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Oscillator

Oscillator


Notes, thoughts, and news on synthetic biology.
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    Christina Agapakis Christina Agapakis is a biological designer who blogs about biology, engineering, engineering biology, and biologically inspired engineering. Follow on Twitter @thisischristina.
  • Fist bumps for germophobes

    Figure from Ghareeb et al. (2013) Journal of Hospital Infection.

    Fist bumps are back in the news this week after the publication of a study finding that fist bumps transfer fewer bacteria than the more customary handshake. Researchers dipped rubber gloves in a solution of E. coli and measured the number of bacteria transferred onto a clean glove after a variety of different greetings, including [...]

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    If you build it, they will come: designing microbial ecosystems in cheese

    Colony of Staphylococcus xylosus bacteria isolated from cheese. Image by Ben Wolfe.

    Microbes live in dense and diverse communities. There are billions of bacteria from thousands of species living together in your gut or in the soil. Sequencing the total DNA of these communities can give us a catalog of the diversity that’s there, but it can’t tell us much about the relationship between those organisms, how [...]

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    Four Great Space Scents

    titan

    You don’t need your nose to know what something smells like. Perfumers and astronomers can detect and recreate scents based on the chemical signatures of the molecules in the air, even if that air is very very far away. 1. The Space Rose In 1998 the space shuttle Discovery brought a rose into orbit. With [...]

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    Through the Anthropocene Looking Glass

    There’s no doubt that humans have drastically changed the Earth. The global scale impacts of humans on the environment has led many scientists, scholars, and environmentalists to use the term Anthropocene to describe our present geological period. The term is currently in widespread — though still informal — use, and scientists are actively debating whether [...]

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    Biological Speculation

    A great short talk by Drew Endy about the early history of synthetic biology and the motivations, hopes, and uncertainties of bioengineering. How do we know we’re making good decisions? How can we create more improbable patterns? What should we be vibrating about?

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    If you wish to make a gene from scratch

    DNA synthesizer. Image via bioautomation.com

    According to the New York Times, synthetic biology is creating DNA out of thin air. A recent article about synthetic biology and consumer goods describes DNA synthesis as a process where “DNA is created on computers and inserted into organisms.” Computers are pretty cool and really useful in synthetic biology labs, but it takes a [...]

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    Which bacteria are in my poop? It depends where you look…

    Figure 1: Sampling strategy

    This is a guest post from my friend and former colleague Tami Lieberman. She’s a postdoc in the Kishony Lab in the Department of Systems Biology at the Harvard Medical School, and you follow her on twitter @conTAMInatedsci. As a recently minted PhD, I study the evolution of bacteria during infection. I want to better [...]

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    The Calling of an Engineer

    The Canadian Engineer's Iron Ring

    One of my good friends is an engineer trained in Canada. I had noticed over the years that she always wears a plain silver ring on her pinky, but I never asked if it had any special meaning to her. Recently I learned that it’s her Iron Ring, something worn by all Canadian engineers on [...]

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    Science as Art: Process, Data, and Context

    dirt_poster

    I’ve recently been working on a new project with Ellie Harmon about dirt. Ellie hiked the Pacific Crest Trail last year, the 2,663 miles from the US border with Mexico to the border of Canada. She collected dirt throughout California and sent them to me in the lab, a total of 62 samples that represent [...]

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    Synthetic Aesthetics: The Book!

    Synthetic Aesthetics: Investigating Synthetic Biology's Designs on Nature

    Synthetic Aesthetics is a project that brings together artists, designers, engineers, biologists, and social scientists to investigate the design of living things. The book, published last week, includes essays on the science and technology of synthetic biology, the conflict between the engineering mindset, the logic of biology, and the language of design, as well as [...]

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