Honors 177 S 2012 Biotech + Art Professor Victoria Vesna Blog Entries for the Course Mariam BarseghyanPhysiological Science / Russian Language and Literature June 6, 2012
The Two Cultures Week 1• Hello, my name is Mariam. I am a fourth year Physiological Science and Russian Language and Literature dual major. I love literature and art but only as long as I enjoy it. I never ask questions regarding the reasons or motivations that lead to creation of certain piece of art or literary work since, unlike questions posed in science, there is never one definite true answer in literature. One rarely knows the actual state of mind and feeling of an author while he was creating his work. Posing assumptions regarding this seems pretty pointless to me. While taking this course, I anticipate learning how not technology, but rather BIOtechnology is related to art.
• Today the two cultures, art and sciences, seem so distinct and far from one another that it is hard to believe that once these disciplines were inseparable. This separation, first acknowledged in 1959 by C. P. Snow, who believed that a curriculum in universities is the cause of creation of the mentioned separation, still continues to increase. According to Aldous Huxley, misunderstandings arise from a specialized use of language from the two disciplines. I consider John Brockman’s idea that contemporary scientist are the representative of the third culture – technology, which, I think, incorporates both, the ideas of scientists and the design of artists.
• The conflict of the two cultures is primarily a conflict between humanities and sciences which was initially created by the way schools and universities are run. Negative stereotypes exist within both of the mentioned disciplines. A proper training beginning kindergarten will allow diminishing separation between science and art greatly. The more harmonious existence of one discipline along another will assist in making many extraordinary discoveries in both fields.
• One example of how science is connected to art is demonstrated through the Kunstkamera, Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, which was also the first museum established in Russia. In these museums, open and functioning around the world, are displayed anomalies observed among humans and sometimes animals. These museums are not the type to enjoys, however they are very interesting. Here is the link showing one of such museums.
• A video demonstrating the mentioned museum: http://video.yandex.ru/#search?text=%D0%BA%D1%83%D0% BD%D1%81%D1%82%D0%BA%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%B5%D1 %80%D0%B0&filmId=24383307-02-12• click on the bigger video on the left
Links• 1. Cabinet of Curiosities (Кунсткамера) <http://www.dharmafish.org/albums/40>• 2. Kunstkamera. Кунсткамера <http://www.flickr.com/photos/peer_gynt/5601078348/>• 3. Human Biotechnology in Art & Culture: A List <http://www.geneticsandsociety.org/article.php?id=1961>• 4. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S01677 79905002726>• 5. Art and Biotechnology: When art looks into science <http://therestisart.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/art-and- biotechnology-when-...
• What happened to Steve Kurtz is devastating. This just once again shows the carelessness of police/government to science, art, and just simple human feelings. All that matters is reputation! Kurtz is a strong man to be able to withstand all that and to fight for his rights as well as for the rights of all those in science and art.
GM Foods: Benefits and Faults Week 2• Like a typical modern American diet, my diet is primarily composed of genetically modified foods. Almost everything that a typical American consumes, having bought the products from regular stores, is genetically altered. However, compared to many people, I usually eat homemade food. I believe that this is beneficial, though the ingredients are still genetically altered. At least, while eating at home, one knows exactly what he or she consumes and in what quantities. Foods eaten outside are often rich in unhealthy fats and carbohydrates.
• I do not buy foods labeled organic since I personally do not trust that labeling. It is not difficult to see that a strawberry labeled organic appears just like its GM version: big and tasteless. Even if the foods labeled organic are not genetically modified, in order for them to look as appealing as they in fact do look, they need to be treated with chemicals and this does not make that particular food organic. The only foods that I truly consider organic are those grown in my grandmother’s garden, in Armenia. She grows everything in the garden naturally and uses her own seeds (though this does not matter since genetically modified seeds are not allowed there).
• Couple of years ago I have done research on advantages and disadvantages of genetically altered foods. I am attaching the power point demonstrating my findings.• A very interesting link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=play er_embedded&v=1H9WZGKQeYg
Links• 1. The Pros and Cons of Genetically Modified Seeds <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126862629333762259.html>• 2. Agriculture in Armenia: Surviving against the Odds <http://www.atgusa.org/Armenia/agriculture/armenia_agriculture. html>• 3. Harmful Effects of the Agent <http://enhs.umn.edu/current/5103/gm/harmful.html>• 4. Genetically Modified Organisms are Unfit for Consumption <http://www.naturalnews.com/026426_GMO_food_GMOs.html>• 5. What are Genetically Modified Organisms or GMO Foods? http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/nutrition/genetically- modified-foods>
Biotechnology and Animals Week 3• I do not like keeping animals (pets) myself. I do pet dogs and cats of my friends, but I never felt like having an animal myself. I think that if it wasn’t for animals, science would not be on the level on which it is today. Animals are used in laboratories for answering various important health and science related questions. I never understood those who fight against animal utilization in the research laboratories. If it wasn’t for these animals a significant amount of cures for various diseases would never be discovered. I wonder if these people realize and if they are ready to provide an alternative that is as good to use in the lab as animas. What, would it be better to experiment on humans?
