"biology" entries

Radar Theme: Personal Genomics

[This is part of a series of posts that briefly describe the trends were currently tracking here at O'Reilly: 1, 2] Genetic analysis software and hardware used to be very expensive, only for professionals—now it’s trickling down to ProAms, and soon (under 5 years) will be widespread for consumer applications. This changes how drugs are developed and applied (don’t test…

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Radar Theme: Neuro-everything

[This is part of a series of posts that briefly describe the trends that we're currently tracking here at O'Reilly] Humans are consistently irrational, and every lottery ticket sold proves the point again. Psychologists, economists, neurobiologists are all studying what makes us behave the way we do. The promise is that we'll be able to be better: compensate for our…

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Radar Theme: Synthetic Biology

[This is part of a series of posts that briefly describe the trends that we're currently tracking here at O'Reilly] Drew Endy taught undergraduate students how to make e. coli bacteria that smelled like wintergreen, using his biobricks. This shows us a future for biology where "useful biological tasks" can be "automated" using "components". The quotes indicate where research and…

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Guessing gender from browser history

I just found a clever trick for guessing gender from browser history. I tried it and then realized that I'm a crappy test for the system: yes, likelihood of my being male is 99%. But if I read a hardcore geek tech blog, then that's probably the case anyway. I could emulate that behaviour with a simple return(G_MALE) in the…

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Should Personal Genomics Be Regulated?

I read recently about the cease and desist letters sent to 23andme and other personal genomics companies selling tests directly to consumers. 23andme has responded, saying that they agree with the ultimate need for regulation, but that harnessing the consumer internet for personal genomics is a really valuable scientific tool. I have to say I find myself doubtful about the…

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Radar Roundup: Brains

Today's topic is: our brains, understanding how they work, and living with the consequences of that knowledge. Brain Enhancement: Right or Wrong? (NYT): amazing gray areas we're getting into. Is it okay for a scientist to take brain-enhancing drugs? Compare with Wired News's write-up of Quinn Norton's ETech talk on the subject of how new bio technology will make us…

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Jill Bolte Taylor's amazing TED talk

At least three of this year's TED talks were flat-out amazing: Tod Machover's, Benjamin Zander's, and Jill Bolte Taylor's. The first of them has just been posted: Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard neuroanatomist, eavesdropped on her own stroke. As I wrote the day of her talk, she walked us through what she felt and thought while her brain was going…

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Radar Roundup: Bio

(Feedback to the first week was that there were too many links per day and they were too random. This week I'll try keeping it to 3-5 links, themed each day. First up: biotech and personal genomics.) Insurance Fears Lead Many to Shun DNA Tests (NYTimes, reg required): many people not going through doctors to get DNA tested because of…

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Synthetic Biology and Personal Genomics

We've been watching synthetic biology closely since Drew Endy keynoted on open source biology at OSCON back in 2005 (audio here). You might have caught Quinn Norton's series of posts on Drew and his work (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). It's definitely hitting the mainstream, with the New York Times last month talking about synthetic bio and the…

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Synthetic Biology: The conclusion of the very beginning

Note: This ends Quinn Norton's five-part series on Drew Endy and synthetic biology. The earlier installments are Everything you needed to know about human-created life forms but were afraid to ask, The dummy's guide to engineering genes, Play God for fun and profit (mostly fun), and Managing the unmanagable future. "Biology is a technology for manufacturing," says Drew Endy. Engineered…

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