DNA data storage or rise of genetically modified humans?

Posted in Faith & Science, Law, Money, Music-Movies-Media, Software, War on January 27, 2013 by daviddiel

I’ve noticed several news stories and advertisements lately regarding the future of data storage. Apparently, researchers at the European Bioinformatics Institute have stored and retrieved a few digital files in DNA. That’s interesting on many levels, yet the sales pitch seems to be focused on the hard drive market. Here are some example articles:

Why DNA Will Someday Replace the Hard Drive

Storing Shakespeare and “I Have a Dream” in DNA

New technique stores terabytes of data on DNA with 100% accuracy

Depending on your background, and your level of trust in scientists, you might interpret this news as a another step in the advancement of technology. It could enable lighter cell phones, thinner notebook computers, and smaller data storage centers. All of those things could be true, but the discussion is missing a very important and serious application: People will be able to store and print all forms of life, which will inevitably include genetically modified humans. Once a DNA sequence is printed or cloned, it has already been shown using sheep, that it can be inserted into an egg, and a surrogate mother can grow and bear the child.

From what I have read, a person’s DNA represents about 6 GB of data. Therefore, your genetic code, which is a large part of what makes up who you are, would probably fit on your cell phone using today’s technology. It would not be surprising if most people reading this blog have their DNA sequenced within the next 20 years. It is not a stretch to think that some of you will request to store your sequence on a reliable form of digital media, like a Blu-Ray disc, for example.

Then what? What if you could send your DNA out for a little touch-up, deleting a few flaws and disease markers here and there? What if your DNA could be virtually mated with anyone who you choose? Would you want to have a child made from a modified version of yourself and your favorite movie star? What if you could add or select features, such as better metabolism, greater intelligence, or a particular eye or hair color? Could all of this be used to make super humans or warriors?

My moral compass says that we should not go down this path. But, somebody’s going to do it anyway. Let’s just be honest and recognize that the target market for this technology is biological elitists who want to make super-babies, not those who are overburdened by the size and weight of their personal electronics.

What led to the Adam Lanza school shooting?

Posted in Education, Law, Music-Movies-Media, Psychology, War with tags , , , , , , , on December 19, 2012 by daviddiel

Regarding the school shooting last week in Connecticut, I have been asking the questions: How did this happen? What factors led to the outcome?

Here are the elements that I think were critical:

1) Lanza had access to weapons that he knew how to use. The weapons didn’t have to be guns. They could have been mining explosives. But his killing pathology must have developed through training that matched the weapons.

2) Lanza probably trained through first person shooter video games. The pattern of aiming at a person, pulling the trigger, feeling no remorse, and targeting another person for pleasure is not innate, but learned. The creation of such games is partly funded by war money.

3) The school did not have armed security personnel. In this case, the principal acted heroically to try to stop Lanza, but failed because he did not have a sufficient weapon. An armed police officer on staff, or any adult present with a concealed weapon and proper training, might have stopped the rampage.

4) Lanza had an episode of a mental dysfunction that got out of control. This case particularly points to a childhood developmental disorder, based on who he chose to kill. Lanza’s immediate fear of treatment triggered a trap loaded with biological predispositions and parenting mistakes.

Steps could be taken on all of these issues, but #2 can be addressed for free without passing legislation. All we need to do is boycott video games and movies that trivialize murder. Which video games or movies would you boycott in honor of the Sandy Hill Elementary victims? Answer in the comments below.

Facebook is hiding news from you

Posted in About Blogging, Software with tags , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2012 by daviddiel

Friends, your Facebook News Feed is broken. I have noticed in recent updates to the web interface and iPhone interface that Facebook has preferred the Top Stories view of the News Feed  over the Most Recent view. Even though I kept changing it to Most Recent, it kept defaulting back to Top Stories after a short time without warning.

Just so you know, Top Stories shows you a combination of Status updates that it thinks you will like, and others that are paid promotions.

