Archive for December, 2006

Like All Else, Space Exploration Goes Global

December 31, 2006

New York Times on how “the skies could get crowded in 2007. This time around it’s not just a space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. New countries, and some rich people, will make it more of a space roller derby.”

Things are heating up even more on the private side of the space game. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has said it will be testing vehicles in 2007 that eventually will take well-heeled tourists to suborbital space. So will Jeff Bezos, the founder of, at the West Texas launch site of his secretive company, Blue Origin.

Lesser-known companies like XCOR Aerospace, Aera Corp, Armadillo Aerospace, PlanetSpace and Rocketplane-Kistler are also hustling to get vehicles up and running. Robert Bigelow, the founder of Budget Suites of America, is likely to push forward with his goal of putting a hotel in orbit by 2010.


Roomba a ‘surprise hit Christmas present’

December 31, 2006

Washington Post article on how irobot’s Roomba is leading the robot invasion:

This week, women all over America – and not a few men – are cooing and doting over their surprise hit Christmas present. They swoon when it hides under the couch and plays peekaboo. When it gets tired, it finds its way back to its nest, sings a little song and then settles into a nap, its little power button pulsing like a beating heart, on, off, on, off.

It’s as cute as E.T., as devoted as R2D2, more practical than a robotic dog and cheaper than some iPods…

So, a note to future historians: Not only are our helpful robots no longer the preserve mainly of gear-heads and toy-freaks. This is the year for a lot of mainstream American families that our robots emotionally became one of us.

Chicago in the year 2107

December 31, 2006

Chicago Sun-Times article on what Chicago’s architectural future may hold in 100 years: Giant windmills, floating skyscrapers, an “elevator to space” in Lake Michigan, and a 64-lane automated highway.

PlanetSpace wants stake in sub-orbital cargo and transport

December 30, 2006

India West article on a new revelation.  PlanetSpace, which is looking to locate in Ohio, has plans to test sub-orbital cargo and passenger service in about 36-48 months.  Looks like they’re more than just a space tourism outfit.   I think Virgin Galactic has the same designs.

Health through hunger?

December 30, 2006

Chicago Tribune editoralizes on the calorie restriction phenomenon.

Welcome to the Transgenic Pharm

December 29, 2006


China’s first transgenic pigs, yet to be named, today joined the ever-growing Transgenic Pharm that was started in 1997.  In less than 10 years, we now have tons of transgenic mice, some sheep, pigs, goats, salmon and, of course, zebrafish now trademarked as GloFish.  Transgenic animals supposedly help mankind through better agriculture, medicine and industry.  I think the jury is still out.

Transgenic mice that carry the piggyBac transposon

Transgenic mice that express red fluorescent protein.
The mice were created by Tian Xu and his colleagues at Fudan
University in Shanghai, China.

Flourescent green version.

 Annie, first transgenic cow clone, created by USDA and University of Virginia in 2000. Annie’s cells offer a biotechnological defense against mastitis disease.

Tracey, a transgenic sheep created in 1999
by the Roslin Institute to produce a human
protein to treat cystic fibrosis.


Nexia Biotechnologies in 2002 created
transgenic goats to produce spider silk.

A GM salmon and a non-GM one at the same age
Transgenic salmon.  Made to grow extremely fast to
reach market quicker.  Could be in grocery stores in

And as of yet, the first transgenic species
sold as a pet:  the GloFish.  Comes in
three colors.  The transgenic zebrafish was
created in 1999 by National University
of Singapore researchers.

First transgentic cloned pig, at left.  Researcher used yellow mutant 
as a marker to show that foreign genes can be expressed in transgenic swine.

Has Enviga gone flat already?

December 29, 2006

ABC News reports on Enviga, due out next year, which has been touted as a “negative calorie” wonder drink that will help people lose weight.

But according to doctors, drinking the green tea concoction is unlikely to make anyone shrink in size. For that reason, earlier this month the Center for Science in the Public Interest announced it will sue Coca-Cola and Nestle if they persist with the current ad campaign for Enviga.

Best to stick with good old celery.

China develops 1st green fluorescent transgenic pigs

December 29, 2006

China View article on Chinese scientists who have successfully bred partially green fluorescent pigs which they hope will boost stem cell research, a leading scientist said.

By injecting fluorescent green protein into embryonic pigs, a research team at the Northeast Agricultural University managed to breed three transgenic pigs, said professor Liu Zhonghua of the university’s College of Life Sciences.

Genetic material from jellyfish was injected into the womb of a sow which gave birth to the three pigs 114 days later in Harbin. Researchers will be able to monitor changes in the tissues of the transgenic pigs, commonly used to study human diseases.

No word yet on whether they’ll be safe to eat. Ummm.

FDA Declares Food From Cloned Animals to Be Safe

December 29, 2006

New York Times article on FDA deciding that milk and meat from some cloned animals is safe.

The finding could make the United States the first country to allow products from cloned livestock to be sold in grocery stores.

No More Teeth for the Tooth Fairy

December 28, 2006

Scientific American reports that stem cells from pulled teeth can regenerate new roots, which might some day replace dental implants.