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Biotech Science Technology

Do It Yourself Biology Research, Past and Present 108

Harperdog writes "Laura Kahn has a great article about the long and fascinating history of do-it-yourself research, from Darwin and Mendel to present day. From the article: 'Welcome to the new millennium of do-it-yourself (DIY) biology. Advances in technology in the twenty-first century have enabled anybody, with the desire and the disposable income, to build rather sophisticated laboratories in their own homes. Entire communities have even materialized to promote these efforts -- like the thousands of amateur biologists who contribute to DIYbio.org, a website "dedicated to making biology an accessible pursuit for citizen scientists, amateur biologists and biological engineers."'"
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Do It Yourself Biology Research, Past and Present

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  • The usual media spin on this is "Oh noes, someone's going to make an airborne Ebola/HIV hybrid virus in their kitchen!".

    I think this is ridiculous and it's more likely someone will actually make an airborne Flu/Ebola/HIV hybrid. Nothing to worry about here, move along.

    • I took microbiology as an elective in college, probably one of the more fun courses I took outside of my major. Nothing says fun like making E coli change color or using bacteria to draw pictures in petri dishes. The fact that it was an elective took a bit of the stress off - there's no doubt I had more fun than anyone else in the class (I was the only one there who didn't require it, the rest were bio majors. I was also one of only two A's in the class of ~40 students).

      • Totally, and if I didn't go into computers my #2 choice by a long shot would have been microbiology. Can't get more interesting than the fundamental building blocks of life.

        But I'm still not convinced this stuff isn't going to get easy enough such that some nut or terrorist will be able to design something that will kill half a billion people. I just hope that by that time it will also be advanced enough that the professionals can immunize/mitigate it before it kills very many people.

        • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *

          Can't get more interesting than the fundamental building blocks of life.

          That would be biochemistry and believe me, that is not fun at all :(

          • Or biophysics. Or quantum physics. Or mathematics. Reducto ab absurdum!

            I enjoyed biochem a lot more than orgo, though.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I took microbiology as an elective in college, probably one of the more fun courses I took outside of my major. Nothing says fun like making E coli change color or using bacteria to draw pictures in petri dishes. The fact that it was an elective took a bit of the stress off - there's no doubt I had more fun than anyone else in the class (I was the only one there who didn't require it, the rest were bio majors. I was also one of only two A's in the class of ~40 students).

        Dude, I was the other A. And I thought you were stupid.

    • Honestly, statements like that severely devalue the amount of work that went into ebola, HIV, and influenza in the first place. Millions of years of evolution ain't free, y'know!
      • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

        Millions of years of evolution ain't free, y'know!

        Heathen! God created ebola, HIV and influenza one Sunday afternoon when he was bored.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          Pretty sure it was a Friday. Genesis is fairly clear that He couldn't get a date because of His unsightly beard, and so in His divine anger, bequeathed unto His children a wide variety of ills both minor and major, including not only ebola, HIV, and influenza, but also the bubonic plague, insurance salespeople, and stubbed toes.
          • Genesis is also clear that those first few "days" occurred before he created the sun, hence they weren't actually days at all.

            Sorry, just got into a "discussion" with Jehovah's Witnesses at the door this morning about the Bible (not) being the literal word of God.

            • by cusco ( 717999 )
              That can be fun, if you have the time to waste. Had a housemate one time who like to tell the Mormon missionaries about the portions of their history that they're not allowed to learn.
      • Bah. Those millions of years of evolution where spent making those virus less lethal, not more.

      • Right, good thing you don't have to reinvent them just mix and match them to get a desired change.
  • Bio is still pretty expensive. Even simple techniques like PCR require highly purified reagents. For instance, how does one purify dNTPs [promega.com] at home?

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      For instance, how does one purify dNTPs [promega.com] at home?

      Promega is over-priced, but dNTPs aren't a high-use item anyway.

      • Re:Materials (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday June 18, 2012 @02:24PM (#40361847) Journal

        Depends on what you're doing. If you're doing PCR to screen a large number of transformants, or if you're using the dNTPs to synthesize your own oligos, you'll go through a lot.

        IMO, this is where the focus of DIY bio should be for a while. Try and find out how to get expensive reagents for reasonable prices. dNTPs are just one example. What are these people staining their gels with anyway? Ethidium bromide is somewhat toxic, and Sybr safe is fairly expensive.

