Is cancer a byproduct of random evolutionary change?

Yes. AND no.

=== Why it's sometimes yes… ===
Genetic variations that increase a person's risk of cancer can be completely novel and embedded in their genome. A few thoughts as to factors that make me think a patient might have a genetic link:

  • There is no history of the patient's family having cancer.
  • They lead a lifestyle free of smoking, excessive sunbathing, and other behaviors that put them at greater risk of cancer.[1]
  • They develop a cancer relatively unexpected based on their gender/race/age/etc. (depending on the type of cancer, obviously; some strike all demographics but often there are certain populations at greater risk).
  • I think you get the idea.

These people may have inherent genetic mutations in growth factors, receptors, cell cycle regulators, repair enzymes, and/or a myriad of other components of their cellular machinery that in other people work to limit/support cell growth to what is physiologically appropriate. Is this random evolutionary change? I guess so; every cell when dividing makes a few mistakes in copying its DNA, and these people may have just gotten a bit unlucky in terms of where the mistakes happened in the gametes that came together to give them life.

It's more than chance, though, as oftentimes many people with the same cancer also have the exact same mutation–so there's something else at play outside of randomness; it's likely that these commonalities are locations in the genome particularly susceptible to mutation due to relative exposure. I suspect that research will soon be elucidating the mechanistic explanation.

Something very important to point out is that these people should not be treated as mutants/freaks. While certain decisions regarding their care may require greater consideration, they had no choice in their genes, and it would be a serious breach of ethics to discriminate against them solely based on their genetic make-up. For a Hollywood version of what a world like that might be like, see Gattaca.

=== …and why other times, it's no. ===
There are a multitude of cancers for which a patient may not inherently be at risk, but they more or less "acquire" due to certain choices and/or life events, including but not limited to:

  • smoking (lung cancer)
  • excessive sun exposure (skin cancer)
  • not being vaccinated (cervical cancer, females)
  • infection by cancer-linked bacteria/viruses (quite a few)
  • exposure to mutagenic chemicals, whether in the workplace, living environment, etc. (again, quite a few)
  • etc. [1]

The idea is that while everyone accumulates some mutations throughout the course of their lifetime, these patients accumulate more than average, and hence, increase the chances that the necessary combination of mutations required for cancer will happen. Furthermore, in the elderly, they may simply have lived long enough to acquire the mutations that work in tandem to form a cancer.


The fact is, in the grand majority of cases, it's some combination of the patient's genetics and life experience. It's nigh impossible to simply pin X as the cause of someone's cancer, and really, I don't think random evolutionary change has too much to do with it–or at the very least, we can't be for certain that it does; while certain mutations such as sickle cell trait have been shown to be advantageous in the context of malarial infection, there has not (as far as I know) been any proof of cancer being advantageous in anything other than accelerating an untimely and tragic death.

Note: this answer not to be taken as medical advice! 🙂

[1] See Ari Shahdadi's answer to What lifestyle choices can I make to reduce my long-term risk of cancer? for some more thoughts.

Is it healthier to work standing up?

Sitting isn't ideal, but standing while working itself isn't inherently healthier. However, when you're standing, you're more likely to move around and not succumb to the lethargic tendencies encouraged by the act of sitting. Then again, standing looks weird to many, so if you're one to feel out of place when you are out of place (i.e. standing while everyone else is sitting), there might be psychological effects at play as well.

For what it's worth, I prefer to stand. But, I currently sit. By mid december, I'll probably get a knee-chair.

In what ways has modern air conditioning changed human life?

Well for one thing it makes us more productive at work. According to Gail Cooper and her study Air-Conditioning America: Engineers and the Controlled Environment typists were ask to work in both a regular and temperature controlled room. It was found that the typists were 25% more productive in the cooled room.

We use our porch far less than we used to. Originally, people would spend whole days on the porch because it would be far too hot in the house. They would even sleep on the porch during humid summer nights.

In the 3rd Century, Roman Emperor Elgabalus sent 1000 slaves to the mountains to bring him back snow for his garden…we don't do that anymore.

For similar insights and information about Air Conditioning and the like, visit my blog.


What are some music related websites in China?

If you can speak/read chinese, is an amazing resource for news and music directly from the bands.
my own blog, keeps track of music/rock in Beijing. is more about industry news.

How do I know for sure if my U.S. H1-B Visa is approved?

Consular offices have limited staff so once they've accepted your documents and if your interview was conducted without a hitch (if you were called in for an interview), then it's likely the application was approved.  You should receive it within the appropriate period of time.  This will vary from post to post.

