Introduction Of all the scientific terms or concepts that ought to be more widely known to help to clarify and inspire science-minded thinking in the general culture, none are more important than “science” itself.
Many people, even many scientists, have traditionally had a narrow view of science as controlled, replicated experiments performed in the laboratory—and as consisting quintessentially of physics, chemistry, and molecular biology. The essence of science is conveyed by its Latin etymology: scientia, meaning knowledge. The scientific method is simply that body of practices best suited for obtaining reliable knowledge. The practices vary among fields: the controlled laboratory experiment is possible in molecular biology, physics, and chemistry, but it is either impossible, immoral, or illegal in many other fields customarily considered sciences, including all of the historical sciences: astronomy, epidemiology, evolutionary biology, most of the earth sciences, and paleontology. If the scientific method can be defined as those practices best suited for obtaining knowledge in a particular field, then science itself is simply the body of knowledge obtained by those practices.
Science—that is, reliable methods for obtaining knowledge—is an essential part of psychology and the social sciences, especially economics, geography, history, and political science. Not just the broad observation-based and statistical methods of the historical sciences but also detailed techniques of the conventional sciences (such as genetics and molecular biology and animal behavior) are proving essential for tackling problems in the social sciences. Science is nothing more nor less than the most reliable way of gaining knowledge about anything, whether it be the human spirit, the role of great figures in history, or the structure of DNA. (...)
Being able to prevent anemia and micronutrient deficiency in nearly two billion poor people will save over a million lives each year, prevent stunting which reduces IQ and boost productivity and GDP by over 20%. Success in this public health area would be one of the biggest things in reducing world poverty and improving public health in those countries.
For something that’s been called “a household name for molecular biologists,” many of you have probably never heard of CRISPR, and don’t know why you should be excited (or, possibly, terrified). It’s all about advanced gene therapy and splicing – and it’s bringing sci-fi ideas straight into reality. Here’s a quick FAQ on the science behind CRISPR and why the world is paying such close attention.
Okay, what is CRISPR and what does it stand for?
CRISPR refers to unusual DNA sequences that help protect organisms by identifying threats – especially viruses – and attacking them. The name stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. Yes, that sounds a little ridiculous, but it’s actually a very accurate description when looking at the DNA sequences themselves. They are clustered, they are spaced out at clear intervals, and when assigned letter values they do look like short palindromes repeating over and over with slight variations.