Thursday, April 25, 2013

Data Stream: Time-Travelling Particles & Gene Patents

The fun part of transhumanism and future-based techno-thinking is that there are no end to possible scenarios - granted some more plausible than others. Explorations of what might seem fantastical future scenarios provides spaces to question our preconceived notions and tautological frameworks. Here are some ideas to add your data streams.

Is Traveling Back in Time Impossible? Experts Say Maybe Not, by Dick Pelletier

Is time travel possible? This is the central question in Pelletier's article on He theorizes about the hypothetical Higgs singlet, a particle that hypothetically might be able to leave three-dimensional space and enter into a hidden dimension that allows the particle to transit back and forth through time space. He explores some of the classic ethical dilemmas and paradoxes inherent in time travel, while suggesting some possible future applications in regards to life extension.
"We would send information-seeking nanobots back in time with instructions to scan the brains of lost loved ones moments before they died; then bring that copy to our time and transfer it into a healthy body. Our loved one's original body would still die, but their conscious self would gain a second chance at life."
U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Whether or not Genes can be Patented, by Peter Murray

This is an important case (think precedents), the results of which will impact social policy, industry, the course of human life, and disease prevention/treatment. The decisions in this case (and similar cases that are sure to follow) might transform modern bio-tech medicine particularly in the the growing fields of nano-bio-technologies and gene therapies. There are some serious questions here about power, access, opportunity, and justice. Who should decide on this central question? The plutocrats? The legal elite? Politicians? Citizens? Industry lobbyists? Religious leaders? Few are even equipped to understand the science much less the scientific, ethical, and moral implications, nor forecast how this will drive the course of research over the next 50 years. This is sticky territory, and we should all be concerned and focused. Let's hear from the bioethicists
"Central to the discussions, which began April 15, are patents held by Myriad Genetics. The Utah-based biotechnology company discovered two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, that, when mutated are associated with higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer. After isolating the genes, Myriad patented them. As patents take 20 years to expire, the company has the sole rights to use the genes in breast cancer research, diagnosis and treatment."
"A group of scientists and doctors are are now suing Myriad, arguing that the patents are invalid, that they hinder the ability to conduct research and treat patients. For their part, Myriad makes the case that, without the ability to patent the genes, incentives to study the genes and invest the enormous amounts of capital to develop breast cancer tests and treatment would be gone. Researchers say gene patents halt progress, Myriad says they’re vital to it."
One can't but think of the polio vaccine and virologist badass Jonas Salk. "When he was asked in a televised interview who owned the patent to the vaccine, Salk replied: "There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?" What if the polio vaccine had been created in today's economic climate of profiteering and self-interest? There is tension in big science between research and development, access, ROI, power, and monetary gain. Big legal questions like these will become ever more present and pressing. Can a corporation patent fundamental (naturally occurring) genes, not to be confused with patents on recombinant genes? Should we deem certain techno-life sustaining elements outside the realm of corporate profit? Who decides what those fundamental elements of life are in the first place? The ACLU is at the heart of the push-back. Read ACLU position statements here

Can You Patent Human Genes? ACLU Says No ( 7:13 mins.)

(Video source: Bloomberg Law)

National Geographic Time Travel documentary (45 mins.)

(Video source: CubedMagazine)

Image: Grondilu at English Wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons 

Image: By Kublbeckj (Table in Word) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons 

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