• The possibility of engineering Gene Targeted Mice (mice whose genes are selected for) allows for testing for the functions of specific genes and proteins. This allows for later determination of ways of treatment of various diseases.
Links• 1. Animal Biotechnology <http://www.nifa.usda.gov/nea/biotech/in_focus/biotechnology_if _animal.html>• 2. Transgenic animals <http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/animals/using/biotechnology_1.sht ml>• 3. Animal Biotechnology <http://www.aboutbioscience.org/topics/animalbiotechnology>• 4. Strange Culture <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMPk9- 1uifA>• 5. Charge Dropped Against Artist in Terror Case http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/22/nyregion/22bioart.html
Poop Burgers Week 4• Even though I do not agree with agree with doctrines of veganism, I liked Noa’s presentation. The concept of her works is very interesting. It fascinating to actually be able to see and feel the things that are only seen under the microscope. Noa’s works are inspired by her life style. That is why it was a unique experience to observe the works of this artist. I liked the recreation of a dust particle the most. It is a great idea, which was accomplished with detail and precision.
• Modern science is actively working on developing novel methods of food production. Maybe one day all that we consume will be produced from chemicals. If this is accomplished, would this new diet be considered vegan?
• Already today scientists know methods of producing meat and cheese in the laboratories. The most extraordinary example of this is meat recycling from human feces. This may sound unbelievable and disgusting, but in fact this is true. This is accomplished by Japanese scientists under Mitsuyuki Ikeda, a researcher from the Okayama Laboratory. Many of those who have tasted the “Turd Burger” say that it does actually taste like beef. Scientists aimed to reduce emission of green house gases and the utilization (including maintenance expenses) if livestock. The major challenge that would resist the appearance of this product on market is the human psychology itself. “Shit Burger” does not sound appealing at all!
• Here is the link to the video:http://www.youtube .com/watch?featu re=player_embed ded&v=u1N6QfuIh 0g
Links• 1. SHIT BURGER: Japanese Researcher Creates Artificial Meat From Human Feces (Video):• http://www.infiniteunknown.net/2011/06/15/shit-burger-japanese-researcher-creates-artificial- meat-from-human-feces-video/• 2. Japan scientist synthesizes meat from human feces:• http://www.digitaltrends.com/international/japanese-scientists-creates-meat-out-of-feces/• 3. Laboratory for Cell-Free Protein Synthesis:• http://www.riken.jp/engn/r-world/research/lab/qbic/cfps/index.html• 4. Protein Synthesis Lab:• http://www.slideshare.net/aroybal/protein-synthesis-lab• 5. Hamburger junction: Muscle grown in factories could soon be appearing in a supermarket near you:• http://www.economist.com/node/21548147
Aging / Body Modifications Week 6• Aging is defined as “an accumulation of changes in a person over time.” These changes are naturally occurring and currently it is impossible to combat these changes. In our modern era of technological evolution, we are yet only capable of masking the effects of aging. I have attended the art exhibition on aging last week and do not quite agree with its main theme. If one is able to, I think that he or she should definitely slow the effects of aging or mask them. For example, the food that we consume affects our aging, so one can easily control this. It is exceptionally up to each single person if he or she wants to mask or get rid of the signs of aging. Many celebrities today constantly undergo plastic surgeries in order to look young at last. Personally, I am against plastic surgeries and I do not think that those who get one done necessarily look better. In fact they do not look “natural.” Thus, CNSI art exhibit on aging was “promoting” natural looks in the process of aging over masked.
• Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology at UCLA offers a course call Biology of Aging. The course is taught by Dr. David Walker. This course offers a wonderful opportunity to investigate, learn and understand the basic mechanisms of aging. Studying this process will lead to future discoveries of anti-aging mechanisms which would lead to prolongation of life expectancy, which would give us more time to accomplish all that is wonderful but time consuming =)
"David Walker• David Walkers primary research goal is to better understand the basic biology of the aging process. Advanced age is the greatest risk factor for most cancers and neurodegenerative diseases. However, it has proven difficult to infer the relative_importance of the many processes that contribute to aging. We are using the powerful genetics of the fruit fly Drosophila to better understand the molecular biology of aging. Many of the features that we associate with aging in mammals are recapitulated in the fly (at a much quicker rate). Using a combination of molecular genetic and biochemical tools, we seek to identify genes and cellular pathways that modulate the rate of aging. The long-term aim of this research isto provide novel therapeutic targets to counteract age-related human diseases."