        Also, are people doing histology at home? You might be able to produce your own antibodies, if you keep rabbits. But can you conjugate fluorescent markers to them?

        What about western blots? Is polyacrylamide available to the hobbyist?

        I guess what I'm saying is that there's a lot that can be done, but also a lot that can't be done at home on the cheap. We're still in the phase where the most important research is on techniques, not biology.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Also, are people doing histology at home? You might be able to produce your own antibodies, if you keep rabbits. But can you conjugate fluorescent markers to them?

          "Histology" doesn't really require antibodies, much less fluorescently tagged antibodies (although there are kits for that). Fluorescent microscopes are at least an order of magnitude more expensive than conventional scopes (maybe $5k on ebay), and probably not for the DIYer. Also, the procedures used to farm antibodies are likely to get a private citizen charged with animal cruelty.

          Most histology is based on chemical stains, and sometimes in-situ reactions, that are completely practical to do at home.

          • by Hatta ( 162192 )

            There's an amazing world revealed just by painting cells with the right chemicals, and it's completely appropriate for the home biologist.

            It's pretty, but the point of DIY bio is to contribute to science or create a novel technology. We're not talking about setting up demos for kids.

            Maybe I'm just spoiled from working in a biology lab for years, but what sort of questions can you actually answer without techniques like IHC, western blotting, and transgenics?

            • Re:Materials (Score:4, Insightful)

              by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Monday June 18, 2012 @05:20PM (#40363807) Homepage

              You certainly could do classical E. coli or phage genetics. All you need is some growth media, pipettes and petri dishes. I'm not sure how that would translate into cutting edge research but it's doable.

              You could potentially do some screening / growth requirements for some of the millions of new viruses that are floating about. These seem poorly characterized and again, it's rather classical microbiology.

              But yes, modern molecular biology is going to be tough without an account at one of the many vendors of probes, etc.

              One thing that does strike me is the sheer number of companies marketing sophisticated molecular probes / cell lines / antibiodies etc. In my day we had to make them de novo (and cut the glass for our gels and purify the acrylamide and make our own electricity....). If you had deep enough pockets, you could get pretty sophisticated very quickly.

              • by Genda ( 560240 )

                Check out Genspace" [genspace.org] in New York City. Started by a student and now a significant small research lab for the enthusiast, it has quite a good selection of equipment and resources. Some was purchased second hand from ebay and other professional labs donating older equipment. Some of the materials have been donated from local and even not so local schools. Finally a lot of the materials have been purchased by the enthusiasts themselves. You'd be amazed at what these folks are doing. Both inspiring and a wee bit

          • by cusco ( 717999 )
            Even pond water with a little methylene blue or crystal violet is much more visible and interesting

            Really? I think pond water is fascinating already. Doesn't it kill the critters? I know iodine does, which was my one attempt at staining pond water. Not nearly as interesting if they're not still moving, although some of the details might be cool to check out.
    • Re:Materials (Score:5, Insightful)

      by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Monday June 18, 2012 @02:42PM (#40362089)
      It may well be correct to say that the number of amateur scientists has increased, and the tools available to an amateur scientist are pretty impressive (compare the computing power and software of an average laptop to a university machine 50 years ago). But the trend is clear- amateurs are playing less and less of a role.

      The biggest reason is that it's simply harder to make a discovery now than it was 100 or 200 years ago. Back in the time of Galileo, you could do cutting-edge physics research by dropping two wooden balls of different masses. The total cost of the research would be trivial and it would take you a few minutes to conduct. These days, cutting-edge physics means an experimental device like the Large Hadron Collider, hundreds of people, years of time, and billions of dollars. Cutting edge was within the reach of anybody in 1564, now it can only be accomplished with the support of a large nation. The same goes for astronomy. Galileo was able to build a telescope that was more powerful than anything out there, point it at the moon and planets, and see things people had never seen before. These days, doing cutting-edge astronomy research requires a space telescope or an observatory, again costing millions or billions of dollars, putting cutting-edge astronomy research beyond the reach of an amateur. The amount of expertise has also gone up- science has advanced so much that it may take 10 years of higher education just to become familiar with the science that has already been done, before you can start actually making major discoveries yourself. That kind of time commitment is difficult for an amateur working in their off-hours to match.

