A running list of questions that occur to me. I often ask questions on Quora as well.
- Research institutions and culture
- Healthcare business and economics
- Computer science
- Political economy
Medicine and drug discovery
- Would use of additional dyes in routine histology improve its diagnostic capacity?
- Can acne be treated with bacteriophage?
- Can we infer pairs of bacteria and phage that kill each other from their covariation in metagenomic sequencing experiments?
- Why do people have allergies to the same things?
- Why is myopia on the rise, and what can we do about it?
- Why are autoimmune diseases becoming more prevalent?
- Why is obesity becoming more prevalent?
- Do we really understand the cause of atherosclerosis, the leading killer of humans globally?
- Are parasite-derived immunosuppressants useful as therapeutics?
- Can T cell and B cell receptor repertoire sequencing serve as a “universal diagnostic” and enable the discovery of new drug targets?
- How effective will NK cell therapies be in treating solid tumors?
- Have we dismissed anything as quackery that will turn out to be a useful therapy?
- Is rational drug design overrated?
- How can we use experimental evolution to develop better drugs?
- Should we care about unintended laboratory evolution in model organisms?
- How does sugar cause pain sensation in teeth?
- Which treatments work for chronic back pain?
- How can we make pre-clinical assays of drug candidates more predictive?
- How can we deal with evolved resistance to therapies?
- How much can polygenic traits be modulated by single mutations or treatment with a single drug?
- Which foods are the most thermogenic?
- Which drugs enhance cognition?
- What goes wrong when we try to freeze organs?
- Why aren’t longevity mutations discovered in mutagenesis screens extant in wild-type populations?
- Do diseases of aging share common causes?
- Should we continue to address them on a disease-by-disease basis?
- Why can’t age-associated aggregates like drusen, lipofuscin, amyloid, Lewy bodies, and glycation be degraded?
- Why don’t artificial hearts last forever?
- Which interventions currently reduce all-cause mortality?
- Does evolutionary theory contradict some of the most popular theories of the cause of aging? (Read Michael Rose for an aging Theory of Everything.)
- Why are mammalian sex ratios roughly equal?
- How do cells adjust to cold shocks?
- How does karyotypic speciation happen in sexual organisms, given that their karyotype must be compatible with a mate’s?
- Is x-chromosome inactivation reversible?
- What determines the reversibility of mitotic exit?
- How much information is in a cell?
- Does Muller’s ratchet make sense?
- How does biomineral morphogenesis (growth of bones, diatoms, etc.) work?
Research institutions and culture
- How useful is basic biology research?
- How useful are research exercises, vs just working on a real problem?
- Which tools can I use to enhance my thinking?
- Should researchers be teachers?
- How can we improve scientific education?
- Can bureaucracies make discoveries?
- How much of institutional excellence is feedback from good recruiting?
- Does earmarking research grants increase or decrease capital efficiency?
Healthcare business and economics
- Is the pace of drug discovery stagnating (a.k.a. Eroom’s law)?
- Is the pace of medical innovation stagnating?
- How should we interpret the RAND Health Insurance Experiment?
- Why isn’t it profitable to develop new antibiotics?
- Are American insulin prices a scam?
- How can we improve electronic medical records to improve patient care and accelerate drug discovery?
- Should we donate our electronic medical records to the public upon dying?
- How does cash payment for treatments influence affordability and innovation in medicine?
- Are patent protections for biologic drugs useful to society?
- What kinds of medical innovations can be successful when intellectual property and regulatory protections are weak?
- Why are successful biotech venture capital firms adapting a “venture creation” model, where ventures are started in-house?
- Are discovery-phase research programs at large pharmaceutical companies productive?
- What are the biggest secular trends in healthcare / biotech / pharma?
- Would it be useful to be able to bet directly on the outcome of clinical trials without trading a company’s shares?
- What are the pros and cons of medical tourism?
- Are insurance co-pays useful?
- Are data-centric biotech companies ever going to make any money?
- Are there any good opportunities for veterinary-human crossover drug discovery?
- What is the minimum number of dimensions necessary to implement a universal classical computer?
- Are computational kinetics provable? (i.e. can we determine analytically which processes cannot be computed faster on an alternative architectures without having to simulate them?)
- Will homeomorphic encryption become practical anytime soon?
- How probabilistic is software debugging? How much of it can be automated?
- What are the potential uses of evolutionary algorithms?
- Can more computation be memoized than we think?
- Do microwaves have any non-thermal effects on reaction kinetics?
- How useful is light in imparting enantioselectivity?
- How well can organisms discriminate isotopes?
- Would ice polymorphs with densities close to water allow us to freeze tissues without cryoprotectants?
- Can the reverse of a microwave oven exist? I.e. “stimulated radiative cooling”.
- Can some formal expression describe the minimal energetic costs of molecular quality control?
- How does Shannon entropy relate to Boltzmann entropy? (I read answers to this one once in a while, but I don’t really get it yet. It seems like the most important and fundamental bit of science that I never encountered in school.)
- Can we measure the information content of matter through calorimetry?
- Thought experiment: I have one hard drive filled with random data and another that has 1s and 0s in strict alternation. I put them both in a perfect bomb calorimeter. Do they evolve different amounts of heat?
- What curve describes the discount rate?
- Why do many countries tax short term capital gains at a higher rate?
- What seemingly worthless data today will become valuable in the future?
- What are we not recording that we should?
- Would semi-sovereign industries solve any social or technological problems?
- Why would someone buy a negative yield bond?
- What are the macro / cultural implications of negative yields?
- Are nicotine beverages effective stimulants?
- Is it possible to enhance the light harvesting capacity of plants by engineering synthetic FRET pairs that donate to the natural chromophores?
- Can we make bacterial nitrogen fixation cheaper than the Haber process for fertilizer production?
- How can we develop personal cooling devices and cooling clothing?
- Is residential evaporative cooling cost effective?
- Why don’t we evaporate the condensation from an air conditioner off of the condenser unit?
- Why does induction work sometimes?
- How do you know whether you should follow someone’s advice?
- Are we using enough data in recreational sports?
- Does weightlifting confound mainstream health recommendations?
- How many kinds of athletic stimulus promote health?
- How much does optimal work volume for strength training vary between individuals?
- Does holding your breath while exercising (or while sedentary) enhance cardiovascular fitness?
- What kind of training reduces back pain?
- Which sports stimulate the most diverse movement patterns?
- What are the best predictors of which sports you will be the best at?
- How should we decide whether to perform a destructive assay on a historical artifact?