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Frankenstein's Cat: Cuddling Up to…
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Frankenstein's Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech's Brave New Beasts

by Emily Anthes

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  1. 00
    Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life by Marcus Wohlsen (JonathanGorman)
    JonathanGorman: Both touch similar topics, although the Frankenstein's Cat doesn't limit itself to the "biopunk" movement, it certainly brings in the small companies and the rapidly decreasing costs of biotech and how they'll affect the word. Both of these books offer a glimpse to possible futures that might be closer than we think. Both books remind me of much of what I've read of the computer world of the 60s to 80s where much of the current potential was realized but not yet achieved. If you like one, you'll likely like the other.… (more)
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Short, interesting and lovely footnotes. If you're interested in science or the future, this is a very good read. ( )
  JonathanGorman | Jul 20, 2013 |
Good

How do you feel about the following?

Hypoallergenic cats - just as cuddly, but sniff free
A beagle who glows red in ultraviolet light
A goat whose milk contains antibodies to cure human ills
Salmon designed to grow to twice their normal size, even in winter
Enviropigs whose excrement contains 50% less phosphorous

Anthes takes a tour through the weird world of modified animals, be it via genetic engineering, cloning or robotics. We are coming on in leaps and bounds in what we can achieve with biotechnology and combining the electronics revolution with animals. Along the way Anthes raises ethical questions about whether we have the right to modify nature or if animals should have their own rights. There is a comprehensive set of notes if you want to explore more of the details she mentions. Anthes also gets to meet some of the movers and shakers in the fields she is investigating and also some of the animals, taking great delight to meet cloned cats and buys her own fluorescent fish. The possibilities for biotechnology are growing all the time and although Anthes makes clear that it is but a tool that can be used for good or ill you can’t help but feel a little trepidation about how it could be used for ill at the same time as being excited about how it could be used for good. The recent news of modified and highly armed dolphins escaping, with shades of [we3] http://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/383961/Military-dolphins-trained-to-attack-u... shows one possible nightmare scenario and can we be comfortable with remote controlled insects in the hands of governments pursuing a surveillance society strategy? At the same time it’s exciting to see that experiments on paralysed rats may offer hope for people who have been paralysed through accidents or that animal prosthetics are finding uses in human prostheses and that there are some new exciting therapies for some brain diseases coming. Although reality is more prosaic than say [oryx and crake] or [the windup girl] we should be thinking hard about these issues and Anthes book is a great place to start. You can see Winter, the dolphin with a prosthetic tail that Anthes spends some time with, here http://www.seewinter.com/ and it is inspiring to see that Winter is used to help children who have lost a limb come to terms with that.

Overall - Anthes writes with great intelligence and enthusiasm on her subject and I’d highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject. ( )
1 vote psutto | Mar 15, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374158592, Hardcover)

For centuries, we’ve toyed with our creature companions, breeding dogs that herd and hunt, housecats that look like tigers, and teacup pigs that fit snugly in our handbags. But what happens when we take animal alteration a step further, engineering a cat that glows green under ultraviolet light or cloning the beloved family Labrador? Science has given us a whole new toolbox for tinkering with life. How are we using it?

In Frankensteins Cat, the journalist Emily Anthes takes us from petri dish to pet store as she explores how biotechnology is shaping the future of our furry and feathered friends. As she ventures from bucolic barnyards to a “frozen zoo” where scientists are storing DNA from the planet’s most exotic creatures, she discovers how we can use cloning to protect endangered species, craft prosthetics to save injured animals, and employ genetic engineering to supply farms with disease-resistant livestock. Along the way, we meet some of the animals that are ushering in this astonishing age of enhancement, including sensor-wearing seals, cyborg beetles, a bionic bulldog, and the world’s first cloned cat.

Through her encounters with scientists, conservationists, ethicists, and entrepreneurs, Anthes reveals that while some of our interventions may be trivial (behold: the GloFish), others could improve the lives of many species—including our own. So what does biotechnology really mean for the world’s wild things? And what do our brave new beasts tell us about ourselves?

With keen insight and her trademark spunk, Anthes highlights both the peril and the promise of our scientific superpowers, taking us on an adventure into a world where our grandest science fiction fantasies are fast becoming reality.

 

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:41 -0400)

A report from the frontiers of the scientific campaign to re engineer animals to fulfill human desires.

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