Perhaps one of the most important inventions of the 20th Century was the development of effective contraception technology especially the birth control pill. The hormone-free male version of this pill currently under research could make women much healthier with minimal impact on male health and long term fertility. Let us hope that this drug proves safe and effective.



It is amazing how much crime and human destruction occurs owing to the illegality of certain substances. This article from the BBC shows that now poisoning, fraud, and abuse of animals can be added to the normal crimes of trafficking, possession, and sale of a controlled substance. Moreover, consumers of the recreational "champagne" drug, cocaine, are now ingesting carcinogenic additives. Traditionally, cocaine was cut with caffeine. Now it seems dealers whose objective is to maximise profits and whose product is unregulated and untestable because of illegality are moving on to more pernicious cutting agents, ie Phenacetin.

While I would be someday interested in trying traditional coca tea or chewing coca leaves especially in the mountains, ingesting processed cocaine whose dosage is about 1000 times higher is very unhealthy causing cardiovascular and brain damage. Processed cocaine is also extremely addictive. The hydrochloric acid in processed cocaine destroys nasal passageways, mucous membranes, and sinuses.

Despite such drawbacks, adults who are educated about the risks of cocaine should have the right to buy it from licenced distributors and consume it at their discretion. At the very least, laws worldwide should be made to reflect the policies of Bolivian president and former coca farmer Evo Morales: Yes to coca, no to cocaine. As with most illegal drugs, legalisation of cocaine would dramatically reduce crime by lowering the price, legitimising the producers and distributors, and lowering the associated health risks by ensuring a clean supply. Cheap processed cocaine would likely reduce the demand for cheaper more destructive forms of the the drug including crack and freebase.

The ongoing war by the US in Columbia against FARC which includes the use of chemical weapons against farmers and their crops is simply immoral.

In the wake of Milton Friedman's passing, let us remember that human freedom to control one's own life, beliefs, and economic behaviour also includes the freedom to alter ones own body chemistry or mental processes. With freedom comes responsibility. Irresponsible self-destructive personal behaviour affecting only the user and those emotionally affected by the user is no grounds for a general government interdiction on drugs.


DARPA Challenge

DARPA, the defense research agency responsible for the creation of the Internet, presented the Grand Challenge the last two years where a vehicle had to negotiate 132 miles of rugged terrain in under 10 hours. After no entrants finished the first year, several automated vehicles finished the second year giving great promise for the future of cheap, efficient and safe autonomous vehicle transit. It is impressive how such low budget competitions can through hype and prestige induce enormous advances in technological development. I highly recommend watching this inspiring Horizon documentary on the races.


Milton Friedman

Every economist whose blog I read had something to say about the passing of the legendary economist, Milton Friedman. Since I can add nothing substantive to this discussion, I am providing links to download his PBS television series 'Free to Choose' as well as his appearance on Charlie Rose.


Web 2.0

I actually hate this term coined by software publishing mogul, Tim O'Reiley, but I like the concept. Cyberpanopticon provides a link to a useful compendium of popular Web 2.0 sites.

Secondly, one of the sites listed was for the Google Web Toolkit. With this toolkit, coding Web 2.0 AJAX sites is much easier through Java wrappers. I only just discovered this, but I plan to spend significant time making use of it.


Traffic and Externalities

In addition to carbon emissions, one must not also forget about the negative externality of traffic congestion and increased accident liklihood with regard to automobiles. The issue is explained in this great post from Economist's View, one of the many blogs I read as noted in my 'Suggested RSS and Podcasts.'


Energy Transfer Using Electromagnetic Resonance

This technology could be very effective at further improving our lives by freeing us of wires over moderate distances.


Refunds for Windows

It seems it is possible to bypass pernicious OEM agreements and receive a refund for preinstalled Windows software on Dell or similar systems. This could give you significant savings on your next purchase of a computer.


Healthcare and Human Rights in Prisons

The Fyodor Dostoevsky quote from this post is again pertinent. The ruling in this case to compensate prisoners who were not given proper access to treatment for opiate addiction while in prison was a sensible decision by the court (relative to the unspecified amount of compensation).

One could argue that the provision of extremely expensive noncritical care , such as brain surgery, is above and beyond the financial responsibility of a state which does not already provide universal care. However, where socialised medicine exists, such as the UK, all prisoners deserve the same level of medical care as everyone else including drug treatment programmes. To deny medicine or access to care to a prisoner is a violation of human rights and compensation is due in such cases.



Knowing many people with life-threatening Type 1 juvenile diabetes, I hail the development of artificial pancreas technology.


Google Radio?

As I woke up this morning out of a dream in which I was living in the 1940's listening to World War II broadcasts, I suddenly realised how absurd it was that that radio stations archives were not readily accessible to everyone on the Internet. Audio does not take up tremendous storage capacity, so radio broadcasts should be accessible back to the origins of radio, and playable today contiguous with the other programmes of the day just as it would have been heard at the time of original broadcast. This could be done easily with RSS or Podcasting. I call on the major information indexing services Google, Yahoo, and the dying Microsoft to implement this technology as soon as possible for their own benefit and the enrichment of all humanity. Furthermore, the audio data must be downloadable in compressed audio format such as mp3, not some absurd streaming format.

Let's get with the programme.



You can watch the film version of Orwell's 1984 streamed in low quality or download the book here. If you have never seen the film or read the book, you should do both.


Vita Vinum Est

Yesterdays post about caloric restriction relates to today's post on the health benefits of vino rosso. Resveratol, a chemical in red wine affects one of the key ageing genes, SIRT1, to slow the process of ageing and extend lifespan in mammals. Besides being healthy, red wine is also very pleasant to drink bringing physical, mental and social well-being.