Jennifer Doudna: We can now edit our DNA. But let's do it wisely

Jennifer Doudna's TED talk image

Jennifer Doudna was researching CRISPR, which is like an immune system for bacteria.  Bacteria can grab viruses, sample them, learn how to detect them, and then learn how to destroy them.

Since CRISPR cuts up the virus (using Cas9) and we can synthesize RNA, Doudna was able to use these components to edit genes.

The Beginner's Guide

The Beginner's Guide graphic

Made by the author of The Stanley Parable, The Beginner's Guide is a wonderful interactive storytelling experience about someone struggling to deal with something they do not understand.

It's hard to provide a detailed review without spoiling it, but I highly recommend the game.

Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson

Cryptonomicon's cover

I only made it halfway through Cryptonomicon. It had some interesting ideas, but it was long, and it didn't move quickly.

It does a few things well:

The Aeronaut's Windlass - Jim Butcher

The Aeronaut's Windlass' Cover

The Aeronaut's Windlass is Jim Butcher's steampunk fantasy world. When the surface world is covered with thick mists and hostile creatures, humanity lives in spires and grows its food in vats. Energy crystals power the airships and weapons, and a select few can manipulate their energy without the aid of technology.

The book is a quick, action-packed, fun read. Also, one of the protagonists is a cat.

Don't Think of an Elephant! - George Lakoff

The cover of Don't Think of an Elephant

I highly recommend "Don't Think of an Elephant!" to anyone interested in progressive politics. The book is very well written, easy to read, concise, and important.

The basic premise is that, over the last few decades, republicans have gotten good at framing issues in terms that implicitly support their worldview. Democrats have used the republican framings and language even when trying to argue for progressive policies, but using the republican framing has the neurological effect of reinforcing the republican framing.

Sandrine Thuret: You can grow new brain cells. Here's how

Sandrine Thuret TED talk picture

There's a myth that adults don't grow new brain cells, but Sandrine Thuret debunks it and talks about how neurogenesis, the process of making new brain cells, works.

The average adult makes 700 new neurons in their hippocampus every day. These new neurons are important for mood (reduced neurogenesis is linked to depression) as well as learning and memory.

Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie

The cover of Ancillary Justice

"Ancillary Justice" is a well-written novel about one segment of an AI hive mind pursuing revenge against a colonial empire that doesn't see gender distinctions.

Throughout the book, the wit and craft behind the writing is clear. I particularly enjoyed the style of banter between the different characters, and everything flowed together very well -- the pacing was fairly quick, the switches between the present and the past were well synchronized, and the themes were generally interesting.

Mac Stone: Stunning photos of the endangered Everglades

Mac Stone's TED Talk Photo

Mac Stone believes that people won't care about the environment unless they can experience it and can hear a story about it that makes them care.  He tells stories through breathtaking photos.  This If you want to see 20 minutes of photos of Florida's endangered Everglades along with interesting stories about conservation and ecology, this is a great talk.

Dune - Frank Herbert

Dune book cover

I enjoyed Dune.  It's good to read a classic, especially one that so dramatically influenced a genre -- in Dune's case, popularizing hard science fiction.

There were some awkward bits of the writing style.  Things moved a bit slowly sometimes, and there were some awkward shifts in point of view.

Soon I Will Be Invincible - Austin Grossman

The Soon I Will Be Invincible cover

Soon I Will Be Invincible is a superhero / supervillain novel (every other chapter switches off between the superhero protagonist and the supervillain protagonist).  I have heard that it does a good job of playing on superhero comic tropes, but I haven't really read those myself.  As is, I thought it was a reasonably entertaining novel, but it didn't make me think or otherwise stand above the crowds.


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