Category Archives: technology

SMART TECH FOR THE FUTURE

Mark this day as you read this post: you are now officially informed that there are some products certain gifted people who don’t blog are working on, just so that we have a more complicated future in the next decade or two.
For a truly awesome read, try the New Scientist.

Some of the devices that sound as unreal today as Mamata Banerjee’s sanity are as follows:
1. Superman vision: Radar devices the size of briefcases could pass waves through doors and walls and detect the presence of a living man. Think of counter-terrorism.
2. Invisibility Cloaks: we have all read about them in the Wonder Boy’s chronicles. Soon to be a reality, perhaps.
3. Zap-and-stop: A handheld ultrasound device (a high-focus ultrasound) can deliver a zap of sound waves to seal a bleeding vessel. Think US military and DARPA (and the articles I have written on them before).
4. Crouching Tiger Walks: You remember the award-winning Chinese movie where people walk laterally on walls and fly up and down trees as if gravity was only for the rest of us? That could become real in a way, with artificial nano-hairs that can stick to any surface and resist gravitational weights.
5. Jet-log: A backpack on you, and you fly to office. No more pesky office-hour traffic!
6. Translators: personal devices that translate any foreign language while it is being spoken, like they show in that disastrous flick called “From the Subprime to the Ridiculous”, better known as CC2C.
Read that article!

THE NAUGHTY IPHONE!

(This article was written for the New York Times but David Pogue couldn’t take the competition, so he got the story assassinated. RIP.)

You want to buy the iPhone because you want to look hip? Or because you actually think it is the coolest accessory for anyone wanting to be taken seriously? Or because it is arguably the ultimate mobile device for man or woman?
Sorry to say this, but these reasons are now as passé as bell-bottom pants. You may be amazed at some of the reasons for which people are using and buying the iPhone. Hitting the top of the charts is the wildly popular iFart Mobile (“There’s something in the air” is their line), which, hold your breath, creates fart sounds on your iPhone (for 99 cents). Apparently, you can distract terrorists by suddenly letting your iPhone rip one out behind a jehadi (if you are near one), thereby scaring the shit out of him. Critics are sniffing at the sound quality of this app, and are pointing to rival app Pull My Finger, which has fallen off the popularity charts. In fact, the creator of the iFart has already sold $100,000 of his product already, says Silicon Alley Insider. What next, people ask, an iBelch or an iVomit?

i_love_you1

An audacious new app is ‘I am a Man’. Innocuous though this sounds, this app helps you keep track of your partner’s menstrual cycle and mood. Not only that, you can keep track of the periods of several girlfriends. To top the audacity of this, even if your girl accidentally opens your list, she will find only her name, as the other names are hidden and password-protected!
User reactions have ranged from outrage to good-natured chuckles. Some have even regretted not having this application before, as it has cost them the odd relationship. Clearly, this is an application for a uber-modern society.

What next, we ask? Ideas have already come in: an iFake (one that recreates a noisy female orgasm) seems to be a hot suggestion, in more ways than one! After these, the Flirt Tester (you and your girl put your thumbs on the screen, and the iPhone tells you whether you are in for true love or a one-night stand!) and the Love Letter (it creates a romantic letter for you based on what you choose as your basic template for the occasion) look right down primary school stuff. An application similar to the latter is the imaginatively titled app called ‘I Love You’ which helps you create romantic emails and gives your pathetic love life that much needed edge!

If you and your partner are not having a stable relationship, maybe your communications with each other needs to improve. Designed by a ‘PhD Relationship Expert’ this, ‘Gps Talk’ is an application that shows you ways where you and your partner need to improve to take your relationship into more convivial territory.
In more ways than one, the iPhone is finding a place deep in the personal lives and bedrooms of users. The world of the iPhone is changing, and so are we!

Postscript: As a Mac fan, I am very disappointed with the iPhone: it is way too primitive in non-web, non-media applications like sms, camera, etc. You can’t send a group sms, and if you get a call while writing an sms, your message disappears! Plus many other suck-worthy points.

WEAKLY HUMERUS NEWS 08-02-08

TOP QUOTES OF THE WEEK

Alluding to the surplus that Bush inherited on taking office in 2001: “The president who repeatedly pledged to cut the deficit in half has instead brought it to a record high. President Bush squandered a $236 billion surplus, ran up record deficits and added nearly $4 trillion to the national debt. Mr. President, we will be forever in your debt.” (Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Dem. IL)

I’m going to Green Bay for Brett Favre straight up (Sign held by Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez during game hours before his trade to the Dodgers)

President Bush says that we have economic problems because Wall Street got drunk and has a hangover. What the President fails to mention is that he has been tending bar for nearly eight years. (Jim Barach)

McCain is not backing down. He’s defending the commercial, where he compared Barack Obama to Paris Hilton, as being “all talk and little action.” That’s what he said. Like Paris, Barack Obama is all talk and little action. Really? Has he seen her sex video? There is no talk. It is all action. (Jay Leno)

Well, yesterday Congress officially apologized for slavery. Not a moment too soon, huh? You hate to see these things fester until there’s a lot of animosity. Thank God they nipped it in the bud like that. (Jay Leno)

There’s excitement in the air over the Olympics…also lead, arsenic, benzene. (David Letterman)

Heard about this group called “Prayer at the Pump”? There are prayer groups that are springing up, and they go to gas stations and they hold hands and they pray for lower gas prices. Otherwise known as the Bush energy plan. (Jay Leno)

LA had a 5.4 earthquake which is fine unless you happen to be getting laser eye surgery or a circumcision; and heaven forbid you were getting laser eye surgery and a circumcision at the same time during the quake because you could end up cock-eyed. (Alex Kaseberg)

You know, Barack Obama the last ten days was traveling overseas campaigning in Europe and everywhere. It was so successful, campaigning abroad, that he is actually thinking about campaigning here in the United States. (David Letterman)

In the blockbuster movie “The Dark Knight,” Aaron Eckert plays crusading district attorney Harvey Dent. Tragically a major portion of Harvey Dent’s face and body are badly burnt, leaving him hideous on the left half. While Dent is charismatic and likable in the first part of the film, by the end he really shows his ugly side. (Richard Lederer)

The new Kevin Costner movie “Swing Vote” is about one man’s vote deciding who becomes the U.S. President. It was originally called “The Antonin Scalia Story”. (Jim Barach)

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HEART SCANS: GOOD OR BAD?

