regular season and that’s why he isn’t in.  I wouldn’t make the decision on that basis.  When you get into the playoffs or the even more precarious Olympics with one-and-done scenarios the regular season schedule is just toilet paper.
 
Crosby belongs there but he’s a bit green.  He’s no Gretzky yet.  He made a beginner mistake tipping the puck into his own net.  At one point he was -3.   If he want’s top billing he has to figure out what Gretzky never quite got, that the ice has two ends.  You can’t always depend on outscoring the opponent and leaving the defencemen and goalie to fend for themselves.
 
The roster seems heavy with ponderous power forwards and the team did look a bit slow until the last five minutes or so, even when behind.  Power forwards are great for standing in front of the net, getting deflections etc.   But you need some other players with a range of abilities. 
 
Some players without great stats can pump up the energy of others.  Look at guys like Draper and Maltby on the Red Wings. 
 
I have to say at this point that I like the Swedes for the gold.  The Russians have probably the second best roster but there’s a little something missing which is why they lost to Slovakia. 
 
Trying to pick whether Canada or the USA team is third best is tough.  The US has more of the spunky, fiesty characters that get wound up for this kind of game.  On the other hand they did get outshot by a 2-1 ratio.  I didn’t see the full game so I don’t know how much that means- some teams win by keeping the other on the perimeter and allow a higher number of lower quality shots while making sure the goalie can see it coming.
 
Due to the way things shook out from the preliminary round, after the qualifier the most likely route to gold is by beating all three of the other main contenders one after the other.  If they beat Russia, next they probably play the US.  If they beat the US, they probably play Sweden.  They have to run the table now.
 
The main thing missing? Energy and desperation.  When you are in the playoffs or the Olympics in hockey or any sport you have to be moving with speed and urgency like your wife just went into labor.  A lot of the regular season stars, you do that, they don’t know what to do, what they used to do doesn’t work anymore and a lot of times they can’t adjust.  You go through them like a hot knife through butter. 
 
One of the most valuable roles that isn’t given enough credit is the "energizer bunny" role.  Have zippy players with no +/- problems go out and run the opposition ragged.  Even if they don’t score it can change the momentum in a big way and get the opposition flustered, and your own team pumped up. 
 
All of the pre-Olympic propaganda may have done the Canadian team a disservice with the expectation that they will mop the floor with everybody.  There’s no fear and no juice.  They don’t look sharp.   If they don’t beat the Russians they won’t get a medal.  If the Russians don’t beat them, the Russians won’t win a medal and they are going to come out hot. 
 
The Russians have had their own problems, like with Slovakia.  They haven’t been up to the pre-Olympic hype either.
 
The Swedes only had two goals against in three games and have thebest big game roster.  I have no idea at all what people were thinking making the Russians and Canadians the favorites.  The Swedes are probably the only team that is a lock for a medal. 
 
 

Introducing the Toyota Prion

I think that Toyota should name it’s next line after the biggest fraudulent negative marketing campaign ever, the Prion.
 
Remember mad cow? We’re still waiting for the scientific evidence that there is any threat to humans.  95% of the population in the west eats cow.  A small number of people get a disease that looks a bit like a disease that a small number of cows get.  The mechanism isn’t any better understood than Alzheimer’s.  For all we know it could be a similar gene deficiency.  For all we know it can be transmitted by a virus that is present in and has no effect on most cows. 
 
And then there was the shutting of borders based on single cases of mad cow cropping up.  Mad cow was always about economic warfare, not public safety. 
 
Or how about the Toyota Ephedra?  Remember the public lynching of a natural health product, the best decongestant, over complete BS?  The politicians even got involved in that one.  The beloved drug companies that donate so much to their campaigns wanted their more dangerous, less effective drugs to take over the market.  The connected deaths, including one of a ball player, were minimal and probably all or mostly related to abuse rather than regular use.
 
Then there is Toyota, the latest victim of this kind of tactic.   Toyota gets forced into global recalls over a small number of incidents. 
 
I can tell you right now that more people die every year from the carcinigens in Toyota’s new car smell than die from the supposed defects. 
 
