Nanoscale control: Leveraging biology

Part 6 of a series on rethinking science and technology for the 21st century The story so far: We are facing an unprecedented confluence of three factors that are forcing us to rethink how we develop and use science and technology to the benefit of society.  Coupling between our action’s and the Earth’s re-actions is ...

Roll over nanotechnology, synthetic biology is coming!

So you’re looking for a new technology concept—something that will stimulate research funding, make a buck or two, and maybe save the world—at least for another year or so.  What do you need? Here’s a quick checklist: Something that’s revolutionary. Evolutionary change doesn’t hack it these days I’m afraid—your new technology needs to make a ...

1 min

New life, old bottles: The video

A five-minute primer on the promise and challenge of first-generation synthetic biology As an addendum to the previous post on synthetic biology, the following interview from the Wilson Center provides a great overview of what synthetic biology is all about, and the potential challenges of ensuring its safe development and use: [flashvideo file=http://www.nanotechproject.org/multimedia/flash/synbio2/rodemeyer-small.flv /] For ...

4 mins

Are we ready for synthetic biology?

A new report looks at the challenges of regulating first generation products of synthetic biology. At the J. Craig Venter Institute, scientists are on the verge of creating a living organism from “dead” chemicals, by rebooting a microbe with a new—and completely artificially constructed—genome. At the University of California Berkeley, researchers are modifying microbes to ...

9 mins

Darwin, evolution, and the genesis of intelligent design

Charles Darwin has a lot to answer for.  He saw the world with new eyes, fundamentally changed our understanding of nature, and upset a lot of people in the process.  200 years after his birth, Darwin’s work underpins modern biology.  His findings still challenge, stimulate and—amazingly—offend people the world over.  And his discoveries continue to ...

4 mins

Biohacking—synthetic biology for the technologically marginalized

Last June I wrote a short piece on biohacking, prompted by a UK report on the social and ethical challenges of synthetic biology.  At the time, I though the aspirations of the nascent biopunk community naively optimistic, but potentially worrying.  Six months on, biohacking is hitting the mainstream press—and gaining momentum.   Maybe it was ...

5 mins

Saints or synners?

Policy, public perceptions, and the opportunities and challenges of synthetic biology Synthetic biology—a supreme expression of scientific hubris, or the solution to all our problems? Like everything in life, I suspect that the answer to the question is far from black and white.  Yet what is clear is that this emerging science and technology that ...

6 mins

Synthetic biology: Lessons from synthetic chemistry

Looking back to chart a course to the future This coming lunchtime*, former New York Times columnist Denise Caruso will discuss the promise and pit-falls of synthetic biology with Center for American Progress senior fellow and former Washington Post science reporter Rick Weiss.  Given the track record of both participants, I’m anticipating a stimulating and ...

3 mins

Synthetic Biology 4.0—changing the way science is done

Sitting here absorbing the atmosphere at the Synthetic Biology 4.0 meeting in Hong Kong, I have the strangest feeling of being transported into a Kim Stanley Robinson novel.  It’s not the cutting edge science being presented that is responsible, exciting and innovative as this is.  Neither is it the spectacular and futuristic setting, high above ...

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