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Hacking DNA

Bioengineering technology is maturing, and so is its vocabulary

3 min read
But the real challenge will start when we enter the synthetic biology phase of research....This would be a field with…hardly any limitations to building..."synthetic" organisms, like a "new better mouse."
—Waclaw Szybalski, "In Vivo and In Vitro Initiation of Transcription," 1974

A n oxymoron is a phrase that combines two contradictory words, such as "jumbo shrimp" and "deafening silence." Appropriately, the word oxymoron is itself an oxymoron, from the Greek oxymõros, which means "pointedly foolish," but the roots of the word are oxys, "sharp," and mõros, "dull."

A relatively new oxymoron is synthetic biology, coined by the geneticist Waclaw Szybalski in 1974. Synthetic biology (also called synbio) uses engineering methods to produce something new by treating a living system not so much as a biological entity but as a kind of technology. Hence synthetic biology is also called biological engineering or just bioengineering.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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