Our lives have been transformed by the information age. But what’s coming next is likely to be more profound, call it the genetic information age. We have mapped the human genome and in just the last few years we have learned to read and write DNA like software. And you’re about to see a few breakthroughs-in-waiting that would transform human health. For a preview of this revolution in evolution we met George Church, a world leading geneticist, whose own DNA harbors many eccentricities and a few genes for genius.
On 13 December, Amazon Prime will air the fourth season of The Expanse, a hardboiled space drama renowned for its working-class characters and real-world space physics. Showrunner Naren Shankar is part of the reason the science checks out. The veteran writer and producer for programs such as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Farscape, and the police procedural CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, has a doctorate in applied physics and electrical engineering.
When I got the script for the The Expanse, the pilot, I was, like, “Wow, this is a very different kind of a show.” Because they embraced all of the things that most science fiction shows run away from: the fact that you don’t have weight unless your ship is accelerating, the fact that communication in space is not instantaneous.
Shankar chatted with Science about why he feels it’s important to have a realistic sci-fi show, and how television work is like the scientific peer-review process.
Mining minerals found 15,000 feet below sea level could help secure a low-carbon future, but at what cost? Researchers including Thomas Peacock, professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, are racing to understand the environmental impact of deep-sea mining.
After their life as research subjects, what happens to lab monkeys? Some are euthanized to complete the research, others switch to new research projects, and some retire from lab life. Should they retire in place—in the same lab under the care of the same custodians—or should they be sent to retirement home–like sanctuaries? Online News Editor David Grimm joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss recently penned legislation that pushes for monkey retirements and a new collaboration between universities and sanctuaries to create a retirement pipeline for these primates.
Sarah also talks with Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) and a professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, about the latest news from the asteroid Bennu. Within 1 week of beginning its orbit of the asteroid, OSIRIS-REx was able to send back surprising images of the asteroid ejecting material. It’s extremely rocky surface also took researchers by surprise and forced a recalculation of the sample return portion of the craft’s mission.
Hear the latest science news, brought to you by Benjamin Thompson and Shamini Bundell. This week, exploring two very differentissues surrounding genomic sequencing, and the latest results from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe.
In this episode:
00:45 The GenomeAsia 100k project
Researchers have released the first data from an ambitious project to sequence the genomes of 100,000 people from populations across Asia. Research Article: GenomeAsia100K Consortium
Three-quarters of a century later, at age 97, Goodenough will become the oldest person to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. At a Dec. 10 ceremony in Sweden, he will be honored for pioneering breakthroughs that led to the widespread use of the lithium-ion battery—and helping spark the wireless revolution. The descendants of his batteries now power modern smartphones and hold the potential to one day sustainably harvest solar and wind power.
John B. Goodenough can still remember, word for word, what a University of Chicago professor told him when he arrived on campus following World War II: “I don’t understand you veterans,” said John A. Simpson, a new UChicago instructor who had just helped achieve the first nuclear reaction. “Don’t you know that anyone who has ever done anything significant in physics had already done it by the time he was your age—and you want to begin?”