Biotech is big business, or as Trump would say, “very, very big.” Now a giant called Celgene is investing in biotech’s future by buying Impact BioMedicines with a possible $7 Billion ante up. Good investment? Well, biobucks are hotter than Bitcoin, long term. Just watch any network news report, the second half of which is all pharmaceuticals, with side effects. Development takes years and millions, and the payoffs are big, and losses also. Drug patents expire, rivals vie for space, with mergers and acquisitions the ultimate power play. Trump is trying to deregulate everything from the EPA to the DEA. It’s a “go big or go home” strategy. The cancer drug Jakafi is a huge seller for two other pharmaceutical giants, and Celgene wants to compete. They want in. On the ropes with their own drug expiring soon, they have little choice. The CEO touts the future of using genetic engineering to attach genes to molecules, similar to what Ron Howard’s show Breakthroughs reported last year in which a neutered HIV targeted cancers past the blood/brain barrier. Meanwhile, supplements like Nugenix is being hyped to athletes to improve testosterone. (The Dan Patrick Show advertises it NBCSN. Wink, wink.) Is there a dark side to biotech? “CRISPR” (pronounced “crisper”) stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, which are the hallmark of a bacterial defense system that forms the basis for CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology. It may soon be possible to eliminate certain diseases genetically, to change the eye color (and more) of babies, and to lengthen the lifespan of humans. Many strides have already been made, such as the means to fight cancer using gene therapy. To some, this is all “playing God,” while to others it is progress: the “search for better explanations, leading to discoveries,” as David Deutsch put it in “The Beginning of Infinity.” Whatever one’s beliefs, there are problems with all technologies, as discussed in the new book on social media interfaces: “Dawn of the New Everything” by Jaron Lanier. In my novel “The Methuselah Gene” a neutered HIV is used, not as a cancer therapy, but to implant a longevity gene taken from a bristlecone pine tree past the blood/brain barrier, and extend human life by decades. A pill to do something like this is now in the works, and may be here within a decade. How much would such a pill cost, and will only the super rich be able to afford it, not the “Young, Dumb and Broke?” In the New Rules governing culture, before our young icons can acquire near immortality via science, what if nefarious forces tested it on a small town without their knowledge or consent…and discovered that there were side effects?
Saw Blade Runner 2049. Great film. Good story, but mostly a moving tribute to the original classic. Ryan Gosling is superb, and the special effects alone make the movie worth seeing. (Finally, an intelligent film after so much superhero madness and one-liners!) Never boring. Not even for narcissists with low attention span. And I didn’t see it in 3D, just standard screen. Cringed to see the giant Coke ad, but it was probably more irony than product placement. Was it a masterpiece like the director’s cut of the original with Rutger Hauer? No, but I’m not complaining. Is Harrison’s Deckard a replicant? Little chance of that. The book says no, too. There’s a bigger surprise I can’t mention. Go see it, then listen to the audiobook, which is like an audio movie. At TowerReview.com I’ve posted links to a book on how the movie was made, plus a fashion tee shirt and the bomber jacket style worn by Gosling in the film. His image appears on the link. BTW, music? No tunes to sing, but an effective and eerie original score that swells to thunder at just the right moments.
A new book Ripples in Spacetime is an engaging account of the international effort to complete Einstein’s project, capture his elusive ripples, and launch an era of gravitational-wave astronomy that promises to explain, more vividly than ever before, our universe’s structure and origin. The quest for gravitational waves involved years of risky research and many personal and professional struggles that threatened to derail one of the world’s largest scientific endeavors. Govert Schilling takes listeners to sites where these stories unfolded-including Japan’s KAGRA detector, Chile’s Atacama Cosmology Telescope, the South Pole’s BICEP detectors, and the United States’ LIGO labs. He explains the seeming impossibility of developing technologies sensitive enough to detect waves from two colliding black holes in the very distant universe, and describes the astounding precision of the LIGO detectors. Along the way Schilling clarifies concepts such as general relativity, neutron stars, and the big bang using language that listeners with little scientific background can grasp. Govert Schilling (1956) is an internationally acclaimed astronomy writer in the Netherlands. He is a contributing editor of Sky & Telescope, and his articles have appeared in Science, New Scientist and BBC Sky at Night Magazine. He wrote over fifty books (in Dutch) on a wide variety of astronomical topics, some of which have been translated into English, including Evolving Cosmos, Flash! The Hunt for the Biggest Explosions in the Universe, The Hunt for Planet X, and Atlas of Astronomical Discoveries. In 2007, the International Astronomical Union named asteroid (10986) Govert after him.