Skepchick Quickies 11.4

  • Help a Skepchick reader fund scientific research – Lisa is on the board of IDEAS, a group that works to support research for dup15q syndrome. She says that dup15q, “is the most commonly identified chromosomal disorder found in individuals with autism.” Go vote for her group and you could help win $50,000 for a group that’s dedicated to real science.
  • Jen McCreight’s guest post about atheist women at Ms. magazine – Our beloved boobquake Jen wrote an awesome response to a Ms. blog post that trashed the new atheists as being entirely made up of old white men. Ms. caught wind of it and had Jen do a guest post for them.
  • Chatbot wears down proponents of anti-science nonsense – “Nigel Leck, a software developer by day, was tired of arguing with anti-science crackpots on Twitter. So, like any good programmer, he wrote a script to do it for him.” From Rebel 16.
  • Scientists may have discovered the cure for the common cold – “A new study from the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge has shown a way to kill a virus from within the cell, leaving the virus defeated and the cell victorious and intact. This could be huge–not just a cure for the common cold, but for all kinds of other viruses as well.”


Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. Re: AGW bot.

    That’s *really* interesting. It’s like an interactive FAQ…sounds almost as if you could build one for any field that has a lot of common public misconceptions.

  2. Ok, I like the twitbot that will argue with people… though it somewhat saddens me that many “discussions” can be replaced with a twitbot.

    What happens if an anti-AGW person programs a counter-twitbot? Will they get locked in a recursive spiral of facts?

  3. Scientists may have discovered the cure for the common cold

    Darn. How am I supposed to annoy doctors when I can’t say “you can’t even cure the common cold” anymore?

  4. @Josh K: indeed. A similar bot based on the talkorigins list of creationist claims might be useful too.

    @Mark Hall: might be an interesting experiment. I wonder if that counter-twitbot would spiral towards the same type of end endpoints as the anti-AGW people (i.e. “God designed it that way” or “nothing can convince me”)?

  5. Prediction: In 10 years time the internet will have to be scrapped as all the bandwith is being used by spam, chat-bots arguing with each other, and people downloading naked images of me.

  6. @Mark Hall:
    My guess is that any anti-AGW bot would be more rational than humans are anti-AGW, and therefore it would be convinced by the evidence presented by the rationalbot. It would then switch sides.

  7. If both programs have the right adaptive learning codes, this may be how we finally achieve true artificial sentience.

    I dunno…humans have been trying this for, what? Millions of years now? And we’re still not sentient. So…

  8. Antivirus discovery no cure for the common cold… yet:

    These are potentially significant results, although it would be good to have a better sense of how widespread and significant this phenomenon is. Still, one thing it’s clearly not is the end of viral disease, even assuming we could somehow boost this system. For starters, the whole thing relies on antibodies that recognize a specific virus, which we wouldn’t have unless we’d already been exposed to or vaccinated against the virus. As both the cold and flu viruses demonstrate, viruses evolve fast enough that they’re always moving targets.

    In addition, this only works when an entire virus, antibodies and all, is carried into the cell. Many viruses, including some cold viruses and HIV, have a coat that ends up left at the membrane, along with any antibodies stuck to it. Only a protected inner shell makes its way inside the cell, with no antibodies for TRIM21 to recognize.

    So, we’re still largely stuck where we were previously, with vaccines still being the best way to produce antibodies, and some viruses steadfastly resisting our attempts to develop vaccines. Control over this new system might ultimately help us lessen the impact of an infection once it’s gone on long enough to induce antibodies, but that’s a long way from eliminating the common cold.

  9. It annoys me to no end that in the article about the viral research breakthrough a piece of text in that article “a new study” is a hyperlink to an even worse article in the UK’s Independent as opposed to an abstract or webpage of one of the scientists involved. There should be some informal rule amongst all professional scientists that they only consent to comment to a reporter if that reporter agrees to include at least one obvious link to the ORIGINAL PAPER or abstract in any online versions of the article.

    I can’t comment any further without reading the actual paper, but just shooting in the dark it seems that the medical implications would be more significant in terms of treating chronic viral infections that are hard to eliminate because the virus spends so much time hiding from the immune system inside host cells and in fact very little to do with “a cure for the common cold” as that would be predicated upon having a decent antibody response to an ever mutating diverse ecology of multiple types and strains of viruses.

    It sounds a lot more like (this approach could be used to design an effective) a cure for Herpes to me.

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