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Winning 10 Straight Put the Royals Playoff Chances at Even Money

Winning 10 Straight Put the Royals Playoff Chances at Even Money

These playoff percentages mean that about 58 percent of all win streaks that passed through 10 games came from teams that eventually made the playoffs, a slight increase from before.The Royals are right at the previous season average (they went 86-76, which gets you a regressed winning percentage around .522), but their pre-streak record was slightly below the standard for other 10-win-streak teams; their “at the time” regressed winning percentage was .488. How much does that matter?To determine whether these Royals could be a playoff team, we set up a logistic regression predicting make-the-playoffs odds from streak length, at-the-time regression winning percentage, and prior-season regressed winning percentage. This also helped us figure out how much of the chance of making the playoffs comes from the streak itself, and how much is just that good teams are more prone to run up these kinds of streaks. Causation versus correlation, basically.After running the regression, it told us that the Royals are 23.2 percent less likely to make the playoffs than a normal 10-game-win-streak team because their record before the streak was 29-32, whereas the typical 10-gamer would have been 32-29. That looks like a very strong effect for just a three-game swing; we might be seeing a big inflection point here. At any rate, as you would expect, pre-streak record certainly matters.Once we take their 10-win streak into account, the Royals have a little better than even odds of making the playoffs. Baseball Prospectus’s Playoff Odds Report gives KC a 42.3 percent chance of getting there. So if you want to peg the Royals somewhere around 50-50, that’s a decent place to start. And if you think about Kansas City’s roster — one with strengths but also significant weaknesses — that makes even more sense.On the plus side, the Royals are an elite defensive team. According to Baseball Info Solutions’ Defensive Runs Saved stat, KC has fielded the second-best defense in the American League. By Ultimate Zone Rating, the Royals actually lead all of baseball, and by a wide margin. The outfield is particularly impressive: The combination of Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain has been extremely effective in chasing down fly balls in the gaps. Meanwhile, Alex Gordon has been a force of nature in left field, the best in all of baseball by pretty much any advanced metric. He’s pretty good by Fancy Plays Over Replacement too.Your browser does not support iframes.That airtight defense has made an already strong pitching staff look even better. Closer Greg Holland and righty setup men Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera have combined to allow just one home run in 89 innings pitched this season.Davis in particular has been a revelation. Acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in the controversial December 2012 blockbuster, Davis was viewed as a throw-in, with James Shields and Wil Myers being the keys to the deal. After messing around with Davis as a starter last year, the Royals plopped him back into the role in which he excelled with Tampa Bay two years ago. So far this year, he has been right there with Sean Doolittle, Koji Uehara, Dellin Betances and one or two others for the title of best reliever in the American League. His season line: 31.1 innings pitched, 1.15 ERA, 52 strikeouts, and zero extra-base hits allowed.The starting rotation has flourished lately, too. Shields has been steady as expected, though his numbers are actually down slightly from recent years. But he’s received ample support, from 23-year-old fireballer Yordano Ventura (who leads all KC starters in fielding independent pitching), free-agent pickup Jason Vargas (tops in innings pitched), and Danny Duffy (tops in beating long odds, having come back from Tommy John surgery, and at one point nearly quitting baseball entirely).The big question revolves around the team’s offense. Just 13 days ago, the Royals sat in last place in the AL Central, and also last in the AL in slugging percentage, home runs and runs scored. Some of the team’s biggest slumpers came alive during the streak, especially Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas. Still, those players, along with talented but disappointing first baseman