Archive for biotech

Batman.

“What’s the point in even having money if you can’t use it to buy better health care?” —Jonathan, my (late) brother, explaining whyhe renounced his Canadian citizenship I’ve been reading a lot about bats recently, in particular this review article from Nature. You can guess why, even if you haven’t hopped on the Batwagon yourself: […]

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The Gene Genies, Part 2: The Genes that Wouldn’t Die.

Evolution with Foresight: an oxymoron, right? Evolution has no foresight. Natural selection only promotes what works in the moment. If a particular mutation doubles your reproductive rate, you will fill the world with thy numbers; the process doesn’t understand too much of a good thing, doesn’t care if greater fecundity today means overpopulation, starvation, and […]

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The Gene Genies, Part 1: The Squids of Lamarck.

You know the drill. DNA holds the source code; RNA carries it to the ribosomes; ribosomes build stuff for the cell. Of course, the details of cellular operation are a million times more intricate than this— some RNA acts not to courier code but to switch genes on and off, for example— but it’s this […]

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Overthinking Apocalypse

There was more, of course. Prof. Piotr Dembowski of the University of Maryland, talking about how difficult it had been to crack the GRM. Someone else from Simon Fraser, reporting that something like Firebrand (“it’s always hard to tell when dealing with encrypted genes”) was showing up in some microbe — Bacteroides thetasomethingorother — that […]

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Lateral Transfers

The whitecap’s skin glows with a golden tan of cultured xanthophylls.  Joel’s smile grows a little more brittle.  He’s heard all about the benefits, of course. UV protection, higher blood oxygen, more energy — they say it even cuts down on your food requirements, not that any of these people have to worry about grocery […]

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“PyrE. Make them tell you what it is.”

At the end of one of the classic novels of TwenCen SF, the protagonist — an illiterate third-class mechanic’s mate named Gulliver Foyle, bootstrapped by his passion for revenge into the most powerful man in the solar system — gets hold of a top-secret doomsday weapon. Think of it as a kind of antimatter which […]

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The Xenotext Experiment

A few of you may remember a throwaway bit of ecogothic ambience near the start of State of Grace: “…pure tissue was so hard to come by these days. There was always something that didn’t belong. Viral DNA, engineered for the greater good but too indiscriminate to stay on target. Special marker genes, designed to […]

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Physician, Heal Thyself.

I was going to devote today’s crawl to a recent study purporting to cast doubts on Libet’s notorious “no free-will” paper from the eighties— kinda pointless attacking that old study when more rigorous and recent studies have been so much more compelling on the same subject, and besides free will isn’t the same thing as […]

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Ass-Covering Imitates Life

Way back when I was writing Maelstrom, a micobiologist ex-prof of mine asked about this βehemoth microbe I was inventing: how, he wondered, could it subvert the signal molecules on the cytoplasmic side of the vesicle so that the vesicles wouldn’t fuse with the lysosomes? This was not an issue I had previously considered.  In […]

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Head Cheese Gone Wild

I was plenty pleased when little porridges of cultured neurons took their first baby steps towards running flight simulators or operating robots in the lab; I was downright smug when folks noticed that I’d got there first. Now, though, researchers from the Missouri University of Science and Technology are planning on putting head cheeses in […]

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