Headline Sep 01, 2014/

''' WAKE-UP BOMB '''

INSPIRED BY THE ICONIC LOOK  of     '' time bombs ''  in old movies-  

Software Engineer  Michael Kumpus set out to build an alarm clock that would make his mornings more action-packed.

When the alarm goes off in  defuse mode, the clock starts a  10 second countdown,  the correct wire,  which is randomly assigned  each day, has to be cut or pulled out:

To stop the detonation, or  the clock will  ''explode''   with noise and flashing LEDs.

Michael Kumpus says he noticed  hundreds of hits from  Homeland Security personnel on his website,  but the clock is completely harmless.

It's now available on  a  $33  kit    for the  tinkerers who have trouble waking up:

The Students of the world ought to take a look. The Students of Pakistan ought to take an urgent look.  With the  '' World Order''  crumbling, and the economies creeping and slithering,   -forewarned is forearmed,

Even as Patterson presses forward in search of  Glo-gurt  though, her interests have now shifted to something more functional.

She's started a conversation with an  Internet Pal  on the  DIYbio  listserve about synthesizing a  bacterium that would react in the presence of melamme. Recall that in 2008:

This substance, began showing up in Chinese imports of milk products , eggs, baby food, and pet food and led to numerous deaths of people and animals. Melamine contaminated milk alone sickened some  50,000  people.

The report reports caused a food scare  and focused attention on the fact that American agencies,  were not testing for the presence for these lethal chemicals.

Patterson and her  online research  partner call their creation  Melaminometer.

One approach they are considering is to create bacteria that,  in the presence of melamine, would break down the substance into ammonia and water.

Not all that tasty, but it beats getting sick. Maybe they can make the chemical taste like bananas when they get around to Melaminometer  2.0. Like so many amateurs, Patterson sees in the possibilities:

Of all these plasmids what William Sellers saw in a dependable well threaded screw...............a better future.

As Patterson and her peers start trying out their ideas and experiments, a public debate will eventually arise. Just what are we permitting here?
And the usual anxieties will erupt.

Are we unleashing a generation of Dr Frankensteins?  How soon before we hear about the possibility of weaponized  flu  in some  kid's suburban den? All the more reason, the  DIY supporters say, to encourage the local Synbio clubs.

Members are struggling right now to define the appropriate standards, general ethics and good lab protocol. Of course, if History is any teacher, then an ambitious prosecutor might well swoop into these clubs.

On the other hand, if Endy, Keasling and Church can stage manage synbio's image well enough, the clubs could flourish and foster novel approaches to genomics.

There are always natural concerns when any new set of tools is handed in the next generation.

But the way this anxiety gets addressed   -as the next 4H club or as the next national security threat  -will reveal a lot about how we view current American Innovation.

The elder statesman of theoretical physics and a big Synbio fan,  Freeman Dyson, write an influential essay in  The New York Review of Books in 2007 in which he called for precisely the kind of synthetic biology research we are now beginning to see.

'' Every orchid or rose or lizard or snake is the work of a dedicated and skilled breeder,'' Dyson wrote.

'' There are thousands of people,  amateurs, professionals, who devote their lives to this business. Now imagine what will happen when the tools of genetic engineering become accessible to these people.''

''There will be  do-it-yourself  kits for gardeners,''  Dyson continued,  ''who will use genetic engineering to breed new varieties of roses and orchids.

Also kits  for lovers of  pigeons and parrots and lizards and snakes to breed new varieties of pets. 

Breeders of cats and dogs will have their kits too. Domesticated biotechnology, once it gets into the hands of housewives  and children, will give us an explosion of diversity of new living creatures-

Rather than the  monoculture  crops  that the big corporations prefer.

New lineages will proliferate to replace those that monoculture farming and deforestation have destroyed.

Designing genomes will be a personal thing, a new art form as creative as painting or sculpture.''    

It's not a brave new world that Dyson envisions,  -but rather the same old mundane one, just gussied up with the middlebrow creations of home wives and teens.

And the exquisite dreams of a Meredith Patterson.

Maybe that is where  we've headed,  but make no mistake how we will get there.

Dyson and his  co-enthusiasts want to put the  toolbox  for  life itself into the hands of an amateur designer.

Presumably an intelligent one.     

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. Thank you for reading. See Ya on the next level, and on !WOW!   -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' The Great Course '''

Good Night and God Bless!

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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