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Can Citizen Scientists Make Biotech More Efficient? Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life

Marcus Wohlsen's book, Biopunk, looks into the DIY science on kitchen counters that could change the way we think about biotechnology.


The vaccine for swine flu—better known as the H1N1 virus—relies on a rather ineffecient process. It involves raising chicken eggs in a clandestine network of farms—a so-called "feathered Manhattan Project"—then infecting the eggs and incubating them. The chicken and the eggs both get destroyed. What if amateurs had a hand in creating a better biotechnology?

In Marcus Wohlsen's new book, Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life, he explores the biohackers bringing science from the lab bench table to dining room tables. Some of the tinkerers want to build better cancer drugs or melamine detectors out of jellyfish and yogurt. In an excerpt published on NPR, Mackenzie Cowell, of DIYbio, tells Wohlsen:

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Intermission: Watch Jello Bounce (in Super-Slow Motion)

Hydrocolloids, like you've never seen them before.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4n5AfHYST6E

The team behind Modernist Cuisine, the massive six-volume book on scientific cooking, show us exactly what happens when a cube of gelatin hits a counter top—at 6,200 frames per second.

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Pad Thai, Like You've Never Seen it Before

Photographer Ryan Smith cuts through the wok for another look at one of the most popular pan-Asian dishes.

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