Recently I was reading an article about the success of a for-profit company called SpaceX in linking with the International Space Station, and I started wondering—why do we have a space station, and who cares? Well, actually, I care, but it occurred to me that a lot of people probably don’t even know why it’s there or what it is doing. So I started writing a blog post about the space station, which in turn made me curious about NASA outputs—that is, what have we gotten for our investment in the space program?
Reports comparing our DNA with that of our extinct ancestors are coming in so fast and are so momentous that it is just exhausting trying to keep up! Rapid advances in DNA technology have resulted in discoveries that were thought to have improbable just ten years ago. It seems every month brings a new announcement regarding human evolution that is so persuasive that many long-festering debates are now essentially over. (Well, as “over” as they ever are in science, which means the next five years will probably overturn what we think we know today.)
One of the few bright spots in the United States energy picture is our production of natural gas, as well as our exporting of refined petroleum products. Did you get that—EXPORTING. But that is a subject for later; today I’d like to talk about natural gas and CNG.
For many of us still on the stage, our earliest exposure to “memory storage” had to do with the number of songs we could get on a “45” or “33” rpm record. I never bought a “45” because they only had one song per side. However, each “33” had about 5 songs per side (around 15 minutes), and I always thought that was a better deal. And so it was through the age of cassette tapes in the 1970s, CD’s in the 1980s, and on to wherever we are now.
The tenure concept at American universities dates at least back to the 1870’s when the tenure system was developed to ensure employment protection when a faculty member engages in research or teaching on topics that may be controversial.
The U.S. patent system recognizes three types of patents: utility patents (most common), design patents, and plant patents. The first, utility patents, covers inventions that are unique, non-obvious, and useful. The second covers, well, the design of an object. The third, as the name implies, covers plants (specifically, most vegetatively propagated plants).
A month ago a court awarded Monsanto $1 billion in a lawsuit against Pioneer DuPont. Although this huge award is being appealed, I think it is illustrative of an important point in patent law that all researchers should be aware of—the nonexistent “research exemption.”
There are three types of ethanol for fuel: fermentation ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, and anaerobic ethanol. As “fermentation ethanol is the one that is blended with gasoline to make gasohol, it is the best known of the three—and also the only one in commercial production. There is much debate in the news examining whether or not the rise in food prices are due to fermentation ethanol because it is derived from corn--and whether or not the recent drought will cause corn shortages and hence contribute to an increase in food.
You will be reading today in the popular press that a U.S. Federal appeals court has ruled in the Myriad case that human genes are patentable. Beware: the court did NOT rule that human genes are patentable. The court ruled that human genes that have been modified by man are patentable—that products of human ingenuity and inventiveness are patentable. This is why we have patents—to protect inventions. The court ruled, properly in my opinion, that these modified human genes are patentable.