Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Faces falling off, skulls unearthed and Mormons to the rescue--UPDATED

Is that just a pimple on your nose or is your face going to fall off?—The flesh-eating bug is loose and getting more dangerous. Once restricted to hospitals, Staphylococcus aureaus has spread to places like schools, gyms, stadiums and your home. We reported on it before, now the Los Angeles Times, in a pretty gory story, has taken up the subject. The lede is a woman who thought she was bitten by a spider and the tiny wound turned into an absolute horror. The staph infection was once controlled by the antibiotic methicillin, but widespread use of that drug has produced a resistent strain of the bug (MRSA), and what it does ain't pretty. Moreover, there is no good substitute treatment. As the Times points out, not enough people are paying attention, in part because there is no requirement that these infections be reported to the CDC. There are estimates that five years go, there were 120,000 cases and it has undoubtedly grown worse since then. About 1% of us carry the resistent-strain around in our noses. Players on the St. Louis Rams got it, drug users in San Francisco get it regularly, Hillary Swank got it in a Brooklyn GM while training for Million Dollar Baby. Pay attention baby.

UPDATE: From the Associated Press Thursday.
North Carolina health officials are investigating the death of a woman who died last week of a flesh-eating bacteria three days after accidentally jamming her hand in a wheelchair while working at a nursing home. Nursing assistant Sharron Bishop, 44, died Feb. 27. A doctor said a rare flesh-eating bacteria may have entered her body through a thumb injury and she turned from healthy to fatally ill.

We're not in Kansas any more, Toto. Thank God we're in Utah—Kansas remains the Know-Nothing State. Even Utah has more sense. In a move that surprised some, the Utah House of Representatives shot down a bill that would have challenged Darwin in the state's public schools. The vote wasn't even close, 46-28, and this in a legislature made up largely of Mormons. Stephen H. Urquhart, the majority whip, said he didn't think God had an argument with science. The bill, called the Origins of Life Bill, would have required teachers to issue a disclaimer saying that not all scientists agree with evolution, which is largely nonsense, and that the state doesn't endorse evolution, which apparently isn't true either. The bill was gutted and then demolished. No more Utah jokes. For a while.

Get me the head of Nicolaus Copernicus—It's over there. Maybe. Archeologists, working in Frombork, Poland, may have found Nick's skull. It turns out that Copernicus, who died in 1543, was buried near Frombork, but no one knows where. Recently, the Washington Post reported, archeologists digging beneath the cathedral there found a skull of a man about 70 with a broken nose. Copernicus died at about the age 70 and had a crooked nose. Reconstruction of the head from the skull shows a man who looked something like the portraits of Copernicus. Testing DNA from the skull with living survivors would solve the uncertainty, but Copernicus had no children. Instead, the archeologists are going to hunt for the skeleton of his uncle, the former bishop of Warmia, who also is buried around there someplace. Copernicus' book, positing that the Earth traveled around the sun, not the opposite, was banned by the Catholic Church until 1835 and no one from Kansas was involved.

Oh, the dude whose picture is on top? Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin. You wanted a face falling off?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Finally, a politician with sense

I don't think they should reproduce either—From the Akron Beacon Journal

"If an Ohio lawmaker's proposal becomes state law, Republicans would be barred from being adoptive parents.

"State Sen. Robert Hagan sent out e-mails to fellow lawmakers late Wednesday night, stating that he intends to "introduce legislation in the near future that would ban households with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents." The e-mail ended with a request for co-sponsorship.

"On Thursday, the Youngstown Democrat said he had not yet found a co-sponsor.

"Hagan said his "tongue was planted firmly in cheek" when he drafted the proposed legislation. However, Hagan said that the point he is trying to make is nonetheless very serious.

"Hagan said his legislation was written in response to a bill introduced in the Ohio House this month by state Rep. Ron Hood, R-Ashville, that is aimed at prohibiting gay adoption....

"To further lampoon Hood's bill, Hagan wrote in his mock proposal that "credible research" shows that adopted children raised in Republican households are more at risk for developing "emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities."

[Thank you, Carol]

I'd rather catch a cold—UPDATED

We're gonna spray for prostate cancer so unzip—You read it here first!

