A Trillion Reasons to Care About Genomics

July 02 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Biotechnology   Year: General   Rating: 11 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from www.jumpthecurve.net

I speak to a great many student groups and I am often struck by how few of them appreciate the difference between one million, one billion and one trillion. (In the name of fairness, the same is true of many adults). Perhaps, it is because the three figures are all large numbers that most people don’t think there is an appreciable difference. Perhaps, it is because the words – million, billion, and trillion – the rhyme; or maybe it’s just because they’re dumb—or have had poor teachers. I really don’t know.

One way I have tried to convey the difference between the numbers is by explaining the figures in a different way. To wit:

One million seconds was 12 days ago; One billion seconds was roughly 30 years ago; One trillion seconds was approximately 30,000 years ago – 28,000 B.C.!

My point with the analogy is that one trillion of anything is a really BIG number, and it is much, much different than one billion. This analogy is important because on January 17, 2006 the Wellcome Sanger Institute announced it had archived it’s one billionth DNA sequence. It was an impressive accomplishment.

Well, today, Wired magazine reported that the prominent genetics institute sequenced its trillionth base of DNA. This is a one thousand-fold improvement in just over two years. (cont.)

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Personal Genomics In Our Future

March 26 2008 / by Venessa Posavec / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: 2011   Rating: 10

As genome sequencing costs continue to fall, the personal genomics industry may soon blossom. It could be as soon as next year. I’m hopeful for that, at least, after reading a post on Brian Wang’s blog, Next Big Future. He gave a nice succinct overview of what’s going on in the field, and how quickly it may become affordable for many people.

In order to really be viable as a supplemental health service, the magic price point for a full genome sequencing is said to be $1,000. Here’s a quick breakdown of how drastically the time and money needed to produce that data has been minimized already, thanks to the accelerating rate of computing power and technological progress:


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UK Doing its Best to Become Dystopian with Mobile Fingerprint Scanners

October 27 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Security   Year: 2010   Rating: 5 Hot

The UK police are implementing a new policy which has civil liberty groups in an uproar. Called Project Midas, it aims to put small Blackberry-like fingerprint scanners in the hands of police within the next two years. This will allow police to confirm the identity (7.5 million prints on record and climbing) of people they detain.

Officials claim that the fingerprint records will only be used for identification and all fingerprints obtained by the device will be erased. But after reading about the British bomb-sniffing laundromat I have my doubts.

In fact, the UK Police are notorious for invading the civil liberties of their people. With an estimated 1.5 million security cameras around London alone (along with a probable 4.2 million country-wide), it’s no wonder the British people are feeling a little perturbed.

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DNA Can Double As Fiber Optic Cables, Self Assemble Themselves

November 14 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: 2009   Rating: 5 Hot

Bo Albinsson at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, has figured out a way to use DNA as a nano fiber optic cable. They accomplish this by combining DNA strands with a chromophore called YO which has a strong attraction to DNA molecules. By wedging itself into areas of DNA, a 3nm diameter fiber optic cable is born (these fibers are self-assembling).

Fiber optic cables have become more commonplace in the world and are expected to take an even bigger step into the solar energy business by improving photo voltaic cells. Optical computers could also benefit greatly from photon-specific nanowires.

via New Scientist

Image: Diego Cantalapiedra (Flickr,CC-Attribution)

Possibilities endless with artificial life

July 16 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 4 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Bodies that never get sick, clothes that change their material and color, and machines that fix their own glitches. These are some of the dreams researchers see as they attempt to copy how nature gathers non-living matter and transforms it into living things.

Life is generally not thought of as being mechanical, but a cell basically is a miniature machine which rearranges non-living atoms to create parts that “bring it to life.”

What makes life possible, scientists say, is the natural tendency of atoms to assemble into molecules, and molecules to assemble into larger structures. Scientists want to understand this process and use it to create self-replicating nano-materials that can be instructed to “grow” into a variety of products.

If we could make life, researchers say, we could apply its principles towards building almost any product. Life is very complicated, but it repairs itself, organizes itself, and adapts to changes – all automatically. It’s the ideal blueprint for assembling things atom by atom with no material waste and minimal labor costs.

Commercial benefits could include nano-size cell-repair machines that create new arteries, deliver drugs to specific sites, and heal the body from the inside; clothing that changes its molecular structure and color on command; bio-systems that clean up the environment; and powerful nano-chips that improve electronic and communication devices.

Leaders in artificial life research are the European Union’s Programmable Artificial Cell Evolution project, and the NASA-supported Protocell project at Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico. (cont.)

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