      As a result, the vast majority of scientific discoveries are made by full-time scientists employed by universities, research institutions, or corporations, working in teams, and supported by their institutions or large granting agencies. It's not unique to science, we see this with technology as well. Back in the day, Orville and Wilbur Wright put together the world's most advanced aircraft in their bicycle workshop; these days huge teams of engineers labor at Boeing or Skunkworks to put together the newest plane. The Apple I was put together by hobbyists, the latest iPad involves huge teams of designers and programmers working in collaboration with Chinese factories. As a field advances, it's harder and harder for someone with limited resources and limited time to make a major contribution.

      • Science is often about asking the right question and the appropriate experimental design. The statements you make above have been repeated through the ages. We shall be continually be surprised by amateurs with curiosity. SpaceX and James Cameron's recent ocean dive could be considered to be done by rich "amateurs" who went professional.
        • Yes, but surely the point is that the stuff that Cameron's been doing is in a whole different league to Galileo slapping together a couple of lenses and discovering that the moons of Jupiter go around in circles or just sitting down and thinking about a cage of insects buzzing about in a box on board a ship.

          In physics it's pretty much the case that all the low hanging fruit has been picked. The experimental stuff takes large amounts of money. The purely theoretical stuff gets picked over by an army of pro

          • Galileo slapping together lenses was incredibly "cutting edge" (pun intended) for its time. It was a brand new field dominated by very talented craftsman. It just seems quaint now. Though you may come from physics, I come from the field of neuroscience where there are literally so many unanswered questions that amateurs can discover things just by recording and analyzing animal behavior. See Bob Full's elegant work at Berkeley: high speed photography of animal locomotion that could have been done by an amat
      • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
        Not really. I would guess, just guess mind you, that there are plenty of "fill in the gaps" discoveries to be made. Things that when posted on Slashdot will elicit insults about how anyone with an electron microscope COULD have done it.

        There is also the fact that when armatures do the same experiments that the pros do, the results are more likely to make it into the general public. A 12 year old is unlikely read an expensive, for pay, peer reviewed article. On the other hand, they might do the experi
        • by cusco ( 717999 )
          Scientific American used to have an article each month of experiments that amateurs could do at home, and both Popular Science and Popular Mechanics frequently had similar articles. That's all been done away with, probably because of the deluge of lawyers willing to sue anybody for anything.
      • by Smauler ( 915644 )

        the trend is clear- amateurs are playing less and less of a role. The biggest reason is that it's simply harder to make a discovery now than it was 100 or 200 years ago.

        This is the case in some fields, but not others. Within mathematics and physics, it is still currently entirely possible to make new discoveries without apparatus. You've got to specialise, and you'll probably have to work most of your life trying to do it, and you'll probably be unsuccessful, but that was always the case.

        The major hurd

        • by Genda ( 560240 )

          You're absolutely correct. Look at the work being done by amateur astronomers, Moreover, you can get a telescope today for about the cost of a new hybrid car, that exceeds anything that could reasonably have been owned by an amateur even 20 years ago. The addition of goto systems and image processing capabilities and digital imaging. means that in the area of astronomy, amateurs are making real and significant contributions, not to mention, magnificent and inspiring images of astronomic wonders. Hubble open

    • For instance, how does one purify dNTPs at home?

      You could do it the way Kornberg's group did when isolating DNA synthase to begin with. Their paper is even online, for free [jbc.org]. It amounts to growing a lot of e coli (or grinding up a bunch of thymus), reducing the DNA to its component monomers by digestion with DNAse extracted from pancreas and snake venom phosphodiesterase (although one could use alkaline hydrolysis, too), and purifying them by ion-exchange chromatography through a Dowex resin. None of that is especially hard, nor requiring of high-tech

      • by Hatta ( 162192 )

        Now that's awesome. Pulling that off at home would be difficult, but doable. Sounds like fun. Doing PCR from scratch at home would be quite the accomplishment.

      • by mbkennel ( 97636 )

        crap, this like like building your own oscilloscope. Doable (to get something which may be 1940's quality), but a waste of time.

        There's a reason why money for high quality scientific instrumentation and supplies is valuable.

        If the amateurs are going to be wasting even more of their time replacing the manufacture of standard items, poorly, they they will contribute even less to advancing science than otherwise.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Do It Yourself Biology Research, Past and Present

    Teenagers know this too well.