Eric Hosmer, have fallen well short of expectations in 2014, and KC still owns the third-lowest-scoring offense in the American League even after its recent explosion. The Royals almost certainly won’t be sellers any more at the trade deadline, not after this streak. Whether they’ll be buyers — to the point of possibly benching or jettisoning current players once viewed as future franchise cornerstones — remains an open question.Still, it’s a great question to get to ask. After nearly three decades in the wilderness, the Royals now have a legitimate shot to see October’s spotlight. It’s about damn time. The Detroit Tigers nipped the Kansas City Royals 2-1 in the final game of a four-game series Thursday. That win snapped a 10-game winning streak for KC, but even with that setback the Royals lead the American League Central Division by half a game. In late June. This is not a drill.If the baseball world seems shocked by the Royals’ sudden success, the franchise’s recent history may explain why. When the Royals beat the Tigers on Tuesday in the second game of their showdown for AL Central supremacy, the victory marked the first time the Royals had owned sole possession of first place since May 1, 2013.Of course, downtrodden teams always have a better chance to claim bragging rights early in the season, when hot starts and small sample sizes can skew what we’re seeing. So consider this: The last time the Royals were in first place after June 1 was all the way back in 2003. That year, Kansas City preyed on a weak AL Central — one dragged down by a 119-loss Tigers squad and no elite teams — to own a share of first as late as Aug. 20. They ended the season seven games off the pace at 83-79, a lukewarm showing for most franchises. For the Royals, the finish was almost something to celebrate. Kansas City hasn’t made the playoffs since 1985, the longest postseason drought for any major league team by a span of eight years.Now here’s the good news for Royals fans: Teams that win 10 straight games in a single season stand a good chance of making the playoffs. Which means that for the first time since “Careless Whisper” wasn’t at all ironic, the Royals could crack the postseason.Going back to 1995, the first year of the wild card,1The wild card was supposed to debut in 1994. But … well, you know. we looked at all teams that had a streak lasting at least one game (you gotta start somewhere), to see how often those streaks portended October baseball. Here are the results:As you can see, every team passed through streaks of one, two and three wins, and all but four teams passed through a streak of four wins. By this measure, with a 10-win streak the Royals have about a 55 percent chance of making the playoffs.2You’ll notice that it appears that a team is more likely to make the playoffs if it’s had an 11-game win streak than if it’s had a 12-game win streak. That’s just one of those weird quirks that can happen due to randomness in a small sample.It’s not quite that simple, though. Before their streak began, the Royals’ record only stood at 29-32, so they may not be totally representative of the type of team that tends to have 10-game win streaks. To examine that further, we looked at historical winning streaks of a given length since 1995 and tracked what each team’s regressed winning percentage was before the streak started (that is, we added 67 games of .500 baseball — 33.5 wins and 33.5 losses — to each team’s record at the time).3Regressed winning percentages add 67 games of .500 ball because that’s the number of games necessary for a team’s observed record to be half skill and half luck. (We know this by comparing the distribution of actual baseball teams’ records to the spread we’d see if every team was equal and each game was decided by a coin flip.) We used regressed winning percentages here so that every pre-streak winning percentage would be on the same footing, no matter when in the season the streak began. Otherwise, if one team started its streak early in the season, and another started it late, a straight average would weigh the two winning percentages equally even though the latter is much more indicative of what we’re trying to measure than the former. By regressing the records, we can make an apples-to-apples comparison between the streaks, no matter when in the season they occurred. We also recorded each team’s regressed winning percentage from the previous season. The results: read more