Here's an intriguing one: researchers have discovered a virus in some cancerous prostates. They make it clear they have established no link between the virus and the disease, but it's enough to make other scientists go "hmmm." The work, done at the University of California, San Francisco, and the Cleveland Clinic, found a virus in cancerous prostates of men with a certain genetic defect. Until now, that virus, XMRV, was found only in mice. The form of prostate cancer involved is familial, which accounts for only about 9% of all prostate cancers.

The idea that some cancers have a viral cause, or that viruses at least play a part in cancer, is well-established. Some liver and cervical cancers are caused by viruses and there may be a viral component—along with environment and genetics—in breast, stomach and other forms of cancer. That latter may be the case here. And, the idea that a virus may play a part in prostate cancer, isn’t new. In 2004, researchers at the University of Michigan found DNA from the BK virus in prostate cancer cells. No one knows what that means either.

The virus, related to retroviruses known as xenotropic murine leukemia, is somehow transmitted by the genes and has been passed on for thousands of years. Xeotropic means it can pass from species to species, but while there are examples of it passing from mice to other animals, there is no record of it doing so to humans. Testing prostate cells of 20 patients who had two copies of the mutated genes turned up 8 of them with the virus. Since the gene is part of the immune system, men with the mutated gene make less of an enzyme that helps kill viruses. This virus got through. It's not likely the virus came from mice. And, since it was found in just one of 66 other patients, presumably without the genetic mutation, there might be a link between the virus and genetics in causing cancer.

Another puzzle is that the virus is not found in the cancer cells, but in the stroma, the surrounding, non-cancerous tissue. Nor is every cell involved.

The research was reported Thursday at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in San Francisco.

Oh, and while we're at it, earlier this month the folks at UCSF released a study showing that the folk remedy saw palmetto had absolutely no effect on enlarged prostates. As the owner of one, I am displeased.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Did you know the Mafia had an MBA program?

You want to live, sweetie, that will cost you 100 grand, but it's up to you—Everyone knows the drug companies are pirates but it's still shocking when the eye-patch comes off. Meet Genentech. And ImClone Systems.

The main excuse for the high price of drugs in the U.S. is the claim that the profits go to research and if they didn't charge huge amounts, no one could afford to discover new drugs.There are several problems with that argument. One, why should U.S. consumers pay for research so the companies can sell their drugs to the rest of the world? We pay exorbitant prices so the French can get the drugs cheap? Second, they still do research in countries with price controls, apparently not deterred by the lower profits. Third, and most important, that's bullshit. They spend most of that money on promotion. Watched any television lately? Whatever.

Now Genentech has decided, for a change, to be honest. They have a drug called Avastin, widely used to treat colon cancer. Experts say it is very good, so bravo to them. But now it seems Avastin can also be used for breast and lung cancer treatment, but at double the dose. Genentech plans to price it so it will cost$100,000 a year for the drug in those cases. Even patients with insurance may be getting screwed; those without insurance are simply can die now. But Genentech and it's parent, Roche, aren't justifying the price by the usual crap of the cost of research. Here's the response: "As we look at Avastin and Herceptin [a similar drug] pricing, right now the health economics hold up, and therefore I don't see any reason to be touching them," said William M. Burns, the chief executive of Roche's pharmaceutical division and a member of Genentech's board. "The pressure on society to use strong and good products is there." In other words, if you want to live, you come up with the money.

Meanwhile, Imclone Systems has a drug even more expensive, Erbitux.

How bad is it? According to column in the Washington Post by Robert Wittes, a cancer specialist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering:
The average wholesale price (AWP, or the average price charged to hospitals and physician practices) of a month of treatment for a normal-size adult is roughly $4,800 for Avastin and $12,000 for Erbitux. Since most colorectal-cancer patients for whom these drugs are medically appropriate receive them not singly but in combination with other chemotherapeutics, the monthly AWP is more like $11,000 for combinations including Avastin and $16,000 for Erbitux. Providers pass these costs on to patients, along with charges that cover the costs of pharmacy and dispensing. Courses of treatment generally last several months, but they can be much longer for patients who respond favorably. In other words, the cumulative cost of treatment can be astronomical.
The immorality of this is obvious. In some parts of the world, they burn down buildings because someone published a cartoon they don't like. In this country, we don't even burn down buildings when people are extorting us at the moment of death.

They used to hang pirates.

I will now go and wash my hands. Even typing this makes me feel dirty.

