ethics, government, science

World’s First Genetically-modified Babies

He Jiankui has been jailed in China for 3 years. And fined US$430,000.

He’s the researcher who’s work led to the world’s first gene-edited babies known as Lulu and Nana in 2018.

Their father was HIV positive. Mother HIV negative.

His goal was to edit their genes to be highly resistant to HIV using CRISPR.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

books, good news, health & fitness, movies, science, things getting better

The Code Breakers by Walter Isaacson

Have you heard of CRISPR?

(clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their contributions in the development of a method for genome editing.

It’s called the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors.

Based on how bacteria fights off virus attackers, in future CRISPR will be used to fight coronavirus variations.

Click PLAY or see how it works on YouTube.

Most people my age know about Watson and Crick’s discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA. But I certainly couldn’t explain anything about CRISPR before reading this book.

Once again, Walter Isaacson made a complex story entertaining with this 2021 biography:

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race

The bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs returns with a gripping account of how Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues launched a revolution that will allow us to cure diseases, fend off viruses, and have healthier babies.

When Jennifer Doudna was in sixth grade, she came home one day to find that her dad had left a paperback titled The Double Helix on her bed. She put it aside, thinking it was one of those detective tales she loved. When she read it on a rainy Saturday, she discovered she was right, in a way. As she sped through the pages, she became enthralled by the intense drama behind the competition to discover the code of life. Even though her high school counselor told her girls didn’t become scientists, she decided she would.

The development of CRISPR and the race to create vaccines for coronavirus will hasten our transition to the next great innovation revolution. The past half-century has been a digital age, based on the microchip, computer, and internet. Now we are entering a life-science revolution. Children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study genetic code. …

After helping to discover CRISPR, Doudna became a leader in wrestling with these moral issues and, with her collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the Nobel Prize in 2020. Her story is a thrilling detective tale that involves the most profound wonders of nature, from the origins of life to the future of our species.

simon and schuster

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

The first half of the book is the story. Very entertaining.

Then it gets better.

A detailed look at the drama over WHO wins the awards. WHO gets the patents.

Of course there are many other scientists who could have and should be lauded for breakthroughs in this field. They are covered in the biography, as well.

Most worthy — perhaps — is Feng Zhang. But he and his boss Eric Lander come off as BAD GUYS in this book, unethical in their collaborations.

ONE bit of good news. When COVID-19 was announced early 2020, both Zhang’s and Doudna’s companies changed research priorities towards developing CRISPR-based coronavirus tests. Both were successful and both hope to make simple at-home tests ready for market in 2021: Sherlock and Mammoth.

The most entertaining of the CRISPR giants is geneticist George Church. When the movie is made, he’ll be the fan favourite.

Emmanuelle Charpentier is an intriguing personality, as well. I’d read her biography.

books, ethics, government, science

Why Fish Don’t Exist by Lulu Miller

A Story of Loss, Love and the Hidden Order of Life

Great book.

One thread is the astonishing story of David Starr Jordan, Stanford University’s first president, a leading scientist of his day.

Did he murder Jane Stanford, wife of the University founder?

More interesting to me was the life story of the author, intertwined with her research into this obscure topic. Lulu Miller is hilarious.

One awful thread is the fact that the USA was the first nation to legislate eugenics. Forced sterilization was the law in 32 U.S. states, and actually inspired Hitler.

AND there’s the fact new to me that … Fish Don’t Exist.

Read the National Book Review.

about Rick, ethics, government, happiness, human rights, science

I’m a Humanist

Author Yuval Noah Harari would say my religion is Humanism.

My bible the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The first Humanist Manifesto was issued by a conference held at the University of Chicago in 1933.

Signatories included the philosopher John Dewey, but the majority were ministers (chiefly Unitarian) and theologians.

They identified humanism as an ideology that espouses reasonethics, and social and economic justice, and they called for science to replace dogma and the supernatural as the basis of morality and decision-making.

So far, so good.

In 1941, the American Humanist Association was organised. Noted members of The AHA included Isaac Asimov, who was the president from 1985 until his death in 1992, and writer Kurt Vonnegut, who followed as honorary president until his death in 2007.

They advocate in Washington, D.C., for separation of church and state.

There is a sub-set called secular humanism that consciously rejects supernatural and religiosity.

I wouldn’t go that far, myself.

But I do believe strongly in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 

 

ethics, government, science

EVERYONE should support planting more TREES

No matter what your opinion on CO2 levels higher than they  been for at least the past three million years, you can support planting more trees.

Trees are good in many ways.

Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson, some guy who got popular on YouTube, started a campaign that raised enough money for more than 20 million trees to be planted across the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Haiti, Indonesia, Ireland, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal, and the United Kingdom.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Secondly, we should STOP subsidizing fossil fuel industries. One study calculated $5 trillion / year in subsidy worldwide.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Greta Thunberg has inspired millions of students to become environmental activists for climate change.

I love to see how some previously unknown teenager scares so many of the rich and powerful worldwide.

She’s the youngest individual Time Person of the Year.

Thunberg was also nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

science, travel

where to find the Mylodon

Mylodon is an extinct genus of ground sloths that lived in South America; Patagonia (Chile and Argentina) until roughly 5,000 years ago  …

Mylodon weighed about 1,000 kilograms (2,205 lb) and was about 3 m (9.8 ft) long from snout to tail tip. It had very thick hide and had osteodermswithin its skin for added armor. Because of this armor and its long and sharp claws, it is unlikely that the Mylodon had any natural enemies other than humans …

That’s a model at the Cueva del Milodón Natural Monument where fossils were found in 1896. I didn’t make the trip out there from Puerto Natales as I’d head it was pretty cheesy.

Instead I took these photos in town!