Strange Science

There’s been a lot of buzz recently about the paper that came out last week on gene editing, and a breakthrough that looks like it will allow double-stranded cuts of DNA without introducing substantive errors in the genetic code following such editing. As writers, we can surely appreciate that editing is important, but from the genetic standpoint, it is literally a matter of life or death. Readers, disgusted by typos or malapropos, will just put our books down. DNA that encodes for the wrong protein will quickly lead to death or disease. Which is, ironically, what science hopes to be able to do with the novel editing procedure: eliminate certain kinds of diseases. Specifically, I point out, disorders of the existing genome. I have seen headlines that implied more than this, but that is so far beyond the capacity of technology as we know it. Fiction has explored the concept of gene editing in many ways over the past decades, some scenarios more plausible than others. It is hard to stay ahead of the ‘real’ with our imaginations right now, as quickly as discoveries are piling up. Google’s quantum supremacy. The double-strand edits. China’s CRISPr babies.

Still, though, I pore over the papers I can access with the mind of a writer as well as keeping my science education sharpened. This paper on the isolation of the gene that tadpoles use to regenerate appendages, for instance.


Forgive me. I arrived at Kamarie Farm to help Mom and the Internet is out.

10 thoughts on “Strange Science

    1. Ah-HA! Some of my nonhumans have this ‘invisibility’ trick which affects both sight and sensors. And all their tech runs on the same principle as their tele-whatever. (That’s the part where I made shit up, tho it might just be gravity.) NOW I know how they do it. Not the same, but sufficiently parallel.

  1. Yep. I learned fast to not give details of genetic engineering methods. By the time you’ve written, edited, polished and published, everyone knows about a better way to do it.

  2. I actually hadn’t heard about that paper (busy trying to train someone in at work and my daughter’s first out of town dance convention), so many thanks for the heads up.

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