  • by mbkennel ( 97636 ) on Monday June 18, 2012 @02:16PM (#40361739)

    becomes significant, it means that the existing scientific base and funding was wrecked. (Feels like Roman Empire AD400).

    In reality, people who work at something for a living (meaning full time employement) after many years of full time education, are the ones who produce results which are scientifically and economically useful.

    Hobbyist science is nice entertainment. Sure, a few former biologists (i.e. used to work full time learning and doing science until they couldn't get a job any more) might make some minor contributions----but their experience and knowledge came from working full time in the real industry.

    And nearly all professional science is "do it yourself or get your postdocs to do it"---who else knows enough? It takes lots of money and full time sustained effort for decades to get somewhere.

    Comparing today to Darwin's day is foolish---scientific productivity increased enormously once a significant number of people were able to do it for a living and with less regard for class history and personal family wealth.

    • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Monday June 18, 2012 @02:33PM (#40361981) Homepage

      Hobbyist science has always been part of the mix, sometimes an important part of the mix. Some examples:
      * Isaac Newton was actually an alchemist by trade - the physics and math were basically just fun side projects.
      * Albert Einstein published some of his most important stuff while working as a patent clerk.
      * Grote Reber was one of the key pioneers in radio astronomy working with a telescope he'd built in his backyard.

      Now, I'll grant you that often amateur science is, well, amateurish, but occasionally an amateur scientist strikes gold, and I see no reason to discourage people from messing with it. They aren't going to be as good at it as the professionals, but at worst they accomplish nothing except have a little fun, and at best they add something to the scientific knowledge of humanity. Another way of looking at the argument: 100 pros could perhaps come up with 15 useful results a year, while 10000 amateurs could perhaps come up with 2. The pros are obviously much better than the amateurs, but we're all better off with 17 useful results than 15 useful results.

      • by tburkhol ( 121842 ) on Monday June 18, 2012 @03:49PM (#40362859)

        First, I'd say that fundamental advances are changes in the basic way we look at things. I think they happen most when someone is not encumbered by the existing dogma, and open whole new areas in which even professional scientists lack expertise. What were the limits of evolutionary biology before Darwin? Very little "science" actually happens that way - most of it is the somewhat plodding refinement and clarification of existing theory, and professional scientists are definitely better suited to make those kinds of advances. Of course, it's hard to distinguish "revolutionary" from "crackpot," and having a professional reputation helps in that distinction.

        Second, I would say that it is not even important for a home scientist to make truly novel findings or advances. I think the principle value in home study of biology, or chemistry, or anything else, is to make that knowledge personal. If you think science is interesting, then go do it! Millions of people play basketball, despite having no chance of ever making it a career. Millions play guitar, or piano, without any ambition to give concerts. Or paint. Or write. We don't mock any of those people, or condescend to them like they're wasting their time. Or tell them they'd be better off reading reports of the NBA playoffs than actually going out on the court. Why should discovering the world around you be restricted to people who can push at the recognized boundaries of knowledge?

        • Exactly this. Don't expect Nobel Prizes, expect interested and informed people. And likely only a few of them - this isn't something that you are going to find on Jersey Shore. Remember, amateurs do things because they want to.

          That's all that has to happen.

      • I'll grant you that often amateur science is, well, amateurish, but occasionally an amateur scientist strikes gold

        Often professional science is amateurish, but occasionally a professional scientist strikes gold.

      • I would argue that the examples you gave are primarily of people working in comparatively shallow fields—TFA suggests that DIY biologists may come up with the "novel, visionary approaches" necessary to develop "the next-generation vaccines and anti-microbials, and autologous replacement organs." That's a lot of background knowledge for a hobbyist!
      • by mbkennel ( 97636 )

        "* Isaac Newton was actually an alchemist by trade - the physics and math were basically just fun side projects."

        Well, Newton was employed full time at the leading scientific research of the UK. Wasn't quite "fun side project" as opposed to work to publish Principia Mathematica.

        "* Albert Einstein published some of his most important stuff while working as a patent clerk."

        Sure, and he did so after getting a PhD from a prominent research university, and the experimental evidence he used to come of with his t

      • They aren't going to be as good at it as the professionals, but at worst they accomplish nothing except have a little fun, and at best they add something to the scientific knowledge of humanity.

