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The Science of Why, Volume 5

Answers to Questions About the Ordinary, the Odd, and the Outlandish
edition:Hardcover
tagged : reference, history
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Canadarm and Collaboration
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While Parazynski had dozens of hours of spacewalking experience and the ground trusted his work, the Canadian Space Agency’s Ken Podwalski still remembers the tension while watching the astronaut run through the procedures that his team helped develop.

 

“You get into this remarkable complicated [situation] ... everything piling together in terms of how bad a situation it is, but then look at the eloquence of the solution,” he said. Those elements were so simple that even a teenager could grasp them: Canadarm2, a mobile extender, cufflinks, and a hardworking team. “The way that all worked cooperatively together, it’s just almost a fascinating ... juxtaposition. I hate to use a fancy word like that, but it really kind of reflects one off the other,” Podwalski said.

 

And it worked. Did it ever work. Not only did the team save the solar array, but incredibly, this fix – thrown together over 72 gruelling hours in Montreal and Houston and other space station center locations – was still holding together beautifully nine years later, according to a photo posted on Twitter that Parazynski commented on. “Our repairs are still under warranty,” joked the retired astronaut in 2016.a href="#_ftn2" name="_ftnref2"

 

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Saved by Science

The Hope and Promise of Synthetic Biology
edition:Hardcover
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The future of mankind is far from secure. I am among many who believe that humanity is in crisis; in particular, our personal health, the security of our food supply and the health of our environment all face potentially catastrophic challenges. Our health faces many unresolved dangers in the areas of cancer, infectious diseases and mental health. Rapid population growth and the many environmental challenges in our agricultural systems raise questions about how we will feed the world in the year 2050. Global warming and climate change are threatening our environments, and pollution is poisoning our land, lakes, rivers and oceans.

 

While these challenges are monumental and the future may appear bleak, there is hope. Imagine being able to:

  • Identify specific genetic mutations of a whole range of cancers and to develop personalized and specific therapies (i.e., cures), even at the patient’s bedside.
  • Modify the genetic mutation that predisposes people to suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disease, severe depression or addictive disorders and to offer effective cures.
  • Respond to any viral outbreak (such as Ebola, Zika, AIDS or even a nasty flu) with an effective vaccine produced in only days, or even hours.
  • Grow nutritious, inexpensive, high-protein foods in the widest range of possible conditions of temperature, sunlight, water and fertility . . . or even on Mars.
  • Create real meat without killing animals or to produce real milk without milking cows.
  • Provide plants with nitrogen from the air instead of having to mine or chemically synthesize expensive nitrogen fertilizers.
  • Reverse global warming by removing carbon from the atmosphere and using it as an energy source or material for advanced manufacturing.
  • Use microbes to clean up lakes and rivers, removing lead, mercury and other toxic materials and returning our waterways to pristine condition.
  • Design specific microbes to clean up toxic-waste dumps, abandoned mines and industrial sites, and even to clean up disastrous oil spills.

 

A mere six or seven years ago, these imaginings would have been purely the stuff of science fiction. Today, we have realistic expectations that they’ll happen — and that they’ll be brought to market within a decade, maybe even less. These are the products of what some call the “fourth industrial revolution,” a marriage of computer science and newfound knowledge in biology, particularly genomics. This book is about that revolution, a new field of science called synthetic biology and the hope and promise that it offers for the future of mankind.

 

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