Monday, February 20, 2006

We will skip the Mormon cartoons

Listen, if you want to chat, Moses is that guy feeding his camel over there by the tree—Here’s an interesting little problem. What if people invented time machines and could go back into the past, let’s say to the reign of Ramses II, and discovered that the Hebrew slaves were only a couple of thousand in number and they fled into the desert under the leadership of a guy named Moses. The Pharoah, figuring that a few thousand slaves weren’t worth bothering about, lets them go. End of story. If you are Jewish you just had a cornerstone of your faith undermined by science. Or, maybe they go back to Jerusalem in during the reign of the Emperor Tiberius and found that a carpenter in Nazareth named Jesus had indeed been executed outside of Jerusalem, but his body was thrown into a common ditch grave and never seen again. If you are Christian, you’ve got a problem.

It has happened to the Mormons. Mark Twain once described the Book of Mormon as “chloroform in print.” I thought the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was living proof that if you put together 200 mediocre singers you just got a loud mediocre chorus. Whatever. One of the main precepts of the book is that North American Indians were descendent from one of the lost tribes of Israel and came to this continent in 600 B.C. They built a civilization here, but split into two warring factions. By 385, one group, the idol-worshiping Lamanites, defeated the God-fearing Nephites, and they were the ancestors of the Indians. It's one reason the Mormons have gone to great lengths to convert the Indians—to bring them back into the God-fearing fold.

Along comes DNA testing and it turns out the Indians came from Asia with no sign whatsoever they ever set foot in the Middle East. That’s a whoops. The Mormons, like conservative Christians and Orthodox Jews, take their holy book as literally true—every word. Since the Church of Latter Day Saints has converted millions of Indians based on the premise they were the people described in the book, this is a major problem. Mormonism, indeed, one of the fastest growing religions in the world, gets much of its new strength from those regions where the Indians live. At least one missionary has quit, no longer capable of believing in what he was doing. It is not known how many others may have.

Much of the DNA work comes from something of an apostate, Simon G. Southerton, a molecular biologist and former Mormon bishop in Australia. Southerton notes that DNA testing of Jews throughout the world shows a strong common Middle Eastern origin. No one doubts their origin. But when he tested the indigenous people of the Americas, including maternal DNA lines from 7,300 Indians from 175 tribes, he came up with no sign of Middle Eastern origin. They came from eastern and central Asia.

The DNA evidence isn’t the only problem with the Book of Mormon. It is full of anachronisms, such as the fact the Indians never domesticated farm animals and the Book of Mormon has them living on farms, and despite millions of dollars in research, Mormons have found not a single bit of archeological evidence to support the ancient civilization theme.

Church leaders have dismissed the acknowledgment of the scientific evidence “heresy,” of course. And outsiders like me might think such a blow might at least put a crack in the faith. But probably not. As one professor, quoted in the Los Angeles Times noted: “This may look like the crushing blow to Mormonism from the outside, but religion ultimately does not rest on scientific evidence, but on mystical experiences. There are different ways of looking at the truth.” Mormons have barraged the web with responses, including some totally discounting the DNA evidence. Search Google for “Mormon” and “DNA’ and you’ll see how effective they have been. They have also launched a major attack on Southerton. Southerton has fired back.

But since Mormon leaders insist the book can’t be wrong, they seem to have a conundrum. They claim the book can’t be proven or disproved by science. But of course, it has.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Cheney's got a gun

THE HUNTER, by Ogden Nash

The hunter crouches in his blind
'neath camouflage of every kind
and conjures up a quacking noise
to lend allure to his decoys.

This grown-up man, with luck and pluck,
is hoping to out-wit: A DUCK!!

[Thank you, Larry]

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water—Part II

Maybe if we threw them a lawyer, they’d calm down—Australia seems to be to be an odd place for people to live. Most of their reptiles are very venomous, they have a common spider that can kill you, and half the stuff swimming in the oceans around it will either eat you, poison you, or give you a really, really bad day with a sting. Having good beer is no excuse.

Don’t try swimming there too soon. About 100 sharks (species unknown) have been holding a shark orgy—actually a feeding frenzy—off the tourist-heavy Gold Coast of Queensland, forcing the authorities to close the beaches. [also click headline] The sharks appear to be getting very excited about bait fish in the area. I’m not sure what “bait fish” are in this context, but apparently the sharks know. According to one authority, when sharks are in a frenzy, they just close their eyes and chomp. You could be what they chomp on so the beaches are closed. One guy, simply wading, got hit, fortunately for him, by a small shark who apparently wasn't doing well in the frenzy. Last month a Brisbane woman was killed by a bull shark.

