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An Optimist's Tour of the Future

Mark Stevenson

Used genome to ID mutations caused by cigarette smoking - about 22,000. They occur because there are over 60 chemicals in cigarettes which bind to, and mutate, DNA. It's only a tiny part of the genome, and usually little impact. But can be trouble, just as missing the letter 'l' out of the word public, can change the whole meaning of a document.

Your chromosomes are paired, one half from mum and one from dad. For any one pair one side will be dominant version and decides how gene is expressed. If the other copy is recessive, it is not referred to, unless both copies are recessive. There are a huge number of medicines which exist, but aren't available because although they have benefits for many, they are dangerous to a few. Problem is we don't yet know how to ID those few.

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If you're diabetic, your insulin comes from a genetically modified E. coli bacteria, which has also been tinkered with to make biodegradable plastic and components of anti-malaria drugs.

"Insomnia Cookies" ("Warm cookies delivered late at night") stores on college campuses stay open very late, because there's a market - stoners getting munchies.

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Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626) was curious as to whether ice might preserve meat. Unfortunately got pneumonia trudging around in the snow. This is possibly the only instance of Bacon being killed by eggs.

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Society is becoming more peaceful. Tribal societies have murder rates of at least 20% and as high as 60%. If the wars of the twentieth century had killed same proportion of population, there wd have been two billion deaths, not 100 million. In 2003, under 3% of world's population died by violence, according to U.N figures, and half of those were suicides.

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The first email (as in first computer-to-computer message) was in 1969. Tried to send 3 letter message LOG, but the G crashed the system. So the very first message was "LO". There is no fixed path for data to travel between computers. Instead it makes it up as it goes along. Data is split up into numbered 'packets' and then sent out into the wild. As each packet passes through a router, it says "hey I'm trying to get to B, do you know where B is?". The router gives one of three answers: "Yes, I am B" or "Yes, B is over there" or "No but I'm sending you on to another router who might know".

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