Networks of garage biology
June 19th, 2009

“The age of the DYI biologist has begun,” says an article on Biology for the Homebody [pp. 34-35] in the summer issue of H+ magazine. David Cassel sends us these comments on these smartmobby biologists:

Falling costs and garage tinkering are creating a grass roots movement of amateur biologists whose research is more transparent than that of academia. (“I isolated chickpea DNA using non-iodized salt, shampoo, meat tenderizer, and a salad-spinner for a centrifuge,” says one…)

She describes a convergence of humanity motivated by a love of science and unfettered by profit motives. And while building lab equipment using common household items and even synthesizing new organisms, their grass roots ethic allows the social pressure which creates a more ethical research. They’re not only forming co-ops for large lab equipment, but also debating important issues. (Would it be ethical to release a homegrown symbiote that cures scurvy in hundreds of thousands of people?) This movement could someday lead to remedies for disease, fuel-generating microbes, or a social-networked disease-tracking epidemiology.

“In much the same way that homebrew computer science built the world we live in today, garage biology can affect the future we make for ourselves,” argues h+ magazine, which featured the article in their summer issue.

And one amateur biologist has a great response to concerns about dangerous new organisms being accidentally released into the wild without the benefit of evolution.

“I have a mental image of germ-size MIT nerds putting on gangsta clothes and venturing into alleys to try some rough stuff. And then they meet up with the homies who’ve been keeping it real for a billion years or so.”

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