Actually, sharks are in the news a lot this week. According to report from the University of Florida shark attacks are declining for an interesting reason: some people being attacked fight back. According to George Burgess at the International Shark Attack File, there were 58 shark attacks worldwide in 2005, down from 65 the year before. Fatalities fell from 7 to 4. Most of the victims are surfers. Some of the decline is due to the decline in the population of sharks, and some is because growing numbers of people are bright enough to avoid shark-infested waters, but Burgess says meeting a shark attack with aggression actually works and may account for some of the decrease, although the numbers involved can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand. The sharks are interested in lunch, not a fight. Most sharks respect size and power. The best punch? One in the nose. In other words: an in-your-face defense. One surfer in Oregon was attacked by a great white and popped it on the nose. The great big, fierce old shark retreated.

“That gentleman did precisely what he should do under those circumstances,” Burgess said. “A person who is under attack should act aggressively toward the shark and not follow the advice given to women who are having their purses snatched in New York City, which is to lie on the ground, play dead and give up the purse.”

The decline represents a five-year trend, the researchers say.

And the sharks their worst public relations agent this week with the sad death of Peter Benchley, who died at the age of 65. Benchley wrote Jaws, which gave sharks a bad name for a generation. Maybe the Australian sharks are celebrating. What do you expect. They are sharks. Benchley's book, of course, was premised on the notion that you don't fight back. You scream and die.

[Photo: copyright Steve Drogin]

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Spy vs. Spy, or how to beat wire taps

Are your phones being tapped? Do you hear heavy breathing when you send e-mail? Is Incurious George listening in while you discuss male menopause with you neighbor? —Cheer up fella. You can fight wire taps.

According to Seucrity and Privacy Journal, you can screw ‘em. Or rather some of them. There actually are ways to make tapping your phone difficult or impossible. One presumes the terrorists already know this so why not us folks? The research comes from the University of Pennsylvania, including Micah Sherr, Eric Cronin, Sandy Clark, and Matt Blaze, and all the information is public.

The most obvious form of wire tapping is a direct electrical connection to your phone line, literally, a tap. Law enforcement officers would use a small device called loop extender or dial-up slave which sends any audio on the line to the cops’ line, re-encodes the signals and performs level equalization. Equipment at the law enforcement agency turns on when you dial the phone, records the number and decodes the conversation. That’s not used very much any more, it’s analog, easy to beat and clumsy. Most tappers use CALEA taps. That is done at the phone company, which (presumably only when a court order permits) intercepts the subject’s conversations and sends it to the law enforcement agency. The cops (which means, one presumes, the FBI, NSA, CIA and everyone else) has one line that records the number and another that records the conversation. The phone company just throws some switches.

The direct tap is fairly easy to recognize, the researchers say. First, you might just see it. More important, the tapping changes the nature of the transmission characteristics and that can be detected with off-the-shelf equipment. Some folks may want to hack the phone company.

CALEA taps are another story. (Encrypting telephone messages so they can’t be deciphered is hard to do and the equipment hard to find.) One way to beat CALEA is to use a call-forwarding service. Flood your lines with irrelevant calls forwarded to another number and while the authorities are trying to wade through that, make the call you want. The Penn researches say it works. There also are ways of faking phone numbers.

The weakness in CALEA is something called the C tone, which tells the phone line that the phone is idle. When the C tone stops it cues the eavesdroppers that you are making a call. The C tone consists of two frequencies. So, go generate your own. There are phones that have a C tone button you just press and the tone is played, turning off the tappers. You can also generate same from equipment purchased on E-Bay or Radio Shack. Generate a tone loud enough to turn off the tap but low enough to carry on a conversation. They'll never know you called. There is even software you can download that will do it.

The researchers point out that law enforcement agencies have gone to great lengths to mitigate these decoy activities, but hint broadly, they may not be as good at it as they think.

E-mail is even easier to block. Any number of commercially available programs can encrypt messages enough to give the NSA conniptions. They can be broken but only with great effort. It’s also possible to generate phony packets in internet transmissions to confusion listeners. You send out two messages, one the eavesdroppers can play with while you carry one the real communication. See here.

Presumably, all the world’s bad guys know about this stuff. They are not idiots. It’s only we innocent folks that are kept in the dark.

