AI augmentation is coming

You like carrying your phone around and taking pictures. You like looking through the pictures stored on your phone, and you like showing your friends and family members pictures that you took on your phone.
Wouldn't it be convenient if you didn't have to look down all the time at that tiny screen? Wouldn't it be cool if you could just pull up a picture across your full field of view? Researchers develop an interface between your phone and your eyes, so that you can browse pictures without needing a phone screen. Maybe it's a set of contact lenses that display pictures in front of your pupils; maybe it's some fine wires interfacing with your optic nerve. Your friends and family get the same interface, so you can send them pictures that they can see with their own eyes too.
But what if your phone gets stolen? Nobody wants to lose all their pictures. That's why people are already using cloud storage to back up their pictures. Pretty soon there's not much poin…

Idea: Wiki for biographies

A person has to be decently famous to have their own Wikipedia page. But everyone has an interesting life story, regardless of how famous they are. Someone should build a website where ordinary people can write summaries of their own lives, or where they can put up summaries of family members' lives after they have passed away. The site could even be linked up with a genealogy website like, so that you could see a full family tree and then click on an individual person to read a brief synopsis of their life.

Advice to MD PhD applicants

I found this document that I wrote on January 16, 2014 with some advice for MD PhD applicants. It's basically a mishmash of "things I wish I knew before doing this whole crazy process" and "things I actually did that really paid off." For your enjoyment, here's the advice, with a few updates:
Apply early. In practice this means get your primary app done early but it ALSO means: send in your transcript early! My university took months to send in my transcript so even though I submitted my primary application literally within a minute of the window opening, my application wasn't processed  at all until about two months later when AMCAS finally received my transcript. Also, even if you haven’t received secondaries yet, you can start working on them in the following way: go online to med school forums and find the prompts for the secondaries, which people will post, and then by the time you get your secondaries you can have your essays already wr…


Your genome is approximately 825 megabytes of information1. That’s about the size of an operating system like Windows 8, or about 6 million pages of text containing 250 words per page – and it codes for an entire human body. The full text of “How to Make a Human” fits into a volume a hundred times smaller than a grain of rice.2
The fertilized egg you came from contained 2 meters of DNA total, and developed into you through approximately 5 trillion cell divisions. For that cell division to occur, interphase DNA molecules as long as 3-4 centimeters condensed into chromosomes whose length is measured in millionths of a meter. This is equivalent to squashing a string as long as two football fields into a case the size of a piece of mechanical pencil lead.3
football fieldslead

So here you are…made up of 10^14 (a hundred trillion: 100,000,000,000,000) specialized cells capable of carrying out all your body’s functions. Together, your cells contain 10 trillion meters of DNA, which is approxi…

A beautiful painting


Save the spiders!

Spiders are cool. There are over 45,000 species of spiders, ranging from the tiny 0.37 mm Patu digua from Colombia, to dinner-plate-sized Goliath "bird-eaters" (ref). Spider silk is an amazing substance - super-light, super-strong, and biodegradable - so scientists have been trying to copy it for years. Even spider bodies are a source of inspiration -  can you imagine how excited DARPA would be if they had a robot as small, inexpensive, and agile as a single spider? If you're still not convinced that spiders are inherently cool and inspiring, watch this video.
Patu digua
David holding Goliath
But it doesn't matter if spiders are cool - don't they bite people?! Spider bites are actually extremely rare. Almost none of the spider species around the world bite humans, and many are not even capable of piercing human skin. The major exceptions are black widow spiders, recluse spiders, Australian funnel web spiders, and Phoneutria spiders (this website can help you ident…

Clinical iron

NOTE: I wrote this at the end of my first clinical year of medical school, in 2016. I have not modified it at all, except to ensure that any mention of patients is generic. Any “details” have been completely anonymized, to protect patient privacy.
REFLECTIONS: Clinical year is a year of branding-iron memories because it is a year of extremes. The last day of my first clerkship, medicine, we saw two deaths. “Take a look in that room as we pass by,” said my resident. “That man’s dead.” As we breezed past I saw a room packed with family and friends, surrounding the body of an elderly gentleman, who looked like he could have been a famous statue. Two hours later we were sitting in the workroom when the nurse poked his head in: “8:17 a.m.” Members of the team immediately left the room to check on the patient he was referring to, who during her hospitalization had been diagnosed with multiple infections, placed on a Niagara Falls of IV antibiotics, and succumbed to sepsis with only the nurs…