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.

Apple, ethics, Facebook, good news, Google, government, human rights, internet, things getting better

Why we LOVE Stacey Abrams

If you’re celebrating seeing Donald Trump and the worst of his deplorable followers driven off social media, thank Stacey Abrams.

She devoted years to building the Democratic Party in Georgia. Wrote a book about voter suppression and co-produced an Amazon Prime documentary, “All In: the Fight for Democracy.”

People in the know credit Stacey Abrams for flipping the 2 Senate seats from Republican to Democrat.

NOW the Biden team has control of all 3 branches of government for 2 years.

NOW the Biden team can enthusiastically regulate BIG TECH.

NOW Twitter, Facebook and pretty much every other major platform is banning Trumpy hate speech.

Thanks Stacey.

Amazon, Apple, education, Google, internet, things getting better

Online education SUCKS

There’s no way online classes will be as bad in 2025 as they are today.

I expect Google, Apple, Amazon to be amongst the companies disrupting the current expensive American College system.  Taking their money. 

But it’s this organization — Outlier — that won a Time magazine BEST inventions of 2020 award.

At least they are trying to improve the experience.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

books, ethics, government, human rights, things getting better

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Of many movies and books I’ve recently reviewed trying to become more aware of my white privilege, White Fragility is best.

That surprised me as the author is White writing for a White audience.  Writing for me, a privileged white male who believes he’s anti-racist.

Click PLAY or watch DiAngelo on YouTube.

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism is a 2018 book written by Robin DiAngelo about race relations in the United States.

An academic with experience in diversity training, DiAngelo coined the term “white fragility” in 2011 to describe any defensive instincts or reactions that a white person experiences when questioned about race or made to consider their own race.

In White Fragility, DiAngelo views racism in the United States as systemic and often perpetuated unconsciously by individuals….

DiAngelo linked to a study pointing out that children aged 3 upwards believe it better to be White in the USA.

She points out that white, males avowing to be Christian and heterosexual are at consistent advantage.  Everyone else at a disadvantage, especially Black Americans.

That’s systemic racism.

The book is popular but has had a fair bit of criticism, as well.

Personally, I learned a lot.  On the other hand, it’s not well written: too academic, frequently repeating the same bullet points.

Also, I wouldn’t sign-up for one of DiAngelo‘s lectures nor diversity training workshops.  I find her arrogant and too defensive with those who challenge.

And here’s how comedian Ron Hart learned about his white privilege in 1994.  As the only White guy in a comedy club.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

ethics, government, things getting better

John Oliver on Confederate statues & memorials

Compromise – MOVE any controversial statue into a museum.  

Laying out the Confederacy’s rationale for seceding from the U.S.

Savannah, Georgia, March 21, 1861

Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens:

“Our new government[‘s] foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man.”

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube. (2017)

education, ethics, government, happiness, things getting better

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

20-year old Taylor Wilson wrote the best article I’ve read so far on the 2020 Black Lives Matters protests.

Racism is housing discrimination, food inequity, mass incarceration, underfunded schools, unequal access to sport, over-policing, voter disenfranchisement, the war on drugs, hiring discrimination, unequal access to healthcare, and a flawed criminal justice system that far too often lets officers go unchecked for abusing their power. 

I am tired of seeing Black people beaten and murdered by police. I am deeply disturbed by the lack of accountability for police officers who so blatantly cause harm, shielded by a blue wall of silence that seems impenetrable by the justice system. …

Dr. King – “I Have a Dream”

Almost 56 years after the Civil Rights Act was signed, and Black people are STILL fighting for equal protection under the law and the genuine right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. …

Enough is enough. “Thoughts and prayers” is no longer a sufficient response …

Denounce racism when it’s not convenient for you. In rooms where there are no Black people. … In every space, especially those in which you hold a position of power or influence, leverage your privilege. Do not stay silent. Be explicitly anti-racist and hold others accountable for their words and actions. …

If reading this made you uncomfortable, good

Get comfortable being uncomfortable because I promise you, this is just the beginning.

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

economics, ethics, product endorsements, things getting better, travel

Lyft or Uber?

Cool kids like Lyft better. But Uber is far more available in far more places.

While both services look identical, there are major differences. Uber is richer in features and available in more cities. Yet Lyft is more transparent in its receipts about the details of a trip …

In terms of ride-summoning features, Uber wins hands down.

The verdict: Lyft wins, in part for greater transparency.

The verdict: Frequent riders will benefit more from Uber’s rewards program, which is more comprehensive and compelling.

What about reputation?

The verdict: Though neither company is innocent, Lyft wins by a long shot.

Where Uber and Lyft are available

Uber has an advantage because of its broad availability worldwide. The company, which has operations in 63 countries, is a behemoth compared with Lyft, which is available in just the United States and Canada.

Uber vs. Lyft: Which Ride-Hailing App Is Better?