About the SA Blog Network


Notes, thoughts, and news on synthetic biology.
Oscillator HomeAboutContact
  • Profile

    Christina Agapakis Christina Agapakis is a biological designer who blogs about biology, engineering, engineering biology, and biologically inspired engineering. Follow on Twitter @thisischristina.
  • Goodbye

    I’m leaving the Scientific American network, which is being “reshaped.” I’ll be returning to my original solo blog, which I left nearly five years ago, continuing to edit Method Quarterly, and writing for other outlets. An archive of my old posts will remain here at SciAm, and you can keep in touch with me and [...]

    Keep reading »

    Method Quarterly

    Marie Curie's lab notebook — Wellcome Images

    Over the past couple months, I’ve been working with Azeen Ghorayshi on starting a new publication for stories about science in the making. We’re launching the first issue of Method Quarterly today, titled “Boundaries.” The following is our editors’ letter, with links to all the essays in the issue. There’s also a print version available [...]

    Keep reading »

    Weird Biology Fact of the Day: Mirror-image Amino Acids

    Amino acids come in mirror-image "right handed" and "left handed" forms. Living organisms produce almost exclusively left handed amino acids.

    In her fascinating and wide-ranging talk on multi-dimensional spaces and human consciousness, Tauba Auerbach briefly mentioned the fact that after an organism dies its molecules will gradually change “handedness” — from an entropy defying left-handed favoritism back to 50-50 over many thousands of years.

    Keep reading »

    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 [...]

    Keep reading »

    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 [...]

    Keep reading »

    Four Great Space Scents


    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 [...]

    Keep reading »

    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 [...]

    Keep reading »

    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?

    Keep reading »

    If you wish to make a gene from scratch

    DNA synthesizer. Image via

    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 [...]

    Keep reading »

    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 [...]

    Keep reading »

    Search this blog:

    • Year:
    • Month:
    • Keyword:

    More from Scientific American

    Email this Article