06 PM | 12 Apr

Human #genetic #engineering demands more than a moratorium [#geekgirl]

Photograph: DNA Shutterstock

On April 3 2015, a group of prominent biologists and ethicists writing in Science called for a moratorium on germline gene engineering; modifications to the human genome that will be passed on to future generations. The moratorium would apply to a technology called CRISPR/Cas9, which enables the removal of undesirable genes, insertion of desirable ones, and the broad recoding of nearly any DNA sequence.

Such modifications could affect every cell in an adult human being, including germ cells, and therefore be passed down through the generations. Many organisms across the range of biological complexity have already been edited in this way to generate designer bacteria, plants and primates. There is little reason to believe the same could not be done with human eggs, sperm and embryos. Now that the technology to engineer human germlines is here, the advocates for a moratorium declared, it is time to chart a prudent path forward. They recommend four actions: a hold on clinical applications; creation of expert forums; transparent research; and a globally representative group to recommend policy approaches.

Source and to read the full story: The Guardian

12 PM | 03 Apr

A #Physicist Is Building a Time Machine to Reconnect With His Dead Father [#geekgirl]

American theoretical physicist Dr. Ronald Mallett pours dry ice into a ring laser at a laboratory at the University of Connecticut

The hour is late. His scientific papers were published years ago, filled with equations wrought by the energies of a younger man. But at 69, theoretical physicist Ron Mallett still goes to work every day to build a time machine based on his most elegant construct: At the other end of the equation, he believes, is his father.

Boyd Mallett died when Ron was 10. Like Telemachus out for Odysseus, he vowed as a boy to sail back through time in a device to warn the older Mallett of the heart attack that would take his life on the night of his 11th wedding anniversary.

A University of Connecticut research professor who for years taught in the classroom, Mallett immersed himself in the mysteries of time and space, crafting equations derived from the work of Albert Einstein.

This year is a milestone for both his heroes: the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s general theory of relativity that made time travel a serious topic among today’s theoreticians and the 60th anniversary of his father’s death.

“My whole existence, who I am, is due to the death of my father,” Mallett says, “and my promise to myself to figure out how to affect time with Einstein’s work as a foundation.”

Source and to read the full article: Bloomberg

12 PM | 21 Feb

#Scientists discover what’s killing the #bees and it’s worse than you thought [#geekgirl]

Beehives infected with pesticides

A new study has pinpointed some of the probable causes of bee deaths and the rather scary results show that averting beemageddon will be much more difficult than previously thought.

Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.

Source: QUARTZ