Baseball Ohio State falls big to Lipscomb in 93 loss Saturday

Baseball Ohio State falls big to Lipscomb in 93 loss Saturday

Ohio State junior Noah West (8) runs towards third base as he scores the first run of the game against the Lipscomb Bison on March 15, 2019 at Bill Davis Stadium. Credit: Sal Marandino | For The LanternThe Ohio State baseball team was plagued by sloppy play, as it dropped Game 2 at home to Lipscomb.Ohio State (8-10) fell to Lipscomb (10-7) 9-3. In a game that included 17 walks, Bisons sophomore pitcher Max Habegger provided consistent pitching to keep the Buckeyes at bay to record his second win of the year.  Habegger entered the game in the sixth inning, with Lipscomb leading 5-2. He would go on to strikeout six batters in three innings of work.“Their guys came in and executed and we got out pitched in the backend of the ballgame,” Ohio State head coach Greg Beals said. After sophomore starting pitcher Noah Thompson walked five batters and provided the Buckeyes with multiple scoring opportunities, Habegger did not surrender a single walk.“We were offensively in a couple positions where we could’ve made a difference,” Beals said. The Ohio State pitching staff hit two batters and walked 12, the most this season.Beals noted that his team only surrendered four free bases in the win on Friday. Two walks and an error put Ohio State sophomore pitcher Griffan Smith in a one-out jam in the first inning. With the bases loaded, a hard ground ball hit to redshirt junior second baseman Matt Carpenter resulted in a double play to prevent any damage. Three consecutive walks loaded the bases for the Buckeyes with one out in the bottom of the second inning. Thompson struck out the next two batters in order to keep the game scoreless. A diving catch by Lipscomb sophomore center fielder Maddux Houghton kept the game hitless after three innings. After Thompson’s fifth walk of the game, the Buckeyes had the bases loaded for the second time in the game. A sacrifice fly ball by redshirt senior designated hitter Nate Romans broke the deadlock and allowed senior left fielder Brady Cherry to score the first run of the game. Thompson was able to prevent any further damage in the inning. He would finish the game with one run allowed and one hit in four innings pitched.A pair of walks brought Smith’s total up to six walks on the day and put runners on first and second with two outs. A double off the wall in left center field by redshirt senior left fielder Tevin Symonette brought in two runs to take the lead.Symonette scored off a double by senior third baseman Zeke Dodson to increase the score to 3-1 before Smith could record the third out by strikeout to stop the bleeding. Smith would finish the game with three earned runs and two hits in five innings pitched. Coming into the game with only five walks allowed on the season, he walked six against Lipscomb. Ohio State junior right fielder Dominic Canzone was able to bring in junior shortstop Noah West with a sacrifice fly ball to right field, cutting the deficit in half. After a wild pitch allowed another run to score, a blooper to center field by junior catcher Jarrett O’Leary resulted in a single and another run, increasing Lipscomb’s lead to three heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. A one-out double off the wall in right field by West put a runner in scoring position for the Buckeyes. Canzone produced a big two-out triple off the center field wall to make the score 5-3 through seven innings. A silver lining for the Buckeyes came in the eighth inning when senior second baseman Kobie Foppe pinch hit for Romans and recorded his third hit of the season on a two-out single. “I’ll take anything at this point right now. I just want to see something go through. Anything. A little bit of confidence will help out,” Foppe said.Foppe had come into the game hitting only .056 on the season. After a single and a pair of walks loaded the bases with no outs, Lipscomb senior first baseman Cade Sorrells crushed a grand slam down the right field line to balloon the score to 9-3 in the ninth inning. Ohio State and Lipscomb will play for the series at 1:05 p.m. Sunday. read more