The New York Times has carried an excellent article on the rampant use of the CT scan for diagnosing coronary heart disease in patients. It gives a balanced picture of the pros and cons of a healthcare system which thrives on modern and expensive investigations.

The basic argument in favor of scanning your heart would be to detect the plaques (deposits of fat) in the coronary arteries and document any narrowing in the passage of blood supplying the heart muscles, thereby warning the cardiologist and the patient of the need for aggressive treatment like angioplasty or bypass surgery.

On the other hand, each scan costs a lot of money, causes radiation exposure equal to a thousand x-rays (thereby increasing the risk of cancers), and may not be as effective in helping detect the specific case of the cardio-vulnerable patient.

In India, all the premium city hospitals, led by the Apollo group, have procured the 64-slice CT scanners that cost nearly a million dollars. These hospitals aggressively position themselves to patients as leaders in preventive cardiac care, which is just an effective way of marketing the cardiac CT scan.
Additionally, they also position the CT-angio to doctors through CMEs, cocktail-dinner seminars, etc.

The ‘cardiac CT’ has taken center stage along with coronary angioplasty and bypass surgery as major revenue earners for these hospitals. The strategy is to screen patients through executive health checkups and diabetes and hypertension screening camps across the rural-urban divide (through peripheral clinics), get them referred to the center with the CT scan, and following the detection of some lesions in the CT, get the patients ready for the expensive angios and bypasses.

The entire delivery system is now well-oiled, and the number of procedures is rising every year, as are the revenues to these hospitals.

Patients are also benefitting, by and large, though there are (unspecified numbers of) patients who are being scalped or milked by the system. Isn’t it always so?

WORLDS APART!

My daily life is replete with ugly sights, foul smells, and sad sounds. Such is the life of practising doctors. I had accepted this long back as a part of surgical life, and trained myself to disconnect my non-professional life from the feedbacks of life with the sick and suffering.
A very minor taste of this:

My nephew, award-winning car designer Harsha Ravi, lives in a different world, as do many of you.
Here is what he is up to. Take a look.

Is it small wonder, then, that I strongly discourage youngsters from getting into medicine? With so many things to be passionate about and excel in, why choose medicine, with all the tensions, ugliness, etc.? What do you think?
One other thing, too: I consider youngsters like Harsha to be not merely lucky to have lives like this, but also smarter, in that today’s kids know what not to do!

Pics: patient pics mine; others from Harsha’s article.

THE i-UNTOUCH?!

You must have got that email forward that says that your keyboard carries more germs than your backside. The message, apparently, is not that you can scratch your backside and eat with the same hand. The message is that you shouldn’t type on your computer keyboard and then eat without washing your hands. The real implication may be clinical: a new technology that allows surgeons to review CT-scan or x-ray images while operating, without touching the computer keyboard, may actually help prevent wound contamination.
According to the New Scientist, this new touch-me-not technology (likened to that in the movie Minority Report) allows a surgeon to wave his hands in mid-air in front of the computer to flip over to the next pic.

…a screen and gesture-recognition system that allows surgeons to flip back and forth through radiology images, such as MRI and CT scans, by simply groping in mid-air. Their system, called Gestix, comprises a colour video camera above a flat, widescreen monitor placed next to the operating table. The video signal from the camera is fed to a PC, where software trained to detect the colour of the surgeon’s gloves tracks the movements of their hand.

This, they believe, could help stop the spread of the deadly MRSA bug in hospitals.
The catch is that surgeons would have to be taught eight hand movements. Now, isn’t that expecting too much of a surgeon, who is, by popular consensus, the Kanishka (headless/brainless king) of medicine?

(pic source: http://www.exoticindiaart.com)

CAN A ROBOT BECOME AN INDIAN ‘SURGEON’?

You have heard of robotic surgery, if you have heard of You Tube, the iMac or the subprime crisis. What you may not know about is the story behind the man who devised the first (da Vinci) medical robot.
For a fascinating and short story of Frederic Moll, read this NYT article.
In the past, I had written a rather decent article on medical robots, and you could check it out here.
The capital investment of a robot for laparoscopic surgery is to the tune of $1.6 million. Not much for the rich Indian companies that run hospitals, I thought. I approached a hospital Chief Financial Officer.
“I would love it if you buy the da Vinci robot for my department. I will do great work for the hospital.”
“True, but then what about the return on investment?”
the CFO asked.
“Em, arr, the procedure will cost around $1500 in disposables per case. That comes to around Rs.60,000 only. Plus all the rest of the hospital costs. Imagine how much you can make per case!”
“Great, so a gall bladder surgery will cost around one lakh-odd (around $2500), you think?”
“Yeah, ballpark!”
“Tell me, doctor, how many cases could we get in a month?”

I wonder how many Indian patients could afford to spend that kind of money for a gall bladder surgery, and keep quiet.
“I think you are getting late, doctor?”
“Sure, actually I am. I need to go to the bathroom to rub butt.”
Bottomline: if Intuitive Surgical, the maker of the da Vinci robot, are making millions, someone has to pay for their prosperity. Can we Indians do so? I don’t think so.