If you joined Facebook to keep up with every Status update, then the party is over. As of this morning, I found that Facebook is hiding some Status updates even in the Most Recent view. What that means is that your Status is being hidden from some of your friends, unless you are paying to promote posts.

It is difficult to prove, but here’s how: Go to your News Feed, select Most Recent view, and take note of the last 5-10 Status updates and the times that they were posted. Next, start browsing your Friends’ Timelines. If you find a Status that is missing in your News Feed, then it follows logically that your posts are being hidden from your friends too.

As someone who lives far away from many of my real friends and family, I am deeply saddened to find that I have missed moments that they tried to share with me. Now, I am looking for ways to post to multiple social networks, and longing for the day when a critical mass of people will move to the next one.


Posted in Education, Faith & Science, War on May 4, 2012 by daviddiel

“I see God in the instruments and the mechanisms that work reliably, more reliably than the limited sensory departments of the human mechanism.” — Richard Buckminster Fuller

A simplified guide to tea and temperature

Posted in Health & Food on April 4, 2012 by daviddiel

There are a lot of detailed guides to brewing tea on the web, like this one and this one. In an effort to simplify the rules at the expense of accuracy, I offer following table.

Tea TypeTemperatureBubble Size

Delicate Green 160°F Shrimp Eyes
Green 170°F Crab Eyes
White 180°F Fish Eyes
Oolong 190°F Rope of Pearls
Black/Rooibos 200°F Raging Torrent

A place to tear down

Posted in Education, Energy & Waste, Faith & Science, Money on January 2, 2012 by daviddiel

This post is about themes of human culture passed down over generations, and how these themes could be taught to students in learning spaces that might not be available to them currently. The inspiration comes from two sources:

1. “Why Walking through a Doorway Makes You Forget” from Scientific American based on this technical paper.

2. Ecclesiastes 3 (NASB), a biblical passage attributed to King Solomon.

Imagine a school appointed with many rooms:

A place to give birth and a place to die;
A place to plant and a place to uproot what is planted.

A place to kill and a place to heal;
A place to tear down and a place to build up.

A place to weep and a place to laugh;
A place to mourn and a place to dance.

A place to throw stones and a place to gather stones;
A place to embrace and a place to shun embracing.

A place to search and a place to give up as lost;
A place to keep and a place to throw away.

A place to tear apart and a place to sew together;
A place to be silent and a place to speak.

A place to love and a place to hate;
A place for war and a place for peace.

One might call this the school of life, or the school of hard knocks. Some of the more intense themes may not be appropriate for all ages, so imagine that care has been taken to present them gradually. For example, birth and death could be experienced through the natural life cycles of small pets, and themes of destruction could be experienced through sand sculptures or blocks. Neither is it an exhaustive list of rooms. The idea easily expands to include rooms for modern art, science, mathematics, and other forms of education.

Do our schools currently provide distinct rooms for these kinds of lessons? Is place-based learning compatible with general assessment tests?

The future of links in publications

Posted in Uncategorized on December 14, 2011 by daviddiel

It’s pretty cool that WolframAlpha can provide plots and explanations given an input in one of several formatted string notations. In the future, I hope that this concept is expanded to provide greater depth of understanding to academic publications through embedded links. Ideally, several recommendations would be auto-generated for the author, who would choose which ones to include in the paper. This could go a long way toward making academic publications easier to understand.

How to cook gourmet steak

Posted in Health & Food on December 14, 2011 by daviddiel

I received these tips on how to cook a gourmet steak from the head chef of a famous restaurant:

  • Choose the thickness of the steak based on how rare or well done that you prefer your steak. Thin cuts are better well done, while thicker cuts are better rare.
  • Get aged steak if you can find it. It will have a layer of stuff growing on it which must be thinly sliced away and discarded.
  • If the steak is not aged, at least dry it out. Wrap it in a paper towel and put it in a plastic bag. Change the paper towel daily for a couple of days.
  • On the day before you plan to cook it, put it in a plastic bag with your choice of oil mixed with Herbes de Provence (savory, fennel, basil, thyme).
  • Add either white wine or lemon to the bag a few hours before cooking.
  • Sear at maximum temperature on a cast iron pan with raised grooves.
  • Turn the steak only once near the end of cooking.
  • Allow it to cool somewhat before serving.
  • Pair with red wine.

