Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life

Marcus Wohlsen, Author
Marcus Wohlsen, Current, $25.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-61723-002-8
Reviewed on: 02/07/2011
Release date: 04/01/2011
Paperback - 250 pages - 978-1-61723-007-3
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-101-46801-2
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-101-47635-2
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Biopunks, as defined by AP science and technology reporter Wohlsen, are part of a loosely knit, multifaceted movement to find ways to permit people to engage in DNA research without the restrictions and costs imposed by the scientific and medical establishment. Practitioners, some self-taught, set up shop in their kitchens or garages, believing that significant biological advances are more likely to occur as more people get involved in the enterprise. For the most part opposed to intellectual property rights, they prefer the open-source model used to design some computer software. Although biopunks have not yet made any significant scientific advances, they view themselves as "simplifying and domesticating" biology. Though his prose is a bit dry, Wohlsen introduces some fascinating, altruistic individuals, people who would like to fight disease without profit as their primary motive. While Wohlsen conveys, and seems to share, their excitement, he provides little critical commentary on their prospects for success. He also splits his attention between true DIYers and others who are working outside the scientific establishment because they haven't been able to find jobs or funding. Similarly, modest sections on bioterrorism and potentially dangerous experiments in genetic engineering seem largely unconnected to his main focus. (Apr.)
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