Medical Possibilities

An early Star Trek movie had the Enterprise go back in time to capture a whale.  In a chase scene through a hospital, Doctor McCoy passes a lady on a cart suffering from some disease.  He asks her what’s wrong, she tells him, and says “but they’re going to do surgery to fix it.”  McCoy gets bent out of shape and says “Butchers!”, then gives her a pill that, we learn in a later scene, makes her well.

A few years ago my wide had a sonogram.  Watching those, I’ve always thought that the machine could be much better.  The technician records image after image, but the software doesn’t try to put them together to enhance the image.

Reminds me of the people on TV who want to hide their identities, so their faces are pixelated.  Surely, image processing could average all the images of a face and create a three-dimensional image of the face.  Why aren’t we doing that with ultrasound tests?  Maybe the software could built up a three-dimensional image from the scans.  Perhaps an accelerometer could be used to figure out the relative location of the probe.  I can imagine a surgeon wearing glasses for superimposing a 3-D image of the sonogram on top of the patient s/he’s looking at.

I’m having trouble sleeping.  Last night I slept in the Troy Hospital’s sleep lab, with all kinds of wires hooked up.  The technician says there haven’t been any significant changes in the equipment in the 13 years she’s been doing this.  All those isolated probes; there must be some way to get more information out of them.

Also, I’ve got a carpal tunnel problem (I’m just getting old).  So, they did a nerve conduction test on my arm and hand.  One pulse generator, one detector.

Maybe a company that uses linear algebra, etc. will considering exploring how to make medical equipment less of a butcher’s art.

By the way, the sonogram stuff is interesting.  I once had an echo cardiogram, which is a fancy ultrasound of the heart (it was fine).  With some effort, the technician got the screen to color code the velocity of the blood.  I surmise this involved the Doppler effect.

Update:  A friend provided links to what is going on in this area.


I’m getting ready to launch a project whereby chemistry teachers collaborate on creating learning resources.  The main part of this involves making some kind of collaboration software available on the web.  I first tried using Moodle.  However, Moodle is an lms—learning management system—and, consequently, it has a course menu showing on every page.  I realized I really need a cms—content management system.  My web hosting company provides 30 or so different cms’s, which is overwhelming.  The three top cms’s on the web are WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal.  WordPress didn’t seem powerful enough for what I wanted (I’m already using it for this blog).  Drupal is said to be quite complicated.  So, I went with Joomla!

Where is the link to Joomla!?  Some years ago I heard an advertising executive give a talk in which he said, “The best way to kill a poor product is to advertise it.”  He gave an example of some of Campbell’s soups.  An ad agency refused to do advertising for one of the soups, because the soup didn’t taste good to them.  (Campbell’s improved the soup.)  By analogy, Joomla isn’t yet in good shape, so I’m not going to make it live until it is respectable and working smoothly.  The main administrative task remaining is to set up the access control system and permissions so that people can edit pages.  I’m afraid that users won’t be able to create new pages; I may have to be the one to do that, but it is too soon to tell.

Keeping Up with Technology

I use an Excel macro to send my grades from a spreadsheet to my website, where students enter a password to see their grades.  For over a year, now, the macro has not worked.  With help from our school’s IT folks, I tracked the problem down to CylanceProtect, a sophisticated malware/virus detector installed on all the school’s computers.  CylanceProtect lets macros run as long as they don’t try to write anything to the hard drive, which my macro was trying to do.  The solution is to store the macro in a particular directory (IT told me its name) where such macros are allowed to run.

Another problem with the macro was how to get a file’s location when it is stored in Microsoft Onedrive.  You’d think that would be trivial in VBA (Visual Basic for Applications), but it isn’t.   What is usually returned is a url instead of a directory.   I finally found a post telling how to get the directory path, so now my macro is up and running, again, and students can see how they are doing in my classes.

Since I’m editing web pages lately, I was, once again, wondering if there is a better web page editor available.  I’ve been using an older version of Adobe Dreamweaver at school, and Microsoft Expression (unsupported, but free) at home.  Amaya by W3C is a free, open-source editor that is OK, but hasn’t been updated since 2012.  Because Mozilla Firefox includes so many developer tools, I’ve often wondered if there is a way to edit pages within Firefox.  Mozilla now has a Learn web development section, though it isn’t easy to find.  in the “Complete beginner” section, they suggest starting with the Brackets text editor.  I’m thinking, “I don’t want a text editor, I want to edit web pages and see what the edited page looks like.”  Times have changed:  click the “live preview” icon and the content of the web page being edited is dynamically displayed in Google Chrome (or in Firefox, if experimental live preview is turned on).  This is an open-source product managed by Adobe.  I’m going to start using Brackets to create and edit my web pages.

Updating the Website

I’ve added SSL/TLS security to the website. I had to pay $50 to buy a certificate to do that (the hosting company,, doesn’t support the free Let’s Encrypt certificates).  Now, these web pages have a green lock next to them in the address bar in Firefox, and the address starts with https://, which indicates that the site is secure in regards to having entered personal data, such as passwords, picked up while the page is being transferred from your computer to this site’s server.

Yet another bit of security was required by the school:  Troy University doesn’t want data transmitted over the internet by ftp because the data isn’t encrypted, so I had to figure out how to make SSH (Secure SHell) work on this site.  Fortunately, the required key is free, but it took a while to figure out how to get my preferred client, WinSCP, to handle SFTP (secure FTP) using SSH.  Now I can transfer grades and passwords to the site without worrying about them being intercepted along the way.

I’ve been thinking of adding blogging capabilities to the site for some time, and decided to do it today, so, now, WordPress has been installed.  Since it’s open-source, there was no charge.  However, to allow comments, I needed to have email capabilities on the site, so I’ve now got an extra email address:  Fortunately, Microsoft Outlook handles this smoothly, and all my email is collected in the same “pot” as my email.