[Cartoon—DC Comics]

Sunday, February 05, 2006

It can't be your father's hybrid. I killed the program—UPDATED

If we put a hybrid engine in your Hummer do you think people would stop making obscene gestures?—Do you recall all those wonderful urban legends about how the tire industry suppressed tires that would run 100 miles without replacement, how oil companies killed the development of engine oils that won’t wear out or how the government rejected a car with very clean, efficient technology? Well, one of them is true.

A hybrid car technology was developed by an inventor named Victor Wouk in the 1970s and a bureaucrat with the Environmental Protection Agency killed it. I’m not making this up.

According to hybridcars.com, Victor Wouk was an engineer who once worked on the Manhattan Project. Along with a partner, Charles Rosen, he came up with the design in the late 1960s for a car driven by a combination of gas and electric motors. He was convinced that electric cars, the technology that seemed to be something of a fad at the time, would never be economical, but a hybrid would work. He tried to sell the idea to the auto industry, but no one would give him the time of day. Meanwhile, Congress had just passed the Clean Air Act, which required automakers to reduce emissions by 90%. Wouk was tipped off about a virtually unknown program, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Car Incentive Program (FCCIP), which was set up to meet that goal. The inventor of a car that hit the mark set by the Clean Air Act would get a $300,000 development contract. Wouk and Rosen formed a company, Petro-Electric Motors, Ltd, and after a year’s work, submitted their application and won the contract along with several other companies. They didn’t know it at the time, but they had just run into a man named Eric Stork, head of EPA’s Mobile Source Air Pollution Control Program, who didn’t believe anyone could produce such a car, and thought the FCCIP was a pain in the ass. He had too many more important things to do.

Now they had to build a test car. The other companies winning the competition soon dropped out, having failed to meet the requirements, leaving Petro-Electric, the only one proposing a hybrid. Rosen and Wouk visited car dealers, looking for the right frame to put their technology in and settled on a 1972 Buick Skylark. They modified the Skylark and notified Stork they were ready for the FCCIP test. Stork refused and threatened to kill the whole program. He was too busy being a “regulator,” he said.

Now, Victor Wouk had a brother named Herman, who by now was a fairly famous writer. Victor, with Herman’s assistance, petitioned the National Science Foundation for help. The foundation called a meeting with Rosen, the Wouks and Stork. Victor Wouk gave details of what they had accomplished and the foundation begged Stork to test it. He reluctantly agreed, probably with his fingers crossed behind his back, and he promised to promote the technology if the car passed the test. An EPA engineer, however, tipped off Wouk that Stork was going to reject the car no matter what it did. The car passed. A month later, Stork sent Wouk a letter listing 75 reasons why he would not approve the next phase of support. Wouk’s Skylark did cut emissions and did use less fuel but he just didn’t like the idea. And he was very busy. Letters flew for years, but Stork would not relent.

Stork, now retired explained: “On the dynamometer, it was rigged to run only on the batteries. That’s why the emissions were so good. It’s just not a very practical technology for automotive. That’s why it’s going nowhere. It certainly wasn’t [going anywhere] then. Even today, it’s marginal.” [Note: there are more than 400,000 hybrid cars on American roads at the moment, most of them use exactly that technology, and one sitting in my driveway.] Petro-Electric soon ran out of money, and Wouk, pissed and depressed gave up. Gas was cheap in those days, the auto industry was doing fine and no one gave a damn.

UPDATE—Hybrid cars won three of the eight top positions in IntelliChoice.com's best overall value of the year award for new cars. The Best Car Value for cars under $23,000 went to the hybrid Toyota Prius, while both SUV categories -- under $28,000 and over $28,000 -- went to the Ford Escape Hybrid two-wheel drive and Toyota Highlander Hybrid two-wheel drive, respectively. Ford uses Toyota's technology.

Wouk published 100 technical papers on hybrid technology and remained an advocate. He eventually bought a white Prius and there is no record of him driving by Stork’s house giving him the finger.

Wouk, who never smoked in his life, died of lymphoma and lung cancer in May of last year. It is possible air pollution contributed to his death.

