Turning science fiction into science

March 9, 2013

I read recently about a number of scientific advances in 2012 that would once have been possible only in science fiction. None of them seem especially surprising, considering previous scientific advances I already knew about.

Today, however, I was surprised to read a discussion of the pros and cons of bringing an extinct species back to life. I knew that cloning techniques had continued to develop since it first made big news. But I wasn’t aware that there was serious work on recovering DNA from extinct species for the purpose of creating live animals.

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Books: Next

January 1, 2011

Usually I do not enjoy books in which there is not a likeable protagonist, but Michael Crichton’s Next is an exception. I picked it up at a yard sale some time ago but only picked it up to read this week – spurred in part by my older son having been reading several of Crichton’s books for a freshman English class in college (though I don’t know if he read this one).

I took a break from it for a couple days, first to read Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens, the fourth and apparently final book in Brandon Sanderson’s hilarious (and sometimes thoughtful) series about Alcatraz Smedry, then to work on puzzles in my new National Observer crossword book (WalMart was out of the Herald Tribune crossword books I usually buy). I was somewhat reluctant to pick up Crichton’s novel again, not having yet found any very likable characters in it.

But I noticed, with some surprise, that I had already read more than halfway through the book, largely without stopping (mandatory time off work gives me lots of time to read). I must have found it pretty engrossing. So I picked it up again, intending to read for half an hour or so, so that it would be late enough to take my Synthroid before I went to bed (among my reading this week was an article about a study showing that Synthroid was more effective on an empty stomach at bedtime).

I finished the novel and headed to bed nearly three hours later, having stayed up almost (but not quite) late enough to see the new year in. My mind was full of the thought-provoking scenarios Crichton had included in his novel, and the recommendations he makes in an Author’s Note regarding the legal environment for genetic research.

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