The nature of the defects is still in issue.  Unless you are an idiot, you don’t let your floor mat get bunched up under your accelerator.  People testing for problems have been unable to reproduce the problems alleged in a lab.   Many of the problems alleged are from years ago, the vehicles in question presumably trashed and unavailable for study.  I’m not seeing bunches of coroner’s reports in which Toyota is blamed based on scientific evidence.
 
There is a phenomenon where every now and again somebody hits the accelerator rather than the brake.  If they aren’t smart enough to realize what they’ve done they may press harder in panic. 
 
There may be problems relating to how a car degenerates that give rise to some problems.  Until that is reproduced and a mechanism found it is hard to see what a recall will do.  In any event the numbers of people alleged to be potentially affected in the past are trivial, with it being played up by media. 
 
I’m not a big fan of Toyota.    I found their ingenious "No haggle pricing" campaign to be distasteful.  I can imagine the instructions that the advertising wing got- "I need a campaign that takes our policy that we charge a premium price and we don’t negotiate and turns it around and sounds like we’re doing the public a favor".  Goebbels would be proud.
 
We do have to beware of such campaigns.   The object is obviously economic rather than public safety, but this type of campaign can be turned to any evil purpose.  Viral campaigns aren’t limited to YouTube.   When some interests are involved, politicians and safety boards get involved. 
 
This type of campaign has enormous potential for crossover.  You wouldn’t expect that cow farmers and car manufacturers would suffer from the same problem.
 
If we allow the public to become indoctorinated into accepting such campaigns at face value the potential for abuse is enormous.  It will be used for evil purposes that go beyond economic warfare such as spreading religious hatred.    The public needs to be innoculated against this tactic of taking a few cases and magnifying it so that one problem cow, car, jew or arab is considered the same as a million. 
 
If you are a Toyota manager you ought to be wishing that you’d taken a stand against mad cow.   This type of problem in public decision making becomes everybody’s problem.
 
I would add that it could backfire as now consumers will look more at the safety of all cars, and instead of looking at mind-numbing things like crash statistics for millions of vehicles they’ll look for stories about how somebody’s granny in North Dakota once drove a Ford Pinto into a pond in 1983 and thought that there was something wrong with it.    The intended beneficiaries of this economic warfare might find that it doesn’t have the intended effect in the long run.  If it reduces the total number of new cars sold, it may hurt the economy generally.

The odd spectacle of the Mossad (?) hit

A notorious admited terrorist was apparently executed by a highly professional team that everybody is assuming to have been assembled by Mossad, in Dubai.
 
The first question that comes to mind is, why didn’t Dubai chop off his head, because that is what they are supposed to do to murderers in Islam. 
 
There has been no outcry about his being able to move freely in Dubai, a territory that the west has been treating in recent years as friendly. 
 
There isn’t any issue about them having got the wrong guy. 
 
If it were Bin Laden instead of some lesser known person would there be this outcry?
 
We’ve heard more about this from Dubai than any condemnation of terrorist attacks on civilians from their quarter.
 
The apparent use of identities of parties that weren’t involved is obviously wrong and given that civilian isrealis were implicated one has to question whether Mossad would make an obvious blunder like that.
 
Compare the situation though to that in Guantanamo.   People, some of them just boys, are held on the most tenuous bases.   That has outraged anybody with democratic ideals, excluding our illustrious western leaders and other politicians.  From the elites the Dubai incident seems to have provoked more outrage.
 
Nobody is saying that they got the wrong guy or that the target was innocent. 
 
What we ought to be thinking about is what message it sends when terrorists can freely walk the streets of Dubai.  Maybe they aren’t so friendly after all.  I don’t hear anybody questioning how he got in without being detained. 

Follow up to previous

A side note on the issue of fossil fuels- one thing that I haven’t heard about a lot is the process by which they are supposedly made.
 
Heat is thought to be more important than pressure with that. The process is called catagenesis and is still largely theoretical.
 
Materials that are thought to be intermediate between fossil fuels and the source materials have been found.
 
The study of these issues could help find a way to produce cleaner replacements quite apart from the benefit in producing purer forms of the fuels.