Robots may receive urinepowered artificial hearts

Robots may receive urinepowered artificial hearts

first_img Journal information: Bioinspiration and Biomimetics Citation: Robots may receive urine-powered artificial ‘hearts’ (2013, November 27) retrieved 18 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2013-11-robots-urine-powered-artificial-hearts.html Illustration and photo of the artificial heartbeat actuator. The compressible region is made from silicone cast in 3D printed molds. Credit: Walters, et al. Centre for Fine Print Research and Bristol Robotics Laboratory ©2013 IOP Publishing Ltd In the new paper, the researchers’ goal was to investigate the potential to replace the motor-driven pump with a biologically inspired pump made of “smart” materials that move more like muscles than like motors. To do this, they modeled their pump on the human heart and built it with compressible materials, NiTi fibers as artificial muscles, rubber balls as artificial heart valves, and silicone tubes as artificial arteries. The rigid parts of the body of the pump were fabricated by a 3D printer, while the soft compressible section was cast in silicone using 3D printed moulds. © 2013 Phys.org. All rights reserved. (Phys.org) —It’s a first: researchers have built the first artificial-heart-like pump that is powered by microbial fuel cells fed on human urine. But instead of being used as a prosthetic device for human patients suffering from cardiac failure, the pump is intended to be used in “EcoBots” that extract energy from organic waste and turn it into electricity. Explore further The pump operates very similarly to a human heart. Before starting, the hollow body of the actuator is manually filled with fluid—in this case, the researchers used water or urine. Then an electric current is applied to the NiTi artificial muscle fibers. The current heats the fibers and causes them to contract, which compresses the hollow body of the actuator and pushes the fluid out through an outlet tube. When the electric current is removed, the artificial muscles cool and relax, causing the body to expand again. As this cycle repeats, it simulates the rhythmic contractions of a biological heart. During each contraction, or actuation, fluid is pumped out of the actuator at a height that would be sufficient to deliver fuel to an EcoBot’s fuel cells. The researchers calculated the efficiency of the heart-like pump to be 0.11%, which is significantly lower than the 0.79% efficiency of an electric motor-driven pump. However, as the researchers noted, motor-driven pumps have been developed and refined over several decades, while this actuator is the first proof-of-concept prototype of its kind. In the short term, the researchers expect that further improvements can be made in a few ways, such as by minimizing hydrodynamic losses due to friction, creating a smoother transition between the pump body and outlet port, and decreasing the weight of the hollow body by reducing the wall thickness. In the longer term, it is expected that the efficiency of artificial muscle materials may improve. The researchers also demonstrated the potential for this heart-like pump to be used to circulate fluid for the MFCs on a future MFC-powered EcoBot. In such a system, a stack of 24 MFCs would charge a capacitor which powers the pump which is then used to pump fluid through the MFCs. After an initial charging period of 12 hours, the capacitor provides enough energy for the pump to transfer 27 ml of fluid, and can then be recharged in about 2.5 hours. Even though it is the first prototype, this system meets the current EcoBot’s daily fluid pumping requirements. And because the internal orifices of the heart-like pump are larger than in the conventional electric-motor driven pumps employed previously on the EcoBot, the researchers hope that it will be less likely to become blocked. The researchers envision a future urine-powered EcoBot that harvests energy from waste collected from urinals at public lavatories, and then uses the harvested energy for environmental sensing. A number of EcoBots could form a distributed sensor network within an urban area.The heart-like pump also has the potential to be used for a variety of industrial, scientific and medical applications, such as coolant circulation or wearable drug delivery. The soft pump has the advantage of operating with much less noise than a motor-driven pump, which could give it certain niche applications.And because the EcoBot’s ability to turn waste into electricity is such a captivating concept, the researchers think that the artificial heart-like pump could help increase public awareness of research in biologically inspired robots. They imagine, for instance, that a cyborg-like machine with an artificial heartbeat would attract the interest of a new generation of scientists, artists, and engineers. The researchers are also working on improving the efficiency of the device, with the aim of incorporating it into the next generation of MFC-powered robots. More information: Peter Walters, et al. “Artificial heartbeat: design and fabrication of a biologically inspired pump.” Bioinspir. Biomim. 8 (2013) 046012 (14pp). DOI: 10.1088/1748-3182/8/4/046012 Artificial heart to pump human waste into future robots The artificial heartbeat actuator pumping urine. Credit: Walters, et al. Centre for Fine Print Research and Bristol Robotics Laboratory ©2013 IOP Publishing Ltd The researchers, from the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol, both in Bristol, UK, have published their paper on the biologically inspired, urine-powered pump in a recent issue of Bioinspiration & Biomimetics. The group’s research into microbial fuel cells fed on urine is one of the many diverse projects receiving funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.The researchers have already designed and fabricated several varieties of EcoBots. These robots are energetically autonomous, meaning they generate their own energy, in this case using onboard microbial fuel cells (MFCs). In the MFCs, live microbes digest organic feedstock and then produce electrons that are transferred to an electrode, causing a chemical reaction that generates electrical energy. The EcoBots have demonstrated that they can successfully use a variety of organic feedstocks such as rotten fruits and vegetables, dead flies, waste water, sewage sludge, and human urine. The energy produced by the EcoBots from this waste could then be used for low-energy environmental sensing tasks, such as monitoring air quality and pollution levels. A vital component of the EcoBot design is a pump that delivers the liquid organic feedstock to the chambers in the MFCs containing the microbes and electrodes. The pump also supplies fresh water to hydrate the electrodes. In the EcoBots built so far, electric motor-driven pumps have been used for fluid circulation. However, electric motor-driven pumps are complex and prone to mechanical failure. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.last_img read more