It’s not about money

Posted in Uncategorized on November 23, 2011 by daviddiel

In my opinion, the institution of negative externality is the root of all evil.

Get to know your body

Posted in Education, Health & Food on November 18, 2011 by daviddiel

Don’t take my word for it. Your body is talking to you all the time. You probably notice it when you are overwhelmed, but it says so much more at other times. By the end of this message, I hope that you hear, or rather feel, something that you never noticed before.

By experience, I have decided that listening to my body is the most important activity I can do for myself and for others. That’s because I am in the best position to provide early diagnosis and treatment of myself. If something goes so terribly wrong that others have to get involved, then it is probably going to cost somebody a lot of money. That may happen at times, certainly at the end of life, but I want to avoid burdening others with my health. And, of course, I want to feel good. That’s why I started listening.

Here are a list of potential problems that can be avoided by noticing them early and taking care of oneself:

  • Feet – Do your shoes cause you to turn your feet inward or outward? Can you spread your toes in them? Do they chafe your heels? Can you modify them to improve your comfort and posture? Do your feet smell or itch due to unresolved bacterial or fungal problems?
  • Hips & Butt – When you sit down, does your belt restrict your waist? Do you clench your butt?
  • Back & Shoulders – How much mobility do you have in each region of your spine? What is the effect of bending and twisting? Are your shoulders drawn in toward your chest or up toward your ears? Are you holding tension in your neck?
  • Hands & Nails – Can you rotate your wrists through their full range of motion without irritation? How does it feel to spread your fingers wide? How long are your nails? Are their undersides clean? Have you cared for your cuticles?
  • Underarms – Can you feel or smell anything that needs to be remedied?
  • Scalp – How oily or dry is your scalp? What is the effect of increasing or decreasing how often you use shampoo, or changing brands?
  • Face – How open or clogged are your facial pores? Is your face irritated by bacteria, makeup, or chemicals that you are using? If you shave, what is the effect of changing how often your do it, or changing razors and creams?
  • Eyes – Are they dry? Are they cold? Should you be farther away or closer to what you are reading? If you wear glasses, is your prescription right for you?
  • Nose – Do you need to clear your nose or wash your sinuses? Do both nostrils feel the same? What do you smell? Can you feel the humidity of the environment, and do you need a humidifier?
  • Lips – Are they dried or cracked? Do you lick or bite them?
  • Teeth – Have you brushed and flossed since your last meal? Do you clench your teeth when you are angry, or during the night?
  • Tongue & Throat – What do you taste? Is there a coating on your tongue that needs to be brushed? Can you feel your tonsils, and do they need to be cleaned?
  • Respiratory System – Are you filling your lungs and emptying them completely with every breath? Do your chest and belly expand when you breathe? What is the rhythm of your breath?
  • Cardiovascular System – What is your heart rate? Is your heart tired? How stressed are you? Can you feel the restriction or openness of your blood stream?
  • Digestive System – How hydrated is your body? How do you know when you are hungry or full? Can you feel different types of desires for proteins, calories, vitamins, electrolytes, or various kinds of whole foods? Do you know when your body needs good bacteria from cultured foods? What causes gas or allergic reactions for you? When you eat fatty foods, do you feel how much bile your gall bladder has reserved to digest them, and do you know when to stop?

I hope this list makes you feel and think. A few years ago, I was only paying attention to a small percentage of these details. I knew that I felt awful most of the time, but I didn’t know why. Expanding awareness of these issues has changed my life and vastly improved my health. I only wish I had started sooner.