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Remembering Dennis Ritchie (RIP)

I discovered just today (01/26/2012) that Dennis Ritchie, one of the more prominent figures in computing, died. How was this possible, the news of the passing of such an important personality in the computer science community went silent for almost 4 months? The media barely covered his death, they something that stunned the world, just the same day: Steve Job’s death. The world is guilty of not showing their respects, just as it did with Steve Jobs. I wanted to write something to acknowledge Dennis Ritchie. Just as Steve change my life for being a believer, a visionary and a leader, Ritchie change it to create the science that supports almost everything I do (and even what Steve did). That’s a tall order to fill up, the word everything is BIG, so let’s check out some of his accomplishments:

  1. Creator of the C programming language. That along earns it quite an array of accolades and influence. Here are some ripple effects of this creation:
    • Without C, there is no C++
    • Without C, there is no Objective C
    • Without C, there no Unit OS, or Windows OS. No Linux, no Symbian, OSX, or iOS. Without these, there would be no Nokias, no Blackberries, no Androids, no iPhones or iPads.
    • Thanks to C, the words ‘programmer’ and ‘software developer’ became ubiquitous in society
  2. Because of C, software engineering and programming was made accessible to the masses, and became a ‘popular’ career path in university programs.
  3. Created the generic operating systems theory that supports the fundamental concepts of all modern operating systems.
  4. Implemented the UNIX OS. Again the ripple effects of this accomplishment are too much to list here.
  5. Author of “The C Programming Language,” also known as “K. & R.”, standing for Kernighan and Ritchie.
  6. Awarded the Turing Award in 1983 for his enormous contributions in the fields of computing and operating systems. The Turing Award is the highest distinction given to a human being for their contribution to the field of Computer Science.

His accomplishments were the foundation to the technology revolution we experienced in the last decades. The gigantic footprint Dennis Ritchie left in the world are in my modest opinion, far-reaching, transformational and revolutionary than anyone that left this world in 2011. He was certainly not the most charismatic and public person in the world, so the media didn’t like him as much as Steve.

This is image is trending today… for some reason 4 months after Ritchie died.

Here is another article making another side by side contribution.

I have nothing but great respect for both of these men. Without their dents in the universe, my life would have been a much different one. If you think Dennis Ritchie deserves your respect, share this with your friends, and let the world know that 2011 was the year when we lost two very important figures, and not just one.

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Personal Genetics: Discovering yourself

Today I signed on for a service to analyze my DNA by 23andMe. Basically the way it works is:

  1. You pay for a kit ($499 $99 + $5 a month).
  2. They'll send you the kit containing a lab test tube.
  3. Then you spit into the tube and send it back to them.
  4. They'll take your DNA from the saliva and analyze it (in 6-8 weeks).
  5. You get all sorts of valuable information from your DNA in your 23andMe account.

Information you get from this "genotyping" (that's what the process is called) of your DNA ranges from interesting insight into why are you tall, or bald or chubby, all the way to incredible valuable information about real risk factors to dozens of diseases, and the way your body responds to different drugs and foods.

But wait a second. Why would somebody want to know they have high risk of getting prostate cancer than anybody else? This is a very similar philosophical debate as that one of "Do you want to know exactly the day you are going to die?". I bet many of us will answer "NO" to that question. After all, surprises and the battle for survival is what makes us humans and appreciate life the way we do. But, as the popular saying goes, from Death and Taxes there is no scape. No matter how much or how little you know about the HOW or the WHY, you and every living creature of this earth will have their time.

So, that brings me to the point of reasoning. Here are a couple of good things about having that little edge of knowledge:

  1. It helps you on preventive care -> You can make better lifestyle choices (like exercise, weight control and regulate your diet) if you know you have high chances of developing diabetes.
  2. It helps you narrow down a disease or sickness you've been experiencing -> This is specially true for people dealing with unknown conditions or symptoms that doctors haven't been able to decipher.
  3. It helps your doctor to reach conclusions much faster and easier -> Having your DNA information at hand will reduce unnecessary tests at the clinic and help your physician act more rapidly and accurately based on the valuable risk factor information from your DNA.
  4. It allows you to understand your limitations in life and prepare for what is to come -> Yes, we all have our limits and if you have a genetic mutation that increases your likelihood of developing say... Parkinson's disease; you better be ready to affront what is to come; with family, professional and financial decisions to make sooner rather than later.
  5. It helps you to have a better understanding of yourself -> DNA information is the bible of yourself. No hidden lies, no drama; just what nature intended for you.
  6. It allows you to uncover your ancestral origins -> Just face it, it's cool. Knowing why you are the way you are and no other way; knowing the reason of your existence from your ancestors; map the heritage in your genes... is just cool. It makes me feel a more integral part of the universe.

I should acknowledge though, that this "little piece of information" is not very well received by some people. I would never recommend this service to somebody that is susceptible of depression or misery; it would only create a bigger drama in her/his life. This is for people who can handle information and insight of your life with control, intelligence and moderation, mostly to be preventive about high probable outcomes in your future. This is no magic crystal ball, no oracle; this is proven science.

As I mentioned before, the service is given by a company called "23 and Me" (www.23andMe.com) for $99 for the initial genotype of your DNA. After that you can pay an additional $5 per month to maintain you account on their website and have the latests scientific breakthroughs about your DNA every month updated on your profile, specifically targeted to your genotype. Most of this continuous research and information comes from "The Human Genome Project", an international organization specifically dedicated to the scientific research of the human genome. With research centers around the world focusing on the mapping, genome annotation and sequencing of the human genome, they certanly have a lot more to discover about humans' most inner secrets: ourselves.

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