        Well, at worst their amateurishly-cultivated strain of HIV ("obtained" from a lady in Vegas) mutates into some airborne ultrapotent strain in its beaker in the garage, until the cat knocks it over, licks it up, and proceeds to spread it throughout the neighborhood, bringing the completely downfall of humankind.

        Man, cats are evil.

      • by cusco ( 717999 )
        I would like to add a 3 to your list: the children of these hobbyists are likely to grow up to do interesting things that they wouldn't have been inspired to do if Dad and Mom just sat around watching 'Dancing With The Former Stars'.
    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      I suspect IBM said the same about those amateurs thinking they could build computers in their garage.

      • by mbkennel ( 97636 )

        Only when they built computers in factories and employed full-time engineers to design hardware and software were they significant to more than a tiny number of people.

  • I have complete faith in the biologist next door to not produce some new killer life form.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    not getting your god damn house raided or just getting arrested until the police trump up a charge on you. Just the act of purchasing hydroponics equipment for my indoor vegetable garden got me served with a search warrant. The kitchen in my new home has a wall knocked out and a "greenhouse" addition added on. There is a glass "half-dome" extending from this about 5 feet out and 6 feet high. Previous owners had a dirt bed there (yes, indoor dirt bed). I filled that in and setup a proper hydroponics sys

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      So when they came and found nothing illegal, what happened?
      • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

        So when they came and found nothing illegal, what happened?

        He had to clean up the mess where they'd smashed in the doors and windows and thrown everything out of the drawers and cupboards, then explain to his neighbors and work colleagues that, no, he wasn't actually a drug dealer?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I found the article interesting. I personally have a nice set up with an iso class 100 clean room, laminar flow hood, laser particle counter spectrophotometer, and a lot of glass ware. However, it comes with a down side. With all the anti-terror and drug laws about 90% of my stuff is illegal to have unless you are a registered lab, which I am not. So I have to keep an eye on how it all looks from the outside. No need for my door to be kicked in.

    Thank god for E-Bay, You can get it all even if it is illegal w

  • ...they post instructions on making grey goo. *puts on flamebait retardant clothes*
    • You probably won't make grey goo on a bio lab. The things that come out of those labs are normaly digestable by current life, and vunerable to antibodies.

      Go look for those instructions at a physics lab. You have better odds there.

  • I don't think people realize how much threat there is to worldwide food security just from new pests/diseases coming along.

    1) Commercial bananas are going extinct due to a fungus. Last I heard, there was no replacement crop that is resistant. This has happened several times in this industry, but this time there's no good replacement banana.
    2) Citrus (all commercial citrus) are going extinct due to a bacterium spread by sap-sucking insects. No resistant replacement crops that I know of.
    3) Chocolate, same deal, I forget the disease/vector.
    4) Wheat is under threat, too.

    Breeding new plant varieties is something everyone can try. One of them may be both resistant and commercially viable.


    • by Anonymous Coward

      You are absolutely full of shit.

      http://www.snopes.com/food/warnings/bananas.asp [snopes.com]

      Commercial citrus is just as varied, if not more so, than bananas. Citrus is also easily grafted to hardy/resistant root stocks to keep varieties viable.

      Chocolate is not going extinct... it's value as a cash crop in Africa is decreasing because the time between planting and harvesting is extremely long for such meager profits.

      Wheat? Come on man, are you trolling at this point or are you just completely misinformed?

      • Yes and no on those. Bananas are not going to go extinct, but there may be sever problems with the Cavendish, as there was with the Gros Michael. It certainly isn't doomsday thing, but it could be pretty bad. There are actually a lot of varieties of banana, but only a few major export varieties. What I'd really worry about here is not the fungal diseases of black sigatoka and Panama disease, but the bacterial disease banana xanthomonas wilt, which could pose dangerous problems for areas of Africa where

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Mendelian Genetics is still (mostly) applicable, and Mendel was, by most measures, a 'amateur' plant breeder. Plant breeding and seed saving are very, very viable methods to increasing yield and resistance to diseases.
      Bananas are a special issue since they are vegetatively propogated (since they are triploid and sterile), and therefore all plants of a given variety are genetically identical, which means that one cannot select to breed in resistance.

