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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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Miracle Berries, Chemotherapy, and the Future of Food: A Conversation with Homaro Cantu

If the flavor-tripping berry transforms the way we feed the world, could it signal a bright future for food technology?

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Modernist Cuisine, an epic, six-volume kitchen manual, has been landing on reviewers' and chefs' doorsteps this week. Here's a book that began on the message board eGullet as a series of posts by Nathan Myrhvold, a former CTO at Microsoft, on sous vide—cooking under pressure in plastic bags. After years of research, the books represent an encyclopedic compendium on food safety, techniques, ingredients, and preparations. I've only seen portions of the books, but there seems to be a wealth of informative, surprising information here for both professionals and home kitchen hacks. More importantly, there's a focus on visualizing information in detailed charts, matrices, and novel photographs.

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Go Ahead, Inhale Your Food

Your mom was wrong. Here are some legal inhalants you can now choose from: chocolate, coffee, and vitamin (?).

David Edwards is a scientist who's looked into how various drugs can be delivered through our lungs and how the shape of nanoparticles in inhalers can extend the effects of insulin.

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