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Current Topic: Biology

Simpsons Fan Creates Real Tomacco Plant
Topic: Biology 11:14 pm EST, Nov  3, 2003

According to a KPTV newscast, a Simpsons fan with too much time on his hands grafted a tobacco plant and a tomato plant and, ta-da: tomacco!

Bart: Bleh! Tastes like cigarette butts.

Marge: [takes the half-eaten "tomato"] That's odd. The outside looks like a tomato, but the inside is brown.

Lisa: Maybe the tomato seeds crossbred with the tobacco seeds.

Homer: Oh, great, I've got a field full of mutants.

Bart: Gimmie. I want more. [grabs back the tomato and eats it]

Lisa: I thought you said it tasted terrible.

Bart: It does. [grinds out the remains of the first tomato] But it's smooth and mild. [grabs another] And refreshingly addictive.

Homer: Addictive, eh?

Simpsons Fan Creates Real Tomacco Plant

PLoS Biology: Open-Access Journal
Topic: Biology 12:40 am EDT, Oct 26, 2003

PLoS Biology is the premier open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science.

PLoS Biology features works of exceptional significance in all areas of biological science, from molecules to ecosystems, including works at the interface with other disciplines.

One could argue whether scientists need more journals, but we believe there is a global need for greater access to scientific and medical information and that open-access journals can meet this need by removing subscription barriers to the written scientific record.

PLoS Biology: Open-Access Journal

Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism
Topic: Biology 1:42 pm EDT, Oct 11, 2003

We consider ways to minimize threats from biological warfare and bioterrorism without hindering the progress of biotechnology, which is essential for the health of the nation. This task is complicated because almost all biotechnology in service of human health can be subverted for misuse by hostile individuals or nations.

The major vehicles of bioterrorism, at least in the near term, are likely to be based on materials and techniques that are available throughout the world and are easily acquired. Most importantly, a critical element of our defense against bioterrorism is the accelerated development of biotechnology to advance our ability to detect and cure disease.

Since the development of biotechnology is facilitated by the sharing of ideas and materials, open communication offers the best security against bioterrorism. The tension between the spread of technologies that protect us and the spread of technologies that threaten us is the crux of the dilemma.

This is the first National Academies report to deal specifically with national security and the life sciences.

You can download a free pre-publication copy of this report in PDF.

Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism

The Fourth International Georgia Tech Conference on Bioinformatics
Topic: Biology 9:27 pm EDT, Apr  6, 2003

The fourth bi-annual International Bioinformatics conference, to be held November 13-16, 2003, in Atlanta, GA, brings together researchers working at the cutting edge of contemporary "genome-based" biological science. Three previous conferences attracted participants from both Academia and Industry worldwide.

Speakers include Albert-Lásló Barabási, professor at Notre Dame and author of "Linked".

The Fourth International Georgia Tech Conference on Bioinformatics

Remembering Dolly |
Topic: Biology 3:38 pm EST, Feb 16, 2003

Dolly, the first clone from a mammal, died yesterday [2/13/2003] at the age of 6 years old.

Jaron Lanier: Dolly, you were born at the most optimistic moment imaginable. ... You were both an inspiration and a challenge. ... Oh Dolly, let's hope we have many second chances, and that your legacy will recall the world as it was at the start of your life more than what it has come to be at the end of your life.

Remembering Dolly |

Realtime Outbreak and Disease Surveillance Laboratory
Topic: Biology 10:57 am EDT, Jul  4, 2002

The mission of the RODS Laboratory is to investigate methods for the real-time detection and assessment of outbreaks of disease using information technology.

Funding from CDC and DARPA. Working with the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center.

Realtime Outbreak and Disease Surveillance Laboratory

Tracking an Outbreak Minute by Minute
Topic: Biology 10:47 am EDT, Jul  4, 2002

Computer networks have been used for years by public health officials to monitor outbreaks of disease. Typically, reporting and compiling can take a day or more ... Public health experts recognize a need for more rapid surveillance and detection ... Systems are being developed to collect and analyze disease data immediately ... One such program, called Real-Time Outbreak and Disease Surveillance, or RODS, is being developed at the Center for Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh.

"Our goal is to be able to analyze patterns and ask whether there is something unusual compared to the usual. ... There's a torrent of information being collected routinely in real time. Our goals include building a thin layer of data collection infrastructure ...

A report on the latest research at the leading edge of the counter-biowarfare effort.

Tracking an Outbreak Minute by Minute

Scientists Make Two Stem Cell Advances
Topic: Biology 7:09 am EDT, Jun 21, 2002

Two significant advances in cell therapy, the notion of treating diseases with human cells instead of drugs, have been made by scientists at the National Institutes of Health and the University of Minnesota.

One advance shows how embryonic stem cells can be converted into copious quantities of the exact type of brain cell that is lost in Parkinson's disease, a technique that might have possible use in therapy.

The other research reports that cells surprisingly similar to embryonic stem cells can be isolated from people's bone marrow.

Scientists Make Two Stem Cell Advances

Got Silk?
Topic: Biology 8:06 am EDT, Jun 15, 2002

I walk into the humid goat shed in my Tyvex suit and sterilized boots. I look around the pen. Hundreds of sly-looking, inquisitive goats are staring at me intently. They seem unexceptional enough, but ... this is a so-called "transgenic farm" owned and run by Nexia Biotechnologies.

Nexia CEO: "Oh, it's not that weird. What we're doing here is ingeniously simple. We take a single gene from a golden orb-weaving spider and put it into a goat egg. The idea is to make the goat secrete spider silk into its milk. ... We're going to make biodegradable fishing lines out of it. Or maybe tennis racket strings. We call our product BioSteel."

"They're just goats.    [Pause.]    Mostly."

Got Silk?

_Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution_ by Francis Fukuyama
Topic: Biology 10:38 pm EST, Mar 30, 2002

What's at stake in tomorrow's biotech revolution: a definitive assessment from "a superior mind at work" (Robert Kaplan, Los Angeles Times Book Review)

In 1989, Francis Fukuyama made his now-famous pronouncement that because "the major alternatives to liberal democracy had exhausted themselves," history as we knew it had reached its end. Ten years later, he revised his argument: we hadn't reached the end of history, he wrote, because we hadn't yet reached the end of science. Arguing that the greatest advances still to come will be in the life sciences, Fukuyama now asks how the ability to modify human behavior will affect liberal democracy. To reorient contemporary debate, Fukuyama underlines man's changing understanding of human nature through history: from Plato and Aristotle's belief that man had "natural ends" to the ideals of utopians and dictators of the modern age who sought to remake mankind for ideological ends. Fukuyama persuasively argues that the ultimate prize of the biotechnology revolution -- intervention in the "germ-line," the ability to manipulate the DNA of all of one person's descendants -- will have profound, and potentially terrible, consequences for our political order, even if undertaken by ordinary parents seeking to "improve" their children. In Our Posthuman Future, our greatest social philosopher begins to describe the potential effects of our exploration on the foundation of liberal democracy: the belief that human beings are equal by nature.

_Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution_ by Francis Fukuyama

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