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Posts Tagged ‘synthetic biology’


This post is entirely inspired by a Tweet that appeared in my stream via @stuartcantrill, a request for ideas on the future of chemistry. My (instant) response was that we have to replace everything with materials derived from waste biomass. After finishing my morning check of information systems and my coffee, it was time to get on my bike and cycle to the university. This set off the lateral neuronal activity that my brain engages in when I cycle – the worse the traffic, the more lateral activity… (more…)

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Is it just me, or has this summer seen a rise in the number of vanity science headlines?
The latest bit of vanity science is out today, the “grown in the lab piece of tissue”, labelled as a hamburger (US)/beefburger (UK), to be eaten for lunch. The publicity trail has been carefully laid – you just have to follow the hashtag #culturedbeef on Twitter to see the game being played. Many comments, e.g., following the Guardian’s article, raise the issue of cost, something like £200,000. This demonstrates in itself a profound lack of critical thinking. Those who don’t like the idea of killing animals on the grounds of cruelty can simply not eat meat and, in an open society, they can argue the point against meat eating. This is done with some success. The real problem with eating meat is that much of it (but not all – mountain sheep, for example, eat grass) comes from animals eating food humans can consume – grain. So the primary reason for livestock farming, to use the animal and its microbiome to convert the inedible (grass) into the edible has been removed by what could be termed the Fordist industrialisation of food. The cost is ecological: loss of habitat, methane production (a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide) and, I suspect, greater energy costs too. (more…)

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