A Cool Blend of Science and Technology

Almost 9,000 years ago, ancient Chinese fermented rice, honey, and fruit. Ancient Egyptians dared to use yeast for leavened bread in 1000 BC. On the other side of the world, Aztecs made cakes with Spirulina algae. What do these foods and beverages have in common? It’s doubtful that any of these ancient peoples understood the science. Yet, they each performed an early bit of biotechnology. Biotechnology has grown from its humble origins into a cool blend of science and technology.

image of a strand of blue DNA against a dark blue background--one of the things we can now manipulate for biotechnology

What is Biotechnology?

Hungarian engineer, Karl Ereky, coined the term in 1919. He invented the term to describe the creation of products from raw materials with the aid of living organisms. While the term is relatively new, humans have always manipulated raw materials hoping to make our life better. 

Don’t quite understand what biotech is yet? According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary biotechnology is the manipulation (as through genetic engineering) of living organisms or their components to produce useful products. The dictionary includes that these are usually commercial products (such as pest resistant crops, new bacterial strains, or pharmaceuticals).

The History of Biotechnology

You may recognize many names in the history of Biotechnology. Names like Darwin, Mendel, Miescher, Boveri, Morgan, Levene, Chargraff, Avery, and many more. These are the folks whose discoveries built one on the other to allow many the cool blend of science and technology.

Here’s a six-minute video that traces the discoveries of DNA, genes, and chromosomes “as fast as possible.” Some information may be a review, but I’ll bet you’ll learn a new name or two.

Types of Biotechnology

Medical Biotechnology uses this science to understand the human body. They search for cures, treatments, or preventatives for diseases. Examples: vaccines, antibiotics, etc.

Agricultural Biotechnology focuses on developing high-yield crops and earth-friendly pest control. Examples: pest-resistant crops, plant and animal breeding, etc.

Industrial Biotechnology strives to develop materials with biological elements. Examples: Construction, manufacturing wine and beer, washing detergents, etc.

Within each of these broad categories are too many subcategories to mention here. But you’ll learn more in future blog posts.

Why Talk About Biotechnology?

As a former nurse and a science fiction author, I am always interested in how science and technology come together to enhance our lives. I’ve blogged about nanobots and pharmacogenomics. And you can bet I’ll write new posts about biotech in development—what they hope to gain and the implications and ethics involved. Will these biotech items appear in a story someday? Hmmm. If you really want the answer to that, join my newsletter and get updates about my writing projects. Next week, I’ll share a cool new biotech that has applications for VR games and real life!

Do You Dream of the Jetson Life?

What futuristic program(s) have you watched and wondered what life will be like that someday? As a science fiction writer, I can’t help but do that. I dream of the Jetson life. I’ve longed for the Jetson’s flying car and robots and a technology-filled home since I first watched the cartoon. Sadly, we’ve not come that far but there are amazing things on the horizon. Take a look with me.

The Flying Car

Photo of a "flying van" near a motel sign not exactly the Jetson life
Not exactly the Jetsons
Joy Engelman [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

There are four prototypes discussed in this video. One is called Pal-V One. It’s a car-gyroplane hybrid. If you’ve read My Soul to Keep you know why this one appeals to me.

One of these flying cars runs on unleaded gasoline but you must be a pilot to fly it.

Another one claims that if you can drive a car, you can fly it. And one looks like a miniature space shuttle. It needs only a few hundred feet of flat surface to land. There’s a flying taxi, too. I hope it comes without taxi driver, Korben from The Fifth Element.

Home Cleaning Robots

Not exactly Rosie the robot, but we already have the Roomba vacuum and its kin.

This video discusses eight new robots.

Fedor is a humanoid robot but not intended to be a house cleaner. There are robotic exoskeletons to help children with disabilities learn to walk.

Frurion Prothesis Mech racer—an exoskeleton (A racing vehicle)

One robot captures the Lion Fish, a predator attacking the coral reefs in the Atlantic.

Patterned after the octopus, one robot can pick up hold and put down objects of any shape using suction cups on a tentacle.

The Stan Robotic Parking Valet is now in service in Paris France.

The Robots in this video are the most advanced robots in the world.

The first one discussed is a Japanese robot that actually worked as a news anchor on television. There are robots that can walk and run and avoid objects and ones that can converse with humans.

Home of the Future

This vision of the home of the future comes pretty darn close to the Jetson’s home. But push buttons are passé. Interactive mirrors and appliances are the thing.

Back to Reality

The science fiction often dreams big. We’ve got a way to go to reach the technology of the Jetson’s. But there are dreamers out there with the know-how and the funds to take the next step or two. Who knows? We may be living the Jetson life sooner than you think.

13 Things For Which I Give Thanks

I give thanks for many things. This week of gratitude would not be complete without listing these in particular.


I give thanks for Family--Image of family members posing with the Grinch

I give thanks for family--Image of extended family members around a round table, enjoying Chinese food,


Near and Far

(in no particular order of preference or date)

Image of my grandson and I mugging for the camera, one more of the  13 things for which I am thankful
Images of three of siblings, grandchildren who are one of the  13 things for which I am thankfulone of my youngest grandchildren in the park--another of the  13 things for which I am thankful


Image of my young pup snuggling with my oldest yorkie, more of the  13 things for which I am thankful


Imagine YOUR photograph here.