• Here in Los Angeles we have a Department of Aging which provides support and various services to aging citizens. Thus, government is attempting to alleviate the effects and side effect of aging on its citizens.
• Original artwork illustrating aging with and without proper skin care. Commisioned by a cosmetics company for print and animated TV advertising worldwide.
Links• 1. Department of Integrativ Biology and Physiology / David Walker <http://www.ibp.ucla.edu/physcifacultyindiv.php?FacultyKe y=9698>• 2. Age-progressed and age-regressed portraits and animations. <http://www.dlwaldron.com/ageprogression.html>• 3. City of Los Angeles Department of Aging <http://aging.lacity.org/>• 4. National Institute of Aging. <http://www.nia.nih.gov/>• 5. Stein Institute for Research on Aging. <http://sira.ucsd.edu/>
• In our modern society technological advances are not shocking anymore. It is expected for the various electronics to be further developed in order to achieve better device capabilities. However, while on the path creating Artificial Intelligence, we tend to neglect our own intellectual development.
• Behavioral modifications, particularly education, do tend to improve the level of human intelligence. However, this process is slow and requires constant work. As the new generations of computer that come out with improved functionality, it would be possible to create human beings with improved analytical and logical power.
• In the core of the model of creation of humans with Amplified Natural Intelligence (ANI) lies the concept of decoding a given code (by Alan Turing) and those of physiology and molecular biology. To achieve the proposed goal Human Genetic Engineering (HGE) is necessary. Genes need to be modified at an embryonic level in order to produce functional cells postnatally. Retroviral transfecton would be the core technique utilized in procedure. Through this technique, extra genes coding for Nerve Growth Factors (NGF) and molecules guiding axonal patterning, such as molecules from Ephrin family, as well as genetic information coding for molecules that increase neuronal synaptic connectivity will be inserted into the embryonic genome during the early stages of embryonic development.
• The inserted code of genes will be decoded by the natural mechanisms of the organism to produce exogenous molecules. These molecules will further amplify the effects of the endogenous molecules involved in nervous system development. Thus, neurogenesis along with axonal and synaptic efficient patterning will contribute to creation of ANI.
Links• Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence: http://www.aaai.org/home.html• Cyclopia and defective axial patterning in mice lacking Sonic hedgehog gene functionhttp://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v383/n6599/abs/383407a0.html• Neuronsderived fromradial glial cells establish radial units in neocortexhttp://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v409/n6821/abs/409714a0.html• Genetic modification of preimplantatoin embryos: toward adequate human research policieshttp://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/4149080?uid=3739256&uid=2129&uid=2&uid =70&uid=4&sid=47699069307897• Genetic Enhancement: http://www.genome.gov/10004767
Extra CreditLejla Kucukalic’s lecture on Biotech to Biopunk: Science Fiction’s Visions of Genetics• Scientists are often portrayed in a stereotypic manner in a literature and media where they are usually described us people with thick eyeglasses and bunch of tubes who basically live their whole life in the laboratory.• This portrayal creates certain stereotypes that about scientist which today it is almost impossible to break.
• Science is an area that requires vast amount of research and dedication. Being a scientist does not mean in any way that he or she lives in a social isolation.• Since research requires so much time and effort, scientist have to often work overtime rather than going to the bar with others who works a regular weekly load at work and can come home and simply relax.
• Scientist today, like never before, are able to balance their laboratory work, family obligations and social norms that comply with the etiquette. It is easy to just take a look around on our campus (when on South Campus) to become aware of all this.• People need to be more educated about what it takes to be a scientist and that the scientist are just like any of us, they are just a little more busy.
• “Biopunk is a technoprogressive movement advocating open access to genetic information. Biopunk hobbyists or biohackers experiment with DNA and other aspects of genetics.”• The lecturer succeeded in explaining how science fiction, read by the majority of those not involved in science, view scientists in general, and especially how what biopunks are thought of today.
Links• 1. Biopunk• http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biopunk• 2. Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life• http://www.facebook.com/biopunk.book• 3. Introduction: perception and representation of science in literature and fiction film• http://pus.sagepub.com/content/12/3/227.full.pdf• 4. How blogs, Twitter and other social media tools are changing conversations about scientific research• http://www.earthmagazine.org/article/science-and-social-media• 5. http://www.biopunk.org/links-t27.html