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Comment: Re:Disagree with first sentiment (Score 2) 105

by Alopex (#47335145) Attached to: Fixing Faulty Genes On the Cheap

This is patently false. There is a whole swath of biological research under the banner of "basic science" which, while it may purport to address a far-off disease application (for the sake of grant $$$), is only aimed at understanding how life functions at the most fundamental levels. Thousands upon thousands of researchers in this country are funded by the NSF and NIH (among others) precisely to figure out things we know that we don't understand.

For an anecdote, I did this kind of research for a few years. My lab was trying to understand what the function of a motor protein was because we could see it, we could see processes it was involved in, but had no idea how or why it was behaving the way it did. There was no disease focus. Part of research is cataloging the natural world so that, maybe, we will one day use that knowledge for our benefit (not necessarily for disease).

Disease is one of many applications of basic research. The amount that goes into producing chemicals through engineering bacteria and producing food through engineering plants is staggering. These applications are currently enabled by CRISPRs. I'll be interested to see how eugenics develops in the next few decades.

Comment: "He's not alone" (Score 2) 43

Judging by how awful the job prospects are in STEM relative to the amount of effort being put in, I'm going to hate the world in 10-20 years if the job market becomes even more flooded. Also, I find it incredibly hard to believe that a kid is a competitive engineer at that age, at least based on individual merit. I've seen a lot of smart kids, and then I've seen smart kids who are pushed/enabled by ambitious parents to take more credit than they're due. If I took a shot every time some fifteen year old "scientist" made a significant discovery, I wouldn't be writing frustrated posts on /.

Comment: Re:The conclusion may be wrong. (Score 1) 1010

by Alopex (#45828787) Attached to: New Study Shows One-Third of Americans Don't Believe In Evolution
Another way to put this, and an observation I constantly make as a biologist, is that there are many people who claim to "believe in" or "follow" evolution, but if pressed to define what it is, are completely off the mark. Evolution, like so many things, has gained a following (or not) largely due to inertia and cultural fads, not because the scientific principles behind it have impressed everyone.

Comment: Re:So -- the terrorists win in the end (Score 2) 149

by Alopex (#43027459) Attached to: Software Lets Scientists Assemble DNA
Except that in the case of the atomic bomb, the materials for the bomb itself are scarce and require refinement. The materials for a weaponized virus or pathogen are ubiquitous, require no sophisticated means of delivery, and will evade all types of detection currently used to screen against threats.

Comment: Re:So -- the terrorists win in the end (Score 1) 149

by Alopex (#43027389) Attached to: Software Lets Scientists Assemble DNA
You have to remember that -all- of cell biology and biochemistry is rapidly advancing, not just synthetic biology. Even though we are rapidly approaching the point at which anyone can develop a flu-like weapon with relatively basic tools, we are also rapidly developing the knowledge base and tools that will enable us to neutralize threats at will.

A penny saved is a penny to squander. -- Ambrose Bierce