Wholebody vibration may be as effective as exercise

Wholebody vibration may be as effective as exercise

first_imgWhole-body vibration may be just as effective as regular exercise at combating some of the negative consequences of obesity and diabetes, according to a new study in mice.Whole-body vibration (WBV) consists of a person sitting, standing or lying on a machine with a vibrating platform. When the machine vibrates, it transmits energy to the body, and muscles contract and relax multiple times during each second.Many people find it challenging to exercise regularly and that is contributing to the obesity and diabetes epidemics. Also Read – Add new books to your shelfThese disorders can increase the risk of bone fractures.Physical activity can help to decrease this risk and reduce the negative metabolic effects of each condition.”Our study is the first to show that whole-body vibration may be just as effective as exercise at combating some of the negative consequences of obesity and diabetes,” said Meghan E McGee-Lawrence from Augusta University in the US.”While WBV did not fully address the defects in bone mass of the obese mice in our study, it did increase global bone formation, suggesting longer-term treatments could hold promise for preventing bone loss as well,” said McGee-Lawrence. Also Read – Over 2 hours screen time daily will make your kids impulsiveThe researchers examined two groups of 5-week-old male mice. One group consisted of normal mice, while the other group was genetically unresponsive to the hormone leptin, which promotes feelings of fullness after eating.Mice from each group were assigned to sedentary, WBV or treadmill exercise conditions.After a week-long period to grow used to the exercise equipment, the groups of mice began a 12-week exercise programme. The mice in the WBV group underwent 20 minutes of WBV at a frequency of 32 Hz with 0.5g acceleration each day. Mice in the treadmill group walked for 45 minutes daily at a slight incline. For comparison, the third group did not exercise. Mice were weighed weekly during the study.The genetically obese and diabetic mice showed similar metabolic benefits from both WBV and exercising on the treadmill.Obese mice gained less weight after exercise or WBV than obese mice in the sedentary group, although they remained heavier than normal mice. Exercise and WBV also enhanced muscle mass and insulin sensitivity in the genetically obese mice. Although there were no significant effects in the young healthy mice, the low-intensity exercise and WBV protocols were designed for successful completion by obese mice.These findings suggest that WBV may be a useful supplemental therapy to combat metabolic dysfunction in individuals with morbid obesity.”These results are encouraging. However, because our study was conducted in mice, this idea needs to be rigorously tested in humans to see if the results would be applicable to people,” McGee-Lawrence said.The study was published in the journal Endocrinology.last_img read more

Rep Sheppard continues Sit Down with Sheppard in July

Rep Sheppard continues Sit Down with Sheppard in July

first_img State Rep. Jason Sheppard of Temperance invites residents of the 56th District to meet with him during his July in-district office hours.The times and locations are as follows:Tuesday, July 17 from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. at DaCapo Coffee, 7370 Lewis Ave. B in Temperance;Monday, July 23 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Social House 103, 103 Cabelas Blvd. E in Dundee;Wednesday, July 25 from 8 to 9 a.m. at Erie Restaurant, 9788 S Dixie Hwy. in Erie.No appointments are necessary to attend office hours. Those unable to attend may contact Rep. Sheppard’s office at (517) 373-2617 or [email protected]##### 25Jul Rep. Sheppard continues ‘Sit Down with Sheppard’ in July Categories: Sheppard Newslast_img

