GOOD

Scientists Map Out Entire Genetic Code of Iceland

In the uniquely homogenous nation, some see great promise for disease prevention, others worry about privacy.

Norsemen landing in Iceland, by Oscar Wergeland. Most of Iceland's population descends from a relatively small group of settlers, making this kind of genetic testing uniquely feasible.

Late last month, researchers out of Iceland announced that they’d made a major leap in the field of genetics: They’d mapped the entire genetic code of their nation, the largest genomic study ever. This project, detailed in four interconnected papers in the current issue of the scientific journal Nature Genetics, was the culmination of 18 years of work by deCode, a local private research company (purchased by California’s Amgen after declaring bankruptcy in 2009). And according to these papers, the firm’s research isn’t just cool in abstract. As a roadmap for further studies, it has the potential to revolutionize the way we develop and target medical treatments, from drugs to surgical interventions.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles

This Lawmaker Wants To Legislate Against Glow-In-The-Dark People

Georgia Rep. Tom Kirby is taking the lead on the pressing issue of human/jellyfish hybrids

image via (cc) flickr user simongoez

Most people, no matter how many times they've read The Island of Doctor Moreau, have more pressing things to worry about than whether or not researchers could eventually augment human physiology with that of, say, a phosphorescent jellyfish. For one Georgia state lawmaker, though, the prospect of human/jellyfish cloning is so troublesome that he’s introduced legislation banning the practice long (long) before anyone (at all) even considers trying it in the first place.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles

Want Better Breeding? Do It With A Partner.

Research proves that sexual reproduction is superior to asexual reproduction, though we might’ve been able to tell you that.

In the grand debate over breeding best practices, scientists now have substantial proof that sexual reproduction is superior to asexual reproduction…that is, if you’re a plant. In a study recently published in Molecular Biology and Evolution, evolutionary geneticist Jesse Hollister along with a team of researchers demonstrated that sexually reproducing species were healthier over time, as they don’t amass harmful genetic mutations like asexual procreators do.

Yellow evening primroses. Photo by Matt H. Wade.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles

How Feather Extensions Are Changing the Way Chickens Live (and Die)

Whether it’s Steven Tyler, Miley Cyrus, or sorority girls all across the country, demand for long "saddle feathers" is way, way up.

Almost 30 years ago, Tom Whiting got some eggs from Henry Hoffman, a chicken farmer and breeder in Oregon, who had been raising 2,500 chickens in his backyard. Hoffman was a fly fisherman who was breeding the birds for their feathers—the long, skinny, variegated feathers that fishermen use for tying into flies.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles

Can Biology Class Fight Racism? Doubtful.

Logically, the world would be less racist if we all knew we were 99.9 percent genetically similar. Of course, that's assuming racism is logical.


A new study done by the University of Toronto proposes that better genetics education could help combat racism. Humans have about 99.9 percent of the same genetic makeup, but the average participant in this study thought there was only about a 56 percent overlap between two random people on Earth. The less overlap people believed they had, the more they seemed to remember people by their racial cues. So if belief in genetic variation is correlated with people’s tendencies to categorize faces by race, logically it would make sense that genetic education is the key to a colorblind society.

This sounds nice, but there’s a hitch: racism is not logical. It’s formed by a variety of factors—what parents and peers tell us; our own experience, fears, and insecurities. It’s formed by the town and household we live in, the schools and churches that raise us. While it seems to be true that blatant racism is hard to sustain after a rigorous education, I find it hard to believe this has much to do with science.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles

Food for Thinkers: The Grand Finale

Recipes for transgenic foods, the ethics of cyborg Jainism, lunar agriculture, and Harry Potter at the farmers' market: food for future thinkers.


On the principle of going out with a bang, rather than fading away, I present, with a drumroll, the Food for Thinkers Grand Finale.

First up is Zackery Denfeld at the Center for Genomic Gastronomy, whose post describes using "the lens of cuisine to investigate transgenic foods."

Keep Reading Show less
Articles