A chronicle of DIY biotech scientists and their idealistic quest to democratize DNA like the Internet did information.
The most revolutionary discoveries in science and technology often emerge from out-of-the-way places, forged by brilliant outsiders with few resources besides boundless energy and great ideas. That describes the "biohacking" movement now in its early, heady days. In the next few years, companies will start selling libraries of genetic LEGOs that amateur scientists will use to build new life from scratch. Self- trained genetic tinkerers are already unlocking the potential of DNA in kitchens and garage labs all over the country.
Marcus Wohlsen introduces us to some of these fascinating biopunks, including:
* members of a San Francisco biohacker collective who are tinkering with strawberry genes
* citizen scientists in London who are working to set up a storefront wet lab
* a do-it-yourself biology meet-up in a Brooklyn apartment that celebrated Earth Day by inserting squid genes into E. coli
Of course, amid these stories of innovative tinkering lies the possibility of genetic engineering experiments gone awry. Wohlsen follows the biopunk underground toward a future that might leave us feeling blessed, doomed, or both.