I Wanted to Believe in Theranos.

My big scientific blunder…
 
I wanted to believe something good about Theranos., the company that raised a few hundred million dollars from premiere investors of silicon valley.

I wanted to believe that humanity had found its next great Landsteiner. It turns out that my perception of the problem in blood diagnostics was completely wrong.

Turns out, I should have trusted my skillset and skepticism. I’ll be adding more oddities/facts/challenging assumptions here in this list over the next few weeks. 

 
Problems with Theranos:(Running List) 
 
  1. Nothing Novel in Microfluidics: Their patents are all re-writes of juvenile microfluidics technologies that are about 30 years old. Nothing new to see here.
  2. Lots of fog in a nanotainer of blood. Interstitial fluid which obfuscates blood testing is impossible to avoid. We’re talking an extreme signal to noise ratio at a small volume.
  3. PCR Realities. Polymerase Chain Reaction(PCR) is really tough to do on small blood volumes. If we were in subsaharan Africa, you might run it on less than 20 uL of blood which is an order of magnitude more than you’d collect with Theranos’s methodology.
  4. Incidentalomas are scary. Why in god’s name would you want to run 200+ blood tests. That’s actually pure lunacy. Incidentaloma is a scary thing and occurs easily.
  5. Finger Pricks versus Needles. Finger pricks often hurt more.

N & P

N

Nitrogen sourcing is a sufficiently tough problem.

This blog post by Ron Shigeta is one of the most well written macro posts on the topic that I’ve read.  

Here’s why:

  • Nitrogen is important for farming.
  • The Haber Bosch process unlocked our ability to source Nitrogen. 
  • Before the Haber Bosch, Nitrogen production and sourcing was much more difficult.
  • In other words, we can think about Nitrogen as one of the limiting mission critical ingredients to civilization.
  • The Haber Bosch process was instrumental in increasing planet population. 
  • As we produce nitrogen rich fertilizer to pour into agriculture, it runs off into the ocean and kills our other food supply, fish.
  • Nitrogen rich fertilizer impeding our fish supply is a bad thing.

 

P

This video does a great job of explaining everything about Phosphorus and why it’s relevant to our population size.

 

The Things I Believe That Very Few People Believe

I encourage everyone to write a blog post about their unconventional or non-common beliefs. If you do, feel free to share it with me: @datarade.

  1. Intellectual Property is counterproductive to the advancement of humanity and we should abolish it. The golden ticket is for great markets to reward prolific monopolists, not oligarchal non-creators. The riches should belong to the creators.
  2. Energy Realities: I don’t think Solar will save the planet.

    Fusion won’t change the world.

    Fusion’s fuel costs are 2000x to 3000x more expensive per a gram than uranium powered fission.

    Nuclear Fission can buy us quite a bit of time to innovate and/or reduce bad consumptive behavior, but we’re stuck in limbo with most of the population being scientifically incompetent and politically against it. Damn Merkel’s Germany.

    We will rely on coal, oil, and natural gas well into the next 30 years. Liquid hydrocarbons are key to our foreseeable future. Hopefully, Nuclear too.

    It’s unclear how the progress of Galvanic Battery Chemistry will keep up with our dreams of solar. You see with solar, the sun doesn’t always shine, and the majority of electricity consumption happens outside the 8 hours of sunshine.

    Battery storage’s progress, as with all technology, happens on S-Curves, and is not infinitely exponential.

    There’s a couple of exciting outs. But most of them require a black swan event.

  3. Pharmaceuticals : We should ban the Kefauver Harris Amendment Efficacy clause in favor of a more prolific pharmaceutical industry. Demanding safety of drugs is necessary. Demanding efficacy is onerous and counterproductive to the helpful nature of drugs.
  4. Nootropics are overhyped baloney.
  5. The Biggest Problems of the Century:  The things we should really be worried about in this century relate to Nitrogen and Phosphorus. We are slaves to Nitrogen.  Our topsoil is disappearing and along with it, a lot of requisite phosphorus.  Phosphorus is the disappearing nutrient. 
  6. Hyperloop: The hyperloop is bad econometrics and great research. It’s not market viable. Placing pylons with the level of necessary precision/accuracy directly on earthquake frequent earth at the low percieved price would basically make the civil engineers behind it….well it would make them gods.
  7. Innovating out of Consumption: The True macro problems of the planet cannot be solved by innovating to allow everyone to consume seemingly limitlessly. At best, we can probably have a base level of consumption that makes sense to advance all of humanity to, but at the core to win the war, we must train humans to fundamentally consume less, not encourage them to consume more.
  8. Growth:   Limitless exponential growth doesn’t happen in the physical world.