DIY Genetics, Dwindling Water and Seismologists on Trial

BY Jenny Marder  October 10, 2011 at 10:18 AM EST

Updated 6:00 pm

Are We Entering a New Geologic Age?

Some scientists say human activity has pushed the planet into a new geologic age. It has it’s own name: Anthropocene, or Age of Man. (Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen coined the term about a decade ago.) Science journal’s Science LIVE had a chat this week on the topic that turned into a sweeping discussion, addressing some of the biggest scientific questions out there. Experts tackled questions about mass extinction, ocean acidification, geoengineering, magnetic reversals and ecosystems altered by the loss of top predators and herbivores, to name just a few. (Science LIVE)

Dawn of the BioHackers

discover.jpgA piece on do-it-yourself genetics features a father who has designed a home lab to chase down a genetic mutation responsible for his daughter’s depleted muscle mass and weakened joints. And he is not alone, the story says. “A growing cadre of do-it-yourself biologists have taken to closets, kitchens, basements and other offbeat lab spaces to tinker with genomes, create synthetic life forms, or … seek out elusive cures.” The piece pauses to mention a few notable DIY’ers including Gregor Mendel, Vladimir Nabokov and Augusto Odone. (Delthia Ricks, Discover Magazine)

Manslaughter Trial of Seismologists in Italy Highlights Need for ‘Systematic Earthquake Forecasting,’ Says Stanford Seismologist

Stanford.jpgThe title’s a mouthful, but the story, interesting. Bottom line, six Italian seismologists and a government official were put on trial for failing to warn of an earthquake. Or more accurately, warn the public of earthquake potential. At issue is the 6.3 earthquake that struck Italy’s L’Aquila in April 2009, killed 300 and tore apart 20,000 buildings. The charges have angered many in the scientific community, who warn that such legal actions could have a chilling effect on scientists. (Louis Bergeron, Stanford University News)

The Last Drop

We’re looking back this week on Michael Specter’s October 2006 New Yorker piece on the global water shortage. A few facts from New Yorker2.jpg that piece: India sustains nearly 20 percent of the earth’s population with 4 percent of its water. China has less water than Canada — and 40 times as many people, and the water table beneath Beijing has fallen nearly 200 feet in the past 20 years. More than a billion people lack access to drinking water, and at least that many have never seen a toilet.
That crisis continues. See also this Economist story from last week on South Pacific’s water crisis. (Michael Specter, The New Yorker)

Clarification: Michael Specter’s piece on the global water shortage appeared in the New Yorker in October 2006.

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