Its become a commonplace to bemoan the fact that

Its become a commonplace to bemoan the fact that

first_imgIt’s become a commonplace to bemoan the fact that technological development has been proceeding at such a rapid clip that humans, still burdened with their Neolithic brains, cannot even comprehend what’s happening. Many would say we’re incapable of making wise decisions about how to handle our vast new powers. So far, our dilemmas have mostly revolved around our increasingly efficient methods of taking life. Now, however, we can also make it. And the ability to do so is no longer solely invested in white-jacketed cadres of latter-day Drs. Frankenstein. It’s within reach of anyone with a few bucks for the proper tools, some free time, and Internet access. Welcome to the Next Big Thing: biohacking (or “DIYbiology,” as it’s sometimes called). Few are aware of this new phenomenon. Yet it has the potential to transform our world, for good or ill, more than just about anything else out there. Seriously. You see, biohacking grants individuals the ability to create synthetic life forms. It’s all about gene sequencing. The first complete cellular genome sequences—from bacteria—weren’t worked out until 1995. That required a lot of money, an elaborate lab, and some genius-level human brain power. But in the few short years since then, the game has changed completely. Why? Because of the merging of some of the irresistible trends of our age: instant information; computerization of everything that can be digitized, including most knowledge and fine motor functions; and sharply falling prices for sophisticated electronic equipment and the software to run it. Most important, biohacking is now possible because of the price of the raw materials. This chart shows the exponential decline in the cost of producing DNA base pairs: As DNA got cheaper, people realized they could experiment with it. And before you could say “whose molecule is that?,” a revolution was brewing. Like so many of the others that preceded it—the personal computer, the Internet, 3D printing—this one is being powered by a loosely organized, dedicated coalition of young technogeeks with a largely open-source view of the world and the knowledge that they can create new life forms in their garage. They are, by most measures in a world that values specialization, amateurs. But these amateurs are not unlike those who once inhabited the Berkeley Homebrew Computer club… like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. In other fields of science, such a dramatic rise in enthusiast tinkerers has presaged extraordinarily positive developments. But, as with every technological innovation, DIYbio is not without a potential dark side. Which raises a rather provocative question: What happens when the world of scientific exploration—and, more specifically, genetic experimentation—opens up to anyone with a broadband connection and a few pieces of lab equipment you can buy off of eBay? Or, to put it a little more dramatically, do you get a cure for cancer, or do you get World War Z? Let There Be New Life Forms… The term “biohacking” can be used to denote any tinkering with the body that involves adding technology to enhance or improve human capabilities. But for our purposes, we’ll use the narrower meaning of genetic engineering conducted in non-institutional settings. Biohackers in general are driven by the desire to openly increase our knowledge base, sharing their discoveries and inviting others freely to make modifications without regard to patents, profits, or approval by governmental watchdogs. Biohackers constructed their temple in 2009, with the establishment of Brooklyn-based Genspace, the world’s first government-compliant DIY biotech lab. Genspace is the democratization of science in a nutshell, a nonprofit funded by membership dues, tuition fees, and donations from supportive nonmembers. You can attach yourself to one of the scientists already embarked on a project, or you can set up one of your own. The only credential you need to bring is your enthusiasm for the subject, with Ph.D.s onsite to help you through the rough spots. While members supply much of their own equipment, Genspace provides the specialized, costlier biotech gear such as autoclaves, incubators, and PCR machines. (PCR stands for “polymerase chain reaction”; a PCR machine is the indispensable tool used by genetics researchers to quickly generate millions of copies of a particular DNA sequence.) Genspace members pay only $100 a month for access to top-flight people and hardware and, perhaps equally important, for freedom. As cofounder Ellen Jorgensen points out, “[Y]ou can work on a project and you don’t have to justify to anyone that it’s going to make a lot of money, that it’s going to save mankind, or even that it’s feasible.” Just do it. The lab may once have been unique, but the idea is spreading across the globe. In the US alone, there are now about a dozen community biolabs, or “hackerspaces,” as they’re known. Along with Genspace, they include Boston’s BOSSLAB, BioCurious in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Los Angeles’ LA Biohackers Lab (the, um, LAB Lab). They cooperate among themselves and also with a loose, international confederation of biohackers called, appropriately enough, DIYBio, which lists 15 organized DIY groups in North America, 11 in Europe, two in Asia, and two in Australia/New Zealand. Down the Unmapped Yellow Brick Road The path to making synthetic life is remarkably straightforward. For example, some biohackers wanted to make a plant that glows in the dark. Their plan: First, special software is used to design a new DNA sequence incorporating bioluminescence genes. Next, the new DNA sequences are printed out. Finally, the printed DNA is inserted into a special type of bacterium which can transfer its DNA into Arabidopsis, a small flowering member of the mustard family. The bacteria inject the new DNA into the cell nucleus of the flowers, which pass it on to