    • by ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Monday June 18, 2012 @03:52PM (#40362899)

      That is a good idea, but one thing I'd add is trying under cultivated species. There are a lot of plants that represent potentially significant agricultural species, but often there has been limited work on these plants. There is little funding for these things in major private or university programs because there isn't much consumer demand for them, and of course without superior varieties you might not be able to create demand, so you won't be able to justify programs on them, and its a nasty circle. Your examples would be pretty tough because there are already people working on them so an individual's contributions will be relatively smaller, and in some cases the problems themselves are pretty tough. Citrus greening for example IIRC has no known natural sources of resistance, so its pretty hard to breed in something not found in the family.

      So, if you get some land, I'd suggest trying to breed undercultivated fruit like Japanese raisin tree, goumi, honeyberry, maypop, mulberry, ect., and if you live in a tropical spot you've got lots more options (or course, breeding fruit takes lots of room and thousands of plants and takes a long time so this would be a long term project) or undercultivated vegetables like yacón, jícama , kutjera, salicornia, New Zealand spinach (which is actually not a spinach and is more closely related to living stone plants), or undercultivated grains like quinoa, teff, and Job's tears, just to name a few of varying degrees of cultivation and existing improvement work. Even 'weeds' like spurge nettle are edible. [eattheweeds.com] There is a lot of potential, both in terms of agricultural benefit and culinary value, but since there is so little work being done on these types of things, perhaps crowd-sourced breeding is the best option for the advancement of biodiversity. I'd love to do this myself if I had the land.

    • 1) There are commercial varieties of bananas resitent to that fungus, but some of them aren't. We are looking at the reduction of the diversity of bananas, not its extinction. But the fungus doen't spread as fast as it can for some reason (that I don't know), so not even that may happen.

      2) There are again several varietes of commercial citrus resistent to that plague. Also, it is easy to cross-breed citrus, so there are new resistent varieties appearing all the time. Finally, the insect that spreads the pla

      • by Zerth ( 26112 )

        Theobroma cacao, or cacao/cocoa tree

      • It's the Cavendish banana, the common store variety, which is getting wiped out. None of the other banana varieties have the same nice properties that make them great for shipping and sale.

        While there are resistant bananas, none of them have the same commercial value as the Cavendish banana.

        I wasn't aware of any commercial citrus that are resistant to citrus greening: perhaps I was mislead by the article I read, which implied that there were *no* commercial varieties that are resistant. I turned up a few

        • Ok, I actualy didn't know the cavendish banana was the most common store variety. Around here most people (that includes me) simply don't like it, altough it is tasty when coocked. It is interesting that I never saw that fungus in action, I always assumed it plagued some varieties of banana that we don't plant here at Brazil, but we do plant it. Maybe it simply didn't reach here yet.

          The psyllid - hey, I'm learning dificult english words fast here :) - that carriers the citrus greening gets insecticide resis

          • Ah, I didn't realize you were in Brazil. You get more and better varieties of banana because it doesn't have to be shipped to non-tropics.

            You'll always have good bananas. The Cavendish is peculiar in that it is pretty good and it can be kept refrigerated in container ships just long enough that it shows up in non-tropical regions in good shape. This makes it the workhorse banana for exports. Actually, the Cavendish is the 3rd banana used in this way: the previous two varieties suffered the same fate t

  • Let's try first to do it with a chemical laboratory or physical laboratory. Let's see how long it will take you to get your government interested in your research. I am sure as a result of such interest you will be able to apply for a 10-year 3-meal-a-day grant.

  • by Anonymous Coward


    See also the TWiT special: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLhU1RGTHN4

  • For those who are interested, the official position of the US Government on garage labs can be found in The National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats (PDF [whitehouse.gov]), signed by the President. Paraphrasing, the report says 'Garage biology is good and necessary for the future physical and economic security of the United States.' Also, in a shameless plug, here is a link to the book mentioned in the article, Biology is Technology [biologyistechnology.com].
  • What an odd idea that one wouldn't do D-I-Y research. There is a long, long history of research outside of academia and outside of the big labs. I do a lot of research, some of which I've published - on my blog. The Internet has made it easier to publish, and getting peer reviewed, outside of the strangle hold of universities and the journals. This sharing of knowledge is the real boon of the Internet. The games and other entertainment are just sideshows.

The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer. The haves get more, the have-nots die.