You thought I’d try to put in photos of all my friends? I love you all! I would not want to miss any of you.


that shelters me from all kinds of weather

Photo taken from my front door shows my porch & neighborhood in near white out conditions. A roof over my head is one of the  13 things for which I am thankful

 snowmagedon 2013

FOOD3 homemade pumpkin pies on my counter, food is one of  13 things for which I am thankful


the elixir of my life!

A cup of coffee--definitely one of 13 things for which I am thankful
Latte Art by Morten Rand-Hendrickson Flickr CC


and how modern medicine has sustained the lives of those I love

Image of a 1920s medical office, photo taken at the St Joseph Hospital museum. Medicine is another of the 13 things for which I am thankful.


all varieties

Treble cleft and notes, Music is one of 13 things for which I am thankful


icons on iphone, another of the 13 things for which I am thankful

image of an open notebook with a pen, an open laptop computer, a cup of coffee and an iphone--more of the 13 things for which I am thankful


in all its variety

an image of a waterfall surround by lush greenery and pink flowers--nature is another of the 13 things for which I am thankful

My Health


 I give thanks because I could type these words image of the words THE END.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Have a safe and happy day and, of course, stuff yourself with all your favorite foods. But also, take a moment to be grateful for the people, places, animals, and things that make your life better. Need some ideas? Here are 20 weird things I’m grateful for. Remember, you are one of the 13 things for which I give thanks. Thank you for reading, for coming back, and for all your support.


Is Technology Clouding Your Ethics?

Technology allows us to do many wonderful things. But is technology clouding your ethics? That’s what the Trichordist addresses in his June 18th post. (Thanks Holly Messinger for bringing this post to my attention)

image of a compass with a clouded glass
“Compass” by Hacklock from Flickr.com

It’s a long, passionate, and reasoned response to an intern’s post on the NPR blog where she confesses to not buying the music she listens to. The Trichordist, naturally, focused on the recording industry, but his post transcends the recording industry.The basic question is technology clouding your ethics, applies to everyone who believes they should be able to get art for free. All artists from illustrators to photographers to writers to web designers and all creators deserve fair compensation.



If you haven’t read the post, here is a portion:

June 18, 2012
Letter to Emily White at NPR All Songs Considered.

Recently Emily White, an intern at NPR All Songs Considered and GM of what appears to be her college radio station, wrote a post on the NPR blog in which she acknowledged that while she had 11,000 songs in her music library, she’s only paid for 15 CDs in her life. Our intention is not to embarrass or shame her. We believe young people like Emily White who are fully engaged in the music scene are the artist’s biggest allies. We also believe–for reasons we’ll get into–that she has been been badly misinformed by the Free Culture movement. We only ask the opportunity to present a countervailing viewpoint.


My intention here is not to shame you or embarrass you. I believe you are already on the side of musicians and artists and you are just grappling with how to do the right thing. I applaud your courage in admitting you do not pay for music, and that you do not want to but you are grappling with the moral implications. I just think that you have been presented with some false choices by what sounds a lot like what we hear from the “Free Culture” adherents.

I must disagree with the underlying premise of what you have written. Fairly compensating musicians is not a problem that is up to governments and large corporations to solve. It is not up to them to make it “convenient” so you don’t behave unethically. (Besides–is it really that inconvenient to download a song from iTunes into your iPhone? Is it that hard to type in your password? I think millions would disagree.)

Please, read the entire blog post. Go to The Trichordist: letter to Emily White at NPR All Songs Considered.

Those of you who are old enough to remember ‘before the internet,’ would you have dreamed of taking a piece of art out of a museum or gallery? Would you take a record from the rack at the record store and record it on your tape player, leaving the record behind?

It’s Stealing

Those of you who are not old enough to remember ‘before the net.’ Would you go to your local department store and attempt to take a record or book without paying for it? No? Why not? Because it’s stealing.

I know some of you are going to say, but I loaned my records or books to my friends all the time. A loan is different from taking something without paying for it. If your friend wanted a copy of his own; he had to buy one. Do I think that pirating copyrighted work started with the internet? Of course not.

The age of the internet, however, has made it ‘easy and convenient’ for artists to make their work available to the world. It has also made it ‘easy and convenient’ to ignore copyright. Images & music & books all are owned by their creators. They have a right to be paid for their work. You don’t expect to work for free, do you?

Whose Responsibility?

The internet has also made it the buyer’s downloader’s responsibility to verify that the song or image or text being downloaded is not stolen. How do you do that? Go directly to the creator’s website. Look for attributions and copyright notices. Learn about copyright laws. (Learn the basics here.)

But in order for John Q Public to be able to discern which items are stolen we, the creators, must display attributions and copyright information clearly. Too often, blogs and websites that I visit, have no attributions or copyright notices.

It distresses me that some excuse their use of copyrighted materials for their blogs by saying it’s “fair use.” Fair use depends upon the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, how much of the work is used, and the effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work. Learn more about fair use here. If we who are creators do not educate ourselves, then stand up to educate, to protest, and or shout it out, we too, are guilty of a foggy ethics.

Love the internet. Love technology. But don’t let your ethics, your behavioral compass, be clouded by what you can do. Make a choice. Do the right thing.

If we, the creators, do not treat our own work AND the work of others, as having value, why should anyone else?