their seeds, which can then be grown until they light up. Obviously, this project and others like it would not be possible without access to some very sophisticated yet affordable hard- and software. Genome Compiler, based in California and Israel, is the primary software provider. This company’s stated goal is to help “design and program living things the same way that we design computer code,” and it embraces “a vision of making biological design easier, cheaper, and open to people outside the research labs.” You can actually download the Standard version of its compiler program from the company’s website—for free. But it’s San Francisco-based Cambrian Genomics that is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. This all-but-invisible startup has developed a revolutionary laser-printing system for DNA synthesis that supplies the preselected DNA 10,000 times more cheaply than conventional tech, with a dramatically reduced error rate. Its website is not very informative—perhaps because it has financial ties to DARPA—and if you go there you will find only a street address, phone number, and email. CEO Austen Heinz is, however, a bit more forthcoming. He’s posted a video in which he rhapsodizes about “democratizing creation.” In computer terms, he says, DIYbio is still at the punch-card level. His efforts are “designed to change behavior,” Heinz says. “Every biology lab in the world will become more virtualized. They’ll design code on a computer and then print out DNA. A biologist on a small budget should be able to design 50,000 different constructs at a time.” He doesn’t offer any further details on pricing, except to say that he already has some early paying clients. As to financing, you have to do some digging, but in addition to DARPA, the company appears to have significant backing from some high-powered Silicon Valley VC outfits. A Cambrian IPO would likely be a hot one. The Future: Prospects and Concerns Cambrian boasts among its founders Dr. George Church, a Harvard geneticist and author of Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves. He believes that DNA manipulation has the capacity to solve all of the world’s problems. Just for starters: “We can now replace petroleum for fuels, chemicals, plastics, antibiotics and so forth. We can now start making those with biologically engineered machines.” Dr. Church, however, adds a caveat: “I think we should be quite cautious. That doesn’t mean that we should put moratoriums on new technologies, but it means licensing, surveillance, doing tests.” That implies a certain level of government oversight. Which, in a way, puts Church at odds with labs like Genspace and the whole biohacking movement—and it foreshadows the looming, potentially epic conflict between authoritarian control and the democratization of biotechnology. But how real is the danger, and what is the DIYbio community doing about it? Everyone admits that there are risks involved in fooling around with synthetic life forms. But the biggest one is the threat of bioterrorism, and that’s probably not going to come from the public DIYbio community. The horrible killer virus that unleashes World War Z is far more likely to emerge from a secret lab of some dedicated terrorist group. And you can be sure that the international intelligence agencies are on high alert for signs of any such development. As for regulation, the US government so far hasn’t taken any steps to control at-home biology. One assumes that it will, at some point. But if it does—and it could, through limiting access to DIY biological materials, for example—it might succeed only in driving amateur labs underground, creating a vast new criminal enterprise in the process. In an attempt to fend off onerous regulation, biohackers themselves are being proactive. As reported in TheScientist: “In December 2011, Genspace … recruited an external advisory board of distinguished academic, government, and industry professionals to answer safety-related questions. The board also reviews the appropriateness of certain projects requiring a Biosafety Level 1 environment, ensures adherence to National Institutes of Health (NIH) recombinant DNA guidelines, and helps minimize the use of potentially hazardous reagents. For the larger DIYbio community, DIYbio.org and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars launched the ‘Ask a Biosafety Expert’ web portal, which allows anyone to submit biosafety- and biosecurity-related questions to a panel of biosafety professionals for a rapid response. And in the spring of 2011, the Wilson Center and DIYbio.org drafted the first-ever DIYbio code of conduct, which serves as a framework for helping achieve a vibrant, productive, and safe DIYbio community. These initiatives demonstrate that citizen scientists understand the risks associated with their work and feel a sense of responsibility to mitigate those risks.” The NeoBiologic Age The Ages of Man have been many, from Paleo- to Neolithic and on through Bronze, Iron, Dark, Industrial, Atomic, Electronic, and Information. Now we are on the threshold of what might well be termed the NeoBiologic Age, and this one may involve the biggest leap forward of any. For the first time—and whether or not we have the wisdom for it—we’re playing around with the creation of synthetic life. The ability to do so is not going to be confined to some elite caste which guards its secrets. It’s going to be the province of anyone who can make a modest investment in the relevant soft- and hardware. No one can predict where that will lead. With so many more people conjuring up potential cancer cures, we may well get one far sooner than if the quest had remained confined to staffs of bio-pharma companies. Or we may get a new organism that kills healthy cells, not cancerous ones. That coin is in the air. Forty years ago, visionary Whole Earther Stewart Brand remarked that, “We are as gods so we might as well get good at it.” Even he couldn’t have known how right he was.last_img read more