For an interview with Victor Wouk, click here.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Google scales evil

Well, at least you can see the flowers behind the tank—For those of you wondering what it’s like to search the web in a country that tries to censor it—with the help of the companies running the search engines—the San Francisco Chronicle can help. Google, as you know, employing its motto, don’t be evil unless profits are involved, has agreed to let the Chinese government dictate what is shown on Google searches. The Chron tried it out. If you put in the word “Tiananmen” (as in Square) into Google’s image search page from Google.cn, the Chinese page, you get a lovely picture of the square with birds and tourists and huge buildings in a peaceful setting. If you do the same search on Google.com, the U.S. version, you get tanks rolling through the square suppressing student demonstrators, a couple hundred of whom were apparently suppressed to death. The Chinese government denies the rioting ever took place despite the fact it was seen on television around the world—remember that remarkable man facing down a tank? Now Google has accepted the Chinese version of history.

Google, of course, is not alone. Microsoft and Yahoo also agreed, but Microsoft and Yahoo don’t pretend to rise above naked capitalism; Google does. In order to get licenses to operate in China, they agree to block sites the government wants blocked, like “Falun Gong” or “independent Tibet.”

(There is, however, a sly way around the censorship: misspell the search. For instance, if you misspell Tiananmen, you get the tanks on Google.cn, or you will until the word gets back to Beijing. And word searches will sometimes get you to a page Google hasn’t blocked—yet. At least that’s true if you access it from here. It’s not clear if the firewalls in China block them.)

Sometimes a site isn’t blocked, but altered. Search for “Tibet independence” on Google.cn and you get the Dalai Lama being urged to give up Tibet; do it on outside sites and you get Tibet independence pages. And, Google insists, if someone reaches a censored page Google tells them it was censored.

Google says it took all this seriously and that internal discussion within the company lasted a year. They decided the lessor evil was to do it this way instead of simply dropping out of China's gigantic market altogether. Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO told the Davos Conference: “We concluded that although we weren’t wild about the restrictions, it was even worse to not try to serve those users at all. We actually did an evil scale and decided not to serve at all was worse evil,” he said.

I wonder if you can copyright an evil scale. That might be profitable.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Really calm frogs at the computer

You’ll notice that the water taps read “hot,” “cold” and “Xanax”—Did you ever wonder what happens to all those prescription drugs you take after your body is done with them? You know, after you pee and poop them out? Well, according the latest technology, you drink it back in—and everything that everyone else is taking. It winds up in the water aquifer. The Los Angeles Times reports that traces of prescription drugs have been found in the drinking water aquifer under the San Gabriel Valley. It gets there from a sewage treatment plant via recycled stuff transported into a creek that feeds the aquifer. The water meets all government standards, in part because the standards don’t account for the presence of the drugs. The latest technology, however, can spot it all. To be sure, drinking a good cold glass of fresh water won’t give you a jolt of Viagra; we’re talking a few drops in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. But along with the Viagra you will find antibiotics, anti-psychotics, birth control pills and tranquilizers—whatever you and your neighbors are taking. Is this dangerous? Who knows. But in places where sewage treatment is less vigorous than LA, drinking water could be liquid drug stores. The effect on animals may be worse. Scientists have found frogs on Prozac, insects with anti-seizure drugs, and androgynous fish altered by birth control pills.

Staying smug even with Intel inside—A logical question arises with the introduction of the first Apple computers with Intel microprocessors inside: will we Mac users' computers slide into the unbridled chaos enjoyed by the vast masses using Windows on Intel machines? No. Not yet, anyway. Macs have been safer for two good reasons: one, there are far fewer of them so they remain under the radar of the malicious class, and two, it is much harder to hack a Mac than a Windows machine. Both reasons remain: while Apple’s market share has begun to rise, it is still small enough to make it easy to ignore—you get much more bang for the buck crashing Windows computers—and, the presence of Intel microprocessors won’t make a technical difference. The vulnerability of Wintel computers is in Windows, not Intel. The weak link is the program. The present version is sloppily written and the new one coming out next year shows no sign of being a major advance. The program isn’t even out yet and there are already viruses that work on it. The new Intel Macs will still be using the Unix-based Mac OS-X, which is much tighter, more secure and much harder to break into. If Apple continues to gain market share, that might draw some attention from the bad guys, but they will have to work much harder to get anything to work. For a good technical look at why it will be so hard, click here. The fact remains, there are still no viruses or spyware that work on Macs and the new computers won’t be any more vulnerable. There are vulnerabilities in the Mac system, 33 reported in the last year alone. But Apple is much faster than Microsoft getting security patches out, and there is still that market share. Ah, but what happens if you run Windows on the Intel Macs, which apparently is possible? No one knows. But why would you want to do that in the first place?