Thomas Edison Likes Editing Genetic Materials

At the molecular world of bacteria and viruses, war routinely rages as various forms of life attack and try to overwhelm each other. Can you envision how the DNA of an invading bacteria can press an advantage and try to re-program its victim’s life processes?

But suppose as the attacking bacteria starts its assault, the defending bacteria quickly responds by modifying the attacking bacteria’s DNA and genes, using a special process to change and delete portions of that DNA so it becomes harmless. It would be similar to quickly modifying a malicious piece of software you accidentally picked up at a website, and then changing it lightning quick so it cannot infect your computer and important files!

Wouldn’t you think the ability to remove or “snip” out bad genes might be useful to all life forms; like your own if you had a pre-disposition to a disease? Think how the editing of genetic materials would affect the human population if you could identify and then grab hold of a nasty gene in the human genome sequence and simply delete it.

If genome editing was as simple as using nano-sized scissors to get rid of bad genes!

If genome editing was as simple as using nano-sized scissors to get rid of bad genes!

Imagine how cancers and chronic diseases would begin disappearing if you could manipulate the human genome; and if you start this editing process at the embryo level, all subsequent cells that divide from this formative point on will be free of potentially bad cells, and future diseases.

A new gene editing technique called CRISPR, also called CRISPR/Cas9, is showing immense capability, being easier, cheaper and more efficient than previous strategies for modifying DNA. And it is derived from that example at the beginning of this articIe where one bacteria “out-DNA’s” the other!

Thomas Edison Likes Editing Genetic Materials

What is so cool about Crisper is its ease of use and robust nature. High school students are actually doing experiments today in biology labs to knock out genes. Obviously, new biotech start-ups are willing to bet some big money on this promising technology. Genetic materials are also being added to DNA to create new characteristics.

Editor’s Deep Dive

If we can do this in humans and animals, it can also be done with agriculture. Thomas Edison would have certainly found this useful back in the 1920s when he was selectively breeding plants for their oily sap content as he tried to create a substitute for natural rubber, then in short supply and whose host countries were subject to wartime seizure by belligerent nations.

Edison’s selectively bred 12- foot goldenrod plant as a possible alternative source of natural rubber

Edison’s selectively bred 12- foot goldenrod plant as a possible alternative source of natural rubber

Thomas Edison said, “If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves …”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Thomas Edison Smiles at Nuclear Fusion

Edison was big on clean energy, exclaiming in 1910 how much he would like to see solar energy become a reality…

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy.
What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to
wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle
that. I wish I had more years left.”
-Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison Smiles at Nuclear FusionToday we are seeing that happen, with solar-electric panels springing up on buildings and commercial structures; and now, something else solar-wise is very promising—nuclear fusion. Unlike nuclear fission which is the cleaving or splitting of heavy atoms to produce lots of energy, fusion is the squeezing together of very light atoms like hydrogen to produce helium, thus releasing vast amounts of energy. To be precise, fusion is the process that our sun uses to covert hydrogen to helium. In its core, the Sun fuses 620 million metric tons of hydrogen to helium each second.

Our sun is powered by the nuclear fusion process-MIT is trying to contain that process in a magnetic bottle for use on earth

Elusive as the fusion process has been over the last 60 years, MIT in cooperation with a private entity is hopeful that within the next 15 years, fusion will arrive in time to make a big difference in reducing fossil fuel use, greatly ameliorating global climate change. The secret MIT ingredient for success involves a new class of high-temperature superconductors they believe will facilitate the world’s first fusion reactor that produces more energy than needs to be put in to get the fusion reaction going.

The MIT team believes they can achieve this by using new superconducting materials to produce ultra-powerful magnets, one of the main components of a fusion reactor. The entire fusion process must be maintained inside a magnetic bottle of sorts as the temperature is enormously high, on par with those at the center of the sun, far stronger than any materials we could use to contain it. Commonwealth Fusion Systems and MIT in partnership with an Italian energy company, Eni, and $50 million in supporting funds are ready to make this energy dream come true.

The MIT SPARC fusion reactor test assembly

The MIT SPARC fusion reactor test assembly

A newly available superconducting material – a steel tape coated with a compound called yttrium-barium-copper oxide, or YBCO – has allowed scientists to produce smaller, more powerful magnets. And this potentially reduces the amount of energy that needs to be put in to get the fusion reaction off the ground.

The experimental reactor being developed is designed to produce about 100MW of heat. While it will not turn that heat into electricity, it will produce, in pulses of about 10 seconds, as much power as is used by a small city. Scientists anticipate the output would be more than twice the power used to heat the plasma, achieving the ultimate technical milestone: positive net energy from fusion.

The fusion reaction is carbon-free, does not create greenhouse gases or produce hazardous radioactive waste of the sort made by conventional nuclear fission reactors. Did you hear that Thomas….clean, virtually unlimited energy….just like you had hoped for 110 years ago!

Editor’s Deep Dive

Thomas Edison said, “I find out what the world needs. Then I go ahead and try to invent it.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Thomas Edison, Ford, and Jobs – Player Coaches

OK….here goes…..what do Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Steve Jobs have in common?

Yes, they were all inventors; and yes, they changed the world. But, there was something else, which history will pronounce important as well. Know what it is?

All three were player coaches; that is, they coached their teams and invented too—doing both equally well. They had the proper balance in both roles, which is very difficult to do. And they knew, viscerally, the value of failure in ultimately producing better products.

Thomas Edison, Ford, and Jobs - Player Coaches

These icons were able to emotionally attach their teams to a goal, thereby deeply tapping into team creativity and ownership of the problem(s) at hand. They led their people, inspiring them to produce great things and most of all to think out-of-the-box. They knew intuitively when to get down and dirty into the work with them and when to trust their teams to get the job done—to stand by and cheer them on; or if necessary, help snow-plow them forward.

Thomas Edison, Ford, and Jobs - Player Coaches

Edison’s freethinking spirit and bonds with his workers promoted a creative atmosphere for everyone to bask in. It was not about punishing people and teams for failure. It was about encouragement and understanding the human spirit…motivation by example and working as hard as everyone else….gaining respect and giving it when it was due…..same with Ford and Jobs.

Thomas Edison, Ford, and Jobs - Player Coaches

It is leadership in action. These men were incredible project managers, able to consistently blend technical skills and management/leadership principles together.

Thomas Edison said, “The world owes nothing to any man, but every man owes something to the world.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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