Each post should have a website for you to find out more info, as well as a phone number you can call (which costs money).  You can look up the post's website here:

There will be instances where visa applications are denied, but an applicant is always informed of the denial right away, which usually occurs during the interview stage or very soon afterwards in writing.

I am not familiar with posts retaining the passport of an applicant who has been denied so I can't respond to that question.

Why do viruses exist?

I AM part Virus,  – and I don't think I like your attitude.
Please note that my kind brought you into this world, and  we  can  take  you  out !

    When my retrovirus brothers infected a human sperm cell or egg, and that embryo survived, those retrovirus and their message had the evolutionary power to influence humans as a species and become part of the genetic blueprint, passed from mother to child, and from one generation to the next, much like a gene for eye color or webbed feet.  Or much like maternal mitochordia, independent  of nuclear DNA, just a (necessary) entity along for the ride.
     If it were incorporated into the DNA, then we would see a sequence record of it, and Venter's first human genome sequence found thousands or our fragments. So these fragments are both gene and virus; and when some were reassembled, you have active virus, some with roots all the way back to yourgreat green ancestor.   Ref:   Page on

My Ancestral tree is actually the roots of YOUR ancestral tree:
   (from:    E,V.Koonian;j.virol.2015.02.039c/o:   Elsevier: Article Locator
Origin of the major groups of RNA viruses of eukaryotes. The depicted evolutionary reconstruction is predicated on the symbiogenetic scenario of eukaryogenesis. The host ranges of viral groups are color-coded as shown in the inset. Icons of virion structures are shown for selected groups. Ancestor-descendant relationships that are considered tentative are shown with dotted lines, and particularly weak links are additionally indicated by question marks (see text for details). Key horizontal gene transfer events are shown by gray, curved arrows. Abbreviations: CII FP, Class II fusion protein; CP, capsid protein; CPf, capsid protein of filamentous viruses; JRC, jelly roll capsid (protein); MP, movement protein; RT, reverse transcriptase; S2H, Superfamily 2 helicase; S3H, Superfamily 3 helicase.

Has a startup ever sold shares to its beta users?

Yes. For my B2B start up (Credit Market Analysis Ltd, now part of CME Group (NASD: CME)), our early investors were also our beta clients. This worked very well. It was in everyone's interest to optimise the product as fast as possible, which meant that they tested it to destruction, didn't complain about patchy service, and provided fantastic case studies.

I suspect this would be considerably less useful in a B2C context, but for a B2B play it's well worth considering.

Where can I find an Arabic etymological dictionary?

I'm working now on such an etymological dictionary. If you are interested in some certain Arabic words, send them to me. I'll send to you the associated etymological studies about the words.

I'm against to "Anon User" (above)! The etymology of Arabic words are so interesting and has its complex way.

My email address:

How do you collect user-driven product ideas?

We used survey monkey to accomplish this – we put the product description in there (and in the second round, mockups of what the thing would look like) and gave them some background into what problem we were trying to solve. And then we asked for their feedback.

A new tool that seems like it might accomplish this much more quickly is Haven't used it yet, but the premise is interesting.

How do deaf people wake up on time?

Deaf people have been doing this for a very long time.  We're generally sensitive to light, so the sun coming into our windows is one way. 

But if we don't want to wake up THAT early, we will close our shades and use other means.  A long time ago, Deaf would tie strings to those old wind up alarm clocks and attach those strings to various devices that would cause them to wake up, such as an iron suspended over their body which would drop onto their bed (causing vibration) or themselves (hopefully not their heads) as the string wound down with the alarm.  Another device was a cannonball that was released into a downward "maze" which would THUNK! as it hit each "floor" of the maze, creating vibrations which would likely wake up the Deaf person.  Others might sleep while holding their alarm clocks and wake up feeling the vibration of the bell going off. 

Others depended on others to wake them up (parents, roommates, spouses, dorm supervisors, etc.). 

Today, we have two main ways of waking up.  One is alarm clocks connected to lights which flash at the appropriate time.  I personally disfavor this approach — usually, I end up dreaming that somebody's taking my picture repeatedly (which I'm not a fan of) until I tell them to stop before I realize it's a dream and wake up.  So instead, I have a vibrating motor that I place under my mattress (I also have a smaller, travel-sized version which can be placed under my pillow when I go on trips to hotels) which creates a vibration that wakes me up (pretty much instantly — never had a dream about being in an earthquake, even though I live in earthquake country).